Monday, October 27, 2008

American muscle is going to get a shock...

My sons will probably never buy a new gasoline vehicle. The trend, as it appears today, is the gasoline vehicle is becoming very unpopular. Especially the big gas gusling SUV, and trucks. Electric vehicles are on the horizon, to arrive en-mass in 2010. Now, my sons turn legal driving age in 2020. Those 10 years will see a drastic change on the road. Most vehicles will be small, electric vehicles. There will be exceptions. Large transport trucks, and farm equipment will stay diesel. Airplanes will still use jet fuel. But, transportation vehicle will be electric. What will happen to race cars? Some will become electric, but some the excitement and thrill of today's race cars will be gone. Sure, electric cars can blow batteries, and electric motors, but the headlines might change to "...driver gets electrocuted...". Also, the days of American muscle will be gone. The high revying vibrations of a V8, the smell of burnt gasoline, the sound of the a engine whining at redline will be gone. Hobbist and enthusiasts will still have some of these muscle cars, but the strict environmental laws will prohibit them from turning on the key. I guess we will be still have movies such as the Fast and Furious to remember what muscle cars were all about.

Friday, August 22, 2008

A tool or a lifestyle?

25 years ago, computers were not on everyone's desk. Business people used paper, faxes, filing cabinets to perform their daily duties. Frequent visits to the water cooler, or the coffee spot was common.
Only last month, our building had an electrical outage. Everyone came out of their offices, wandered the halls, and asked the question, what happened? Everyone had such a blank look on the faces. No one knew what to do. Our reliance on computers is overwhelming.
Our computers are more than tool. A fax machine is a tool to communicate documents. Our computers are more of companion than a tool. We spend more time and look at more often than our significant other. Computers are a collections of tools that allows us to interact with all kinds of information. The amount of information that can pass between our computer and us is incredible. But, a lot of times, we get lost in that overload. Lost in replying to emails. Lost in the browsing the internet. Lost in social networking. We don't know where or what we looked at 5 minutes ago, and don't care. The computer is becoming more like TV. We don't care what we watch. It's a venue to hide, and shutoff our minds. And, talk about distractions. The popup notifications of emails is crazy. The current person's attention span is short enough, but add the popup notification of the emails, and the attention span shrinks to 5 seconds, or whenever an email comes in.
Don't get me wrong, I would be lost without them. But, the computer has become more a necessity rather than a tool. A tool can be replaced by another tool. But, just like someone's arm or leg, the computer can not be replaced so easy.
So, what's next in the evolution? Well, maybe something like Tom Cruise, in Minority Report, moving images and windows with a virtual reality hand pointer? No. But, maybe the convergence of the phone, fax, TV, music machine into 1 appliance? Probably. 1 box to interact with the world? Or should I say, a roaming profile, possibly stored on a USB key, or even on the internet, which contains all your contacts, favorite applications, images, favorite movies, and personal information? We're close. Hopefully nobody hacks our personal profile.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

2nd Class Software

The software industry is chaos. It has always been. Years ago, I seemed to fit in quite well. Chaos described my personal habits and living style. I also liked to think I was spontaneous. Do anything I wanted to do. But, i wasn't very organized. I didn't want to be.
Now, my life is different. I still like to be spontaneous, but I want structure, organization, simplicity. Some may say it's a sign of getting older, or more mature. Perhaps boring. But, the software industry does not seem to be striving for the same things as I do.
Software has always been "hacked". Very little insight and planning goes into software projects. Or, if there is significant planning, the requirements can drastically change. So many factors of change put pressure on the software to become mangled. These pressures are external (requirements change) and internal (short comings of the developer).
What I'm asking for is some elegance. Some standards. Some care in creating these masterpieces. Software is usually coded to fail. Why? Human beings are typically lazy by nature. Humans will take shortcuts whenever possible. This leads to future failures. Especially, if no checks and balances exist along the way. I just came from a seminar where the speaker was talking about "Normalization of Defiance". Now, when he was explaining this, bells in my head were going off. He was saying " if a person short cuts a process, and no immediate reprimand or discipline is felt, then the person got away with the short cut. Now, this short cut may not have immediate consequence, but down the road, could possibly kill someone.
Software is the same way. If you keep talking shortcuts, don't cleanup the code, refactor, try to make it simpler for you, for the next person to maintain it, the code will start to die. What I mean, is the code will become more complicated, and eventually be unmaintainable. And eventually, need a rewrite. This presenter also said, "There's never enough money to do things right the first time, but always money to do it again...". How true is this in the software industry? Rewrite after rewrite happens on the same project. Maybe a different technology, maybe with different people. But, it seems that the same mistakes repeat themselves. No wonder people can't see the root problem, or the reason for the failures.