Fifteen minutes

Charles Miller on the "fifteen minute test":

One of the reasons I switched from Linux to OS X as my primary platform was because I don't have time to play around with software any more. I want it to work in predictable, obvious ways, and OS X (mostly) does that for me… Still, I think I'm more tolerant than most. So if you're coming up with the next big paradigm shift that will change the world, ask yourself: "How can I pass the fifteen minute test?"

Totally agree. After having spent an evening tinkering with drivers and comms software on a PC for my wife ("Plug and play"? Oh yeah??) I couldn't agree more. I know computers pretty well, and can could fiddle with the best of them. But I don't want to any more. Programming is enough tinkering for me!


  1. Lawdy, I hate setting up machines. But I must admit that sometimes I envy the hardware-focused types, the permutations of things that can go wrong are so much less. With a PC, your frustrations are limited to perhaps 10 components, many of which will work out the box, and will then plod along happily until they fritz or you change software, which is the true root of all evil.

    In the past few months, on my home machines which took a few hours to set up, I've had programming grief with ODBC, Java, Domino, MySQL, the Notes C++ API on Windows and Linux. On top of that, University has me in pitched battle with OpenGL (*cringe*), CORBA (*cringe more*), AI algorithms with C++ (*wail*) and SQL (*pfff*). And just about nothing works until you've kicked something across the room.

    When things *do* work, it's the most satisfying feeling in the world (which is why we do it, I suppose), but generally as a programmer it feels like I'm a cat covering crap on a marble floor.Colin Pretorius#
  2. Ben,
    MS continues to create more IT jobs by perpetuating this mess - and creating complex hard-to-manage stuff like AD (we won't even go near SharePoint, BizTalk or CMS).
    More work = more jobs = more IT staff = more IT budget = more IT power = more MS revenue.

    No-one wants this boat rocked !

    On the other hand it could just be mass masochism. "See how clever I am making all this poxy stuff work together" they say.

    I'm over it.Justin Knol#
  3. Good grief Colin! But I did chuckle at this:
    but generally as a programmer it feels like I'm a cat covering crap on a marble floor.
    Justin, I've heard that M$ argument before, and I think you have something there… the mass buy-in must mean there's more than a little masochism going on though ;-) Ben Poole#
  4. Heh heh, continuing the theme of M$ dodginess keeping IT people in work, check out the opening paragraph of this article:

    How To Write Unmaintainable Code

    Via Tom Duff

    I've linked to Roedy's site before, he has some good stuff there, including his Java & internet glossary.

    Ben Poole#
  5. Good stuff, Ben. This is probably the main reason why I put off learning Linux. To my detrement (I suppose), I don't like having to work on maintaining networks and hardware and operating systems. I want an environment that works consistently so that I can do what I want to do most… program.Thomas Duff#
  6. ppl that know linux well (i'm not even close to one of them) insist is it much easier to maintain a large network than with m$ servers. the guys that do host our proxy servers are big linux geeks and are full of stories of big companies moving to linux on the back end (and even a few on the front in very targeted situations) and saving lots of labor.

    i have to say, (since i'm tossing out my two cents as usual) i disagree with the vaunted gladiator pretorius. (please don't run me through!)


    i generally feel incredibly sorry for people doing hardware stuff. their jobs seem so boring. when they have an issue, they seem to solve it by consulting a manual (something someone else created) or by calling support (a thankless task for all involved) or by surfing the net until they find the parameter they have to tweak or whatever.

    as a programmer if i have an issue with my own code or even someone else's, i find great satisfaction in creating a solution by writing more (or better, which might be less) code.

    i am completely comfortable with this situation. hey, everyone who writes code has bugs that come up, its not just me. hardware is buggy too… the difference (it seems to me) with writing code is that i'm not working on something that someone else has created, i'm creating. the fact that something is unpredictable is a good thing, imo. jonvon#
  7. Don't get me wrong, I get my jollies from programming too :-) I have to agree with your point about 'creating' things, that's exactly why I wasn't happy in my previous career (accounting and tax, in case you're wondering ;-)

    I was being a bit facetious - I just think that hardware is easier than software - I love solving problems, but sometimes (especially after lost weekends when absolutely nothing works using a new tool/platform/API), I just wish I could spend more time solving *my* programming problems, instead of the problems API and platform builders create [smiley frown]

    Btw, we've been using Domino/Linux since late '99, and I have to say we love it to bits. If anything, we're not Linux gurus because we just install, configure, and leave the boxes running for months without worrying about them. I can't say NT/Win2k is awful, but I plain prefer Linux. It's powerful, stable, clean and most of all, you feel like it's there to serve *you*, which is something I don't really get from using M$ software. These days I'm trying to do more and more work (and development) on Linux, and while there's a learning curve, the rewards are definitely worth it.Colin Pretorius#
  8. Lordy, small world: I'm a lapsed accountant too!

    And, thank God, I got that machine's network card up and running. Lowest common denominator in the end: HyperTerminal to transfer the drivers over frm my XP machine. I am posting from a Win98 machie running IE 5.0! And hey, my site looks OK!

    Don't even get me started on how M$ royally fecked up direct cable connection between Win 9x and 2000 / XP. Now I know why I'm such a Mac zealot. Jesus…Ben Poole#
  9. Hehe, well met, I might not be the only misguided sod to have built an accounting system in Notes then :-)

    I started out my 'real' computing life with an old Powerbook 520C, running MacOS 7.6. I loved that machine… I was heartbroken when I had to get with the rest of the world and move to Windows. That was part of the original appeal of Notes -- it wasn't M$. So Domino, and now Linux is a continuation of my long tradition of resenting M$ for being more successful than Apple :-)Colin Pretorius#
  10. colin, i did notice the tongue in cheek, should have made mention… :-)

    wow, the world is smaller and smaller. i have an undergrad degree in finance. worked for chase manhattan for two years. did number crunching type stuff and wrote my first ever programs inside excel. lots of lotus 1-2-3 formula stuff too… hehe.

    i understand steve castledine is also a former finance guy. who knew? interesting ben, you started as "an arty-farty literature, politics and history sort of bloke", which is now what i am endeavoring to become, in odd moments sometime between 6 and 7am. well, excise the politics and history part, george bush rants aside. ok, so i'm working on one lousy short story at the moment.


    i actually bridged the gap between domino programmer / web developer with a stint as a tech writer. i think this is where my distaste for doing uncreative things stems from. not that tech writing doesn't involve creativity, but i realized at some point that i was documenting things that other people were creating. that became frustrating after a while. i think its probably analogous to doing translation work, as in, translating something from english to french, or whatever. i knew someone who did a lot of translation work and she had the same take, very uncreative and in some ways very unsatisfying work. again, not that translating something doesn't involve creativity, but you aren't generating something original. its different somehow, and for the way i'm wired i can only do so much of that sort of thing before i get the itch to move on to something else.jonvon#
  11. The world gets smaller. My first taste of non-highschool programming was with VBA macros in Excel :-) I still have some of those spreadsheets, and boy were my 'programs' dismal.

    Auditing is seriously soul-destroying. You're like a traffic cop; nobody wants you there and you and the client both know it. You compile the 'audit files', they get reviewed by a manager and partner, and filed away. The next year the auditors take a squizz at what you did the year before, then the files are archived, and forgotten about unless there's a lawsuit. And then you go to the next client and do the same thing over again…

    I started out consulting with Lotus, and even the consulting got me down eventually, because you write software, give the customer version 1 on a deadline, and then you move on. The variety is great and I know a lot of people enjoy it, but at this point in my life I'm happy to not give my software over to someone else :-) Myself and another developer take care of all the software at our company. We 'own' it, the systems are like our babies - we're constantly tweaking, improving, expanding it. The work I've done the last few years is like an 'opus'. To me, that's been the most rewarding work I've done so far.Colin Pretorius#
  12. Agreed; audit is horrible. The fact that I pulled all-nighters with nothing to show for it was really soul-destroying. Accounting exams on top of that too. Urgh. I'm happier now :-) Ben Poole#
  13. Ben, testify! I'm sure you also had the 4-in-the-morning thought: I'm doing this so some pinstriped git of a partner who doesn't know (or even want to know) my name doesn't go to jail… pfeh.

    But now I'm veering waaay of topic… er, yes, hardware sucks ;-)Colin Pretorius#

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