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Comment Stunned to hear this (Score 3, Insightful) 67

I had bought and read several of Ed's books before I met him; we became colleagues and then friends (albeit not close ones) about 15 years ago. It's been a year or two since we've swapped e-mails, but I continued to see his photography work show up on Facebook from time to time.

And I daresay many of those posting here have no idea how influential Ed was in software engineering developing as a discipline, starting nearly half a century ago. He pioneered and championed many concepts and practices that we would take for granted today, both in technique and process. I am so sorry to hear this. ..bruce..

Comment My perspective (dating back to the early 1960s) (Score 5, Interesting) 189

(A comment I made over at io9 as well.)

As someone who lived through the ‘false dawn of space travel’ (to use Heinlein’s phrase), who grew up intensely following the space program, and who actually worked at NASA/JSC on the Space Shuttle flight simulators back in 1979-80, I can give you my observation: the American people got bored with space. Seriously. No one (outside of a small group of space enthusiasts, such as myself) was clamoring for yet more Apollo missions. TV ratings of flight and moonwalk coverage sank to the basement. It was all just more men in space suits skipping around in a black-and-white environment.

With no public demand or support, neither Congress nor the White House had much stomach for pushing things forward, not when the funds had other uses. The NASA manned flight division evolved into a jobs program, which is why NASA fought against privatization of space flight for so long. (The NASA unmanned space exploration division continued to work miracles, even as it does to this day.)

Of course, the real root problem was that the Apollo approach was fundamentally flawed in the first place; as some wag put it decades ago, it was like building a cruise liner for a single crossing of the Atlantic and sinking everything but one lifeboat at the end of the trip. Prior to Kennedy’s challenge, the US was working on an incremental approach: SSTO (single stage to orbit), gliding re-entry, and a space station. We basically lost half a century due to the Apollo approach (and the horribly expensive, horribly fragile kludge that was the Space Shuttle). Frankly, NASA’s current Orion effort is a repeat of just about all the mistakes we made with Apollo and threatens to soak up NASA’s budget for years to come, even as goal dates keep getting pushed back more and more.

The night that Apollo 11 landed, I was part of a group of friends (we were all high school students) who stayed up all night to watch the coverage. When I heard the words, “Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.”, I felt the future had begun. I was sure I would live long enough to visit LEO myself and to see humans colonize the moon and land on Mars. If you had described to me back in 1969 what the state of space exploration (and, in particular, US space exploration) would be in 2015, I would not have believed you. And yet here we are.

Comment Oh, for cryin' out loud.... (Score 5, Insightful) 305

Seriously? Seriously? He really doesn't recognize the full implications of what he's proposing? Time to drag out my favorite passage from Robert Bolt's "A Man for All Seasons":

Roper: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law!
More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?
Roper: I'd cut down every law in England to do that!
More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you — where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast — man's laws, not God's — and if you cut them down — and you're just the man to do it — d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.

Comment I've used this for IT project analysis (Score 4, Interesting) 63

Estimating confidence in the completion date for an IT project can be hard. When I've been asked to review a troubled IT project, I've found that a very useful technique to determine how far along the project actually is -- and when it's actually likely to be done -- is to ask those involved at different levels what their "$1,000 confidence level" is -- that is, what date they would be willing to bet $1,000 out of their own pocket that the project will actually be done by. I find that even the most optimistic engineer suddenly turns cautious and starts thinking of all the things that could go wrong.

I then ask what their $10,000 confidence level is. Those answers tend to be the most accurate. ..bruce..

Comment Speaking as an IT expert witness of 16 years... (Score 5, Interesting) 117

...I think the defense has the better argument. I have used software tools (both third party and ones I have developed personally) to do source code comparisons and analysis, but they only serve to point me to likely areas of investigation; I have never directly reported and relied upon the output from one of my custom tools in my expert reports.

A key aspect of expert testimony is that your analysis should, in theory, be repeatable by any other qualified expert using the same methodology (which needs to be spelled out in your report). If Perlin is relying directly upon his custom program for his conclusions, he needs to thoroughly expose his methodology -- which, in effect, means either allowing his source code to be reviewed or producing a detailed summary of his methodology that would allow someone else to reproduce it. Trying to claim trade secret status (which is what he's doing, in effect) for a expert methodology is an oxymoron.

Comment Have they not been watching the new Heroes series? (Score 2) 247

In the new NBC series "Heroes Reborn", the big bad corporation, Renautas, is in effect torturing an "evo" (a person with powers) to use her powers to enable a system that can locate all other evos on Earth, so that they can be rounded up. Their corporate motto? "Doing good is good business."

Comment It's called "the Geek lottery"... (Score 4, Insightful) 129

...and while it has significantly better odds than the actual lottery, it's much the same thing. Part of what drives the Valley -- and the IT startup industry in general -- is that it's very easy to track down large numbers of people who have, in fact, become millionaires (or better) through stock options and buy outs. It is a siren song that occasionally pays off.

The problem since the late 1990s is that vast amounts of capital have distorted the natural harsh realities of running a business, not to mention Economics 101. Too many tech startup business plans are, in effect, "Get funding. Create buzz. Get more funding. Sell out to a firm that actually makes money or go public." It occasionally works -- and all you have to do is read the industry press to see the multi-billion-dollar IPOs/acquisitions that never panned out.

Now, excuse me while I go back to work on my indie game and my graphic novel. :-) ..bruce..

Comment It depends so much on the setting (Score 1) 654

If I lived in NYC, I would not own a car. We did live in Washington DC (the Very District Itself) for nearly 6 years, but we still needed a car, because it was the only way to go shopping for groceries, etc. Still, while living there, I would regularly go to NYC on business by (a) walking 3 blocks to the Metro station, (b) taking the Metro to Union Station, (c), taking Amtrak to NYC, and (d) walking and/or using taxis in NYC. Coming home, I'd reverse the process.

The fundamental issue with public transit is that unless you have a very dense urban setting, you just can't get around all the places you need to in the time frame required. For vast portions of the US, that just doesn't work all that well.

Comment Trailer left me unimpressed (Score 5, Interesting) 266

I didn't know Jobs well, but I did have a number of direct conversations with him, sat in on meetings at NeXT with him, spent five years developing software for NeXTstep, and had many talks with people who worked closely him (again, mostly at NeXT); our last conversation was him calling me up to yell at me for an op-ed piece of mine in BYTE (Nov 94) called "Whither Nextstep?"

With that tee-up, I'll say that Fassbender's portrayal of Jobs in this trailer pretty much falls flat. Fassbender looks too professional and lacks that burning gaze that Jobs used to such great effect, even while using up the people around him. Frankly, Fassbender comes across more like John Scully trying to act like Steve Jobs than like Jobs himself. Also, it took me a bit to realize that Seth Rogan was supposed to be playing Woz; again, the wrong vibes and aura. Frankly, I think that Jack Black with a beard would have been a better choice for Woz. ..bruce..

Comment Amiga used for ~30 years for HVAC control (Score 2) 257

/. just ran this article about an Amiga still being used to control HVAC at multiple public schools after nearly 30 years: http://tech.slashdot.org/story...

Technology embeds itself (so to speak); it is far harder to retire old tech (as per this article) than you might think (Windows 8/8.1 just barely passed up WinXP this year). I think that Linux + C makes as much sense as anything, especially for an embedded system, and I'll cheerfully bet that both will still be around and in active use in 25 years. ..bruce..

Comment New technique, old problem (Score 1) 507

It's a good article, but the pattern is an old one. Twenty (20) years ago, I wrote much the same thing about object-oriented technology. Since then, I've found that the same issues, the same pitfalls, pretty much apply to any new technology or methodology; here are some more generalized pitfalls (based on ones from the 1995 book) that I wrote up nearly a decade ago (2008):

-- Adopting a new technology or methodology for the wrong reason
-- Thinking a new technology or methodology comes for free
-- Thinking a new technology or methodology will solve all your problems
-- Betting the company on a given technology or methodology
-- Getting religious about the technology or methodology
-- Adopting a technology or methodology without well-defined objectives
-- Overselling the technology or methodology

These all apply to Agile -- but they also apply to just about every other 'silver bullet' technology or methodology that's come along. ..bruce..

Comment But where is the SECRET-level physical security? (Score 5, Interesting) 315

I had someone who did SECRET-grade e-mails setup in the military write the following to me:

So, if for example Clinton only dealt with SECRET materials and they were sent or received in her email, all of the equipment (routers, switches, etc.) would have to be rated for that SIPRNet connection. Also, the space in which the equipment and servers and client computers resided in would also have to meet the specifications for SECRET material. This would include various forms of physical access to the space in the form of secure cards, biometrics, etc. No space rated for SECRET opens with a key from the local hardware store. . . .

The biggest issue I see here would be is if the server was connected to the public Internet and it resided in a non-DoD-approved space.

Not sure there are biometrics installed in the Clinton home in Chappaqua. ..bruce..

Comment I have some standard playlists for coding, writing (Score 3, Informative) 181

My best coding/writing playlist is...the entire set of Moody Blues albums, in chronological order. (I've been listening to them for nearly 50 years. Crap I'm old.) The albums have to play in correct order, and the cuts on each album have to play in standard order. It just pretty much becomes a musical cocoon. I've found that if I'm avoiding doing some necessary writing or coding, I can put the playlist on, and I start working almost immediately.

I do much the same thing with the collected Star Wars soundtracks (played in film sequence, i.e., Eps I through VI; and the soundtracks for the prequels are much better than the movies themselves) and the three LOTR soundtracks (again, played in film sequence).

If I'm getting sleepy, I'll put on "Wireless Barenaked Giants", a playlist containing all my Thomas Dolby, Barenaked Ladies, and TMBG songs, played on shuffle.

Ambient electronic would probably put me to sleep.

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