7 ways to have a more productive software environment

This article about 7 ways to be more productive showed up on Digg a couple of days ago.  I find it interesting that much of these can be applied to software development.  I’d like to go through each of the points myself:

  1. Don’t wait until conditions are perfect.

    The number of times that during development we say ‘Not now’ or ‘we will go back and review it later’ or ‘yeah, that looks good, but we cannot do it’ amazes me.  So, instead of moving forward, people are willing to continue doing the same old same old.  Have you ever watched a pro sporting event?  Plans and ideas are not static.  The ideas have to be tried.  Teams and athletes that just stick to their plans are the ones that usually fail.  Developers have to have the same attitude.  If one is losing the game, adjustments need to be made, or the game WILL be lost.
  2. Be a doer.

    This goes back to item #1.  Instead of thinking about doing something, as Nike would say, ‘Just DO it!’

  3. Remember that ideas alone don’t bring success.

    See item #2.  Prove your ideas.  Write test projects.  Create experiments.  Validate your ideas.  Don’t wait for someone to tell you that this needs to work.  Be ready with understanding because you never know WHEN someone’s going to say ‘we need x’.
  4. Use action to cure fear

    If you don’t understand something, try working with it.  Usually, things will be made clearer as you dig into the problem.  I once knew this developer who could really talk about what was going on with the code and the framework.  I mean, from the conversations I’d have with him, he *knew* his stuff.  But when it came time to code, he could not do ANYTHING.  He’d freeze because he was afraid of making a mistake and that it would cost him his job.  Ultimately, it DID cost him his job, because he did very little.

  5. Start your creative engine mechanically

    Creativity is a process and a job.  One has to work at being creative just like anything else.  I remember reading an article about Billy Joel and his song writing process.  It always floored me that he said he wrote a song a day!  Later, I understood that creativity comes from understanding one’s craft and practicing it ALL THE TIME.  You don’t wait for inspiration, you go knocking on its door every day.  Eventually, it answers.

  6. Think in terms of now

    Again, this goes back to #1.  Improving your current situation ultimately improves your long term situation.  If one improves things a little each day, at the end things are very good instead of a huge mess that needs to be cleaned up.

  7. Get down to business immediately

    This is the one I violate the most.  I like to be a person, not a robot.  Sometimes that means doing the chit-chat, correspondence, and various ‘personal’ aspects of work.  I think that these are very important to being a well rounded individual rather than a compulsive workaholic.  If you ever see a truly successful person, they are very much at ease dealing with people.  And that means understanding them.  But I digress.  One will definitely get more work done without the chat programs running, the email notifications beeping, and the cell phone ringing.  Interruptions are the bane of any coherent process.  Turning this stuff off, even for a little while, really helps improve concentration.

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OMG, OMG, OMG, OMG (Mac Pro, OS X, and Fusion content)…

Ok, so here’s the story.  Saturday, I worked up the nerve (and cash) to buy a Mac Pro.  This was done with serious teeth gnashing, worried thoughts, and sweaty brow.

All I can say is that I should have done this many months ago…

First off, OS X is amazing.  Words fail me on describing how much of a joy it is to use this computer and operating system.  It’s fast.  The computer boots in less than 45 seconds.  That’s from a complete power off.  Vista was taking almost 5 minutes to boot and be usable.  And that was a pretty decent computer.

Today, my 2 extra gigs of RAM showed up. (Thanks Rick!)  So, armed with 3 gigs of memory, I decided to try VMWare’s Fusion.  I had a virtual machine that I used to use on my old computer for development work.  I was able to copy the files representing the hard drive from my old PC to the new Mac.  From that point, I just opened up the Virtual machine… and… IT RAN PERFECTLY!  And INCREDIBLY FASTER!  Whoa!  This thing becomes USEABLE again!  I can develop with ease!

After setting up the VM, I decided to push my luck.  Fusion offers a feature called Unity.  It allows one to make the apps running on the virtual machine look like they are running on the Mac.  It *seems* like a pretty useless feature.  That is, until one tries it.  One thing the Mac doesn’t have is a good blog tool for writing to Windows Live Spaces.  Since I use Windows Live Spaces for my blog, I needed a good blogging tool like Windows Live Writer.  I installed it onto the Virtual Machine, then clicked the Unity button for the VM.  All of a sudden, Windows Live Writer appears on my Mac desktop, with the icon on the dock, and cut and paste working with the Mac OS.  In fact, this blog entry was written with that configuration.  No hiccups.  None.

All I can say is ‘Awesome’

Joining the Mac cult

Or, a better title… "Once you go Mac, you’ll never go back!"

And truer words have never been spoken.

My friend Rick has let the mac out of the bag.  I’ve been itching to upgrade to a new computer, so this weekend, I took the plunge and bought a new Apple MacPro.  Many things have driven me to the brink of switching from Windows to OS X.  I’ll blog a bit about what caused all of this.  I think the final straw was Execl eating my budget.  Once Numbers showed up in iWork, Excel became not needed.

More once I find some good blogging software for the mac.

Follow up to Mac Tuesday predictions…

Hmmm, my ‘Mac Tuesday predictions’ weren’t that far off the mark.  Here is a little recap:

  1. The iMac update happened, just no quad coresmile_sad.  They did, however, add the Core 2 Duo Extreme to the top of the line iMac.  Nice!
  2. No Pro or Plain-Old-Mac.  That was wishing on my part…  The Mini got an update to Core 2 Duo and 1 gig of memory.  That could be a sweet little computer.
  3. iWork, iLife, and .Mac all got updated.  No firming up of the Leopard date.  But, no announcement that Leopard is going to be delayed, either.

Not too bad.  Most of the rumor sites missed the Mini update (insert your favorite Mini joke here).  My ‘it would be cool if they did this’ stuff certainly didn’t show up.

I’m looking forward to the next event…

Mac Tuesday speculation

Old news for all of the Mac-addicts out there, but August 7th there is going to be a Apple Event.  My friend Rick and I were discussing what would be announced on Tuesday, and came up with some interesting thoughts, ideas, and wishes.  Here’s a list of things we discussed:

  1. iMac updates.  The iMac is due for a refresh.
  1. Most of the rumor sites have been talking about sleek new iMac cases. 
  2. If the iMac is updated, my money is on seeing the first Quad-Core iMac.
  3. The new keyboard rumor that is floating around the Internet looks interesting. 
  • Major Mac Pro / possible Plain-Old-Mac (POM) announcement.
    1. This hasn’t been discussed by the rumor sites, but it is interesting that the Intel Mac Pro was originally announced on August 7th, 2006.  Coincidence?  Hmmm…. 🙂
    2. The refurbished store lists EVERY ONE of the Mac Pros as being available.  For the past year, I’ve been watching for a decent priced refurb of a Mac Pro.  NEVER has everyone of them been listed.  In fact, I’ve never seen more than 3 of the 5 listed.  To have all 5 listed, with some of them showing 3-5 day availability brings about some very interesting thoughts.
    3. 8-core Macs are the most prominently featured Mac Pros.  Since Intel provides a Quad Core 2 Duo processor with less expensive memory, I could see the Pros going 8 Core only, and a basic Pro or POM being created with less expensive chipsets.
    4. Plain-Old-Mac to replace the Mini or as a new mid-level Mac.  Intel based components have gotten ridiculously inexpensive.  A decent Windows-based Intel system can be had for $400-500.  I can easily see Apple producing a nice, upgrade-able small computer that has the Intel Core 2 Duo / Quad architecture, but is a little more reasonably priced.  I certainly DON’T need a monitor, but I DO want to put a nice video card in.
    5. Minis are not being listed on the refurbished store at all.  My guess is that they are being stockpiled for replacements and repairs.
  • Software
    1. Leopard shipping date and pricing announcement.  October is less than 3 months away, and it will take at least 2-4 weeks before the shipping date to get the media ready to ship.  So, they are less than two months from completing Leopard.  They should have a very good idea at this point for the shipping date.
    2. iLife hasn’t been updated in almost 2 years.  It’s a little out of character, but with the ‘all-hands’ development of the iPhone, it’s understandable why it has been delayed.
    3. iWork is in need of an update as well.  Spreadsheet anyone?
    4. .Mac has need an update.  I think the email portion got updated recently, but that doesn’t seem worth $100 a year.

    I wish everything thing on this list comes true.  Seeing all of the demos of Leopard has made me REALLY want to dive head first back into the Mac world with a nice desktop.  I’ve installed Boot Camp for some of my customers and it works perfectly.  The worst thing I’d have would be a very expensive PC, but I think I can live with that!

    Please note, ALL OF THESE THINGS HAVE NO BASIS OF *REAL* KNOWLEDGE OR INSIDE INFORMATION.  Any resemblance to what is announced on Tuesday is pure luck or some pretty good speculation.  If even more than one or two of these items turn out to be true, I’ll be playing the lottery on Wednesday and the stock market on Thursday!

    Almost done with the blog vacation…

    Sorry to the three people who read this blog (you know who you are! smile_wink), I haven’t meant to take a blog vacation, but too much has been going on lately.  I’ve had very little time between working my real job and all of the side jobs that have popped up.  It’s a good thing my customer base is small enough that I can actually do SOME work!  House expenses have already caught up to me, so not much ‘fun and exciting’ stuff has been happening.

    I should have some Visual Studio 2008 impressions up soon (mainly favorable, but they’ve got to fix a bunch of stuff), and some more programming writing will be coming, but for the next couple of weeks, I’ll probably still be quiet.