C++ linking

This is a post for myself, to basically bookmark the excellent work of someone else. My post is contributing practically nothing (maybe adding some context/weight for his article) but here it is anyway. ;-)


Despite not being an active user of C++ I really enjoyed this post. I actually feel a little smarter and better informed for having read it. Despite the mess in the C++  tool chain being described, this kind of reading actually makes me feel more inclined to dig into this stuff not less. Anyway, filing this one away as something to potentially come back to.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter

A good friend of mine Sarah believes that the moon landings were a hoax. Despite being a huge science geek , a fan of NASA and a member of the planetary society she subscribes to the idea that man has not in fact walked on the moon, and the entire thing was a lie perpetrated in an effort to win the political war with the USSR. Or something along those lines.

Somehow this deeply disturbs me. Anything coming from Sarah carries considerable weight, so I can't just discard her opinion. How could it be that the same person avidly following the mars rover mission also believes that we couldn't land someone on the moon (or rather, didn't)? I can say that I have not watched/read/been brain washed by the same materials that she has, but I'm expecting to be convinced to do so after this post.

Skepticism is vitally important to science, no doubt. I think scientific thinkers must challenge anything that doesn't make sense to them. I myself am open to hearing the counter arguments, and I even spent a half hour or so reading the respective wikipedia articles on the matter...


I also think while conspiracy theories are fun (x-files we miss you) they are also wrong 99.99% of the time. In a time where science is considered elitist and unnecessary in one of the most important political, economic and scientific centers on earth, and when NASA continues to face diminishing budgets and smaller mandates it seems terribly unproductive to undermine those efforts being made by real engineers and scientists by giving credence to crack pot theories about hoaxes.

Consider how difficult it is to keep a secret. Imagine the incentive to those cynical people out there who wish to undermine the real achievements of science. Remember the movie contact and Ocham's Razor? Do we make hundreds of assumptions about the ability for hundreds of people in the government, at NASA and elsewhere all keeping a secret about the landings? That the telemetry mirrors left behind were done by unmanned missions (and that we had the robotics capable at that time to do so?) That the long documentation trail left behind from all the steps leading up to Apollo 11 were somehow part of it? That the FIVE additional moon landings (after the public had already lost interest) were also faked just to add weight to the first faked landing? Or can we assume that no such plot exists and that NASA's account is roughly accurate? I realize you can flip this and play the other side, but you can read the articles for the details rather than me iterating through the arguments that have already been made on both sides.

I have to admit, I want to believe. I want to believe that we really did achieve the mantel of a moon landing. That we as a culture were able to step outside of our regular bullshit to come together and accomplish something truly spectacular for mankind.

LRO - finally time to shut up the crackpots

In any case, the only real reason I started this post, besides to provoke you Sarah, was so that I could mention the upcoming Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter , a mission I will be really looking forward to. It looks like we're going to get a lot more familiar with our friend the moon. This can only be a good thing as privatized space exploration steps up and produces more tourism and public interest in things beyond our humble planet. The moon may seem a bit provincial at this point, but if you were to seriously consider visiting it (when you make your millions on the internet) do you not get totally stoked? It seems like the next logical jumping point for our more grandiose visions. LRO is launching in early 2009 from Cape Canaveral this mission will include (from wikipedia)

      • Characterization of deep space radiation in Lunar orbit
      • High-resolution mapping (max 0.5 m) to assist in the selection and characterization of future landing sites
And onboard instrumentation will most importantly include :
LROC — The Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC) has been designed to address the measurement requirements of landing site certification and polar illumination.[11] LROC comprises a pair of narrow-angle cameras (NAC) and a single wide-angle camera (WAC). LROC will fly several times over the historic Apollo lunar landing sites, with the camera's high resolution, the lunar rovers and Lunar Module descent stages and their respective shadows will be clearly visible. It is expected that this photography will boost public acknowledgement of the validity of the  landings, and discredit the Apollo conspiracy theories.[12]

It will be nice to put this to rest. Long live Elvis.

What you are reading is consuming energy

Consumption is one of those things that is on my mind a lot. Both economically as I aim to live debt free and with as little "stuff" as really needed as well as in other forms of energy. Buy local, buy less packaging, drive less, eat less! It goes on and on.

One of the really interesting things with looking at google appengine is their metering and logging of your application. The GAE has limits on how much disk, cpu and bandwidth your application can consume before you have to pay for those resources.

(some stats on a very infrequently used blogquotes app)

This model of utility computing has been something that has been kicked around and toyed with for literally four or five decades. In the beginning it was envisioned that computing would be just like the electrical grid, and you would pay for computing resources in much the same way as you do now. This was back when no one ever believed that a household could use or would need a computer that took up an entire room.

That of course all changed, and we drifted to the current state where everyone has their own (or three). Are we are drifting back to a utility model again with the usefulness of having your data live in the cloud? I know I certainly care less and less about the machine I happen to be using when accessing my data.  If the data is in the cloud and therefore accessible anywhere you go, and more importantly from any device you choose (iPhone!) then it naturally just makes sense to perform operations on that data within the cloud as well. Why bring it all down to the client to compute values? Why own multiple computers and have idle processors and half empty disks? (wish I had that problem actually) I think it's a bit early to signal the death knell for the personal computer, far from it, but it certainly gets you thinking.

In terms of energy consumption these are all having significant impact on the overall picture. There still exists an incredible amount of power on the client machine that is largely going untapped with increasingly thin clients (but of course that is reversing now too) and that power is going under utilized when we have servers that are performing the same poorly crafted functions doing the work millions of times over for every page view etc.

There was a blog post in Jan 2007 that talked about how much energy would be saved if google switched from white to black. This post evolved into a full on article on the topic, and a website (Blackle) with a counter for energy saved.

This is all very interesting to me, but to get to my point... Using GAE and looking at very precise measurements of the resources my code and application are using was an incredible moment of perspective for me. Here I am, looking at a direct correlation to the algorithm I choose and a measurable amount of resources being consumed by that decision, amazing really. This is just profiling on the aggregate, but it feels profound. Somehow being in the utility computing frame of mind and looking at my "bill" I am compelled to rethink every aspect of my design to find ways to use less resources. This can only be a good thing.

software fundamentals are exciting?

I came across a nice list of fundamental axioms of development on reddit this morning that made me a little pumped. Pumped because I'm in the middle of a big transition at work that in a lot of respects has me starting over with a new team and a new mandate.

I'll be focusing on solutions, custom work and a view towards short term revenue vs long term research and development for products. Given the economic climate, it's a shift I can understand and on a personal level one I'm looking forward to. I am saddened of course to be leaving the product I've spent the last four years working on, but at the end of the day software is software and this is going to be a big challenge for me.  

Here's the list (http://www2.computer.org/portal/web/buildyourcareer/fa035) highlights for me :
EF1. Efficiency is more often a matter of good design than of good coding. So, if a project requires efficiency, efficiency must be considered early in the life cycle.

Q4. Trying to improve one quality attribute often degrades another. For example, attempts to improve efficiency often degrade modifiability.

T1. Most software tool and technique improvements account for about a 5- to 30-percent increase in productivity and quality. But at one time or another, most of these improvements have been claimed by someone to have "order of magnitude" (factor of 10) benefits. Hype is the plague on the house of software.

T1 I believe after having fallen for the tools pitch more than a  few times. At the same time though I think one of the differences in the "great programmers are 30 times more efficient than mediocre programmers" comes down to mastery of the tool set. Watch a proficient developer fly through their code and it's easy to see. On the other hand I've seen excellent "users" who fly through a terrible design and become constrained by EF1.

Anyway, for me this is reminscent of the pragmatic programmers list, which as obvious as a lot of it is really made me focus on the core of my craft. See Jeff Atwood's site for a quick reference if you have not seen this list before :


While I'm at this, I've had some accumulated Martin Fowler wisdom around estimates and scoping that I've been meaning to post about. Working in custom solutions will mean writing a lot of proposals and giving fixed cost estimates which is going to be a new game for me...

Martin Fowler: Estimates
http://www.martinfowler.com/bliki/ThrownEstimate.html   <-- Technical debt, casting quick estimates
http://martinfowler.com/bliki/XpVelocity.html    <- Nebulous Units of Time

and on dealing with fixed scope....
http://martinfowler.com/bliki/ScopeLimbering.html  <-- dragging clients towards a more agile process