MikeBD Musings of a 24/6 techie (Software Architect / Technical Manager) family guy struggling to find meaning, balance and strong design / implementation supporting excellent user experiences.

28Sep/100

Comments from James Gosling upon leaving Oracle / my thoughts on the creative and artistic aspects of Software Development

Excerpts From: Java Creator James Gosling: Why I Quit Oracle - In an exclusive interview with eWEEK, Java creator James Gosling discusses a series of issues he earlier declined to take public, including why he left Oracle.

  • Also, asked whether in hindsight he would have preferred Sun having been acquired by IBM (which pursued a deal to acquire Sun and then backed out late in the game) rather than Oracle, Gosling said he and at least Sun Chairman Scott McNealy debated the prospect. And the consensus, led by McNealy, was that although they said they believed “Oracle would be more savage, IBM would make more layoffs.”
  • However, in Gosling’s case personally, he may have fared better at IBM, where technical savvy is generously rewarded. For instance, when IBM acquired Rational Software they saw value in Rational’s chief scientist Grady Booch, co-creator of the UML (Unified Modeling Language), and made him an IBM fellow and more.
  • “All of the senior people at Sun got screwed compensation-wise. Their job titles may have been the same, but their ability to decide anything was just gone.”
  • Also, there are number of interesting comments on Google's use of Java in Android and the relative merits of software patent litigation.

This is an interesting read on employee motivation, reconfirming that the intangibles - including intellectual / creative freedom really do matter.

I have always felt that Software Development is as much a creative / artistic endeavour, if not more so, than it is a science. The scientific aspects reinforce the need for considered methodology, measured responses to create healthy feedback loops on both progress and results, and the imposition of order upon chaos (e.g. design, usability and information architecture). This is true as well of all fields of human activity traditionally considered by many to be purely creative / artistic: music, art, architecture etc...

I believe many technical managers would do very well to contemplate this in hiring by gauging creativity and in production by allowing time boxed exercises to evolve functional and non-functional capabilities. At worst, some time is lost in 15-30 minute manageable increments, but even then, the team benefits from the exercise in many ways. Trust the team, give them the support and tools they need, then prepare to be amazed at how they will add unexpcted value - often willingly contributing their own time.

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6Mar/070

Working online; Guru, IFreelance, Elance, BitWine…

If you currently or have considered working through online freelancing sites there is a thread developing on LinkedIn Answers that could be of interest.

My thoughts are:

With a bent towards code slinger service providers...

In my travels I have been passively collecting a list of resources to be used in this manner and was optimistic that starting small on one or two of these and collecting strong rating / feedback would be a good approach.

My caution personally and from advisors has always been the economy of scale and whether I could expect to win many bids if they came down to pricing vs. offshore consulting houses or individuals.

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2Aug/060

Got me a new PC – part 2: command line fun + a sidebar on how timesheets suck

In part 1 - hardware / OS platform, I discussed the rationale behind purchasing a new PC laptop and configuring it with Windows as a virtual machine host and Ubuntu as a guest OS.

The unfortunate reality of my professional life for the last few years has been that I have spent most of my time in meetings or using MS Word, Outlook, Project and a series of horribly designed timesheet management applications.

Is there a rule in some obscure tome that precludes any usability testing on timesheet applications? One of these timesheet applications was so bad, that I built my own front end to it which quickly grew in popularity amongst the staff. I have enough trouble understanding why employees are made to suffer with the chore of recording their time in the first place. Any manager that is paying attention should be able to account for the time their staff is spending in enough detail to serve realistic enterprise reporting needs. Especially in companies that routinely expect staff to work unpaid overtime, it is counterproductive to force overworked employees to record a detailed accounting of their time. In the companies I have worked for, I have witnessed much more selfless effort contributed by teams that were not asked to keep timesheets than I have seen at other organizations.

My coding habit is crying out for some attention and that is a big part of why I recently changed jobs. When not using MS bloatware and attending endless meetings, any self respecting software developer spends a lot of time at a command line.
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2Aug/060

Got me a new PC – part 1: hardware / OS platform

I tend to go a long time between PC upgrades, generally preferring to plunk down for near-top-of-the-line systems / components and riding them for 4-5 years. My progression of PCs has gone something like: Commodore 64, Intel 386, AMD K6, AMD Athlon XP, Intel Core Duo.

I built the 386 and K6 machines myself from wholesale parts. The Athlon was sourced from the same wholesale vendor but I chose to let them put it all together for me. The new guy is a Dell Laptop. Seems I've come full circle on sourcing since the Commodore 64, I just hope this laptop will not go through as many power supplies...

The Athlon is still running Windows 2000 Professional, which is an install that was carried forward from the K6. The laptop has Windows XP professional. Both of these serve as host OS to VMware virtual machines that run various flavours of consumer Windows releases (for testing software development and installs) and Linux. VMware can be configured the other way around (Linux host, Windows guest) but I prefer to give Windows the native view of the hardware as it is more resource intensive.

With all the recent hype around the Intel Core Duo Macintosh machines, I was really tempted to go that direction with this purchase. I will likely need a Mac Mini or iMac in order to test web development on OS X. However, it just seems too soon to bet on the new Apple hardware, I think it needs some time to mature.
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Tagged as: Continue reading
18May/060

Folding@Home

Update 2007-03-15:

...Soon available for your PS3. I'm still back on the Nintendo Game Cube so no folding for me on a gaming console in the near future. We have lots of fun with Super Monkey Ball 2 though :)

This reminds me that I need to reset myself up since I've not been contributing over the last few months.

Originally posted on 2006-05-18:

Folding@Home is a distributed computing effort to help find cures to diseases. I've been Folding for a few weeks now and so should you :)
If you need some incentive, join Team Engadget (Team Engadget Folding@home enters top 60 in 2006 - Engadget) for a chance to win some cool gear that you'd probably never be able to justify getting for yourself...

My current stats: here

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