Programmer Interrupted

Slashdot runs a thread on “Are Remote Software Teams More Productive?“.  The original post links to a few research references that, unsurprisingly, show how expensive interruptions are to programmers, and how unprepared we are, as an industry, to deal with this problem.  I particularly liked a rather in-depth look at the issue in “Programmer Interrupted” article.

Like you, I am programmer, interrupted. Unfortunately, our understanding of interruption and remedies for them are not too far from homeopathic cures and bloodletting leeches.

Here are a few points, if the article is too long for you to handle:

Based on a analysis of 10,000 programming sessions recorded from 86 programmers using Eclipse and Visual Studio and a survey of 414 programmers (Parnin:10), we found:

  • A programmer takes between 10-15 minutes to start editing code after resuming work from an interruption.
  • When interrupted during an edit of a method, only 10% of times did a programmer resume work in less than a minute.
  • A programmer is likely to get just one uninterrupted 2-hour session in a day

And also this bit on the worst time to interrupt a programmer:

If an interrupted person is allowed to suspend their working state or reach a “good breakpoint”, then the impact of the interruption can be reduced (Trafton:03). However, programmers often need at least 7 minutes before they transition from a high memory state to low memory state (Iqbal:07). An experiment evaluating which state a programmer less desired an interruption found these states to be especially problematic (Fogarty:05):

  • During an edit, especially with concurrent edits in multiple locations.
  • Navigation and search activities.
  • Comprehending data flow and control flow in code.
  • IDE window is out of focus.

Overall, not surprising at all, but it’s nice to have some numbers and research papers to point to…

WallpapersCraft – high quality desktop backgrounds

WallpapersCraft is a collection of high quality desktop wallpapers / backgrounds.  There are quite a few categories and tags.  The search works.  Tonnes of high quality wallpapers, available in a variety of resolutions.  And the site is very fast.  If you are in the mood for a new desktop background, I strong suggest you check it out.  Here is my new choice:

i3 window manager – a week later

A week ago I blogged about i3 window manager and my attempt to use it instead of MATE.  So, how am I am doing so far?

The long story short: I love i3.  It’s awesome.  But I still switch back to MATE once in a while.

What’s good about i3?  It’s super fast.  Even faster than a pretty fast MATE.  It’s keyboard navigated, and it only takes about a day to get used to enough keyboard shortcuts to feel comfortable and productive.  It’s super efficient.  Until I tried i3 I didn’t recognize how much time I spend moving windows around.  It is unexcusable amount of time spent needlessly.

What’s bad about i3?  It’s low level.  In order to make it work right with multiple screens, one need to get really familiar with xrandr, the tool I last used years ago.  If you are on a laptop, with a dynamic setup for the second screen (one monitor at the office, one at home, and an occasionally different project at client’s premises), you’ll need a bunch of helper scripts to assist you in quick change between these setups.

And then there is an issue of flickering desktop.  The web is full of questions about how to solve a variety of flickering issues when using i3.  The one that I see most often is the screen going black once in a while.  Sometimes it takes a second to come back, sometimes a few seconds, and sometimes and it doesn’t come back at all.  The more windows I have, spread across more workspaces, with more connected monitors – the more often I see the issues.  It’s annoying, and it’s difficult to troubleshoot or even report, as I haven’t found a pattern yet, or how to reproduce the problem.

With that said though, I am now about 80% time using i3.  I like the simplicity and efficiency of it.  It’s so good, that I work better even without a second monitor.  But when I do need a second monitor (paired programming, demos, etc), or when I have a projector connected, I switch to MATE.  That’s about 20% of my time.

WordPress.vim – Vim Plugin for WordPress Development

If Vim is your editor of choice, and WordPress is something you work with on a regular basis, then check out WordPress.vim – a Vim plugin for WordPress development.

Some of the features are:

  • Auto-Completion for the WordPress API
  • WordPress Hooks Integration
  • WP-CLI Integration
  • Jump to Definition in WordPress Core
  • UltiSnips Snippets
  • Syntax Highlighting for WordPress PHP files.
  • Markdown Syntax Highlighting for readme.txt
  • PHPCS Syntax Checker integrated with WordPress Coding Standards
  • Search in Codex
  • Integration with WpSeek API.
  • Readme.txt Auto Validation.

Social Media Research Toolkit

Social Media Research Toolkita list of 50+ social media research tools curated by researchers at the Social Media Lab at Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University. The kit features tools that have been used in peer-reviewed academic studies. Many tools are free to use and require little or no programming. Some are simple data collectors such as tweepy, a Python library for collecting Tweets, and others are a bit more robust, such as Netlytic, a multi-platform (Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram) data collector and analyzer, developed by our lab. All of the tools are confirmed available and operational.

Via Four short links: 14 Feb 2017.

GitHub starts the Open Source Guides

GitHub blog is “Announcing Open Source Guides“:

we’re launching the Open Source Guides, a collection of resources for individuals, communities, and companies who want to learn how to run and contribute to open source.

[…]

Open Source Guides are a series of short, approachable guides to help you participate more effectively in open source, whether it’s:

  • Finding users for your project
  • Making your first contribution
  • Managing large open source communities
  • Improving the workflow of your project

These guides aim to reflect the voice of the community and their years of wisdom and practice. We’ve focused on the topics we’ve heard about most, and curated stories from open source contributors across the web.

I think it’s a great idea and I really like the execution too.  Most of what I know about Open Source comes from years of participation, and from reading old books, manuals and licenses – not something that is easy to share with people who are just getting their feet wet.

GitHub’s Open Source Guides are very simple, concise and specific.  And they cover a variety of subjects, not just the legal or technical side of things, but also communications, support, marketing, etc.

Fixing outdated Let’s Encrypt (zope.interface error)

I’ve started using Let’s Encrypt for the SSL certificates a while back.  I installed it on all the web servers, irrelevant of the need for SSL, just to have it there, when I need it (thanks to this Ansible role).  One of those old web servers needed an SSL certificate recently, so I thought it’d be no problem to generate one.

But I was wrong. The letsencrypt-auto tool got outdated and was failing to execute, throwing some Python exception about missing zope.interface module.  A quick Google search brought this StackOverflow discussion, with the exact issue I was having.

Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "/root/.local/share/letsencrypt/bin/letsencrypt", line 7, in <module>
    from certbot.main import main
  File "/root/.local/share/letsencrypt/local/lib/python2.7/dist-packages/certbot/main.py", line 12, in <module>
    import zope.component
  File "/root/.local/share/letsencrypt/local/lib/python2.7/dist-packages/zope/component/__init__.py", line 16, in <module>
    from zope.interface import Interface
ImportError: No module named interface

However, the solution didn’t fix the problem for me:

unset PYTHON_INSTALL_LAYOUT
/opt/letsencrypt/letsencrypt-auto -v

Even pulling the updated version from the GitHub repository didn’t solve it.

After poking around for a while more, I found this bug report from the last year, which solved my problem.

I recommend:

  1. Running rm -rf /root/.local/share/letsencrypt. This removes your installation of letsencrypt, but keeps all configuration files, certificates, logs, etc.
  2. Make sure you have an up to date copy of letsencrypt-auto. It can be found here.
  3. Run letsencrypt-auto again.

If you get the same behavior, you can try installing zope.interface manually by running:

/root/.local/share/letsencrypt/bin/pip install zope.interface

Hopefully, next time I’ll remember to search my blog’s archives …

Morphos – morphological solution in PHP for English and Russian

If you ever had to deal with morphology in English, you probably found one or two libraries to help you out.  But if you had to do that for Russian, than I’m sure you are missing a few hairs, and the ones that you still have are grayer than they used to be.  I’ve got some good news for you though, now there is Morphos (GitHub repository).

Morphos is a morphological solution written completely in the PHP language. Supports Russian and English. Provides classes to decline First/Middle/Last names/nouns and generate cardinal numerals.

Just look at this beauty!

var_dump($dec->getForms($user_name, $dec->detectGender($user_name)));
/* Will produce something like
  array(6) {
    ["nominativus"]=>
    string(8) "Иван"
    ["genetivus"]=>
    string(10) "Ивана"
    ["dativus"]=>
    string(10) "Ивану"
    ["accusative"]=>
    string(10) "Ивана"
    ["ablativus"]=>
    string(12) "Иваном"
    ["praepositionalis"]=>
    string(15) "об Иване"
  }
*/

Just this alone can make user interfaces and emails so much better.  But there is more to it than that.

Vim setup for PHP development

Robert Basic shares his “current Vim setup for PHP development“.  He shows how setup the Gutentags plugin, jump to definitions with CtrlP plugin, display of the current file and method in the status line, add support for PHP namespaces, improve linting with Asynchronous Lint Engine, and add support for PHPStan.

Via PHPDeveloper.

Incident pit

I came across the Wikipedia page for incident pit, which was a concept derived from analyzing multiple incident reports in diving:

The diagram shown is something that has evolved from studying many incident reports. It is important to realize that the shape of the “Pit” is in no way connected with the depth of water and that all stages can occur in very shallow water or even on the surface.

The basic concept is that as an incident develops it becomes progressively harder to extract yourself or your companion from a worsening situation. In other words the farther you become “dragged” into the pit the steeper the sides become and a return to the “normal” situation is correspondingly more difficult.

Underwater swimming may be considered to be an activity where, due to the environment and equipment plus human nature, there is a continuing process of minor incidents – illustrated by the top area of the pit.

When one of these minor incidents becomes difficult to cope with, or is further complicated by other problems usually arriving all at the same time, the situation tends to become an emergency and the first feelings of fear begin to appear – illustrated by the next layer of the pit. If the emergency is not controlled at this early stage then panic, the diver’s worst enemy, leads to almost total lack of control and the emergency becomes a serious problem – illustrated by the third layer of the pit. Progression through to the final stage of the pit from the panic situation is usually very rapid and extremely difficult to reverse and a fatality may be inevitable – illustrated by the final black stage of the pit.

The time for an incident to evolve in this way can be as short as 30 seconds or less, illustrated by the straight line passing directly through all the stages in the centre of the pit, or it may be more a slower process building up over a period of one minute or more [maybe a week!] – illustrated by the curving lines running from the [top] extremities of the pit. In this later case it represents the slowly evolving incident when the diver or group may not be aware that a serious situation is in fact developing. Between 30 seconds and about 1 minute is representative of the time required to take the necessary decisions and actions when it becomes obvious that an incident is about to happen.

The final conclusion is simple: never allow incidents to develop beyond the top normal layer of activity. If you find yourself being drawn into the second stage – the emergency – then use all of your training skill and experience to extract yourself and your companions from the pit before the sides become too steep!

I don’t think is applicable to diving only.  Similar incident pits exist in other areas of human activity (technology, business, politics, healthcare, and others come to mind) which involve crisis management.  The circumstances and the time frames might be slightly different, but overall, I think, it’s pretty similar.