The granularity of planning

More on Chaos control.

The most dangerous outcome of the underplanning is employee frustration. Without clear day-to-day targets, employees loose interest in the work. Some become anxious, not willing to take on responsibilities beyond what they consider their assignment.

The danger of the overplanning is that detailed plans are hard to change.

The rigidness of the plan is proportional to the time spent on it, as the only reason not to change plans is often sheer inertia of those that invested already a lot of time to write it up, in the first place.

An ideal planning phase is short and concise, and the planing granularity is barely sufficient to distribute the day-to-day assignments to the employees.

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How much Freedom?

On Freedom management.

The employee should be given as much control over his work as he can bear. This meets the requirement for the planning in that there should be just enough planning to induce day-to-day tasks, no more.

More freedom brings more responsibility and emotional involvement, by creating a sense of ownership between the employee and the product.

The freedom may morph into frustration if the employee takes on the challenges he can not endure.

The essence of a IT project manager's work

A project manager plays with two major forces: Chaos and Freedom. When a project starts, nothing is clear, the previous stages like business analysis and user requirements collection have likely been a complete failure and collected input won't help much the team and the manager. At this point, the manager has to control the Chaos and reduce it to the minimum, by creating an environment where everyone know exactly what to do, how to do it and how much time would it take.

So he starts to plan, as the work moves on. The days roll out, and he slowly realizes that there is not much left of the initial planning, and the team is swirling out in different directions. This is where the Freedom control takes precedence. The manager has to give everyone enough Freedom so that every morning employees felt the urge to scratch an itch, while still working in the planned direction.

He slowly realizes that the Chaos/Freedom ratio is unique for each employee, and he has to work out a personal approach to everyone if the wants the team to work at full throttle.

By the time everything is crystal clear in his mind, and all the errors have been consumed and learned from, the project ends, and the manager moves on the next one or bails out.

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Using the debian package of tomcat in etch

For many years already, Java developers running Debian ignored the Tomcat bundled with Debian in favor of a manual installation. Nowadays, with the availability of Sun Java 1.5 in Etch, it is time to reconsider this.

Install Tomcat with aptitude install sun-java5-jdk tomcat5 tomcat5-admin tomcat5-webapps.

Edit /etc/default/tomcat5 to change the JAVA_HOME and TOMCAT5_SECURITY environment variables.

JAVA_HOME=/usr/lib/jvm/java-1.5.0-sun
TOMCAT5_SECURITY=no

Note that you should consider reenabling the SecurityManager for production environments.

Now, you may install webapps into /var/lib/tomcat5/webapps and start tomcat with /etc/init.d/tomcat5 start

Лучшие фото фотосайта на рабочем столе, дубль 2

Ну вот и ещё один дубль. Восьмого января фотосайт изменил структуру сайта и поломал так полюбившийся многим photosight wallpaper под Windows, а также скрипты дла автоматической установки "фото дня" на рабочий экран, используемые пользователями других OS.

Впрочем, от упрямого айтишника ничто не спасёт. Вот новый скрипт под Gnome Desktop для всеобщего пользования:

cd /tmp
ID=`wget -q -O - http://www.photosight.ru/wallpaper/week.wp` && \
wget -q -N  http://img-`date '+%Y-%m'`.photosight.ru/`date '+%d'`/$ID.jpg && \
gconftool-2 -t str --set /desktop/gnome/background/picture_filename /tmp/$ID.jpg && \
gconftool-2 -t str --set /desktop/gnome/background/picture_options "centered"

А вот версия под KDE по мотивам комментария

cd /tmp
ID=`wget -q -O - http://www.photosight.ru/wallpaper/week.wp` && \
wget -q -N  http://img-`date '+%Y-%m'`.photosight.ru/`date '+%d'`/$ID.jpg && \
dcop kdesktop KBackgroundIface setWallpaper /tmp/$ID.jpg 4

ActiveRecord as an implementation of a design pattern straight out of the book

ActiveRecord has been built straight from the Martin Fowler's Single Table Inheritance design pattern. Period. This is fine for simple applications with that can live with the database design imposed by the application framework.

Once the developer tries to think throughly the database design, he immediately hits the limits of the STI paradigm. Here's an example.

One common method to define a hierarchical relation in Object-Relational Mapping where a child can have only one parent is to put the reference to the parent in the child table. This is a common and very efficient way to map a class hierarchy into database tables in Hibernate, for instance. The resulting tables can then look as follows:

CREATE TABLE `foos` (
  `id` int(11) NOT NULL auto_increment,
  PRIMARY KEY  (`id`)
);
CREATE TABLE `bars` (
  `id` int(11) NOT NULL auto_increment,
  `foo_id` int(11) NOT NULL,
  PRIMARY KEY  (`id`)
);
CREATE TABLE `bazs` (
  `id` int(11) NOT NULL auto_increment,
  `foo_id` int(11) NOT NULL,
  PRIMARY KEY  (`id`)
);

Note that this table structure allows to efficiently retrieve bars and bazs from foos, as well as ascend to foos from bars and bazs.

If you are bound to ActiveRecord, it imposes a solution with one table having one additional id to identify the parent and a string to identify the type of the child. All fields belonging to bars and bazs will appear in the same table, intermixed.

Who benefits from the service vouchers (dienstcheques, titres-services)

PHBs, stay away. This is as complicated as the Type C work permit gamble, Type B vs. immigration legal loophole or the intrinsics of the payslip calculation.

Here is the idea of service vouchers in a 100 words. A few years ago, you could find someone to clean your house or iron your shirts by a word-of-mouth. After the job was done, you paid them in cash 8 € per hour and you were done. Nowadays, you first buy service vouchers from a multinational, state-assigned monopoly at the price of 6.70 €. You then call a service provider which is a company licensed by the state to accept service vouchers for house holding services. They make you sign a contract and they send their employee to you. Every visit, you give the cleaner as many service vouchers as the hours worked. The cleaner returns the service vouchers to his employer and the employer claims from the state 20 € per voucher. You, as a customer are not done yet as well, you can subtract the amount you paid for service vouchers in your personal yearly tax form, which decreases the real price of service vouchers down to 4,69 €.

At first sight, there's a clear gain from the customer's point of view. The service gets cheaper. However, the customer loses time in paperwork and is somewhat bound by the contract from now on. There's also an intuitive expectation of decreased service quality, as the service becomes less personal.

On the other hand, the state clearly loses 13,30 € per working hour, and some more money in personal taxes, which makes the service vouchers program look slightly unrealistic. Where's the catch?

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