C. Keith Ray

C. Keith Ray is developing software for Sizeography and Upstart Technology. He writes code for multiple platforms and languages, including iOS® and Macintosh®.
Go to Sizeography and Upstart Technology to join our mailing lists and see more about our products. Keith's Résumé (pdf)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Link to my Resume

Normally I'd use the proper accents for Résumé, but just in case... my resume (pdf)

I'm considering writing a book on Test-Driven Development in Objective-C (targeting MacOS X and iOS) and/or a book on TDD in C++ and Objective-C++ [with examples targeting Windows, Mac, and a cross-platform GUI.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Book Review: "The Unincorporated Man"

"The Unincorporated Man" by Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin is a page-turner and a good example of realistic world-building. The main character is a very rich man from our time, revived 300 years from now in a society "in which every individual is formed into a legal corporation at birth, and spends many years trying to attain control over their own life by getting a majority of his or her own shares." Much of the conflict comes from the main character trying to keep himself "unincorporated" -- the only person in that society not owned by other people or corporations.

There is a little too much exposition in some places, and it may seem to have a libertarian agenda, though it shows that corporate power can be just as much of a threat to freedom as government power.

The chapter about the VR Epidemic, and the VR Museum (which serves this society like "the Holocaust Museum" serves ours) warns that we could entertain ourselves to death, if our entertainment gets to be too good.

I recommend this book.


Friday, November 4, 2011

changing directions

My mission has been to help programmers work with less pain, but I want to go back to basics: to provide tools for creative people (including children), particularly on iPad, iPhone/iPod Touch, MacOS X.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

TDD, BDD, and XXDD

(repost from 2006.Aug.12 Sat)

Check out Dave Astel's paper (pdf) on TDD/BDD. Quotes:

[...] There are a score of books available on TDD, mine even won a Jolt award. So it seems that everything is rosy? Everyone who's doing TDD is fully understanding it and getting the full benefit, right?

Fat Chance!

Too few people I talk to really understand what it's really about. That means that many people who practice TDD are not getting the full benefit from it. What's wrong?

The focus on testing

Well... one thing is that people think it's about testing. That's just not the case.

Sure, there are similarities, and you end up with a nice low level regression suite... but those are coincidental or happy side effects. So why have things come to this unhappy state of affairs? Why do so many not get it?[...]

So with people thinking about testing, it's easy to come up with all sorts of negative reactions and reasons not to do it... especially when time gets short and the pressure's on.

By the way, I HATE saying TDD is "not about the testing". I have to say it now and then because of people not realizing it's about designing, rather than testing. The fact that the word "test" is in the name just helps confuse the issue. My preference for naming this design technique, is to call it "Behavior Driven Design". Or "Behavior-Spec Driven Design". With BSDD, I could say BSDD is about the behavior-specs, but mostly aboutdriving design.

Alistair Cockburn's "Executable Example Driven Design" (XXDD) is OK, but a bit long-winded. And I don't want to have say "Dos-equis Driven Design is not about beer." :-)

The problem is mental frameworks. People reject ideas that don't fit into their mental framework. You say "test" and the listener's mental framework comes up with these and other assumptions:

  • Testing can be done manually.
  • I can do implementing, someone else can do testing.
  • Testing looks for bugs.
  • Tests need something to test.
  • Testing is hard.
  • We can skip testing if we are good enough programmers, or time is short.

None of those assumptions directly applies to TDD. TDD can't be separated into tests written by one person and code written by another because the TDD cycle of test-code-refactor is a design process that one person (or a pair) goes through in cycles, where each cycle takes only minutes. TDD/BDD helps me find bugs, but that's not the purpose of TDD. TDD isn't TDD is you do the "test" part manually.

If you say "Test-Driven Development is not about the tests," that usually doesn't provide the zen-like kick in the brain-pan that the speaker intends. Instead, the phrase gets rejected because it doesn't fit into the listener's mental framework for "tests". The listener probably thinks you're nuts. He or she might just flip the "bozo bit" and stop listening to you.

If instead you say "Behavior Spec", the listener's mental framework will have fewer contradictory assumptions. For example:

  • Specs are written before coding.
  • Specs can provide examples.
  • Specs tell you what you need to implement.
  • Someone else can write specs and I can write the code.

Not all of those assumptions are true for BDD, but there are fewer contradictions to this idea of BBD that you're trying to introduce into someone's mental framework. Behavior Specs are written before the code exists (though only minutes before). Behavior Specs are executable examples. Behavior Specs tell you, more or less, what you need to implement next. There is still the contradictory idea that someone can write the Spec and someone else can write the code, but that isn't as difficult to overcome as all the other assumptions that come up with the word "test".


Thursday, June 2, 2011

What part of the brain calculates how a whip works?

Imagine a whip, in which each centimeter of the whip contains a data processor node, that calculates the position of the node in 3d space, the acceleration and velocity of the node in 3d space, the relative angle between this node and the next node, and the strength and angle of the pull on this node from the previous node, and so on.

Imagine each of these nodes gathering gigabytes of data, as a talented master of the whip, whose only control of this leather string of nodes comes from the handle in his hand, waves and curls the whip in the air, to snap it with precision, the tip exceeding the speed of sound, to clip a playing card or other some other target.

How much could we learn from examining and processing that data? What equations could we derive?

No doubt simulating this activity would take bank of CPUs some time to crank through the numbers. Far more time than the real-time action that took place.

How does a man do it? Practice, of course. And the more esoteric calculations are done in parts of our brain that are not subject to conscious reasoning. The parts that can predict the not-entirely parabolic path of ball thrown in baseball or football.


Would it not be interesting if the simulation of a whip could be repurposed to predict movements in currency-trading, stocks and bonds, real-estate prices, national economies?

In some limited situations the number of variables might not be that different. The forces and effects, velocity and acceration and position, could have analogs in this financial world.

How would a whip-weilder of finance practice? How would he get feedback? Could it be visible enough and fast enough to allow the esoteric calculating parts of his brain reliably direct his (financially metaphoric) hand?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Objects Dependancies Are Their Own Tax

This list of ways one class can depend on another is ordered from worst to best (for C++):

1. A depends on B because B is Singleton.

Avoid this. The dependency is 'invisible' and Singleton makes it worse than a global variable. Destruction is usually not possible unless a counting mechanism is used.

2. A depends on B because B is global variable.

Avoid this. The dependency is 'invisible'.

3. A depends on B because B is a file-local variable.

Avoid this. Not accessible to test.

4. A depends on B because B is a function-static variable.

Avoid this. Initialization is not multiple-thread safe. Not accessible to test. Destruction is difficult.

5. A depends on B because B is a class-static variable.

Avoid this. A class with static members and non-static members is doing two things. Separate the two responsibilities into separate classes, one of which can be a longer-lived than the other.

6. A depends on B because B is a member variable of A "by value".

Great for "value" objects, not so good for other kinds of objects. ("By Value" means by not by pointer nor by reference,)

7. A depends on B because B is a local variable of one of A's function.

Inaccessible to test. The dependency is 'invisible'.

8. A depends on B because B is a "by value" parameter in A's functions.

Not subject to faking or mocking, any data or behavior that are defined in a subclass of 'B' is "sliced-off" to be just a "B" inside the function.

9. A depends on B because B is a pointer/reference member of A, created in constructor.

Creation in the constructor is too soon for us to insert a fake.

10. A depends on B because B is a pointer/reference member of A, created in non-virtual function.

We can't override the creation inside the function.

11. A depends on B because B is a pointer/reference member of A, created in virtual function.

This allows us to override the function that creates B, using a fake, stub, or mock.

12. A depends on B because B is a pointer/reference member set by parameter in A's constructor.

We can create A with a fake, sub, or mock in testing. Dependency is visible.

13. A depends on B because B is a pointer/reference parameter in A's functions.

This makes the dependency visible in the interface. We can supply fake, stub, or mock in testing.

Coupling. Or... what you don't want your objects doing too much of.

Dependencies by one class on another class can cause problems when refactoring and writing microtests. In microtests, you want awkward collaborators to be faked, mocked, or stubbed out, and some kinds of dependencies make that more difficult than others.

Here are some dependencies from best (least-coupled) to worst (most tightly-coupled).

1. Class A depends on Class B, where class B is an interface ("pure" abstract base class).

We can test instances of A by creating our own test-specific subclasses of B to pass into A.

2. Class A depends on Class B, where class B is a concrete class but the functions are declared virtual.

We can test instances of A by creating our own test-specific subclases of B, but at a price: we have to deal with B's constructors and destructor, possibly doing stuff we don't want.

3. Class A depend on Class B, where class B is concrete class with no virtual functions.

We're going to need to refactor B and/or A for testability. Either making B's functions virtual, or putting an testable Adapter between A and B.

4. Class A depends on Class B, and class B grants class A "friend" access.

Class A not only depends on the public interface of B, but also the private parts of B as well. Not recommended. Don't do this unless you are Bjarne Stroustrup. If a test needs to access private parts of B, make those parts 'protected' and use a test-specific subclass to change selected parts of B to have 'public' access.

5. Class A depends on Class B, and class B is a class declared INSIDE class A.

This can lead to mutual complete visibility between A and B, plus the scoping makes it hard to test A without B, or vice versa. Not recommended. Don't do this unless you are Alexander Stepanov.

Also affecting how class A depends on class B is the WAY the dependency is manifest. It turns out that "visible" dependencies are often better than "hidden" dependencies, which is opposite of the usual idea of "information hiding", the predecessor idea of "encapsulation".

Saturday, April 9, 2011

from one twitter-reading session

Stuff I found interesting in reading twitter today, mostly links to things I'd want to read later.


RT: @LeanVoices: The idea is the easy bit, execution is where excellence and hard work resides.

RT: @suziedwards: Resume blooper of the day? "Software Mythologies used include Waterfall and Scrum".

RT @markrneedham: How to type on an iPad http://bit.ly/ftr9Vl

RT @flowchainsensei: Facebook's data center play sidelines Google, Apple http://reg.cx/1NBh

Chad Fowler = "These have changed my developer life, how I perceive software
and that great technology is fun" http://bit.ly/hP2B6O

Cool, @gregturn has finished Python Testing Cookbook! #congrats http://www.packtpub.com/python-testing-cookbook/book

RT @hackernewsbot: New engine shakes up auto industry... http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/42460541/ns/technology_and_science-innovation/

Divvy is pretty awesome. http://bit.ly/g11Hj5

RT @badbanana: If you enjoy being the 10,000th person to put your thumb into a hole, then bowling is for you.

RT @theCoachingblog: "The things we hate about ourselves aren't more real than things we like about ourselves."
(Ellen Goodman) #quote

"Managing" Velocity: The term velocity is very well-chosen. It means speed in a certain direction, w... http://bit.ly/gvikOP #agileotter

RT @capotribu: "My startup story: from big idea to thriving business in 8 short years" http://t.co/IXMCjfV < great story of real reality

Fun Fact http://dinosaurmusings.wordpress.com/2011/04/08/fun-fact/

Our schools failed many of us. Why don't people understand the role of analogy? http://bit.ly/gBRqji (see comments) #testing

Good read. RT @toddcharron: An Agile Pace http://t.co/Rn9Gzuf - reminds me of http://t.co/gwmGRX7 #agile #scrum #kanban #overtime

Best #Agile article this year: Agile’s Second Chasm (and how we fell in) http://bit.ly/hvQDpT by @williampietri #recommended

RT @tottinge @jamesshore Someone was selling us a product that allows you to "collaborate in isolation from each other."

James Shore = For the record: Rabu is not and never* will be a project management tool, a planning tool, or a replacement for a whiteboard.

See what you started, mike hill? RT @alancfrancis: I am now nekkid as a jaybird, in an apartment with 10 windows wide open, attempting to cool down. #sorrytoputthatimag ...

10 Acts of Resistance That Changed the World — YES! Magazine http://t.co/NFN2UVx

jasonlittle = we did a retrospective on why we stopped doing retrospectives. good insights, blog post coming.

I read this = http://blog.benjaminm.net/2011/02/16/argyriscasestudylearningmodelii/ = worth it

http://blog.benjaminm.net/2010/12/07/agile-argyris-double-loop-learning/

publishing co I never heard of: http://www.packtpub.com/python-testing-cookbook/book

This practical cookbook covers lots of test styles including unit-level, test discovery, doctest, BDD, acceptance, smoke, and load testing. It will guide you to use popular Python tools effectively and discover how to write custom extensions. You will learn how to use popular continuous integration systems like Jenkins (formerly known as Hudson) and TeamCity to automatically test your code upon check in. This book explores Python's built-in ability to run code found embedded in doc strings and also plugging in to popular web testing tools like Selenium. By the end of this book, you will be proficient in many test tactics and be ready to apply them to new applications as well as legacy ones.

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/jonathan_haidt_on_the_moral_mind.html

yourmorals.org ?

https://github.com/twitter/commons

engineering.twitter.com blog = Cross-site Scripting Protection is one hundred percent live on mobile.twitter.com

After a soft launch, we ran into some unexpected issues. Several common Firefox extensions insert Javascript on page load, thereby triggering a report. However, even more surprising were the number of ISPs who were inadvertently inserting Javascript or altering image tags to point to their caching servers. It was the first example of how CSP gave us visibility into what was happening on the user’s end. We addressed this problem by mandating SSL for Firefox 4 users, which prevents any alteration of our content.

http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?WikiDesignPrinciples

http://elabs.se/blog/15-you-re-cuking-it-wrong

http://dannorth.net/2011/01/31/whose-domain-is-it-anyway/

http://cuke4ninja.com/

http://www.infoq.com/articles/Accidental-Agilist = Johanna Rothman wrote:
I didn’t think if myself as an agilist, of course. I decided to experiment with some practices, such as pairing and TDD. I’d worked closely with a couple of people one-on-one, back when I was a developer, and I wasn’t sure if it was really pairing. So I tried pairing and TDD with a colleague, Keith Ray, at an AYE conference, and sure enough, it was just like what I had done at work. Except, Keith was much nicer than my work colleague back in the ‘80s.
:-)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

J. S. Bach 300+ years of beautiful music

In honor of Bach's birthday, March 21, 1685, and the #bachchat celebration on twitter. Here are some of my favorite performances of Bach's music.

My current favorite is The "Little" Fugue in G Minor, BWV 578. ("A fugue is a contrapuntal piece of music wherein a particular melody is played in a number of voices, each voice introduced in turn by playing the melody." wiktionary)

To get a feeling for how The Little Fugue introduces the melody over and over, in multiple voices, each continuing to play over the others and yet still sound "good", check out this "piano-roll" animated rendition of this piece on youtube.


The above piece is performed on a piano-like instrument with a pedals, so the pianist can play a bass melody with his feet, just like an organist. And I think you would need that with this piece. I'm not sure how someone would like all the parts with just two hands.

Now the more fun performances are these...

The Canadian Brass:


The Swingle Singers:


Leopold Stokowski's orchestral arrangement:



You can search for other renditions of this fugue on other instruments. Wendy Carlos did a recording using a Moog synthesizer in Switched-On-Bach Boxed Set. The original instrument was of course, organ.

Bach's most famous organ piece is The Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565 which may not have been written by Bach (!) and may have originally been a violin piece (!!). See the wikipedia article here. And here's what the violin piece might have originally sounded like:


I rather like Don Dorsey's synthesized version of The Toccata and Fugue in Bach Busters.

No youtube version of Don Dorsey's version. But there is this guitar performance:



My other favorites include the Brandenburg concertos, The Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor (which is another piece arranged by Leopold Stokowski for orchestra)...


...and several pieces from the Anna Magdalena notebook.

I'm not a fan of Bach's vocal music.

I own a "complete" collection of Bach's music (153 CDs, excluding his religious vocal music), including several recordings of my favorite pieces.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

If you are struggling how to TDD something...

If you struggling to think how to test-drive something with simple input and complex output, a few heuristics might help:

1. Testing pathological code (e.g. bad argument values) isn't going to drive your implementation that much, so leave that for later. Try the simplest successful case first.

2. If you really can't think how to test it, sketch out the algorithm (e.g. code-first) and figure out how you could test that algorithm. If the algorithm is 50 lines long, pretend it is 50 method calls instead: how would you test each of those method-calls? What does each line/method take as input, what is its output? Then try to go back to test-first and re-implement the code. Don't worry about public / private methods. Once your are "done" or at good stopping point, figure out which classes should own which methods, then refactor them to cooperating classes where most of the work is in public methods of each class. Move the tests to be closer to the code they test.

3. A class where there is only one or two public methods and a dozen or more private methods is exhibiting the code smell "Iceberg Class".

4. If the complexity resides in a third-party library or framework, concentrate your tests on YOUR code, assuming the third-party library or framework is correct. Unless, of course, the third-party library or framework needs tests (because it is unreliable), in which case test how your code uses the library or framework to get expected results.

5. You might have the test create the output, you verify that the output is correct manually, and then you save that output as a "gold standard" to test against automatically. I've done that for image-processing... it broke rarely, when the jpg library I was using changed.