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Komodo Breathes New Fire into IDE - page 3

Developers in Need

  • September 11, 2003
  • By Rob Reilly

Asked how Komodo got its name, Ascher replied, "It was a code name that I picked at the start of the project. ActiveState had a history of picking reptiles for code names. Since Komodo was built on Mozilla, I liked the fact that a real Komodo was both a reptile and a dragon. Much to my surprise, the product management team liked the name and it stuck."

There are a wide variety of developers behind the Komodo product. "Some of us are over-schooled, others are not," said Ascher, himself a Ph.D. in Cognitive Science. "Programming is something you really have to learn on the job, since what makes a good programmer is experience, not information," he continued.

All the Komodo developers have programmed in many languages on many platforms. Ascher believes that having a broad background makes taking on new technologies a lot easier.

"Several of us started working on Linux back in 1995 or so, although that was the early days for Linux, especially when it comes to high-quality user interface work," he said. Since the team builds cross-platform tools, they look for the similarities between platforms and not so much the differences.

Ascher said that they tend to curse the differences, in fact, since they make the job harder for no particularly good reason.

Ascher added some levity to the interview as he shared his thoughts on being a 'programmer's programmer.' "It's a great job. We build the tools that we'd want to use and our peers appreciate what we do. At the same time, our customers are a very demanding bunch, since half of them seem to think they could write the software better than us!"

Ascher is all business when it comes to the future of Komodo.

Right off the bat, Komodo 2.5 will be released very soon. It includes improved support for web development, lots of usability upgrades (including a significant performance boost) and a bunch of small but valuable features. Ascher and his team are currently defining the next major release in which he expects to see better support for 'programming in the large.' Some customers work with projects consisting of 100's or 1000's of files. A good example might be a client with a very large test infrastructure or web site. The programming in the large features will help developers handle these large, complex projects.

As computers become still more powerful, people will expect more support out of their development tools. Developers also don't want the additional 'support' to reflect negatively on their productivity. Ascher said that as more people learn scripting technologies, more and more programmers will expect to be able to customize (with code) how their tools work. Finally, Ascher speculated that the tools will become less isolated and probably integrating more with other parts of the developer's desktop, whether that's the browser, the revision control system, the bug tracking system, or the testing framework.

When asked about his thoughts on streamlining the software development process, Ascher replied, "I'm not a big believer in the magic power of methodologies--by that I mean that I don't think that any one methodology works in all contexts. In some contexts, Extreme Programming is probably the right thing to do. In others, it would be counterproductive.

"In some situations, test-first design is immensely useful. In others, it slows things down. On the other hand, I'm amazed by how quickly developers adopt a methodology when it's made easy. For example, having a good unit testing framework available makes testing much more likely to happen than otherwise. While that sounds silly, it's encouraging to me as a tool builder. It says that if the tools I build are good enough, then people will write software using better techniques and the quality of software in the world will improve."

Rob Reilly (aka: "Dr. Torque") is a Senior Technology Consultant, whose work includes Linux, business systems integration and R&D work for various clients. Rob's articles appear on LinuxToday.com and in PC Update Magazine. He frequently gives talks on his experience in the high technology, manufacturing and utilities industries. He is always 'on-the-lookout' for stories and projects that focus on Linux, business and new technology. Send him a note or visit his web site at http://home.earthlink.net/~robreilly.

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