February 17, 2005

'Roids in Stockholm?

If it had been disclosed that Albert Einstein had been using some sort of mental performance enhancing substance, would people have demanded that he return his Nobel Prize?
--Thomas Jay Peckish II

Posted by foote at 05:09 PM

February 16, 2005

Refactoring and the Closing of the Frontier

On the 20th of September, 2004, Fortran, the first, and thereby the oldest, high-level programming turned fifty. Most people regard computer programming as a relatively new avocation, but the reality is that this industry can now boast of a heritage of over half a century of code.

I use the term "heritage" advisedly. The more customary term is "legacy". That term, is of course laden with negative connotations. And indeed, in the case of most of this code, most see little worth boasting about. The sheer burden of this accumulating legacy, however, is finally, belatedly, beginning to alter the way we think about software development, both in the academy, and in industry.

Like some of you, I can of age in what might be called the “green fields” era of software development. Systems were built from the ground up. It wasn’t unusual for a single individual to write ever line of code that ran an application, even a system more or less from first principles.

Large systems too were built in relative isolation from first principles by teams both large and small that wielded what might be thought of as homebrew materials and handmade tools.

Green Fields Today, the green fields a gone; the frontier is closed. In Illinois, only a few thousand acres of virgin prairie remain. Today’s developers are confronted by construction sites than have seen extensive prior development. Instead of green fields, they must master broken field running, avoiding, or otherwise coming to terms with existing obstacles. Some sites are so devastated as to be eligible for Superfund status...

Posted by foote at 06:38 PM

Peckish's Laws of Memetics

A Good Idea doesn’t care who has it.
--Peckish’s First Law of Memetics

A Good Idea doesn’t care who has it first.
--First Corollary to the First Law

Some people, on the other hand, do care about both, passionately.
--Third Law

Most people don’t care where it came from, so long as they are spared the effort of having the idea themselves.
--Second Law

Ideas want as many people as possible to have them, or at least harbor or play host to them. Other people’s ideas want other people to have them instead of your ideas.
--Blood in the Memepool / Memepool Predation

Posted by foote at 12:09 PM

February 12, 2005

Happy 196th Birthday Charles Darwin

A program is more like a steam engine that a building. More like the immune system than an outhouse, or a skyscraper. A system is more like a city than a doghouse, or, for than matter, an ocean liner.

Organs have multiple functions for the same reasons towns due. It’s literally natural for them to do so.

Only planned towns have a single function. Company towns are dreary places to live. Do I live in one?

What is the analog to sexual selection in our area: feature-itis perhaps?

Posted by foote at 07:11 PM

February 10, 2005

Jellyfish in Space

Jellyfish in Space Does software have a shape? Cope asked this years ago…

Software and Speciation; Allopatry…

A jelly fish in space: If only software could be written on the space shuttle, in the weightless void.

Most programs have primitive shapes, they are infophages, a tube around a gut, a python… A stream…

We’re running a chop shop for code, a van conversion outfit, a limo conversion shop.

Where are Ferrari, Porsche, Earle? We are shade tree mechanics, not designers. They reused ideas. Lots of ‘em…

Posted by foote at 08:05 PM