Thursday, October 25, 2007

Warning: Major Geek Alert

Fathom is delivering mostly-live (the opposite of "mostly dead" -- see if you get that reference) events into movie theaters. A bit of the technology is explained here.

The majorly geeky part is for two November nights they will show The Menagerie from the original Star Trek series. Not my favorite episode, but I would like to see how the streaming high def video and audio work. Bonus geek points attending the 10:30pm Thursday evening showing.

Can The Princess Bride be far behind?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Extreme programming versus iterative development

This short report is a little dull, but the topic is important, and did I mention it was short?

Cusumano, M. A. 2007. Extreme programming compared with Microsoft-style iterative development. Commun. ACM 50, 10 (Oct. 2007), 15-18. DOI=

If you are a Fresno State person you can go directly to the article here.

University of Hawaii people can go here to access CACM, authenticate, then go to the October 2007 issue.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Space is a cold place

You might remember a recent incident where the International Space Station's (ISS) computers went down. Much international finger-pointing resulted. Now it turns out that condensation was the cause of the failure: an interesting summary of the NASA investigation.

Speaking of flying, many people use web-based "flight trackers" to check commercial flights. You'd assume that the flight trackers share the same base requirement of estimating arrival time. So, as Scott McCartney asks in his Wall Street Journal column, since when is four hours late considered "early"?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Glass cockpits, social interfaces

The October 2007 issue of Computer has a good two page article about software and modern avionics. This is one of the few places where you will find definitions for such things as "full-authority" digital engine control. Here's a quote:
GE aircraft engines can downlink operational data during flight to GE's Remote Monitoring Center near Cincinnati, Ohio. The center can analyze the data in real time, thereby enabling the scheduling of essential maintenance if necessary while an aircraft is still in flight.
The article is available to everyone without subscription. Thank you John Knight.

If that interests you, I suggest looking at Lala and Harper's paper " Architectural principles for safety-critical real-time applications". Since that paper was written in the mid-1990s, the Boeing 777 avionics were being developed:
The Boeing 777 flight control computer ... takes design diversity well beyond what has ever been tried in pratice or even in a research laboratory. The initial concept rested on three quad redundant computers with each of the quads implemented in dissimilar hardware and programmed in dissimilar software ... The software design diversity has since been simplified to use only Ada, although three different compilers are still under consideration to generate code for the three types of microprocessors ... The hardware design has also been simplified to a 3 by 3 matrix of 9 processors.

Changing the subject, I like reading Joel on Software, but cringe when Joel goes too far. The almost-always-interesting Michael Feldstein takes Joel to task about social interfaces. It's from a couple of years ago, but still interesting.

Joel may be off about social interfaces, but he has an interesting recent post about a disturbing bug in Excel.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Harvard Business Review cartoons

Many of the cartoons from the Harvard Business Review are online free (most the articles are pay-to-read). The October issue has a cartoon that cubicle dwellers understand. I haven't figured out how to go directly to arbitrary HBR monthly comics, but here is the link to October's, and you can see more by using the Browse Issue function on the right, pick the month you want, and then click Cartoons.

Besides the cube cartoon, farther down the page is a good one for anyone going to too many meetings.