Programming Blog Archive - Jul 2017

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7/1/2017 - Legacy code woes

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Legacy code woes
Saturday, July 1st, 2017
23:42:28 GMT


I've been feeling so overwhelmed lately by my Puppy Linux Setup Kit, my messy neglected websites, and Astroblahhh Desktop. Overwhelmed and stuck.

Actually, I've felt that way for years, which is probably part of why I've procrastinated so much about continuing to work on these projects at all.


But, recently, reading some articles about working on legacy code made me feel better and less worried that maybe I'm just not really cut out to be a programmer.

I hadn't realized that even much better, wiser, more experienced programmers than me can have immense trouble with this kind of project if they make the kinds of mistakes I've been making, such as trying to change too many things at once, not doing test-driven development (TDD), and overly optimistically attempting "big-bang rewrites".


Here are a couple of those articles:

The Legacy Code Lifecycle
April 25, 2012 from DanLimerick.wordpress.com

How to Improve a Legacy Codebase
May 30, 2017 from JacquesMattheij.com

Those articles and their advice look very wise to me, not that I would know. But I'm guessing that doing even just some of what is suggested might go far better for me than doing what I've been doing.


Even though (as far as I know) I'm the only person who ever worked on my Puppy Linux Setup Kit, Astroblahhh Desktop, and other languishing projects of mine, these projects have all been through the entire lifecycle mentioned in that first article, and have long been stuck in the last phase.

In many ways, I unintentionally designed things naively and poorly at the outset. I didn't document things well enough, and I took such long breaks from working on my own code that by the time I returned to it, I had forgotten a ton of details.

And for many years, I didn't even know what test-driven development (TDD) was. I finally tried it in 2015 or 2016 and liked it, but, quite unwisely, I still usually haven't gone to the trouble lately, and I probably ought to learn more about it so I can be more sure I'm doing it right.


I'm quite frustrated that I haven't gotten much more done by now, but, I probably shouldn't be too hard on myself. If I were really a hopelessly bad programmer:


So, I'm definitely not even close to totally giving up on programming forever (though I feel very intimidated by the idea of trying to make a serious career out of it). But I think I need to be a lot more cautious and less naively optimistic than I was in the past.

The idea of releasing more of my work more frequently definitely appeals to me a lot. I've felt so guilty about not creating and/or releasing way more useful (or otherwise beneficial) stuff into the world already. And many people think sharing in-progress work publicly and frequently can result in much better software.

Preparing things for publication definitely encourages me to do a better job than I tend to do with things I don't expect to release anytime soon (if ever). Not that I don't still make numerous dumb mistakes either way, but I think maybe I make fewer dumb mistakes when I create something with publication in mind.

I sure wish I could do a perfect job on everything all the time, but, I've learned that I better not insist too stubbornly on perfection or I'll never get anything done.


Fortunately, already, without even knowing it (at first), I seem to have been moving away from the "cathedral" model of free/libre software development, "in which source code is available with each software release, but code developed between releases is restricted to an exclusive group of software developers", toward the "bazaar" model, "in which the code is developed over the Internet in view of the public".

That happened because I finally learned more about how to use Git and GitHub, so I've been sharing my work more frequently by releasing it on GitHub. Currently, that's much easier than uploading files to my own websites.


So, currently, this is the place to look for my absolute newest updates to whatever software projects:

https://github.com/Apollia?tab=repositories


Not much of what I've been adding lately has seemed notable enough (or easy to install or interesting or useful enough) for me to announce in new blog posts, so, I mostly haven't mentioned them here.

In retrospect, I maybe shouldn't have even announced Salty XML Transformer, because it's such a chore even for me to install, because I haven't made even my own not-yet-released Puppy Linux Setup Kit fully up to date yet.


By the way, I recently found out that ever since sometime in July 2016, the latest released version of the Puppy Linux Setup Kit (v1.1) was far less functional than I thought, because unfortunately, some of the files the old setup kit optionally tries to download are no longer available. Many went missing simply because I neglected to log into my Dropbox account for over a year, so my Dropbox account was automatically deleted in July 2016. Sorry for any inconvenience!

I probably shouldn't encourage people to use the old legacy versions of my setup kit. Certainly not yet. At some point I'm going to try to release many of my old-style setup kit scripts that I made since the last release in Feb. 2015 - but even I'm trying to get away from being stuck using any old-style version anymore, even my current best not-yet-released version.

I sure wish I could somehow gradually create a smooth transition from the old-style setup kit to the new-style setup kit I'm still trying to design and build. Or some kind of clever hybrid of the two.


Anyway, even though I'm quite tired of struggling with all these tedious legacy projects, I probably am not close to giving up yet. Or even if I do turn my attention to other things for a while, I'll probably return to them eventually.

In any case, please don't expect dazzling results soon, or maybe not for a very long time, and sorry I have been so incapable thus far of doing far more.

And I still don't feel up to trying to sift through whatever gigantic backlog of mostly spam (and perhaps some real emails) I might have gotten in the past several years, but, hopefully I'll get around to that someday. Sorry for being so unreachable.

And hopefully someday I'll figure out how to delete the literally hundreds of thousands of spam messages there are in the Non24.Com Forum without deleting any of the few non-spam messages, and also how to truly block new spam messages so the same thing doesn't happen again.

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