Category Archives: Computers

Mac OS X and Windows

One User, Many Computers

I’ve tried a few solutions for using multiple computers (mostly one MacBook plus one or two Windows machines) simultaneously and I’ve currently landed on http://synergy-project.org/ as the One for Me.

It’s very good. It’s pretty seamless (last year less so, this years seems perfect) : put 3 machines next to each other, move your mouse across the 3 screens, and control and type into whichever computer has mouse focus. It’s particularly a good solution when some of your machine are laptops and you want to use the laptop screens.

Alternatives I’ve tried:

  • VNC and remote desktop style solutions have worked best for me when I have multiple monitors on a single machine. The irritation is when your local monitor isn’t as big as you want for the remote machine and you end up with a scrolling window. The itch that remote desktop solutions don’t scratch though is when some of your machines are laptops, and then you want to use the laptop screen. Of the various options, TeamViewer and MS Remote Desktop seem the fastest; I haven’t yet seen a fast solution for Mac.
  • When I don’t need a gui, I find ssh or similar is really good. Even a modest monitor easily has room for multiple console windows. A reminder perhaps that guis are not always the bee’s knees.

Coplien & Bjørnvig : Lean Architecture For Agile Developers. A Review

Four years after this book came out, Agile Architecture has at last become a Thing. But as the nuance of its title hints, this book is not fad-driven. It is a carefully-thought out exposition of what architects can learn from lean and agile ideas, and what they can do better as a result.

Well. It’s partly that. If you are a practising architect, it is actually four must-read books in one.

If you are not, you might dismiss this book for two reasons. The first, that judging by other reviews & my own experience, the homespun style of the first half does not suit a bullet-pointed gimme-the-headlines-now generation. The second is that if you have not experienced the pitfalls of architecting and doing software in a real organisation with actual people in it, then Coplien & Bjørnvig’s pearls of wisdom may impress you much as the agile manifesto might impress a cattle rancher.

It is not a beginner’s book. It is the mature distillation of the sweat-soaked notebooks of a fellow-traveller who has stumbled over rocky terrain, been through the tarpits and has some hard-bloody-earned (and, academically researched) wisdom to share as a result.

I said four must-reads in one. They are:

1) The (literally) decades of experience of a leading practitioner & thinker in the field.

2) A thought-through answer to the questions, what can we learn from lean & agile. Whilst value-chains and some technique feature, the authors’ secret conviction is surely that Technology Is All About Human Beings. “Everybody, all together, from early on” is their Lean Secret. “Deferring interaction with stakeholders [users, the business, customers, domain experts, developers], or deferring decisions beyond the responsible moment slows progress, raises cost and increases frustration. A team acts like a team from the start.”

3) Which leads to that which for me, as a more techy-focused reader, was the marvel of the book. Clements et al in “Software Architecture in Practise” offered attribute-driven design, a partitioning of the system based on a priority ordering of, primarily, technical quality requirements. Coplien & Bjørnvig all but deduce a partitioning based on the priority ordering of people: Users first, Development team next.

“The end-users’ mental model” is the refrain on which they start early and never stop hammering. From this they suggest that the first partitioning is What the System Is from What the System Does. I am tempted to paraphrase as, Domain Model from Use Cases. But their point is partly that this also neatly matches the primary partition by rate of change, because the last thing to change in a business is, the business of the business. If you’re in retail, you might change what and how and where you sell, but your business is still Selling Stuff. And at lower levels inside the organisation too: an accounting department, though there has been five thousand years of technology change, still does accounting. The users know this. They understand their domain and if the fundamental form of your software system matches the end user mental model then it can survive–nay, enable!–change and stay fundamentally fit for purpose.

Second, don’t fight Conway’s law. “Organizations which design systems … are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations”. The deduction for agile teams is, partition so as to maximise the long-term autonomy of your self-organising teams. Even when the team divisions are imposed for non-technical reasons–geography, politics, whatever–still allow that fact to trump more ‘technical’ considerations. This may not match your vision of technical perfection, but it will still be the best way. Ruth Malan recently paraphrased Conway’s law as, “if the architecture of the system and the architecture of the organization are at odds, the architecture of the organization wins”. Don’t be a loser.

These points seem to me obvious in hindsight, yet they turn traditional approaches to high-level designs on their head. After considering People, yes we can considering rates of change, quality attributes, technology areas. But it’s always People First.

4) And finally. This is the first book-sized exposition of DCI architecture, which I would describe as an architectural pattern for systems that have users. Having separated What the System Is from What the System Does, DCI provides the design pattern for how What the System Does (the Use Cases) marshals the elements of the What the System Is. There are at least three notable outcomes.

Firstly that use cases are mapped closely to specific pieces of code; in the best case each use case can be encapsulated in its own component.

Secondly, that the relationship between Domain elements and Use Cases are expressed as “In Use Case X Domain element Y plays the Role of Z”. This brings significant clarity to both, and is part of the key to ‘componentising’ use cases; the Roles needed for a use case become, in the code, its public dependencies. In UML-speak, the Required Interfaces for such a UseCaseComponent are the roles needed to ‘play’ the use case, and those roles are Interfaces which are Implemented by Classes in the Domain Model. Coupling is reduced, cohesion is gained, clarity abounds.

Thirdly, the simpleness of the mapping from business architecture to code is greatly increased. Suddenly one can draw simple straight lines between corresponding elements of architecture and code.

The authors say of their work, “This book is about a Lean approach to domain architecture that lays a foundation for agile software change”. To my mind, this hits the agile architecture nail on the head. Agile software development always only ever succeeded at scale because the people doing it either knew, or had given to them, enough architecture to make it work. Software Agility, just like every other software Ility, must either be supported by the architecture or it ain’t gonna happen.

But the best thing I got from this book was the proof, before my very eyes, that correct technical design flows from knowing how to put the human beings central.

Where to Buy

UK



ebay (UK): Lean Architecture for Agile Software Development


Amazon (UK): Lean Architecture for Agile Software Development

USA



Amazon (USA): Lean Architecture for Agile Software Development

Using Outlook.com email with older iPad/iPhone, Android device or Mail client

If you have a new enough iThing or other device, then you’ll find “Outlook.com” as one of the options when you create a new Mail/Calendar/Contacts account.
If your device is a bit older – iOS6 or iOS5 or earlier – or is OS X or Android, you may not have an Outlook.com option. But you probably have got an option for adding an MS Exchange or an Exchange ActiveSync account. This works well with outlook.com so long as you know the right settings. This worked for my iPad and older Android phone:

Email and password: <your actual email address and password that you can use to login to outlook.com with>
Then on the settings page you need:
Server: s.outlook.com
Username: An outlook.com alias, including the @outlook.com bit, which you can use to log in to outlook. This may or may not be identical to your email address
Domain: First try it empty; otherwise try outlook.com

And that should Just Work. Using outlook.com with a non-outlook email address, I find that this set up picks up the Default From Address that I set via the web interface.

Money doesn’t make the world go round

“Who are we kidding? Apps are built to earn money. They are a product created to generate profit, and there are a number of ways we can get them to do just that. The simplest, and therefore most common method is …”

So says a typical email in my inbox. But. It ain’t true. Apps are also built because people love to build things. Many, many apps – and websites; and Real Stuff; — are built because people love to built things, and if they didn’t have to earn a living they’d still be building things. For some people, earning money is the pesky thing getting in the way of building the apps they’d love to build.

Command line concatenate PDFs on OS X

A great post at http://gotofritz.net/blog/howto/joining-pdf-files-in-os-x-from-the-command-line/ which does what it says on the tin.

He explains how to link to a python script included in OS X since some years ago so as to make concatenating PDFs as easy as typing

pdfconcat -o output.pdf *.pdf

The heavy lifting is all done with calls to OS X Quartz.CoreGraphics module so this isn’t going to work on other platforms, but for the curious it demonstrates how easily you can do such stuff on OS X.

#! /usr/bin/python
#
# join
#   Joing pages from a a collection of PDF files into a single PDF file.
#
#   join [--output <file>] [--shuffle] [--verbose]"
#
#   Parameter:
#
#   --shuffle
#	Take a page from each PDF input file in turn before taking another from each file.
#	If this option is not specified then all of the pages from a PDF file are appended
#	to the output PDF file before the next input PDF file is processed.
#
#   --verbose
#   Write information about the doings of this tool to stderr.
#
import sys
import os
import getopt
import tempfile
import shutil
from CoreFoundation import *
from Quartz.CoreGraphics import *

verbose = False

def createPDFDocumentWithPath(path):
	global verbose
	if verbose:
		print "Creating PDF document from file %s" % (path)
	return CGPDFDocumentCreateWithURL(CFURLCreateFromFileSystemRepresentation(kCFAllocatorDefault, path, len(path), False))

def writePageFromDoc(writeContext, doc, pageNum):

	global verbose
	page = CGPDFDocumentGetPage(doc, pageNum)
	if page:
		mediaBox = CGPDFPageGetBoxRect(page, kCGPDFMediaBox)
		if CGRectIsEmpty(mediaBox):
			mediaBox = None
			
		CGContextBeginPage(writeContext, mediaBox)
		CGContextDrawPDFPage(writeContext, page)
		CGContextEndPage(writeContext)
		if verbose:
			print "Copied page %d from %s" % (pageNum, doc)

def shufflePages(writeContext, docs, maxPages):
	
	for pageNum in xrange(1, maxPages + 1):
		for doc in docs:
			writePageFromDoc(writeContext, doc, pageNum)
				
def append(writeContext, docs, maxPages):

	for doc in docs:
		for pageNum in xrange(1, maxPages + 1) :
			writePageFromDoc(writeContext, doc, pageNum)

def main(argv):

	global verbose

	# The PDF context we will draw into to create a new PDF
	writeContext = None

	# If True then generate more verbose information
	source = None
	shuffle = False
	
	# Parse the command line options
	try:
		options, args = getopt.getopt(argv, "o:sv", ["output=", "shuffle", "verbose"])

	except getopt.GetoptError:
		usage()
		sys.exit(2)

	for option, arg in options:

		if option in ("-o", "--output") :
			if verbose:
				print "Setting %s as the destination." % (arg)
			writeContext = CGPDFContextCreateWithURL(CFURLCreateFromFileSystemRepresentation(kCFAllocatorDefault, arg, len(arg), False), None, None)

		elif option in ("-s", "--shuffle") :
			if verbose :
				print "Shuffle pages to the output file."
			shuffle = True

		elif option in ("-v", "--verbose") :
			print "Verbose mode enabled."
			verbose = True

		else :
			print "Unknown argument: %s" % (option)
	
	if writeContext:
		# create PDFDocuments for all of the files.
		docs = map(createPDFDocumentWithPath, args)
		
		# find the maximum number of pages.
		maxPages = 0
		for doc in docs:
			if CGPDFDocumentGetNumberOfPages(doc) > maxPages:
				maxPages = CGPDFDocumentGetNumberOfPages(doc)
	
		if shuffle:
			shufflePages(writeContext, docs, maxPages)
		else:
			append(writeContext, docs, maxPages)
		
		CGPDFContextClose(writeContext)
		del writeContext
		#CGContextRelease(writeContext)
    
def usage():
	print "Usage: join [--output <file>] [--shuffle] [--verbose]"

if __name__ == "__main__":
	main(sys.argv[1:])