April 30, 2004

Fun mail from unknown

For a few weeks now I'm getting fun mails from a unkown person.
Normally I wouldn't bother and delete the mails, but she(?) sent it to several persons.

And some of the names on the To: list sound quite familiar to me altough I don't really get in touch with those people, I just know their names from either basic school or they are friends of a friend of a friend.

I already asked, from where she(?) knows me, or why I'm on her To: list but didn't get an answer yet.

Think, I'll write again sometime...

April 29, 2004

More for less

Its a bit strange. Some time ago I thought, the work which can be done by a team is almost constant after a while. And if you take away some members then, the others have to take over their work.

The work to be done should stay constant or be a bit less (because of course less team members).

Instead it seems that the less people we are in the team, the more we have to do in whole.

I've been chosen to take over the configuration and release management from a team member which was pulled to that other project some time ago. Until now he almost everytime had some minutes left if we needed him for something but now his stress has reached a level where he can't do that much things at once anymore.

And the documentation stuff also bites back again. We've got some assistance by a technical writer, but it's quite a hard time to explain him why we can't deliver documentation of the level he requests. It would require too much detail and would take several weeks to write it. Time we don't have, the documentation should be delivered tomorrow.

I think the difficulties with documentation also have to do something with our current approach to make it.
There are some corporate templates in Word-format and the documentation has to be delivered in .doc but we (developers) have some difficulties with that. Many of us have a Linux computer, and OpenOffice is not a solution for these templates. We are much more used to textfiles, manpages or HTML-pages.

The technical writer also has much work with Word-files. He has to send them out to every developer, then every developer makes changes in the file and sends it back to the TW. The TW then has to review ALL documents again and merge them into a single file again. This process has quite an overhead, don't you think?

So I've offered to make a proposal to perhaps switch our whole documentation system to TWiki, a system which is already in use some time internal for different purposes and has been quite handy there.

Currently I'm thinking about pros and cons for both the old (Word-) way and my new approach to write documentation to perhaps switch to TWiki some time in the future. Although we would loose some comfort and formatting possibilities, we surely can improve and speed up the documentation process because all people work on the same collection of topics at the same time without disturbing each other.

With the TWiki-skins and different TWiki-plugins we can generate documentation in almost any format the customer wishes, just faster and less error-prone than now.

When I think over it, it seems to me that I spend a good time of my work on doing things for projects or processes I invented in spare time which I crotched from project-worktime. Now the tools have proven to be useful and I should improve them... It's odd.
For example TaskZilla, All-In-One Demo Center Live CD or this internal tool which I initially wrote to find errors in our other product.

And I'm currently thinking again of a tool to aid me with my new job of configuration and release management. I In my head, the UI has taken quite concrete shapes meanwhile, but when do I find the time to write it? And does it generate more work again, if others get aware of it?

April 23, 2004

Foreign quote

Teitan has a new quote on his page:
"Der sensible Mensch leidet nicht aus diesem oder jenem Grunde, sondern ganz allein, weil das einzige auf dieser Welt, das vermag seine Sehnsucht zu stillen, ungreifbar fern ist." (after Jean Paul Sartre)

Well, but this doesn't answer the question WHAT this thingie is that would make man sit down and be happy.

Busy, busy, busy

Have been a bit busy recently and found no time to blog.
I've had a bit customer-contact and found out that a tool, that I've written, will be used in a different way than my project manager told me. It would have to be rewritten a bit so that it can be used most effective.

Direct contact developer<->customer can be handy in such cases but can also be suicide if the topic hits corporate interests.

And in our new product-development approach the roadmap is worked over and over again.
Meantime I've got the responsibility to rework and/or redesign two major areas/features of our product.

Our team has also been required to write documentation of our product for our customers (and also internal).
Isn't this in the scope of a special documentation-employee?
NOO, this one is required by another important-considered project at our location.

This special project sucks up employees like a black hole and currently just consists of meetings, reading documents and meetings again. Sometimes staff gets mails why no work has been done yet, but aparently noone cares that all people are always in any meeting... Weird.

Luckily I do (officially) have no knowledge of SQL otherwise I'm quite sure that I would also have been stuffed into that particular project.

April 16, 2004



Yeah, everything which wasn't in the backup I made about two or three years ago when I switched from Netscape 4.51 to Mozilla 1.0.

I guess the damage to about 300 - 500 MB of mails, including those fun-mails containing PowerPoint presentations, picture shows, flash movies, etc.

Gone... Forever...

How could that happen?
Well, I decided do re-install my Win2K because I suspected some hidden errors in my NTFS-filesystem, which weren't corrected by CHKDSK.

I had quite some drawbacks, I couldn't connect to the Internet ("Permission denied" when trying to start the RAS-Connection Manager Service, OS lockdowns, etc.

So I wanted to make a complete copy of my Win2K HDD on my larger HDD (I had enough room left there). During the copy I got access problems, because of open files.
I decided to copy the directory with the open files (of course the "Application Data" directory) later after the rest of the HDD had found a new home.
But after about 45 minutes (yes, it took that long to copy the enourmous ammount of files) I had forgotten about that directory.
Unfortunately Mozilla stores its whole profile data there.
Then I started the installation of the new Win2K instance and chose to completely generate a new NTFS filesystem (to not accidentially carry over the suspected errors) and wipe out all of the previous data.

And when I wanted to reinstall Mozilla and copy over my old profile... bam!... it's not there anymore...


Everyone knows, how important regular backups are, after they lost all of their data.

What can I remember, what was in there?
Hm, all my bookmarks (quite a lot), my complete archive of some mailinglists (one with over 10.000 posts), my school graduation preparations, all mails from my former class collegues with their contact addresses and phone numbers (damn, not these...), my whole address book with many developer contacts, passwords, logins, etc., etc.

Silly me!

April 15, 2004


My girlfriend has been in hospital since sunday now because she has pains in her stomach area and no doctor could tell her, where these come from.

Even pills didn't make it better and today noon she told me that she would get an abdominoscopy this afternoon to find out more.

She called me just a minute ago but was still dazzled from the drugs she got and couldn't me tell much.

I hope, they could find out more because she is pained now for more than a month and it isn't getting better.

I'm visiting her every day and I'll quit work today as soon it is possibe, just have to finish some things.

April 14, 2004

Team consistency

Ok, now it seems to be almost sure, that our database developer can stay with us.

I'm glad for that, because now we don't loose the time where I have to become familiar with PL/SQL and our DB schemes and learn Oracle Database Administration.

Instead we can continue our product development with full throotle.

One regression though, I doubt that the new team member I tried to train before I got ill, won't come back to us in the foreseeable future because he has been pulled back into his previous project.

Today I have also finished an import script which transfers a huge requirements matrix from one of our customers into TaskZilla. Ran without errors and lightning fast, I didn't expect that. It took a week to write that script and I had to work around some errors in the source matrix but finally I was able to map all of our required fields. Yep.

April 9, 2004

Mind wires

I stumbled across a blogger from Microsoft (The Wayward WebLog) who seems to have thoughts and rhetorical abilities comparable to Teitan.

Both seem to see the world and their position in it as if they were sitting inside their brain and comment what's going on in there (I think).

Nice stuff to read, I wished, Teitan would find some time to continue his blog, I always enjoyed reading his posts and falling into some thinking after that.

On some other topic, I finally got my hands on Townsmen, a game for my mobile phone.
It's about building up a city and managing it's ressources to let it grow and evolve. A bit like WarCraft or Command&Conquer, just without the fighting part. Only the management aspect and a piece of Tamagotchi.

At first I had some problems with the controls, as they are not really explained much but I found a Townsmen How to play, and now I understand it much better. I'm curious how long I'll play this game until I get tired of it.

April 7, 2004

Team decompressing

Today I again heard rumours, that our team can perhaps keep its database developer.

Of course there are many rumors currently travelling around about recent changes and many things are going on behind the scenes.

I think, that now most people are lined up and are aware of our direction where we want to go in the future. Most of them are also aware, that this won't be an easy hike and that we are facing problems with manpower and timelines.

I think we shouldn't hide our problems completely from our customers and shift deadlines/milestones back every time but deliver our results on that dates even if they don't meet the requirements for that date.

I'm sure that delivering SOMETHING is better than moving timelines and delivering nothing, which could cause the customer think, that we have much more difficulties than we really have.
And if he sees progress between the milestone deliveries (even if not all targets are met), he will be much more satisfied than always having to wait longer.
We would also be able to receive feedback earlier in the production cycle and fix out bugs or architectural problems before the final deadline.

April 6, 2004

Team compression

Yesterday our team was informed, that it is planned to reduce the member count down to three persons who run everything related to our product development.

Three persons! For the development of a product where more than fifteen persons were busy some time ago. Two years or so.

The good thing is, that this development is planned to be less project-driven than it were until now, perhaps we can even arrive at a milestone-driven workflow.

Three persons doing the whole stuff, C++, PHP, PL/SQL, database administration, machine preparation, technical documentation, user documentation, testing, configuration management, quality management.

I don't think that this is a good idea, but I understand the reasons behind this. Another quite important project is sucking up developers like a black hole and our product is just below the importance and severity of that one.

Everyone knows, that we can get into trouble, if something time critical relating our product, ie. a new customer/project, comes to us, but everyone also knows that we just to have step through this situation.
It can also become critical, if one of us three leaves company or becomes ill, but that's also risk of business.

For me this means, that I'll get a few trainings regarding PL/SQL and Oracle database administration because our last database developer is not one of the three members and I have to take over his job.

I don't appreciate this, because in the past anybody who was known to be able to develop PL/SQL was pulled into one of the big projects sooner or later, and I fear that I won't be left out as soon as I'm not fully loaded with our product anymore.

April 2, 2004

Looking into a better future?

Yesterday a shift in our local leadership was announced.

And we heard, that our company will now focus fully on our products and let other areas out of our core-competencies settle down.
Customer satisfaction is now our primary goal.

I think, the industry upturn now has finally reached even us.