Friday, 8 March 2013

Our first public coding dojo

Tuesday evening saw NewVoiceMedia host its first public Coding Dojo, under the auspices of the Guildford Meetup Group.
Dojo literally translates from Japanese as “place of the way” (Wikipedia). It’s a place where students hone their skills in a given art. The art, in our case, is writing maintainable code. Dojo’s normally use katas to develop the skill: kata being the deliberate, repetitive practice of the technique, to improve one’s expertise in that area.
We were led by the excellent Chris Pitts who did a fantastic job of guiding the six students (four from NVM) through the FizzBuzz puzzle:
Output the numbers 1-100, but for numbers divisible by 3, output Fizz, and numbers divisible by 5, output Buzz. For numbers divisible by 3 and 5, output FizzBuzz.
This appears at first to be a very simple puzzle, which can be solved in under five minutes by an expert. Chris provided a great extension to this puzzle (applying the Single Responsibility and Open Closed Principles) that stretched even the most seasoned programmers present. All in all, it was a very fun and educational evening. The pizza and coffee was pretty good too!
We look forward to the next one!

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Fixing a broken tablet touch-screen

This post has been two months in the making, but it's finally ready to publish. Yesterday I finally completed the replacement of my daughters cracked touch-screen.

Buying a tablet from China makes them affordable, but few people in the UK are willing or able to fix them (other than Hardware Heroes, apparently), so hence I took on the challenge. Here's my steps:

  1. Disassemble the tablet to reach the touch screen. The photo sequence on G+ shows the steps. You need to take care to keep earthing yourself, and not damage any of the components with the screwdriver, knife or soldering iron.
  2. Once I'd successfully removed the broken screen, I ordered a new one from the tablet supplier (Ployer, in China). They agreed to ship it for £20.
  3. Reassemble the tablet following by reversing the steps.
  4. Power on and pray. The result was one very happy daughter.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Building simple, usable interfaces, architectures and products

I've recently finished reading a fantastic book: Simple and Usable. It's best read as a physical book, due to the stylish, magazine layout of text and full-page pictures. It's easy to read, but thought provoking. Concrete steps describe how to improve a user interface. These steps are easy to understand, but will no doubt require discipline to apply correctly.

Although each page offers a tasty morsel to digest, one page (76), entitled Solutions, not processes, jumped out at me. It asked the question: is there another way to solve this problem? I had recently read the very same words, in this architecture check-list, and they were then echoed again by Michael Dubakov's insightful article on Product Owners as a SPOF.

So often we rush to produce a solution, without considering the alternatives. Our team is currently trying to scale out and speed up in a big way, so we're focussing hard on optimising cycle-time. Despite the diversity of these articles, they all provide a clear reminder to not rush the creative process that leads to the best solutions. Don't rush it, but still optimise it - that's the challenge.

If you're a skilled User Interface Specialist that would like to be part of this challenge, please get in touch - we'd love you to join our team!