Words of Wisdom … Not Just for Software

Erich Gamma, one of the software luminaries behind the Design Patterns book and now part of the Eclipse Project, had the following things to say about software … that apply to a little more than just software:

Eclipse’s Culture of Shipping: “In software, having cool ideas is nice, but shipping them is what counts. For us it only counts if you have shipped the thing. That’s really the mindset we have. And given that you focus on shipping, we never want to be in a mode of always being two years away from shipping. You need to have a short-term deliverable. You also plan, decide and act with this mindset.”

You know, all artists should probably learn this lesson. It’s easy to plan the Great American Novel or the Next Great SF/Fantasy Trilogy, but in the meantime write some damn stories, paint some paintings, write a webcomic, and get your stuff out there.

-the Centaur

Unfayre Humours, Part I

A few random thoughts from recent conversations:

You know the best way to improve British food? Cook something else.

Some people’s cell phone contracts last longer than their marriages.

Saying that the web is an engine for delivering vast amounts of irrelevant information is like saying that a library is a building for warehousing vast amounts of irrelevant books. Of course – if you can’t be bothered to learn to use them.

-the Centaur

About the Author: “Anthony Francis is a computer scientist who eats fish and chips on a regular basis. His longest cell phone contract lasted 1 year longer than his longest relationship, and if anywhere is a vast collection of irrelevant books, his house is it.”

Today’s In-Flight Movie: Theater of the Absurd

Other people have blogged this, but it is so ridiculous that I had to post this as well. Armed national guard soldiers being shipped to fight for America in Iraq are being asked to give up their nose hair clippers before flying:


King, who in civilian life is the Doraville police chief, rolled his eyes at the FAA regulation that requires soldiers – all of whom were armed with an arsenal of assault rifles, shotguns and pistols – to surrender pocket knives, nose hair scissors and cigarette lighters. “If you have any of those things,” he said, almost apologetically, “put them in this box now.”

All which confirms my belief that airline security is riddikulus. Unfortunately, you can’t banish it like a boggart once you realize what it really is: a showy facade of security designed to make selfish, unreflective, self-absorbed people without a clear moral grasp on liberty feel good about air travel, thus distracting them from the serious debates about national security policy issues that might actually improve our safety (Should we arm pilots? Why aid Israel? How can we achieve oil independence? How do we prevent today’s allies of convenience from turning into tomorrow’s enemies a la Castro, Noriega, Saddam, etc.? What can we do to promote nuclear non-proliferation. How do we show leadership on international issues without creating more fear of American power?).

Riddikulus. Nope. Still didn’t work – the crazy distractions are all still there, masquerading as supersized Senate deadlocks over activist reality show judges and pro/anti-globalism factions kung fu fighting over This Week’s “Trial Of The Century”.

Riddikulus.

-the Centaur

Batman Begins

Batman begins.

Oh yea verily, he does.

Now that was a movie. Revenge of the Sith had mythmaking and sensory overload, but Batman Begins was the most … well, involving movie that I’ve seen in a long time … since Finding Neverland, I guess.

(Speaking of “finding Neverland,” among the previews was a sneak peek at “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. It was Michael Jackson level creepy and looked almost as unappealing as “Kingdom of Heaven” or “Cinderella Man”. (Note I have not seen any of those movies; I merely found the previews so unappealing that I didn’t want to see them. I mean, really! “Chocolate Factory” with a Michael Jackson-ized Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka? “Kingdom” with giant Tolkien-esque battles sans mythos or any recognizable characters? Or “Cinderella” with yet ANOTHER paper-thin depression era story of an underdog who wins big – didn’t we do that back with Little Orphan Annie?)

Anyway, “Batman Begins” was great stuff. I believed in the character, his motivation, his limits. I wanted his car. And NO neon tubes were used in the making of any costume that I could see. The movie, while not “understated” by any means, focused more on storytelling than on static visual impact. I could critique the fight scenes as a bit too rushed and hard to follow, but it worked for what they were trying to achieve – and to focus on the fights would distract from the great story: how Bruce Wayne became Batman.

So go see it!

-the Centaur

What the…

From The String Coffee Table:

Unless I am hallucinating the following is the correct formalism to generalize the well-known Deligne hypercohomology formulation of strict abelian p-gerbes to weak and nonabelian p-gerbes.

I know it means something. In fact I know enough physics to get the gist of some of what it’s saying and to know where to look up the rest. So I really shouldn’t pick on this … it’s perfectly clear for its intended audience.

However, I just can’t get enough of “the well-known Deligne hypercohomology forumation of strict abelian p-gerbes”. It’s just using the phrase “well-known” in a way I hilariously wasn’t previously aware of. 🙂 🙂

-the Centaur

I hope no-one closes off the Internet

I found the following draft deep in my Blogger archives – from almost three years ago, in fact! I don’t remember precisely what was really irritating me, so I can only attempt to finish the article; regardless, here’s my best bet of reconstructing what was bothering me.

I started worrying when restrictions were clamped down on Chinese blogs on top of the already restrictive Great Firewall:

BBC NEWS | Technology | Chinese blogs face restrictions

“The internet has profited many people but it also has brought many problems, such as sex, violence and feudal superstitions and other harmful information that has seriously poisoned people’s spirits,” said a statement on the MII website, explaining why the new rules were necessary.

It has developed a system which will monitor sites in real time and search each web address for its registration number. Any that are not registered will be reported back to the Ministry, the statement said.

Known as the Great Firewall, the filtering system used by the Chinese government is not entirely unbreachable; for every new restriction and technical door that it slams shut, the Chinese people find a hack, a workaround or an entirely new way of communicating.

But one anonymouse China-based blogger told Reporters Without Borders that when he phoned the MII to register he was told not to bother because “there was no chance of an independent blog getting permission to publish”.

I was really worried that this would get worse over time. At my 50,000 foot view, I think this fear turned out to be justified.

My next, knee-jerk comment was: “I know, you think, that’s just China. Nope:”

Iran jails blogger for 14 years

“By handing down this harsh sentence against a weblogger, their aim is to dissuade journalists and internet-users from expressing themselves online or contacting foreign media.”

No fucking spit, that’s what they aimed to do. Since I cobbled together my initial notes on this, Iran’s and China’s ongoing success at keeping a lockdown on their citizenry makes these comments by protesters in the Iran case seem laughable:

“The eyes of 8 million bloggers are going to be more focused on Iran since Sigarchi’s sentence, not less.

“The mullahs won’t be able to make a move without it be spread across the blogosphere.”

Yeah, but “the mullahs” want you to know what they’re doing so that bloggers in their country will crap your pants and keep their traps shut for fear of losing 20% of their life expectancy to the inside of a totalitarian regime’s jail.

My next thought was “Of course, many of you may be thinking, this can’t happen here.” Feh:

Apple makes blogs reveal sources

In making his ruling, Judge Kleinberg said that laws covering the divulging of trade secrets outweighed considerations of public interest.

California has so-called “shield” laws which protect journalists from prosecution if what they are writing about can be shown to be in the public interest.

The Judge wrote: “…it is not surprising that hundreds of thousands of ‘hits’ on a website about Apple have and will happen. But an interested public is not the same as the public interest”.

Talking out of my orifice, it seems to me really odd that in our country the judicary has continued to stretch some concepts to the breaking point — for example, stretching the definition of “public good” in eminent domain to the point that it covers taking someone’s home so a developer can build a new shopping mall — while others, like the public interest in shield laws, get squeezed out or even thrown out because of little technicalities like the publication being a blog rather than a newspaper. Oh wait, I forgot to follow the money – it no longer seems odd to me now.

Let’s see, where was I? OK, next I was planning to talk to the script kiddies, free downloaders and open source zealots: “you think they can’t get you.” Wrong again:

DVD Decrypter Author Turns Tail, Coughs Up Code

The DVD Decrypter author has announced that he has been served with an order to cease his development of DVD Decrypter. The developer has been forced to hand over all source code and the domain that he was using. It is thought that it could be Sony who have served this notice, as it is rumoured that he broke their new copyright protection within 72 hours of its release.”

That left me feeling “Gee, I hope no-one closes off the Internet.” But now, a few years later, I find that you can easily look out there and find a lot of people who want it to happen for anyone who’s not using the internet just like them:

Why Tiered Broadband is a Wonderful Thing and ASIVS

If the choice is between your being able to download more movies or other video and my getting the best possible speed from my internet connection, I’m thrilled when you get kicked off. It can’t happen soon enough. Speed is what I need. Take all your P2P downloads and get the hell off my internet.

I have no sympathy for bandwidth hogs. You all are productivity killers for the rest of us. People who are working, people who are trying to play games, people who are in virtual worlds, people who are networking, people who are just trying to watch a Youtube video or their favorite TV show, you all are the reason why we get incredibly annoyed by slowdowns and buffering.

Leave and take your bit torrent client with you.

Nice. Self-centered idiots irritate the heck out of me. I love reading Mark Cuban and his blog but short of P.Z. Meyers, I can’t think of anyone who is more in a need to spend a mile walking in someone else’s shoes to understand how insular his point of view is.

Best of luck getting that principle to work when someone else with more money or who feels their power is threatened decides YOU’re the one doing something they don’t like. Wake up, people. All the things you don’t want to see, or want to see happen to other people you don’t like: guess what, they can happen to YOU.

The only thing historically that has served to stop these atrocities (big and small) from happening is to push extremely broad protections down to the fricking constitutional level and then to stand by them even when they prove inconvenient for your wallet or sense of security.

-the Centaur