On the need for re-architecting

I have been grappling with the concept of a rewrite of a relatively successful software product that I've been involved with since start-up mode. In truth I was googling for compelling stories about why NOT to disappear for a year to do a complete re-engineering of your product (ala Netscape). Mostly because I'm concerned about the size of the effort and the resources we have to pull it off. Instead came across this article, espousing the need to fire all your developers!


Well I'm the guy who's been promoted to a more senior developer role (not architect, our group shares that responsibility) but still by Mike's logic the guy who should be fired (?!). I'm the guy who now is learning the ropes in management and who happens to really know the product and the business but now swimming in very exciting waters when it comes to our rearchitecting plans.

What I do have going for me is an incredibly strong team to work with. I'm undecided yet as to whether we actually need an ivory tower architect or if our guys can work this with the guidance of our CTO. We'll see, as it's still not too late to change course.

In any case I think I'll keep an eye on more perspectives like Mike's...

University Bureaucracy

Depending on how I choose to count I am now dealing with my fifth or sixth post-secondary institution in my odyssey to finish my computer science degree. One thing that all of the schools I've dealt with have had in common is a slow and inflexible bureaucracy.

Of course as a younger man I blamed a lot of my own failings on what I perceived then to be a completely fucked up system (University of Manitoba) that was screwing me over. I paid them for a service and yet the treat me as if I should feel lucky to be there! (Can you imagine dealing with thousands of similar minded young punks who couldn't be bothered to actually read the calendar??)

In retrospect though I can see that most of what was going wrong for me was based on my own mistakes and a failure to read the fine print. I did terribly in my first year of university (terrible = D average) and was put on probation at the UofM. In my frustration I simply packed up and took my business down the road to the University of Winnipeg. (Which also happened to be much closer to where I was working and living)

Ahh... I remember being so excited about this fresh start, getting away from the inept and massive machinations at the UofM and getting a much more familiar and friendly experience with the UofW (which was about 1/6 the size of UofM at that time). It only took registration to completely rid me of my naivety. I had gone from a large university with an annoying but efficient phone registration system to one where I was actually standing in lines and dealing with a slow human process full of uncertainty and questions. Worse, my crappy year of courses of course comes along with me; I'm still on probation and not every course I passed at UofM is even transferable to my new program.

It wasn't long before I was grumbling and complaining about the inept staff at UofW. I was a little more on top of things this time around though and was able to get through two solid years of course work having properly navigated the probationary process and meeting requirements from the transfer. It was just as I was settling in that I accepted a transfer with work and moved to Vancouver.

By this time I was much better at being a student, having learned my lessons the hard way and I had a certain expectation that future navigation of the university bureaucracy would be much easier. Had I been starting over that might have been the case, but instead I was now dealing with inter-provincial transfer rules and a struggle to get credit for the years I had already put in. I messed around for a few months trying to get into UBC and finally had someone recommend that I try Langara college as it would give me a simpler route into the BC system and transferring from there to UBC or SFU would become much easier.

Langara was great, and because I wasn't seeking credit with Langara for past work it was basically just a matter of signing up and attending. It all might have worked but ultimately I could no longer afford the time involved in getting to and from school during the work day. And for reasons that are totally beyond me, computer science is still one of those subjects that just does not seem to offer consistent night time access, at least not the universities I've been attending at the times I was there.

Which finally has led me to the wonderful world of distance education. For the last two years or so I've been attending Athabasca University which is based in Alberta and at the time of my starting was the only fully accredited post secondary institution in Canada to offer a computer science degree.

I should say now that I have been pretty happy with my experience with this school for the last couple years. My transfer process was smooth, the course selection/planning process was easy thanks to some good help from an adviser via email and about my only concern right now is how much respect this degree will actually get once I'm done all this work.

Of course anytime you want to do something just a little different then that's when you run into the beuracracy and this school was no different. Here's a timeline of what was involved in challenging a course for credit :

  • Feb 24 - Email to exam unit to get the professor's contact info to gain permission to challenge
  • Feb 25 - Reply with professor name
  • Feb 26 - Email to professor with short summary and request
  • Mar 12 - Email the exam unit again asking for a different contact (still no reply)
  • Mar 13 - Reply requesting I try again and get back to the exam unit if no reply in 3 or 4 days
  • Mar 17 - Email to professor again
  • Mar 16 - Professor reply! (need more background for permission)
  • Mar 20 - Email professor with a customized resume
  • Mar 20 - Approval! Please contact the exam unit again to arrange
  • Mar 20 - Email to exam unit asking for next step
  • Mar 25 - Reply all from exam unit "can someone help Chris?"
  • Mar 31 - Still no reply from anyone so I submit what I assume is the right form and notify the exam unit that I didn't want to continue waiting, let me know if I need to do anything else
  • Apr 5 - the request is approved! course materials are in the mail.
Wow, 42 days from start to finish just to process my request to challenge an exam. That doesn't include shipping time, or the time it will take to schedule and take the actual exam etc.

I think the big difference between this experience and previous more frustrating challenges with getting things done was that on two separate occasions in this one transaction I had to reach out again in order to get the process moving again. At eighteen I probably would have just written this off as no longer on my plate and waited. If nothing happened it wasn't my fault. I no longer have murderous thoughts at other's ineptitude when deadlines pass and I'm stuck in the lurch, I think I just accept that when humans are involved things get slow and error prone. Treat your education like your job and always assume responsibility.

Still, no one enjoys dealing with this kind of crap do they?


This is one of my favorite pictures of my daughter Maggie. She's not usually this sweet ;-) but at least a few times a day we get a few moments when she's active, smiley and interactive. I took this picture last weekend, so she's about nine weeks old here.

A lot of Maggie pictures tend to really distort her, and while often cute they don't all equally capture that part of her that really defines her personality (in my eyes). The grin here is very recognizable and actually looks a lot like her cousin Josh. I rarely get any sense of what she will eventually look like, but I can see this smile lasting a few years at least.

clever youtube covers

In the spirit of using the blog as a personal online searchable storage medium here is a playlist of some covers on youtube that I totally get a kick out of... most of these are songs I came across in the past year and am now just logging so I don't forget them.

Youtube is absolutely full of crap song covers by amateur artists in their basements. I think that's cool and all, I can imagine myself posting something like that when I was first learning guitar but it's not something I want to watch (does anyone?). These are a little different and with the exception of the first cover, which just rocks because it's a wicked song, all do something a little different with the original song.
  1. Fairytale of New York (The Pogues) - The Mahones With Damhnait Doyle (a lot like the original, very good)
  2. Hey Ya (Outkast) - Matt Weddle of Obadiah Parker (very different, I had no idea the lyrics to this song were good. Matt has an amazing voice, wait for the end when he really belts it out)
  3. I might be wrong (Radiohead) - Amnesiac Quartet (jazzy instrumental)
  4. Idioteque (Radiohead) - Matt Weddle of Obadiah Parker (not as good as hey ya, but I happened it across it while looking at the others so here you go)
  5. Who is it (Bjork) - Matt Weddle of Obadiah Parker (it's a Matt Weddle playlist, this song is much more mellow than Bjork's version, doesn't really get good until about half way through)

robots are your friends

OMG, I so love this freaky dog robot thing... we need more like this! Truly exciting the kinds of things that are going on, I can't wait to have a robot servant.

Watch these all the way through, in the following order. The second one is f'n hilarious after you watch the first.

The original

Quadruped Robot Dog Thing

the spoof

Spoof of Quadruped

and just for fun

Tennis Ball Cannon

I have some reading to do!


I came across this list of the best 15 science fiction series ever written. The reason I love seeing this is 1) it contains a bunch of science fiction series I've already read and thought very highly of and 2) contains some series I've never even heard of, which of course is exciting since it means I have some reading to do.

For all I know the guy who wrote the list is totally unqualified and preying on people's ego by throwing familiar items on a list with a bunch of obscure ones, but I'm gonna go with it.

The series I've read so far :
  • Space Odyssey
    • I've only read 2001 so far, and only just recently. I had a total Aha! moment reading that book and finally getting bits of the movie that were totally nonsensical to me at the time. The book was great, the movie is overrated.
  • Rama series
    • My introduction to Arthur C. Clarke (RIP) and definitely my favorite work of his so far. I loved the matter of fact nature with which Clarke wrote, it helped make everything so believable. That and his respect for actual real science which is a total joy to read.
  • Hitch hikers guide to the galaxy
    • Douglas Adams is my hero. He is insanely brilliant in the same way George Bush aren't.
  • Ender's Game
    • Honestly I've lost track of all the Ender books, so I may not have read all of them, but I've read three or four and loved them all. For straight pure entertainment value I don't know that I've ever enjoyed a sci-fi book as much as the original Ender's game. I recently got Caitlin to read it and she loved it (she's not exactly a hard core sci-fi fan)
  • Foundation Series
    • I got through all of these and I think all of the robot books as well. Very quick fun reads that had really nice tie in across books. I'm not sure these deserve the top ranking unless we're just talking pure volume. They were enjoyable but not life changing enjoyable like Douglas Adams or Arthur C Clarke though.
First books on the list I'll go for will probably be ringworld. This is probably the third or fourth time in the last year where I thought to myself I should read it.

eighth first post

Testing blogger hooked up to my own domain.... we'll see....