Sunday, June 08, 2008

Children and Human's Low Level API

One of the privilege you got from having children (I have two myself) is you got the chance to see layers of human behavior API. It is exposed incrementally so you got the chance to differentiate which one is inherent to every human, what is character. If you have more than one you have even greater chance to compare things and search for invariants.

I see for myself how certain characteristic are already within a person without us do anything special to develop it. Being very attentive or very extrovert is shown in babies even when we don't condition them to be (I always thought this was very conditioned). Of course, later you can teach them and manage some of their trait to be more effective but inherently they are already have certain tendencies.

The most interesting thing for me is to see how we learn. It's really incredible to see how children learn and reflect on how we ourselves learn. You will see how those principles in AI books come from. I think you could actually subtitle any AI text-book as "how babies learn" :).

In physical level it is quite the same too. You see how those hair, teeth grow and how the faces change and shape up. Watching them learn how to walk is fun and refereshing and you see how those muscle strengthen.

It's probably a little inhuman to call it API, you could say it instead : if you'd like to learn and know more about yourself inner-workings, have a children.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Programmer Maturity and Estimation Skill

How do you measure a programmer maturity?. Recently, I am beginning to think that it is reflected on how they estimate the project and task that they need to do.

Programmer that only work on small number of code and problem tend to highly overestimate or underestimate the complexity of a project/task. So, mature programmer is not (just) someone who could code, and estimate, very good and precise in well-known problem using language that he knows well. A mature programmer would also :

  • know quite clearly what he need to do/learn/research on matters that he is not used to
  • how much/how certain/uncertain the time to take to tackle it, substask and trouble that potentially come up
  • make clearly-thought estimation, and most importantly
  • not emotionally attached to a problem which means not knowing or estimate something as long/hard/unknown/impossible is nothing to be embarassed/defensive about instead it's for the best if everyone being clear on what can and cannot be done
Less mature one would tend to be more "aggresive" and eager to prove himself by estimating too optimistically or underestimating a complexity of certain task (by fear of losing credibility or eagerness to be accepted/approved).

I think it's the same as maturity in life, you are less needing of approval/praise or trying to satisfy/impress anybody too much and more focus on doing what you can do best and keeping your integrity checked.

It does not mean we need to avoid the unknown and avoid adventure, but being mature means being clear of it and not promising something beyond our integrity to accomplish it. Say something is risky when it is and let the stakeholder decide (and share consequences later), say something certain when you have a reference/experience of it and ready to take consequence if you are proven to be wrong (you learn something new anyway).

Running .Net Winforms Application in Mono

I am curious to try running .Net Winforms application for several reason :

  • Most portable GUI-based .Net app is written not using Winforms but something else e.g: gtk.
  • Want to see how far the Mono team in dealing with GUI application so far (I have used server application written in .net in mono but no winform application yet).
  • I have written pure and relatively simple/common winform application that supposed to run in any "good enough" winform port. Before it, my use of winforms had to goes into win32 specific "hack" which less likely to run in non-win32 .Net port.
So, here goes the result : it runs quite well. I only copied the binaries compiled by visual studio and the neccessary dll in windows to linux (after changing code for file/directory path to a more neutral convention) and run :

mono quicktask.exe

and the application "magically" run. Screenshot below :

It's the quicktask app from my previous post, so you could compare with the screenshot on that post. There's only some odd pixels in textbox borders but beside that, things are running fine.

Now, as long as you don't use anything strange with winform, it seems to be quite a portable development platform now. Pretty convinient if you would like to stay developing in winform or already have a codebase in it and want port it to platform that can run mono.

One note though, if you have more need like more integrated look and feel you probably want to look other alternative e.g: gtk sharp, since currently winform in mono feels like the early java gui toolkit i.e: it uses it's own rendering instead of using native widgets. It's good enough to make things run but probably won't impress too much consdering how user interfaces is getting shinier these days.