Sunday, January 29, 2006

Users don't know what they want.

Today's Dilbert takes the old programming truism to an extreme - "Users don't know what they want."

How to Organize a Cluttered Mind?

Yeah, I haven't been posting lately. I still have a lot of thoughts running around my head, and often throughout the day I find myself thinking, "I should post an entry about this." But at the end of the day, I'm tired and I'm exhausted from thinking about two hundred different issues and juggling twenty different priorities, so I don't post about it. I note it somewhere and sooner or later it becomes irrelevant and I forget why I wanted to post it in the first place.

I remarked to one of my coworkers that I often find myself remembering dozens of things in my head simultaneously and he of course reminded me of the popular notion that human beings can only remember seven things at any one time. It's the concept of limitation in humans' short-term memory or RAM.

This is probably mostly true, but as I've gotten more and more used to this multitasking mode of mine, I've found that the seven most important things stay on top, but the rest don't really disappear. They fall away for a while, swallowed into your subconscious, only to rear their ugly head again later once you have some free RAM again.

My current role at work forces me to be locked in this mode for most of the day. As one of the senior technical guys, I typically field dozens of technical questions from junior developers during a single day and when somebody's problem can't be solved quickly I physically get up from my desk and go walk them through it. And that's just the queries regarding concerns outside my own project. Aside from that I often have to worry about scheduling, technical risks, physical designs and of course the occasional invitation to go down and buy some food.

Developer multitasking is generally looked-down upon in the tech world I know; people are encouraged to work directly on one task at a time to give them focus. Maybe most people have some short period of time at the start of the day to reply to emails and address issues raised by other people. I wish I could have that sort of luxury, but it seems to me that every issue or problem raised to me needs to be resolved five minutes ago. People can't continue coding unless I help them. Schedules can't be finalized until I give my input. Developers can't write program specifications until I hand in the database design. I literally have dozens of dependencies.

So, how do I cope? Simple, I cope the only way I know how. By instinct. This would be a terrifying revelation to anyone I actually work with, but during working hours I'm typically buried under so many issues, my only recourse is to dismiss as many as I can as quickly as possible, and that requires a whole lot of working from my gut.

Luckily, my gut has gotten really good at this. But I'm pretty sure all the people who are incredibly organized and have moleskin notebooks and stuff would tear their hair at such an unorganized method (or is it madness?). And I know, I'm trying to get organized, I really am. I have to-do lists, a couple of dozen that tell me what I should be doing. I have log files that theoretically tell me what I've been doing all day. I try to turn off my email client sometimes, even though I will inevitably have people coming up to me and asking if I'd seen the mail they just sent.

But I can't help it. That's the role I play. People expect me to help them, to provide them guidance. I've projected myself as being open to consultations, and the company and all of my coworkers appreciate that. And even then I still have my own tasks to perform. I'm considering suggesting to the company that I never be considered working on a project for more than a 50% allocation. The other 50% should be allocated to my on-the-fly firefighting tasks.

At the end of the day, especially during the past couple of weeks, I've found myself mentally exhausted. I have a very easy time separating work from personal life, because by the time I step into the elevator after logging out I'm already too tired to even think about work issues.

Not that I have a bad job, mind you. It's awesome. But I guess sometimes I toss myself into it a bit too much. When my personal load is light, I can easily handle everything tossed at me and people go "You're awesome!" and I nod and address the next crisis. But when my load is heavy, well, then things really get exciting.

I forgot what my point was now, as I unconsciously launched into a narrative of how my typical day goes. I'm still getting by with my gut, but I know from experience that gut instinct only gets you so far. Sooner or later, something's gonna give and I'll need to find some way to make sure I can carry this level of awesome-ness to the next level.

Oh, and yeah I changed layouts.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Adventures in Linux Land, Part 1

So yeah, out of a strange mix of adventurism, inertia, coincidence and plan old boredom, I decided to install linux on this machine. At first I just wanted to see how easy the install would be, but after I nuked my Windows XP install I sort of had no turning back. (-_-!)

Anyway, I went for a dual boot of Windows XP and Kubuntu, supposedly an easy-to-use Linux distro. So yeah, I even watched this video online that showed how to do the installs. (The video shows two guys doing the dual boot install with XP and Ubuntu, same difference.)

Okay, so yeah, I'm cool. I do the install and woohoo, I boot into Kubuntu, I'm awesome, yeah!

But my Kubuntu has no internet. :( It seems to have some sort of namespace resolving problem. I asked around on the kubuntu channel at and on the kubuntu forums, some nice guys gave me some stuff I could try, so I'll try again maybe tomorrow if I don't get home too late. (Can't right now as my bro is playing DoTA and his internet goes down if I reboot...)

(To be continued...)

Sunday, January 01, 2006

I Wasn't Planning On Making Resolutions...

...but what the hell.

I will try more new things this year.

I Wish I Had Something Snazzy To Say About The New Year

...but I just want to see what happens now.

The transition from the last year felt a bit strange to me. Usually, the new year is a time for letting go of the past, and looking ahead to a whole new future. That so perfectly described the end of the last year, as things changed around me and just naturally fell into positions where I would be able to leave them behind. Things changed, things I had known for a long time and taken from granted.

I look forward to the coming year. A new beginning I suppose. I hope it's interesting at least.