Two cool things (cappuccino, github)

Cool thing 1: Cappuccino.  I’m sure this is well known by most by now.  I’ve been playing with it in my copius free time and continue to be impressed.  I’m excited to be able to use Objective-C in the browser – I’ve always thought it was a nice language, despite my lack of experience with it.  In particular, dynamic message dispatch is a perfect fit for GUI programming.

Cool thing 2: github.  While playing with cappuccino, I thought I’d fix a few bugs.  So I made a github account and cloned the full repo.  The clone took about a half second.  Really.  The collaboration model on github just decimates all the commercial systems I’ve used, not to mention cvs and svn.  This is what sourceforge always should have been.

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My Bookshelf

These are the books I have at work, which mostly reflect the various projects I’ve worked on over the years.  Some are useful, some are not.

General Books:

  1. Design Patterns, GoF: Recommended, but first read Head First Design Patterns.  These two books togther kicked my brain into being able to think critically about design decisions.
  2. The Pragmatic Programmer:  I like it, though I think it’s worth less now in the light of robust discussion of these topics on blogs.
  3. Peer Reviews In Software: Haven’t opened it.  Got it from a mandatory training class that didn’t impress me.
  4. Lean Software Development / Implementing Lean Software Development: Barely cracked them. Put on my desk by my boss, but I think this particular movement (in our organization, anyway) is going to pass before I need to care too much about it.
  5. Extreme Programming Explained: Barely cracked, though I bought it myself.  Once I started reading it, I realized I already learned the content on the web.

Technology-specific books:

  1.  The C++ Programming Lanuage: Essential if you’re using the language.
  2. Effective C++/More Effective C++/Effective STL: Also essential if you’re using the language.  Other books tell you how to write code, but these books tell you how to right GOOD code.
  3. Effective C#: Doesn’t live up to its namesake.  Perhaps there are fewer gotchas in C#?
  4. Java Performance Tuning: I got this for $5 and learned one or two things from it.  But I think it’s about Java 1.1, so it’s more than a little out of date.
  5. Interprocess Communication in Linux: useful when I needed it, but I no longer need it.
  6. Programming .Net components: This is a bit of a weird one.  I was hoping it would explain the mysterious System.ComponentModel namespace, but I never got into it enough to fully understand what’s going on.  I could probably learn a lot from this book if I got into it, but I’m not motivated to do it anymore.
  7. Java development with Ant: I like this one.  Useful whenever I need to do ant, which is more often than one might think.  And my copy is autographed!
  8. Applications=Code+Markup: Meh.  Not that impressed.  If you want a WPF book, get:
  9. Windows Presentation Foundation Unleashed: This is the one you want.  It’s smaller than the previous book, but it has better explanations about the things that matter.
  10. Debugging Microsoft .NET 2.0 Applications: This book has saved my ass on multiple occasions.  If you’re developing for .NET, you need to know how to use your debugging tools.

What does your bookshelf look like?  Are there any bacon-saving books you’d recommend?

Aggregation + Composition = Headache

I hereby banish the words ‘aggregation’ and ‘composition’ from all of software.

Am I allowed to do that?

Think about it. The last time you drew a UML diagram, did you use hollow diamonds or filled-in diamonds? If you used both, did anybody know what you meant? I’ll bet the answer is no. And if you used those words in conversation, there was probably a 10-minute discussion about what their meaning. This discussion happens EVERY time.

There’s a good reason for this – the distinction of aggregation vs. composition simply is not useful enough to stick in people’s brains. Some feel the need to use it because it’s part of the modeling tool they spent so much money on. Others like it because it makes them look smart.  But it’s not worth it. (nor is the modeling tool, IMHO)

So join the movement! Run sed -e ‘s/(aggregation|composition)/association/g’ over all your documentation and emails! Get rid of those stupid diamonds and use arrows instead! Spend your time thinking about the problem you’re trying to solve instead of explaining useless concepts.

Vertical Integration

Apple today announced a lot of new things – a sexy computer, a spreadsheet, and a new version of iMovie. A complete rewrite, according to the reality distortion field. It’s got this cool feature where you scrub the mouse across a video and it updates according to where it is. They also have a neat way to decompose things by scene very quickly. Watching the demo video got me thinking: how would I go about doing that? Really, it’s an impressive technical feat, dealing with all that data so immediately.

And here’s the thing: I don’t think I could do it. Not because of any inability on my own part, but because I don’t have the tools. I think there are exactly two companies today with the technical ability to pull off something like that: Apple and Microsoft. They each have:
– An OS
– A video stack
– A DRM system
– A whole suite of applications (roughly 1:1 corresondence)
– An application development stack
– An IDE (or five)
– The source code for all of the above
– The people who wrote all of the above

Any reasonable idea I can come up with for doing the kind of thing done by the new iMovie involves changing the video stack. And since I can’t change the video stack, since I don’t work for Apple, I’m out of luck.

Apple and Microsoft clearly have an advantage by controlling the entire software vertical, but I contend that it makes applications such as this downright impossible. Microsoft in particular has a long history of releasing one API and writing their own applications using another.

Where is there hope for innovative apps? There’s one more vertical set of code I haven’t mentioned: open source. It’s not easy, but the tools are there to do what needs to be done. The only way to do any kind extensive innovation on a desktop app is by basing it on open source technologies. Apple and Microsoft simply cannot be fought on their own turf.

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