Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Why Can't Programmers... Program?

Excellent piece of writing today from Jeff Atwood, who poses the question how on earth the majority of applicants for a programming job can't even solve the most basic tasks, let's say implement a linked list, or a simple SQL join. Yeah I know there is java.util.LinkedList, but guess what, I have seen people iterating over a LinkedList in a counting loop using get(int index) on each element. Can you say O(N2)? That's just my point! That's why sites like The Daily WTF never run short of stories on "curious perversions in information technology".

So I openly admit that just like Jeff I am getting increasingly tired of being affiliated with a profession where let's say

  • 4 out of 10 people don't know how to code at all

  • another 4 out of 10 people know how to code (kind of), but don't know how to design software systems

  • which leaves 2 out of 10 people who are actually qualified for what they are doing

What's really ironic is that underperformers often slip through the recruitment process quite easily, while some of top notch folks won't because they expect a somewhat higher salary, a nice working environment or an interesting project assignment.

This usually happens when interviewing is exclusively done by human resource folks or other people who are not capable of letting candidates do some sample coding right on the spot, and who have never heard about Joel Spolsky's "The Guerrilla Guide to Interviewing" or the fact that the best developers are ten times more productive (that is ten times more features or the same feature-set ten times faster, with ten times fewer errors) than the worst (which refers to "the worst qualified" who might still be considered for doing the job - and many empirical studies compare people coming from the same training or working in the same team).

I can't imagine this is usual in other areas (imagine that e.g. in the medical field). It must have to do with the unique nature of software development. And the fact that many decision makers don't quite grasp how it works.

Monday, February 19, 2007

EBay'ed A PDP 11 CPU

Yet another show-piece for my computer museum, and that for only 25GBP, a real bargain! ;-)

I think this chipset comes from the PDP-11/84 series.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Power Of Google

Two weeks ago, my car began bucking. First only when starting to go or when switching gears, later on it also happened randomly just while driving. At my repair shop they changed the spark plugs, and also informed me that the clutch was a little loose, but fixing it would turn out quite expensive, and might actually not pay off any more considering the age of the car.

Unfortunately the bucking did not stop, it got worse. I asked for advice again, and once more the mechanic recommended repairing the clutch. Originally I had been planning to buy a new car in the second half of 2007, so that would probably have meant to prepone that purchase. So I started skimming through car sales notes already...

In a final attempt, I invoked a Google search on my car's model and construction generation, as well as several keywords describing the behavior. Hundreds of online forum posts showed up. I took a look at the first results which included possible explanations, and did a quick count on which parts might be involved. Seven out of ten postings listed "exhaust gas regulation valve" (I hope that's the term in in English), others such as "lambda probe", "fuel filter", "spark plugs" or "injector" scored between one and four (some articles specified several causes).

At this point I should probably mention that I have absolutely no clue about cars in general, and just a very rough idea what an "exhaust gas regulation valve" might even be. But I went back to my repair shop and told them to give the exhaust gas regulation valve thingy a shot instead of fiddling with the clutch. They did, and sure enough the valve turned out to be the root cause.

Thank you Google!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

System Calls On HTTP Request

I slightly doubt the claim that comparing the number of system calls while processing two HTTP requests on Linux/Apache and Windows/IIS inherently proves that Windows is less secure than Linux, but those two call graphs alone are worth looking at.



Thanks to Richard Stiennon for this visualization, nice idea.

Monday, February 05, 2007

SOAP: The S Stands For "Simple"

Pete Lacey pretty much sums up the horror I have gone through during the last five years when it came to web service integration.


Developer: (Reads XML Schema spec). Saints preserve us! Alexander the Great couldn't unravel that.

SOAP Guy: Don’t worry about it. Your tools will create the schema for you. Really, its all about the tooling.


Developer: This is getting ugly. The WSDL my tools generated can't be consumed by the tools my partners use. Not only that, the schemas it generates are impenetrable and can't be reused. And no tool seems to have agreed on how best to handle the SOAPAction header.

SOAP Guy: Sorry to hear that, buddy. On the bright side, nobody uses the Doc/Lit style anymore. In order to get transport independence back we’re all using wrapped-doc/lit now. Doesn't that sound cool: wrapped-doc/lit?