Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Gödel and Turing

You don't see much about Kurt Gödel or Alan Turning on TV, but last weekend at the Miami Book Fair both were mentioned:

  • Alan Lightman, "The Discoveries: Great Breakthroughs in 20th-century Science, Including the Original Papers"
  • Rebecca Goldstein, "Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel"
  • David Leavitt, "The Man Who Knew Too Much: Alan Turing and the Invention of the Computer"

You can watch the replay on Scroll down to the bottom to the last session of the day.

ACM and IEEE-CS formats

People writing research papers ask me about the ACM's and IEEE Computer Society's formats, and I never remember the exact URLs. So I end up searching everytime.

Those days are over! Here are the links:

IEEE Computer Society Style Guide (click on "Special Sections" near the top)

ACM Style Guide

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Understanding mission and vision statements

I'm not a big fan of spending a lot of time on mission and vision statements. Using Steve McConnell's ideas from his Chapter 11 of his book Rapid Development, maybe it's because I'm more of a developer than a manager. McConnell says (emphasis in the original):

If you'a a manager and you try to motivate your developers the same way that you would like to be motivated, you're likely to fail. ...

If you're a developer, be aware that your manager might have your interests at heart more than you think. The phony-sounding "attaboy" or hokey award might be your manager's sincere attempt to motivate you in the way that your manager likes to be motivated.

McConnell's Table 11-1 is "Comparison of motivations for programmer analysts vs. managers and the general population". I highly recommend spending some time with that table. You can see it by going to Amazon, looking up the book, and doing a "search inside" for "Fitz". This link should take you straight to the book. I think this link will take you straight to Table 11-1, but Amazon might move it (I'm not sure if the URLs for Amazon searches are static).

Back to mission statements. One of the most famous is from the original Star Trek TV series (and updated for The Next Generation):

Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

In his amusing book All I really need to know I learned from watching Star Trek, Dave Marinaccio explains mission statements (you can Seach Inside for "mission statement" on Amazon):

Crew members of the Starship Enterprise know exactly what they are supposed to do. Suppose you are the dumbest person on the ship. How long do you think the mission will last? Five years? Very good. And suppose you encountered a strange new world? What should you do? Expore it, perhaps. There is even an emotion telling you how you should go about exploring it. Boldly.

He goes on to relate that to corporate/organization mission statements.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Slate magazine's college week

Slate has some interesting articles about college life. Here's one about laptops in class: "The rules of distraction: Hey, you - with the laptop! Ignore your professor and read this instead."

Sony BMG's failed DRM fiasco

The best quote I've read so far is by Phil Leigh in an article by Associated Press reporter Brian Bergstein:

"The biggest mistake the labels are making is, they're letting their lawyers make technical decisions. Lawyers don't have any better understanding of technology than a cow does algebra," Leigh said. "They insist on chasing this white whale."

Friday, November 18, 2005

Number stations

If you've played with a shortwave radio receiver you've probably heard these weird voices reading random numbers.

You can listen to a BBC Radio show about them here and read an article from Salon.

Or, let your mind wander and listen to digit after digit on, here or here.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Software defects, part 3

After all these years, why are we still having buffer overruns?? Pretty interesting article, and one of the clearer explanations of the run-time stack I've seen.

Kuperman, B. A., Brodley, C. E., Ozdoganoglu, H., Vijaykumar, T. N., and Jalote, A. 2005. Detection and prevention of stack buffer overflow attacks. Commun. ACM 48, 11 (Nov. 2005), 50-56. DOI=

Books, comedians, and great americans

Bob Colwell. "Books Engineers Should Read," Computer, vol. 38, no. 11, pp. 7-10, November, 2005. If you can't access the article, try this link for a free copy. (Note to Fresno State students: you have access to all the IEEE publications through the library's electronic subscription to IEEE Xplore, just find it on the list and click on Connect.)

Colwell also has an amusing article about giving presenations: Bob Colwell. "Presentation Lessons from Comedians," Computer, vol. 38, no. 9, pp. 10-13, September, 2005. If you can't access the article click on this link for a free copy. (Same note applies for Fresno State students).

Mark R. Hamilton writes about why is it that the people immediately above us in the org chart are idiots? Are they really? See "Two rules for communication."

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Nixon and Elvis

I recommend these black and white photos to students who need to test their image processing projects.

Neil Armstrong

CBS's 60 Minutes had a very rare interview with Neil Armstrong. You can see a photo gallery and watch the interview if you go to the main 60 Minutes site and search for the video. If you search on "Armstrong" you get both Neil and Lance videos :)

If you decide you want to own some space artifacts, collectSpace is for you.

Friday, November 11, 2005

The subconscious mind and HCI?

Interesting to think about what business folks are doing and how it relatest to HCI. In particular, that people "do" differently than they "say" isn't a surprise to usability testers.

"The subconscious mind of the consumer (and how to reach it)"

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Software defects, part 2

I forgot to add this one to my recent post about software defects:

"Why software fails", from the September 2005 issue of IEEE Spectrum. Take a look at their software hall of shame.

You can also read the last article in Simson Garfinkel's series in Wired. This one is "Microsoft's secret bug squasher" about using model checking and formal methods. For more about formal methods, see "The exterminators" in the September 2005 issue of IEEE Spectrum.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Odd website

This is one of the oddest uses of the web I've seen. Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, not all of it runs on a Mac:

Software defects

Both Wired and IEEE Software have interesting articles this month about software defects and failures. The Wired articles even include animations of race conditions and buffer overruns.

Wired articles:

IEEE Software article: "High-tech Disasters" about Katrina and New Orleans.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Open source stuff

In addition to the previously mentioned Open Office here's another interesting open source system: Zimbra.

Zimbra is "an open source server and client technology for next-generation enterprise messaging and collaboration." That means it knows about POP, IMAP, iCal, and stuff like contacts lists. Their approach to mail reminds me of gmail.

If you are looking to replace your campus financial system you should watch the Kuali project.