Tuesday, 31 January 2012

How about a Raspberry Pi in Pink?

I recently tweeted @Raspberry_Pi: "do you think r-pi will encourage more women into programming? we need more women programmers- they are threatening to clone me!" With the kind response of  "We really hope so. Needs playground/kitchen table level changes, though; we're open to ideas on how to help."  (Are they referring to more women programmers or they clearly don't know me, if they are hoping I'll be cloned!! ha ha!)

Now surely a female in the software engineering world would have an idea on how to help.  You'd think, wouldn't you?  But the best idea I can come up with is a limited edition Pink Pi.  A bit stereotyped isn't it?  Or is it?  As there is no real reason for me to be in such a small minority, can it only come to culture, as I've mentioned previously there is a higher number of female programmers in other countries.  If it's a cultural thing then how can you say "hey girls/ladies/dudettes/chappess, it's OK for you to like computers and 'have a go', after all most men just make it up as they go along anyway!!"  What better way then to use colour, after all since being a baby we have been conditioned into thinking that pink is for girls.

I'd like a pink r-pi!!  It would be so cool!  I'm also wondering if with the "buy one - give one" scheme, if I can purposely say that mine goes to a female, perhaps even with the offer of me being their mentor if they'd like.

And of course I can always get my act together and start writing some open source for the pi....

With so much web traffic passing by here, maybe you have an idea?  If you do please comment!


Monday, 30 January 2012

Slice Of Raspberry Pi?

I am massively excited about the recent excitement of the Raspberry Pi!

Wow!  Kids of today will be able to get their hands on this little gadget, they'll be able to learn and play, and perhaps hopefully learn how to program the little things.  Why is this so exciting to me?  Well let me tell you my tale.....

Where did it all begin for me in this world of programming?  In a land, far far away on a Radio Shack  TRS-80   16k extended memory.  I was in primary school, and I loved playing Frogger, Cuthbert in the Jungle, phantom slayer and similar.  Oh the memories!

For those too young to remember, this was one of the early home computers, and games were loaded via a tape player connected to the computer and by typing the command "cloadm".  It normally took 5-20 minutes to load into memory.  Only one game could be loaded at one time and when you switched it off it cleared the memory, so if you had a high score on a game you tried to keep the computer on for a long as you could, without your mum noticing!!  It also meant if you typed the wrong thing and it all went funny you could just switch it off and on again and all was previously forgotten and back to a clean slate.

"So what! Kids today have computers to play games!" You say?  The difference was with a computer back then it only started up with a command line, nothing to click, no options to anything and you had to know what to type for it to do anything.  It would start with only knowing the command to load a game.  Then it moved on to typing "cls 2", oh the sheer excitement of seeing the colour of the screen change colour.  For me I wanted to know more, I was just old enough to read and it came with these huge books that taught you about the computer and what you could type into it.  I would follow the little tutorials and get all excited that I'd made the computer do something that I'd asked.

These books taught me how to program.  Did I mention I was in primary school?  See it really isn't difficult to get the hang of the basics.  So much so that years later, when I came to learn algebra at school, it was really simple for me, after all I'd already learnt the likes of:

10 print 'Hello, what's your name?'
20 input a$
30 print 'Hello ' + a$
40 print 'How old are you?'
50 input b
55 c = b + 10
60 print 'In 10 years time you will be ' + c + ' years old'

I also learnt how to refactor at this age, from this :

10 cls 0
20 cls 1
30 cls 2
40 cls 3
50 cls 4
60 cls 5
70 cls 6
80 cls 7
90 cls 8
100 goto 10

turned into

10 for a = 0 to 8
20 cls a
30 next a
40 goto 10

And now look at me I've made a career out of things I learnt when I was 9!!  As have so many other programmers.  It has always seemed that everyone in this industry is my age, as if it were our generation that was captivated by being able to tell a computer what to do.  And here I raise a glass to the Raspberry Pi and hope it inspires and grasps the imagination of everyone everywhere!!

I can't wait for my little slice of Raspberry Pi.... and what it potentially holds for the future of software development.... xx

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Lack of female programmers...

I am a self confessed girlie geek. I might well get excited about the new version of android or getting a job where I can use a new trendy language commercially, but I still love spending time at the beauticians.  And today I am wondering the trivial question of what colour to have my nails painted this time. In fact yesterday in work I looked at my nails and almost (I say almost) asked that very question of my work colleagues. Then quickly thought twice about it, as the boys I work with would not understand. And yet again I let out a sigh about the lack of female programmers.

In my 15 year career, I have worked with very very few female programmers, and I'm still confused to why that is. Also,in my experience those ladies were doing their job, but I never felt they had a true passion for the works of programming as I do.

Ok, first question I hear you ask is why do we need more female programmers? Putting aside the simple fact that I'd like that 2 minute conversation every now and then about shoes and nails in work, there are many other reasons why we need more of a feminine touch in the software world.  I'll tell you something too, everyone agrees with me, and all the men in the industry want more women in their working environment.

It baffles me, and I probably have to hasten to add it's the lack of female programmers in the UK, as I hear there are a bigger percentage of women working in the sector in India.  It can only come down to a cultural thing.  When I was in primary school, my dad bought me a computer; a TRS-80 16k, none the less!  And father Christmas would always accidentally leave me a "boys toy".  I loved my hot wheels and scaletrix.... and I think that's part of the reason I have never felt like I can't do anything just because I'm a girl.  A side note is needed here:  I loved my Barbie dolls more than any other toy, I was never a tom boy!

Maybe that has nothing to do with it, and maybe I shouldn't even worry about the percentages, it's never caused me problems in my career.  After all I've always got along with men better than women.  Even most of my female friends say they get along with men better.  I don't know what that means!!

Coincidently, while at the car show room and talking to the female car sales rep, she told me she prefers working with men, as it's less bitchy.  I wonder what it would be like working with less men and more women.  One thing is for sure, someone shouldn't feel like they can't do something just because of their gender.

Anyway.... I decided to get my nails painted red today! xx

Friday, 27 January 2012

Why Write A Blog?

There are many reasons to write a blog.  One of which is to get attention!  Another is share ideas..... and of course another is to get your voice heard.  And I'd like to add another to that list, I'd like to improve my English skills.

These days we have little reason to write "essays", in fact with facebook and twitter we are so used to just writing our thoughts and feelings in a simple sentence to be heard, but seldom do we write paragraphs and pages of our thoughts, expressions, and perhaps sometimes just our own pure waffle.  

Hand written letters are virtually unheard of now a days, yet when I was a student my main point of contact with the outside world (outside the student union that is!) was to hand write letters to my friends and get all excited when I would receive 7 letters in one day.  These days I barely email my friends, either I text them, comment on their status or of course see them!  I may be a geek but I get out and about too!

So, by now you may well be asking, why start now?  Why is keeping up your English skills so important in the world of micro blogging?  Especially to a Software Engineer.  Why would a Software Engineer want to improve their language skills?  Do I just work in the world of logic, maths, variables named 'a' and a bunch of computer statements, and such things that don't make much sense to those who don't understand 'code'?  Simply put no.

I work in the world of creating, using artist flare, almost poetic like writings, in order to not only tell the computer what I'd like it to do, but also the next person who comes to look at my code.  I feel it is of equal importance that the next reader of my work can understand exactly what it is I'm trying to achieve in my writings to the computer.

That's an important statement, as so many people fall short of remembering that we work as a team.  In a land of thousands and thousands of lines of programming code, why do we add more complexity than necessary?  Why do we feel the need to "encode" what we are trying to do? and why do we almost force someone else to figure out what we were thinking.  Why don't we just tell them?  

Are some of you out there currently thinking that I'm talking about comments?  Comments?  Comments should be banned!!  Comments are evil!  They are noise, sometimes inaccurate, sometimes confusing and sometimes just damn wrong!!  Sometimes left over from old code, that has since been deleted and left the code base.  They are rarely compiled and tested to ensure their accuracy.  And hey code isn't a foreign language, we shouldn't need to put in a little translation, we should make our code English and easily understood.  

As Software Engineers we should put in the effort to make sure our code can be easily read.  After all we read code 10 times more often than we write it.

So here we are...... the very reason I am starting to write my blog.  To be able to practise my communication skills, where I don't need to worry about a misplaced ; or a missing end } - which to be fair with such advanced IDEs these days who needs to concern themselves with such trivialities?

First practise over..... xxx