Roy Tang

Programmer, engineer, scientist, critic, gamer, dreamer, and kid-at-heart.

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All entries tagged Software Development. You can subscribe to an RSS feed of this list.

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software-development

Overtime in software development projects seems to be a given. Sure, there are projects and companies that don’t need it, but those feel like the exception rather than the norm Overtime in software development is a natural consequence of schedule pressure and the fact that estimation is hard, which is why it’s understandably common, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to avoid it More than once I’ve been in a situation where the team stays overnight to try to get a build or release ready for the next day only to run out of time and have to delay the deployment anyway.

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A while back, news came out that an AI was able to perform a diagnosis after the human doctors were stumped. Having just finished binge-watching the entire run of Star Trek Voyager, I immediately thought that was the sort of AI advancement that could lead to such things as Voyager’s Emergency Medical Hologram, an AI which could replace a human doctor. Of course, it is still very unlikely for this to happen anytime soon, medicine is a very complex field and new things are still being discovered all the time.

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Without a doubt, the number one problem in software development projects is schedule pressure, that is, the pressure to meet unreasonable deadlines and targets Almost all other problems can be overcome if there were no schedule pressure: weaker developers could be mentored to become better, more productive, and commit less faults less faults overall will be committed anyway if there were no schedule pressure poor requirements could be threshed out in more detail difficult clients can be argued, worn-down, and eventually reasoned with problematic team members can be counseled, or replaced with new blood and so on But of course, the reality is that we live in a world with deadlines and targets, many of them set by people who have no idea about the complexities of software development.

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Estimation is hard. Estimation has long been the bane of many software developers and software development projects. But there are two secret ways to be able to produce perfect estimates for software development work all the time! One is dependent on talent, and the other is dependent on technology Psychic precognition, i.e. be able to predict the future Have a time machine, so you can go back in time and tell yourself how long the work would have taken Such precognition is necessary to have perfect estimates because of all the unknowns present at the start of a software project.

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I like to say that software development is a challenging career because no two projects are ever the same and there are always new challenges to face and new concepts to learn, but the truth of the matter is a bit more complex. Writing software is about breaking down large problems into a series of very small technical problems for which we already have solutions. Examples of small enough technical problems include list sorting, comparison, arithmetic operations, path traversal, string concatenation, returning a string as an HTTP response, rendering text to the screen, retrieving submitted parameters from an HTTP request, and so on.

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I was originally going to write a post about the problems development teams face as they get larger, but the section on development standards was long enough by itself so here we are. Having some sort of development standard in a project development team becomes a lot more important as project size goes up (for obvious reasons). There are different kinds of standards to consider, but generally I break them down into design standards and coding standards.

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Pros: It is a very rewarding career financially. Software development often ranks in the top 10 highest-earning careers in most countries There is a lot of scope – you could be developing web applications, mobile applications, embedded applications, client-side, server-side, data analysis, artificial intelligence, games, etc It is very difficult to be bored. You can always automate away the boring stuff. Different projects always present different challenges. The field is evolving rapidly so there are always new things to learn.

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Evaluation of programmer performance is notoriously hard. You want to be accurate and at the same time fair such that all programmers on your staff are evaluated in the same matter. However, there are no good, objective, universally accepted standard metrics. It follows from the fact that there are no good, objective, universally accepted standard metrics for program size. Typically each programmer in a team will not be doing the same task or even the same type of task, so in order to produce fair evaluations you will need some standard metric of program size to normalize any evaluation.

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****Since I wasn’t a graduate of computer science, there were many concepts of software development I really only got exposed to when I started working. One of those was the concept of a relational database, and hence SQL. The company I worked at gave all new hires a training regimen that started with about a week of SQL. Despite not knowing anything about it beforehand, I took to it like a mouse takes to cheese.

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I never really put much stock in certifications. I felt that they were no guarantee of knowledge or expertise, and that many people who did have knowledge or expertise wouldn’t necessarily have a certification to say so. Add to that it often seem overpriced to even apply for the certifications, so I didn’t have a high opinion of them. That being said, I have had the opportunity to take professional certification exams twice in my life (both luckily paid for by my employer at that time).

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A friend of mine had an informal consultation with me the other day (read: asked me questions over FB messenger) about what their IT staff was telling them about a file upload vulnerability that had been recently exploited in one of their applications. Obviously it was difficult for me to judge given that I didn’t know all the details, but for me it was most likely a vulnerability introduced in the application code itself.

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Some time ago, one of my many intrepid followers pointed out that this blog tested poorly on web page performance according to this Speed Testing Tool. Now, I’m of the opinion that for a personal blog such as this, web performance isn’t really a mission-critical sort of thing, but as a software developer who has often had to work hard to optimize the web applications we delivered to our clients, it kind of became a matter of pride :pUnacceptable!

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I had my first taste with working with software testers during my first project where I was involved with porting an old system to a new version of the software. My first task involved porting reports which were to be generated by the users then printed out. The task wasn’t too difficult: basically you took the source code of the report (it was some weird binary format recognized only by the particular reporting tool – that was how it was done back in the day) and open it using the newer version of the tool, and the tool did some sort of migration magic to adapt it to the new format, then you just save it back again.

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In the modern era of online services and applications, it is getting more and more common to hear of databases and systems being hacked and user data being exposed. The most dangerous of this data is the user’s password since it may allow access not only to your own service but to other services as well. As an application developer, the below is probably the bare minimum you need to know when handling user passwords:

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More stories from the early days. Evaluating someone’s programming ability is hard, especially someone fresh out of college. A student’s grades is in no way indicative of how well he can program after all. So most nontrivial programming jobs have some sort of complicated application process involved. I remember going in and taking an exam. Most application processes will have some sort of written exam to filter out people who look good on paper, but can’t actually do anything.

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I once had to advise someone who found himself irritated at receiving lots of comments during code review. I think my response was good enough to quote verbatim: Remember: You are not your code. You are not the hundred or so lines of C or Java or JavaScript or whatever that you wrote today. This problem arises because you are too attached to your code. Your ego is associated with the code you write and you feel that any comments or defects found reflect upon you as a person.

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A while back I answered a question over on Quora about how I got started down the path of programming. It’s not a particularly interesting story, but I still thought I’d record it here for posterity. Sometime when I was much younger, maybe somewhere between twelve to fourteen years old, I remember having some sort of QBasic programming learning book at home. I forget how we got it, I think my uncle brought it home for me sometime for some reason.

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Stack Bragger lets you brag to your Facebook friends whenever you ask new questions or earn new badges at StackOverflow, SuperUser or ServerFault. I was looking for a weekend project and found out that stackoverflow api was released so I thought I’d make a small facebook app. I originally just wanted to post to FB whenever I got a badge, something like how PSN accounts automatically post Trophies to FB. It also posts questions you ask so that any friends you have on facebook not already using stackoverflow might want to help answer 😀

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I got tired of having to maintain my own comment moderation system, and I decided against throwing out the django code and going back to wordpress. Instead, I’m migrating the comment system to DISQUS. I love this little mess of django code that’s running my blog. I wish I had time to clean it up. But for now, at least I can have a more industrial-strength comment system in place.

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I’ve been meaning to write a nontrivial app using Google App Engine for a while, and here’s my first weekend project: Decklist Sharing Tool, an tool for MTG players to share decklists online. I had the decklist parsing and autocarding code available for a while (and used on my MTG related posts), so that part was fairly easy, I got it done under 3 hours I think. The rest of the time (around 5-ish hours) was spent on glue logic, fixing minor bugs, working on HTML layout, cleaning up text, etc.

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Roy Tang is a:

roytang.net is a personal site; I post about a random assortment of topics that interest me including software development, Magic the Gathering, pop culture, gaming, and tech life. This site is perpetually under renovation.