Wednesday, February 8, 2012

the Maginot Line

Our friends at Wikipedia remind you of what you once knew about the Maginot Line:

The Maginot Line (French: Ligne Maginot, IPA: [liɲ maʒino]), named after the French Minister of War André Maginot, was a line of concrete fortifications, tank obstacles, artillery casemates, machine gun posts, and other defences, which France constructed along its borders with Germany and Italy, in light of its experience in World War I, and in the run-up to World War II. Generally the term describes only the defences facing Germany, while the term Alpine Line is used for the Franco-Italian defences.
The French established the fortification to provide time for their army to mobilise in the event of attack, allowing French forces to move into Belgium for a decisive confrontation with German forces. The success of static, defensive combat in World War I was a key influence on French thinking. Military experts extolled the Maginot Line as a work of genius, believing it would prevent any further invasions from the east (notably, from Germany). It was also a product of a historical inferiority in population and birthrate, exacerbated by the losses in World War One, which had been developing for three generations.[1] The fortification system successfully dissuaded a direct attack. It was strategically ineffective, as the Germans indeed invaded Belgium, defeated the French army, flanked the Maginot Line, through the Ardennes forest and via the Low countries, completely sweeping by the line and conquering France in days.[2] As such, reference to the Maginot Line is used to recall a strategy or object that people hope will prove effective but instead fails miserably. It is also the best known symbol of the adage that "generals always fight the last war, especially if they have won it".[3]

 So, right.

A commenter on my last post suggested running Ruby on Rails on Heroku.  I had a look at Heroku and was transfixed - this looked like a way to try out all sorts of programs without getting mired down in all the downloads and installations and what-have-you that mean it can easily take a week to get through the preliminaries before you can actually try out whatever it is you thought you might like to learn. Preliminaries that would undoubtedly take half an hour if you were already up to speed in all sorts of techniques you hadn't realized you needed to know, but which take a week (or more) if you have to scour around online to find out how to implement the two lines of instruction that accompany whatever it is you actually want to be working on.

So, right, I have a look at Heroku, which looks great, and I think I might try this out on Python since I have been working on Python. I am then told that over and above having Python to hand I must also have pip and virtualenv.  Bear in mind that the attraction of Heroku comes largely, at this point, from the fact that I have just spent a day untarring tarballs, attempting to upload from my Mac's simple FTP facility, attempting the same from Cyberduck, succeeding at last via FileZilla, creating a database on my server, attempting and failing to find the relevant files in the unpacked Drupal folder via myPHPAdmin, scouring around online for alternatives, attempting and failing to follow the steps sketched out on various websites, investigating the possibility of changing servers, and at last discovering the various bits of information from my server that needed to be fed to Drupal for successful installation.  Bloodied and not noticeably unbowed, I wonder whether life might be easier if I defected to Heroku. Only to find myself blundering through attempts to download and install pip and virtualenv, scouring around online for tips when all goes less smoothly than one might have hoped . . .

Revenons à nos moutons.  To get back to the Maginot Line.  If you're a writer, you need protection. You can hire a lawyer, an accountant, an agent.  But the protection you hire never costs your time; it never sets a value on what you might achieve if you could invariably get the technical resources you needed in 2 seconds. The protection you hire will wrangle happily over deal points; it will wrangle over percentages of rights. It will NOT factor technical support into the value of a deal (this is not a deal point), it will NOT provide in-house technical support as facilitating completion of ambitious new work which might be sold for a handsome advance. It ignores both the greatest threats to a writer and the greatest opportunities.  And there is nothing to be done.

Except, of course, to soldier on. Install, presently, pip and virtualenv.  Tomorrow is another day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Just like you can hire lawyers and accountants, you can also hire software developers who have already put in the time and suffering to learn how to deal with things like pip and virutalenv, PHPMyAdmin, etc. You could also consider Google App Engine as an alternative to Heroku (Python and Java only, free under a certain quota).

We readers are very curious what amazing web app you are cooking up!