Random Thoughts

Tech, words and musings from an Englishman in Seattle

Andy Takes A Trip On The Vomit Comet

My pal Andy just took a ride on the Vomit Comet!

There really is no indication at first that anything is happening - you can hear the engines increase a little as the plane starts to climb but since there are no windows you have to real clue that anything is happening. Slowly you start to feel the increase in gravity as pressure across your whole body and if you try to lift your arms they really feel heavy. Its not uncomfortable but very odd but then quite quickly there is no pressure and you see people pushing off and WOW you feel very light. Martian and lunar gravity is strange enough but the first zero g is even weirder - you are suddenly not touching the floor and the slightest movement makes you go feet up or collide with your team mates. You can see why they say no jumping - you find yourself on the roof without even trying.

After 30-40 seconds someone yells 'feet down' and you have to make sure your feet are closest to the floor. Gravity comes back quite quickly and you will hit the floor hard. This is why its padded. They have us do some fun things like chase M&Ms and play with water. Of course when gravity comes back you are showered with the spare M&M and lose water but that's all part of the fun.

Nice one!

Read more over on his blog.

A Few Good Expenses

Very funny. Respect the salesforce…

And no, I don't believe they can be expensed…


I just received a couple of stickers from The Daily WTF. Yey! My laptop now has a new decorative item.

Never heard of the site?

Well, if you're a developer, it's a must-read. Amusing and sorta-instructional in a “no way I'd ever do that” kind of way.


Holy Eight Cores, Batman!

Is this the year that I finally switch the last bastion of Windows in my house over to Apple?

Fastest Mac Ever—Eight Processor Cores Standard

The new Mac Pro features the latest Quad-Core Intel Xeon 5400 series processors based on state-of-the-art 45nm Intel Core microarchitecture running up to 3.2 GHz, each with 12MB of L2 cache per processor for breakthrough performance and power efficiency. With a new high-bandwidth hardware architecture, dual-independent 1600 MHz front side buses and up to 32GB of 800 MHz DDR2 ECC FB-DIMM memory, the new Mac Pro achieves a 61 percent increase in memory throughput.

Pretty cheap too, though it'll need a RAM (and maybe a video card) upgrade.

I realized recently that I do pretty much all my video and photo editing on my MacBook Pro these days, and it's a little slow. The desktop in my office is mainly for browsing and running iTunes. I'd like to be more productive with it - it's a nice machine, with lots of nice peripherals attached, but I think it might be time to finally switch it to the shiny newness.

Software Is An Art Form

Joel Spolsky weighs in on the issues raised by the article I posted yesterday and comes up with a wonderful idea:

I think the solution would be to create a programming-intensive BFA in Software Development--a Julliard for programmers. Such a program would consist of a practical studio requirement developing significant works of software on teams with very experienced teachers, with a sprinkling of liberal arts classes for balance. It would be a huge magnet to the talented high school kids who love programming, but can't get excited about proving theorums.

When I said BFA, Bachelor of Fine Arts, I meant it: software development is an art, and the existing Computer Science education, where you're expected to learn a few things about NP completeness and Quicksort is singularly inadequate to training students how to develop software.

I've always said to anyone that will listen to me (which is not very many) that software is an art form. It attracts artists. Seriously. Just look at any software company and the amount of musicians, artists, carpenters, etc… working there that create code for a living and create other things in their down time.


Creation of something out of nothing.


There's no real definition of art, but in my narrow experience, the creation of music and the creation of software are deeply similar.

Where Are the Software Engineers of Tomorrow?

An interesting article claiming that:

…Computer Science (CS) education is neglecting basic skills, in particular in the areas of programming and formal methods. We consider that the general adoption of Java as a first programming language is in part responsible for this decline. We examine briefly the set of programming skills that should be part of every software professional’s repertoire.

Another interesting quote:

It [Texas A&M] did [teach Java as the first language]. Then I started teaching C++ to the electrical engineers and when the EE students started to out-program the CS students, the CS department switched to C++.

Definitely worth a read.

I've have been worrying for some time that the core programming competence of candidates coming out of colleges has been dropping over the years as the “helpful” languages proliferate and the spectrum of languages that students are exposed to declines…

What's a pointer, again?


[Tip'O'Hat to Lambda the Ultimate for the link.]

lsof - My First (I Think) Open Source Contribution

I happened to need to use lsof tonight and thought “Hey, I contributed code to that back in '91”.

I.e. I contributed code to an Open Source project in a prehistoric time before Open Source was a twinkle in Eric Raymond's eye.

My contribution was the ability to use lsof on kernel dumps for post-mortem debugging.

I wonder if I was credited anywhere?

Yup. Sweet!

© 2001 to present, Steve Lacey.