Opinion Technical

Forensic Analysis of “No Silver Bullet”

(Image by Lee Ufan) I. Our task — Software engineering has a long and hallowed tradition of uncritically evaluating and citing evidence [1][2]. It is our keenest joy to snatch a quote or cite a statistic without any critical evaluation of the source. As far as one might like to dig into the past this is the way it has always been done, and maybe the way it always will be done. Perhaps in the early days the fight for…

Opinion Technical

Why Software Process Never Works

Nothing induces more ambivalent feelings in working software developers than the idea of process. On the one hand we crave the sanity, insight, and opportunity for self-improvement that processes promise. On the other, we actively fear trying to introduce them into our organizations. Stories of botched or half-assed attempts to apply some new-fangled methodology are as common as dirt. Often times the end result can be worse than if nothing had been done at all. One popular explanation for this…

Technical Tips

Monitor Celery Queue Consumption Speed

A lot of times when using the python Celery library it’s useful to be able to monitor how fast the queue is being consumed. This is useful if you need to do a back of the envelope to see how long  a queue will take to chew through, or just to see how the current status of the queue to make sure there aren’t any blockages. So I decided to whip up a simple script to do just that. While this…

To work iron, a hammer is needed, and to have a hammer, it must be made. For this purpose there is need of an other hammer and other tools, and again to get these there is need of other tools, and so on to infinity. In this way one might try to prove, in vain, that men have no power to work iron. But the fact is that at first, with the tools they were born with, men succeeded, however laboriously and imperfectly, in making some very simple things; and when these were made they made other more complex things with less labour and greater perfection; and thus advancing gradually from the simplest works to the making of tools, and from tools to other works and other tools, they have reached a point where they can make very many complex things with little labour. In just the same way the intellect by its inborn power' makes intellectual tools for itself by which it acquires other powers for other intellectual works: and from these works still other tools - or capacity for further investigation - and thus makes steady progress until it reaches the summit of wisdom.
Spinoza - Treatise on the Emendation of the Intellect
Misc

On The Gradual Nature Of Improvement

genetic algorithms
Technical Tips

Implementing Genetic Algorithms In Scheme

I’ve been learning a lot of Scheme programming recently, and while learning is great, it’s nothing if you can’t cut your teeth on a project of your own every once in a while. I needed a project. It had to be something not dictated by SICP, something fairly challenging, and also something of decent size. When I first tried reading SICP in college, I’d tried implementing genetic algorithms in it and failed horribly. To see if I’d made any progress I…

Technical Tips

Python Tip: Convert XML Tree To A Dictionary

I was doing a simple XML integration with SOAP service today and it really struck me that a lot of the data manipulation would be easier if the data was a dictionary. In addition, the XML returned was guaranteed to be fairly small and have only a handful of schemas – so a full-blown SAX parser wasn’t really necessary as there was no risk of overflowing memory with the raw XML data. So I decided to write a simple recursive…

Technical Tips

Trying To Recreate An SICP Example In Python

This morning I was playing around and decided to try and recreate an example from Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs (SICP). Along the way I discovered some unexpected gotchas with how Python scopes closures. The example I was trying to reproduce was the following one: (define (make-account balance) (define (withdraw amount) (if (>= balance amount) (begin (set! balance (- balance amount)) balance) “Insufficient funds”)) (define (deposit amount) (set! balance (+ balance amount)) balance) (define (dispatch m) (cond ((eq? m ‘withdraw) withdraw)…

Misc Opinion

Why You Shouldn’t Be A Dabbler

One of my favorite books of all time is “The War of Art” by Stephen Pressfield. I’ve read or listened to this book, cover to cover, more times than I care to recount. Yet every time I come back to it something gets freshly reinvigorated within me. You see, what’s incredible about this book is how, in one brilliant maneuver, Steven simplifies the creative persons struggle by naming their primary enemy. He calls it resistance. Resistance is the union of all…

Technical Tips

Better Emacs Rainbow Delimiters Color Scheme

I’ve recently gotten into doing a lot of lisp programming in emacs, and rainbow-delimiters-mode is a huge help in terms of visually finding your way around. What I wasn’t  thrilled with, however, was the default color scheme which is rather bland. So I decided to spice it up. So here’s some better defaults for rainbow delimiters mode: (custom-set-faces ;; custom-set-faces was added by Custom. ;; If you edit it by hand, you could mess it up, so be careful. ;;…

Technical

The SICP Picture Language In Racket

Get to the picture language section of SICP and actually want to draw stuff? Find out how below. Some Background About a month ago I decided to start taking my programming more seriously. I realized that I had done very little recently to develop my craft, and so I set out to find some resources to whip my mind back into shape. Since it had been a while I decided it might be nice to start from the basics – even…