Databases: Null is not a value

Many programming languages contain the concept of a null “value,” which can mean “nothing,” or may be precisely equal to integer zero. When encountering this in a database, it would be natural to assume it means roughly “nothing.” This is a naive, although workable definition of null. As we’ve seen, simplified and even incorrect definitions can nonetheless sometimes be helpful. In this case, it is better to have absolute clarity. Continue reading “Databases: Null is not a value”

You're Doing Agile Wrong

Agile is the hip new software development methodology. Everyone from Fortune 100 firms to doughnut shops are trying to implement it these days. When even a US Department of Defense contractor is trying to become agile, a serious paradigm shift away from the traditional waterfall approach to a better methodology must be happening because agile is better. Or is it?

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User Interfaces for Engineers

Because everyone and their grandma is coming out with a book on “usability for people who aren’t user interface designers,” I’ve decided that I too am qualified to say something on the matter. I’ve been writing some docs in preparation for my hiatus from Etna, and below I’ve included some snippets from those docs. This is high-level advice for programmers that have to make do with their own interfaces, and want a good starting point for designing UIs. Continue reading “User Interfaces for Engineers”

The Fencepost Problem

If there’s anything I’ve noticed that plagues many less-experienced programmers, it’s what I refer to as the fencepost problem (or fencepost error, if you will). The problem can be most succinctly summed up using this thought exercise: Imagine a fence that is 100 meters long. A fencepost is needed every 10 meters. How many fenceposts are needed?

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Why I Don't like CakePHP

I’ve used CakePHP for a lot of projects now. Verdict: there’s no comparison to Ruby on Rails. Ruby on Rails is smartly integrated, well-designed, and sits on top of an elegant language. CakePHP is an admitted ripoff of Rails that sits on a popular but terrible language. It copies Rails – almost randomly – without copying any of the stuff that makes Rails great. PHP is a language plagued by indecision, delays, and paradigms from the last decade. Continue reading “Why I Don't like CakePHP”

Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit Review

I’ve been using the Windows 7 RC since early May, so after 4 months I thought it’d be a good time to review it before the official launch. TL;DR: Windows 7 is a highly polished, production-ready environment that will redeem the Windows product line. Continue reading “Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit Review”