Results tagged “Corporate”

This release management stuff is currently not getting easier by time.
But it seems that I'm performing not so bad, because I've had two releases in my first three days and nobody complained yet about anything.

But I still got no structured process how to perform a release, I hardly have any written notes/documents describing what was released where.

I'd need some free time to build up a release-structure in TWiki, but the next release is just lurking around the corner...

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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.

Hm...
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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Next week there will be a second try to update our software at one of our customers systems, which failed last time. My colleagues have fixed the most probable cause of this and I have also improved my software-part for more stability although it didn't have any stability-problems. But who knows how long this release will be running until the next (hopefully very major) update, I don't want to have it fail under any circumstance.

We're quite sure that this time the release will work as expected and without problems appearing after it.

Well, for us it just has the look of a "service pack" because currently our software has improved quite much since the last install there and we just made some changes, bugfixes and minor improvements to that old version.
It's also already running at the upper third of its capacity because although there are only slightly more clients using it for which it was initially designed, some of these clients use it through a "proxy", so one client generates as much load as several dozens of normal ones.

Our current software already has many design and capability improvements to handle a greater load and offer greater stability and flexibility on the clients side.

Hopefully THIS version gets installed the next time and not another update of the old piece. Maintaining the old version is more difficult every time.

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Near the end of the last week, I updated our installation of Taskzilla with the new layout made by the designer.

Now people have been using it for several days, reported some minor bugfixes to me and everything was fine.

But today I recognized, that on the edit page of every task the category entries were completely misaligned. The category "Task Type" contained the entries from "Dev-Type" and some more swapping around.

It was also impossible to add more CC people, if there was at least one entered, because the entry-field was disabled in that case.

I wonder, why no one has seen this swapping before me. Perhaps this design is that intuitive, but I rather guess, that people are already used to Taskzilla. But why no one has recognized the bug with CC is a miracle for me... Does anyone actually use this feature?

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Yesterday during a presentation for some of our developers/managers, a demo-center which runs entirely from CD was promised for upcoming Friday...

Nice that I'm at least informed during a presentation, that I have a target date for my Knoppix-based CD.

Meanwhile more problems arose, I think I have to remove NTFS-support from the CD for now because it always locks up doing nothing during mount and I don't have the time to dig into this until Friday.

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For some weeks now, a few of my collegues are working on an "All-in-one Demo Center".
This is a special installation of all our solutions combined on one system, to be able to show anybody instantly any of our different products if he is interested and to have a complete reference system running inhouse, which you can put almost everywhere.

Its currently placed on a notebook which is taken to customers as well be present on the somewhere around Cisco's corner.

The operating system is an installation of Suse Enterprise Linux 9(?), the database backend is running Oracle and the webinterface runs on top of Apache.

To distribute this solution on other machines, ISOs are created with Mondo Linux, which then can be inserted in almost any other computer, booted and puts the ISOs data on the computers harddisk. Existing data is lost with that solution.

I was granted to try to make anoter All-In-One center, which boots completely from CD on any computer but without harming the existing data on the disk. Running completely in a ramdisk without even touching the disks in any way.

I'm basing my installation on a stripped down distribution of Knoppix, which already runs completely from CD. It uses a compressed image as data-source, so it can hold some GB of data on a single CD.

Initially this seemed to work quite well, the database files (>2GB) compressed down to about 100 MB and the oracle binaries also shrinked a bit.
But soon I ran into problems because oracle could not start up in a complete read-only mode. It needed write-access to its database files, lockfiles and so on which was impossible to do on CD.

So I decided to temporarily mount existing drives and put the needed writable files as well as a swapfile (oracle needs plenty of RAM) there only during the time of demonstration and remove it completely on shutdown again.
Seemed cool idea, worked theoretically and found gread acceptance.
Practically I had the next problem: the notebooks of our marketing people, where this should run on, have only NTFS partitions and Linux currently has only reasonable readonly-support for NTFS.
Luckily I found the Captive project, which grants RW-access to NTFS by including the original WinXP driver into linux.

My work is to integrate all the pieces and give it a foolproof interface so that even the least experienced marketing person can use it to demonstrate our solutions anywhere.

Currently, I'm almost finished with preparing the environment for oracle. This means auto-detection of all partitions, their free space and file-system, let the user choose the destination, copy the datafiles, correctly split up and soft-link together again read-only and read-write files and finally start up oracle in such a patched together combination ;)

Somewhere by next week I should be finished with oracle and also have integrated the administration interface.
That means, if no other problems appear.

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For some hours today I had to take care of a Oracle support engineer(?) who installed Oracle Application Server on some of our development machines.

In fact, I just had to stand next to him and watch him trying to work around errors.

But just the fact, that I had been the one who had to stay with him makes me think that I'm gaining a bit footprint in the company and that I slowly can increase my area of responsibility.

Perhaps I can grow out of the development area a bit, but I don't want to stop development at all.
'Cause programming is still fun for me.

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Just received the standby mobile phone. I've been included in the attendance circle and this week I'm on the hot seat.
If something goes wrong with our product at one of our customers, I'll be called and I have to solve the problem as fast as possible.

More responsibility for me, I hope nothing bad happens.

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Everything worked well over the night but only seconds after we gave an "everything ok!" this morning, everything collapsed.

We had a lot of trouble and finally we went back and removed the update, because the system threw out coredumps every other moment.

Time for debugging now, but the coredumps are not very meaningful.

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The release change is over, everything worked almost immediately, going home.

Have to get up at 06:00 to take my car (again) to the garage, so that they can fix my mirror, which they forgot last time.

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Today is carnival, and what am I doing?
I'm participatin in a software release change at one of our customers systems.

Action starts at 23:00 and I guess if nothing goes wrong, we'll be finished shortly after midnight.

My personal fraction of work will be to shut down the systems, change a small part, wait for my collegues to finish database- and web-updates and then start the whole stuff up again. Mostly waiting.

I don't expect something to go havoc because our release-process ensures an almost straightforward workflow and our software should be failure-tolerant enough to start up without much trouble. And takeover systems are always present so that the customers shouldn't recognize, that something is changing.

Nevertheless, stopping a system which is in use by several thousands of people 24/7 is a bit thrilling every time.

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Yesterday our team got a new member. Its current task will be to slowly grow into our systems, libraries and structures and (midterm) help us with the development of our solution.

It will be mostly my function to help him with that and show him every niche and the dark corners of our software.

This is the first non-trivial teaching exercise I have got and I'm willing to give my new collegue as much insight and knowledge as I can.

I showed him to the overall structure and flow yesterday and either he is cleverer than me when I were introduced to that or I'm a better teacher than the person who introduced me to the whole system two years ago.
In fact, that doesn't matter. What matters is, that he understands the whole stuff :)

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Okay, this time I'll post the summary of the Town Hall Meeting, which I've promised. I've talked with my co-workers and the staff association also sent out a summary with some comments.
In general I asked questions about the current and future situation of our product, how product-development will be handled and what developers can expect.

Well, I can't really complain much about the situation of our team in the last weeks, our department leader did his best to protect us from the almost-random and changing moods of our company leaders which always wanted to pull out the best people from existing teams and stuff them into new projects. Everyone can guess, that such a behaviour does no good to existing teams and projects and the chances that these will fail, not finish within timeline or become unprofitable are rising with every removed developer.

It seems, that all such stuff comes to a stop now and we'll focus again on existing and or proved products and knowledge and we won't accept every (really every!) project, which crosses our path, even if we don't have any experience in that areas (what aparently has been done in the past).

At the Town Hall Meeting there was a clear committment towards our product development, which will be enforced in the future. We'll get (a bit) more marketing and sales, our target market is enlarged from the top-only to the whole enterprise-market and we have a bit more freedom in development, so that we can implement features which (we hope) will be asked for in the future.

Of course there were other questions at the meeting and most of them have been answered in a way, so that I can look very optimistic into our future, but I want to concentrate on those, which more or less affect me, our team or product.
Some questions were also answered in a "business"-manner, so that you wouldn't have less information if there wouldn't have been an answer at all, but on nearly all questions it was said that more talks and discussions will happen to improve the situation.

If you would ask me now to tell you my motivation on a scale of 10, I'd give it an 8-9. Quite high :)
Somewhere in the (past) bad day's I think I were down somewhere to 3-4, I'm now happy that I kept hopefull.

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The new TaskZilla design looks great, my helping hand got familiar with the bugzilla templates quite fast :)

I feel the pressure from the top, merging everything into a project-based approach, more and more. And I still feel uncomfortable with that.
I don't like it, I want to work on a product, get feedback from the customers and enhance it. I know, that the potential of the product is much more, than currently, but there is no time to work on something like that.
Everything has to happen during a (paid) project, crap.

Well, relocations are happening here, people are moving out of their rooms, to other blocks etc. and other people are moving in. Seems, that the people staffed for a project are "collected" to the same places. But this approach is not good for the people, who are staffed for several different projects.
You can talk directly to the people of the project at your place, but it's harder to talk to people of the other projects, because phoning them is not always successful and mail-responses take some time.
TaskZilla smoothens this a bit, but... well, its not a nice solution.
And much time is lost with moving, reconfiguring network access and so on. Luckily I'm not affected, but I feel some sort of isolated a bit, since few are left around me who work on the same project (and none, who works on the same product).

Last Saturday, there was a big "Personality Test" on TV. I took a look at it, to "find out more about me". Well, I'm a Rational/Inventor (german, detail). Expected something like this, but didn't think that it fits that good. Only few things are wrong, ie. I don't think, that I'm charismatic ;) But that lies in the eye of the viewer.

Want to take a test yourself? Here (german).

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Wohoo... The TaskZilla train is rushing in, usage increases, migrations are running and task numbers are rising :) Now got a helping hand for the design of the stuff. I'm not really a good designer, I'm much better in implementing an already created design. But being creative (in arts stuff) myself is not my thing.

Seems, that I will have to introduce an separate "New Task"-page for PM's to better meet their requirements and to split the PM-stuff apart from the initial developers-page.

Offtopic: My girlfriends C++ - teacher is a moron. Or is it common to build the double-include-prevention like this:

#ifdef include1_define_h
#include "include1.h"
#endif

additionally inside the headerfile itself there is another check, where it belongs to. *brrrr* Imagine the code-block in one of our source-files where 20+ includes occur. And now the teachers reason for such idiotic stuff: "Because the application runs faster if it has not to open the include-files twice".... Gosh, C++ is not VB, go back to your QBasic editor, if you don't know the difference between interpreted and compiled languages! Save your and (more importantly) your students time.

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