What Makes "Good Software?"

June 10, 2017 by Matt in /Reflections with No Comments

In the nearly five years since I changed careers to become a full-time firefighter I have kept my distance from developing software of any consequence. To be honest, I had lost my desire to sit at a keyboard and relished the chance to spend my time in other ways. Sure, I've made the switch from Linux to FreeBSD, written a few scripts here and there, created a wiki for firefighters and even dabbled in automated stock market analysis for my own interest but I have otherwise turned down for-profit programming gigs in favour of freedom to spend my time elsewhere.

Although my day job as a firefighter has little to do with software development my prior experience building software has come in handy from time to time. In late 2015 I began working on a couple of small programs to replace a shared spreadsheet used by firefighters to record productivity metrics. Using the old system, only one person could enter data at any given time and it was too easy to accidentally wipe-out changes made by others. To solve this problem, I created two small programs using VBScript and HTML Applications as the foundation. Both of these scripts present simple, domain-specific interfaces that make sense to the users and hide the relative complexity of Excel by recording data in spreadsheet files in the background. One script allows users to record productivity information and the other generates a report from this information for use by management-level personnel. The program went live after about 80 or 90 hours of design, development, end-user documentation and testing. It solves all of the problems of the previous system, is simple to maintain and runs with minimal dependencies. It was distributed by placing a link on our intranet that opens a folder where the relevant scripts can be double-clicked and launched. Since it launched I have received a great deal of feedback that indicated that users were happy with the new system and that it ultimately made their job easier.

Recently I began to develop another piece of software. This time we're dealing with the management of annual hose testing information. The problem is significantly more complicated than the previous project which merely dealt with the recording and reporting of numbers for different categories but I'm hopeful that goals of this project will have similar positive results for the fire department.

As I found myself back at the keyboard for the second time I have begun to think about the considerations that will ensure that the current project is as much of a success as the last one. Here are my thoughts, in no particular order, about what makes "good software."


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Falling Into You

November 24, 2016 by Matt in /Music with No Comments

I have this song labeled as recorded sometime in 2003 however I don't have any recollection of the exact situation so it's possible that it was a year or two earlier. Like Spanish Orgasm, it was probably composed using a simple WAV editor with tracks layered over one another.


Firing Line

November 23, 2016 by Matt in /Music with No Comments

Watching Occupy Wall Street unfold in 2011 and before that, Arab Spring I began empathize with movements that involved active protest and the risks that participants take both in regards to physical harm or in other less tangible costs. "Firing Line" was somehow the result of my ruminations.

The rudimentary recording apparatus I was using left me sounding a little stuffy (I did not have a cold) but I kept it due to the fact that it is one of my few complete songs.


Spanish Orgasm

November 23, 2016 by Matt in /Music with No Comments

This is one of the first songs that I recorded that I felt comfortable with sharing. It was recorded sometime in 2001 or 2002 in my off-time at the offices of Scouts Canada where I was working. I used a very simple WAV editor that came with the computers we had in the office and may have included 3 or 4 tracks with each one layered on top of the previous recording. One of my friends says it reminds him of Danger Bay but I couldn't begin to tell you where the inspiration came from.

It is admittedly a little "busy" in places but for some reason it still appeals to me.


Yellow by Coldplay

November 23, 2016 by Matt in /Music with No Comments

This was recorded in the fall of 2015 using nothing more than my phone and some crappy audio app that came with it. For whatever reason the mic was over-driven and caused some bits to be dropped. This led a friend to remark that the recording had a slightly Nirvana-like sound. If memory serves I should have been outside cutting the lawn but the recording seemed like a better idea at the time.