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A Lesson In Software Development Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

13 March 2017

We're always looking for ways to levitate ourselves out of our chair. The sedentary life will kill you if you let it. And one of the ways we stay alive is performing (and it is theater the way we do it) small home repairs at the bunker. Like recaulking and repainting the window frames.

Old Paint. But a perfect match.

We had a custom match made to the existing trim paint a few years ago and that worked well. Perfectly, in fact. But last week we faced the sad fact that we needed a new can of the stuff. The old stuff had about run out.

So we were down at the paint store with front and back prints of iPhone photos of our old paint can. We also brought a chip of the paint in case the old mixing data had been archived in the deep, dark blue.

The clerk laughed when he saw our photos but he was appreciative. He could tell from the code on the can that we hadn't bought paint since 2005. So the mix would be in a big old brown binder in the back, not on the computer.

He looked it up, found it and told us it would just take a few minutes. Really? Last time it took two days. Because we had to have the chip analyzed, he explained. With the formula, he just had to enter the numbers into the computer and we'd have our paint.

So he went to the computer to enter the formula, which was one part L to three-fourths C to one-eight B.

"How do I enter one-eighth?" he asked his co-worker.

He was trying to enter it as 1/8, the way it appeared in the log book, but the entry field wouldn't allow it. His co-worker explained he had to enter 0.125, the decimal value. And for three-fourths it would be 0.75 not 3/4.

The clerk laughed when he saw our photos but he was appreciative.

It just so happens we had gotten out of bed in the morning with the bright idea of adding length and weight conversions to a little keyboard macro we wrote to replace a math statement with its result.

The specs for the Trioplan 35+ had been metric so we published them that way but our style is to use our local measurements. We had just postponed doing the conversions until we had some time on our hands.

But since we'd already set up the Control-Option-= key chord in Keyboard Maestro to do a calculation (converting, say, (3012033.7)/10 to 18.37), why not monitor the selection for cm, mm and g to do those conversions.

Piece of cake. Now when we select 270g it is instantly transformed into 9.45 oz. We tested it on the Trioplan specs, updating the story.

Back at the paint store, had the software developer known that older formulas were not written out in decimals but in fractions, the field validation routine would have looked for a slash the way we look for a cm, mm or g and done the appropriate calculation for the clerk.

Not too much to ask.

The difference in developers, though, is illustrative. We write code we need and use the code we write. The clerk was not a software developer and the code he used was written by someone who was not a paint store clerk.

Knowing how to write code isn't the same things as knowing what code to write. When you're both user and developer, you get efficiencies otherwise unimaginable, avoiding common errors and maximizing profit.

Turnaround is pretty fast, too. <g>

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