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The HTML tyranny

As we’re moving forward with our web application I’m getting more and more frustated with the web technologies. I’ve got accustomed to the freedom of thought given by XAML and the inner peace given by the .NET/C# tandem: the customer asks for it? No problem, worse case scenario is we use a Windows hook and we’re done.

With HTML I’m having discussions with my developers on a daily basis and every time I have to put in a lot of effort to talk them into implementing a simple feature. Just think drag and drop in a web page … it should be easy, but it’s not, especially since web developers come with a certain mindset. Components? User controls? Wait for Ember and Angular to improve, buddy …

Also, any “model” and “viewmodel” must be implemented with JS and some immature libraries; a simple data structure as a tree can force the entire team into discussing for a few hours until the good solution comes up. Hey, it’s JS …

Now, that I’ve steamed off, I’ll get back to work. I’m getting more and more into managing the team instead of actually implementing code. And I like it :-)

One of my coworkers (not in my team) put it this way a few days ago: “if it’s HTML, I’ll only manage the team, I do not want to learn this technology”. I thought about it for a while and now I tend to agree with him: HTML/JS/CSS is not fun at all for the project manager.

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Despre “succesul” comunismului

Tocmai am citit un comentariu la un articol; omul spune foarte clar (si foarte corect): “Secretul minunii comuniste a fost sa nu lase oamenii sa aleaga”.

Articolul poate fi citit la http://www.contributors.ro/societatelife/regie-1987-construiam-cobra-in-camin/, iar comentariul apartine utilizatorului “gigi”.

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Keep your customers away from your computers

Last week I had to pay a visit to a car service: my car needed an oil change and there were some other needed maintenance tasks.

The service is nicely organized: there’s a waiting room with clear walls that allow the customer to see how the mechanics work on their cars. They’ve recently added some video cameras allowing the manager to quickly see the mechanics as well. But they did a little mistake …

In the waiting room there are two PC-s connected to the Internet that any customer can use. Every time I pay them a visit, I sit at one of these PC-s and read some blogs (last time I’ve read a lot about Ember and JS, as these technologies are critical for our current project).

So, as soon as I’ve given them the car keys, I’ve sit in front of one of the PC-s and moved the mouse … the monitor kept showing “no video signal, check your cable connection”. Being the experienced developer I am, I reached for the reset button and pressed it, thinking the PC is old and it can’t come out of power-save. I’ve waited for a while, moved the mouse again, pressed some keys on the keyboard … nothing! So I’ve moved to the next PC and started reading about Ember.JS.

In a few minutes, the service manager came to the PC that I’ve just reset and started to operate on the mouse and the keyboard, while looking oddly above my head … then I’ve realized that the PC had been connected to a larger monitor that was hanging in the corner of the waiting room and the manager was looking at that monitor. I’ve told him what I did and I’ve apologized … and he said all cameras in the service were connected to that PC, and now he was not able to display their feed anymore. He was relieved that the problem was BTKATC, and not with his setup and then he laughed and said he’ll place a label on the PC saying “Please do not use”.

We both carried on.

My conclusion: even your well educated customers make mistakes, make sure you place clear guides everywhere.

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Cannot debug program in Visual Studio

One of my coworkers ran into a nice issue: she has been assigned to take over the work of a developer from another country and she received the sources nicely packed in a Visual Studio solution.

She managed to build the sources, but every time she tried to start the application under Visual Studio debugger the output window would list “invalid instruction” and the application quit; the main function was not hit at all.

When run without the debugger, the application run fine.

She was not able to find out what was happening so she called me (the last C++ expert in the company) to the rescue.

We’ve discussed our options for a good half an hour: try a newer VS version, cut out parts from the application, ask the upper management to coerce the original developer into answering our e-mails …

And then I’ve got it: I’ve seen a .DLL marked with some “enigma” keyword. I’ve configured VS to stop at all exceptions and I’ve run the application with the debugger. Good, the exception was in that DLL!

The coworker got her hands dirty into removing that DLL from the application and then everything worked fine; it’s now clear to us that the original developer had implemented a copy protection in the application and this copy protection included some code sequence that would prevent the application from running under a debugger. It’s not clear why he didn’t warn us upfront, but that’s business as usual – sometimes things work OOB, sometimes you have to dig a little.

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Support blues …

One of our customers has a weird issue with the application. The support person asked for the application logs, but he was not quite explicit in his request:

“Could you please send the log files as shown below …”
SupportBlues

And the customer answer was priceless: she didn’t send the actual log file, she sent back a picture with the content of the folder :-)