Saturday, June 30, 2007

Politically incorrect

I want to see the Egyptian pyramids and Luxor, so I recognized the name of Zahi Hawass (the guy you see on television talking about antiquities) as I flipped through the July Conde Nast Traveler. But I was surprised at some of the statements he made in this interview, such as

A group of tourists who can afford to pay only a thousand dollars apiece for a trip are useless. Let them stay in their own country!



Anyone who's taken a software engineering class from me, undergrad or grad, knows I like traceability:

Requirements traceability... provides critical support for software engineers as they develop and maintain software systems. Traceability helps determine that researchers have refined requirements into lower-level design components, built them into the executable system, and tested them effectively. It further helps analysts understand the implications of a proposed change and ensures that no extraneous code exists...

Furthermore, organizations building safety-critical systems are often legally required to demonstrate that all parts of the code trace back to valid requirements. Laws such as the US Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 require organizations to implement change-management processes with explicit traceability coverage for any parts of a software product that potentially impact the balance sheet.

The above is from a paper in the June 2007 IEEE Computer magazine, "Best practices for automated traceability" by authors from DePaul University, Siemens Corporate Research, and iRise. The paper gets heavily into probability after the first couple of pages, so I wouldn't make undergrads read it, but skimming the paper gives an idea of what folks are doing to find and maintain those threads of traceability I'm so fond of.

Here are the links:
  • directly to article in the IEEE online library (unless you have a subscription, you'll only get the abstract and reference information)
  • a direct link to the article for Fresno State students, staff, and faculty.
  • a direct link to the June 2007 issue for University of Hawaii students, staff, and faculty (you'll have to scroll down to the article).

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Veggie oil tales

We've previously talked about cars powered by vegetable oil and how some states are going after tax revenue.

North Carolina is the most recent one I've heard about:

Teixeira's story began near Lowe's Motor Speedway on May 14. As recreational vehicles streamed in for race week, revenue investigators were checking fuel tanks of diesel RVs for illegal fuel.

The investigators spotted Teixeira's passing bumper sticker: "Powered by 100% vegetable oil."

"It was like some twist of fate that put me there," he said. "It was like I was asking for them to stop me."

And now for something completely different

Yesterday evening having pizza and fruit at the farm of some nearby friends we got to talking about organic, almost-organic, and traditional tree fruit farming.

I remembered that back in the day when we had an apple orchard I read something in California Farmer magazine about someone drinking a glass of malathion. This was during the medfly scare.

Well last night David knew the guy's name (B.T. Collins) but we thought it was during the Reagan governorship. Actually Collins (a republican Viet Nam double amputee) was appointed by Jerry Brown as his chief of staff. Sounds like a very interesting guy. Time magazine describes the malathion incident:

Brown's fears notwithstanding, state officials said it was safer to spray from the air than the ground. Reason: the Malathion is mixed with molasses, sugar and yeast and falls in coffee-graint-size droplets that cannot be easily inhaled. B.T. Collins, 40, director of the California Conservation Corps, gave the most dramatic demonstration of its safety: he drank a glassful of Malathion diluted with water to the concentration used in the spray.

On an entry quotes some of his personal "rules":

You stand up for your people. You dig your own foxhole. Don't tell your best friend who to marry. Never argue with a cop. Always send handwritten thank you notes.

Reminds me of David Hackworth, author of the very interesting About Face, not to be confused with Alan Cooper's user interface book of the same name :)

Friday, June 08, 2007

Stu Card and Don Norman

The Franklin Institute posted two brief, layman-level videos of recent HCI award winners.
Stuart Card
from Xerox PARC for human-computer interface achievements
Donald Norman for user-centered design.

both videos are easy to understand and interesting, and short. The Franklin Institute has been around for a while, and describes the awards as:

For 182 years, The Franklin Institute has honored the greatest men and women of science, engineering, and technology. The Franklin Institute Awards are among the oldest and most prestigious comprehensive science awards in the world.

You can also listen to an audio podcast about human-computer interaction, and about how the committee chose Stu Card for the award. They even talk about Fitts Law!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Computer people and their tiny airplanes

I've previously posted about Jef Raskin's take on why planes fly: here and here. Simson Garfinkel blogs about meeting Raskin and marveling at his radio controlled gliders. Raskin died in early 2005, but Garfinkel finally built and flew a glider: "After five years, I make good on my promise to Jef Raskin". You can see a video of Raskin's workshop with lots of airplanes, and two secret doors :)

The inspirational story of an 'overnight' success

The May-June 2007 issue of ACM's interactions has a two page article about how Harmonix's Guitar Hero took off after Best Buy put the game on kiosks. If you are a Fresno State person you can access the article here, and if you are a University of Hawaii person you can access interactions and then go to the issue.

But more interesting than the interactions piece is this take at GameSpot News: scroll down about one screen to "Alex Rigopulos: Whose dream is it, anyway?". There is also a link to really lousy audio. A slightly better article is here.