Mori: v1.6.7 Post-Mortem and Upcoming Changes

Well, it looks like the latest toolbar fix has finally stuck. There were actually a few, very subtle interrelated items, and some procedural issues that cascaded into others. Code was shifted around hither and yon, resulting in elimination of two of a main class’ instance variables and simplification of logic in several methods.

Speaking of which, I’d really love to try out Xcode3’s new refactoring tools, but that would mean

  1. spending more time in Leopard, which freezes on me,
  2. and spending more time in Xcode3, whose text editing I already loathe.

I will need to investigate how well refactoring works in TextMate (which I already own and use from time to time when bumping against some other Xcode2 limitation.)

The pressure cooker development level of the past couple of weeks really put the development process here through the wringer. Some things held up. Some things fell apart. So more ‘behind the scenes’ development is going to take place here to minimize the interference caused by the mismatch between what needs to be done and what the tools require me to do next.

    Some observations of the release’s development:

  1. The primary, agile-based, processes were abandoned in the panic over the continued toolbar problems and Leopard incompatibilities.
    There was no established process for handling emergencies, so the chaotic edit-compile-test behavior resurfaced. This is not to be repeated.Corrective Measures: A plan of action for dealing with emergencies must be established. Exercises and drills prepared and performed so the proper outcome occurs next time.
  2. Users seemed to be unaware, or unconvinced, of my plans for Leopard.
    Although I had made statements regarding the planned support for Leopard, it was only in response to questioning by users. I had failed to provide information ahead of time and prominently.Corrective Measures: While users refer to the forum when there are questions or they have some issue to resolve, they refer to the blog constantly. It’s best to have already disclosed plans so users have time to assimilate needed info and prepare accordingly. Blog. Blog. Blog. Forum posting: link to blog. Then blog.
  3. Unit testing got skipped.
    It was unavoidable given the current process because tests didn’t cover the critical issue being developed: the user interface (i.e., toolbar items and empty windows).Corrective Measures: Mock objects are inadequate to sufficiently test the UI. For all my blustering that the UI is testable, it’s clearly time I seek or develop the necessary tools and put them to use.
  4. Subversion is a win, but it’s an ugly win.
    Being able to restore files, or the project, of a particular beta or release build, or of a particular date and time, is great. Being able to make wholesale changes to the project, then abandoning them, or keeping them along a separate branch to continue experiments at a later date without juggling project directories here and there, is great. Being able to merge or contrast multiple working project directories from separate environments (Tiger, Leopard, laptop, and the v1.6.3 release) quickly and easily, is great.Nibs saved as a smattering of files in the repository: not so great. Confusing subversion with its own metadata when copying/adding directories: not so great. Performing an add/delete when moving or copying directories and files instead of adding “move” or “copy” semantics to the system: not so great. Poor integration mechanism for multiple offline revisions: not so great.

    SCM is great. I’ve used CVS for years. I’ve even set up another project or two using Subversion before I bought Mori and Clockwork from Jesse. But I don’t see where it’s an obviously better package than CVS, but perhaps that’s because I’ve learned to work around CVS’ shortcomings. (Reviewing the feature list at, the only practical feature I see that means anything to someone actually using Subversion is command-level manipulation of directories, although the handling of renames is poor. Hrmm. And svn+ssh access to the repository, with Xcode integration even!)

    Corrective Measures: For the time being, the messiness of the metadata in copies and moves will have to remain unsettled. As long as the structure ends up correct, and it doesn’t take long to get it to that state, it remains tolerable in the face of bigger issues. A procedure must be established to handle the circumstance where developers are offline and must “commit” in some manner which is transferrable to the repository when they are back online.

  5. Debugging is severely inadequate for professional-grade development.
    Can you tell Apple’s team has a severe case of he-man, mouse-haters club insecurities? (Either that, or they’re operating in crunch mode so much, they don’t have time to develop the appropriate tools. Nah!) The debugging facilities they provide for developers operate primarily through the use of environment variables, console output and functions and output which require gdb to access.ZeroLink didn’t work well and was abandoned; Fix and Continue is still problematic; and the vaunted debug libraries (to help you catch errors in the parameters passed to the AppKit and Foundation libraries) hasn’t worked right since 10.4.3.

    My own debugging facilities are rudimentary and lacking in depth. More of the failures in the field should be communicated back to me (remember Safari’s ‘bug’ button?). The crash reporting mechanism should work when the crash occurs, not the next time Mori runs. Also, exceptions are logged to the console, but otherwise go unnoticed by Mori and the user.

    Corrective Measures: Extend the runtime monitoring and browsing tools. Rewrite the crash reporting mechanism to activate when the application terminates. Add an exception handler which sends reports back. Develop proper high-level debugging tools for Objective-C, the UI, CoreData and Bindings. Coding takes place at a higher level. Debugging should be at least at that same level. -fobjc-gc exists for a reason. Take advantage of it!

  6. The build process is inconsistent, confused and unstable.
    The various plugins’ build settings aren’t consistent. Extraneous resources (images, sounds, etc.) are stored in the nibs. At times the build directory must be purged for a functioning executable to be built.Corrective Measures: A Build Settings Table has already been prepared and Mori and its plugins have had their settings documented. The settings for the Blocks plugins has yet to be documented. The effect of some settings has to be determined, which can then be propagated to the targets as appropriate. The project file should be purged of duplicated actions, unnecessary references, etc.
  7. Debugging Mori when it’s used for normal work results in too much human activity thrashing.
    Because the debug and test versions use the same preferences/file settings, the release version used for normal work had to be exited to avert data corruption in the notebooks.Corrective Measures: This issue was resolved with the Oneill branch. However, that uses a separate target to achieve its distinction. Some means of specifying a special bundle id for the debug and test builds must be developed to accomplish a similar effect, perhaps through preprocessing the Info.plist.
  8. Checklists are great
    Being able to state that processes are being followed, builds are complete, and updates were released correctly, is great.Corrective Measures: Checklists are great, but scripted procedures are better. Automate as much of every process as possible.
  9. To-Do lists, Getting Things Done (GTD), or whatever Time Management activity that is put into practice definitely helps.
    I’ve got the audio book. Mori’s got the plugin. I’ve got Taskpaper, too. I’ve got a Handspring Visor Edge and its Palm Desktop software. Something, anything, that helps track tasks that need to be done so nothing falls between the cracks is a plus. They are effective at keeping things moving forward, but I’m not efficient at it and a lot of discipline and effort must be used to keep moving things forward.
    Corrective Measure: I used TaskPaper to handle the tracking during this hectic period. I’ve got a blog entry in preparation, but basically, I found it a great way to get into the GTD system due to its simple interface. I must continue developing my understanding of this system to manage my activities, and see about getting the various software/devices integrated better.

Next Batch of Changes

I’ve already begun work on v1.6.8: Improved checking and repair functionality for notebooks. Correct Italian localization, thanks to Mario Pettenghi. The code for the Blocks framework will be tweaked so it compiles without triggering warnings (e.g., unused parameters, missing prototype, etc.). Additional unit testing for the UI, and refactoring of UI code.

These improvements to the code will set up the continuation of progress for v1.7, which should then be ready during the holidays. At least that’s the current goal.

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