August 31, 2004

Getting academic

Today I got a package from the Federal Ministry of Inner Things (?) and a certificate which entitles me to carry the degree engineer.

I requested it two weeks ago after having enough active working time enabling me to get it.

Ok, now I'm an engineer, so what? I don't have more knowledge than before, I don't get a higher salary (at least in my company)... What is it good for?

Well, perhaps if I have to do with authorities this could make some things easier, don't know yet.

Let's see, what changes...

Update madness

In general I try to keep my linux dev machine as up to date as poosible.

So I normally reside on the "testing" branch of Debian.
From time to time I run a "apt-get update ; apt-get upgrade" to get the latest tested versions of my installed software and fetch security patches and other improvements.

This time I'm regretting badly:
The latest version of SciTE, my main development environment, got an update to 1.61. The main change in this release is that it "uses the improved file chooser on GTK+ 2.4". Dammit.

I don't know how GTK defines "improved" but this file dialog is just unusable.
I have to select everything with the mouse, keyboard navigation is not present. Can be quite annoying if you search a single file in a 1000+ directory even if you exactly know the name of the file. Scrolling nightmare. It is not possible to go up a directory tree easily and the highest level directly available is your home directory. Altough there is a point "Filesystem" on the left bar, this takes you directly to "/". You can't go directly to e.g. "/home/" from "/home/user/", you have to take all the way over "/".

Well, you can define bookmarks(?) to jump directly into a directory but you can't rename them and so I'm having three bookmarks called "include" and everytime I have to try each one where it takes me when I search a file in one of those.

What makes everything a bit worse is that there IS actually (some sort of ) a keyboard navigation present, you can reach it by "CTRL-L" inside the open file dialog (Shortcuts in dialogs? What the...?). An autocomplete-bar opens where you can enter the path and name of the files more or less usable but this definitely should have been on the main open dialog.

Sadly I can't downgrade my editor anymore because it seems that the old package is not available anywhere.

Well, this gives me motivation again to try to migrate my development environment over to Eclipse in combination with CDT.

August 29, 2004

Blog structure change

I have changed the file layout of this blog.

Previously the entries were saved in a naming format which was created with an id.

Now the posts are stored in subdirectories created from the date of posting and the file is named after the post title.
The old files are redirecting to the new files so that people hitting them are not left in the void.

I'll also dig through all my posts to correct links.

I'm also fiddling with other things but these are not finished yet.
As a side effect commenting is currently not working.

August 26, 2004

Blogging motivation

I just was asked why I take the time to blog.

Well, this has no easy answer. In fact I can give no definive reason why I blog but I can give some thoughts which came into my mind over time.

Blogging could be a vent to take some stress from me at work. It could take more from my back if I decided to give deeper information about my job and the environment but this could also backfire quite a bit. I already thought about that earlier, but I'm still not sure...

It could also be a way to remember things. Perhaps in five years I'll read through my blog and and think of how it was at that time, what things I was busy with, what concerned me and so on.

I also practice english writing and enhance my vocabulary.

Another possibility could be to get in touch with people which are interested in the same thinds as I am. I regulary fly take a short look somewhere into my visitor logs, look where they come from and what they were looking for on my site.
Visitors can also leave comments on each of my blog entry, check out the link below each post if you care.

Surely if I thought about that more I could come up with some more speculation but I really don't know exactly why I do some things and don't do others.

Other people collect stamps or memorize phone books, I blog. Small hobby but nevertheless.

August 25, 2004

Two strings or not two strings?

Philosophical problem:

Imagine you have two empty strings and concatenate them together. Does the new string contain two empty strings or is it a all new empty string?

Who can even prove that the original empty strings weren't constructed of several empty strings themselves?

Need a cancer?

I may have a strange humour, but doesn't sound a subject like "American Cancer Society Needs Beta Testers" a bit strange?

Wanna beta-test our new cancer? ;)

August 24, 2004

Sneaking in development enhancements

Somewhere on a page of Joel Spolsky or one linking to it I stumbled across the comment that if you want to improve your software development but have to fear refusal from your colleagues you should try some creeping methods.

Today I tried that and "forgot" a copy of The Joel Test at a prominent place, right next to the coffee machine. Perhaps some people will take a look when they are recharging their energy with caffeine and unconsciously pick up a meme from it.

In the long term my goal is to have an influence in our process of software development so that we can enhance our overall quality and maintainability. Perhaps I can even get my foot into the newly re-founded Software Quality Team, currently only represented by one person.
I have so many ideas, some of them surely worth a deeper evaluation:
- enhance/update our task management system, so that we can more easily keep up with Bugzillas development
- set up a better automated build machine, better integration with CVS (Tinderbox?)
- enhance our make-scripts for faster from-scratch-building
- use php templates in our web administration interface for easier customization and maintenance
- use Eclipse IDE for most of our development tasks (C++, PHP, etc.)
- ...
Gaaahh, my head is bursting of dozens of small ideas how to improve development. Just have to convince the right people...

August 23, 2004

Yahoo inside

Last friday I was finally forced to install Yahoo Messenger because some of our customers use this as the main comm-channel to our staff and I don't think that they'll install ICQ just to be able to talk to me.
Customer rules, that's how it should be ;)

Hopefully we get the tests done today. If the customer wasn't that "lazy", we could have done them two weeks ago.

August 20, 2004

Muscle ace

The last two days were hot. Quite hot, both days over 30?C.

I went swimming with my girlfriend the first time this year, unluckily I got no chance before.

And of course I was much too active in the water, leaving me with hurting muscles and totally exhausted.

Today it seems to get hot again, guess how I'll feel this evening ;)

August 18, 2004

Analogies II

I hope that I find the time to watch team america when it comes out here.

Looks promising and funny :)


This somehow reminds me of myself.
Well, not 'bout the music part but I also practiced (and partly still do) passive software abuse.

But I would never try to make money with software I don't legally own. This is not me and never will be.

Why shouldn't I give credit to the creators of software when their software aided me in gathering bucks?

August 17, 2004

Last few days review

I almost forgot to blog recently.
This could be caused because in the last week I could program and develop freely most of the time.
There were no tasks in queue which could be worked on without help of any of my colleagues which are/were on vacation and cutomer requests/reactions were low-water too.

I worked on many parts of our codebase and threw out many leftovers from already refactored structures and updated the code which was still using it. In the same pull I also refactored a large suite of testcases and simplified >5.000 lines of code down to about a sixth of its size.

Some of my refactoring activity also affected performance more than I expected: I managed to speed up some often-used parts near the DB backend to be about 40 percent faster than before. And that in an area which I expected to have finished performance optimization sometime last year. Yay!

I also managed to get my ICQ online again with help of the ICQ Support Team. The problem is/was that the server lying behind port 80 of seems to have a problem with my ICQ account. ICQ Support suggested to switch to port 443 (luckily not blocked by our NAT) and everything worked again.

Within company I'm trying to get some abonnements and books ordered which I find quite helpful for developming as well as project management and software/project engineering in general. But I got no response yet from the person which is responsible here.

August 11, 2004

ICQ trouble

For some days now I have quite some trouble to get my work ICQ to successfully connect.

The best thing I get is the yellow flower but in most cases I get a "Too many login attemts" or "Could not connect, Try again". Dammit.

It could possibly be something with our network but I somehow doubt that because others have no problems connecting.

The only way to get "Online" is by ICQ2Go, the Web-Interface based ICQ..

I also tried some Linux-Clients, no success either.

I expect there to be some error on the server side of my profile which prevents me from logging in... Hm....

Hubble saved

NASA Gives OK to Fix Hubble Telescope.

This is (finally) good news for space science, they found a way to go around the "risk for astronauts": They'll be fixing it during a robotic mission.

August 9, 2004

Programmers humours

A little question popped up today as a rhetorical question:

What about a RAID storage array consisting entirely of USB Sticks?

And praising it as our "fully hot-pluggable unfailable storage solution"?

Hell yeah, we're crazy!

August 6, 2004

Giving too much docs to a customer

The last two days I had to fiddle around in DBs and logfiles to create and/or confirm statistical numbers a customer sent us from our system.

The problem was that according to his calculations we were loosing nearly one percent of all billing data.

He collected the numbers by counting through our logfiles and internal DB tables with grep and custom SQL selects.

Of course he got his numbers wrong.

But it was on our side to prove, that he was wrong and what exactly our numbers and his numbers contained.

Of course again I got it wrong too the first time, because our specialists for these areas are on vacation and I had to dig in into the DB structure without exact knowledge of different columns meanings.

Well now, after two days and with the help of another DB specialist we could send the customer a (hopefully well enough documented) explaination of the numbers and how we acquired them.

Never let a customer dig around in your internal structures!

August 2, 2004

Easy weeks?

Until today morning I thought that the upcoming two weeks will be easy ones because my teammates are on holidays and without them I'm almost unable to do anything related to our customers or something with connections to databases.

But when I sat down on my workplace stress level almost immediately raised sky-high because we had a system failure at a customers site.

Exactly right to hit their peak load on monday morning, great!

After some minutes we saw that the system was slowly collapsing because errors were accumulating and building up each other.

Well, in the end we managed it by switching off half of the customers network and letting errors settle down.

Later I discovered that at the beginning of the whole mess was a not-responding database causing timeout-errors and so on. But our database experts still have no clue why the DB was not responding. Weird.

Hope, this doesn't happen again...

Nevertheless, we could have managed much better if the customer had upgraded to a newer version of our software which has enhanced failover algorithms and error supression.