Tuesday, 4 February 2014

A New Chapter

By the time this post bounces it's merry way into the lives of the bots that regularly ping this blog (that try to entice me away to sites-a-foreign to purchase anything from Viagra to Ugg boots from a guy named Vlad), I will have become (officially) a Free Agent in the world or professional software development.  This was not of my choosing; 4 years on one project taking it from conceptualisation to full-blown application suite, with all the pain in between, means I am sad to part company with what I can only refer to as "my" product.
Still with the warm memories of working with possibly the best Dev Team I have had the fortune to Lead and be a part of, I now need to look forward as our paths diverge; I hope to work with you again some day, should the stars align in our favour.

Until then, while I search for something new I have set my self a challenge; a pet project if you will, to supersede any others I may have mentioned before now (not that I actually managed to start them)...

I have decided that I need to stretch my mind and move a little outside of my comfort-zone; being a "Lone Compiler" (some may even go so far as to say "Ronin") means I don't have access to my preferred environment (Visual Studio) so I have opted for Java in Netbeans as my development platform, communicating to an H2 database and taking the risk of using the new Netbeans version 8 beta in conjunction with JavaFX.  To cap it all, running under Ubuntu 13.10

The challenge is multi-faceted.

Maintain Focus
Redundancy, regardless of how often you have experienced it, is always a kick to the knackers.  Part of this project is to keep me coding in some form and forward-focused.  I have no doubt that my conviction will wax and wane, but I am at least slightly prepared for that (and I have good company both in close family and good friends).

Self Management
Over the last year, I've had (again) the fortune to work with a great Production Manager (Flix Interactives very own CEO, John Tearle) and learnt many things; some about me and some about production that I now want to try to enforce on myself.  The reason being that should I take a position in another Dev Lead  or even a more managerial role, I can't very-well encourage my thinking on others if I have not self-experimented first (a hark back to my first corner-stone of software development) .  I can foresee a need to be fairly strict with myself; employing production constraint to my developer mentality.

New Concepts
While I have fiddled, I've never really lived in it.  I really like the idea of being able to move away from the expense of Microsoft products but until now have not had the time.  Primarily running off of a USB drive inside VMWare Workstation, I'll also be booting directly off the USB if I don't need anything Windows specific.

Once again, James' influence on my life shows through.  While my repository is not public (not ready for that quite yet, though if you ask nicely I might invite you in...), it gives me version control at a low price.

H2 Database
I was keen to have some DB interaction having recently been deeper than anticipated in Oracle, but also wanted light-weight (both from an execution and deployment perspective).  H2 seems to be flavour of the moment so I'm willing to give it a shot.  As a front-end i'll be using a combination of Libre / Open Office and Squirrel SQL.

Old Friends
For my design tools I'm returning to Lucid Charts - great value ($4/m) alternative to Visio and only a little more if you want to do UI mock-ups / wire-frames.
For task management I'm currently using trello, but also considering how Zoho Project might either run in parallel with, or instead of.  A year ago I would have defaulted to Zoho.

The Application
The aim is a cross-platform application aimed at ebay users that would be in a "ready to deploy" state in about a month.  I say deploy-ready, as deployment is a mini-project in it's own right and I'm already changing things on multiple levels; pragmatic caution; one set of problems at a time.
Until I have some ground work laid out that's as far as I'm going for the moment, other than to say it is built on real business requirements and will be deployed for real in one form or another; this isn't vapor-ware.

Why Bother?
Worst case is that it provides me with my own IP that I can walk into an interview with as an exemplar of my work - cracking open the source code of a previous employer with a half-hearted "ta-da" a-la Manny Calavera from Grim Fandango (listed as GinxTV #1 detective game!) just doesn't cut it.
Given the self management aspects, there is also the possibly of gaining a split personality...

Ultimately it is towards an element of the BCS code of conduct - "develop your professional knowledge, skills and competence on a continuing basis".

Best case?  I think the following quote best sums it up:
"It's the beginning of the End!... Or the end of the Beginning..! Humph!"
                                                                    - Olgra.

The Great Conjunction awaits.