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Why I Enjoy Working on Legacy Software Applications

Today I realized something about myself, I actually really enjoy working in legacy applications. This may seem odd. It’s common to hear complaints about “how bad this old code is”, so why would I enjoy working in a difficult environment? First, it would be useful for me to define what makes an application a legacy application. I realize this may not be a universal definition for everyone, but here are the core elements I think of that make an application qualify as “legacy”:

When You Might Want to Rebase a Feature Branch

Is git rebase a command to be avoided at all cost? I say no. Here’s one use case where I reach for rebase instead of merge.

What Are Your Important Tasks Today?

Many of us have a seemingly endless backlog of tasks we could be doing. How can you figure out what’s most important, and use that decision to bring focus to your day?

Benefits of Keeping a Work Journal

Many developers feel overwhelmed with the amount of work they want to get done each day. Or they feel pulled in multiple directions and struggle to make progress on the important things. I can totally relate! One thing that helped me is keeping a work journal.

The oppressive nature of mathematical facts

I was frustrated watching the news tonight, seeing reports of long lines of people waiting to buy lottery tickets for tonight’s $500,000,000+ jackpot. There are several angles of absurdity to consider here. For example, why all the excitement over $500 million? Wouldn’t any of these players be equally thrilled by $10 million or even $5 million? Another example: Several of the people interviewed, who had just bought hundreds of dollars of tickets, were unemployed, facing foreclosure, struggling to pay medical bills, and so forth. But putting all that aside, let’s just look at the math.

I love Twitter Bootstrap

If you haven’t heard of it, go take a quick look at Twitter Bootstrap. As you click around the github project site, you’ll get the sense that all these layout guides and widgets and buttons and icons look oddly familiar. Part of that is the fact that Twitter itself is built with this style package. But even beyond that, many many many many sites are using this tool kit as well. I’ve sensed a little backlash, mostly from designers, at this rampant use of the Twitter Bootstrap. At a certain level, I agree, but I’m here to talk about why I love Twitter Bootstrap.

The importance of upgrading

Most web sites use third-party code. This code comes in a few different flavors: client-side libraries (jQuery, dojo) server-side libraries (form mail scripts, oAuth integration) server-side frameworks (Zend Framework, Symfony) entire applications (WordPress, Joomla) As a developer, when you selected one or more of these tools, you hopefully picked a project that was active and well supported. This means there will inevitably be upgrades to that third-party code. Some of these upgrades add features, but most upgrades also include bug fixes and security patches.

Finally, a PHP conference in Wisconsin

I’m a huge fan of php|architect: the magazine, the books, the online training and especially their conferences. Living in the Milwaukee metro area, I have a short 90 minute drive to the flagship php|tek conference they host in Chicago each year. My schedule doesn’t always allow me to attend, but I do everything I can to make it. I’m still putting into practice the things I learned at php|tek 2010 and I regularly keep in touch with the many friends I met there.

Do programmers rely too heavily on internet resources?

Let’s face it: there is a *lot* to know as a programmer. There is the syntax of your preferred language(s), the syntax and function library of your database technology and you probably have some sort of framework or common library containing dozens, if not hundreds, of classes on top of that. This can be overwhelming at first, but most programmers recognize the folly in trying to memorize everything. The reality is you probably only need to commit a small percentage of that knowledge to memory. The rest can be assisted by your IDE, the documentation or an Internet search. Lately, though, I’ve begun wondering if programmers might take this notion too far and rely too heavily on their “extended memory.” This thought occurred to me as I was browsing my Google search history. I saw a couple searches come up repeatedly every few weeks over the course of the last several months. Could it be possible that I was really searching time and time again for the same answer to the same question? It was a scary thought.