Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Hardware Tokens

In our office, we all sit around a couple of sets of desks. You may say that we're definitely not 'geographically challenged'. Each pair can pretty clearly see every other pair.

We don't store any source code on our local machines. Since we're developing a PHP application we need to deliver it though a web server and it access a nice big Oracle database, and guess what... we've got a whole department geared up to supporting web servers and databases. So we don't have local installs of databases and webservers, we don't administrate them, and none of us want to.

So our workspaces live on a network drive. Yep, Win CVS is a bit of a pain over a network, but for now we're living with it. Our PHP files live on a web server so we can access them without running any uploads or anything.

We've given our workspaces numbers, prefixed with the name of the project. The source code lives in a folder with the name of the workspace and the database lives in a schema with the name of the workspace. Your pair is working in workspace 'Laurel1', you get set of source code 'Laurel1' and database schema 'Laurel1'. Nice and simple.

The only problem is, if no one individual owns a particular workspace, then how do we know which pair is allowed to work in which workspace?

We have mutually exclusive hardware tokens. Or, to put it another way... we have paper flags that we put into holsters taped onto the back of our flat screen monitors.
If you've got the Laurel1 flag then you've got the Laurel1 workspace, and only your pair is allowed to change the workspace.
If you 've not got the Laurel1 flag then you can't change the Laurel1 workspace.

Since everyone's living so close, it's easy to see the flags. In the very rare situation where a pair is working remotely, they phone up a proxy to get their flag, a humorous effigy is made of one of the pair, and the flag is given to the effigy.

We have a spare workspace too...

We call it integrate*. It's the workspace where the integration takes place. In order to do a large scale commit you must have the integrate workspace token. If you don't then you don't commit. The pair with the token is the pair that's currently doing an integration. It has the advantage of a separate build machine since you're forced to check in from your dev space and check out to the integrate space and everyone can see you're doing it.

Our hardware tokens make it easy to see who's working where.

And they were fun to make.

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* actually, we call it autotest, but if we got a new one we'd call it integrate... honest.

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