A good collection of tools for software development

Many software development groups, begin with just a few developers. Usually, neither the development process nor tool set is (or should be) formalized. Eventually, as the development teams grows, a degree of formalization becomes necessary. Source code version control is a good place to start. A basic toolkit will also help. In most cases (except for Winmerge really) there are numerous good alternatives. My experience suggests that a myriad of choices may benefit the experienced but can paralyze teams that are just beginning to mature. In that spirt, here is what I would make sure was in place as step one. I find this a workable set but nothing here should be construed as “the only way.”

This is geared towards a windows shop not a linux shop although the basic tool needs still apply.

Here’s my list.

  • Subversion (or Git) for source code management
  • Winmerge for comparing files and merging changes. Winmerge is open source but only available on windows.
  • A full IDE: Eclipse (Java & Perl) or VisualStudio (.Net) – depending on the programming language.
  • Notepad++ – you don’t always need an IDE sometimes you just need a great editor
  • Agent Ransack for searching for and through files
  • A debugger for your programming language
  • A profiler for your programming language

A child’s perspective on the exchange of value

One night while we’re getting ready for bed, my child approached me with her sister in tow. “Dad, have we ever sold anything?” she asked.

It seemed to me like a good time for family discussion about economics or for that matter anything that wasn’t about website updates. I answered with a question. “What do you mean by ‘sell’?”

“You know. To give someone something and get money,” they answered.

I thought it was a good start so I asked, “Does what you sell have to be a thing like a glass of lemonade or could you sell something that you do like wash the car?”

They agreed that if you washed someone’s car and got money in return, then you did sell something but they weren’t quite sure what. I explained that things like cars and lemonade are considered goods and acts like washing the car or mowing the lawn are called services. And we all agreed that the only things that can be sold are in fact goods & services. [Ok, so there are things like wheat futures and options but …]

Next question. “Do you have to get money for the goods & services in order for it to be considered selling?”

“Yes,” she answered, “If you give away the goods and services, then that’s giving not selling.”

“Great point,” I replied. “Giving things away free doesn’t count as selling. But what if you received something other than money? If you got free ice cream for a week, then would that count as selling?”

They looked suspicious at first but ultimately agreed that it would still count as selling. I then continued by saying that selling is only half the picture. In order to actually sell, someone has to buy. But we already agreed the seller doesn’t have to get money for it to be a sale. Then I hit them with all the economic theory I acquired with one macroeconomics class. “So selling (and buying) are really just an exchange of value.”

“And yes,” I continued quickly before I bored them to sleep. “You have sold things before. Remember last fall when you collected the apples and sold them?”

“That’s right”, said my six-year-old. The idea of providing someone an apple for ten cents fits her idea of selling far better than my statements about exchanging value.

“OK. But what was the value that you provided?”

“The apples!” they exclaimed.

“Well, not exactly,” I replied. “Who did you sell them to?”

“Uncle Jerry.”

Uncle Jerry is our next door neighbor. Everyone in our neighborhood calls him Uncle Jerry.

“Where did you get the apples?”

“From the back yard.”

“Whose backyard?”

“Uncle Jerry’s, I guess,” offers my nine-year-old.

“So you just took Uncle Jerry’s apples?” I ask incredulously, although I knew this not to be the case.

“No Dad. Uncle Jerry said it was OK for us to take the apples.”

“Did you gather up all the apples?”

“No. There were lots more on the ground. We only gathered a few of them.”

“Ok. So, with Uncle Jerry’s permission, you gathered a few apples from his backyard and put them in a wagon. Next, you wheeled the apples around to Uncle Jerry’s front yard and asked him if he wanted to buy any apples for ten cents each. They were Uncle Jerry’s apples from the tree in his back yard. He knew where you got the apples and he knew that there were lots more apples under the tree. With all of that information what did Uncle Jerry do?”

“He bought the apples.”

“Not really,” I said. “The apples were already his. So what did he buy?”

“He wanted to make you guys happy,” my spouse chimes.

“Oh. I get it!” exclaims my nine-year-old.

But to be sure, I posed the following. “Each year I buy life insurance but the insurance company only has to pay if I die. What’s the value? It’s not the insurance payment since I have to be dead for the insurance company to pay.”

My older child’s brow knits momentarily and then she says, “I know. You want to take care of us if you die!”

My younger one thinks for a moment and confidently gives her own answer, “Life!”

And there you have it. Next year, I’m doubling my policy. You can’t have too much life!

Racking day

I took a chance on wild yeast with the cider that we pressed from neighborhood apples. Big mistake Indy. It smelled nasty and I dumped it in the back yard.

Note to self: Although, I found it nasty, white faced hornets disagreed. For two days, they crawled around my lawn by the hundreds. Next time, I’ll dump it down the drain.

Anyway, since that didn’t work, I went to McConnell’s farm and bought five gallons of cider. I added brewers yeast and started primary fermentation in a 5-gallon pail. Fermentation had slowed, so today I racked (transferred) the fermenting cider to a 5-gallon glass carboy. This leaves much of the dead yeast behind so that the cider will taste better. The carboy (think water cooler jug), has a narrow neck which can be closed with a stopper and an airlock. This way the carbon dioxide produced by the yeast will fill the space above the liquid. This keeps out oxygen and therefore the bacteria that turns hard cider into vinegar.

Getting the hive ready for cool weather

I’ve been feeding the bees since August to make sure that they have enough honey for the winter. Today I started getting the hive ready for cool weather. I replaced the screened bottom board with a solid bottom board and installed an entrance reducer on the front of the hive.

The bottom board

During the summer, the hive gets very warm and humid. Bees turn nectar into honey by evaporating the water, until it’s, well, thick as honey. All that water vapor has to be vented from the hive. Bees do this by fanning their wings to circulate air. To make their job easier, the bottom of the hive (called the bottom board) is a screen. This lets air in but keeps bugs out. The weather is cooling but the queen will continue to lay eggs through most of the fall. This means that the internal hive temperature has to remain between 90 and 93 degrees at all times. Last night the temperature was 44 degrees outside. To make it easier for the bees to keep warm, the cool weather bottom board is solid. While it helps the hive keep warm, it does reduce ventilation so it will be harder for the colony to cure additional honey. For this reason, you want to keep the screen bottom board in place as long as you can.

Entrance reducer

During the summer, the entrance runs the entire width of the front of the hive box. The entrance reducer is a cleat that can be turned to reduce the entrance by either 75% or 95%. The smaller entrance is easier to guard as the colony population starts to drop. It also helps keep heat in. It does, however, make for quite the bee traffic jam. On the warm sunny day, hundreds of bees hover feet from the hive, waiting their turn to land.

Stop feeding

As I mentioned, I have fed the bees since early August. There’s now 70-80# of honey in the hive. Since it’s now harder to feed the hive, and there are sufficient winter stores, I removed the top feeder. If spring is slow arriving next year, I will start feeding again in March.

Next steps

When it gets really cold, I will turn the reducer so the entrance is 95% reduced, cover the outside with tar paper to reduce drafts and to absorb sunlight. I will also drill a second entrance hole in the top of the hive box. This serves as a second-floor entrance/exit. During winter snow can block the main entrance from the outside, or a layer of dead bees can block the entrance from the inside. The axillary entrance will let the bees get out on warm (above 54F ) winter days. Bees don’t eliminate waste inside the hive. They hold it!

More cider

My daughter and I gathered apples today so that we could make even more cider. We started with the apple tree in the neighbor’s yard and ended up gathering apples from the neighboring orchard. It has been a long time since the orchard was operated commercially. We asked the farmer if we could pick a few bushels of apples to make cider and he told us that we could pick all the apples we wanted. He also let us know that good cider requires a variety of apples, and then explained where on the orchard we would find different varieties.

We picked about 3 1/2 bushels total but ended up grinding only half. My wife, my parents, both daughters, the neighbor’s child, and even my niece helped. My homemade apple grinder isn’t finished and even with lots of help, using a food processor to grind apples is slow.

We pressed 5 gallons of cider. It seemed sweet so I am fermenting it without adding sugar. I also turned two quarts into spiced cider that we drank warm that night. It was very good.

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