Yes, I love technology – The key to developer productivity Thursday, Jul 13 2006 

One of the things I have learned in leading an IT department, is that developer productivity is directly proportional to the equipment that you give them. So instead of giving your CEO a new Dual – Dual Core machine with SCSI drives, think about who needs that power the most. Apart from the servers, the most expensive machines in our office are in the hands of developers – Dual 20″ wide screens, SCSI 15k drives, 4 gig ram, Extreme Edition Dual Cores, etc etc. Also, they have full control over those machines (no “you need to be an administrator to install this” here)

Why give them faster machines?

  • They need to run services locally (IIS, CMS, SQL Server etc etc) – these hog memory
  • They run all kinds of weird and wonderful applications
  • They need to compile large amounts of code, and fast
  • The quicker they can test a piece of code, the quicker they can fix it
  • If their machines are still responsive while performing a complex query, they can still do other things, as opposed to twiddling their thumbs. If that happens to be reading www.reddit.com or www.digg.com all the better – keeping up with technology is what makes being a developer fun
  • They won’t get frustrated, leading them to leaving the “zone” / disrupting their “flow”
  • Occasionally, for fun, they play games – let them. It’s great for teamwork and communication. In fact, pretty much everyone here has Nintendo DS lites and we challenge each other during lunch time.

The key, to keeping costs down, is to get them desktop machines instead of laptops. Desktops? That’s so 90’s I hear you cry. But desktops provide a lot of good things:

  • You can leave them on all the time
  • They are much cheaper 
  • They are easy to backup (centralized)
  • They won’t be dropped
  • They won’t be stolen
  • They won’t be lost

What about working from home? Well, most developers have their own machines at home, and for the ones that don’t, we have a few loaner laptops. Instead of getting people to develop on their own machines / laptops, we get them to terminal into their machines at work (GoToMyPC / VPN & Terminal Services). This way they have all the files they need, and the performance on their desktop machines.

I also strongly recommend putting your dev machines on their own GB network, so that interacting with source control / other services is extremely fast.

If your developers are not complaining about going home to their slow machines, then I strongly advise getting them faster machines now!

Blindness Tuesday, Jul 4 2006 

Just finished Blindess, by Jose Saramago. Wow. What a intruiging idea, and brilliant writing style! Some quotes:

  • I have no words to thank you, and the other replied, Now then, don’t give it another through, today it’s your turn, tomorrow it will be mine, we never know what might lie in store for us (page 3)
  • Yes, that was me, the boy’s reply came out with the resentful tone of someone who preferes people not to mention his physical defect, and with good reason, for such defects, these as much as any others, are no sooner mentioned than they pass from being barely perceptible to being all to obvious (page 40)
  • If, before every action, we were to being by weighing up the consequences, thinking about them in earnest, first the immediate consequences, then the probable, then the possible, then the imaginable ones, we should never move beyong the point where our first thought brought us to a halt. The good and the evil resulting from our words and deeds goes on apportioning themselves, one assumes in a reasonably uniform and balanced way, throughout all the days to follow, including those endless days, when we shall not be here to find out, to congratulate ourselves or ask for pardon, indeed there are those who claim that this is the much-talked-of immortality (page 71)
  • We failed to put up resistance as should have done when they first came making demands, Of course, we were afraid and fear isn’t always a wise counsellor (page 174)
  • As human history has shown, it is not unusual for good to come of eveil, less is said about the evil that can come out of good, such are the contradictions of this world of ours (page 191)
  • The young adapt quickly, they have their whole life ahead of them (page 230)
  • She could find no reply, replies do not always come when needed, and if often happens that the only possible reply is to wait for them (page 234)
  • Inside us there is something with no name, that something is what we are (page 248)
  • Words are like that, they deceive, they pile up, it seems they do not know where to go, and, suddenly, because of two or three or four that suddenly come out, simple in themselves, a personal pronoun, an adverb, a verb, an adjective, we have the excitement of seeing them coming irresistibly to the surface through the skin and the eyes and upsetting the composure of our feelings, sometimes the nerves that cannot bear it any longer, they put with a great deal, they put up with everything, it was as if they were wearing armour, we might say (page 252)
  • Despite the freedom of movement enjoyed by dogs in recent months, all of them had genetically programmed into their brains the prohibition which once, long ago, fell on the species, that on entering churches, probably because of that other genetic code which obliges them to mark their territory whereever they go (page 282)

 But none of these quotes do the book justice – it’s the plot that really made it an interesting read for me. Could have done with out some chapters though (very disturbing) :/

 I also gained a few survival tips such as:

  • You can collect rainwater in pots etc
  • Toilet Cistern has water
  • Have a pair of gumboots for travel
  • Out in the country there will always be domestic / wild animals to feed off