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2009/01/13

Rounding up ...



It seems that BeOS lost the CDROM during the process of installing on VirtualBox. Sucks.

Been looking at Subversion. Someone, I thought it was Coding Horror but I can't find it right now, said there are four essential tools for a programmer: language, editor, bugtracker and revision control. The first two are the subject of many rounds of verbal sparring and not-entirely-rational attachment, while the second two are largely ignored. In most of the places I've worked, revision control is handled via the huge main system backups entirely, and bug tracking is done through your email queue. These, I am sure, are common ways of handling things. I am also sure they approach the categorization "dangerously stupid".

But, as they say, the first step is to admit you have a problem.

I'm Dave, and there's no significant RCS system on my resume.

That's no longer quite true. This summer, I worked with Synergy. Which sucks the dust bunnies you find in long-neglected machines. But I still find this to be a problem.

One I can easily rectify. I just installed Subversion on my work machine, but I can't help wondering if I'm doing it wrong. If they say file:///path/to/repository/, this gives little indication whether you should be using file:///home/me/path/to/repository/ or file:///home/me/path/to/.repository/ or file:///var/path/to/repository/ or what. So, any useful advice from those with great amounts of Subversion experience would be helpful.

So, Ray Kurzweil wrote many things about the year 2009, back in 1999. What? Too long. Didn't read. But there was a deal on Slashdot about it. With comments. In a nutshell: Ray thought that we'd be all about the voice activation by now. Some think it would be a clear boon, and that many things, even programming, would be made easier. Others thought that programming would be the last thing to be voice-activated. I opined. I do this. This is what I do.
Programmers won't even go for proportionally-spaced fonts.
Go ahead and follow. In response, someone didn't notice I have a four-digit Slashdot ID and just might know a little bit about programming.

There are a few interfaces where people have tried to make programming graphical. I've seen one or two windowing macros, and there's a picture-drawing IDE for mashing up web stuff. I forget the name. There's been some success, but all minor at best. There's one tool I've worked with, MatrixX, that takes pretty graphical tools and turned it into C++ code. You can't modify your code, you can just modify the graphics, which renders the code. This makes debugging a bear, I can tell you. It works for how some people work, but if the plotter's broken, it's hard to read your program, and you just cannot grep proprietary image formats, so finding out where you need to debug? Sucks.

One of the comments said that I was posting in jest, and that programmers pick up tools that are useful to them. Well, sure, I guess. Except studies show that you can type faster with Dvorak keyboards and they're still rare as hen's teeth. And despite the complexities and a raft of new, young and limber editors, vi and emacs are still the number-one contenders.

I can see a case for limited voice programming. There's a scene in ST:TNG where Geordie is working out a problem. I for get what, but basically, there's something he's looking for that the sensors don't normally sense. So, looking at it one way, he's having a conversation with the computer, but looking at it another way, he's doing a series of command-line queries into a database and piping the results through filters, but with his voice. I could see some variation of this becoming workable, if only because it was on Star Trek. I mean, we got our communicators, didn't we?

But using the voice equivalent to a bash shell is not the same as deep programming, and I cannot imagine voice being the primary interface for programmers. You can't grep WAV files much easier than proprietary image formats. I am sure that programmers will keep desktop machines long after it's a dead thing for everyone else, because it works for that purpose. I'll say that in 2019, we'll have entertainment centers where it's impossible to tell where the difference between the phone and the TV and the computer. Broadcast and cable will be all but dead in favor of on-demand programming. Ear-conducting telephone earrings that can do videoconferencing with the webcam in your watch and can understand fairly complex voice commands. And computer programmers will sit, maybe with many large screens, and type into vi.