Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Old School Coding

ComputerWorld has an article on things programmers did in the old days and probably won't miss.

Spaghetti code, GOTO, and the FORTRAN idioms, I remember them well. Punch cards were a bit before my time. The one thing I don't miss is programming entirely in emacs and vi. Modern IDEs with code completion and visual modeling (and now semantic resource management) are a huge time saver. First code completion blew my mind, it was like the documentation automatically opened to exactly the right page as I typed. My taped-together copy of K&R C could go on the shelf. Now with visual modeling, I can rearrange my program structure to my heart's content before writing a single line of code. Don't even get me started on refactoring. It was impossible. Of course, with UNIX I didn't have to worry about the 8+3 file name limit, although I did write some TSR (terminate-stay-resident) programs in x86 assembly. I remember writing the UNIX "more" command for DOS with my own twist on error handling. Instead of "File not found" it would print, "So the bartender says, that's no file that's my wife!" What can I say, I was a rambunctious young scamp. I thought my home-built overclocked 286 with co-processor (I couldn't settle for just integer math, could I?) was total cyberpunk. It had a giant hard drive that sounded like a jet engine taking off when I booted. Even so, it was mostly a dumb terminal for the University supercomputers. The Convex C-220 had an awesome debugger. I managed to avoid Windows almost entirely until the late 90s when I moved to Silicon Valley.

Slow computers? I remember a scientist in the early 90s complaining about fast computers. In the old days, he'd say, he could load his data, run the program, and go off for a nice lunch. When he got back he'd have his results. Now, he'd complain, a data reduction that took 2 hours now completes in 20 minutes, hardly time to do anything! Also something about VMS being God's own operating system, while younglings like myself thought UNIX was God's own operating system.

Ah, memories...

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Enterprise 2.0

The new buzzword - Enterprise 2.0, refers to private, internal social networks, for example when employees don't use Twitter, they use a twitter-like application kept safely behind the firewalls with all the access and security control applied for any internal communication. Google's find-an-expert is an early example of this. Twitter-like applications for internal communication may or may not be useful, but some kind of internal IM definitely is.

ReadWriteWeb has more.

More Healthcare IT Articles

Some recent articles on Healthcare IT and the EMR...

Improving EMR Usability: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

What Usability Is and How to Recognize It

The Dubious Promise of Digital Medicine (Business Week)

The Data Model That Nearly Killed Me

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Trying out Mylyn and Tasktop and I love it. Everyone on my project is required to use Mylyn now, and Tasktop, we're doing the free trial to integrate bugzilla, OPAS (our corp help desk system), calendars (for releases and help desk tickets), and cvs. This incorporates a lot of the ideas I've been toying with around the semantic desktop project. Now when I go back to that bug I worked on a month ago, I see exactly the files involved (say 5 files in 3 different projects among hundreds), supporting documentation, even web resources. Regardless of the source system, it's all URIs. Exactly right.