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What are the three most important things non-programmers should know about programming?
 
Written by Brian Knapp, credit and reprint CodeCareerGenius
 
 
Since you asked for the three most important things that non-programmers should know about, and I’ve spent most of my career working with more non-programmers than programmers, I have a few interesting things that would help.
 
Number One - It Is Impossible To Accurately Estimate Software Projects
 
No matter what is tried. No matter what tool, agile approach, or magic fairy dust people try to apply to creating software… accurately predicting software project timelines is basically impossible.
 
There are many good reasons for this. Usually, requirements and feature ideas change on a daily/weekly basis. Often it is impossible to know what needs to be done without actually digging into the code itself. Debugging and QA can take an extraordinary amount of time.
 
And worst of all…
 
Project Managers are always pushing for shorter timelines. They largely have no respect for reality. So, at some point they are given estimates just to make them feel better about planning.
 
No matter how much planning and estimation you do, it will be wrong. At best it will be directionally correct +/- 300% of what you estimated. So, a one year project could actually take anywhere between 0 and 5 years, maybe even 10 years.
 
If you think I’m joking, look at how many major ERP projects that go over time and over budget by many years and many hundreds of millions of dollars. Look at the F-35 fighter jet software issues.
 
Or in the small, you can find many cases where a “simple bug fix” can take days when you thought it was hours.
 
All estimates are lies made up to make everyone feel better. I’ve never met a developer or manager who could accurately estimate software projects even as well as the local weatherman(or woman) predicts the weather.
 
Number Two - Productivity Is Unevenly Distributed
 
What if I told you that in the average eight hour work day the majority of the work will get done in a 30 minute timeframe? Sound crazy?
 
Well, for most programmers there is a 30–90 minute window where you are extraordinarily productive. We call this the flow state.
 
Being in the flow state is wonderful and amazing. It often is where the “magic” of building software happens.
 
Getting into flow can be difficult. It’s akin to meditation in that you have to have a period of uninterrupted focus of say 30 minutes to “get in” the flow, but a tiny interruption can pull you right out.
 
Now consider the modern workplace environment. Programmers work in open office environments where they are invited to distract each other constantly.
 
Most people need a 1–2 hour uninterrupted block to get 30–90 minutes of flow.
 
Take the 8 hour day and break it in half with a lunch break, and then pile in a few meetings and all of a sudden you are lucky to get one decent flow state session in place.
 
That is why I say that most of the work that gets done happens in a 30 minute timeframe. The other 7–8 hours are spent being distracted, answering email, going to meetings, hanging around the water cooler, going to the bathroom, and trying to remember what you were working on before all these distractions.
 
Ironically, writers, musicians, and other creative professionals have their own version of this problem and largely work alone and away from other people when they are creating new things.
 
Someday the programming world might catch on, but I doubt it.
 
Even if this became obvious, it doesn’t sit well with most companies to think that programmers would be paid for an 8 hour day and only be cranking out code for a few hours on a good day. Some corporate middle manager would probably get the bright idea to have mandatory flow state training where a guru came in and then there would be a corporate policy from a pointy haired boss mandating that programmers are now required to spend 8 hours a day in flow state and they must fill out forms to track their time and notify their superiors of their flow state activities, otherwise there would be more meetings about the current flow state reports not being filed correctly and that programmers were spending too much time “zoning out” instead of being in flow.
 
Thus, programmers would spent 7–8 hours a day pretending to be in flow state, reporting on their progress, and getting all their work done in 30 minutes of accidental flow state somewhere in the middle of all that flow state reporting.
 
If you think I’m joking about this, I’m not. I promise you this is what would happen to any company of more than 2 employees. (Even the ones run by programmers.)
 
Number Three - It Will Cost 10x What You Think
 
Being a programmer, I get a lot of non-programmers telling me about their brilliant app ideas. Usually they want me to build something for free and are so generous as to pay me up to 5% of the profits for doing 100% of the work.
 
Their ideas are just that good.
 
Now, I gently tell them that I’m not interested in building anything for free.
 
At that point they get angry, but a few ask how much it will cost. I give them a reasonable (and very incorrect) estimate of what it would cost to create the incredibly simple version of their app idea.
 
Let’s say it’s some number like $25,000.
 
They look at me like I’m a lunatic, and so I explain how much it costs to hire a contract programmer and how long it will actually take. For example’s sake let’s say it is $100/hr for 250 hours.
 
To be clear, these are made up numbers and bad estimates (See Number One for details…)
 
In actuality, to build the actual thing they want might cost $250,000, or even $2,500,000 when it’s all said and done.
 
Building software can be incredibly complex and expensive. What most people can’t wrap their head around is the fact that a company like Google, Apple, or Microsoft has spent BILLIONS of dollars to create something that looks so simple to the end user.
 
Somehow, the assumption is that something that looks simple is cheap and fast to build.
 
Building something simple and easy for the end user is time consuming and expensive. Most people just can’t do it.
 
So, the average person with a brilliant app idea thinks it will cost a few hundred or maybe a few thousand dollars to make and it will be done in a weekend is so off the mark it’s not worth considering their ideas.
 
And programmers are too eager to play along with these bad ideas (by making bad estimates and under charging for their time) that this notion is perpetuated to the average non-programmer.
 
So, a good rule of thumb is that software will cost 10 times as much as you think and take 10 times as long to finish.
 
And that leads to a bonus point…
 
BONUS - Software Is Never Done
 
Programmers never complete a software project, they only stop working on it. Software is never done.
 
I’ve worked at many software companies and I’ve never seen a software project “completed”.
 
Sure, software gets released and used. But, it is always changing, being updated, bugs get fixed, and there are always new customer requests for features.
 
Look at your favorite software and you’ll quickly realize how true this is. Facebook, Instagram, Google Search, Google Maps, GMail, iOS, Android, Windows, and now even most video games are never done.
 
There are small armies of developers just trying to keep all the software you use every day stable and bug free. Add on the fact that there are always feature requests, small changes, and new platforms to deal with, it’s a treadmill.
 
So, the only way out of the game is to stop working on software. At that point, the software begins to decay until it is no longer secure or supported.
 
Think about old Windows 3.1 software or maybe old Nintendo Cartridge video games. The current computers and video game consoles don’t even attempt to run that software anymore.
 
You can’t put an old video game in your new Nintendo Switch and have it “just work”. That is what happens when you think software is done.
 
When programmers stop working on software the software starts to die. The code itself is probably fine, but all the other software keeps moving forward until your software is no longer compatible with the current technology.
 
So, those are the four most important things that non-programmers should know about programming. I know you asked for only three, so I hope the bonus was valuable to you as well.

Checking to see if a directory exists and then creating it if it is not present requires a few lines of code.  Isn't Python great. enlightened  Begin by importing the os module and use the exists and makedirs functions.

 

import os

if os.path.exists(somedirectory):
   os.makedirs(somedirectory)



In programming, memory leaks are a common issue, and it occurs when a computer uses memory but does not give it back to the operating system. Experienced programmers have the ability to diagnose a leak based on the symptoms. Some believe every undesired increase in memory usage is a memory leak, but this is not an accurate representation of a leak. Certain leaks only run for a short time and are virtually undetectable.

Memory Leak Consequences

Applications that suffer severe memory leaks will eventually exceed the memory resulting in a severe slowdown or a termination of the application.

How to Protect Code from Memory Leaks?

Preventing memory leaks in the first place is more convenient than trying to locate the leak later. To do this, you can use defensive programming techniques such as smart pointers for C++.  A smart pointer is safer than a raw pointer because it provides augmented behavior that raw pointers do not have. This includes garbage collection and checking for nulls.

If you are going to use a raw pointer, avoid operations that are dangerous for specific contexts. This means pointer arithmetic and pointer copying. Smart pointers use a reference count for the object being referred to. Once the reference count reaches zero, the excess goes into garbage collection. The most commonly used smart pointer is shared_ptr from the TR1 extensions of the C++ standard library.

Static Analysis

The second approach to memory leaks is referred to as static analysis and attempts to detect errors in your source-code. CodeSonar is one of the effective tools for detection. It provides checkers for the Power of Ten coding rules, and it is especially competent at procedural analysis. However, some might find it lagging for bigger code bases.

How to Handle a Memory Leak

For some memory leaks, the only solution is to read through the code to find and correct the error. Another one of the common approaches to C++ is to use RAII, which an acronym for Resource Acquisition Is Initialization. This approach means associating scoped objects using the acquired resources, which automatically releases the resources when the objects are no longer within scope. RAII has the advantage of knowing when objects exist and when they do not. This gives it a distinct advantage over garbage collection. Regardless, RAII is not always recommended because some situations require ordinary pointers to manage raw memory and increase performance. Use it with caution.

The Most Serious Leaks

Urgency of a leak depends on the situation, and where the leak has occurred in the operating system. Additionally, it becomes more urgent if the leak occurs where the memory is limited such as in embedded systems and portable devices.

To protect code from memory leaks, people have to stay vigilant and avoid codes that could result in a leak. Memory leaks continue until someone turns the system off, which makes the memory available again, but the slow process of a leak can eventually prejudice a machine that normally runs correctly.

 

Related:

The Five Principles of Performance

In Demand IT Skills

The earning potential of a software developer largely depends on their knowledge, their chosen area of expertise, experience and flexibility to relocate if necessary.  In the ever changing landscape of Information Technology, many argue that the way to make more money is to specialize in a technology that fewer people are using.  As an example, there are tons of Java programmers out there, but nowhere near enough in lesser known languages such as Perl or Python.  However, there are plenty of opportunities for folks who are willing to burn the midnight oil to gain skills in these niche disciplines.

 

Because the Information Technology Industry is a rapidly evolving entity, gunning for the "Next Big Thing" is constantly an arm’s length away.  For this reason, developers looking to get requisite knowledge to successfully compete can, for the most part, expect to resign their weekends for the LOVE of code and studying.   And, it’s fair to say that a stick-to-itiveness to teach yourself how to code can be more important than any degree when job prospecting.  Sam Nichols, a mobile developer at SmugMug, puts it this way: “Build a table, build a computer, build a water gun, build a beer bong, build things that will take a week and build things that need to be done in 40 minutes before the party. Making stuff is what this field is all about and getting experience building things, especially with others, especially when it breaks and fails along the way can help with perspective and resiliency.”

Software developers already skilled at writing code are readily able to translate that knowledge to web development. The fact that the information technology sector has shifted largely to web-based infrastructure and software application as system (SaaS) database and operating system capabilities, means that software developers have a wide variety of opportunity in the web development segment of the consulting and job market.

If you are a software developer seeking to increase your earning potential, gaining expertise in  Web development  enhances your ability to attract new opportunities. The more creative a software developer, the far better chance they will have at benefitting from current market demand for new technologies and software innovation. Customization is hot right now, and software developers involved in the creation of updates and unique features to SaaS can add extra value to their portfolio with very little time and effort involved.

 In order for software developers to stay abreast of their field, continuing education and is required to ensure that technical skills are up-to-date. Gaining knowledge in design of computer applications is one of the main objectives in the development and planning of software products.
Once adequate knowledge has been acquired, many software developers can use those insights to develop custom software for a client as a consultant.

Tech Life in Missouri

Missouri, known as the ?Show Me State?, has a growing science and biotechnology field. One of the largest gene companies, in the U.S. Monsanto, is based in St. Louis. The higher education system is governed by the Missouri Department of Education and includes 13 four-year universities and 20 two-year colleges.
We learn to do by doing. Spencer W. Kimball
other Learning Options
Software developers near Blue Springs have ample opportunities to meet like minded techie individuals, collaborate and expend their career choices by participating in Meet-Up Groups. The following is a list of Technology Groups in the area.
Fortune 500 and 1000 companies in Missouri that offer opportunities for CompTIA developers
Company Name City Industry Secondary Industry
Patriot Coal Corporation Saint Louis Agriculture and Mining Mining and Quarrying
Solutia Inc. Saint Louis Manufacturing Chemicals and Petrochemicals
Monsanto Company Saint Louis Agriculture and Mining Agriculture and Mining Other
Kansas City Power and Light Company Kansas City Energy and Utilities Gas and Electric Utilities
The Laclede Group, Inc. Saint Louis Energy and Utilities Gas and Electric Utilities
Peabody Energy Corporation Saint Louis Agriculture and Mining Mining and Quarrying
Emerson Electric Company Saint Louis Manufacturing Tools, Hardware and Light Machinery
Energizer Holdings, Inc. Saint Louis Manufacturing Manufacturing Other
Centene Corporation Saint Louis Healthcare, Pharmaceuticals and Biotech Healthcare, Pharmaceuticals, and Biotech Other
Express Scripts Saint Louis Healthcare, Pharmaceuticals and Biotech Pharmaceuticals
Reinsurance Group of America, Incorporated Chesterfield Financial Services Insurance and Risk Management
Ameren Corporation Saint Louis Energy and Utilities Gas and Electric Utilities
DST Systems, Inc. Kansas City Computers and Electronics Networking Equipment and Systems
Inergy, L.P. Kansas City Energy and Utilities Alternative Energy Sources
Leggett and Platt, Incorporated Carthage Manufacturing Furniture Manufacturing
Cerner Corporation Kansas City Software and Internet Software
O'Reilly Automotive, Inc. Springfield Retail Automobile Parts Stores
AMC Theatres Kansas City Media and Entertainment Motion Picture Exhibitors
Sigma-Aldrich Corporation Saint Louis Manufacturing Chemicals and Petrochemicals
HandR Block Kansas City Financial Services Securities Agents and Brokers
Graybar Services, Inc. Saint Louis Wholesale and Distribution Wholesale and Distribution Other
Edward Jones Saint Louis Financial Services Personal Financial Planning and Private Banking
Arch Coal, Inc. Saint Louis Energy and Utilities Alternative Energy Sources
Brown Shoe Company, Inc. Saint Louis Retail Clothing and Shoes Stores
Ralcorp Holdings, Inc. Saint Louis Manufacturing Food and Dairy Product Manufacturing and Packaging

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the hartmann software group advantage
A successful career as a software developer or other IT professional requires a solid understanding of software development processes, design patterns, enterprise application architectures, web services, security, networking and much more. The progression from novice to expert can be a daunting endeavor; this is especially true when traversing the learning curve without expert guidance. A common experience is that too much time and money is wasted on a career plan or application due to misinformation.

The Hartmann Software Group understands these issues and addresses them and others during any training engagement. Although no IT educational institution can guarantee career or application development success, HSG can get you closer to your goals at a far faster rate than self paced learning and, arguably, than the competition. Here are the reasons why we are so successful at teaching:

  • Learn from the experts.
    1. We have provided software development and other IT related training to many major corporations in Missouri since 2002.
    2. Our educators have years of consulting and training experience; moreover, we require each trainer to have cross-discipline expertise i.e. be Java and .NET experts so that you get a broad understanding of how industry wide experts work and think.
  • Discover tips and tricks about CompTIA programming
  • Get your questions answered by easy to follow, organized CompTIA experts
  • Get up to speed with vital CompTIA programming tools
  • Save on travel expenses by learning right from your desk or home office. Enroll in an online instructor led class. Nearly all of our classes are offered in this way.
  • Prepare to hit the ground running for a new job or a new position
  • See the big picture and have the instructor fill in the gaps
  • We teach with sophisticated learning tools and provide excellent supporting course material
  • Books and course material are provided in advance
  • Get a book of your choice from the HSG Store as a gift from us when you register for a class
  • Gain a lot of practical skills in a short amount of time
  • We teach what we know…software
  • We care…
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