Introducing the “Nimble” Software Methodology

Software, Technology - 1 Comment » - Posted on October, 30, 2011 at 9:37 am

I had a comment from someone on a previous rant about the term agile, and it has spurred me on to tell you all about my first encounter with nimble software processes.

In my first job out of Uni I was working on a client site in another country on a project where the delivery date was set based on the owner’s birthday. So I probably should have run a mile based on that alone. But it was new and exciting and I didn’t know what to expect from the real world so I worked my 6 day weeks with 3 hour commute each day. We had a team with an experienced lead and 5 grads straight out of Uni, and the work environment was very unsettled (figuratively and literally, they were building the building around us). We were keen to employ some of the things we’d learned at Uni so we approached our team lead and said:

“The client is changing their mind all the time, instead of just hacking on code each time they do this we should employ some sort of agile process to manage it”.

To which he replied:

“Process is for stupid people, it’s for people who can’t manage themselves. We’re better than Agile, we’re … Nimble.”

And from that day forward any time someone has said they use a process when they are clearly using no process at all, or only the bits that mean they have to do less work, I have labelled them as using a Nimble methodology.

AI Just Search of Blogs?

Ideas, Ponderings, Software, Technology - No Comments » - Posted on November, 15, 2008 at 12:50 pm

Here’s an interesting idea: I reckon there are so many blogs out there that the first Artificial Intelligence (AI) will simply be a modified search engine. Tthe more obscure and convolouted the topic, the more likely someone is to blog on it. I reckon there’s probably a blog on just about everything. What about an Amish blog – yep (well kinda). What about a blog on cleaning sewers – yep (kinda). Pick a subject, google it, I bet it’s there.

And why am I picking blogs instead of just the web in general? Well blogs are opinions. To be declared an AI, the machine/software must pass The Turing Test – in short it must fool a real person into thinking that it’s a person through text based chat (e.g. IRC, MSN Messanger etc). Of course real people participate as the “control” and sometimes the judges pick the real people as machines and the machines as real people, but nobody has claimed the prize as yet (though apparently there were a few that were close this year).

So what I’m trying to say is that this software that is undergoing the test must act like a human – i.e. have an opinion. What’s the best way to do that? Data mine the millions of human opinions floating in the World Wide Web. Basically if the judge asks a question, the software would look up that question on the web (blogs only) and find someone who’s had an opinion or thought about it somewhere out there, do a bit of syntactic juggling and pass the result back to the judge.

It’s not really an AI, because it’s not really thinking for itself – it’s more like a global consciousness. It just takes the opinions of the people out there and uses them as it’s own.  I know I’ve glossed over some pretty complex stuff – how could you properly take input and find the right answer? What is this syntactic juggling? Google has technology which pretty much knows what you’re asking even when you mis-type it, so I think the technologies are out there.

I wonder how hard it would be to do this, and I wonder how good the results would be.

PMD (Post Movie Depression)

Ponderings, Technology - 4 Comments » - Posted on August, 15, 2007 at 10:24 pm

Whenever I go and see a movie with some great hero who defeats all evil in the name of good I leave it feeling utterly depressed.

At the time I love it – we’ve just seen Harry Potter Order of the Phoenix, and whilst it’s nothing on the book it was a decent flick. However, as soon as the credits roll I start to feel glum and un-special. I’m no Harry Potter, the magical Hogwarts doesn’t exist, and really I’ve got nothing at all which sets me apart from the rest of the rabble we call humanity.

I get this feeling every time I watch a movie. It’s like some reaction to seeing greatness. All of a sudden I realise that I’m not doing shit, that I’m just living my life and that I’m not actually making an impact on the world. I start thinking up how cool it would be to build a castle up on some mountain somewhere and open it up as a school for technical wizards. We can teach bright young wizards (aka nerds/dweebs/geeks) how to wrangle the magics of computer wizardry. We could have transfiguration classes which focus on types and polymorphism, defence against the dark arts classes which focus on secure networking, and a virtual world in which magic (i.e. computer skills) are put to the test via duels and CPUidditch (a peculiar game where two teams attempting to guide worms and virus’ into their opponent’s network)….

See I know I’ve got a wicked (as in good) imagination, and I really feel like I should be able to use it somehow. However I can not write (as you can tell) and I can not draw/paint/sculpt etc. I can code, and a little imagination goes a long way when solving problems, but I’m no genius there. Poetry is fun but I don’t have the word-smithing skills needed for that either. I feel like I have a gift, but I’m not using it. And obviously I have deep seated delusions of grandeur which are exposed and raw after I watch a movie.

HotTop

Technology - No Comments » - Posted on March, 7, 2007 at 8:52 pm

Is it just me or do most laptops these days have the effect of burning your lap? I’ve used laptops which get so hot that the edge of the touch pad gets too hot to touch. Like it burns. Most laptops have the guts of the thing on the bit which sits on your lap and just the screen that folds out. Because the heat is being generated down there and it’s sitting on your lap, it makes it really hard to dissipate the heat and burns the user in the process. Even if it’s using a fan, if you sit the laptop on something with an uneven surface, for example a bed, it’ll be doing nothing at all. Meanwhile the back side of the screen sits out there in nice ventilated open space and does nothing to help dissipate the troublesome heat. If we can’t shift the processor up to the back of the screen, maybe we can shift the heat? It seems like a really simple idea, but we’ve seen some really simple ideas coming out recently which could change laptop computing forever. I’m talking about the ASUS XG Station and the ATI Lasso. It’s a really simple idea – make a dock with a powerful graphics card so you can satisfy the gamers needs whilst making the laptop light enough away from the dock to satisfy portability needs. Simple, but brilliant.

Sony have made the Panel Pc, which is the opposite of the normal laptop – the screen has the entire computer in it and the keyboard folds down at the front. It looks odd, and I don’t think it’s meant to be a laptop, but it seems to be on the right track. Surely, these heat issues can be looked at. Here’s an idea along the same lines as the external graphics card station: create a standard for a pluggable heat sink. Just a hole in your computer thats attached directly to the CPU heatsink. If you’re at home and you’re running processor intensive applications (such as games) you can plug in a nice big copper heatsink (and maybe fan) and it’ll lend a hand to dissipate the heat. When you’re on the run you leave it at home. If you wanted something portable you could have a little foldable piece of copper which plugs into the same slot. It’s small so you could take with you and use it when you feel the heat start to burn through your pants. It could fold out like an antenna to radiate the heat into the air as opposed into your pants.

When Installers Go Bad

Linux, Software, Technology - 2 Comments » - Posted on November, 30, 2006 at 11:35 pm

I recently bought a brand new Core2 Duo. With this new CPU I decided I would install the 64bit distribution of Gentoo onto a free partition I have on the current hard drive. This would allow me to then use my previous installation in 32bit mode if I needed to go back to my old setup.

So I downloaded the 2006.1 Gentoo live cd and whacked it in. Firstly, because of issues with motherboard makers not including native ATA devices on the board (just SATA to ATA converters), it could not detect the cd drive (which is funny because it’s booting off it….). This wasn’t too hard to fix, a trip to the Gentoo forums and the kernel line “all-generic-ide” and she booted sweet.

So the rest of the “live” experience is great – I have a fully functioning GUI and all sorts of other things I don’t need. A tty would have done me fine actually. Anyway, I decided to use the GTK+ installer to install my new Gentoo distro. I have previously installed Gentoo many times, but always by hand. So I tell it to reformat the hdk4 partition and install on there. I assumed it wouldn’t touch any of the others, and that everything would be hunky dory.

So I click the final button, and the installation process starts….”Resizing partitions” it says. Here’s me thinking “What the hell is it resizing? I didn’t tell it to resize…” and then bleep – “Error resizing ext2/ext3 partition”. The installation stops. There is no resume button. There is no restart button. I know for a fact that the only ext2 filesystem I have is the boot partition. I open up a terminal and check my partitions with good ol’ dependable fdisk…..1 partition. HOLY SHIT, IT’S WIPED MY PARTITIONS!

I work in software, so I realise that it’s hard to make things error free, but holy shit, this is MY system THEY just screwed. Thankfully I had backed up all my photos and music, so I didn’t lose anything, but I had a great little setup and it’s all gone.

I went to work the next day and angrily replayed the previous nights events to kindred souls. Fletch said sardonically “….How much did you pay for Gentoo again?”. I reckon he hit the nail on the head right there; I can’t expect people writing code in their back yard for fun (and writing install wizards doesn’t sound like fun to me) to knock something up that is professional, well tested and robust. There just isn’t the driver for it.

Some things are tried and tested, like fdisk, mkfs and tar (which is pretty much all you need for the manual installation) and then there is the bleeding edge GUI installer for my Mum. Gentoo is not meant for my Mum, and given the horrendous mess it made of my hard drive I don’t think they should even TRY to be more user friendly. Leave that up to Ubuntu, Suse and all the others. They already differentiate themselves with the whole “meant for computer dudes” thing, I say they should stick to their guns, and not try to keep up with what the “Mum distributions” are doing. Or if they DO go down that path, do it well instead of half arsed.

RFID Garbage

Ideas, Technology - No Comments » - Posted on November, 6, 2006 at 11:32 pm

So I’ve had an idea. It is slightly evil, but could be very useful. It’s all about waste analysis.

RFID technology is starting to get wider usage in every day life. In some grocery stores it is embedded in the packaging of the products living on the shelves. For them it makes price changes a simple procedure and allows processes like automated checkouts (say bye bye to the checkout chick) to become a reality.

But as far as I know, the RFID tag stays with the packaging, which is where my idea comes in. See once you’ve eaten the contents of the packaging, you’ll be throwing it away. If you had an RFID capable garbage bin, it could collect metrics on the types of food you eat as well as when you eat it (well how often you empty your rubbish anyway). Add a set of scales to the bin and it can measure the weight of the waste a household produces, as well as the product breakdown (pun intended) of the waste.

Then every thursday night the trucks come around and take your trash and your data. The truk then dumps all its rubbish at the tip and dumps the collected data on a phat server. Now you have the waste statistics of the entire city/municipality/shire located on a big fat database in a server room somewhere.

Now enter the data mining guys. Some of them are evil, and some of them are good. For instance, if used for good, the data could help the council to improve waste disposal services. It could also send letters to people who recycle the wrong things, or throw things out which could be recycled. If used for evil, it would allow people (of any disposition) to really get inside your head and know you possibly better than you know yourself…. “amazing, I never knew I had tuna every 2nd friday of the 3rd month of a leap year”. Ahh the powers of datamining!

I’m sure there is a packet of money to be made in this. There would be a lot of information about peoples use of products. If they find a correlation between tuna and mondays, they’ll put tuna ads on Mondays. In fact, there are plenty of self made millionaires who have made their empire on other peoples rubbish. Waste disposal is a big industry – you’d have to silence the privacy advocates, but I’m sure you could do it….
But of course, you are too late. It his has already been done. Just google for rfid garbage bins! Woe betide us and our 1984 like future.