glenatron: (Default)
After three painful days of beating my head against the wall I have managed to establish that the OpenSSL implementation in the Windows distribution of Ruby 1.8.4 is completely broken. There are few technical problems more irritating to deal with than a failure in a tool because statistically speaking bugs are far more likely to be down to the programmer, especially when you're working with new tools.

I've rolled back to 1.8.2 and that seems to have done the trick- I still have loads of difficult stuff to do, but at least it's solvable problems now rather than totally impossible ones.

I've also come to the conclusion that there is no point trying to persist as a freelancer- I'm tired of scrabbling around desperately to have enough money to cover the mortgage each month, having to constantly sponge off Lou and never knowing when I'm going to get paid for the work I've already done. Having a bit of control over my own time is all well and good, but having enough money to be able to afford food or new clothes occasionally would be wonderful. Many of my reasons for persisting this long were to do with the band and the chances of that taking off, but in all honesty I don't think I serve them best by starving and not being able to afford to get to gigs, pay for rehearsal or get my round in.

Having made that decision I am feeling a lot happier about the world than I have in a while. I'm going to have a hell of a time finishing up my outstanding jobs, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel which is not necessarily a train.
glenatron: (Default)
I inherited an old and decrepid Dell server yesterday and this afternoon I have managed to replace it's Windows 2000 operating system (which I didn't have the password for) with a nice clean Debian install - I'm still amazed by the miracle of apt-get - so it is now running as a helpful Subversion server for all my version-control requirements. I've been meaning to get this sorted for ages as although it is possible to run a solo development project without version control of some kind ( running a team project this way is asking for disaster ) the ability to find out what changed when and recreate past versions makes life a whole lot easier. There is even a plug-in for Emacs - as I become more competent at software development I am starting to warm to the use of Emacs as a very powerful general purpose text editor. I use it for Ruby and PHP development at the moment as well as general text file work and it just gets better as you get the hang of using it.

Since I started working for me I've been doing bits and bobs of reading on good practice and coding technique - I'm currently reading Code Complete which is good but not revelatory - I wish I had read it about five years ago, though, because much of the stuff I know that's in there, I learned the hard way. The book that impressed me most was The Pragmatic Programmer - absolutely full of excellent advice on becoming a better programmer in every respect but I think you need a bit of commercial experience to gain the full benefit.

I've also learned a lot from a few programmers' blogs, especially the brilliant Coding Horror and Steve Yegge's rants. There is something heartwarming about the shocking incompetence of The Daily WTF as well. It could be worse.

Then again, there is only a little bit of worse left between me and my overdraft limit. You'd think if I was so good at my job that I'd be able to afford to buy food.

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