December 18, 2007

So happy new year

Filed under: eire,etanol,meatspace — SiKing @ 4:12 pm
Tags: ,

Things have been kinda agitated past few weeks, but are settling down now in time for the end of the year. Just kinda clearing my head here.

First I have calmed down at $JOB, as I have determined that all the stuff they were trying to fill my head with is mostly irrelevant. In testing, it’s all just software with inputs that are suppose to satisfy some predefined outputs, and it either works or not. Simple as that! Tests written in Java suck as I am spending more time chasing bugs in the test framework than I am in the application; but hey at least I have an endless amount of work available. Everything here is done using Eclipse a very lazy IDE, and source is maintained mostly using Subclipse a flaky piece of crap that at least once a week screws up my workspace. After trying to fix up the F-up for a few hours, usually in frustration, I just blow everything away and start all over with a fresh checkout. I still get a kick out of the Java developer telling me that this is an inefficient use of computer resources, because the source tree is very big. I thought that one of the basic assumptions of Java is that resources are unlimited.

The team that I am currently assigned to, is called Team A.

Apparently I am the first one ever that has put a wallpaper like on their desktop.
Nobody here has a sense of humour , but it sure does put bread on the table .

Anyway, the above clip has brought back some memories of my good ‘ol days, when life was naive and uncomplicated and the world was a much smaller place.

etanol is now officially dead – the motherboard clunked out. I am not really interested in getting another desktop right now, maybe a laptop. Anyway, I tried to figure out how much I could sell the parts off for. I discovered that my €3000 komp is now worth about €300 on the open market – not even worth the hassle. Well, I still do have a couple of other toys to play with, and I have been neglecting those for too long.

My love life is still on the rocks. But there was some good news in the personal life area. Yesterday I found out that there is an actual ice ring in Ireland. My younger boy loves (ice) hockey, and when I left Czech Rep. him having to abandon this sport was my biggest (perhaps only?) disappointment. Do you believe in fate or is it all just coincidence?


November 30, 2007

November 29, 2007

Filed under: cyberspace,meatspace — SiKing @ 4:41 pm

When I was in my late teens, I was quite misguided and rather pissed off at the whole world and everyone around me. For some reason I got an idea at that time to start a diary of a sorts, but I only wrote in it when I had a bad day. Today, I need to make an entry, unfortunately my book is over 7800km away. But we are in the 21st century after all, and we now have blogs where we can inflict (flick?) our crap on any innocent passerby.

Firstly there is the fscked jbex (not a typo; hint: each word is encoded differently). Being a Java house, they use Ant to build and test everything and Cruise Control to drive it all. Now there is nothing wrong with Ant or CC, just like there is nothing wrong with make, Maven, or even bohem. It’s all in how the tool is used and implemented. In this specific case, the build process is an undocumented endless spaghetti of redundant recursive Ant files. My first official task (story) involved adding another test stream to the automation framework. This (building test automation frameworks and what amounts to hacking) is exactly what I have been claiming for the past several years is my speciality! I think I had better stop saying that now, ’cause after this week I think I really suck at it. In my own defence, one of the senior engineers had to take a pretty intensive 2x4hours look at this, in order to make some sort of heads and tails of this mess, but still.

Secondly in my personal life I am (stereotypically) torn between following my heart and following my head. And today she let me have it, just as I deserve! And all that I thought I was doing good and right is actually turning out to be wrong and bad.

November 8, 2007

SOA: Bring it on!

Filed under: tech — SiKing @ 12:21 pm

First few days at a new job and there is a dizzying amount of Web 3.0 buzzwords and technologies flying around. I first made a poor version of this post after only two days of fumbling around on Wikipedia. Well, two more days on Wikipedia and one internal training course later, and here is what I managed to piece together.

A big deal around here is something called SOA: Service-Oriented Architecture. You can follow the link for a very in depth discussion, but the KISS explanation (paraphrased from the Wikipedia entry) is that classic software development uses functions as the basic building blocks; next step up came with the invent of object-oriented programming, where the basic building blocks are classes; the next step up from that uses entire systems or services as the basic building blocks. In this last step, the creation of the application is no longer called programming but orchestration, as almost all underlying code is abstracted away. This is what SOA is. An every day example of a SOA application is a travel website which has to interact possibly with an airline ticketing system, a car rental system, a hotel reservation system, and probably a credit card payment system all behind the scenes and transparent to the user. Sometimes, the application is not even hosted by the client – the sales guys call this SaaS: Software as a Service.

Several more terms often come in at this point in the discussion: WS-*: Web Services (systems or services accessible over the Internet), XML: eXtensible Markup Language (hopefully needs little to no explanation), WSDL: Web Service Description Language (XML description of what a web service does), BPEL: Business Process Execution Language (this one I am still fuzzy on), and REST: REpresentational State Transfer (abstract model of how the WWW works). These and others make SOA possible.

Another popular acronym is ESB: Enterprise Service Bus. This is simply a messaging system, using any number of standardized protocols, which the individual systems utilize to talk to each other, hence the notion of a bus. It is important to note, that the individual systems do not need to be in anyway aware of each other, in fact, they are often developed without any consideration for an ESB or even each other. The ESB is normally created after all the systems have been deployed. The ESB handles all the communication overhead, which is often quite complex. In the travel website example above, it is quite possible that somebody will perform a search for an airline ticket, but will not reserve the ticket until significantly later (once they make up their mind, and once they pay for it using their credit card) if at all. The ESB would keep track of all the request / acknowledge messages and much much more; even things like system failure recovery. So I now work for an ESB Platform provider.

When developing on an ESB, or orchestrating, one often talks about assemblies (individual parts of the application connecting the different systems), messages (information that moves around through the assembly, normally just a file of some type), mediations (processing and transforming messages), transports (moving messages using various protocols), and routing (conditional branching of a transport). There is a built-in job scheduler for tasks, called Quartz, which looks like UNIX-cron, but it’s not! All the assemblies are Spring-based (a framework for building Java-based applications).

Me being a geek (and a tester), I need to know about the guts of the whole thing. The ESB must be platform independent. This is done through application servers (an engine that runs an application for a client) or containers as they are called around here. So I no longer test something running on Windows, Linux, Solaris, or ghod-knows-what, now it runs on JBoss, Tomcat, WebLogic, or WebSphere. Another important ingredient in this soup is Java; the important acronym is JDK: Java Development Kit. The ESB also needs to keep its mind somewhere: Oracle, SQL Server, MySQL, or HSQL. Finally, all the goodies are wrapped up in Eclipse.

October 24, 2007

Time to move on

Filed under: eire,meatspace — SiKing @ 3:20 pm

My old desk

So it’s time for me to make some changes in my life again.

Things got kinda stagnant where I work now: same ol’ same ol’ every day, not much of a career growth that I could see going forward, and the money was falling sharply below the industry average. Once again I am reminded of the great divide between management mentality and the front-line ranks (or at least myself). By coincidence (or perhaps not) I had my annual performance review at the same time. At the end of the review, there was a place where I could speak my mind. I stated that it looks to me like people here get promoted more based on their soft skills rather than their technical skills – we’re talking about software QA. On top of that, I pointed out, the money is much better elsewhere. This, it would seem to me, has the tendency to drive talent out. After hading in my resignation a week later, my boss pleaded that he wanted to keep me at least in the company and he was trying to get me transfered to development where they have more money available. After I thought the offer through, I decided that he was just trying to be polite, because purely from management point of view this did not make sense to me. A company that has no QA (to speak of), is going to burn out their developers too fast, ’cause someone has to test the stuff. Then I thought more about a top-management decision to financially choke QA. Why even bother? I mean, if you are serious about building a good product, you need to invest in QA – I assume everyone in a decision-making position would know that, and if they don’t then the person who placed them there is a serious liability to the company. On the other hand, let’s pretend that someone at the top is intentionally just trying to make things look good so that they could pull an Enron. In that case, again, they are incompetent, because they are wasting good money on a front that could be done by one competent, but significantly cheaper, person. I’m probably too stupid to understand the greater meaning in all of this. As my daughter (8 y.o.) pointed out the other day: “How hard can it be to just push buttons all day dad?”

I normally start off my mornings reading the Metro on the way to work. One of the sections that I particularly enjoy is the letters section. However, recently there seems to be a huge increase of complaints: “I can’t get a seat on the train”, “litter in the streets”, “people spitting”, “ladies putting on makeup”, “I get fined when I don’t purchase a ticket for the train”, “rowdy teenagers”, and I don’t know what else. It’s freakin’ depressing! Sure Ireland has it’s share of problems: the health care system might as well not even exist for all the good it’s doing, and the education system, especially at the primary level, is not far behind. With over ten years of continuous economic growth Dublin is becoming a real metropolis, with all the problems of a big city. But you know what? Overall Ireland is a great place to live! Unemployment is still very low, people here are extremely welcoming of the “new Irish” and other cultures, and you have one of the cleanest environments in Europe. Colourful history in this country, lots of fantastic places to visit, not to mention great beer. I am very grateful for the opportunities that Ireland has provided for me and my children over the last year and half, and I am glad about all the people that I have met here. And for you whiners: if you don’t like it, do something about it. I am: tomorrow morning it’s the Herald for me!

A good friend of mine wrote about an interesting conjecture (in Czech!) a while back. It is a contemplation about computer games and other obsessions. At the end, he suggests that one of the best games, or playing fields, that one should try an excel at is your own self. Perhaps your own mind. I have always worked in computers, because I had that kind of logical mind. I always really liked, almost got an adrenalin rush out of, pushing systems beyond what they were designed to do – this is one of the definitions of computer hacking, the definition that I subscribe to. Psychology has always fascinated me, even though I had very little idea of what it is all about. There are a lot of others out there that share this same mindset, and recently I discovered that there are even several books. So I got this list of books together that I intend to read, and see if they will open (hack?) my mind. Funny thing: while I was putting the list together, searching for the books, Amazon suggested that from my browsing history perhaps I might like The Anarchist Cookbook! I wonder what that says about me … perhaps I don’t want to know.

June 21, 2007

Managoři – kotva vývoje, vrchol pitomosti

Filed under: meatspace — SiKing @ 1:16 pm
Tags: , ,

Dostal jsem v $JOB nový task. Docela jsem se těšil: task byl postavený na jedné open source hračičce, bez jakéhokoliv zadání, a bez jakéhokoliv časového omezení. Takže nemůže být neúspěšný. Mýlil jsem se, a hodně!

Nainstaloval jsem si novou hračičku. Jak už jsem zmiňoval, je to open source, což znamená s mizernou dokumentací a z nedokončenými featurami – nevadí, větší důvod se v tom pohrabat. Tak jsem si s tím začal hrát, co a jak to tedy vlastně dělá. Za dva dny přiběhl $BOSS^3, a jak to prý to jde? Mile mi překvapilo že vůbec ví že existuji, a řekl jsem mu, že jsem si to zatím nainstaloval, a že pátrám co to tedy vlastně dělá. On na to, že to nestačí, a že mu budu muset dát nějaký seznam menších kroků na kterých budu pracovat spolu s cíli které dosáhnu, aby se mohl sledovat pokrok a on se každý týden mohl chlubit před $BOSS^4. Přidal, že „hrát si s tím“ není ani úkol ani cíl! Zasedl za klávesnici u svého nového laptopu, který je o dvě generace výkonnější než můj desktop, otevřel nový mail v Outlooku a jako co. Podotkl jsem, že jsem doposavad čekal na nějaké zadání právě od něho. On se začal rozčilovat, že on není technik a neví co vlastně chce, a že mu to musím dát já. Začal si vymýšlet pitomosti, které jsem rychle pochopil směřují úplně jiný směrem než moje představy, a hlavně než je hračička schopná splnit. Když jsem mu začal vysvětlovat náročnost úkolu a schopnosti hračičky, začaly se mu oči glazurovat a pomalu upadával do bezvědomí. Jediné co ho vzkřísilo spět do reality, bylo když jsem trochu omylem upustil, že kód našeho softwaru vypadá jako že byl vyvíjen metodou vzít klávesnici a hodit jí ze schodů. Za to jsem dostal deseti-minutové kázání, že s takovým názorem se daleko v téhle firmě nedostanu. Odbyl jsem ho, že mu tedy něco dodám do konce dne.

$BOSS^2 se na to celé díval, a snažil se všechny uspokojit. $BOSS, klasický přizdisráč, tam byl také, ale vzhledem k tomu, že už byl pátek a blížilo se k 5 hodině, jediné na co ten myslel bylo jak co nejdříve zabít co nejvíce mozkových buněk. $BOSS^2 se nade mnou slitoval, nemluvě o tom, že jeho task je hlídat že všechny úkoly na celém projektu se plní včas, a tak jsme něco spolu sesmolili do 6 večer. V pondělí mi poslal jeho chápání mých vysvětlivek, a jestli bych byl tak laskav a doplnil tam nějaké časové odhady a vyznačil jasné cíle. Chvíli jsem se mu snažil vysvětlit nekorektní chápání převážné většiny úkolů, a on i chvíli předstíral upřímný zájem. To ale vedlo jenom k většímu plýtvání mého času, takže jsem to do půl hodiny vzdal. Stále bez jakéhokoliv jasného zadání, jsem si vymyslel čeho bych tedy chtěl docílit, rozhodil jsem si to na asi další tři týdny, a nějak jsem to napasoval na fiktivní představy $BOSS^2. Další den mi to poslal zpátky, že prý jejich plánovací software, a tedy korporátní metodika, nepřijme aby kterýkoliv jeden úkol byl delší než tři dny, a jestli bych tedy všechny úkoly mohl rozdrobit na menší kousky! Rychle jsem vyhodnotil za bezcenné mu vysvětlovat, že tohle jsou jenom moje představy jak obdobné hračičky fungují, ale vzhledem k tomu, že nevím jaké mouchy má tato konkrétní hračička, tak nevím jaké problému budu muset řešit po cestě a jak dlouho budou trvat. Začal jsem tedy rozvíjet děj této sci-fi pohádky dále, když on přilétl, jak prý na tom jsem, že za 30 minut potřebuje na meetingu podat status jak daleko jsem postoupil s těmi úkoly které on si minulou noc vymyslel. Řekl jsem mu, že na tasku už pracuji dva dny, a tak asi první dvou-denní úkol je už splněný. Spokojen a s úsměvem odhopsal pryč. Zatímco on na meetingu podávat správu jak ta fantazie pokračuje, já jsem rozvinul děj té povídky a poslal jsem mu ho zpátky.

V tom přišel mail od $BOSS^3, že by potřeboval status update. Normálně vážně použil slova: „state of play of the task list“. Prý by si tohle přál jednou týdně, pokud možno pokaždé ve stejný nespecifikovaný den. Šel jsem za $BOSS, že už musím podávat status třem úrovním managementu, a jestli to takhle bude pokračovat, tak si každý týden přidám do odhadů jedno-denní úkol „podávat status managementu.“ On odvrátil pozornost od své práce natolik, aby mi vysvětlil, že mám špatnou attitude, a jestli takhle budu pokračovat, tak mi brzy vyhodí z práce. Hlavně bych si měl uvědomit, že $BOSS^3 ovlivňuje výši mého budoucího platu, který by se měl rozhodnout někdy během dalších pár týdnů.

$BOSS^2 přišel, že nová korporátní metodika praví, že ode dneška veškeré úkoly nesmí být větší než DVA dny, a budu tedy muset upravit můj plán. Uplatil mi tím, že se postará aby mi $BOSS^3 přestal otravovat. Nejnovější verzi činohry jsem mu odeslal do hodiny, a krátce po tom přišel zase s prosíkem. Prý se můj celý task časově nevejde do jeho představ, kde by chtěl aby můj závěrečný cíl byl hotový než on odjede na dovolenou, a jestli bych to mohl někde zkrátit. Úplně v klidu jsem mu odpověděl, ať vyhodí úkoly 3, 6, a 15. Samozřejmě jsem vůbec neměl tušení co úkoly 3, 6, a 15 jsou, ale začal jsem si vzpomínat na zkušenosti z $JOB-1 kde meetingy na téma „potřebujeme tvořit plán“ vůbec nebyli o tom co budeme dělat, ale o tom jakou barvou vybarvíme nepřehledné a nesmyslné omalovánky které si v Excelu vymyslel nějaký $BOSS^n. Myslel jsem, ze mám vyhráno.

Právě mi přišel mail, že jsou velice spokojeni s mým řešením tohoto cvičení, a za odměnu můžu chodit na denní meetingy, kde budu osobně podávat status o mojí pohádce!

September 26, 2006

User guide to humans – anyone?

Filed under: meatspace — SiKing @ 9:11 am
Tags: ,

mother nature has a sense of humour

What a freakin’ lousy Monday yesterday!

So I had someone ask me another one of those innocent questions this morning, and my knee-jerk reaction was to answer with my “what answer would you like?” The question was: “So you’re from Canada?” The answer that I selected, from the numerous possible correct answers, was: “Sure.” I thought if the guy was genuinely interested, he would pursue it. This got a couple of uncomfortable laughs around the office, so I though I’d better correct it and not alienate the person on his first day. I gave him the (slightly) expanded correct answer; by the end of it, he lost interest.

After that morning, things only got worse in the afternoon. Someone asked me over chat if I had any idea on how to fix their non-functional e-mail. So I needed to know what we’re dealing with: “What program are you using?” “I don’t know.” “Well that sucks. So if you wanted to check your mail right now, what would you click on?” “Internet Explorer, but if you’re going to be annoying, then just forget it.” I have no idea what happened there, but I do admit that I get these sorts of reactions often. The odds are, therefore, that the problem lies in the transmitter and not the receiver. After that, I tried to apologize and recover, but the discussion only got worse.

I spent majority of the day with headphones on, whipping code. This little gem of bash-gibberish took me only three hours of trial-and-error. Man, I gotta stop reading depressing shit like the Unix-Haters Handbook.

The events of the day reminded of the many times that I referred people to “How To Ask Questions The Smart Way“, after they did not like the answers that I had provided to them. Almost everyone of those misguided souls today still thinks that I am an A-hole. I started with precise, correct, and unfortunately (for me) very lengthy answers. People did not like those. Now I try to restrict my answers to single-words. Still can’t seem to win. Next week: grunts. Am I too old to start experimenting with designer drugs?

To top it off, in Ireland everyone drinks whiskey, so I can’t get decent rum and I was out of cigars!

July 11, 2006

Working in the computer field rocks!

Filed under: meatspace — SiKing @ 8:57 pm

the gang

I love my work! Some people wanted to know what I do here. You will be sorry you asked…

I am again working in the computer field (that whole bank-thing was just a mistake), doing what I like: scripting tools for test automation. Majority of the stuff that I work on is written in bash and perl, but there are other things as well. The software under test mostly runs on backend servers, so there is no pretty GUI available. It is all administered through telnet or something similar. What this all comes down to, is that industry standard automation tools are useless for this sort of work, and the tools have to be cooked up in-house. I am the cook in this case.
Added 06-09-06: the title, as some are wondering, of the position is Senior QA Automation Engineer.

I get an office full of toys. Unfortunately, my desktop is a wintel box Image – already checked, and I am allowed to upgrade it to a decent Linux box Image. But I do have access to, in fact I am required to work with, various Solaris, HP-UX, and of course Linux boxes.

In the picture above are some of the guys that I work with: Mark (the boss) is with the hat in the background, Paul (the team leader) is all the way on the left, and Kevin is tonsil-boy.

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