Sunday, November 21, 2004

Portable Media Players and DRM

Portable Media Players are arriving to try and catch the next big market for portable media gadgets after the Portable Music Player market has been won by the iPod. As the Register points out, portable music makes a lot more sense than portable video as portable music can be appreciated everywhere and while doing most activities, while portable video requires the concentration of the sense of vision as well as hearing and should not be used while driving, operating heavy machinery, or a lot of other things.

Another problem with Portable Media Players is that they do not work with the media that you own. So while your iPod comes with software so that you can rip your CDs and load them for your listening pleasure, ripping your DVDs for your Creative Zen is either impossible or difficult depending on who you listen to.

This shows how shortsighted the copy protection that is being built into DVDs is. Unlike audio, which you listen to again and again, most video content is consumed by watching it once. Sure, it is nice to have so that you can watch it for a second time, and it is good to be able to revisit your favorite scenes, but except for children, video content is not the kind of thing that you watch over and over again.

The Personal Media Player allows people to consume content while they are on the go and thus it allows them to increase their media consumption. Copy protection on DVDs prevents people from consuming media on DVDs and thus limits the market for DVDs.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

The Half Life of Knowledge

I know that I am coming to this meme late, however it is central to understanding intellectual property. The common statement is that knowledge has a half life. It is easy to argue against this simplistic statement, and I would state it slightly differently to capture the underlying idea. The value of knowledge, or for that matter any intellectual property, has a half life, and by value, I mean monetizable value. There may be a lot of value in common knowledge, but it is difficult to use it to gain some advantage that results in a large pile of cash because it is common and shared by all.

It is the long term fate of intellectual property to become common knowledge, it is rightful that this is the case. Most importantly, it is better for the intellectual property to become free and commonly shared, because the alternative is for it to languish and be forgotten.

A good example is Mickey Mouse. It is rumored that copyright has been extended in the USA principally at the behest of The Disney Corporation who wants to keep all the rights to their creations since the company was founded in the 1920's. The problem is that because Disney keep such a tight control on Mickey Mouse and friends he is being forgotten and the brand is being devalued. If Disney would only let go, others could broadcast the cartoons and advertise the brand at no expense to Disney.

Serious Intellectual Property like patents can also languish if they are too tightly controlled or sequestered for too long. One way this can happen is that the tight control forces the rest of us to look for alternatives, and when we find alternatives, the original idea loses value.

So this is the point. Intellectual property loses value over its life whether we want it to or not. It is better to accept this as a fact and acknowledge that Intellectual Property should become common and shared by all, because as a society we all gain from it. Lock it up and we lose it.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Getting Indexed

Blogger is owned by Google. Great service, the only thing is that Google does not index my blog! On the other hand Yahoo does! What am I to think?

P.S. I am having a really interesting day. The Blogger spell checker does not have the following words in its dictionary: "Blogger", "Google", "blog", however it does have "Yahoo"!

Saturday, October 30, 2004

The Open Source Dilemma

It is easy to dismiss Free Software as the dabblings of a bunch of geeks on the fringe. Open Source software is another matter. Open Source is about business, making a profit and in the end, economic domination.

There are many motives for an enterprise adopting the Open Source model. For a small startup company, Open Source can be about creating a cheap and effective distribution channel. If you look at the income statement of a typical software company, sales and marketing is the single largest expense, and most of that money goes to the inefficient one-on-one process of a salesmen persuading a customer to spend a lot of money on the software package. As a Venture Capitalist might say, it is a process that is difficult to scale.

On the other hand, Open Source is like try before you buy. The game is to persuade as many people to download the product and try it out as is possible. Only after they have tried it out, found that it works and go to put it into production, do they discover that there are plenty of good reasons why they should pay for the product, or at least for support. Selling is a subtle job of positioning, partnering with other successful Open Source products and plain old getting the word out. Even so, the Open Source product is cheaper than the conventional software package because you do not have to pay the odious salesman their hefty whack.

A more interesting game is played by large companies who use Open Source for economic warfare. Open source can be used to weaken a competitor by destroying their economic value. It is a game that the larger, stronger, more diversified and aggressive company wins. A well known example, although not exactly open source is the Microsoft and Netscape saga. Netscape's principal product was a browser that they were selling for a modest sum. Microsoft killed the market for browsers by giving away their Internet Explorer with the operating system.

Interestingly enough, as a part of their war on Netscape, Microsoft opened up the source of Internet Explorer, and licensed it relatively cheaply to companies that wanted to build their own browser based product. When Netscape looked at their code, they discovered that they could not respond. Game and set to Microsoft, however it is not clear whether the match is over yet. Netscape rewrote their code and it has been released as the Open Source Mozilla browser. With security problems swirling around Internet Explorer, Mozilla has a chance of making a comeback.

IBM is an example of a big company that is actively supporting a number of Open Source initiatives for various purposes. IBM has helped develop Linux. One reason is that Linux can extend the life of the mainframe. However, a side effect is the Linux has developed to the point where it is getting to be a contender for the desktop, and thus capable of sucking some of the air out of Microsoft's lungs.

Another IBM product, Websphere is connected with the Apache Open Source web server, and IBM continues to donate software to the Apache Foundation. IBM also took an also ran development environment and turned it into the leading IDE by making it Open Source. IBM sells hardware and services as well as software, so giving away a little software to help grease the skids for an integrated sale of hardware, software and services is an excellent tactic. In fact, giving away the software to sell the hardware was standard operating procedure at IBM for many years.

So now we come to the Open Source dilemma. The first thing is to realize is that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Any software that you select is going to cost you money, and the cost of the software license is only part of the total cost. You need to pay for the implementation of the software and the hardware that it runs on. You need to train staff to manage and use the software, and you need staff to keep it running.

Thus, you are making an investment by selecting software package even if the package itself is free, and you need to protect that investment. If you do not have a relationship with the entity that produces the software, you do not have any control, and the investment is at risk. There are many types of relationship that you could have, offering code or other services in return, but the easiest way to have a relationship is to pay for it.

The core of the dilemma is that by choosing an Open Source system you may be getting involved in a battle of the giants. In any battle there is going to be a winner and a loser and while the battle is going on, anyone near the field of battle risks being trampled. When selecting Open Source software you need to do due diligence, looking not only at the resources and stability of the producers of the package, but also their motives and the likelihood that they will prevail.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

R Unmasked

We were midway through the presentation on R when I got it. R is a programming language for doing statistics and we were looking at a code sample. I said "R is just APL without the Greek symbols", and that is what it is! In practice there is a language called J that really is APL without the Greek symbols, but R is close enough.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

DRM Undercurrents

Digital Rights Management (DRM) is heating up to the point where it is now starting to bubble. I have already talked about Laurence Lessig. In the latest Dr. Dobbs, Jerry Pournelle worries about losing his livelihood if DRM is not enforced. Cringely has written a couple of uncharacteristically paranoid columns about Microsoft and DRM.

One Cringely column is about how Microsoft wants to control USB so that information cannot escape from PCs. There are so many other ways that information can leak out of a PC, including CD and DVD writers, and the network connection, that controlling the USB does not seem interesting even if it can be done. On the other hand, the column on Microsoft security is more interesting as it shows one direction that Microsoft could be headed with its next version of the Windows.

The column suggests that Microsoft with its new focus on security is looking to lock down everything on the PC so that content providers can safely distribute their digital goods on Microsoft Windows and get their pound of flesh. Other rumors about Microsoft support this view, and Ballmer himself went out and started dissing the iPod as the music thief's dream. I have always thought of Ballmer as a clown, and this behavior is typical.

When Steve Jobs conceived the iPod, he knew that he had to set up a reasonable system that would satisfy and reassure both the people who want to sell music and the people who want to buy music. So Apple devised their system and went out and sold it to the music labels. For taking this initiative and doing it right, he has earned success and a lot of respect. On the other hand, Microsoft is in too much of a hurry and they have adopted the bully and bluster of their CEO, a style that is guaranteed leave them friendless.

Microsoft is not the only game in town. If they come out with a platform that is so tied up in DRM that it is annoying and difficult to use, they could loose their entire franchise.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

A Long Tale

The Long Tail seems to be everywhere. Tonight at the SDForum Emerging Technology SIG, we had a panel discussion on Music and Metadata, inspired by the Long Tail. At the same time Scott Rosenberg 's blog has some musings on blogs and what constitutes a successful blog, also inspired by the Long Tail.

While all this collaborative filtering stuff is interesting, I wonder how useful it really is. For example, my Netflix queue is at least 2 years long, and seems to grow every time I look at it. However they are always badgering me to rate movies so that they can recommend more. Well I have news for Netflix, I do not need any recommendations, I already have enough to keep them profitable for some time to come.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Real Time Analytics and the Dashboard Metaphor

Today, at the Power Pub on the Future of Analytics, the dashboard metaphor was taken out for several drives. With the excellent leadership of Richard Probst of SAP, we compared and contrasted Business Intelligence, the Balanced Scorecard and Analytics, and we also discussed the Real Time Enterprise. My contribution is that by making a small change to the metaphor, we can explore and understand the real time information requirements of the enterprise.

The notion of the dashboard is that as the executive or manager drives their enterprise, they need a set of indicators to show that they are on the right track, and these indicators are called a scorecard or dashboard. There were many riffs on the dashboard theme at the meeting. Someone even brought up the navigation system where the invariably female voice tells you, without the slightest trace of emotion, "Wrong way!" and then, without a hint of resignation, says "Planning a new route".

The problem with the dashboard metaphor is that driving a car is a singular effort, while driving an enterprise is a team effort, involving many different people who each have their own role to play. A better metaphor than steering an auto with the aid of a dashboard is navigating a ship. The captain, taking into consideration many factors including weather, channels, tides etc. plots the course and gives it to the helmsman. To keep the course, the helmsman watches the compass and continually makes minor changes to the helm to keep the ship on course.

In an enterprise, the executives plot a course like the captain of a ship. Executive decisions take time and consideration, they are planned for weeks and may take months to execute. Executives do not need real time information to make their decisions. On the other hand, like the helmsman, the people who are running the business day to day, hour to hour, or minute to minute, need to make constant small changes in course to keep the enterprise on track. These are the people who need up to date information to make the best decision. Thus real time or is it is often called right time information is the province of operational decision makers.

Real time information has many implications about how we construct our analytic information systems that will have to be discussed anon.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

The Comedy of the Commons

Today, Laurence Lessig opened the current SDForum Distinguished Speaker series with a talk called "The Comedy of the Commons". The title refers to a typically gloomy Malthusian essay called "The Tragedy of the Commons", written by Garrett Hardin in the late 60's.

The Tragedy of the Commons argues that when you try to share a common property amongst a group, each member of the group will try to exploit it to the full to get their fair share and in the end overexploit the property. The commons is a reference to medieval English village which had common land where all the villagers could graze their animals. A more modern example is going in a group for dinner with the understanding that you will all share the expense equally. You know that there is no point in ordering a cheap meal as the others will order something more expensive and you will end up subsidizing their meal, so everyone orders an expensive meal and you all end up paying more than necessary or intended.

Lessig argues that while this may be true for physical property, the opposite is true for intellectual property. An idea shared is more valuable than an idea that is kept secret, and in some sense, the more an idea is shared, the more valuable it becomes. This applies to any Intellectual Property, which I suppose leads to comedy, like a record company that on one hand pays radio stations to BROADCAST its hit song, while at the same time complaining that it is losing money because people are sharing the song on their computers.

The current interest in the commons comes from the fact that the US has been tightening up Intellectual Property law, for example by extending copyright, at the behest of a few large corporations that own a lot of intellectual property. At the same time there is a rising interest in shared common IP such as Free and Open Source Software, which is the focus of this years Distinguished Speakers series. Finally digital technology now means that there is effectively no cost to sharing intellectual property.

Professor Lessig is concerned with the IP extremists who want to prevent free sharing of Intellectual Property. As information becomes more valuable when it is shared, preventing the free sharing of information devalues the information. High barriers to sharing Intellectual Property could make the US an intellectual backwater and thus a loser in the information economy of the new millennia.

Saturday, September 18, 2004


Spam is totally out of hand. Through the summer I was amazed at the number of mortgages that I had apparently applied for. Filtering makes the spammers job harder, so now the spam is mostly incomprehensible. For example I recently got an email offering:
Xe.ni_cal, Vi,ox`x, vi_cod'_in, Ce_leb~rex, Ul', Me'~rid-ia,
R`educ^'til, V^al,_ium, Ci.al_is, Le`vitr,a, Via-gra
To enter into a commercial relationship, you need trust on both sides, especially on something as untrustworthy as the Internet. How could I possibly trust a vendor who is unwilling to spell out what they are offering? This email and other like it is a completely pointless waste of time. Spam could quite easily kill email in the same way as it killed the Usenet. Fight Spam.

Friday, September 17, 2004

BI is Back!

I glad to say that once again it is OK to use the term Business Intelligence (BI). For the last year or so, there has been a big push to talk about Business Performance Management as the next big thing, and along with that comes the suggestion that BI is no longer au courant. The problem is that Business Performance Management shares an acronym with Business Process management, another important emerging category in the Business Software market. So when the thought leaders say "BI is dead, long live BPM!" they leave us scratching our heads with puzzlement. By BMP, do they mean BPM or BPM?

My view is quite simple. BI has not gone away and Performance Management is just a new aspect of BI. As every one can see, BI is a TLA (Two Letter Acronym) whereas BPM is a TLA (Three Letter Acronym), and we all know that a TLA trumps a TLA any day.

Monday, September 06, 2004

"no such thing as"?

One response to free software is to "just shut up and pay the man"! I may have even said this myself, although with humorous intent. The interesting thing is that when I looked for "no such thing as free software", I found several sites advocating that free software costs more money than software that you have to pay for, so you were better off paying the man.

Are these really free opinions or just examples of "speak up and be paid by the man?"

Friday, September 03, 2004

There is no Such Thing as Free Software

Yesterday at lunch the conversation came around to free software and I had to say it: "There is no such thing as free software". Provided that we are talking about free software and not "Free Software", I stand by my statement. Well, even if we are talking about "Free Software", I stand by my statement.

The problem with "Free Software" is that it is written by geeks for themselves. Most Free Software is not a program for doing something, it is a toolkit for building a program for doing something, because that is how the true geek likes to do it. After you have downloaded the software, you have to devote time to understanding the toolkit and to building the tool that you need. As you do not have unlimited time, it is not free.

It is as if you went to the hardware store and instead of buying a saw they gave you a kit for making a saw with a sheet of cut metal, a gidget for setting the teeth, a file for sharpens the teeth and a multi-page book of instructions. Sure you can set the saw teeth to be a rip saw or a cross-cut saw, but it is going to take hours of careful setup before you can cut any wood.

Worse, when you upgrade your system, as you have to every few years, you find that you have to download a new version of the free software because that is the version that is compatible with your new system. The new version of the software does not work with your old configuration, so you have to spend time understanding and configuring your setup again.

The people who create Free Software do it to please themselves. It is much more important for them to have the software "do the right thing" than to make the software compatible with the previous version. Thus every version seems to have a number of arbitrary incompatible changes from the previous version.

Note that I am not saying that software that you pay for is necessarily better than Free Software. Very often with paid software you find that the new version is arbitrarily different from the previous versions in annoying ways and yet you have to suffer the indignity of paying for it as well.

At least with Free Software you know what you are getting into and why. Free software (no caps.) poses a whole set of extra problems and issues that we will discuss at another time.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Big Blackouts are Inevitable

A couple of days ago, I complained about electrical power reliability and that the government should be doing something about it. Today, in IEEE Spectrum there is an interesting article on the problem. If anyone should know about electrical power, it is the IEEE, and their prognosis is not good.

There are a number of competing theories, but the bottom line is that large blackouts will continue to happen, and that is that. The section of the article on Chaos theory (remember the Jeff Goldblum character in Jurassic Park), almost seemed to suggest the idea in Asimov's Foundation that some day we will predict the future by writing mathematical equations.

Anyway, even if large blackouts are going to occur every 35 years or so, that is no reason to let the politicians off the hook. After all the reason we elect them is to look after our interests so lets make them do it!

(Update 11/22/2008 fix link to article)

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Search Alone

George Chitouras of Inxight Software gave a talk to the Emerging Technology SIG of the SDForum on "Search Alone is Not Enough". I had seen it before, but it is always fun to see the combination of natural language analysis, search and user interface that Inxight has pulled together. This time he also showed us the Time Wall which is another neat visualization tool. Someone in the audience was so bowled over by the display of search features that he asked whether Inxight would mean the end of Google. Apparently he was going to discuss Google with his broker the following morning.

Inxight does not compete with Google, they sell search software products to corporate and government users. George made the good point that search for them is different than search on the internet. Most importantly there is much less cross reference between documents, so it is difficult to establish reasonable page rankings. Instead, Inxight proposes semantic analysis of documents and placing them in a user defined taxonomy which is easy to access through their StarTree. The TimeWall allows easy graphical search of documents arranged by time. Other semantic information extracted from the documents can be displayed along with the search results to help with further refinements of the search.

I want a version of their system on my PC to help me manage email and other documents. Unfortunately, Inxight is not going in that direction, however there are other projects that while they may not be so capable, are more affordable.

As predicted by an audience member there were heated discussion after the talk on various topics raised. I partook in a discussion on whether a taxonomy had to be a directed tree or whether it should be a graph. Although I argued both sides at the time, I think on reflection that a taxonomy is easier to use and less confusing when it is a tree., and that this is worth more than the generality of a graph taxonomy.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Reliable Electical Power?

This morning I was online reading a news item on electricity reliability when a power blip caused my PC to reboot. Such irony. When I tried to to back to the news item, it required a subscription, and I had to scrabble around to find another version of the story.

Electricity reliability is exactly the kind of thing that the government should be able to sort out. How hard can it be? If your elected representative cannot get something simple like this right, it is time to be thinking about change.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Easy Touch Screen Voting?

My bank recently changed the local ATM from one made by NCR to one made Diebold. Diebold is the notorious maker of touch screen voting machines whose results cannot be verified. The ATM is also a touch screen. When it went to get money the other day, I touched what I thought was the "Get Cash" icon on the screen, but the ATM thought I touched the nearby "Quick $40" icon instead, and I was immediately served $40 and handed back my card without an opportunity to correct the mistake. I hope that the Diebold touch screen voting machines are not as difficult to use as their ATMs.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

IT Does Matter

Nicholas Carr caused a storm last year when he wrote an article called "IT Doesn't Matter" for the Harvard Business Review. Recently he published a book on the same subject. For the article to generate the response that it did, it has to contain more than a grain of truth. In the long run, he may be right. At some point in the future, for the vast majority of companies, IT will not matter in the same way that accounting does not matter. Accounting is a function that needs to be done, and it needs to be done correctly, but it is not something that can give a company a decisive competitive advantage or a superior business model.

The problem is that we are not yet at the point where IT does not matter. Technology continues to advance, and we are always building new systems to take advantage of the new technology. What's more, it takes time to develop the understanding and standardization of an IT application to the point where it runs smoothly enough to be taken for granted, or outsourced.

I think that it takes a minimum of 25 years to get a application or technology properly under control. For example, payroll was a white hot application in the 60's with companies hiring talented programmers to write their payroll applications. By the 90's, payroll had gotten to the point where it was almost entirely outsourced.

Payroll is a relatively simple application. How long is it going to take to get the PC or the Internet under control to the point where they can be taken for granted? Then there are much more complex applications like ERP or CRM that have been around for a few years but certainly not long enough to be satisfactorily stable. Finally there are still emerging categories such as content management and business process management and new technologies such as RFID and sensor networks.

Unfortunately, Carr's writing distracts us from a much more important and corrosive problem, that of the IT divide. At a recent conference, the IT divide emerged as the dominant topic during the wrap up panel. I will have more to say about it later.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

More Thoughts on Internet Explorer Security

Maybe my last post was too severe. Windows Internet Explorer has a lot of security problems, and it will continue to have problems. The people who created it may prove to be misguided, however they are in the experimental phase of a new technology, and with anything new, "mistakes are made". In fact, we have not properly explored the design space unless mistakes are made.

A major source of security problem in Internet Explorer is the worldview that underlies its architecture. Just as pet owners come to resemble their pets, software reflects the organization that creates it. Microsoft is a large company that expects to dominate any field that it enters. Internet Explorer security is based on the concept that a small number of large media companies will dominate the internet and provide content for the masses. These companies need to install helper applications to web enable their content. ActiveX and other mechanisms are there to make this process work seamlessly without bothering the user. Also, because the applications are platform specific, they help cement the domination of Windows.

In practice the internet is more like the Wild West, with lawless thugs riding roughshod over whatever they can. Mechanisms to seamlessly deliver helper applications are exploited by the bad guys to seamlessly deliver unwanted programs of all sorts. Butler Lampson (now at Microsoft Research) recently published an excellent paper on security in IEEE Computer. He talks about trusted computing bases and sandboxing applications to prevent them from doing things that they should not. Now all we need is for the right people to listen to what he has to say.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Secure Programming and the Network Effect

With the latest report of of a security exploit in Internet Explorer, the hackers seem to be taking it to a new level. One article suggests that the problem is in the programming languages and programming tools that we use. While I agree that we could certainly use better tools, I think that a lot of the insecurity in Internet Explorer is caused by deliberate "design features", put in by some very misguided people.

The article on better programming languages is well worth reading. On a different topic, I was struck by this quote towards the end:
This is one area where I believe the open source movement has hurt us more than it has helped us: the availability of free, adequate tools for Unix has gutted the potential market for commercial high-quality tools. Very few programmers are willing to pay thousands of dollars for a better programming environment, when the customer can't tell the difference by how the resulting software runs. The Windows programmer has access to fully integrated environments that manage dependencies, debuggers that render execution with amazing detail, and visual development engines that take most of the work (and all of the errors) out of user-interface code.

The network effect that has allowed Microsoft to take over the Operating System world and then stifle progress, operates in other areas as well. I am sure I will have more to say on this topic.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

Distinguished Speaker Jerry Fiddler

Yesterday, Jerry Fiddler (founder of Wind River ) spoke to the SDForum on "Envisioning the Connected World" . Jerry was in good form, and he took us on a wild ride through embedded computers, robotics, nanotechnology, genetic algorithms, bio-engineering, religion, the future of humanity and back to inter-connected embedded computers. If it seems like a stretch in these few words, it was astonishing how well it held together.

One interesting comment he made was that a big source of failure in embedded systems is with concurrency. I have had some experience with this and I am not surprised. One of the first thing you learn with programming is how to write for loops and thus how to think sequentially. Once you learn to think about programming sequentially it is hard to break the habit and think about programs in parallel.

Another problem is that in most programming languages, concurrency is tacked on as an afterthought, rather than being integrated into the language. Thus you get a rag-bag of tools, with little guidance as to how to use them rather than a properly thought out set of parallel programming constructs.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Windows Annoyances

No system is perfect, but some seem to get worse with age. The Microsoft Windows operating system is certainly an example of this. Windows 3.1 was a small and taut system. The changes for Windows 95 and 98 were mainly internal so that anyone who had grown up with one could easily adapt. Since then things have been going downhill. I use Windows XP because when the motherboard succumed to Taiwanese capacitor rot, and I had to get a new one, XP was the only operating system that would load on it.

The first thing that you notice is that the Start menu is hopeless cluttered mess and that Windows Explorer in its default configuration shows mostly huge empty panes, with cute and unhelpful messages in the corner. With some fiddling you can get the "Classic" look, and after some more fiddling with options, get it so that you do not have to set the way Explorer looks seperately for every single folder that you visit. But even now it keeps hiding stuff in the Start menu, and although I have tried a couple of times to find the option to stop it doing this I have not succeeded. I DO NOT WANT MY START MENU TO LOOK DIFFERENT EVERY TIME I USE IT, PARTICULARLY BASED ON USAGE PATTERNS! STOP FUTZING WITH MY USER INTERFACE!

I came home the other night to find most of the icons on my desktop had disappeared. XP has this annoying habit of nagging you to clean up the icons on your desktop. Being old enought to be inured to this kind of thing, I can ignore it. Unfortunately my son had accepted the nag in his session and when he cleared up his desktop, all my icons disappeared as well. XP - STOP THE NAGGING! AND DO NOT ALLOW J. RANDOM USER TO CHANGE MY DESKTOP!

The good news is that we are not going to be troubled by anything new and worse for some time. Also a cottage industry has grown up to help you deal with windows annoyances.

Monday, May 31, 2004

Laurel Canyon

Watched Laurel Canyon> on DVD, and loved it. However I am amazed at the mixed response it got. Some people loved it, while many including prominent critics hated it.

To me it had all the elements: interest, a strong and successful hippy mother contrasted with her tightly sprung type-A son; amusement, the laid back left coast seduces the uptight east coast; and of course those very necessary elements in these modern times of sex & drugs & rock 'n roll. What more could you ask for?

Even many of the people who liked it hated the ending. The ending is abrupt and it is not properly signaled, but I laughed at it. Moreover, you cannot expect closure and a neat wrapping up on anything as messy as this set of lives. The relationships will just continue to morph with the changing guest list at the house party.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Finding R

Yesterday an acquaintance sent an email that mentioned R. It had come up in another context last week, so thinking that I should find out more about it, I turned to Google. But I thought, you cannot just search for "R", that will bring up the whole world. So I searched for "r data visualization". Nothing useful.

As I knew that R is an open source project, I went to Sourceforge, but the search key there has to be at least 3 characters, so that did not work. Another thought is that my acquaintance had just been to the user conference, cutely called useR. Google that!

As it happens, if I had just searched for R, I would have found what I was looking for. What do you know!

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Software Architecture and Modelling SIG

The SDForum has created a new Special Interest Group on Software Architecture and Modelling. Stephen McHenry from Netflix gave the initial talk followed by a Panel Session. Stephen talked about being a system architect, drawing from his many experiences, even touching on his current work at Netflix. The talk did not contain anything earth shattering or new, however he did a good job of covering the existing teritory. It was just the right thing for a new group.

There was one point made that I started to quibble with. Stephen said that you should try to delay making as many decisions as possible. This drew nods of appreciation from many audience members. I interrupted to say that there are some decisions that you have to make up front. Then the light bulb lit. A systems architecture is defined by the decisions that you make up front. All the decisions that you can delay are the implementation.