Monthly Archives: May 2014

Does code matter?

Well, I have already mentioned Codecademy’s approach and will get back to this.

Disclosure: I have been using their site to look at their lessons for 97 days, now. There are other sites of this type, but their setup  is nice to use to twiddle with a little code each day. But, I have a bunch of content to worry about, too, and, unfortunately, or fortunately, the world of content and code are disjoint (actually, the former – truth engineering would have us get those two better related).

This month, May, in the CACM, Bertrand Meyer has a little article, “Those who say code does not matter.” He mentions that he’s going to look at  the agile side, see what they have to offer, and get back to us. Who on the agile side is going to listen to the older folks, like myself? Say what?

My time using Codecademy, and playing with some stuff, has basically been for the purpose of seeing where things have gone the past 1/2 decade (at which time, I had left Lisp/C and  moved over to Python/Perl). Then, a need to focus on content came to fore.

Is it that the youth take over software (modern programmers) due to their energy? From my observations, this has happened with each succeeding generation with a measurable period. The real trouble is that the older folks let this happen. Well, what prevents things from unfolding?

Mind you, we’ll get back to this, the whole context has to do with the genie that was let out of the bottle when IP was let out into the world (wild west style – as in, like post-Jefferson’s purchase, a whole lot of area opened up for the taking, irrespective of the occupants at the time). Sure, many billionaires (millionaires) have ensued. Does that outweigh the negative impacts (to be defined — SAT solvers, and more)?

I will say that arguments about lack of people who can do the work (required by the new paradigms, such as webbiness or cloud’dness) is plain wrong. There are lots of older programmers about who can be trained. BTW, I was into objects in the very early stages and worked thusly for many moons. … It’s more a cultural thing (but how can one argue with the monied? as in, if you’re so smart, why aren’t you rich? — near-zero, people, near-zero as the reality) as USA Today reported: the silicon’d valley being a testosterone pot of mostly white males. I say, too, this: look around and you will see all sorts of havoc wrought by these ones (even if they have big pockets thereby) due to several lacks (which I am prepared to discuss, maturely and rationally).

Any way, back to code. The more who know, and are familiar with, code, the better. Code as a lingua franca? Well, not (but the point is arguable). I did know of someone who, in the ’70s, was allowed to use FORTRAN (what’s that, the young folks ask?) as a foreign language at a college. So, there’s nothing new there.

Put it this way: just as mathematics has been given more power than is actually there (a matter of being, folks – we have been overlaid insidiously – again, to be defined further) so too is code deficient in a whole lot of areas.

Later, …

Disclosure: 50+ languages (not counting DB systems, OSs, etc) used, in modes that contributed to oodles of projects on all sorts of platforms and under all sorts of user requirements including running the whole gamut (early AI applications –  way before agile – there, before it was cool, so to speak) to the more structured as shown by attaining SEI/CMMI Level 5.

 


Miscellany

There was a flurry of activity related to updating the button handling for awhile. Mostly, the time was spent getting up to speed. After that little bit of effort, and then making a decision about the approach, it was a matter of doing the work, testing, and then distributing the changes throughout the pages, as necessary (not complete as some of Gardner’s Beacon pages need some attention).

Now, a technological focus has its place: ought to be regularly held in about any modern context. The question, at the core, is how deep does one go. Well, the answer ought to be however much is necessary for truth (see Formally truthful). I don’t think that  a lot of modern programming cares about truth. Why should it when the way is to pound out stuff to see if it can rake in money (naturally, this is meant as metaphoric)?

In other words, we get to the cathedral/bazaar issue which was originally proposed in the context of Linux (see Queue). But, we can use it for the larger issue: so we have structure or fluidity (agility, too)? Why do those have to be incompatible (is my question)? Just today, I raised that issue in the other blog (Massachusetts Magazine). We will dance around the subject more but, for now, consider that there are truths that are more than the transient type related to computationalism.

As said, earlier, this blog is a learning vehicle for establishing WordPress on the TGS site in whatever way it can be used (at least, as the official blogging device). However, it may continue after that transition just to discuss, more fully, some fairly important issues related to computing and its foibles. I read the other day that even hard problems are being tamed through statistical means. One has to ask whether the whole accumulation of computational experience from its beginning (reminder, a mere 1/2 century ago) to some longer-term future point will really be sufficient to be called “knowledge” (my put: yes and no)?

A lot of time, of late, has gone into organizing processes and documenting such. Why? Various reasons that will become apparent, at some point. Right now, the emphasis seems to be on reviewing activity and benefits thereof which does deal with things beyond questions of: is it making money? That is a bazaar question. Sustainability, and its issues, must consider cathedral and such (to be discussed).

The Cathedral and the Bazaar (Wikipedia page) — written about development approaches, say the dichotomous views of top-down and bottom-up. Let me just say, that I’m going to talk middle-out as the scheme that we see having success. After all, those two views are neither sustainable in a real situation.

But, we can take those two (cathedral and bazaar – note lower case) and apply them to all sorts of situations which is what I am doing here, even though I used systems (software) examples. We could, eventually, think of a better pairing as juxtapositions, such as this, are everywhere visible to the observant.

We’ll use Eric’s site (here is a good starting page). On a quick read, we have to note that he is talking the type of code that is far removed from user content (to be discussed). There is a larger picture to consider; computing is for a purpose. In dealing with domain issues, users need direct involvement; in that sense, they ought to co-develop (so, tools, understanding the technical issues come into play).

There is no domain, of note, that is solely bottom-up (so remember, middle-out – it’s my duty to describe this further). In fact, the top-down (theoretical) rules, in many cases – unfortunately, so, since that view does inhibit (as in, you’re stupid for even thinking such a thing – ah, what hubris we see everywhere!). One problem is that domains have left things to the hackers, even in mathematics.

What is different about this old guy’s view? Well, he is over 70 and can still handle software. He touched a whole gamut of languages and approaches and platforms (enthralled with the new little toys? well, only in the sense that I foresaw those way back in the ’60s – it’s unfortunate that we seem to have to relearn a whole bunch of stuff – well, generations do come and go – what makes sense to one does not to the other – but, there are universals, even in computing – which generation will bring that out?).

I am always happy to look at the new books and note that there is nothing new under the sun. Now, in that context, the cathedral, at least, offers some semblance of continuity (let me take you to old structures from the 1100s, let’s say).  There are universals in computing. How do we lift these to consciousness and allow some agreement that is beyond the generational rifts?

 


Shapes

As said, this blog is technically oriented. But, in the nested world of reality, one person’s technical is another’s abstraction (let’s discuss). Those whose services will be in demand in the future (in order for us to have sustainability and a lot more) ought to be able to be able to bridge many levels of technical data. The topmost level of this paradigm? Don’t get me started as we have too many (as in way more than necessary) nestled up there, cloud nine, living off the work of others. The lowest level? Would be truth engineer’d in focus? So, this post is technical in a computational sense (somewhat, we can go much deeper). We will get back to content management. Too, we’ll get back to map-territory issues that seem to be everywhere inflicting even smart people (listen up, best-and-brightest).

The next post will go into peers keeping each other honest (can that appeal to millennials?).

In a prior post, I mentioned running across shapes being handled by CSS and HTML. When I first saw that, I just made note as I was looking at buttons (which can have all sorts of shapes; notice that we went back to the old, Platonic, rectangle). Since then, I have looked at this advance via HTML/CSS and wanted to point to a few places to revisit later when I get back to layout issues (table’ing is sufficient for now — I’ll have to find the page, but a modernly focused site had tables still in use – hurrah).

For now, we will show a few examples.

It is nice to see the progress in the form and look of web’d stuff. Trust, value, and such (we will be getting back to those)?

 


Buttons and more

The button work is mostly done except for some tweaking and figuring out a good scheme for handling Beacon issues.

Essentially, rather than a collection of table cells, the buttons are an un-ordered list that is formatted via CSS. Right now, the sub-menus (About us, What’s new) are static.

Now, on to things related to content and not form.

Note: One might ask why not just pick up a template? Well, for one thing, none really fit. Secondly, who likes black boxes? That is, we have to put up with these as consumers for many reasons (proprietary, legal, etc.). Yet, where we can , ought we not try to keep things a little more visible (as in, if not exactly clear, a box does not have to be opaque – where is that a given?)?

 


Button work in progress

Thanks to those who teach, I got a huge start on the button modification today. Didn’t take long once the decisions about color and shape were made. There are two pages left to do pending a decision about a nesting method.

Now, given today’s exposure, CSS looks interesting. I want to move from tables to the layout approach. But, there are uses for tables. So, I’m looking forward to getting the button work (you see, it’s a functioning site – so, maintenance completing to executable-ness is imperative) done so that I can move ahead.

But, I might get sidetracked. I ran across this article on CSS and shapes (I’ll keep some links). As I mentioned before, I have been doing graphics (which, by the way, implies geometry and more) for a long while.

See the header as an example. If I can do that without resulting to Javascript (or the like) and can just use HTML/CSS, I will be impressed.

Aside:  One might wonder why all of this. Why not just buy a developer’s package? Why not go with a template? All sorts of questions arise. Well, see TE, for one thing. It’s everyone’s right. Too, how many 72-year olds can do this? But, let’s be serious. Throughout my whole career (working with computational mathematics, etc.), there was always the adage of re-rolling the thing. Why? What software is perfect? Besides, if you look under the kimono, a lot of stuff is ugly? Okay, the likes of Google were adamant about style, technique, for their workers. But, even with that, it would be interesting to see their code. But, then, too, don’t limit this discussion in any type of way, as the computational (all sorts) has been (your noggin computes, for instance) and will continue to be central to human affairs. … Consider, please: can you believe, and it’s 2014, that the auto industry cannot put out computational assists for cars in a safe and secure manner? You know, if you pay attention, that recalls seem to be growing  that are related to some failure for computer (both hardware and software) people not doing their job correctly?


CSS plus

As the prior post suggested, I was leaning toward WordPress and/or CSS. And, so, I have been playing with both.

For WordPress, we will have our own blog (now under here and blogspot.com). Too, though, the extent of users, and their work, shown via the Showcase is impressive.

But, why not have both? So, I found this nice little CSS site (webdesignerwall) with an example of a gradient button. In fact, the site is run on WordPress, so that was serendipitous.

Here is my first example: the first HTML page with the buttons plus a hover behavior defined for “a” types. Picking any of the buttons will bring up a page with the older buttons. History of that? Two years ago, I was using Office Live with buttons from a design tool. When I decided to go back to the older methods from my prior work, I but those into images and kludged the menu which has worked till now.

Next up, I’ll try the layout scheme. As you can see, the HTML approaches uses tables.

Side-note: I was working in programming graphical presentations (3D, to boot) way back when we had to worry about hidden lines and clipping (this, by the way, implies geometry, to boot, as in solving problems related to shape and behavior). Things have come a long way. It’s nice to see power of CSS given the small footprint (comparatively). So, it’ll be interesting to explore what’s behind this newer (parametric) approach.

Notes: 

05/13/2014 — Collection of supporting sites: w3schools, …

 


Links, and more

Way back in the beginning, you could find people’s lists on the web. Some were just plain text; others used tables to arrange things a little better.

CSS, of course, was an attempt to allow more flexibility (for one thing). I, just now, went to search in its history and found several useful sites. I’ll collect these here (expect more to be added through time).

First off, though, as I browsed some of these sites that would be of interest to web designers, I found a wide range of looks and feels. The main thing for this old guy was seeing stuff using older techniques. For one thing, the browser are finally getting up to the standard (an age-old computer problem:  cowboys rush off to new things; the standards trail behind; at some point, there needs to be a convergence.

So, we’ll start with three links.

History (last updated in 2003 – or thereabouts) – Brief history of CSS

Look, Ma, no tables, et al (again, old, but it does show simple examples of placement) – glish on CSS

Finally, shapes (this is new, with a blog post of only a few days ago) – A list apart on CSS and more

Other links will below. In regard to that last list, it’s nice to see progress. And, talking of shape is right down my alley (computational support for design). The games software has really progressed (haven’t looked for a few years, but recently did a quick look) in terms of handling shapes, movement, et al. There is no end of interesting things to look at.


Decisions, decisions

Today, I played with a couple of things that pertain to this effort, as in how to do, rather than what to do.

At Codecademy’s site, I have gone through most of the lessons (it’s fun, but, too, we need a code-related Magna Charta). I mentioned that I liked the interpreter, but under it is just the browser’s capability. That is, with a good editor, one can do just as well without the Codecademy interface. Yet, one is starting from scratch without buying into supporting systems, like frameworks. And, whom does one trust? You know, I have seen decades of people doing their own since it was, by definition, better (ah, managers hate that).

So, the problem here is how to update this thing that is organized by tables (see prior post). Notice the little behavior associated with hover. I must say that I have not watched closely and had figured, until today (of course, I have seen this time and again, but domain work pulls one from appreciating such), that one needed javascript (like back in my day, okay?). So, given CSS, can I reconfigured this site to be more clean (for instance, notice the little images in the cell playing the function of buttons – this can be done by CSS – I only did four of the pages)? Also, one can do shapes using CSS (example, pretty buttons).

On the other hand, I started to re-monkey with WordPress (see TE site). I just say, that seeing the Showcase was nice. Too, after dealing with Joomla (too much code) and Concrete5 (doesn’t seem to be as intuitive as WordPress to me), working in WordPress looks to be fairly straightforward.

So, I’ll do both of these: play with HTML/CSS and do WordPress. Which will give me the best result that I can do (given time and other constriants)?

I ran across this site (CSS-tricks), again, today that is sponsored by treehouse. Earlier, I had run across this button maker demo.

In essence, the above discussion revolves around being parametric, or not. Some feel that such is the way to go, due to flexibility and more. Too, this approach makes heavy use of the database. So, we can talk oodles of jobs.

However, there are times with more structure is needed. Perhaps, it’s more clear to someone older than not. But, it’s like the issue of bias (wait, there are many connotations – actually it is a sign of intelligent pruning, many times).

 


Content creation versus management

In the context of managing content (and producing it, to boot), I have looked at various approaches.

A couple of years ago, I was using OfficeLive, nicely provided for free by MS, which had some nice tools. I can explain, eventually. For now, let me just say that when I went over to another web provider (as OfficeLive* went bye bye), I looked at the methods.

Know what? I’m an old guy who has done software far beyond the life spans of a lot of the current developers. One thing that I noticed was that the database was a tool applied too much. We’ll get to that, too.

So, having been using mark up languages way before HTML, I fell back to my late 1990s mindset to transition the website (Thomas Gardner Society, Inc.). Again, know what? This has worked for a couple of years, but I want to step it up a notch. And, I went back to review some of the approaches. The front page at the site has a couple examples.

None appealed, not even WordPress. Until. The other day I saw the Showcase at the .org site. And, it was impressive to see who has been using the software. So, I’m going in that direction.

First, though, I thought that I would come here and get familiar with the approaches that are used. I have WordPress installed at the site where I’ll do the work, but it is definitely in need of work.

Unfortunately, the approach here and there are not that similar. But, I’ll do.

Now, a general thought, after looking at Codecademy’s little site. It’s wonderful, given the interpretative approach. I hope that it grows.

Anyway, it’s nice to do HTML (if you have a contextual editor). And, CSS is nice. But, then you need some type of Framework unless you want to build your own. That is the point. If you’re young and close to the machine, and have the time, then you can play all you want with code. However, to work in the realms that we called domain, you cannot be bogged down with the details of what is going on.

Having said that, it’s not nice for techies to think that they own what the domain person is doing. Nor is it right (in the sense that the Magna Charta established, okay?) for the techies to mess with what the domain person is doing without their knowledge. But, what can we do in this age of the freebie (let it all hang out world)?

If this is not clear, we can go over it again, using other concepts. In the meantime, though, I need to get off on producing; after all, the end of time if closer for me than for many who are doing this stuff.

* (05/22/2014) ASP based