Monday, October 15, 2007


I've been waiting to have some sort of progress milestone to report, but it's been so long that I felt I had to write something.

How are things going with SkyTools 3? Great! Um... Terribly! I suppose it's the usual combination of the two. The testing end has gone very well, and I am very happy with the program. But this is taking way longer than I had hoped. I mean, it's just plain embarrassing.

I have done this sort of combined development/testing before and it has worked very well. Not only do I fix bugs but I use the feedback from the test group to help me find the rough edges and polish things up. Sometimes I even get inspired and make sweeping changes or add unplanned functionality. This is something that a software engineer under the thumb of management and up against a deadline would not typically be able to do. That's usually a good thing for me, at least from the standpoint of producing the highest quality software possible, which is something that is very important to me. But I'm finding that as SkyTools becomes more and more complex that it is becoming more and more time consuming for me to make sweeping changes. When in the past a major rewrite or unplanned feature might have cost me a few days to a week, this time around it's taking a lot longer.

I have spent the last few weeks redoing the Database Power Search. It started innocently enough: I just needed to work in the new visual detection difficulty filter. That would take a day or two at most. But then I started to realize how much more this tool could and should be doing. Now that dialogs can be larger than 640x480 I had the screen space to make this thing really powerful. Not only that, but I realized that if I split the "Deep Sky" search tab into two tabs (Galactic and Extragalactic) I'd have even more room to add functionality. So first it was this, and then that, and then one more little thing, and all the while the beta test has more or less come to a halt. Like I said, it's embarrassing!

But I keep reminding myself of one thing: a year from now few people will remember the delays. What they will remember is that really cool Database Power Search tool that finally truly lives up to it's name.