Recent Feature Articles

Sep 2016

Cache Congestion

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Ic-photo-TI--TMX390Z55GF--(SuperSPARC-TMS390-Cache-Controller)

Recently, we featured the story of Alex, who worked in a little beach town trying to get seasonal work. But Alex isn't the only one with a job that depended entirely on the time of year.


As Time Goes By…

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In my formative years, I had experienced such things as Star Trek, and the advent of new games like Pong, Space Invaders and Asteroids. As I ventured out of college and into the Orwellian future of 1984, I began a 3+ decade long sojourn into the world of technology. I mused about the wondrous changes that these new-fangled gadgets would bring to all of our lives. Telescreens that connected us both visually and orally in real time. Big Brother. History could be rewritten. Technology would boldly take us where no one had gone before...

Hollerith cards were replaced with Teletypes, then CRTs and finally flat panel displays. You can still fold, spindle and mutilate a flat panel display; it just takes more effort.


Learning to Share

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Maintenance programming is an important job in nearly any software shop. As developers move on to other positions or companies, the projects they leave behind still need someone to take care of them, to fix bugs or implement customer requests. Often, these products have been cobbled together by a variety of programmers who no longer work for the company, many of whom had only a loose understanding of the product (or even programming in general).

Martin was one such maintenance programmer. After being hired, management quickly realized he had a knack for digging into old systems and figuring them out well enough to update them, which often meant a full rewrite to make everything consistent and sane.


Red Black Trees

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In a good organization, people measure twice and cut once. For example, an idea is born: let's create a data center that is set up properly. First, you figure out how much equipment is needed, how much space is required and how much power is needed to run and cool it. Next, you size back-up batteries and fuel-powered generators to provide uninterruptible power. And so forth.

In a good organization, each of these tasks is designed, reviewed, built, tested and verified, and approved. These things need to be right. Not sort-of right, but right!

A power outlet painted over

A Painful Migration

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Database models

In most companies, business growth leads to greater organizational complexity. With more clients to juggle, owners must increasingly delegate less important tasks to a growing pool of employees and lower management. With time, the org charts grow from simple diagrams to poster-sized trees. Departments and SBUs become separate entities. What was once a three-man startup morphs into the enterprise behemoth we all know and love.


Classic WTF: The Big Ball of Yarn

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It's Labor Day in the US, so we're taking the day off to grill something before the weather turns horrid. While I was finding legacy articles to support the Your Code Might Be Unmaintainable… article, I noticed this classic, and knew that I wanted to re-run it again soon. - Remy

Not too long ago, I posted The Enterprise Dependency. Essentially, it was a visual depiction of a good ole' enterprise framework that was "several dozen megabytes chock full of helper classes like IEnterpriseAuthenticationProviderFactoryManagementFactory." Inspired by the diagram, commenter "LieutenantFrost" shared his own "enterprise-ness and despair" with a dependency diagram that looks somewhat like an anglerfish.

But that got me thinking: like a Representative Line, perhaps dependency diagrams can help provide some insight into the pain that large applications' maintainers face each day. And just then, Jan-Hendrik sent in such a diagram. Note that each little box represents a class, and a line is its dependency to another class.


Fully Wireless

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DPA dfacto Vocal wired first edition

Port-au-Prince, I wanna catch a glimpse ...