Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Origins of Style and GUIs, and the tidy desktop

I have an hypothesis I would love to test and it is this:
You can tell the date that a GUI designer bought their first HiFi
by the level of gaudiness of the GUI - X Windows for example had a number
of toolkits and look and feel/skins like Motif and Athena Widgets, which reminded me a lot of the late 70s and early 80s design of Amps with lots of knobs and sticky out stuff and shiny brushed aluminium, and then later, with matt black and minimal
exterior stuff, whereas tcl/tk's toolkit first look and feel was more the colloidal/organic feel of late 80s early 90s, even Bang & Olufsen....

Also, you can tell a lot about a person from the state of their home directory - some people organise it with docs, bin, lib, Mail, Arc, Tmp (a bit like / on a unix box)
but some people have a zillion random files called foo bar baz big, tmp, and 044333xxx.arc etc - usually (but not always) this is mirrored in the physical state of their desk/office, but does it reflect their thinking too? I think we should be told...

Friday, February 23, 2007

botanically inspired computing

there's all this chat about bio-inspired computing, and survivable networks, and sustainable computing - but why not do botanically inspired computing eh?

plant, tree, leaf, we already do it, and its greener than cows:)

also, what about opportunistic security as another really bad idea - so think of laissez-faire privacy, for example - encrypt things when its not too much bother, otherwise dont - the basis for this is sound since security is almost always anathema to usability, lets only do it when we aren't using it:)

next:cryptozoically assigned internet addresses

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

anglo saxon chronic words

so why is that that all words of the form
are mean sounding? think about slag, snag, swag, blag, brag, slog and even blog:-)

and how is it that some authors who cannot write for toffee sell well - is it just that their name _sounds nice

euphony versus cacaphony, eh - onomatopoeic, or what?

Monday, February 12, 2007

railing on ruby

I've been reading about Ruby on Rails, and feel like writing an
article Railing about Ruby, to express my dismay with this notion that
higher level programming abstractions somehow get you away from the
notion that we have to learn how to program!

At no point in my experience of programming,
teaching progrmaming, or teaching any part
of CS that involved programming (all:),
or working with people in industry,
have I ever detected evidence of the idea that
as the community develop higher level tools
(whether languages, software development environments or methodologies),
we reduce the need for design, thought, and skills.

What newer tools do achieve is the
ability for a given team to tackle a
larger problem. Not a problem of
ineherently more complexity, but a
problem where many simple (possibly heterogeneous)
pieces have been tackled before. Or
the ability to tackle a problem with
less errors in a given amount of time
with given people resources.

I'd like to christen this the God Delusion
(sorry, again R D)
(as we might term some sort of
panglossian view that one day you will be able
to google for the solution to a problem in
a code base - GOogle Do instead of Exec() :-)

In this new language, GoD,
one can program one's house with expressions such as
"Lux Fiat"
and through some sort of babel search,
this will be translated into:
"turn on the light"
but in one's garage,
it cleans ones Italian Car.
Of course, in the physics lab,
it might cause a tiny nuclear explosion,
and in the bio lab
, the emergence of life from a
primeval swamp in a testube.

In GoD,
Fiat = generic constructor
Lux = light, soap, enlightenment, etc

Other constructs, native inline functions, include
Ecco Homo
which on the screen, prints what men type, but not women.
but in the bathroom, strips off the clothes and uts them in the
laundry basket for women, but drops them on the floor for men,
and in the artists studio, knocks out a quick portrait with
fine chiaruscuro...

As david lodge once famously asked,
How far will you go?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

premature announcement of the death of computer science

some recent letters/articles
death of cs
claim that there is no demand for CS undergraduate university degree programmes of the "classic" kind (ones that teach, say, the ACM CS curriculum material), and that there's no demand for CS graduates (or PhDs) in industry, and that this is because the subject is dead.

what a load of piffle. the subject is more alive than ever and lots of action is out there, and demand for graduates and PhDs who can reason compulationally, AND programme, is higher than EVER. however, schools programmes have completely failed to deliver anythign interesting, so no kids are coming out of british 6th forms with any idea from their teachers of what is cool in CS. the ones that do had to do it on their own (and are often very good as a result) but those that have innate abilities may never discover this and miss out on great careers.

Training people for IT "careers" is, in contrast, consigning them to the dustbin of history, since that is EXACTLY what everone is outsourcing to the countries where labour is cheaper, or to school leavers who discover that at least maintaining a bunch of PCs and printers is better than working in McDonalds....