Category Archives: Week 5

Software Frameworks

https://techterms.com/definition/framework

            The link above leads to a website article that explains what a software framework is while giving some examples. The two main reasons I chose to write about this topic is because of one, it’s listed as one of the topics to be covered in class and two, I’m not too familiar with the definition of a software framework. According to the article, a software framework is essentially a set of tools that act as a foundation for software developers. These may include preset classes, APIs, compilers, code libraries, and predefined functions among other things. Examples of software frameworks include Microsoft’s .NET framework, Android Application Framework for Android, Cocoa Touch for iOS, and Cocoa for Mac OS X.

            From the definition given, the practicality of a software framework seems pretty apparent to me. Rather than creating classes and functions from scratch that will most likely see reuse, set them together in a ready to use package in order to save time and effort. It’s similar to how someone would buy ingredients at the supermarket rather than making each one from scratch. I’d imagine that software frameworks also have the added benefit of increasing portability for software that uses a specific framework. Take for example my computer which has .NET framework on it. If I were to create a piece of software using .NET, then another machine which has a similar version of same framework would be able to run my software with no additional setup needed. To be fair this is only speculation on my part; I haven’t checked whether or not this is true yet. But then again, I remember having to install a newer version of .NET framework in order for my computer to run software correctly so I might be on the right line of thinking.

In the case of porting software to machines with different operating systems, I’m not sure what role frameworks would take. I am pretty confident that software frameworks aren’t limited by operating systems. One example being Java Collections Framework or JCF for short which, as far as I know, isn’t limited to an operating system like .NET is. When a difference of frameworks is a factor, I assume that a software developer would have to make up for a lack of a framework’s components in a machine in some way. And that’s on top of the usual changes needed for porting software between operating systems.

From the blog CS@Worcester – Rainiery's Blog by rainiery and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

REFACTORING

As I was reading some articles, websites for my previous assignments, I came across the term refactoring a lot. However, that was not the only time seeing that as it is part of the course syllabus. I decided to learn more about refactoring and write something on it for my weekly blog post. After going through some resources, articles I finally settled on this blog post that talks about refactoring. The structure of this blog is made simple, easy to learn and understand especially for beginners and those new to the term. It also provides links to some terms, books and some other IDEs mentioned.

This blog defines refactoring as the process that involves editing and cleaning up previously written software codes without changing the function of the code at all. Blog talks about the importance of refactoring, reasons for refactoring and how to perform refactoring. It also provides some techniques on how to perform refactoring. Each technique is well explained and broken down into subtopics and/or steps with some diagrams provided. Also, blog talks about when refactoring is not needed, best practices for refactoring and general summary refactoring.

In this blog I learned that the basic purpose of refactoring is to make codes efficient and maintainable, reduce technical cost, improves readability, and help prevent future bugs. A term that I found interesting as I was reading about the importance of code refactoring is code rot. Further research from Wikipedia explained it as a software decay that is a slow deterioration of software quality over time leading to software becoming unusable or in need of upgrade. Refactoring is important as it help to avoid this code rot.

I also learn that the best time to refactor is before any update or additions to an existing code. This is so as it improves the quality of code and should be done in small steps as possible. Other practices include planning refactoring project and timeline carefully, testing frequently and involving Quality Assurance teams and striving to focus on progress.

I thought that refactoring is always needed especially dealing with very high coded software programs and systems, but I learned from this blog that refactoring is not needed when an application needs to be completely improved.

Some techniques of refactoring I learned are Red-Green Refactor, Refactoring by Abstraction, Composing and Simplifying methods. Before applying the Red-Green Refactor technique, there should first be consideration of what needs to be developed. These developments need to pass basic testing before improvements can be implemented. Refactoring by abstraction is used when there is a large amount of refactoring to be done. I learned that extraction, one of the processes in Composing method, involves breaking down of codes into smaller pieces to find and extract fragmentation. This code is then removed to a separate method and replaced by a call to a new method. This process also involves classes, interface and local variables.

I hope others find this blog useful as well.

https://www.altexsoft.com/blog/engineering/code-refactoring-best-practices-when-and-when-not-to-do-it/

From the blog CS@Worcester – GreenApple by afua3254 and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Decorator Design Pattern

I decided that I wanted to talk a little more for the design patterns. This week I will present you another type. Decorator Design Pattern. Decorator design pattern is used to add additional features or behaviors to a particular instance of a class, while not modifying the other instances of same class.  It is a structural pattern, which provides a wrapper to the existing class. The reason why this pattern is in structural design patterns is because they show us how to glue different pieces of a system together in a flexible and extensible fashion. These patterns help us guarantee that when one of the parts changes, the entire application structure does not need to change.

What is the intent of this pattern? In software engineering, decorator design pattern is used to add additional features or behaviors to a particular instance of a class, while not modifying the other instances of same class. The intent of the this pattern is to provide a flexible alternative to sub-classing for extending functionality. This pattern is very important to understand because once you know the techniques of decorating, you’ll be able to give your (or someone else’s) objects new responsibilities without making any code changes to the underlying classes. You can attach new responsibility to an object dynamically. This is exactly the intended use of the decorator pattern. Per the Gang of Four – “Attach additional responsibilities to an object dynamically”.

When to use this pattern? Decorator Design Pattern has several requirement indicators to suggest that it is potential solution e.g.

  1. We have an object that requires the extension.
  2. Several objects that support the extension by “decoration”. Usually, those objects share a common interface, traits, or superclass, and sometimes, additional, intermediate super-classes .
  3. The decorated object (class or prototype instantiation), and the decorator objects have one or several common features. In order to ensure that functionality, the decorated object & the decorators have a common interface, traits, or class inheritance.

What are the benefit and disadvantages?

·  Sometimes we want to add responsibilities to individual objects, not to an entire class. Decorators provide a flexible alternative to subclassing for extending functionality.

·  Avoids feature-laden classes high up in the hierarchy.

·  A decorator and its component aren’t identical.

·  Lots of little objects.

There are a lot of examples and reading that you can do for this design. I would suggest you https://howtodoinjava.com/design-patterns/structural/decorator-design-pattern/ . This is a very good website where it gives details what the Decorator Pattern is and it gives you an example to understand it better. Also https://dzone.com/articles/decorator-design-pattern-in-java . What I like about this website is that it has all the important part in points. Touch only the important part without going to much in details for a beginner.

From the blog CS@Worcester – Tech, Guaranteed by mshkurti and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Audio Feature Extraction

This week I’ve continued working on the application part of my Android application, but I’ve also started to “dig deeper” (apprenticeship pattern blog post coming soon) and learn a bit more about audio processing.

I started with general concepts of feature extraction a couple of months ago now. Understanding how to use Python libraries to extract features is simple enough, but actually understanding how they work and why they work is another story. This week’s research has revealed an underlying elegance to the concept of signal processing and helped me reach a higher level of understanding and excitement for this project.

The single best explanation has been a video by Youtuber 3Blue1Brown on Fourier Series. I recommend all of his channel because he has an elegant way of describing and visualizing every topic he speaks about. He helped me understand the beauty of Calculus, and in my process of digging deeper I wound up watching his video on the uncertainty principle which was surprisingly relevant to signal processing. Understanding the specifics of the math behind signals and waves, and knowing the fact that mathematical equations are a language used to describe straightforward physical phenomena is key. This knowledge makes daunting concepts easier to break down. Seeing the same concepts used in different contexts also helps solidify them in your mind. And if you’re implementing this in code, it will make it much easier to remember the necessary logical steps required to extract a feature.

This entire tangent (and however useful, it was an unexpected tangent) started with trying to better understand the types of feature extraction that are used in speech recognition. By the way, you know you’re digging deeper when an article with an estimated read time of 11 minutes takes you a few hours to get through with all the additional research.

And universally, as far as I can tell, the first step in signal processing and feature extraction is the Fourier transform, which is simply turning a raw audio signal into separate sine and cosine signals. I say simply, but as the 3Blue1Brown video states, this seems a bit like figuring out which colors make up a mixed up can of paint. It turns out, however, that clever math makes it quite obvious which summation of sine and cosine signals make up a complex signal. I encourage you to watch the video to understand why.

The summation of cosine and sine waves is considered the frequency domain, while the original signal is in the time domain. From the resulting frequency domain, the individual signals can be normalized by taking the log magnitude of the signals and performing an inverse Fourier transform.

This is a new concept called a cepstrum, and it is one of many possible transformations you can make on a signal to begin to analyze the data. Its usefulness comes from the ability to see changes in individual waves. Additional operations can be performed to reveal new insights into patterns in a signal. Determining which if these works best is part of the process.

These individual transformations would be very interesting to implement in code. I may not get a chance to do so for this project, but the understanding of the underlying operations will help in using existing libraries.

From the blog CS@Worcester – Inquiries and Queries by James Young and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Breakable Toys

For this week I’ll be covering the pattern, Breakable Toys, from Apprenticeship Patterns: Guidance for the Aspiring Software Craftsman. The breakable toys pattern uses small personal projects to teach new techniques. When in a professional environment, playing and learning with the project is not an option. To keep ourselves learning new skills after college, the best thing to do is to create personal projects that allow us to make mistakes and grow as developers. These projects, or breakable toys, are chosen by us and will likely hold more interest than work projects. By working on these projects, we can learn the workings of a project without the fear of consequences of our mistakes.

This pattern is a bit obvious, but I still think it is worth reminding ourselves of. I sometimes find myself tired of working on a needed project and begin to lose some enthusiasm. A breakable toy is always a fun and educational way to lift my spirits while still progressing my skills. To me, breakable toys are more than just a consequence free environment to develop in, breakable toys renew my enthusiasm in the craft.

When I just started learning programming back in ’08, I felt like a whole new world had opened up. There was so much to see and learn, and I was psyched for what I was to learn. My first breakable toy was a text-based game. It was terrible, messy, and bugged but I learned a great deal in the process and because the project was personal, I could do whatever I pleased without concern. While I have not worked with that project in over a decade, I can still remember some of the lessons I first learned while making that game.

I would highly recommend exercising this apprenticeship pattern. This pattern combines the developer’s interests with a stress-free environment to create a project that is exciting and rewarding. I think of our coding skills like cooking, part science and part art. To grow as a programmer, it is important to remember that we need to push our boundaries and experiment is we are to learn. A breakable toy is the perfect project to practice old skills and develop new ones.

From the blog CS@Worcester – D’s Comp Sci Blog by dlivengood and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Capstone Sprint 1 Retrospective

With our first sprint under our belts, our team is excited to dive into more advanced features. A majority of this sprint was spent learning some new technology, getting our heads around the project’s documentation and workflow, as well as learning to work as a team. However, we also made some strides in implementing our final product.

My contributions

Discussion about whether an issue was a duplicate or if it was a typo, and subsequent editing of the issue.

Commenting with documentation for date format for future reference, which occurred during an in-person discussion.

Request to take care of an issue that was already assigned, in an attempt to complete the tasks at the top of the board first.

Opening an issue that was discovered while committing with a new .gitignore file.

Reviewing and marking an issue to find approved colors and logos as done after completion.

Implementing a stub and merging after approval.

Discussing issues during approval of another feature and merging manually.

Retrospective

As a team and individuals, we are all excited about this project. We all bring our own interests, skills and knowledge, which come with our own quirks and blind spots. This occurs on any team, but it is nice to acknowledge this in ourselves and in our teammates so that we can become more willing to spot them in each other. This allows us to delegate work that we need, ask for help when we need it, and call each other out when we are going down a rabbit hole that is a dead end. I may be the worst offender in this, because I would sometimes slow myself down getting caught up in unnecessary details. I wouldn’t resent my team for telling me I’m worrying too much. I personally feel I could also be better at describing what I’m worrying about.

This experience during this sprint opened up a possibility for improvement for our next sprint planning: more detailed descriptions of “done”. Being new to the format, we tried to shoehorn our issues into a standard template that we were provided. Using only the “given, when, then” Gherkin format, we didn’t get a chance to fully express what we wanted done. Elaborating more in the initial issue will help our focus and prevent worrying about adjacent, unrelated issues, solely due to thinking about each problem in more detail. For example, our stubs didn’t include any testing as part of the definition of done, but luckily we felt that this was reasonable and included them, rather than creating a new issue. I am of the opinion that for software to be complete, some testing should be associated with it. We will create a nightmare down the line if we aren’t careful with this, and should be more clear when defining our issues.

Much of our work was also done as a team, together in the same room. This forced us to remember to document our discussions and decisions in GitLab after the fact. We could have been more diligent in this regard. Although many of the solutions seemed obvious to us, documentation on our reasoning could be important for future developers. I enjoy working in person with a team because it facilitates quick discussion, but I feel we should either discuss more over GitLab or hold each other accountable for documentation after a decision is made as a team.

We are all feeling pressure to finish something we are proud of by the end of the semester. I think this contributed to some of the worrying and long discussions we had on features.

Making matters worse, was that other teams were likely having the same issues we were in adjusting to the new project. I think we handled this rather well and had some good back-and-forth about API design and the features we were planning on finishing. Again, this could have been better documented on GitLab for future reference. Some of this occurred in Discord, and will be lost in a sea of other messages. The less-obvious decisions were luckily documented in GitLab, such as the design of the ApproveGuest Module API. I would have liked to see more back-and-forth between our two groups in the discussion, instead of an abrupt approval of the feature.

This was a short sprint with an emphasis on learning, so thankfully we will be able to improve on these issues and focus on our strengths in the next longer sprint, which should get us close to a working product.

From the blog CS@Worcester – Inquiries and Queries by James Young and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Draw Your Own Map

This week, I’ve been thinking about an apprenticeship pattern that brought up something I had never considered. It opens with a quote suggesting people might say programming might not be sustainable in the long-term. News to me!

The crux of this pattern is that you won’t always be provided with the career path that you want. To be successful, you have to fight the urge to follow the path an employer gives you and take steps toward the path that you want. This is your map, and it can be redrawn at will. The goal is not to narrow your experience just because of a comfortable salary and your attachment to a fancier title.

This pattern seems to stem from the loss of many great developers to the world of management. The author seems a bit biased in wanting to prevent this. Unfortunately, many people might find their salaries necessary to maintain a lifestyle, or support a family. Furthermore specialization, or “narrowing” as they describe it, can be a good thing.

Of course, if narrowing is part of your map, I suppose it still fits with the pattern. But the book also suggests looking at the possibilities, which I agree with. After all, a map doesn’t have one path; it has many from which to choose. Listing many potential paths and following the one that looks best for you is likely a good tactic to get where you’d like to be in your career.

I’ve always felt a pressure to choose a single path and stick with it. Being able to change my mind is a nice idea. Luckily as far as I know now, I’ve mostly figured out my career path, but I will also follow the suggestion of the book to plan many alternatives. Experience in multiple different positions has given me insight into the aspects of each job I like. With this knowledge, I’m only interviewing at positions that I trust I can stay with long term, and I’ll only accept a position if I still believe that’s the case. Nevertheless, the rest of my career is a long time, and companies change.

The quote at the beginning of the chapter is meant to say that if people tell you to stick to one thing — to move to the safe, normal career path — you don’t have to. If a company prevents your own professional growth, it’s time to jump ship.

From the blog CS@Worcester – Inquiries and Queries by James Young and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Learn How You Fail

Ingenuity is often misunderstood. It is not a matter of superior intelligence but of character. It demands more than anything a willingness to recognize failure, to not paper over the cracks, and to change. It arises from deliberate, even obsessive, reflection on failure and constant searching for new solutions.

-Atul Gawande, Better

Learn how you fail is the first step towards learning how to win. The objective is to gain self-awareness of the reasons which lead to failure, and then make better decisions by reducing the inclination towards idealism. Being conscious that you cannot know everything, is the only way to become aware of how you fail. Knowing your own limitations, allows you to deliberately identify obstacles and concentrate on the goals you can reach.

Yes, you will fail! What’s more important is that you will win, once you know why you failed. The way to get the best out of it is to create a system to prevent the failure from happening again after you have figured out what went wrong. Creating a checklist or a type of protocol to prevent it from happening again when you find the weak point is another option to not go through failure again.

In this pattern what got my attention is the last sentence, which says “if you’re brave enough, get a friend to review your code, and see what else she can discover”. This is very accurate because everyone who writes code knows that there will be errors and it will take time to fix them. Even though you fix the errors you get, someone will find something else for you to fix, especially when you work in groups. This can be very tough because you feel like you are falling down. The reason why this happens is that we feed our brains to always win, and never lose. We reach the goal because we know how to do everything, and there are times when we do not reach the goal because there is something, we had no clue about. Is it time to step back? No! We should go through the failure, learn why you fail, and try again if you think you’re capable to fix it. As a conclusion, it can be very painful to learn how you fail, but in the end, you will have the skill to accept whatever life throws your way.

From the blog CS@Worcester – Gloris's Blog by Gloris Pina and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

The Deep End: Taking off my floaters

The definition of many of the apprenticeship patterns in the book are all in their title, being fairly obvious or sharing language used in idioms or other expressions. However, despite this, our authors usually find a way to expand on them for at least a page or two – most often by sharing a relevant story. Which is why I was shocked at how brief this particular pattern was, just a handful of paragraphs and another for our story. The brevity of pattern however did not lessen its impact on me, and I have come away with a renewed confidence. As someone who needs structure in order to work effectively, I imagine the deep end would involve a great deal of work and specifically responsibility – which I respond to quite well also.

I had already determined to seek out an internship or entry level position outside of my home state. Further, I wanted to join a company where I, of course, could be actually hired but one that would truly test the limits of my skills. Ideally, I would want it to be an internship though, cause as much as I want to make this change in scenery, I’m still hesitant to get stuck someplace I’m miserable. I think the true test will not just be getting a position away from home but finding a place for myself in that new place and maybe even gaining the confidence to stay and accept a job at the company – in the case of an internship.

I did find one internship that states that they will make no “intern-work” and one should be expected to work as a peer with the rest of their fellow employees; and on a massively used and well-known mobile application no less. I jumped at the chance to apply for this position, and I am incredibly hopeful I get it, as it is the perfect storm of conditions I am hoping for. Enrique’s story is still a little too dramatic for me to imagine emulating, but I hope if the opportunity to work in another country even presents itself, I will have the confidence to take it.

From the blog CS@Worcester – Press Here for Worms by wurmpress and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.

Apprenticeship Pattern Review 4: Retreat into Competence

When a software developer gets overwhelmed by the complexity of their current project or the fact that there is so much they don’t know, it is okay to “retreat into competence”. In the face of a challenge that seems insurmountable, taking a step back to see how for you’ve come and what you have accomplished is okay. While retreating into competence can be the right prescription for times like these, it is important to use the traction gained while retreating to propel yourself beyond where you first had stopped.

The title of this pattern almost seems contradictory to the whole concept of becoming a software craftsman. A software craftsman should always seek to move forward in their knowledge and career, why would the authors be telling us to retreat? While being able to continuously march forward indefinitely, steadily increasing project complexity and your responsibilities would be ideal, it almost never works like this in the real world. I find this pattern to be quite important, because without it, it seems that one would be going directly against the principles of a software craftsman to step back from a problem and retreat into competence.

One thing to note is I feel like it is especially easy to fall back on this pattern too much. If you consistently find yourself pressing the “eject” button whenever you reach a problem you might not know how to solve yet how will you ever go forward. It is important to set constraints on how long you can retreat in order to protect yourself from truly going against the principles of software craftsmanship and living a career filled with mediocrity. This is a powerful pattern, use it responsibly.

I feel like this pattern can be used in many situations in order to get over hurdles in one’s career that seem too great. Allowing yourself to create things you feel comfortable developing can help you regain faith in yourself and software development as a career. This is a pattern I have used myself and have seen great success with. When I find myself lost or over my head with a given problem, I like to solve small programming challenges, sometimes referred to as kata, in order to instill confidence in myself and remind myself how much I have improved over my career.

 

From the blog CS@Worcester – Your Friendly Neighborhood Programming Blog by John Pacheco and used with permission of the author. All other rights reserved by the author.