The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Just to make sure, I did my “once-a-decade” check of an IDE. Yup, I still hate 'em.

My first exposure to an IDE was in the mid-80s with Turbo Pascal 3, and I hated it. Not the language per se but the editor. By then, I was used to IBM's PE (version 1.0—never found a bug but there were a few limitations, mostly due to it being able to run under MS-DOS 1.0) with it's true block copy, the ability to move anywhere on the screen and type (and have it insert spaces, if required) and fairly pneumonic keybindings, so I had some issues with how Borland thought an editor should work.

I found it a nightmare.

And then when Turbo Pascal 4 came out, with an entirely new interface where they tried (and in my opinion, failed) to do “windows” in a text mode and well … it took a bit over a decade for me look at another IDE.

By now it's the late 90s, and I'm working on Brainstorm. One of the first Java IDEs came out (and I have no idea what program it was or even what became of it). I thought I'd give it a try as I was curious if it would handle an existing project.

It didn't.

My code killed it. I suspect the programmers of that IDE never thought that anyone would bother with writing their own layout manager, and I recall the dialog went something like:

What … is your language?
What … is your quest?
To compile this Java code I wrote.
What layout manager are you using?
Really? I wrote my own.
Huh? I don't know that [falls over the Bridge of Death into the Gorge of Eternal Peril] Auuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh!

Scratch another IDE off my list. And a bit over a decade passes.

We're doing a lot of Java programming at The Ft. Lauderdale Office of The Corporation and most of the programmers are using this IDE called Eclipse (we doing both backend stuff and Android development). I've heard of it. Nearly all Java programmers swear by it. I figure I'd give it a go, if only as an source code/object viewer. I suck down the 300+ megabyte package that Ubuntu offers overnight and give it a go.

And … yeah. I have no idea what I'm doing. Why does it want a “workspace?” How do I load an existing project into the darned thing? Why is the Android Eclipse extension failing? Oh, the “stable” version that Ubuntu coughed up is more than twenty minutes old, and therefore, an ancient and decrepid piece of XXXX. I should know better by now.

So off I go to the Eclipse site, and I'm faced with a dozen different options for Eclipse. Wait? There are three different versions for Java, one for C/C++? One for Javascript? Wait? I thought Eclipse could work with a bunch of different languages. Shouldn't these all be modules or extentions or something? You mean I have to download a separate version for each language I want? And what's with the three Java versions?


And off I go the Bridge of Death into the Gorge of Eternal Peril.

Okay, so I pick one, download it, figure out I can just run the darned thing and don't have to install it. Okay, the Android extension (another umptillion bytes) installs fine, and I figure out that I can use the existing project, but only if I build it from the command line first (um … isn't that kind of defeating the purpose of an IDE?) and neither I nor J (office mate) can figure out why I'm getting these two errors about overriding an interface (which is the point of an interface—you override it). If I do the so called “quick fix” that Eclipse suggests, it fails on the same line with a different error.


The Android Emulator runs the code just fine … I guess … since I'm supposed to test this code. But i can launch the compiled application (compiled via command line) on the emulator, so the code works (and no errors from the command line compiler there). It's just that Eclipse doesn't like the code.

Par for course. Of course.

I can still use it to browse the code, and follow the relationships of all the objects. And indeed, one of the warnings that Eclipsed barfed up did indeed turn out to be a real bug (an unused variable that turned out should have been used). So that's good. But all the other warnings are bogus, as “fixing” them causes other errors. So I have to pretty much ignore all that, and just use Eclipse as a glorified version of more, only one that automagically cross references everything.

Oh, and it gets hopelessly confused when I checkout new versions from the source repository and have to manually tell Eclipse to reload the changed files, instead of having it just figure it out on its own.

It's comical, I tell you.

If that wasn't fun enough, I figured I try out the “C/C++ version” of Eclipse, if only as a code browser (since we do have some C++ code, and the call depth does make it rather difficult to follow using a more traditional, but less flaky, text editor). So I download that version. I'm still not quite sure what the “workspace” is, since when I point the “workspace” to the top level directory of our existing C/C++ codebase, it does nothing. No, I have to select a “new project” which is an “existing project,” none of which exactly matches what we have, but I select the one that most closely, but not exactly, matches what we have only to have Eclipse immediately wet its pants and dump core, all over the place.

Now, I thought Eclipse was written in Java, a managed language that produces not real machine code, but virtual code that is then emulated by a runtime engine—the whole “write once, debug run everywhere” schtick. How does that dump core? What's wrong Eclipse? You can't deal with 2,100 source code files?

Okay, what about something smaller? How about SPCDNS? It's C. There are only eight source files, only two of which, one code and one header file are absolutely required for the project. How about that?

Oh, I see you're still horribly confused from the previous 2,100 file codebase. Okay, I delete everything you touched, re-extract from the downloaded tarball and try again. Feel better? Should I lay out some newspaper in case you barf again? No? Okay.

Hmm. I still don't fully understand this business with “workspaces” but whatever. Here's the top level directory for SPCDNS. Oh, you can't find anything. Start over. Here's the source directory for SPCDNS. Ah, you like that. But you can't build, because the Makefile is missing.

Seriously. Eclipse. You can't deal with a Makefile one level up? Oh for crying out loud …

Start over. New project. Entirely new project. Oh look, one of the options is for autoconf. I've never bothered with that, but maybe Eclipse can show me a thing or two about … oh never mind, that's right. My Ubuntu install is now fourty minutes old and the installed autoconf might as well be in Sumarian for all you care, Eclipse.

Start over. New project. Makefile. GCC. New file. dns.h. Load it up in another text editor, select all, copy. Paste into Eclipse. Seriously, Eclipse? 600 errors? It's a XXXXXXX header file! You don't have to compile that! Okay, let me continue with the C code. Load codec.c into a text editor. Select all, copy, paste into a new file in Eclipse. Oh, now it's 1,234 errors? Oh, you don't like the restrict keyword … what? You don't understand C99? Don't worry, Mark doesn't care for C99 either, so you're in good company there, but … really?

Start over. New project. Pure C. Makefile. GCC. Check the options, ah, find where I can specify C99 on the command line. Select, copy, paste dns.h into Eclipse. 600 errors. Okay, okay, I'll include the XXXXXXX headers you want. Happy? Okay, on to codec.c. Two warnings this time, about two unused functions.

Really? Those are unused? Okay, I'll remove one of then, and the prototype and—



Where did you go?

You puke and dump core again?

You're written in XXXXXXX Java! You shouldn't be able to crash!


I still hate IDEs.

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