Getting Started

Tekkie post – I’ll make it brief.

When I used to work commercially, the last phase of any project was creating an installer for whatever we happened to be writing, and I always used to underestimate just how long it would take. You’d be clapping each other on the back because you’d finished the application, but there was still one significant hurdle left to jump. In the early days I mainly worked on web stuff – it’d not only be installing the files to the required folder, but stuff like creating web sites, virtual directories etc. plus capturing and sorting the account credentials to make sure it had the necessary permissions. All of which I did by setup program, just because it was 100% repeatable if there was a problem – I wasn’t reliant on some operations guy typing the wrong thing in.

In later years it was mainly desktop applications. I designed a lot of stuff (tek alert!) late bound if I could so there were always config files which needed updating. Late bound is: an application would need to use such-and-such a technology, but rather than just lump the technology in with the application, you’d keep the two parts separate. This allowed you to move from Technology A to Technology B, say, without impacting the application itself. At run-time, the application just used to look inside a configuration file to find out which approach it had to use. There were also things like database usernames and passwords – I never knew these for the “live” systems, so the Operations guy would type them in during install. And I wrote simple credentials-checking things to check that the operator himself hadn’t mistyped things. Over the years I learned to leave as liyyle as possible to chance But again, it took time and effort.

But I have just had a wonderful experience with Microsoft’s Setup program creator tool. I’d budgeted a month to do the setup program for my app, but it has only taken me a day! In fact, most of it was already done for me, I mainly just entered product-specific stuff. ‘Course, it helps that this installer doesn’t do anything complicated (one of my goals here was to avoid complication), but still, I’m pleasantly surprised. So, task number next!

Encouragement

Tony Benn (1925 – 2014) was a British politician who never quite reached the top but who had a long career, including spells as a cabinet minister. He retired from Parliament in 2001, as he said it, to devote more time to politics. He was an avid diarist throughout his life, and as a retiree embarked on a series of sell-out tours, just where he used to talk about his views on different subjects. Even for a veteran politician, his views resonated with a younger audience, winning a poll in a politics programme as their Political Hero in 2007 – not bad for someone who’d been retired for six years!

On the other side of the coin, he is not always remembered so fondly. While I remember the opposition politician who happened to be on the right side (i.e. same side as me!) of many issues, my friend (who is fifteen years older than me) remembers his time in power, and remembers him far less fondly. I have heard Benn’s politics credited for splitting the Labour Party literally into two (a breakaway group left Labour to form the SDP in 1981). But my memory is of an altogether more benign character. I’ve seen a several politicians become nicer people once they become ex-politicians 🙂.

I consider myself lucky to have met Tony, and have read most of his written work, even diaries which were first written before I was born. Whilst I don’t agree with all his views, he has certainly been a big influence on me. After his retirement, Benn spent a lot of time thinking about what his role should be, as he certainly didn’t plan on shrinking away into obscurity. And he concluded that the role of senior people in society was to encourage.

I think he was absolutely right, although I’d take it further because I think it’s true for all of us, any stage of life. We encourage each other – that’s how we get our strength.

A kind word here, a compliment there, I think it all goes some way to telling somebody that, whatever effort they just made, it is appreciated.

That’s all. It’s just something I try to live by.