FREE: Keeping Raccoons out of the recycling, 7 years and 4 tries later

Back in (gulp) 2008, I posted a simple design to keep raccoons out of the garbage and green bin.  The design worked, I got some nice comments, and even a possible CBC TV spot on the design (which didn’t pan out, but it was nice to be asked).

raccoon closeup
Do you have ‘little visitors’ like this guy who came sniffing around my green bin?

Continue reading “FREE: Keeping Raccoons out of the recycling, 7 years and 4 tries later”

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Productivity hints: Get a better monitor (today)

One of the best things you can do for your personal productivity (and the productivity of those you manage) is to make sure that people have the right tools for the job.

To keep it brief:  monitors are cheap, your time is expensive.  23″ and even 27″ 1920×1080 monitors are regularly on sale.  Check the usual suspects: SIG Electronics, Newegg, NCIX, TigerDirect. Full disclosure: I have no financial interest, and I don’t get an affiliate marketing fee; I just feel strongly about this, and I worked on a laptop with a great external monitor both in my home office and my corporate and consulting offices for years.  It makes a big difference!

Cheers,
Dak

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

There are two countries in the world that officially celebrate Thanksgiving (and that have a substantial population of people descended from the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony). As an American in Canada (and, as it happens, a descendant of those Pilgrims), I thoroughly enjoy both Thanksgivings.

Whether this is a religious holiday for you or not, I hope that you can take a few minutes to stop and appreciate what you have.

Best holiday wishes to all; may you count your blessings and share with your friends and loved ones.

Best regards,
Dak

Software architects and strategic decisions: Build, buy, open source, or partner?

I had a conversation today with a former colleague about implementing mission-critical software, and the cost assumptions of Agile methods. He cited “Balancing Agility and Discipline: A Guide for the Perplexed” as an analysis which says Agile assumes as an axiom that the cost of change is constant (in the front end engineering processes, not in remediation, fixes in the field, etc.) Frankly, I suspect that’s because Barry Boehm is a classic “programming in the large” guru, but I haven’t read the book yet. 

This is true (that Agile assumes constant cost of effort) in the sense that it’s held constant in the same sense of any other “assuming all other things are equal, we vary this.”  I see the point, but it seems to me that it’s not true in practice, in my experience, but then, I don’t think many people implement Real True Pure Scrum or Lean or XP or any other agile practices; they typically implement some kind of composite methodology, which merges specifications and design artifacts in the outer feedback loops of (for example) Scrum.

But he did have an excellent…nay, *superb* point: without explicit architecture work as an input to software development, development frequently gets caught in a cycle of relative local improvement, without being able to leap beyond the limitations of the existing or incrementally developed architecture, and sometimes that just won’t get you where you want to go.  I personally believe that these outer feedback cycles, including project kick-off, are the best integration points, and that most people practicing Scrum are working away with the “release and below” of the feedback loops, and neglecting release and multi-release planning entirely.

(I personally like the XP-style feedback loop diagrams on this page…to me, the architectural inputs belong in the outer feedback loop, with tweaking and involvement from the architecture team in the inner loops.)

To me, the point is that as software professionals, we have to be able to make decisions about what we’re going to build, buy, or integrate with, and this meta-decision can easily be a part of the Scrum, XP, or other Agile processes, and we don’t have to model the cost of the estimate purely by (for example) planning poker, especially when there are other costs involved. However, many organizations FAIL to make these decisions, instead always choosing to build, which leads to massive expense overruns, because they are trying to solve the wrong (software architecture) problem.

I’m looking forward to reading the book to see if it provides suitable guidance for practitioners in the field, both that I can use myself, and that I can reference to customers and employers. I generally find (both when working directly for an organization, or as a consultant) that some kind of ‘made to fit’ methodology is what’s really needed…and I haven’t seen that codified. Might have to do it myself, we’ll see.

Comments, insights, or experience are always welcome. More later after I read the book; I’ve always enjoyed Boehm’s work, so I’m looking forward to it.

Thanks,
Dak

When all hope is lost…that is the bottom of the market

We’re not there yet, folks. I’m thrilled about the upturn in the market for the past three days (and you should be, too).  At this point there’s a horde of people panicked to get their money out.  They will.  This will drive the market down.  That’s completely natural.

This will happen a few times before the next great bull rush.

Don’t worry about it.  Relax.  Dollar cost average your way into the market, and keep in mind:  up or down, in 5 years or so, this will have been a very good time to invest.

Dak