Improving Wetware

Because technology is never the issue

The Economist does not understand numbers

Posted by Pete McBreen Sun, 20 Jan 2013 19:26:00 GMT

From Difference Engine: Edison’s revenge

It is true, and was the basis of Edison’s showmanship, that low-frequency alternating current can be more hazardous than an equivalent direct current. By oscillating at a similar (ie, close enough) frequency to the human heart, a sufficiently strong alternating current can cause that organ to beat arhythmically and thereby induce ventricular fibrillation—a potentially deadly condition that needs to be corrected immediately.

This is the improved, edited version. How can a journalist equate 50 to 60 Hz to be close to the frequency of the human heart 60 to 120 beats/minute (1 to 2 Hz).

With corrections like this, I remember why I stopped reading the Economist.

Making a Game of Disaster Recovery Planning

Posted by Pete McBreen Sat, 17 Nov 2012 04:29:00 GMT

The Atlantic has an article called When the nerds go marching in that tells a story about the comparative approaches of the Obama and Romney teams and how they built and tested their systems in the run up to the 2012 US presidential election.

Obama team had an interesting approach to the planning - Making it a game

Hatch was playing the role of dungeon master, calling out devilishly complex scenarios that were designed to test each and every piece of their system as they entered the exponential traffic-growth phase of the election. Mark Trammell, an engineer who Reed hired after he left Twitter, saw a couple game days. He said they reminded him of his time in the Navy. “You ran firefighting drills over and over and over, to make sure that you not just know what you’re doing,” he said, “but you’re calm because you know you can handle your shit.”

Even the Onion gets on on the act

Posted by Pete McBreen Wed, 07 Sep 2011 17:51:00 GMT

An Economist Admits There Is A Problem

Posted by Pete McBreen Tue, 24 May 2011 23:30:00 GMT

Brad DeLong admits to a problem

Four years ago we economists were writing learned papers about the “Great Moderation”: about how it looked as though the governing institutions of the world economy had finally learned how to control and moderate if not completely eliminate the business cycle–the epileptic seizures of the economy that leave us with pointlessly high unemployment, pointlessly idle capacity, and pointlessly rusting away machines in spite of there being no fundamental cause for machines to be idle, factories closed, and workers unemployed. In such an epileptic seizure of the economy, workers are unemployed and machines are idle because there isn’t the demand to employ them, and there isn’t the demand to employ because the workers are unemployed and have no incomes.

We have been seeing these epileptic seizures called business cycles fairly regularly since at least 1825.

And we have been claiming that we have it licked fairly regularly since 1825 as well.

British Prime Minister Robert Peel thought we had it licked with his Bank of England reforms in the 1840s.

While some of the explanations in that post are to my mind a bit off, the overall message is that economics is still not very good at predicting what will happen with the economy.

The Economist Gets It Wrong Again

Posted by Pete McBreen Sat, 02 Apr 2011 03:25:00 GMT

Not sure what it is about the magazine, but it seem to be incapable of reporting the implications of actions. A stunning example of this comes from their Babbage Blog reporting on the delays in the acceptance of the reports that CO2 is warming the planet…

Erring on the side of extra caution is not a bad idea, and various efforts are underway to develop, corroborate and better to underpin the work on temperature records that has been done to date.

Erring on the side of extra caution for climate change would suggest that we take steps to reduce CO2 emissions, not that we do yet more studies on whether the planet is warming and how fast. We already have the warming data, and it does not look good. “One sure bet is that this decade will be the warmest” on record – James Hansen

Celebrating the day of fools...

Posted by Pete McBreen Fri, 01 Apr 2011 05:31:00 GMT

Best in class efficiency — because we didn't import the fuel efficient vehicles

Posted by Pete McBreen Sat, 08 Jan 2011 00:32:00 GMT

Recently I had to replace a Volkswagen TDI Golf (after 300,000km it was well used), but was appalled at the lack of improvement in fuel efficiency over the past 10+ years.

Overall I normally averaged 5.1 l/100km in the TDI, normally managing 1000km between 51 liter fill ups. In Canada the Ford Fiesta is advertised as Best in class fuel efficiency. Well it might be, but only because nobody seems to be importing the really fuel efficient cars. Based on the Canadian figures, the Fiesta will probably end up somewhere around 6.0 to 6.5l/100km. On the european figures, it is listed as 5.9l/100km, for the 1.6L 120 HP version - the only engine spec that is available in Canada.

Read this and weep

The 1.6 Duratorq TDCi ECO version of the same vehicle that is NOT available in Canada gets 3.7l/100KM and still pumps out 90HP, there is another version listed at 95HP that gets similar fuel efficiency. For people who do not like diesel, there is a 1.25L version that still does 5.5l/100km, and another1.25L petrol engine that does 85HP that does 5.6l/100km.

Canadian figures for the Fiesta are 7.1 city, 5.3 highway. There is supposedly going to be an ECO version out later, but for now an average that we might be able to expect is 6.2 l/100km.

Current vehicle

After much looking around I ended up with a Honda Fit, (Jazz in europe). It claims 7.2 city. 5.7 highway for a combined 6.4, but in practice I’m averaging 6.6l/100KM, more than 2l/100km worse than I would be if I could have got one of the fuel efficient cars that are available in Europe.

A new TDI Golf was not on the cards since it is only available in the high “comfortline” spec, for CDN$28,000, and not very fuel efficient as the version available in Canada is 140HP, so 6.7l/100km city, 4.6l/100km highway for a combined 5.65l/100km. So in 10 years the car has more power and worse fuel economy than the previous model.

Time to keep on watching the CO2 level.

The Rugged Software Manifesto is not a Parody

Posted by Pete McBreen Tue, 29 Jun 2010 01:14:00 GMT

It turns out that I was mistaken, the Onion did not write the Rugged Software Manifesto, or at least if they did InfoQ got taken in as well.

But it still sounds like a parody even if they are serious…

Rugged takes it a step further. The idea is that before the code can be made secure, the developers themselves must be toughened up.

The InfoQ article is not a complete waste of time though, there has been some conversation sparked by the parody, but Andrew Fried seems to have taken the idea in a new direction with his condensed version with just three points:

  • The software should do what it’s advertised to do.
  • The software shouldn’t create a portal into my system via every Chinese and Russian malware package that hits the Internet virtually every minute of every day.
  • The software should protect the users from themselves.

The first point is obvious and does not really require stating except to those developers who are not aware of authors like Gerald Weinberg.

His second point is again obvious, if you are building any software, you should know what the libraries you are including do. Well, Duh!

His third point is just plain wrong, and shows the usual arrogance of developers. Protect users from themselves is not an attitude I would like to see on my teams. Yes, protect users from stupid programmer mistakes, but the kind of arrogance shown in protect users from themselves leads to the kind of problems that fly by wire aircraft have had, notably the Airbus that did a low level pass and continued in level flight into trees and more recently shutting off a warning alarm that released the brakes causing the plane to slam into a wall.

Overall, it still sounds like a parody, but it is getting to sound like a very sick parody, more like graveyard humor.

Wisdom from Neil deGrasse Tyson

Posted by Pete McBreen Fri, 09 Apr 2010 04:33:00 GMT

The Onion has written a software manifesto...

Posted by Pete McBreen Mon, 01 Mar 2010 02:07:00 GMT

I think that the Rugged Software Manifesto has to be a parody.

I am rugged… and more importantly, my code is rugged.

Ok some of the statements are reasonable,

I recognize that software has become a foundation of our modern world.

but overall the whole thing is so over the top that it has to be a parody.

I am rugged, not because it is easy, but because it is necessary… and I am up for the challenge.