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  • How do you share your craft with non programmers?

    - by EpsilonVector
    Sometimes I feel like a musician who can't play live shows. Programming is a pretty cool skill, and a very broad world, but a lot of it happens "off camera"- in your head, in your office, away from spectators. You can of course talk about programming with other programmers, and there is peer programming, and you do get to create something that you can show to people, but when it comes to explaining to non programmers what is it that you do, or how was your day at work, it's sort of tricky. How do you get the non programmers in your life to understand what is it that you do? NOTE: this is not a repeat of Getting non-programmers to understand the development process, because that question was about managing client expectations.

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  • How do you share your craft with non programmers?

    - by EpsilonVector
    Sometimes I feel like a musician who can't play live shows. Programming is a pretty cool skill, and a very broad world, but a lot of it happens "off camera"- in your head, in your office, away from spectators. You can of course talk about programming with other programmers, and there is peer programming, and you do get to create something that you can show to people, but when it comes to explaining to non programmers what is it that you do, or how was your day at work, it's sort of tricky. How do you get the non programmers in your life to understand what is it that you do? NOTE: this is not a repeat of Getting non-programmers to understand the development process, because that question was about managing client expectations.

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  • Why is trailing whitespace a big deal?

    - by EpsilonVector
    Trailing whitespace is enough of a problem for programmers that editors like Emacs have special functions that highlight it or get rid of it automatically, and many coding standards require you to eliminate all instances of it. I'm not entirely sure why though. I can think of one practical reason of avoiding unnecessary whitespace, and it is that if people are not careful about avoiding it, then they might change it in between commits, and then we get diffs polluted with seemingly unchanged lines, just because someone removed or added a space. This already sounds like a pretty good reason to avoid it, but I do want to see if there's more to it than that. So, why is trailing whitespace such a big deal?

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  • Declarative programming vs. Imperative programming

    - by EpsilonVector
    I feel very comfortable with Imperative programming. I never have trouble expressing algorithmically what I want the computer to do once I figured out what is it that I want it to do. But when it comes to languages like SQL or Relational Algebra I often get stuck because my head is too used to Imperative programming. For example, suppose you have the relations band(bandName, bandCountry), venue(venueName, venueCountry), plays(bandName, venueName), and I want to write a query that says: all venueNames such that for every bandCountry there's a band from that country that plays in venue of that name. In my mind I immediately go "for each venueName iterate over all the bandCountries and for each bandCountry get the list of bands that come from it. If none of them play in venueName, go to next venueName. Else, at the end of the bandCountries iteration add venueName to the set of good venueNames". ...but you can't talk like that in SQL and I actually need to think about how to formulate this, with the intuitive Imperative solution constantly nagging in the back of my head. Did anybody else had this problem? How did you overcome this? Did you figured out a paradigm shift? Made a map from Imperative concepts to SQL concepts to translate Imperative solutions into Declarative ones? Read a good book? PS I'm not looking for a solution to the above query, I did solve it.

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  • High level vs. low level programming. Do I really have to choose?

    - by EpsilonVector
    Every once in a while I'm asked in interviews which I like the best- low level or high level. It seems to me that the implicit message is that they are both a specialty and they want to know which direction I'm heading. The trouble is, I seem to like both. Low level is extremely challenging and often requires a great deal of esoteric knowledge. High level is where all the sexy things happen: applications that people use directly, results that can be easily demonstrated (showed off) in a way that is accessible to everybody, and you get to work with really advanced tools and interact with new technologies. I would really love to do both, even if it means alternating between them (I doubt there are jobs that will let me do both simultaneously), but I'm guessing that the industry rewards specialists more than generalists. Will it really be problematic career wise if I never choose one over the other? Is it practical to alternate between the two in the sense that if I were to leave a job doing one of them, I should experience no "friction" trying to get a job doing the other (assuming I'm reasonably in the loop)? Are there career opportunities where you get to do both? Do I really have to choose one over the other?

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  • What is the etiquette in negotiating payment for a software development job

    - by EpsilonVector
    The reason I'm taking a general business question and localize it to software development is that I'm curious as to whether there are certain trends/etiquette/nuances that are typical to our industry. For example, I can imagine two different attitudes employers may generally have to payment negotiations: 1) we'll give you the best offer so we can't really be flexible about it because we already pretty much gave you everything we can give you, or 2) we'll give him an average offer and give in to a better one if forced to. If you try to play hard ball in the first attitude it'll probably cost you the job because you ask for more than they can give you, however if you don't insist on better payment in the second one you'll get a worse offer. In short, when applying to a typical job in our industry what are the typical attitudes from employers on the offers they give, what is the correct way to ask for a better payment, do these things differ between different types of companies (for example startups vs well entrenched companies), and how do these things differ between different kinds of applicants (graduate vs student)?

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  • Should we write detailed architecture design or just an outline when designing a program?

    - by EpsilonVector
    When I'm doing design for a task, I keep fighting this nagging feeling that aside from being a general outline it's going to be more or less ignored in the end. I'll give you an example: I was writing a frontend for a device that has read/write operations. It made perfect sense in the class diagram to give it a read and a write function. Yet when it came down to actually writing them I realized they were literally the same function with just one line of code changed (read vs write function call), so to avoid code duplication I ended up implementing a do_io function with a parameter that distinguishes between operations. Goodbye original design. This is not a terribly disruptive change, but it happens often and can happen in more critical parts of the program as well, so I can't help but wondering if there's a point to design more detail than a general outline, at least when it comes to the program's architecture (obviously when you are specifying an API you have to spell everything out). This might be just the result of my inexperience in doing design, but on the other hand we have agile methodologies which sort of say "we give up on planning far ahead, everything is going to change in a few days anyway", which is often how I feel. So, how exactly should I "use" design?

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  • Block elements vs inline elements in HTML: why the distinction?

    - by EpsilonVector
    The distinction between block and inline elements always seemed strange to me. The whole difference is that a block element takes up the entire width thus forcing a line break before and after the element, and an inline element only takes up as much as the content. Why not just have one type of element- an inline element where you can also apply custom height/width, and use that? You want line breaks? Insert a <br />, or maybe add a special tag in the CSS for that behavior. The way it's now, I don't see it solving any problem, and instead it only forces a property that in my opinion should be decided by a designer. So why the two types?

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  • Why does it take so long to finalize the HTML 5 spec?

    - by EpsilonVector
    I was reading this and one sentence caught my eye (emphasis mine): So Ian Hickson, XHTML’s biggest critic, fathered HTML 5, an action-oriented toddler specification that won’t reach adulthood until 2022, although some of it can be used today. Is that true? Is that really the HTML 5 development cycle? Why is it taking so long? What makes it so difficult to get right that it won't be final until 11 years from now?

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  • What are some good realistic programming related movies (docu-dramas, documentaries, accurate fiction, etc)?

    - by EpsilonVector
    A while ago I asked this question and the result was this. Following the response I got in the meta question I'm re-asking the question with new guidelines to focus it on the direction I wanted it to have originally. ================================================================== The guidelines are as follows: by "programming related" I mean movies from which we can learn about stuff like the development process, or history of software/computers, or programming culture. In other words, they must be grounded in the industry. No tangential stuff. Good entries answer as many of the following criteria as possible: Teach you about the history of the industry, or the development process, or teach you about important industry related topics (software patents for example) Are based on real life events, companies, people, practices, and they are the main focus of the movie After watching them, you feel like you understand or know something about the programmers' world that you didn't before (or you can see how someone could have such a response). You can point to it and say "this faithfully represents the industry/programmer culture at some point in time". This might be something you would show laymen to explain to them what "your people" are like and what is it that you do. Examples for good entries include: Pirates of Silicon Valley- the story of how Microsoft and Apple started the industry. Revolution OS- The story of Linux's rise to fame, and a pretty good cover of the Free Software/Open Source world. Aardvark'd: 12 Weeks with Geeks- development process. Examples for bad entries: Movies who's sole relevance is that they can be appreciated by programmers. The point of this question is not to be "what are some good movies" with "for a programmer" appended to it. Just because the writers got a few computer jokes right in itself doesn't make it about the industry. Movies where there's a computer related element, but are not about the industry. For example, 24 (the TV series). It's a product of the information age but it isn't actually about it. Another example is movies where there's a really cool programmer character, but are overall about something completely different. Likewise, The Big Bang Theory is not about physics, even though they have a cool physicist as a character. Science fiction, even if it draws ideas from computers. For example, the Matrix trilogy. Movies that you can't point to them and say: this is a faithful representation of our world (at some point in time). If you can't do that then it doesn't mirror the industry. Keep it one entry per answer so that the voting could sort the entries out.

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  • How common is prototyping as the first stage of development?

    - by EpsilonVector
    I've been taking some software design courses in the past few semesters, and while I see the benefit in a lot of the formalism, I still feel like it doesn't tell me anything about the program itself. You can't tell how the program is going to operate from the Use Case spec, even though it discusses what the program can do, and you can't tell anything about the user experience from the requirements document, even though it can include QA requirements. ...sequence diagrams are as good a description of how the software works as the call stack, in other words- very limited, highly partial view of the overall system, and a class diagram is great for describing how the system is built, but is utterly useless in helping you figure out what the software needs to be. Where in all this formalism is the bottom line- how the program looks, operates, and what experience it gives? Doesn't it make more sense to design off of that? Isn't it better to figure out how the program should work via a prototype and strive to implement it for real? I know that I'm probably suffering from being taught engineering by theoreticians, but I got to ask, do they do this in the industry? How do people figure out what the program actually is, not what it should conform to? Do people prototype a lot? ...or do they mostly use the formal tools like UML and I just didn't get the hang of using them yet?

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  • How common is prototyping as the first stage of development?

    - by EpsilonVector
    I've been taking some software design courses in the past few semesters, and while I see the benefit in a lot of the formalism, I feel like it doesn't tell me anything about the program itself: You can't tell how the program is going to operate from the Use Case spec, even though it discusses what the program can do. You can't tell anything about the user experience from the requirements document, even though it can include quality requirements. Sequence diagrams are a good description of how the software works as the call stack, but are very limited, and give a highly partial view of the overall system. Class diagrams are great for describing how the system is built, but are utterly useless in helping you figure out what the software needs to be. Where in all this formalism is the bottom line: how the program looks, operates, and what experience it gives? Doesn't it make more sense to design off of that? Isn't it better to figure out how the program should work via a prototype and strive to implement it for real? I know that I'm probably suffering from being taught engineering by theoreticians, but I need to ask, do they do this in the industry? How do people figure out what the program actually is, not what it should conform to? Do people prototype a lot, or do they mostly use the formal tools like UML and I just didn't get the hang of using them yet?

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  • Have you ever used a non mainstream language in a project? Why?

    - by EpsilonVector
    I was thinking about my academic experience with Smalltalk (well, Squeak) a while ago and whether I would like to use it for something, and it got me thinking: sure, it's as good and capable as any popular language, and it has some nice ideas, but there are certain languages that are already well entrenched in certain niches of programming (C is for systems programming, Java is for portability, and so on...), and Smalltalk and co. don't seem to have any obvious differentiating features to make them the right choice under certain circumstances, or at least not as far as I can tell, and when you add to it the fact that it's harder to find programmers who know it it adds all sorts of other problems for the organization itself. So if you ever worked on a project where a non-mainstream language (like Smalltalk) was used over a more mainstream one, what was the reason for it? To clarify: I'd like to focus this on imperative languages, since other paradigms like functional and logic programming language, while not necessarily mainstream, can still be good choices for certain projects for obvious reasons.

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  • What kind of screen has the best image quality for reading/programming?

    - by EpsilonVector
    I'm thinking about buying a new laptop, and while I bought my original one oblivious to the fact that there could be different quality screens out there, after seeing the screen on my sister's netbook I realized that I might have to be cautious with my next purchase. Granted, I did not confirm that the reason my sister's screen looks the way it does is due to the screen itself and not color scheme/graphics card, but I know very little about the different screen technologies and how they differ in image quality and therefore can't really tell if wondering about it even makes sense or not. So what I'm asking is: should I be worried about screen quality? And if so, what technologies should I be looking for? How do they differ and which are the best ones? What are the different elements that determine the quality of a screen and which stats should I go for in each element? For the record, I'm not interested in opinions about screen size, but picture quality for lots of reading/coding.

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  • What are your programming idiosyncrasies?

    - by EpsilonVector
    I noticed that I have a peculiar habit of finishing every line with a space. It carries over from my prose writing where a paragraph can have multiple sentences and so it is very common to follow a period with a space, and I end up doing that automatically for every period (or when it comes to programming- semicolon). It started out as something automatic, but I'm so used to this by now that if I miss the space it actually bothers me and I end up returning to that line to input it. What are some of your programming idiosyncrasies?

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  • Why is implementing copy-paste in a touch screen based smartphone such a big deal?

    - by EpsilonVector
    I'm not entirely sure this is on-topic, but it definitely needs a programmer's understanding to be answered, and deals with general development (for a specific scenario) as opposed to a specific piece of code. In a way it also translates into "what are the challenges in doing X in a touch screen app", and similar questions have been asked here in the past. So here it is: When Apple didn't implement copy-pasting on the iPhone since version 1 I just assumed it was a UI issue- they were waiting until they figured out a good UI for it. But now the idea is out there, and Microsoft still released Windows Phone 7 without copy-pasting, promising it'll be ready in a few months. My question is: why does this takes a few months to implement? Are there some technological challenges that are unique to programming for a touch screen that I'm not familiar with?

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  • Is it good practice to use functions just to centralize common code?

    - by EpsilonVector
    I run across this problem a lot. For example, I currently write a read function and a write function, and they both check if buf is a NULL pointer and that the mode variable is within certain boundaries. This is code duplication. This can be solved by moving it into its own function. But should I? This will be a pretty anemic function (doesn't do much), rather localized (so not general purpose), and doesn't stand well on its own (can't figure out what you need it for unless you see where it is used). Another option is to use a macro, but I want to talk about functions in this post. So, should you use a function for something like this? What are the pros and cons?

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  • Accessing UI elements from delegate function in Windows Phone 7

    - by EpsilonVector
    I have the following scenario: a page with a bunch of UI elements (grids, textblocks, whatever), and a button that when clicked launches an asynchronous network transaction which, when finished, launches a delegate function. I want to reference the page's UI elements from that delegate. Ideally I would like to do something like currentPage.getUIElementByName("uielement").insert(data), or even uielement.insert(data), or something similar. Is there a way to do this? No matter what I try an exception is being thrown saying that I don't have permissions to access that element. Is there a more correct way to handle updating pages with data retrieved over network?

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  • Have you ever done a project using a languages that is not the mainstream choice for the specific niche of the project? Why?

    - by EpsilonVector
    I was thinking about my academic experience with Smalltalk (well, Squeak) a while ago and whether I would like to use it for something, and it got me thinking: sure, it's as good and capable as any popular language, and it has some nice ideas, but there are certain languages that are already well entrenched in certain niches of programming (C is for systems programming, Java is for portability, and so on...), and Smalltalk and co. don't seem to have any obvious differentiating features to make them the right choice under certain circumstances, or at least not as far as I can tell, and when you add to it the fact that it's harder to find programmers who know it it adds all sorts of other problems for the organization itself. So if you ever worked on a project where a non-mainstream language (like Smalltalk) was used over a more mainstream one, what was the reason for it? To clarify: I'd like to focus this on imperative languages.

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  • Why does it take so long to finalize the HTML 5 spec? [closed]

    - by EpsilonVector
    I was reading this and one sentence caught my eye (emphasis mine): So Ian Hickson, XHTML’s biggest critic, fathered HTML 5, an action-oriented toddler specification that won’t reach adulthood until 2022, although some of it can be used today. Is that true? Is that really the HTML 5 development cycle? Why is it taking so long? What makes it so difficult to get right that it won't be final until 11 years from now?

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  • Limiting use of filesharing services

    - by EpsilonVector
    I live in an apartment with 3 other roommates, and we share the internet connection though a wireless router (Level One WBR-3406TX). One of the roommates is always running utorrent, and it is slowing down everybody's connection way too much. Unfortunately, he feels like he shouldn't have to give up on downloading stuff, and is refusing to stop hogging the bandwidth. I was wondering if there's something I can do to the router configuration that would disrupt his use of utorrent just enough to to make the internet usable for the rest of us, and still have it work well enough for him so that he doesn't start poking around looking for answers.

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  • Strange battery behavior on laptop

    - by EpsilonVector
    My laptop is behaving rather strangely lately, and I was hoping to get some idea as to what may be causing such symptoms. The problem: When charging, very minute or so it loses connectivity with the AC adapter for a split second, and regains it back immediately. When this happens the little light that indicates the computer is plugged in does flicker off and back on, but I checked the adapter by replacing the battery on my laptop, and this indeed solves the problem, so it is probably the battery which is at fault, not the adapter (I also tried to move the adapter's wire around just to make sure it had nothing to do with torn wires). I suppose that the obvious solution is to get a new battery, but as far as battery defects go- this is a rather strange one; it loses connection with the adapter, but still powers the computer, and changing the power setting to a balanced plan (was maximum performance) seem to have solved the problem too. Is there a chance this is not simply the battery, but some kind of other electronic defect? And if not, what can cause it to behave so strangely? PS I tried to recalibrate it- didn't help.

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  • Outlook 2013 too many devices synching with your account error

    - by EpsilonVector
    When I add an outlook.com account I get this error: Error Code: 0x80004005 Too many devices synching with your account I definitely do not have multiple devices synching with this account... I searched online and it looks like this error has something to do with number of folders in the email. However, this is a fresh account. I only have the default folders in there. Any idea how to fix this?

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