Thursday, 21 November 2013

TODOs and legacy code

So today I was working on a little side project at work. The project involved trawling through the code base for all TODO's, FIXME's etc and evaluating whether or not the comments were still relevant. It would be worth mentioning here that the product I work on is a large code base that has been live for about 14 years, slowly evolving over that time. There is code that pre-dates all the 'standard' things that I have learned during my university and my work experience so far.

So back to today, I got cracking to see how many things there would be in my list. 1063. Wow, this really felt like a lot. I tried to reason that this was actually not too bad, considering the code base is almost 1 million lines long, but damn if I didn't go and make a brew to consider my task.

Tea in hand I returned to my desk, and started to analyse the results. I was happy to discover that the bulk of the todo comments (~700) were actually a form of annotating that the method was overriding a method in a parent class from before override annotations were a thing.


Boosted by this I set about the remaining comments with increased optimism. This didn't last however as the rest of the TODO's were a weird and wonderful bunch. A few helpful ones that just said nothing, some where you could feel the original developer letting off steam with a useful //TODO NOOOOOOOOOOOOooooOOooOO!!! However just over 200 of the remaining TODO's I had to mark as 'requiring further investigation'. These will be given to the senior developers to look at further.

In all, it took about 5 hours to complete my review and hand it off. The overriding lessons that I took from the exercise was:
  1. Don't write TODO comments
  2. If you have to, you will forget about them before you get back to them
  3. You will write something that makes sense to you then, and only you at that time
So if you ever feel the need to write a TODO, and you really have to, then make it more explicit and verbose  than you think will ever need. Future you, and more than likely some poor soul years down the line, will thank you for it.

Happy commenting,


Wednesday, 13 November 2013

OCAJP 7 Exam

So recently I took and passed the first Oracle certification exam, so I am now an Oracle certified associate Java 7 Programmer. Sounds kind of fancy right?
I have previously completed a Computer Science degree and had almost a year working as a Java developer as my experience going in to the exam room. Before I started revising for the exam, I had the assumption that it would be rather straightforward given all the theoretical knowledge I had from my degree.

How wrong I was.

The exam pretty much requires you to become a (very slow) human compiler. A lot of the mistakes I made in the practice tests were the sort of thing that any IDE would highlight right away, it was rather demoralising at first - getting the technical parts right but tripping over the package statement being after an import statement...
To revise for the test I made extensive use of the Oracle press OCAJP7 revision guide, and the mock exam program from Enthuware. The book was really good for the depth of information it provides, but it just didn't seem to sink in. The mock exams from Enthuware it when it really started to get through to me. The mock tests are a great deal more difficult than the actual exam, I think my highest score on Enthuware was about 65%, and I passed the exam with a score of 85%!

So, has it improved me as a developer? A little. My depth of knowledge is greater now, and arguably it has improved my program design through a greater understanding of polymorphism and inheritance. However I don't think that this is something that would be of benefit if it was taken as a stand alone exam - it needs the practical application and experience to really start to get more from it.

Anyhow, enough rambling for now.


Monday, 11 November 2013

The journey...

Well here we are then. After graduating and spending the last year beginning to learn my trade, I have re-purposed a laptop as a machine to work and learn on outside of the daily grind.
How was it re-purposed? Well it now has a fresh copy of Linux Mint installed, some development tools installed (Git, Eclipse, OpenJDK). I have also copied over some e-books from my PC, and I intend to start to dabble with some C, and maybe some Python just to mix things up.
The intent for this little blog is just to be a place to note my thoughts and learnings as time goes on, and just maybe help someone else learn with me.
Here we go...