05 December, 2008

New Projects & Version Control Systems

It has been over a month and a half since my last entry and I apologise for the delay. I have been working tirelessly to finish up my primary design, development, implementation and maintenance functions on what has been my primary project for the past thirteen months. I've been doing this so that I may jump head first into my next project, which while not being a 'huge' undertaking is big enough. By big enough I mean that doing well at the project will land me the role of redesigning a major site from the ground up into the Django framework.

For the past 13 months I've been working heavily in the world of Django and find myself absolutely enamoured with it. I have designed a considerable amount of applications for Django, though none of them are released to the world because they are the product of a contract. My field of expertise was never in that of online applications and/or frameworks so it is stil a new world for me (if we exclude the nine years running a twelve line bulletin board system on a heavily modified Amiga).

I've always been happiest working in middleware and engineering backend systems, though I have to say that I'm finding a certain level of pleasure from the results of my front-end work. When i wrote backend systems, the only others who could appreciate said system(s) other than myself, were developers privy to the project. On frontend systems, there are actual users who I would like to think 'benefit' from my designs and implementations. It is nice to know from actual users that your work is appreciated. Call it ego stroking, or call it what you will but I find that it does inspire one to keep pressing on regardless. I happy to be doing these projects and as soon as it is launched, I'll be happy to post about it here.

This brings me onto the second purpose of this entry, my new favourite version control system. In the beginning of my experience using version control systems back in the 1990's, I simply used CVS like the rest of the world (sans those lucky enough to use Perforce). As time and technologies advanced to newer and better systems, I followed along and moved up to Subversion. Subversion was a well done upgrade for CVS users and easy enough for the uninitiated to learn. I used this most recently when I did work for Curlington Boat Factory (name changed to project myself) writing their point-of-sale returns authorisation/queue system in Python for four hundred some odd cash registers. This worked our quite well despite the fact that the software house for whom my partner (at the time) and I were contracting weren't able to provide the subversion server on their machines until we were 7/8ths of the way through said project. We ended up (very early on mind you) taking matters into our own hands and setting up on my partner's server at his apartment. This wasn't looked upon highly by said software house, but any CVS on any server regardless of not being in control of the software house was far better than no source control at all.

Next we come to my brief stint working for a OCD kid who started his business at the right time with mom and dad's money, but due to poor decisions on his behalf watched it dwindle in popularity, further plagued by poor management and attempts to treat a small business as if it were a conglomerate thereby sealing its fate with a tender kiss on its cheek. I thankfully left the company before the owner went psycho and let go of all the talent in a horribly vicious manner. Before all of that ugliness transpired, I went forward with trying the newest and brightest trend in distributed version control. I am speaking of the one and only 'Git', championed by a certain arrogant (albeit brilliant) Finnish kernel programmer. There was an immediate joy in using Git and I have to say that most striking feature is the blazing speed when dealing with a large quantity of files. I established all of the existing software base for said company (over ten years worth) into its first repository, utilising Git. Yes, for over ten years, there was no VCS in place. Git really did shine in this role, though I am pretty sure that due to myself and the system administrator not longer being there, cob webs must be forming in the places where Git once speedily did its work.

Let us fast forward to my newest discovery (if you can actually call it one as such). On this newest project which I just started today full time, I have been doing administrative setup work for the past few weeks on and off in small gaps of time as they availed themselves to me. The normal deal of establishing a dedicated server on a FreeBSD host (as Linux just will not cut it for me even though I've been using it since kernel v0.99d), along with all the necessary bits. Once the development languages, utilities, database and web servers were in place the issue of VCS came into play. For this time around I decided that Git, while great for many projects doesn't seem as pythonic a package as I'd like. Using Python long enough really makes one desire beauty, power, simplicity and consistency in all of their tools. This brings us to the most pythonic vcs of them all, Mercurial (known simply by its periodic table element, Hg). Mercurial, like Git is also a distributed version (revision) control system. Easy to setup, easy to use and highly recommended. I'm not going to wax poetic about the differences between these systems as they all serve a purpose. What I will do is state very clearly that Mercurial feels the most natural, works rather well and is quick at what it does. Your mileage may vary.

Until next time...