Martin's Blog

Lessons from Sygneca

Posted by Martin Orr on Wednesday, 26 September 2007 at 10:11

I spent the summer working at Sygneca in Basingstoke. This was an interesting experience as, while I have developed some web-based projects for school and contributed the odd bit to open source projects, I have never worked on software development in conjunction with other people. Nevertheless each person mostly worked independently on separate projects. So long as the projects are small enough for this to be feasible, it definitely seems to be the most efficient way to develop: it is important when programming to be able to hold the entire project in your head at once (the details of bits you have already done can be dropped once you are satisfied they work), and this is hard if someone else is doing bits of it. When multiple people work on a project, each person's piece should be as separate as possible from the rest, with a strictly defined (and simple) interface. This worked well on a couple of occasions where a project required a component not only separate from, but different in nature to, the main project.

Sygneca does its development in a language called Scala which is a language developed at a Swiss university. It is an active research project, or set of research projects, so contains a lot of cutting-edge features; however it is actually very easy to use, and you can gradually pick up the more advanced features. It incorporates functional programming and a rich type system, both pieces of computer science with a strong mathematical content which I had never explored before.

no comments Tags basingstoke, programming, scala, sygneca, tech

Train journeys

Posted by Martin Orr on Thursday, 06 September 2007 at 12:32

Last weekend I went to Cambridge for some Lindy workshops and a dance. The National Rail Enquiries website recently acquired some a new advanced search facility. Their example is to search for journeys from "Cambridge to Basingstoke avoiding London," exactly the journey I made (or at least the other direction) - avoiding London so I didn't have to take my suitcase on the underground. However I don't see why anyone would want to make this journey by train - it takes 5 hours 21 minutes, while you can get the train to Oxford and then get a bus from there in only 4 hours 48 minutes, and the latter costs two thirds of the price. (For comparison the train via London takes about 3 hours.)

On Saturday I also bought a train ticket from Basingstoke to Dun Laoghaire (near Dublin). This costs only £26 and takes about 10 hours. I have been having an increasing conscience about flying, especially going back and forth England to Ireland. I hadn't realised that you can book the ticket right through to Belfast for £35.20, although in this case that didn't cost me much because Irish Rail are doing an offer on the Dublin-Belfast Enterprise. That is even cheaper than going from Basingstoke to Belfast by plane, by the time you get to an airport, and not much more than Belfast to Cambridge.

no comments Tags basingstoke, flying, train, travel


Posted by Martin Orr on Sunday, 22 July 2007 at 19:30

Since the end of June I have been in Basingstoke, Hampshire. I am working for a web development company, Sygneca. It is a small company with four employees; the Managing Director is Jon Pretty, who until June was IT Officer for TCMS (Trinity College Music Society). I have mainly been working on a project management system for internal use, and some other small projects from time to time.

I am renting a room about twelve minutes' cycle from my work (although there is a big hill in between). There is also the landlord and one other man living here. The landlord was originally an engineer, but now an executive coach; and the other man trained in telecoms. Basingstoke is full of hi-tech companies. While it had existed as a small town before that, it was mainly built in the 1960s with lots of very similar estates separated by dual carriageways.

I am coming home to Belfast on Wednesday. On Saturday I am going to Zambia with a church group to build houses with the charity Habitat for Humanity. After two weeks in Zambia, I will be back in Basingstoke for another month.

no comments Tags accommodation, basingstoke, sygneca, zambia