Archive for January, 2007

JRuby Breakfast Briefing

January 28th, 2007 No comments

On Thursday, Charles Nutter and Thomas Enebo gave a “breakfast briefing” on JRuby. It’s a good thing Charlie had forwarded the information on to the RUM list because otherwise I for one never would have found it – when someone at work asked about it, Google was fruitless. Anyway, despite the quiet nature of the advertising, there was a decent sized crowd including a couple of old friends.

While I’ve seen the JRuby/Swing demo several times now it never ceases to impress me. The lads have been quite busy and it’s clear their move to Sun has really helped them move their work along. The “schedule” for the next few months is pretty aggressive: February includes Rails 1.2.1 support, running Rails in GlassFish and a public release of the *outstanding* Ruby support that Tor Norby has been baking into NetBeans. Seriously, I think NetBeans will be a force in the Rails/Ruby editor market – it’s very impressive. And don’t get me started about how slick it will be to deploy a Rails app to a Java web server!

Now I know that last line will probably cause a few of the Rails faithful to yack up their favorite caffeinated beverage but for many, I think it could become the deployment option of choice (for a framework that makes so many things so easy…deployment still leaves something to be desired). Of course it will also break down some of the barriers that slows Rails adoption in certain settings though I suspect some developers would sooner have their MacBook Pro sent through a trash compactor than deploy a Rails app to say, WebSphere (hmm, there might be quite a few Java programmers that don’t particularly relish working with WAS).

Anyway, Charlie and Tom are looking at March as the last “pre 1.0″ release with April earmarked for some heavy bug fixing. Oddly they think they’ll have a big announcement in early May (can’t imagine why). JRuby should do an awful lot to make Rails a first class framework in the Java space and may actually stem a bit of the “brain drain” some companies are experiencing. Look to see more and more interest in Rake and migrations in the Java space too…

While I’m sure there are those that think Ruby on the JVM is heretical, JRuby is positioned to add even more fuel to the fire. If Rails made it OK to look at dynamic languages, JRuby is practically going to make it mandatory.

Categories: Rails, Ruby, Software, Talks Tags:

Quick is Slow

January 28th, 2007 No comments

Uncle Bob has a great post titled Going Fast – a theme I visited a while back. I don’t know what it is about software development that makes people so willing to cut corners…even (especially) when they know better. How much pain is caused by quick and dirty solutions? How many times have you been working through some code cussing out the developer because they didn’t take an extra hour to do the right thing? Ken Schwaber hits on some of this in his talk at Google and perhaps the move towards more productive programming environments will alleviate this somewhat.

I found myself nodding along throughout Bob’s piece and much as I hate to admit it, it comes down to professionalism. That said, there are times where we *need* to get a solution out the door today to meet a business need – still we tend to, as Bob phrases it, “treat the long term as a series of short term quick and dirty solutions.” How much of this attitude is tied to the quarterly thinking engendered by most public companies’ need to meet analyst expectations? I’m sure Cedric Beust might argue a bit about the need for 100% code coverage but I for one would like to see more clean code.

Kathy Sierra touched on this topic in her post …so it takes less time. To use a particularly apt analogy for me these days, nine women can’t deliver a baby in one month; despite the hype, multitasking doesn’t work terribly well (shocking I know). Anyway, the real money quote comes from Pat Parelli: “Take the time it takes so it takes less time.” Amen. It seems so obvious yet it’s so often ignored. Someday we’ll learn our lesson. I hope.

Categories: Development, Rants, Software Tags:

Congrats PaD!

January 28th, 2007 No comments

I want to extend a heartfelt congratulations to Venkat Subramaniam and Andy Hunt on Practices of an Agile Developer being named a 2007 Jolt Product Excellence Finalist! I was lucky enough to get an early look at PaD and I can’t recommend it enough. In case you missed it, Pragmatic Bookshelf has been on quite a run of late – Chad Fowler‘s Rails Recipes was also named a finalist and this will mark the third year in a row that a Prag book as made the list (they’ve won two for the record). Anyway, a big W00T to Venkat, Andy, and Chad!!

Categories: Book Reviews, Off Topic Tags:

Commodity Skills

January 14th, 2007 4 comments

If you haven’t read Chad Fowler‘s “My Job Went to India“, do so now. Like many of my peers, I’m wondering what will become of our industry as more and more work moves to countries with lower labor costs (I’ll leave out an obligatory analysis of the increased communication costs that often offset the cheaper wages). Anyway, Chad’s book offers some great advice on how to lessen the likelihood that *your* job will find it’s way to Mumbai.

One way to avoid the outsource machine is simple – supply and demand. Rather than polishing commodity skills, spend your personal development effort on technologies that the major off shore houses aren’t looking at yet (cough, Ruby, cough). It may seem a bit counterintuitive (like the long tail concept) but being fluent in a niche like Lisp could actually make you more employable than being yet another ASP guy. Not sure what to focus on? Take a look at Google Trends

A very wise man asked me the other night how I cost justified spending my own hard earned cash on Rails training and I replied that I see it as an investment. I still earn the majority of my income on Java work but I realize that our industry changes every day – staying ahead of that keeps me employable.

Categories: Development, Rails, Ruby, Software Tags:

We Can’t Stop Now

January 14th, 2007 2 comments

We’ve all seen it. The shiny new system obviously won’t solve the problem it was meant to yet the funding continues – in some cases it’s even increased in a desperate effort to right the ship. Many excuses are offered but my personal favorite is the “we’ve already spent so much money – we can’t stop now.” As if throwing good money after bad is somehow a virtue.

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s pretty neat when two radically different bloggers comment on the same idea from different perspectives. Don’t get me wrong, I expected a lot of commentary on the new iPhone (yes, I want one) but last week both Ron Jeffries and the Freakonomics folks struck the same cord: staying the course. Inspired by recent events in Iraq strategy, Stephen Dubner compares Barack Obama’s recent comments at a Senate hearing to behavioral economics and the sunk cost fallacy. Jeffries goes a step further offering an explanation as to why leaders often prefer to stay the course:

“Staying the course gives you a chance to be a winner, and leaves you no worse off than any other action, which guarantees you will be a loser.”

Of course there is another reason why many managers can’t bear to kill a project – that would be admitting they were wrong about something. When finally backed into a corner (or presented with overwhelming evidence) they are more likely to practice a little revisionist history than concede they were ever mistaken about a project. Maybe more projects need a Zed Shaw to do a little analysis! It may not be pleasant, but more often than not, the best outcome for a project can be an early death.

Categories: Agile, Development, Software Tags: