17th level Hacker

Balancing Work and Research

Today most of my time was taken up fooling around with getting the XMLRPC library for the Open Palm Environment at least chugging along. It’s shaping up pretty quick, but I know it will be at least a couple of days worth of work before I have it parsing actual XMLRPC requests. Parts of this are due to my still being pretty recently returned to Palm programming. The work I’ve done on Vagablog is just about the only serious Palm work I’ve done in the last 3 years or so. So I’m still getting back into it. And this is also the first time in a while that I’m starting a low level XML parser from scratch. Normally, when working on desktop systems, writing on top of the expat style stream parser interface isn’t done any more. You use a DOM based interface, or grab one of a number of existing projects and massage it into a new form.

And that’s really what get me thinking along the lines of balancing actually doing new work with running around and looking at what others have done and then integrating it. A lot of what I do is picking up existing peices and hooking them together. Software engineering says this is good, I shouldn’t be rewriting from scratch all the time. And I’m someone who gets lots of reuse out of other people’s projects. I’ve been pounding away on getting the XMLRPC parsing working for only a few hours, and I started wondering why I was getting frusterated with how long it was taking. It’s pretty abnormal for me to be writing something this far down the stack of operations, or at least that’s the first thing that popped to mind. But then I realized that I do a good amount of Linux device driver work, which is certainly low level. I think what has happened is that the last few weeks worth of surfing around at random, reading news, quick comments in this blog, and superficial toying with new projects has already started to take its toll with respect to my attention span. When I think back on it, as recently as 3 months ago it was normal for me to spend a whole week banging away on a new feature or two. But now spending even part of a weekend working towards something has left me on edge. That’s probably not good. What I should do is sit down and actually hack through a good chunk of the projects I’ve been mulling over. It would probably take me a few weeks almost full time just to get through 3 or 4 of them. But at least it would put me back into the right frame of mind.