Developer Week in Review: Java on trial

The trial of the century continues, cat feeders and coding, and PHP sites at risk.

They told me I could be anything when I grew up, so I became the president of a charity. This week, I got to learn all the ins and outs of incorporating a non-profit, so I’ve been a wee bit distracted. On the other hand, setting up the corporation website finally gave me a chance to play around with Drupal, something I’ve been meaning to do for a while.

This week, on the People’s Court …

Who needs Phoenix Wright when you can get all the courtroom drama you want right in your browser? The battle of the titans — AKA Oracle vs Google — has moved out of the copyright phase (after a partial win for Oracle), and into the patent phase.

There’s a lot at stake here, on many levels. A loss by Google would throw the entire future of the Android OS into doubt as well as have some dire implications for what is and isn’t intellectual property. On a broader level, it’s disturbing to see the degree to which the field of software engineering is starting to be controlled by nine lay people sitting in a courtroom, rather than by things such as innovation and creativity.

Cat feeders as a metaphor for good software design

Here’s a dandy little essay by Stack Overflow founder Jeff Atwood, in which he uses the improvements made between generations of automatic cat feeders as an example of how attention to detail in software design is key.

Atwood makes a very good point. The most functional app in the world is going to drive users crazy if it doesn’t do the little things right. This is one of my most frequent criticisms of open source projects: They get the application functional and leave it at that, not bothering to make it actually usable. Of course, commercial software products can suffer the same problems, so don’t think I’m singling out open source alone.

PHP coder, patch thy server!

For the second time, the PHP development team is attempting to patch a severe security hole in the popular web scripting language. Security issues with PHP are particularly nasty, since the language powers some of the most popular web packages, including (eep) Drupal, WordPress and Joomla.

What makes things worse is that many people use third-party web hosting companies and are thus at the mercy of their hosting provider to update the underlying PHP version. Until then, their sites will be be open season for the script kiddies.

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