Friday, January 25, 2008

Let's share

Recently we've been looking at desktop recording software, particularly cheap or opensource, and multiplatform. We're going to bring up Panopto (a CMU spin-off) and are examing Berkeley's OpenCast. And, this afternoon I was playing with Jing (I read about it on Michael Feldsten's blog). Jing is free, multiplatform, and good quality. It reminds me of Camtasia, but has a five minute recording limit. Wait, both Jing (free) and Camtasia ($$) are owned by TechSmith. I don't understand the business model I guess :)

Speaking of sharing, Software Joel is allowing use of the Copilot ("remote control someone's computer over the Internet") free on weekends.

More interesting, Joel uses a recent downtime to discuss reliability. I talk about "four nines", "five nines", "six nines" reliability in class, and try to give good examples, but unless you've been knee-deep in a situation, you don't realize what those nine really mean. Here is a quote from Joel's post:
Think of it this way: If your six nines system goes down mysteriously just once and it takes you an hour to figure out the cause and fix it, well, you've just blown your downtime budget for the next century. Even the most notoriously reliable systems, like AT&T's long distance service, have had long outages (six hours in 1991) which put them at a rather embarrassing three nines ... and AT&T's long distance service is considered "carrier grade," the gold standard for uptime.
Finally, Tufte has a short analysis of, and suggestions for, the iPhone user interface in this video (scroll down a little for the link).

While you are visiting Tufte, you might want to think about data sonification, something we tried to do at Fresno State back in the NeXT computer days. We never got farther than a proof of concept system, but you can listen to one of Tufte's favorite graphic devices, sparklines. Very cool to listen to (the entire sonification discussion thread on Tufte's site is here.

Finally, there increasing interest in "evidence based" software engineering (here's an article from IEEE Software -- Fresno Staters click here) inspired by "evidence based medicine". Bob Sutton (you've read about him here previously) looks at infant mortality from a management perspective. Very interesting:
Their findings are intriguing. As proponents of the quality movement would predict, when there was greater input from non-physicians in developing treatment plans and more communication among all members of the units, infant mortality rates were lower... Similarly, these researchers also found that when front-line workers collaborated more on making process improvements in the units, mortality rates were also lower... BUT the big surprise is that collaboration wasn’t all good. One kind of collaboration was linked to higher mortality rates. When front-line employees became more involved in unit governance -- doing things like being involved in decisions about who was hired and fired, the creation of new positions, scheduling, and budget allocation decisions – mortality rates WENT UP.