Saturday, 31 May 2008

Agile restyling

Whilst my wife and son are away I took few days off at work and started to mess with the floor and the walls in the corridor of my house.
I am a brave man... with the help of a DIY book, some imagination and memories of a decorator who worked in my parents' house 20 odd years ago, I started taking off the horrible green carpet I found when I moved in. Surprise! Under the carpet there was an even more horrible black and red vinyl tiles floor stuck on the floor boards. Three days of hammering off the tiles inch by inch with a chisel didn't do the job: I had to hire a floor sander and use 7 P24 - amongst the coarsest - sand paper disks to get rid of the mixture of plastic and glue stuck in the 6 square mt area I am working on.
I took off the skirting boards and a portion of the wall plaster and redid all the necessary fixes to modernise the look and feel. I started four days ago and am now at the stage of painting all the surfaces i can pass a brush on.
Plenty to do and little time! No new news then.

I am learning though... a lot of things! I am practicing day by day (and mistake by mistake) new manual skills: lying undercoat and plaster, sanding, varnishing, painting and I haven't even started with the wood. But I am (re)discovering how to relax by doing manual activities: I am on my own, I am not under pressure to finish (yet!) and I can take my time whilst listening to my music. I am also fooling around by trying to apply agile techniques to my day to day activities. Ok, there's a conflict of interest (I am the customer and the development team) but I avoided a big upfront design and I am organising my activities to best respond to changing circumstances - this in fact has helped: I found on Friday that I have a meeting in London on Monday that I don't want to miss and this has forced a re-org of my activities.
In practice, I have a list of things I need to do and it's comprehensive to the best of my knowledge to date. I keep adding (or removing) to-do items as and when they come and re-prioritise the list every day: I pick the next to-do item from the list and do it, depending on what makes sense doing (I am the customer after all), what I fancy doing (as I am the developer too). I tend also to organise the list to minimise waste (of time mainly) taking into account task dependencies (take off the carpet before lying the new floor) and minimise the risks (paint the wall before lying the floor, because the paint may drip on it!)
The only visible side effect is that I need to go frequently to the nearby DIY shop to buy stuff. Not a big deal though, it's only 2 miles away, and it's also an excuse to see the cloudy sky.

PS: amazingly, when I took one of the skirting board off the wall, I found a little book published by Lloyds Bank with the list of cash points in the whole UK - all in 6 pages, mind you - and a 2p coin. Respectively dated 1973 and 1974.

Uncle Pino

Sadly today my uncle Pino passed away. He was a fine musician who played guitar and bass and toured the world with many famous Italian artists including Domenico Modugno and Nini Rosso. He also published records: the one I can very well remember is titled Marmalade, back in the late 70's (copies are on sale on at the time of writing).
I still remember the story that granma Teresa used to tell me, when I was a little boy, of him leaving Sicily when he turned 18 to fulfill his dream of being a musician.
And I'll be always grateful to him for having bought in Rome in March 1985, on behalf of my parents, a - very much desired - Commodore 64: my parents' present for my birthday. (That machine started my passion for computers and programming).

The Boss is in town!

Great show! Probably the best I have seen in years. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band have played at the - almost full - Emirate Stadium in London a 3 hours gig with a mixture of old and new stuff. You won't believe how that 62 years old man was able to excite the crowd running up and down the stage shouting and playing Badlands, Born To Run, Thunder road (my favourite), Rosalita, Lonesome Day and so on.
He also had time to pass on to us a couple of (silly) jokes about English stereotypes: the weather - today was a sunny day after a miserable week of clouds and rain - and T time. Anyway... I took two pictures with my mobile, one before the start of the concert when the stadium was filling up, the other when it was dark already so the quality is pitiful, so you'll have to guess.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Fighting cot death and side effects

It's today's news that some cases of cot death may be caused by bacterial infections.

If you have a child it's likely that a pediatrician (or equivalent) has told you about cot death - the death of an infant that is apparently inexplicable.

When my son Jacopo was born (19 months ago) we were told when we left the hospital just after he was born. We were also told few things to do to minimise the chances that this horrible situation may occur to us: don't smoke nearby your newborn, don't let him sleep in our bed and - above all - put him to sleep on his back (an not on his tummy, as commonly practiced until about 15 years ago).

All nice and easy. But...

But nobody told us of a naughty side effect of one of these simple practices. If your child always stays on his back (and most of his time he/she does as babies sleep more than 12h a day - also, our one actually disliked being put on his tummy even when he was awake) he/she may develop the flat head syndrome. This is a cosmetic syndrome whereby the soft skull of the baby flattens. It's - clearly - caused by the fact that the baby lies face up with the back of his head on a not so soft surface (soft pillows should not be used with newborns).

As said we weren't told and Jacopo developed a minor flat head on the right side of his skull. We were told by the pediatrician, after we realised it when he was 9 months old, not to worry, that it'll normalise by the time he's two (it hasn't yet, and we're 5 months away from his second birthday) and that this might have happened. We were told of tricks to play to encourage him to turn his head more frequently - move toys from one side of the bed to the other - and optionally to buy a specially made pillow. In the most extreme cases an helmet may be required but it wasn't our case.

Well, to the point... why nobody told us of what might have happened? Obviously preventing cot death is of highest priority, but making parents aware of side effects of having the baby sleep on his back is also important. So, if you're in the same situation we were a year and a half ago, invent something and have your baby move the head when he's awake. He'll be grateful when he'll grow up.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

Agile 2008 - we'll be there!

We are finalising our work for Agile 2008. I led two teams that submitted two sessions at the conference this August in Toronto, Canada. We had them accepted and the two papers will be published in the proceedings. We're now in the process of writing a summary of the sessions for the conference agenda. Here they follow

What's in the toolbox of a successful software craftsman?
Have you ever wanted to know which tools a big distributed team of successful software craftsman use to implement their user stories? How they configure them to support agile development based on XP and Scrum and deliver to the agreed plan? This session will answer these questions and more. Three representatives of this team will tell you what’s in their toolbox and how the toolbox supports four core agile practices that the team adopts to succeed: maximum project status visibility, effective communication, immediate feedback and ruthless automation.

Pushing the boundaries of testing and Continuous Integration
In this session, three representatives of an agile team will show how an automated build that executes robustness, scalability and performance tests helped them drastically improve the quality of their highly concurrent application server. They will also show how the team configured such builds in their continuous integration environment as well as what performance and robustness metrics they monitored. Finally, the team will show how valuable and effective this investment has been for capturing bugs and performance-related issues very early in their development process.

I look forward to get there: I'll hopefully meet people I already had the chance to talk to in the past (Kent Beck and JB) and people I only recently had the honour to collaborate with (Ron Jeffries and Manfred Lange - who reviewed our papers for the conference).

I'll keep you posted!

Saturday, 24 May 2008

And now a public blog

Subtitle: do I really need to do this?

Hello reader! Welcome to YAUB (yet another useless blog). I have decided to join the public blogsphere. The more obvious reasons are that I hope to practice my writing and use this tool to "remember" and "share" stuff (scripta manent, after all). Specifically things that I happen to be doing during my life. About the real motivation, don't ask, I am still looking for it: I suppose it all has to do with the fact that humans are social animals and that they achieve well being by participating to social life and the like. We'll see how it goes...

Actually, I have been publishing posts in a blog in the intranet of my company for few months; now that I am doing the leap I'll migrate my old posts soon so you can enjoy them too. So you'll eventually see posts that are older than this one once I finish my copy and paste job.