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Log Viewers, Tails, Chainsaws and 97 Other Reasons Developers Fight with Managers

by Amrinder Arora
December 23rd, 2010

When I worked with IBM for a navy project, my boss introduced me to the beauty of Chainsaw – a log viewer that ships with log4j.   In so many words “It is called Chainsaw, because it cuts logs to size”, he said with a smirk.  Tech managers have bad sense of humor, but anyway I didn’t want to tell him that I didn’t know what log4j meant as that would have made me sound dumb.  So, I picked up using log4j, and right from get go, really liked it.  Coupled with log4j, chainsaw is a big productivity booster, although you can also use chainsaw with JDK logging.

Logging and log viewers can have a significant impact on developers’ productivity, so the item #7 that I usually cover in the Top 10 Activities that Affect our Productivity is usually about log viewers.  There are of course, a few alternatives to chainsaw, but tail+grep isn’t one of them.  Tail+grep combination is used so frequently simply because developers don’t like being told they something can’t be done using grep.  Developers are, generally speaking, gritty people.  They are there because they like challenges, are knowledgeable and may be opinionated.  Best way of bonding with them is by ranting off against evil companies.  It is sometimes difficult to teach them something new, because hey, they have this really cool other software that not only does what you want it to do, it also makes great foam while playing chess during its spare cycles.  And not onllogy that, you can actually do anything with it.

The problem isn’t really with developers -  it is broader; developers get caught in this solely due to bloggers blogging about developers.  At a more basic level, this problem exists in any form of marketing and is succinctly known as the advertising rule of 7.  Whether the empirical number 7 is correct or incorrect, the notion that sales happens after multiple touch points is hardly debatable.

So, if you have never heard about chainsaw before, you can start counting this as the first touch point. 6 more to go, and I think you will start using it.

[Update: See Scott's comment below and checkout the awesome new version out.]

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3 Comments to “Log Viewers, Tails, Chainsaws and 97 Other Reasons Developers Fight with Managers”

  1. I’m one of the Chainsaw committers…care to try out the soon-to-be released version? Available as a tarball or Mac DMG here:

    http://people.apache.org/~sdeboy

    By the way, if you use Chainsaw with a VFSLogFilePatternReceiver, you can tail and parse pretty much any regular text file (even remotely via ssh if you need to).

    Lots of features in preferences & if you right click in different parts of the screen. Hope you find it improves your productivity. I know it does mine, that’s why I keep working away at it.

    Feel free to email with questions or suggestions!

  2. Scott, will absolutely love to try it out. I checked the snapshot, and it seems to be miles ahead of the current version – so congratulations on an excellent effort. IMHO, chainsaw is vastly underutilized by developers. I often talk about it in my seminars, but those are limited to DC area only.

  3. Hi.
    You can also try OtrosLogViewer (http://code.google.com/p/otroslogviewer/). It’s great log viewer with nice features like browsing remote file systems. Another nice feature is custom formatting log message (i.e. SOAP message in logs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ESCa-X8l4OEHhd=1)

    Krzysztof