in a vast echoing space


LooseDetective and I completed our project for Software Engineering Thursday night. It was due at midnight, but I didn’t get it e-mailed off until 00:02:55 Friday; multitasking live sound for a band at the student bar* and frantically debugging a JTable model does that to you.

LARS — Like a Rental System — was a huge undertaking, and I’m still not quite sure how we managed to finish it at all, even a couple minutes late. The topic of the course was software engineering: the process by which software is designed in relation to its development cycle. As a class, we were tasked with the architecture of a video store rental system, and split off into self-selected teams to execute it. Thanks to the Asian professor’s thick accent, none of us clued into the fact he really wanted us to implement the system until about a month before its due date; even still, Loose and I didn’t actually sit down and start writing code until last Sunday afternoon.

Still, I’m fairly happy with how it turned out: despite what one might think, there are very few really hackish parts to be found in the codebase (probably to Loose’s dismay, due to the amount of extra time consumed in doing it “the right way”); actually, at the moment, I can’t think of a really good example of one. The design went through several changes as development progressed; the largest similarity can be found between the original design documents and the finished product in the data structures. Its largest issue is severe over-engineering: earlier in the semester, when we weren’t aware that we’d have to implement LARS, we designed an excessive number of features into it, including the ability for some items to be rentable, others just purchasable; price modifiers, allowing the modification of purchase/rental price and rental duration on a per-item basis; and a couple other things like that. In retrospect, had we known that we’d have to implement it, we probably wouldn’t have done that, but I do feel I was the driving factor in adding those, which makes me a bit guilty of the added work put on both of us.

Despite the crunch and stress associated with completing a 4,500-line-of-code project in five days, I’m not sure I, at least, would have been motivated to complete it had I started it any sooner: I feel like I would’ve put it off with thoughts of “oh, that’s started, I can finish that later” and then would’ve ended up rushing to get most of it done in two or three days and made an utter mess of it. But I don’t know; this is the first big project I’ve worked on side-by-side with another coder since Slyf and I did the Smiths Falls Chamber of Commerce website in 2008 (which I won’t link to, as it’s since had its interesting functionality gutted). That was an interesting aspect: even though I didn’t see this article until yesterday, I was most definitely the guy in a room. One may argue that that’s OK in a crunch-time scenario where the others involved don’t have experience with Methodology A or Technology B but I still feel badly about it, and it’s not the first time I’ve noticed this sort of thing: even though Rinnly and I don’t work side-by-side in the same codebase, I feel there are times where I’ve held up project progression or at least hindered teamwork with the magic words “no don’t worry about how x is going to work, I’ll take care of it”.

Anyway, it’s done now. All teams are to present their finished work to the professor (and, as I understand it, the class) tomorrow morning; as over-engineered as ours is, I think we can manage to show its ins and outs pretty quickly and still manage to impress. And then we wait for the mark — it would really suck if the almost-three minutes late does count against us and we get a 15% deduction on what may be an otherwise-perfect submission.

* Speaking of which, Adam and Steve did an absolutely fantastic job and I can’t wait until they next perform. Hopefully they don’t get the clever idea of doing a run of concerts over summer while I’m not here (please? Please don’t?).

Years later edit: I’ve converted the project’s Subversion repository to Git and uploaded it to GitHub.

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