Going to the "Dark Side"

It's been ages since I last updated this blog. I've been pretty busy for the past month or so, ut it's due to something that I didn't want to do in the first place. Let me tell you a quick story about it.

Earlier this year, I convinced my boss to rewrite our current (and, admittedly, buggy) software from PHP to Ruby on Rails, which would be better suited for the job at hand. Since the boss wants everything to be done fast, good and cheap, obliterating the Project Triangle, then I thought that Rails would do well. I could complete the rewriting task fast (thanks to Rails and its plugins doing almost anything with ease), good (thanks to me starting to love Test-Driven Development) and cheap (less time coding and fixing bugs = more time to implement new features). It seemed like a good fit, and he agreed.

However, a few months later, he hired someone to help me with the programming and database tasks. I desperately needed help, so I agreed to this. The person he hired, a young woman with a Masters Degree in Computer Science who teaches at a local community college, then proceeded to evaluate the current system. After proposing various changes, the boss decided that since so much work needed to be done, he might as well profit out of it, so he wanted to have the program rewritten not only for our internal use, but for commercializing the program as well. His language of choice, due to recommendations from the new employee? Visual Basic.NET. Ugh.

I pleaded with him to reconsider, but his mind was set. He wanted to transfer a PHP web application into a Windows-only desktop app. And his understanding was that since Visual Basic.NET has a nice little form designer, it would be much faster to rewrite the program. I countered these points, but he didn't want to listen to it. He wanted a Windows application he could sell, and the only programming language the other employee knew enough was Visual Basic.NET (yep, even with a Masters Degree in Computer Science, that was her strong point). I was, simply put, screwed.

I have absolutely nothing against Microsoft tools. In fact, I think they're great. I even suggested using C# instead, as it would be a more robust platform to do this type of project. It's simply that I think Visual Basic is something that I used in college to learn the ropes of programming, and nothing more. I ditched Visual Basic the first chance I got, immediately after I graduated from college. I hadn't used Visual Basic for anything since late 2004. I was surely going to need some time to get up to speed in mid-2007. It's been a while, but I've gotten to a point where I can program once more using this language, even if I don't want to.

However, from my last conversations with my boss, it seems that he doesn't want me to program much, since I had told him I was way too rusty with Visual Basic. He seems to want me to manage the entire project. I accepted, as it's more of a challenge than to sit down and develop an application with a programming language I simply wouldn't use if it were my project.

So, for the past couple of weeks, I've been getting my head into .NET programming. While I still am against choosing Visual Basic.NET as the programming language of a rather large software development project, I've been entertained with some things that I hadn't used in a large-scale project with PHP. I've learned a lot about Continuous Integration for the automatic build and testing process. I've learned how to use NAnt enough to build and test my projects automatically. I've even learned the finer points of creating installers that will work on all systems, no matter the dependencies needed. It's been a change of pace for me, but I'm making the best of it.

Still, I'm very disappointed in my job and this decision that was taken. My heart is with open-source and web-development projects. Sadly, I need to do that on my own time now, but most of my spare time is used learning these new tools I need for .NET development. I'm still looking for work outside of Puerto Rico (I'm 0 for 2 with companies that have contacted me after sending in my resume), so hopefully this changes soon. In any case, I'm making the best out of this situation, and at least I'm learning new things once again. But one day, I can achieve my dream and be part of a team where I know my heart is.

Written by

Dennis Martinez

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