Unmaintainable software

October 16th, 2013  |  Published in Uncategorized

This is pretty good: How to develop unmaintainable software. In fact, I recommend the whole blog.

Mistakes

May 28th, 2013  |  Published in Uncategorized

John Gruber highlighted this on Daring Fireball, and I think it’s worth repeating. From an interview with Eric Catmull, president of Pixar:

On managers self-destructive tendencies for creative work:

The notion that you’re trying to control the process and prevent error screws things up. We all know the saying it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission. And everyone knows that, but I Think there is a corollary: if everyone is trying to prevent error, it screws things up. It’s better to fix problems than to prevent them. And the natural tendency for managers is to try and prevent error and over plan things.

Yes, the only way to avoid making mistakes is to not do anything, but that’s a mistake in itself. When management has no tolerance for bad things happening, nothing good will happen either.

1973

April 12th, 2013  |  Published in Uncategorized

A link to this video came over the IBM-MAIN mailing list this morning. It’s a training video produced by AT&T in 1973 on the computer services available at a Bell Labs facility. Enjoy!

 

WaSP is shutting down

March 1st, 2013  |  Published in Uncategorized

The Web Standards Project (WaSP): Our Work Here Is Done.

Yes, web standards are much more closely followed today than they were in 1998. Great work! Also, in a world where organizations often seem to acquire a life of their own and continue long after their purpose has been achieved or become moot, it’s great to see one declare victory and disband.

Managing programmers

February 18th, 2013  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  2 Comments

This is from an email sent to the IBM-MAIN mailing list by John Gilmore:

G. H. Hardy wrote that 1) intellectual curiosity, a desire to know how
things work, 2) craftsmanship, the need to do the  best job one knows
how to do, and 3) a desire for recognition, even fame, are sine quibus
non for success at any intellectual task.

Managers who employ programmers who lack these three characteristics
get the mediocrity they deserve.

It is hard to resist the conclusion that these managers, who are not
themselves programmers, have, with no understanding of the ‘skill set’
that programmers need, taken refuge yet again in crackpot realism.
Production lines, particularly those that are highly automated, can be
managed.  Programming projects must be led.

Oldest working digital computer

November 21st, 2012  |  Published in Uncategorized

The world’s oldest working original digital computer

Built in 1951 for Britain’s nuclear industry, it was in use through the early 1970’s and after restoration was rebooted yesterday. More at The Register.

Excellence

November 12th, 2012  |  Published in Uncategorized

A couple of words I don’t recall hearing at the ASMP meeting were “excellence” and “quality”, and that’s unfortunate. If the University is to truly be “of the first class” it should have administrative IT of the first class as well.

Now, some people hear “high quality” or “first class” and think “luxury”, but that’s not what this is about. We don’t need IT systems with lots of chrome or bells and whistles. Instead, we need systems that do their jobs correctly and efficiently, that require minimal maintenance and upkeep, and that make the people who use them more productive. Systems like this may cost more up front, but that additional cost will be more than covered by savings elsewhere.

When I started working here, our goal was to use information technology to make the University a better place to work, to learn, and to do research. Today it often feels like we’re just trying to keep things running. Can we go back to trying for first class IT?

Commodity

November 5th, 2012  |  Published in Uncategorized

I heard the word “commodity” used several times at the ASMP meeting last week. The implied message seemed to be that the University should always go with a commodity solution when one is available. Hopefully it won’t really be “always”. Big enterprises don’t buy enterprise-class hardware and software just because they can afford to and are too dumb to figure out that a commodity solution is available; there usually is some additional value that the enterprise solution provides. Since the University is an enterprise-scale organization, we will need enterprise class solutions to some of our problems.

Lovecraftian design

October 17th, 2012  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  2 Comments

The H. P. Lovecraft Institute of Software Design

How many times have you heard a product architecture referred to as “sheer insanity?”

How many times have you rolled out a product and wiped out an entire knowledge structure?

Have you heard software developers use words that are clearly unpronounceable by human tongues?

If, during a post-mortem, you’ve heard someone shout, “Ygnailh… ygnaiih… thflthkh’ngha…. Yog-Sothoth …HELP! HELP! …ff – ff – ff – FATHER! FATHER! YOG-SOTHOTH!..”

… perhaps it’s time to admit that what you’re trying to create isn’t so much “software” as “a portal to another dimension, filled with beings eager to devour your essence.” And maybe you’ve already opened that door a little bit wider than you’d like to.

Management thinks what we do at the H.P. Lovecraft Institute of Software Development is build customer relationship management software, but once you’re on the inside you’ll know you should never boot up our software unless you’ve got a monkey’s paw dangling from your neck and a line of salt between you and the hard drive.

Sound familiar?

SHA-3

October 3rd, 2012  |  Published in Uncategorized

Via The Register, NIST has chosen a winner in its competition to select a new secure hash algorithm, SHA-3. The winner, Keccak, was apparently selected at least in part because it doesn’t belong to the MD5 family of hash algorithms that SHA-1 and the four SHA-2 algorithms belong to. One of the four authors of this algorithm, Joan Daemen, was also a coauthor of the Rijndael algorithm that was selected for AES.

Also, NIST seems to be saying that SHA-3 should supplement but not replace SHA-2, which is still considered quite secure. (Cryptography guru Bruce Schneider, whose Skein algorithm was one of the five finalists for SHA-3, said last week that he hoped NIST would decide not to pick a new algorithm, because “We didn’t know [in 2006 when the SHA-3 contest was announced] how long the various SHA-2 variants would remain secure. But it’s 2012, and SHA-512 is still looking good.” He seems OK with the result, though.)

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