Every couple of years months [checks wristwatch] weeks, we reinvent a file format for no particularly good reason. Don’t get me wrong; we come up with all kinds of reasons to justify what we’re doing—easier to read, better for the environment, It’s Got Electrolytes™—and sometimes, the new format does genuinely represent a meaningful or necessary improvement. But more often than not, we’re just reinventing things out of boredom and a nagging sense, deep down, that if we don’t keep changing everything constantly, normal people may grok that most of the reason programming is complicated and weird is because we put a lot of effort into making it that way.
This should be a hard blog post to write–after all, it’s the one where I openly admit I had an emotional breakdown and saw a mental health professional–but it’s actually easy. And it’s easy because it has a good ending: facing long odds and a frustrating situation, I ended up turning everything around and getting a place where I love my job and I’m a happy person again. But this is not one of those times where the journey was the fun part.
Yesterday, Microsoft continued down a path that they’ve been pursuing for awhile by providing even tighter ties between Windows and Linux–including allowing running unmodified Ubuntu binaries directly in Windows. Reactions were, to say the least, varied; many people were preparing for the apocalypse, others were excited about being able to use Unix tools more easily at work, and still others were just fascinated by how this was technically accomplished. These reactions mostly made sense to me.
Edit: Mere days after posting this (and unrelated to this post), Google publicly apologized for the Android 6 roll-out delay and pushed out Android 6.0.0 to Nexus 6 devices. They then followed that up extremely rapidly with the Android 6.0.1 update. I think this bodes incredibly well. Project Fi is still a very new service, and I’ve little doubt that Google has to work out some kinks of their end.
I’ve seen a lot of posts recently about how Windows 8, and Windows Phone 8, are failures. These posts inevitably talk about how the new user interface is a complete mess, or how, no matter how great Windows Phone 8 may be, the app situation is so bad that Microsoft should simply give up on the platform. I actually disagree with these arguments as such. While OS X and iOS are my daily operating systems, Metro is, in my opinion, a great touch interface, and will make a wonderful tablet experience…once they remove the desktop.
I always travel ready to get stuck and be forced to work remotely. My tool of choice for that varies, but has recently been a third-generation iPad armed with my Nokia 800’s old folding keyboard, PocketCloud, and Prompt. With these four simple tools, plus Azure and AWS in a pinch, I can pretty easily get a good day’s work done anywhere. So when I got stuck in Los Angeles this past Saturday, I wasn’t worried: I knew I’d still be able to help Fog Creek get stuff done.
I remember when I was back in college looking for summer internships. It stank. No one gave me any meaningful guidance (very much including the college employment office). I had no idea how to organize the process. I had no central location to store contact information, or to easily make sure I’d done the next step. I just kind of had a stack of brochures and business cards on my desk that I tried to follow up on, and an Entourage calendar of any upcoming interviews I had.
Business of Software has long stood as a unique conference for me: while nearly every tech conference I attend focuses on the technological side of delivering a solution, Business of Software focuses on actually delivering the goods. How do you reach people? How do you know you’ve reached people? How, if you’ve reached people, do you turn that into profit so that you can keep making people’s lives better? These are insanely important questions, and ones that are far too easily glossed over in the debate of what database software to use, or what language has the easiest hires, and that’s a huge part of why so few start-ups actually manage to get anywhere.
Let’s set the scene. It’s the summer of 2010. Kiln had been launched into the wild for all of six months, after a grueling year-long, no-revenue sprint to turn my dinky prototype that ran only on my personal laptop into a shipping application that worked both in Fog Creek’s hosted environment and in a gazillion ever-so-slightly-different on-site installations. We’d had all of a few months actually charging people, and were only just barely making a month-to-month profit, let alone having a positive ROI.
I think the point of math class is probably to teach people math, but what many of the best developers I know actually learned in math class was how to program. Nearly every high school math class I took was really, really boring. Not through the fault of the teachers; they were actually awesome. But I consistently knew just enough to be bored, yet not enough to actually skip the class.