Shahzad Bhatti Welcome to my ramblings and rants!

February 26, 2006

A few old usenet postings:

Filed under: Computing — admin @ 8:43 pm

A few old usenet postings:
I guess not many people usenet anymore, here are links to some of my past

Software rewrites

Filed under: Computing — admin @ 10:58 am

Software rewrites
I just read a great Blog entry of Jim Shore about Software Rewrite. I like many have been in situation when I just wished that if we could redo, the application would have been much better. As some people say always do things twice
and throw away your first try. However, when you are working on a large
complicated software, despite the temptation it can be enormous effort.
According to Jim, If your platform or language does not change, dont’ throw
away your code instead refactor or redesign to work with existing software.
I have heard similar advince from Joel Spolsky. I have been involved with a few
projects with complete rewrites. In early 90s, there was widespread use of
the term “Re-engineering”, that related with business re-engineering and
encompassed a lot of rewrites of software. Later, I was involved with an
ITS project for Illinois Department of Transportation, where we rewrote old
CTIC project, which was written in C/UNIX and wrote new system
GCM Travel in C++/Java/CORBA. It
turned out to be major effort and over budget and years late. Unlike
private company, the government had plenty of tax dollars to keep spending
on the project. When I was at United, I worked on prettty badly written
software and I had to decide whether to continue with the software or rewrite.
I opted for incremental refactoring because unlike CTIC project, I had to
not only write new version, but had to maintain old software. It is terribly
risky strategy to maintain two versions of software. Martin Fowler also has
he describes for rewriting software. Unfortunately, I am
currently involved with another grand rewrite project (it was started
before I joined). It also has requirement to maintain two different
versions of the software and I can see a lot of time will be spend on
integrating two different versions. I have already seen people taking
short cuts to finish the project and before you would know it, it is
going to follow same road that previous project did.

February 19, 2006

Finished Personal and Company’s Web Redesign

Filed under: Computing — admin @ 10:41 am

Finished Personal and Company’s Web Redesign
Since I moved my personal website from my school to my own domain back in 1998,
I did little touch up. So, I finally spent some time to change the looks. I
then realized my company’s website can take a new look too as that has not been
changed since around the same time. I wanted to keep both sites easy to
maintain without any dynamic content management, so I used same technique
that I have been using over ten years, i.e., wrote some templates and created
Ruby scripts to generate html files. It’s not state of the art, but given
my server isn’t too powerful, I think it will work.

February 14, 2006


Filed under: Computing — admin @ 7:38 am

Since Fowler’s Refactoring book and adaption of the this term in the agile community, everyone is onboard for refactoring. It’s a great tool to prevent stale code. An ability to adapt to change is a survival
for any business and you continuously need to align your software to make sure it can change with speed of the business.

Strictly speaking, refactoring is modifying a code without changing external behavior. Often at the end of release cycles, developers apply quick hacks to finish the deliverables. Most agile environment dedicate a few days after each release to clean up the code. Many also use a geek week after a couple of iterations to do this refactoring or make structural changes to the application. The point of my rant is two fold refactoring: types of refactoring and when to use refactoring.

A software needs to continuously adapt and modify as business requirements change, however I find people use the term refactoring too loosely. I consider refactoring a minor change in the code without breaking the contract, however every day I hear people use the term “refactoring” when they mean redesign, rearchitect or completely rewrite the software or a piece of software. I acknowledge it’s very buzzword, but too often it’s used improperly. I have seen a number of projects that start from modest size with a couple of average developers to large size. In many cases the code is not properly maintained and incurs high technical debt. The development team may address the design or architecture issues that are at the heart of problem and start making major changes in the software.
Such effort of major redesign or rearchitecture cannot be labeled refactoring. Instead, they should be referred as design refactoring as opposed to code refactoring. Ideally, development staff need to allocate a few days or a week quarterly to address the design and architecture issues and adapt its
design with emerging needs of the customers. You can call it a geek week and spending a week quarterly will be a lot effective than rewriting the software.

Most teams favor speedy delivery of the software and often this gives the impression to move ahead with minimal changes for design, or architecture or refactoring. I find that architecture needs to be continuously evolve based on needs and small changes to design prevent code rot or technical debt. In some cases, it may increase the scope of the project, for example you may need to use a different database or service platform to support performance or scalability. For a sizeable project, it make sense to spend a few weeks to nail down immediate and emerging needs of the application so that it is able to support demands of the software. One thing that can make a big difference is having an experienced architect who has build similar systems before and understands the business domain of the application. Having a an architect helps that the software architecture is consistent and key design aspects are preserved when building new components or updating existing components.

February 6, 2006


Filed under: Computing — admin @ 8:36 pm

Most of the corporate culture encourages heroism, where dedication or value of employees is measured by how much time evenings or weekend they spend at work. This largely effect how employees are treated by management or promoted. Many such environment also encourage incompetence. For example, if you do a sloppy job at work leading to buggy product or software and then spend nights and weekends to fix them you are lauded and recognized as a dedicated worker. However, if you finish your job within schedule and without any problems and leave your work at time then your dedication is questioned. Most companies don’t realize that when your employees are spending 13-14 hours a day they find ways to do their other personal tasks such as making private calls, dropping cleaning, etc. Nevertheless, it is corporate culture that rewards people who make heroic effort to make up for their incompetence.

February 3, 2006


Filed under: Computing — admin @ 8:36 pm

Despite a few law suits filed by IT companies such as EA, most companies expect IT (and non-IT) staff to work more than 40-hours per week. As payroll laws exempt IT folks from overtime, it is very hard to do anything about it. There are still effects of the dot bomb and most of the jobs have not returned or have gone to offshore. All this has given companies free reign to treat their IT employees however they want. I have seen companies where despite the fact that people are working 70-80 hours a week, when they asked for raise they were told, “You should be thankful for having a job.” There are plenty of companies who think the only way they can compete with offshore is to match sweatshop environment of offshoring and put their employees with 14 hours a day with 6-7 days a week.


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