On Friday I was approached to work on one of the oddest and probably most ill-conceived projects I have ever encountered, and I might just take it anyway. Basically a company has a very good, very modular framework built for them in C# using .Net by a bunch of Russians who they hired remotely. I can tell by looking at the output that the code is quite modular, if it might be a little unclean. It looks like it would actually be some pretty good code to support.
They have been selling boiler plate instillations of this framework, with just some simple skinning done, and selling them hand over fist, apparently they are making a mint.
So anyway, For some reason they want to hire one of my companies, (and hence me) to do the occasional “special project” for clients who need something that is just slightly more custom than what they have. There are a few basic problems with this.
1) I don’t know C#
2) I don’t know Russian
3) I don’t think I even get access to the code base at all!
What I’m really hoping is that this is NOT actually what they expect me to do, and that there is a SOAP interface to what the Russians built.
I’m currently working on a pretty major overhaul to a custom Content Management System that I wrote for some clients, and I have found that I am both reworking the interface, and doing code refactoring at the same time. I notice that I often end up performing these two tasks simultaneously, partially because its hard to sell clients on pure code refactoring but it does have to happen, and partly because feature creep is an ever-present evil.
The question is, would I do much better to try to wear these hats one at time? would code refactoring first, without changing any features, followed by a round of feature changes result in a more manageable process? Or am I just deluding myself, thinking that something else looks better because I’m not elbows deep in it at the moment?
My friend and former co-worker, Chris Petersen, is going to be contributing to this blog as well.
Like me, he’s a bit of an accidental developer. However, he also has a master’s degree in information science from the University of Michigan School of Information, so he’ll be able to share his expertise on subjects like prototyping and usability testing. He develops primarily in ColdFusion.
So I have been trying to play with the Zend Framework, which by all accounts is pretty cool, and trying to get it set up on the dev environment that I have here on my cute little macbook. Sadly, for some reason the version of os X 10.5 that ships with it doesn’t have pdo_mysql support installed (though it has pdo_mysqllite ?? I mean, come on, seriously?) So it’s off to the recompile mines. Sadly, once you recompile PHP you need to recompile Apache, which wouldn’t be a big deal at all other than my not knowing about it and it not giving me anything like a coherent error message regarding this. Fine, whatever….
Next, I discover that I can’t user the PEAR auto-installer, because it can’t find the damn modules directory, and neither can I. I have even tried making new ones in every likely place. What’s worse, I seem to have also lost traditional MySQL support as well.
I’m getting pretty annoyed with OSX here, It’s a damn nice client OS, but it’s driving me nuts on the server side. (Still better than Windows, it’s just a bit like the The Twilight Zone, things are close enough to where they should be to make you think that you know what’s going on, but when you try to actually do something….)
I guess I’ll try MAMP now. I have been meaning to look at that anyway.
My friend and former co-worker, Harry Pottash, is going to be contributing to this blog as well.
He’s not an accidental developer: he’s the real thing, a bonafide programmer with a degree in computer science. He’s knowledgeable about ColdFusion, but PHP is the development language he favors.
Imagine my surprise when people took me up on that offer.
Continue reading Does releasing code to the public inspire extra effort?
I have been trying to improve the speed of a ColdFusion application. It was written by a part-timer, a Java developer who was new to ColdFusion. He wrote the code almost entirely in cfscript, and he used CFC objects extensively. In fact, it seems that he overused CFC objects—to the point where the server slows to a crawl.
Continue reading Object Overhead in ColdFusion
When I worked for MLive.com, one of our practices was to leave out quotes around attribute values (except for alt attributes). This was to save on bandwidth costs. In spite of the fact that the page was no longer valid HTML (technically), all target browsers rendered the pages properly.
That might seem like nitpicking, but with over a million pageviews a day, all that ASCII can add up. Personally, I would prefer valid HTML, but I bet the financial side of that decision was pretty interesting. Continue reading Clever ways to save bandwidth
As an alternative to a formal version control system, our development and even our production environments are littered with files like index12112006.html or index12202006.html. This is terrible.
Although we have had a CVS server set up since at least 2005 (it was there when I started), it is used inconsistently at best. Continue reading Version Control