Having recently read the great essay Software Is Hard (via Bill) a quote in a recent story of a robot cannon killing 9 and wounding 14 South African soldiers caught my eye:
Other reports have suggested a computer error might have been to blame. Defence pundit Helmoed-RÃ¶mer Heitman told the Weekend Argus that if â€œthe cause lay in computer error, the reason for the tragedy might never be found.“
Now I’m amazed and surprised by this. Even if he is incorrect and it was a hardware failure one would have thought that a device like this would have a solid state audit trail and code log of its actions that could be used to retrospectively identify the hardware/software fault. If not, you have to wonder who is designing the software and audit/control interfaces for these guns. They can, after all fire 500 rounds/min (per barrel)
The human cost of this tragedy was high. An example of how complex software interfaces can end up costing a company billions is the recent Airbus A380 PLM disaster. In this case software incompatibilities between different versions of the Catia CAD software used by the various Airbus teams resulted in wiring bundles, totaling 300 miles in length, that were too short to fit the dimensions of the plane. The end result was a two year delay to the release of the A380, costing Airbus billions in lost revenue.
There you go, something to keep you all on your toes for Friday afternoon. Remember, never commit anything on a Friday afternoon unless you are working on Saturday!
Oh, has anyone out there actually read Dreaming In Code? Just wondering if it’s worth the purchase…
airbus, guns, hardware, software
With the ever growing trend towards online applications and services, software architects need to be more aware than ever of the challenges in building platforms to host these types of applications. Successful sites in this space (Craigslist, Fickr, Salesforce etc.) all have one common problem to cope with – how do you maintain availability while dealing with exponential audience growth?
Two excellent pieces serve to proffer incredible insight into the experiences of those who have hyper-succeeded in the past:
- Inside MySpace.com, by Baseline Magazine is a great read about how MySpace scaled their architecture from zero to over 26 million user accounts, serving over 40 billion pages a month (isn’t that figure just incredible!).
- Database War Stories is a series of posts by Tim O’Reilly, interviewing folks from Second Life, Memeorandum, Craigslist and more. (The rest of the posts are linked to at the bottom of the first post.)
One common theme in many of these stories: periodically these guys are faced with the stark reality that incremental improvements to existing infrastructure will not sustain the current business model. It is testimony to the folks in charge that they trust their geeks enough to bet the company repeatedly on new architectures.
It is a high-risk world and there are many that fall by the wayside but the rewards for the brave are there for all to see.
dev, hardware, soa, software, web services, web2.0
Horray, I ended up spending a significant chunk of a day off work playing my new Wii. It really is that much fun, though I clearly have my work cut out – my Mii’s fitness age in Wii Sports is 80. I’d work on improving that but the game only lets you train once a day. All in all Wii Sports is just a great game, even popping up sensible suggestions to take occasional breaks, (the suggestion dialog even has a nice wind-blowing-in-an-open-window image). Curiously, Wii Sports edged out Gears of War as Time magazines 2006 game of the year – not bad for what was probably intended to be a capabilitiy demo suite of mini-games.
That’s four of us 30+ kids who have bought Wiis and I think there are a
few more looking for one. Apologies to all the mums and dads out there
who are still on the waiting lists, still trying to get little Johnny’s
christmas present. My sister and her husband called around today and although they are not gamers they are apparently going to buy one when they get back to the U.S. (and probably a new LCD tv). The little console that couldn’t is going to be a huge success for Nintendo.
That said, I am still playing Guitar Hero II , finally unlocking the Stonehenge venue. That game is just bloody brilliant, I hope the bring out something like that for the Wii (drums anyone?)
Since it’s inception I have bought a few tracks from the iTunes Music Store, initially one out of curiosity and subsequently a few out of necessity and then occasionally one or two because I came home drunk from the pub and just wanted to hear a particular song. Happens to the best of us I’m sure. So probably no more than 10 or 15 in total – now that I try check, I can’t find a way to get a total from iTunes.
Two home macs and a few of windows (work) machines later and I’m now noticing that there are some tracks I cannot authorize on my current work laptop. I was aware of the 5 machine authorization limit when I bought the tracks but I’m now, sooner than expected, discovering that even seemingly flexible DRM like that does not suit my digital lifestyle.
Now I know that my digital lifestyle tends to be an accellerated version of that of normal computer users (I bought my first MP3 player back in 1998) so I’m now finding myself pitying the fools who are buying large quantities of digital content from the iTunes Music Store (soon to be a Movie Store too?). They could use something like QTFairUse6 (hey, that would be illegal!)to strip the DRM and yes they can burn everything onto physical media for safe keeping but does anyone think online purchasers do that? Right after they do regular backups of the rest of systems (yeah right!). There will come a time when they will realize their purchased digital media collection is no longer acessible – man I’d be pissed.
All in all, the whole thing is kind of putting me off listening to music. I’ve even coined a term for it – DRM fatigue – and the same phenomenon seems to be affecting sales of Blue Ray and HD-DVD drives. When system vendors and/or content rights owners make it that difficult to access content (intentionally or unintentionally) consumers eventually get tired of bothering (remember programming VCRs, anyone?)
apple, drm, hardware, music
Stumbling across the same piece of hardware three times (on the Web!) in three days qualifies it for a blog entry I think. The Linksys NSLU2 (commonly referred to as “The Slug”) is a tiny network node that allows you to connect USB 2.0 Disk Drives to your home network. It’s a cheap and cheerful alternative to massively overspeced and overpriced 1U units. Hey, who has a rack in their house anyway?(I bet I’ll regret asking that)
The NSLU2 allows you to plug in two USB drives (housed in external enclosures presumably) and make them available to any other box else on your network. It sounds good for remote archiving and backup, although a SATA controller would be a worthy hardware addition to the spec. It’d also be good if it supported NFS, I thought…
A day later, I stumble across the curious (and skilled!) hacker. The box runs Linux and has a suitable large back door that can be used to install, well pretty much anything that will run on a headless linux server. In theory it could be adapted to run NFS, FTP, HTTP daemons. How about a print server? I don’t see why not (although I admit I do already have an Airport Extreme doing exactly this at home). There are already two replacement firmware images available, OpenSlug and Unslung that allow you to do things like attach more than two drives, use it as a PBX or very interestingly, (apparently!) hook up a Hauppage WinTV-PVR USB2 to the Slug. By now I’m getting very curious – can anyone say “cheap PVR”?
Another day later and I stumble across someone who is trying to get an OSGi stack running on it. Not for any particular reason, just, you know, to see if it could be done. An interesting exercise at the very least, unfortunately, there the trail grows cold, I’m not sure if he succeeded.
hardware, tech, tv