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Archive for the ‘Food for thought – opinion’ Category

Azure Touch and Windows 10

May 26, 2016 Leave a comment

A new paradigm, yes? nO? Well, that depends on your point of view…this is mine.

My older PC is giving up the ghost.  Sure, it does still provide value but reliability is key in what I do.  What do I do? I design software from an object approach.  So, a reliable computer is key…and the inspiration for this blog.

So, what could a new

Computer do for me?

Well, I hear that Windows 10 is tuned for the cloud.

My company’s product is tuned for the cloud.

Guess the Azure interface is the next step…so I’ve been ploughing through with older versions of Windows.  Granted, it’s 8.1 but 10 is a new paradigm.  Touch, keys…ummm

for those  of us keyed into ctrl-key combos…MS..Please Keep ’em around.

Onward….

Ok, using the Azure portal, Data Factories and all, I have a rather large table structure to propagate into my azure db using a daily incremental change using data factories.

Designed to do it…

Not a problem…yes???

Herein lies the dilemma…

touch screen, mouse, all painful

If you are accurate, with your finger, you have a chance of toggling a check box to checked, if you hit it just right.

Screens, accuracy, all play a role.

perhaps a less restrictive response on a check box where the default is, when selected, then checked = true.  Having that in place would save me hours of effort.

So there you go…

Ok update…

ok, if you are accurate with mouse placement, the dbl click on the pad, works as expected.

 

 

 

Databases everywhere…

April 27, 2016 Leave a comment

In a galaxy far, far, away there existed a very unique application with a very unique database.  I do feel that the original incarnation of the application should be at the minimum in a reference book and perhaps, the Smithsonian.  The design came from a time when architects were not happy with what Microsoft had to offer and tried to do their own thing.  On a side track, was the push towards model driven development and modeling business processes into applications.

Heh, I got to play in all of those environments and gathered a bit o’ knowledge from the experience.  So, I had an antique application that enhancing wasn’t in the picture.  It was based on a “bound” technology and the only resolution was a complete re-write.  I can hear the collective groans over the time this was going to take.   Four years…that was the resource cost.  Why?

Knowledge about the industry:  Medication management is a very important and critical process.  It must be exact.  That is the first criteria.  Now let us add in the rest:

  • Regulatory
  • Compensation
  • Changing fact and measurement dimensions
  • Volatile environment

Regulatory:

This is a known, known in the design wheel.  Our product must comply with any regulatory requirement from CMS, DEA and even state and local governments and agencies.  So we have to have a dynamic security profile that can be applied in any connection consideration as well and data I/O.

 

Compensation:

Here we have a changing environment where data analytics will play a key role for current and future compensation.  Our data structure is designed around the object model that represents the business environment.  There have been historical requests that I have been unable to respond to because of the legacy database.  One of my main goals was to ensure all data entered was structured so that it was suitable for a data warehouse and analytical treatment.   Ah, the joys of writing from the ground up.

Changing Fact and Measurement Dimensions

One of the challenges we had to consider was the constantly changing dynamics of the medical reporting needs.  CMS and others, are pushing for quality care.  That has always been a major consideration in design.  The biggest question to answer?  What design will allow easy extension on the focused area of change and can maintain a consistent database model?  That is always a key focus.  Database changes are extremely costly.  The underlying physical database has to be:

  1. Isolated from the application
  2. Only accessed from the logical layer

Because of this, structures to manage the dynamic changes in the business requirements were engineered into the design.  This allows us to add new  values and fields without have to modify the database.

Volatile Environment

The last consideration I had to take into account was the constant changing government requirements around healthcare.  As we all know, currently, this is still in a state of change and varying requirements.  So any system designed around this has to be flexible in adapting to new changes.  This is where “from the ground up” gives us a real advantage.   We were able to engineer around all of the current requirements, provide for future changes and base it all on what is needed.

Summary:

We have built an application that will manage all care administrations that a care facility will need but also an application for anyone who has need to report on health care management.  The scope of what we have to track has gone beyond “give 1 pill a day” to:

  • How is Mary Feeling Today?
  • Has Mary gone for a walk?
  • How much has Mary consumed in food weight?
  • How much has Mary’s excrement weighed?

As you can see from the sample questions, we can produce a lot of useful and interesting information.  That is just the tip of the iceberg.  There is a whole wealth of medication information that can be derived from the results of both the medication and vital measurements.

I am really excited that we are reaching the final evolution of the new application and I can convert my existing customers over.  We have implemented so many improvements and made sure the application has flexibility for future enhancements with a short turnaround.

Lastly:

I have learned more about health care management, resident care and ongoing needs than I ever knew existed.  We all will experience some form of elder care.  If anyone I know goes under care, I want them to be under our system because I know we will be monitoring all the key points and the resident and their family will have an open pipeline for secure communication.

More to come… 🙂

Heh, the true life of a programmer…

September 23, 2015 Leave a comment

True life?  Can there be such a thing.. come on now, we’re

 

talking about stuff here… ok, new font…

 

There are so many fun fonts but I digress…

WOW, creating a video takes some serious processor…

Again, I digress…

<queue the “Final Countdown”/>

Where was I…

The dreaded Estimate…

This is one area where this is no right answer.  As professionals, we know that at the beginning of the project, there is no way in hell an accurate estimate is possible. 

Unknowns… at this point, the unknowns you don’t know about are going to come out and get you quick…

Just saying, you’re working on a masterpiece for a sector that has a lot of the Man involved.  I mean, Government would have worked but really, each entity is a force unto itself… “The Man” and I liked it better.

It really should be “The Entity described as the Entity”.

Ah, object oriented programming, I capiche!  Totally used wrong I know.  In fact, I think I’ll retract that.

 

Word just doesn’t hang with Italian slang… what gives… gimme back my font!

 

Ok, back to the font of choice…you know, I remember a time when you could simply change the body font of the document and be done.  Now, it’s hidden back stage in document properties.  Say that ten times fast… come on, you know, you wanna…

DIGRESSION CHECKER!!!!

Wow, did I ever jump right off that estimate question.  Hey, it’s a really tough question.  I mean, there is always the FANTASY that everything will just fall into place. 

No equipment delays

Top notch programmers

Happy customers

A solid and reliable version 1 that upgrading will be a piece of cake…

<queue the Eagles, “The Long Run”>

ugh…

Switched to the Judas Priest station…

Needed high energy…

Back to the life of a prog…

Or this is my take…

Look, when I get into the code… it’s all there is.  The problem…the solution…

It’s the solution that gives me the juice. 

(boring Verdana… but consistent…once upon a time, I went to a career … hmmm consult? anyway, they had some good advice…juice…what drives you to show up, succeed?)

<Queue Ozzy>

I do wish my video processor would finish.  It’s playing heck with my blue tooth speaker…but wait, there’s a recall…buy something trendy, it’s what you get.  It’s not made anywhere but shipped in pieces to the final assembly <The Final Countdown>sorry but that is another story.

All right, I give up… better get back to the topic.  You see, that’s where this has been.  It may seem scattered but when you focus solely on an object to the exclusion of all else, the else gets…dingy.

Yes, a small boat used to do tasks….for the BIG boat.  Unless, you’re the Tom Sawyer type and do your own thing.

Font dizzy yet?  Well, I’m not sure about the Judas Priest station… hmmmm.  KONGOS?

Ah, much better….

 

So finally, where does this all end up in the world of estimates.  That’s right, haven’t really told you a thing.  We know that for a project to have life, it must have a release point.  This is not a completion point.  Let me stress that.  As programmers, we know a lot of different ways to accomplish things.  Even more when it comes to appearance and form factor.  What we don’t know, unless some whiz kid has come up with a customer requirements mind reader with a future mod to adjust for customer feature drift.  Customers want to change things.  We, love to change things.  But next, in a funny thing happened on the way to the database…

 

Long time no write, time for some insights…

May 22, 2015 Leave a comment

Been reading a lot of inspirational books lately and you can add to that Magazine articles that my best friend has been handing off.  Hey it’s a lot of good information.  Sometimes it’s a psychology today article.  Other times it’s a book about a startups and running one.   

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I think the hardest job is to take a company from ground zero (or maybe ground negative) and turn the sucker around in a short time to catch the wave of opportunity that abounds in the industry you’re are targeting.

Have I lost you yet?  I often start in the middle of a subject then fill in the details. Winking smile

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I think having watched “Pulp Fiction” to many times has impacted my ability to converse…

It’s all good.  Plus having a digression checker never hurt.  So please, just go with the flow, I’ll get it all covered by the end.

I love playing poker.  Sure, it’s gambling but it is also a game of skill and psychology.  You can play your cards or you can play the person.  If you play your cards, and do it well, you won’t be the Big winner but you should have a reasonable play.  If you want to win, and win big, you have to play the player.  You may have heard the saying that “any hand can win”.  It’s all about strategy.  Poker, Holdem included, is all about playing the table.  Controlling your responses is first.  Hey if you can’t minimize your ”tells” a better player will take your bank.  If you can utilize your “tells” to first establish a pattern then change it up, you stand a much better chance of cashing in.  The same thing applies to Business.  A great book on start up mentality is “All In Startup” by Diana Kander.  This book portrays a really good concept.  But it really does come down to being all in. 

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Are you committed?  We all have outside commitments.  Are you someone who can jump into a startup situation and deal with the requirements?  There is a reason that most relationships don’t survive a startup.  One or the other has to give.  Can your significant other really deal with the fact that you’ll be working 18 hour days for a stretch?  What, 18 hour days? You must be mad!!!!  It’s a Mad Mad Mad world buddies… Winking smile

Ok, here’s the why…

You’ve got a hot idea

It’s a hot market

The window is open only for so long

How do you meet those requirements?

Well first, back to “All In Startup” and why you should read it.  It comes back to addressing that “hot idea”.  The bottom line is that you may feel you have the killer app but does it really address a potential customer’s Migraine.  “Migraine”?  Isn’t that just a headache?  No, it’s a headache of massive impact.  That is what you have to solve.  Sure you product may be the cat’s meow but if it doesn’t address anyone’s migraine it will not go very far.  Ok, you argue, hey, my app is hot and it will solve x.  Everyone hate’s dealing with x so my app is totally cool.  I’m not saying that there isn’t a market for x but that’s kinda like being the killer rock guitar player that is finally discovered in a back ally bar.  It happens but the odds are stacked against ya.  It’s much better to be a mediocre player with connections… but that is another story.  I’ve got them but this is not the place Smile.

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Anyway, read the book.  It’s advice is beyond the scope here but it is well worth it.

Add in “Hold Me Tight” by Dr. Sue Johnson.  Now here you are going to ask me why is a relationship book important in a business context?  Everything is connected.  Any relationship has all sorts of aspect but the concept of establishing connections is key.  You have to connect.  This book will give you insight into the whole aspect of connections plus where you might be missing the boat both personally and professionally.

Have I wandered too far off topic?  I don’t think so.  These things I’ve talked about have played a key role in the whole startup experience.

You have to be prepared for both the stress, the ability to set your own tone and goals plus getting your team on board.

 

You are going to have players of every stripe and you need a mix.

 

What if you had a pro team of all the best stars?  Well, without the members that do the mundane and ordinary, your “stars” will find it challenging to achieve their high level of performance.  You need the routine, mundane, day to day operations covered before you let your “stars” loose on the world.

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Holding your phone in speaker mode is not “Hands Free” and other fun stuff…

July 28, 2014 Leave a comment

You’ve seem them right?

Drivers jetting down the road…

Holding a phone but not to their ear…

Talking away…

In English, as I understand it, hands free means…

Without Hands

Hmmmmm.

Is there any question?

Can there be any doubt?

I even overheard a conversation where…

Someone got a ticket…

Was all miffed for being cited…

A scary call if you got money at all…

We are all so wired in…

Even my bank…

Sometimes I might forget to send them a note…

I’m out of the country, yes, those charges are ok…

But sometimes…you get the call..

Maybe by shopping at some national retailer…

You know the one…

Next thing you know, you have a replacement card…

It’s in the mail…

Oh… Do they still accept cash?

They?  Why anyone… gas stations…

Grocery Stores…

The local establishment…

Fortunately… that’s still a yes…

Until Skynet strikes!

Your cash has been terminated…

Active Listening

July 8, 2014 Leave a comment

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It’s something we all should do but it seems to rarely happen.  What is it?  While I’m not endorsing this site, MindTools does have a pretty good description. Wikipedia also has a page on it (see Active Listening).  I did like the warning at the top of the page in Wikipedia that talks about weasel words.  Perhaps that falls in like with double speak.  Whatever the definition the point is, that active listening is rarely practiced.

 

When Speakingshutterstock_141613546

 

Ok, so now you know a little bit about active listening, heck maybe you already practice it in principal.  When I’m talking with someone, I go into the conversation expecting that they will not be an active listener.  Since I can’t make someone listen, I need to adjust my message so that the important parts come across.  This is especially challenging when the message is not going to be accepted easily by the listener.  For example, when giving constructive criticism to an employee, I expect them to be practicing Active Thinking.  Funny right?  The act of hearing only a few words of your topic then immediately form a rebuttal.  It’s during the rebuttal phase that practicing Active Listening becomes a challenge.  It’s during this process that I put things in black and white.  I know they are not going to listen fully.  So backing it up in writing reduces the chance of ambiguity.  Is this fool proof?  No, but I’ve found that it is significantly more successful than just “saying it”.

shutterstock_121786222Perfection vs Perception

 

Ok, perfection is a fictional concept that can never be obtained.  So why am I even bringing it up?  Key to my practice of Active Listening is to accept that I don’t have all the answers.  Also, my point of view is a matter of my perception.  I accept that the person already has a different perception and by listening to their contribution to the conversation helps me form a better idea of where they are coming from.  This is a process that will never be perfect.  My goal with every conversation is to gain a little more insight into their perception.  This helps improve future messages to achieve a higher chance of getting through.

 

Sound bites just a political thing?

 

Or maybe just the news?  Sound bites are used because they are effective.  Short simple statements with intentional pauses have been shown to increase comprehension.  I’ve used this technique when dealing with particularly difficult people.  Me?  I’m difficult?  To some people I’m sure I am.  My goal is to get my message across at the office.  It’s not a social hour.  When in a social situation, I‘m not worried about clear and complete understanding.  As long as a good time was had by all, I call that a winner.  By the way, I found that using sound bites for humor can be pretty fun too.

So while this short blog may not be overwhelmingly educational.  I enjoyed writing it and sharing some of my thoughts on Active Listening.  Writing this is my way to help me to remember to use Active Listening especially during stressful situations. 

The things you learn…the hard way

December 9, 2012 Leave a comment

New Code, New Job or New Opportunity…

Over my career, I have had to adapt to and adopt new technologies and technologies, while I was conversant in them, were deployed in very unique ways.  Technological change is inevitable and if you want to remain viable, you have to roll with the punches.  Time can morph the FINEST architected system to the point of instability.    These are my thoughts on spinning up at a new opportunity or being presented with a new system and reaching a knowledgeable state within 90 days (120 if there are outstanding “other” tasks to be done).

Reverse engineering a system can take one of two paths depending on the availability of information. 

Why start right off with reverse engineering?  Few of us have the opportunity to work in a Greenfield environment.

You can go down the path that the documentation is “golden” and the foundation is sound and focus all your energy on the methods, properties and attributes of all the classes.  I know this sounds like OOP but a sound understanding of objects and the states they occupy is critical.  The second way is to talk to stake holders, use the application and get to know the operational intent of the application.  With that approach, the documentation becomes a reference but not a guide.

Note, not all "documentation" has an informational value.

If you have access to the code, that enhances the power of the "documentation".

So, the first set of skills needed is to be able to develop a plan to reverse engineer the code. How does one come on board and "spin up" to be a master?  This is a second set of skills and helps to master the code base.  This being said, the last skillset needed is a "QA" mindset. 

 

Code to test, test to code.  According to Yoda:”Write Code? Test, you will…” 

 

Reverse engineering code:

Access to the source code!  More than once, I’ve gone into a project and have access to the source code and think I have it made.   Ten minutes later I’m looking for the bus that just hit me.  Why?  Having access to the source code is great but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll understand the code in any time in the near future (six mos.) but it is useful.   Beyond the obvious (this is the code you have to maintain) it gives insight to the hands that have touched the code.  While in this process, it’s also a good time to think about refactoring.  Windows of opportunity are quickly closed by the pressing needs of business.  While that window will open up again and again, it is open widest at the start.  For example, the code is well structured and for the most part, maintainable.  You run across a section that is hanging off another module.  At first, it looks like a valid piece of code reuse but after delving in a bit more, you find that it’s not related to its location.  You may learn that it was put there because that’s where the “screen” appears in the application.  Now the code is being maintained in two places.  Complexity has crept in along with an increase in the potential for breakage.

In addition to the source, hopefully the code was documented in-line while being developed.  Now tools can help.  They still can even if the code is not internally documented.  Grab a documentor that can parse through the source code (like the .Net documentor on CodePlex or Resharper). Hers a pretty good list of available documentation tools.   Depending on the previous developer, you can inspect the compiled code to see what methods, properties and attributes are exposed by the classes. From there, it’s time to move on to the next step and become a master.

Mastering the code base:

This is where the diplomat comes in and works with the stakeholders to determine two areas. First, what works well and does not need enhancement. The second is everything else.  What?  Just two?  Really, there can be only one.  Once a line or two is written, all bets are off and modifications will follow.  That’s a good thing right?  What does diplomacy have to do with this?  I’m SUPER DEV/DATA GUY/ETC. <<announcer voice>> and nothings stands in my way <<queue reverb, a little echo and fade off>>  Wicked skills right?  Guess what, you were hired for those so you don’t need to go down that road.  What you have to do is…

listen. 

I know this architect who really has a handle on code.  Granted, maintainability lacked because the code was complex but over all it was a complete application. 

The problem:

The stakeholders never were consulted and the solution eventually died on the vine. 

In another situation, I wrote an application for a set of users.  It was simple and straight forward from the use point.  Almost an “easy button”.  I spent a lot of time on the data parsing dll.  The applications sole purpose was to read a text file, allow the user to “map” the data to field designations and then generate a load file. 

The problem:

After I left the company, a decision was made to “upgrade” the vb 6 application to .Net.  What should have been an easy refactor was complicated by the decisions to completely re-engineer the tool and give it a whole bunch of new features.  Well, the application was built and the team asked to use it.  Herein lies the problem.   The new application did do what the original one did and it did a whole bunch of other things.  However, nobody talked to the stakeholders and while it was installed on their systems, they never used it.  A few years later, I was talking with a friend who still works there and my old VB6 application is back doing it’s job.  I’m sure it’s retired by now.

The moral here:

Just because you can add a whole lot more, doesn’t mean you should.  If you do, make sure the stakeholders are on board.

Back to spinning up.  Now armed with documentation from talking to the stakeholders and working through the application it’s to get a handle on the current state.  Determine the backlog of fixes, enhancements and new features. Once you’ve got your initial list, it’s time to go back to the stakeholders and get a clear understanding of priorities. You go into this knowing full well that there will be conflicting priorities and this is where being a diplomat plays a critical role. How does this enable you to become a master of the environment and code base? This gives you a blueprint to follow to start building/getting knowledge of the resources required and the burn rate needed to clear the backlog. This all plays into the next and last part of the initial push to get on board and get up to speed.

 

QA the product and code:

You have to run through the application to build test cases and determine expected results.  Applications exist in their own space.  What may have seemed logical to one makes no sense to another.  So, how do you get a handle on the code?  Work with the backlog.  Simple yes?  You just put on your agile hat and go for it. 

Well, if you can do that, my hats off to you.  Me, I have to take a much more gradual approach.  I could call the approach I take the “Onion” but at times, it feels more like a great Red Wood

Getting a handle on how the code actually works versus how you expect it to work is critical. This also starts to build your library of test cases you will need to make changes. Without know how a piece of code runs, you will not know if your change has had unintended consequences.

 

Summary:

While there are details and additional steps to take, this is the viewpoint from 60,000 feet. This process gets constantly refined depending on the need at the time and how much critical focus is needed.