As a developer, the thing I probably prize above all else is an environment (both physical and virtual) where I can concentrate. Anything that distracts me from the task at hand is, at best, an annoyance: at worst it can cause a significant amount of wasted time while I try to recover my train of thought.
Distractions in the physical world are generally fairly obvious in nature. Personally I find other peoples’ taste in music to be particularly irritating. That is to say, I love listening to music while I work, but I want to be able to choose it myself. I find the situation at my current job less than ideal, since it has been decided (after much debate) that there must be music on at all times. So I have to be able to concentrate not only while ‘enjoying’ someone else’s taste in music, but also their head-bobbing, table-drumming and off-key humming. And since it’s Pandora, I get to hear the same tracks on rotation day after day after day. Hurray!
It makes me pine for the days when I worked freelance — no unwanted music, no unprompted chats with co-workers, no four-hour discussion meetings with no discernable aim or outcome. Ah, those were the days!
Anyway, today it’s not an overdose of Radiohead that’s grinding my gears. No, today I’m battling with virtual irritations.
First up, there’s Windows XP. I managed to resist the lure of XP for a long time, clinging to Windows 2000 like a child to its security blanket. But it had to happen eventually, and oh how I wish I could go back. Both at home and at work, explorer grinds to a halt at least two or three times every day. In itself it’s not a huge problem — CTRL+ALT+DEL, kill explorer, then run it again. It’s the fact that I usually have at least half a dozen file windows open at any given time, which disappear when explorer dies, that causes the grief. And half my tray icons disappear, even though their associated apps are still running somewhere, invisibly, in the background. And on top of that, my network connection/DNS has a habit of going to sleep every few hours, and only a ‘repair’ will wake it up.
Then there’s Subversion. Now, I think SVN is a great thing, I really do. But the Windows integration (via TortoiseSVN) seems to have a real problem (eg. large directory listings freezing for minutes at a time while the icons update), such that I basically have to disable most functionality just to get any work done. Mainly it’s to do with the icon overlays that TortoiseSVN uses to show file status. It still works when they’re disabled but without them, it’s a laborious task to spot added/changed files.
Finally there’s Firefox 2. It’s no secret that I’m an ardent FF evangelist, but this release seems to me to be the least stable I’ve ever tried — and I’ve been using it since the Phoenix days. I’ve found that some sites are simply off-limits, because (as far as I can tell) certain Flash content causes FF to take up 99% of the CPU, and essentially lock up solid. No doubt one of the many extensions I’m using is to blame — or at least that’s the stock answer you get if you try to get any sense out of the Mozilla forums. But I’m not using any extensions that I wasn’t using in FF 1.5.x, which never exhibited this problem. I’m seriously tempted to uninstall FF2 and re-install the latest update of 1.5.
What’s the point of this rant? Sorry: there isn’t one, it’s just a rant.