Chapter 8. Getting Started

The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, and then starting on the first one.

Mark Twain

In this chapter we will look at some things that have been shown, time and again, to contribute to successful software projects of any size. I am, of course, talking about planning. This includes defining what you intend to do in the form of requirements and a design description, documenting how you plan to test it in order to catch as many bugs as possible, and then verifying that it actually meets the requirements and does what the original design called for. Lacking or unclear requirements are by far one of the leading causes of software project failures. Another big factor is inadequate testing.

With a small project, not having things work out as expected is annoying, but it may not be a major disaster. For larger projects, though, the result can be catastrophic. For substantial or logically complex programs, it is essential to have some solid requirements and a good testing strategy in place before coding ever starts. Also, one should be mindful of the fact that extending the reach of Python into the real world opens the door for the uncertainties and ambiguity of the real world to creep back in and impact, sometimes severely, the instrumentation software. Having a clear path and a well-defined set of goals to guide the effort is especially critical.

The reason ...

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