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Blog Entry for Week Ending February 10

by Springer, Matthew C. last modified Feb 10, 2017 09:39 PM
The second week of Software Engineering II

This week, most of the work was focused on getting comfortable with working with Plone.  We were told to follow through chapter 5 and 6 of the Mastering Plone Development training.  Chapter 5 was easy enough as it was a bulleted list of use cases.  Chapter 6 has taken me significantly longer.

Chapter 6 started as a rather straightforward set of exercises asking the reader to try to figure something out on their own with hints as to how to figure it out.  But that only lasted for a short period of time.  The hints disappeared in the section beginning with “Walkthrough of the UI”.  The “Users” section starts well enough, showing you how to make odd ghost users or real users that can be easily modified. But then learning the basics ground to a halt.  First was the section on how to “Configure a Mailserver”.  This section was similar to “User” in that it had directions to follow.  The difference was that it didn’t work.  Since the text of the section says “Since we have configured PrintingMailHost”, I’m assuming there was a step that was critical to this being functional somewhere in chapter 1-4.  This seemed to be a common problem across all the students in the class, and one had been working on a possible solution.  I have not yet gotten around to attempting to implement it.  Shortly after that was the point when there was no longer a list of steps.  Instead they have bulleted lists where each point is potentially an action statement (“Go to ‘the-event’”) or a collection of nouns with clear value, but no contextual meaning (“multi-path queries”).  Even more confusing were action statements with no contextual meaning.  For example, in the “Collections” section, one bullet point simply says, “explain Topics”.  As far as I could find, there’s no such thing as “Topics”.  Clearly it would make sense for there to be something with that name somewhere, but I could find nothing near anything in the rest of the bulleted list.

During our weekly check in with our instructor, I raised these concerns and was simply met with the explanation that they’re not really meant as tutorials.  Which is unfortunate seeing as the project thus far has been to learn a system that is completely new to us that is written in a language that is completely new to us all running inside of an interface (VMWare) that is completely new to us.  I would be much more open to trying to work with Plone if we were given or shown a decent breakdown of what’s going on instead of “training” that starts as exercises and devolves into abstract statements with no clear meaning in any known context.

Related to the number of new things is the struggle that VMWare keeps providing.  As we were told we should be able to bring our workstation with us to lab sessions, I installed everything on my laptop.  The laptop is by no means top of the line, but it’s reasonably fast with resources to spare for most anything it runs.  This includes VMWare which runs fairly well after I figured out last week how to change my BIOS so it would actually do anything.  This week, my main issue with VMWare is that it (or the underlying VM) has been freezing and/or crashing repeatedly.  The first time it locked up my computer for a few minutes, I assumed there was just a small hiccup somewhere.  But as it continued to do it every few minutes after that, it quickly became apparent that the VM was having some serious trouble just sitting on, let alone having me interact with it.  Eventually, the VM completely crashed and shut down.  When I tried turning it back on again, there was about a five minute wait before I reached the desktop screen.  Most of that time was spent on a screen that appeared to be trying to do some sort of recovery after the crash.  This was mildly inconvenient at the time, a five minute wait isn’t much concern.  But once it finally loaded to the desktop screen, it was running about as well as Windows Vista would with one gigabyte of ram.  That is to say, it was essentially catatonic, with small shadows of my actions appearing minutes after I initiated them.  With that, I gave up for that day having little hope that it would be getting better anytime soon.

In this regard, I plan to install VMWare and the VM and Plone all over again.  But this time on my desktop.  I will not be able to bring it with me to lab sessions obviously, but it will hopefully at least run to some extent.

In addition to that, I will be continuing the adventure of becoming familiar with Plone by going through chapters 7, 8, 11, 12, and 13 of the Mastering Plone training.

My main takeaway from this week was starting to get familiar with the Plone interface.  It’s been slow but I have some rough ideas where some of the features are located.  I also found that the Working with Content ( page was much more thorough with explaining how things actually worked.


by Springer, Matthew C. last modified Feb 10, 2017 09:39 PM
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