Developer Tools

Ben Goodger one of the lead developers at Mozilla Foundation makes some good observations about developer tools.

He’s certainly not alone – in 1998/99 when I was working at Be I would frequently hear screams of anguish from Scott Barta who at that time was working on the BeOS browser (NetPositive). At the time probably one of the largest and most complicated pieces of layered software (applications) running on BeOS.

Good debuggers are really hard to find on the open source or even ‘new’ platforms. Today since there are almost only two compilers in the world – MS and GNU – everyone else is using the GNU tools and by association gdb. When a request is then made for a more friendly debugging environment everyone simply wraps gdb.

Why ?

Mac OS X/XCode does it, Linux does it, BeOS did it and so on. Even Codewarrior on Mac OS X does it – in spite of the fact that Metrowerks wrote one of the better GUI debugging environment in Mac OS 9

I’ll admit I’m not enough of a debugger expert to know why – but is it really so hard ? If you actually talk to engineers at Apple working on the larger projects they’ll admit to actually using the gdb command-line debugger most of the time, and NOT using the GUI.

This could be because they’re more productive that way based on experience, but at the same time I have to think that they (or some of us) could be even more productive if the UI lived up to it’s potential (ie. was as good as MS Visual Studio).

Sometimes I wonder if Apple really cares about this – they’re trying hard to improve it, but how much of the problem is really caused by talking to/through gdb ?

Posted under Work

This post was written by awk on January 31, 2005

Please don’t read this mom

I was going to post something else first – but this is ‘live’ as it were.

Oh – and Mother – don’t read this one…

Michele and I had spent Saturday night away from home in the city (that was going to be the other post), our children were left with our daycare person for the night, and only Michele’s father was in the house overnight.

When we got home Sunday lunchtime, there was a business card from a local police officer on the kitchen counter. Since I doubted my 81 year old father-in-law got get in too much trouble I asked what had happened. He said there had been what he thought was a knock on the door at around midnight, followed by someone ringing the doorbell about 30 minutes later. George doesn’t move too quickly and in each case he hadn’t seen anyone but had found the card in the morning.

As I was unpacking the car from our trip a few minutes later a neighbour also arrived back home, and just as I was about to ask him if something had been happening on saturday night he was calling out to a policeman at the bottom of the street. Our neighbour had just seen a number of shell casings in the street outside our houses ! Talking to the police officer it transpired that there had been a report of gunfire at around midnight on Saturday night (hence the card), there had also been a drive by shooting about 2 miles from our house at around 11:00am on Sunday. Fortunately the victims had only been wounded, but the officer was pretty sure there was a connection between Saturdays gunfire and Sundays shooting.

During the afternoon the San Rafael PD evidence tech came by, took photos, measurements and so forth and collected the shells.

At around 8:15pm Sunday night a police helicopter started doing ‘donuts’ pretty much over our house and the surrounding neighbourhood. A call to SRPD revealed that they had arrested one of the suspects in the mornings shooting in a street near our home and were now searching the neighbourhood for 2 other suspects. ‘Stay inside and keep your doors locked and windows closed’ was their advice (see also this local CBS news story).

There’s been some sort of police roadblock/checkpoint at the bottom of our street for the past hour, and altough the helicopter has left the area I’m still not sure if the suspects have been caught or not.

Aaahhh… well… excitement ! We live in a good neighbourhood (my mother knows that) so it’s not too much cause for concern I suspect this will be resolved pretty quickly. Mind you SRPD has had a busy week with a hit & run (they found the driver) in a downtown parking garage and also chasing some bank robbers on Saturday (they were caught) and some flooding from all the rain we’ve been having.

Posted under Personal

This post was written by awk on January 9, 2005


Michele has (apparently) made a New Years Resolution to post to her weblog ( So it was time to either update the weblog software on my server or investigate something new.

I took a look at Blojsom. It’s the weblog application that Apple is going to bundle in the next major version of Mac OS X Server (codenamed Tiger). Blojsom is a Java based weblog application and runs with Apache’s Jakarta Tomcat server technology. Since Mac OS X has included Tomcat for a while it makes sense that Apple would choose it. However even though I went so far as to configure Apache Jakarta Tomcat (and the pre-requisite version of Java) on my (FreeBSD)server I had some real stumblings installing things, and I’m not convinced how well it will perform (really how well Tomcat performs) on my somewhat underpowered server. Also I could not for the life of me figure out a way to install Blojsom so that it didn’t want global write permissions to the folder containing the weblog data (which sounds like a bad idea to me). I suspect that Apple’s version has some updates in it – which may see light of day in a general Blojsom update when Tiger ships.

So the best choice seemed to be to update my aging MovableType installation to the latest version (V3.14) and use that. Although there was a lot of grumbling some months back when MT V3 first shipped about MovableType now charging for the software (and there were some changes to their pricing to accomodate the unhappy), it still seems to be the best and easiest to use Weblog package. With the best support for multiple authors and weblogs. Aside from a minor issue with the CSS info and the hassle of transferring the update files installation was pretty painless. I haven’t yet turned on all of the new features in V3.x (though the comment stuff is turned on – so hopefully no spam in the comments).

Who knows perhaps this won’t be the only blog post I make this year !

Posted under Personal

This post was written by awk on January 2, 2005