The World According to Nick
My take on Software, Technology, Politics, and anything else I feel like talking about.
Friday, May 07, 2004

Programming with Perspective 

Alright, so lately I've been working on the way that our project generates PDF files. Our software actually creates them from scratch without any 3rd party libraries. Its a pain in the ass. PDF's are an amazingly readable format when they're not compressed as it turns out, but they are insanely unforgiving. I struggled most of yesterday with our PDF generation algorithm for gradients. As it turns out we don't have one. I'm adding it in. Every time I created a PDF, and tried to open it, it gave the now very familiar error "There was an error opening this document. The file is damaged and could not be repaired." That's it. Your file is screwed up. No line number. No reason why its bad. Nothing. As it turns out I had an extra space between a / and a command. That's it. I was about ready to tear out my hair. I complained a lot yesterday to the guys in my group. Imagine compiling a 1000 line C# file and having it say, there is a problem somewhere in your file. Thank you for using Microsoft. Of course they all sympathized.

But that was yesterday. Today I was sitting around with some of the other guys in my group and we were all reminiscing about computing days of yore. Of course compared to most of them I'm just a kid. My first computer was an IBM PC XT. Most of these guys remember using punch cards. So Tom started talking about some machine he remembered working with... I'll paraphrase what he said.

So we would thumb in the bootstrapper using the toggle switches. Then you'd get out the text editor tape and feed in the tape at 10 characters per second. That was really fast too. Then you'd feed in the tape for the compiler at 10 characters for second. Then you'd finally get to feed in your source code at 10 characters per second. Of course when you got a compile error you'd have to start over with feeding in the compiler at 10 characters per second... Then we got this super fast auto feeder and we were in heaven.

I just sat there in awe. And here I was complaining about lousy error messages in PDF files? Adobe still stucks of course, but at least now I can put these things in a little more perspective.


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Name: Nick
Home: Wauwatosa, WI, United States

I'm a Software Consultant in the Milwaukee area. Among various geeky pursuits, I'm also an amateur triathlete, and enjoy rock climbing. I also like to think I'm a political pundit.

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