Archive for August 2004

News 03 Aug

SoftwareCEO.com has a feature about Fog Creek Software on their home page this week: “In fact, Spolsky takes a skeptical view of almost every bit of received wisdom he's ever heard about running a software company. His views are refreshing and thought-provoking, and they certainly work in his niche.” (Read it this week, as SoftwareCEO archives are open to paid subscribers only.)

News 04 Aug

Eric Sink: “It‘s okay to be in awe of these great hackers. But as a practical matter, small ISVs would be much better off hiring professionals.” Agreed!

Which reminds me, I can't wait for Johanna Rothman's new book on hiring geeks to come out. I'm reading the manuscript now and it's a great book on a topic that doesn't get a lot of coverage.

News 06 Aug

Aleph Hotel RomeI'm just about to leave for the annual Spolsky family vacation... this year we've got a villa in Umbria, Italy. I'll be passing through Rome on Monday, August 16th. We've got a few people who have already confirmed to meet for a dinner there, so if you'll be in town, let's meet up!

Where: The lobby of the Aleph Hotel
Address: Via di San Basilio, 15
When: 20.00 lunedì 16 agosto 2004

I'll make sure the concierge knows where I am. At 8 PM when we see how many people show up, we'll find a good restaurant that's open (not easy in August in Rome, I'm told) and talk about software (and food (and the heat)).

News 19 Aug

Joel on Software: The Book!My second book has finally been published!

The official title is Joel on Software: And on Diverse and Occasionally Related Matters That Will Prove of Interest to Software Developers, Designers, and Managers, and to Those Who, Whether by Good Fortune or Ill Luck, Work with Them in Some Capacity, but you can call it Joel+37 or Joel, The Book.

It's meant to be a "best of" the website, in other words, there's not a heck of a lot of new material. Gary Cornell and I chose what we thought were the most timeless 45 articles (362 pages) from the Joel on Software archive, and I spent some time cleaning it up and adding occasional postscripts for the book version. Besides the fact that you can read it in the bath, the biggest advantage of the book is that when you throw it at your colleague's head after a very frustrating argument about whether to throw away all your code and start over from scratch, it makes more of an impact than a URL. So buy several copies and keep them handy for winning arguments at work. We tried to keep the price low (it's under $17 today at Amazon).

(The first book was User Interface Design for Programmers, still in print).

For some reason there are already four reviews of this book up at Amazon.com which don't make any sense; they look like reviews of an Oracle book I'd like to read. If you like the material you've read on this site, I'd sure appreciate if you could write a little review on Amazon and drown out the comments there about somebody else's book.

Postscript: Wow! The book is #1 in "Computers" on Amazon! Thanks!

Postscript Two: Thanks to those of you who attended the Joel on Software dinner in Rome (pictures), even if we did have to drag in people from Zurich and London and walk around for a while hunting for an open restaurant.

Postscript Three: The only case I know of where a manual transmission beats a good automatic transmission is when you're driving on the highway, and you know that sometime soon you're going to have to pass somebody, so you downshift to third gear to get ready to accelerate. An automatic transmission can't read your mind, so it stays in 4th or 5th, and has to downshift when you floor the accelerator, thus creating a temporary hesitation between the time you press the gas and the time the acceleration starts which wouldn't exist if you were already in 3rd gear.

News 19 Aug

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-timeAlmost everyone who has worked with programmers or mathematicians knows someone with at least a light form of Asperger's Syndrome: the well-recognized symptoms include an inability to interpret peoples' emotions from their facial expressions, incredibly logical thought processes that make math easy but human relations darn near impossible, and fear of physical contact with other people.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time is quite possibly the best book I've read this year. It purports to be a novel written by Christopher Boone, a fifteen year old boy who suffers from Asperger's, and it hits the mark spot on. Christopher finds a neighbor's dog dead with a pitchfork stuck in it:

I decided that the dog was probably killed with the fork because I could not see any other wounds in the dog and I do not think you would stick a garden fork into a dog after it had died for some other reason, like cancer for example, or a road accident. But I could not be certain about this.

It's funny, but it's also logical, in the irritating way that so many programmers are logical beyond reason. Poor Christopher can barely take a train -- the man behind the window asks him if he wants a single ticket or a round trip, which he doesn't understand.

"And he said, 'Do you want to go one way, or do you want to go and come back?'

And I said, 'I want to stay there when I get there.'

And he said, 'For how long?'

And I said, 'Until I go to university.'

And he said, 'Single, then'."

Christopher numbers the chapters with prime numbers, and can't resist including a mathematical proof as an appendix, but he doesn't know when people are angry with him and hates being touched so much his parents can't hug him. I must warn you not to start reading it before you go to sleep because nobody I know has been able to put it down without reading through to the end.

News 25 Aug

Dare Obasanjo at Microsoft read How Microsoft Lost the API War and took it to heart: “The Microsoft culture is about creating the newest, latest greatest thing that 'changes the world' not improving what is already out there and working for customers. When I read various Microsoft blogs and MSDN headlines about how even though we've made paradigm shifts in developer technologies in the recent years we aren't satisfied and want to introduce radically new and different technologies all over again. This bothers me. I hate the fact that 'you have to rewrite a lot of your code' is a common answer to questions a customer might ask about how to leverage new or upcoming functionality in a developer technology.

It's great that some people Microsoft took my article to heart (not just the MSDN editors, who have been running victory laps). Now I have a confession. The reason it took me so long to write this article is that I was afraid Microsoft would actually listen to me, even in some small degree, even if it's just the System.Xml.XmlDocument class. As a developer, I would much prefer if the Raymond Chen camp won -- it sure makes my life easier -- but as a competitor to Microsoft, I have to assume that the stupider Microsoft is, the better.

News 27 Aug

In June I wrote “The old Microsoft, the Microsoft of Raymond Chen, might have implemented things like Avalon, the new graphics system, as a series of DLLs that can run on any version of Windows and which could be bundled with applications that need them. There's no technical reason not to do this. But Microsoft needs to give you a reason to buy Longhorn...”

Microsoft: “Microsoft also announced that the Windows WinFX developer technologies, including the new presentation subsystem code-named ‘Avalon’ and the new communication subsystem code-named Indigo, will be made available for Microsoft® Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 in 2006.”

(MSDNMag 0, RaymondChen 1!)

I've been hard at work on some new code for the discussion groups. Hopefully I'll get an experimental build up somewhere in a week or two and we can start playing with it. It won't look very different from the outside, so don't get too excited. I think probably the biggest visible change will be that when you post something, you'll be able to provide a URL that your name links to. It's a small feature that I'm hoping will have a big effect on the anthropology of the discussion group. Like everything else, it's an experiment. Have a great weekend!

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