Spence Green

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I work at Lilt. In addition to computers and languages, my interests include travel, running, and scuba diving. more...

Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

Knuth on Software

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Much attention has been paid to Knuth’s recent interview on Informit. The Slashdot thread shows all the signs of a flame war, and the blogosphere has evidenced a vigorous response as well. The maelstrom has two focii: Knuth’s rejection of most eXtreme programming (XP) practices and his admission that he wouldn’t “be surprised at all if the whole multithreading idea turns out to be a flop.” To him, the emergence of multicore processors “looks more or less like the hardware designers have run out of ideas, and that they’re trying to pass the blame for the future demise of Moore’s Law to the software writers by giving us machines that work faster only on a few key benchmarks!” Revisions of TAOCP will not contain parallized versions of his algorithms, nor will he devote significant research time to the subject.

These criticisms are unremarkable. Jeff Atwood, among others, labeled the multicore hype an extension of the clock-speed race in the late 90’s. 900MHz is better than 700Mhz, so four cores must be better than two. Right? So say the marketing panjandrams. Most consumers lack a rudimentary understanding of computer architecture, so marketers need a comprehensible “hook.” Core count, like clock speed, seems analogous to horsepower, torque, and other “power” metrics. Consumers need such a gimick.
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Written by Spence

May 6th, 2008 at 12:31 pm

Posted in Software

An Exchange

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A colleague wrote the following note to me today:

I am trying to fathom what you have against an additional library into the architecture. The AJAX framework provided by MS$ is an additional library we have to use, there are Oracle libraries we have to use…what is the roadblock you have with an IronRuby, IronPython, or Lua library? Limiting the number of libraries, selective in the process is essential, but if to restrictive, can ignore industry standard flexibility in our system.

My reply follows:

I’m not limiting the inclusion of other libraries. I prefer to think about the problem first, then select the best method of expression. Language is simply that: a method of expression. It is almost always better to program in the language–namely, through the use of native syntax–than to program through it. The latter mode is a common mistake: have you ever seen someone write Java as if it were C?
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Written by Spence

March 27th, 2008 at 2:29 pm

Posted in Management,Software

The Change Champion

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In his eclectic book Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman, Yvon Chouinard traces the unusual development of Patagonia from a one-man smithing operation in California to the world’s leading producer of outdoor clothing. Chouinard’s self-deprecating style belies his preternatural understanding of the universal human craving for individual freedom. The same impulse that drove him to scale peaks using homemade tools manifests itself in the desire to skip work on Wednesdays or wear unusual clothing. People oppose systems that treat them as cogs. This is one reason for communism’s failure, and it also explains why the assembly line is at once man’s most efficient and least inspiring contrivances:

An assembly line at Gigabyte
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Written by Spence

February 22nd, 2008 at 7:46 pm

Posted in Management,Software