Archive for September, 2011

2011 Ig Nobel Prizes

September 30th, 2011  |  Published in Uncategorized

It’s that time again: the 2011 Ig Nobel Prize winners. I think my favorites this year are Chemistry and Peace:

CHEMISTRY PRIZEMakoto Imai, Naoki Urushihata, Hideki Tanemura, Yukinobu Tajima, Hideaki Goto, Koichiro Mizoguchi and Junichi Murakami of JAPAN, for determining the ideal density of airborne wasabi (pungent horseradish) to awaken sleeping people in case of a fire or other emergency, and for applying this knowledge to invent the wasabi alarm.

REFERENCE: US patent application 2010/0308995 A1. Filing date: Feb 5, 2009.

ATTENDING THE CEREMONY: Makoto Imai, Hideki Tanemura, Yukinobu Tajima, Hideaki Goto, Koichiro Mizoguchi and Junichi Murakami

PEACE PRIZEArturas Zuokas, the mayor of Vilnius, LITHUANIA, for demonstrating that the problem of illegally parked luxury cars can be solved by running them over with an armored tank.



But check out the full slate of winners.


September 19th, 2011  |  Published in Uncategorized

More computer history: UNIVAC: the troubled life of America’s first computer.

Grace Hopper should be better known than she is.

Hard disk

September 16th, 2011  |  Published in Uncategorized

Looks like I’m back on the computer history beat again: Celebrating the 55th anniversary of the hard disk.

Like much else in our pervasive IT world the disk drive’s roots were laid down by IBM, and first appeared in a product called the 305 RAMAC, The Random Access Method of Accounting and Control, launched this week 55 years ago. Ah, those were the days.

Wow, the hard disk is even older than I am!

Excellence and luxury

September 13th, 2011  |  Published in Uncategorized

Enterprise software isn’t usually very glamorous, but it should be excellent.

This is not the same as saying it should be luxurious. A balanced, sharpened knife with a plain wood handle exemplifies excellence more than a poorly balanced, dull knife with an ivory-inlade, jewel-encrusted hilt. Craftsmanship, precision, and suitability for purpose are the marks of excellence. An excellent product may cost more up front, but can save money in the long run by lasting longer and allowing more efficient operation.

Excellent enterprise software is easy to maintain, and minimizes the work of the human beings who have to use it.

Excellent products arise from a culture that values excellence. What can we include in the Administrative Master Plan that will help us build such a culture?

Enterprise software

September 8th, 2011  |  Published in Uncategorized

I was going to blog this when it was first published, but then I decided not to, but now I changed my mind again, so here it is: Memo to kid coders: Enterprise software exists.

Google, Facebook, and a rising generation of consumer-facing startups get the media buzz, to the point that young developers have neither an interest in enterprise software nor an appreciation for the challenges it has long sought to solve – but could this be a good thing?

This generational shift hit home while having lunch with my 20-something developer colleagues this week. I mentioned BEA Systems and got blank looks all around. I persisted, “You know, the app server company???” Vacant expressions. “Java?!? You’ve heard of that, right!?”

He goes on to say that eventually some of these kids who have cut their teeth on consumer-facing applications will move into enterprise software, and that can only make the latter better. I suspect he’s right.

One of the articles linked there is worth reading in its own right: Why Do Enterprise Applications Suck? Particularly the first reason given:

1. The[y] serve their corporate overlords, not their users.

This is simple. Corporate systems are built according to what analysts believe will make the company more efficient. Unfortunately, this too often falls prey to penny-wise-pound-foolish decisions that micro-optimize costs while suboptimizing the overall value stream. Optimizing one person’s job with a system that creates more work for a number of other people doesn’t do any good for the company as a whole.

One of the advantages we’ve had developing in-house was the close collaboration possible between developers and the people actually using the applications. Unfortunately, the end users in the enterprise situation are rarely the people who pay for the software, either purchased or developed in-house.

Another switcher

September 2nd, 2011  |  Published in Uncategorized

I was reading Cheryl Watson’s Tuning Newsletter (we just subscribed; Watson is one of the premier writers for z/OS systems programmers) and I didn’t expect this:

… two years ago I made the conversion from being a Windows user to being a Mac “zealot” (as he calls us). I had worked on a DOS/Windows machine from 1979 to 2009 (30 years!), and I was more satisfied and competent with my Macbook Pro and Snow Leopard in two weeks than I had ever been on my PCs. … Why I waited so long is beyond me.