Monday, October 11, 2010

I Need a Protocol Droid

"What I really need is a droid who understands the binary language of moisture evaporators." - Uncle Owen (Star Wars - The Real Movie)

Working in software development, I am continually inflicted with the latest open source scheme to transform the way we program computers. Someone in the organization decides that WidgetScam 2.1 will make waterfall, procedural, proprietary coding a thing of the past.

First off, there is some resume padding going on - software architects recommend to management the latest thing so that they can put it on their resume inspite of the fact that it will make the comopany no more productive or profitable. Relatedly, I believe that there is an ego factor whereby individual programmers need to feel like they are on the cutting edge. Me, I am old fashioned. I take pride in being a pretty good debugger and in being able to produce decent code that solves the needs of the customer (remember them?)

One amusing thing about this technological arms race is that we install all the new jars and dlls on our laptops and then keep programming the way we always have. Don't get me wong. I like programming in Java. It has some nice properties but Object Oriented Programming was sold as a complete paradigm shift in IT. Have you looked at any Java code recently? Most of it is dressed up C. Most programmers are writing procedural code in .java files. Of course, it works. It does what the specs require (most of the time) but there is no way that the advertised benefits of OO are going to realized.

So where are we now. I spend my days trying to install (and re-install, and re-re-install) software development tools on my cutting edge laptop all the while trying to balance my 64-bit vs 32-bit apps, the programs that require Java 1.5 vs those on 1.6 and the three different document repositories our company is using (Wiki vs network drive vs Alfresco). My industry is approaching the point where two systems will not be able to share information without an intervening layer that is more expensive, cumbersome and annoying than a protocol droid. Sometimes I wish we all just had R2 units. They aren't real shiny but they seem to get the job done.

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