set of compromises
Saturday, May 27 2006
setting: Woodland Hills, California
I set up at a little outdoor table by the pool to do my first real work on the project for which I'd come to Los Angeles. I used two computers, the Sony Vaio which I'd brought and a much larger IBM Thinkpad supplied by Luc. Interestingly, though the Thinkpad had a larger screen, weighed more, and took up a lot more room than the Vaio, its screen resolution was no better. For someone with essentially perfect vision, such designs represent a set of compromises made in the wrong direction. I suppose some day I'll be older and my eyes will be faulty and having a sore back will be worth the ability to read my laptop when I flip it open, but that day probably lies in a time when that will be the least of my worries. One thing to be said about this Thinkpad was that it was much newer than my Vaio and did things noticeably faster and without complaint.
More problematic than the hardware (particularly the limited screen real estate) was the language and development environment. I found myself working back in the Microsoft VBscript world of classic ASP, my first server-side scripting language. It had been a good language to learn on given its similarity to Commodore BASIC (a language I had known), but I've long since grown beyond its stifling confines. It's clearly a language designed by for people with limited missions: its file operations only work on text files, its internal objects are inconsistent, certain basic operations require massive work-arounds, and it has a tendency to throw critical errors in for maddening reasons. Mind you, it's nice to be able to leave out dollar signs, curly quotes, and semicolons, but not at the price of, say, not being able to programmatically cycle through an arbitrary number of function arguments.
The application I was using to do my work was Dreamweaver, a WYSIWYG web design environment. Of its many memory-hogging features, the only ones of any use to me were its color-highlighting text editor and its built-in FTP support. I didn't glance at its design view once during a whole day of work. I suppose I should have been using Homesite, the program I use at home, but that would have meant configuring an FTP option and I couldn't be bothered. The most annoying thing about Dreamweaver is its tendency to do search and replace without your having any knowledge how or when it happened. Evidently I hit some magic series of keystrokes at some point and deleted every instance of the word SELECT.
In the afternoon I went on another of my long "I am a robot" walks, reporting back to the mother planet about conditions on the strange Planet of Fossil Energy.
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