Saturday, February 18, 2006

Computer science and computer engineering

In the previous post I mentioned the low hit rate for NSF funding. University enrollment in Computer Science and Computer Engineering is also on the way down. The CRA has a nice graph showing student interest in Computer Science and Engineering from 1971-2005.

The number of high school students taking the Computer Science AP test is also dropping.

In January, The Chronicle of Higher Education had a colloquy about female enrollment in computer science. The moderators ask:

Only 17 percent of undergraduate computer-science degrees were awarded to women in 2004, according to the Computing Research Association, down from 19 percent in 2000. Why is the number so low, and dwindling?

Here is a nice graph of the percentage of baccalaureate degrees awarded to women, by field, from 1973-2003.

Monday, February 13, 2006

I'll take potpourri for $200, Alex

Money magazine interviews Fred Brooks, thirty years after he wrote the Mythical Man-Month. He's a Mac user :)

IEEE Spectrum has an article about the reduction in federal funding for computer science research. In 2005, the hit rate for NSF proposals was only about one in five:

... the National Science Foundation... While in years past, the directorate supported 30 to 35 percent of the proposals it received, by 2004 the funding rate had been halved, to 16 percent, while in 2005 it was 21 percent.

I continue to be interested in open standards (primarily RFC 2445) for calendaring. You can listen to a fairly technical talk (one of the topics is CalDAV) or check out the page.

It shouldn't be surprising that folks like Chertoff and Rumsfield don't do email: there's less to be subpoenaed. It reminded me of Tiffany Shlain's coffee klatch at Fresno State yesterday where she talked about DWID (Don't Write It Down). That is, assume everything you send in email will be public. In the corporate world, some of the "concern" about email is because of the Sarbanes-Oxley act.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Videoconferencing and making movies

If you are interested in movies or videoconferencing, the January 2006 Baseline magazine's "All-seeing eye" article is about videoconferencing saving millions of dollars for the makers of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I recommend clicking on "Printer-friendly version" right away so you don't have to pick your way around ads.

The article descibes how the production crew pushed the envelope of video-over-IP and worked with Polycom to debug their IP-based system. There are also anecdotes of the director using the videoconferecing system to check actors' costumes and "make changes in lighting and camera angles in real time, which not only saved us time and money, it allowed us to make an overall better film trilogy".

Unfortunately, the best graphic from the hardcopy magazine isn't on the web site. The graphic shows how the first three Harry Potter movies cost $450 million. The LOTR trilogy cost $270 million. Here is the caption:

Time Warner and its movie studio subdidary, New Line Cinema, undertook a huge risk in 1999 when it decided to film all three installments of the Lord of the Rings trilogy at once. Using technology such as internet-based videoconferencing, director Peter Jackson was able to manage the monumental task at an estimated cost of $270 million. If filmed separately, the studio figures it would have cost $400 million, of 48% more.

Speaking of videoconferencing, if you are an iChat AV fan you can download a gizmo to make iChat icons streaming (or looping) video.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

It's a risky world out there

I am giving guest lectures in an upper-division software engineering course this semester. My last lecture was about risk management, so of course we talked about probabilities.

You wonder what is the probability that you will die in a streetcar accident? Nothing to worry about: your lifetime odds are only 1 in 931,000. Encounter more snakes than streetcars? Your lifetime odds of a poisonous snake causing your death are 1 in 1,214,000. "Hornets, wasps, bees" are what you watch out for (1 in 68,981).

Not to worry, you are more likely to drown in a bathtub (1 in 10,582) or be the victim of "Complications of medical and surgical care and sequelae" (1 in 1,310).

The National Safey Council provides all this and more. Have a nice day!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

I can't get enough PowerPoint!

Former Apple Evangelist Guy Kawasaki has an amusing blog post about PowerPoint (or Keynote, or whatever) slides. He recommends the 10-20-30 rule: 10 slides, 20 minutes, nothing smaller than 30 point font.

He gets in a jab about windows:

You should give your ten slides in twenty minutes. Sure, you have an hour time slot, but you’re using a Windows laptop, so it will take forty minutes to make it work with the projector.

In the interest of full disclosure, Guy Kawasaki (OK, his VC company turned us down for angel funding back when we were starting Oak Grove Systems (now owned by Seagull).

But I've gotten over the rejection, and recommend watching Kawasaki's talk he gave to the University of Hawaii College of Business Administration.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Software and the Regional Jobs Initiative

Back in December I gave a link to an article about the fledgling "software cluster" of the regional jobs initiative.

There was a nice article with many more details in today's Fresno Bee: "Fresno tech firms team up". According to a table in the article of data from the State Employment Development Department, there are six times more "information industry " employees in Los Angeles county than in San Benito/Santa Clara counties (i.e., Silicon Valley).

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Yet more whale stuff

By popular demand, here is high quality Quicktime video of the Oregon Whale Explosion.

About two years ago there was also a whale explosion, in Taiwan, but this time from natural causes. The photo is fairly disgusting.

You can also watch the KEYT news video about the Santa Barbara whale-boat encounter, which happened off Leadbetter Beach.

Back in October I noted that the California Coastal Records Project lets you look at just about any place on the California coast.

You can see pictures of Leadbetter Beach, and of Morro Bay (scene of the other whale-boat breaching) and the infamous rock.

Some Computer Science and Software Engineering things

I don't Su Doku, and I find Stan Kelly-Bootle's columns irritating, but in
this column from ACM Queue he talks about the death of Jef Raskin, and also about some interesting thoughts about what makes any particular Su Doku puzzle easy or difficult.

Also in ACM Queue is a nice interview with Alan Kay where he talks quite a bit about programming languages. In the interview, Kay mentions Niklaus Wirth,
which reminded me that in the January 2006 IEEE Computer magazine, Wirth writes an article "Good Ideas, through the Looking Glass" where he talks about ideas that seemed good at the time, but in retrospect maybe weren't so great.

Examples from hardware to software include: "magnetic bubble memory", "virtual
addressing", "complex instruction sets", "Algol's complicated for
statement", "functional programming", "logic programming", and
"object-oriented programming"!

Fresno State student can access the article electronically by clicking this link, then connecting to IEEE Xplore.

UH Manoa students can access the article electronically by clicking this link and click on Computer.

While you are there looking at the electronic IEEE Computer you can also read "NASA's Exploration Agenda and Capability Engineering" :)

Friday, February 03, 2006

More whales

There was a boat-whale incident near Santa Barbara yesterday that sent a human to the hospital and left whale pieces on the boat.

Small boats hit by breaching whales is not as uncommon as you might think. Using's Wayback Machine, you can read a CNN/Reuters story from 2002 about a fisherman being killed by a breaching whale north of Santa Barbara near Morro Bay.

Speaking of whales, you can also watch some 35 year old video of geniuses in Oregon trying to get rid of a dead whale by blowing it up.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Of whales, user interfaces, and ankle sprains

Tog has a great post about Scott Adams (Dilbert's creator) blog meltdown. In his discussion, Tog talks about piloting airplanes, mental models, usability testing, and magic. Almost an entire Human-Computer Interaction class in one post.

What does this have to do with whales? Not much, except that Scott Adams was whale watching in Maui, and mistook a rock for a whale.

Speaking of whales, a retired Florida Atlantic University (FAU) university professor jumped on a whale and got his foot stuck in a blowhole.

As if that wasn't embarassing enough, there was insurance paperwork to fill out:

After the adrenaline wore off, McAllister realized his left ankle was badly sprained and asked someone to take him to a nearby Air Force hospital. But before he could go, he had to fill out a workman's compensation form.

"Where it asked how the accident happened, I wrote 'I jumped on the back of a humpback whale and got my foot caught in her blowhole,'" McAllister recalled. "Where it asked what steps were being taken to prevent a recurrence of the accident, I wrote, 'I won't jump on any more whales!'"