WhatIs.com Word of the Day Archive


August 14, 2008  11:35 AM

Overheard: Kent Beck, extreme programming and the quest for quality

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
kent_beck.jpg I think it’s a combination of technical and social factors that leads to all the defects in deployed software. Part of it is the attitude that software is just inherently unreliable, and customers are conditioned to accept that. Developers are conditioned to accept that. Testers are conditioned to accept that. We just decided it was like the weather and there’s nothing we could do about it, which isn’t a very responsible position because in fact, there’s a lot that software developers can do about it.

Kent Beck, as quoted in Extreme Programming inventor talks about agile development

Kent Beck gave a great interview that’s posted on the IBM developerWorks site, where he talks about the payroll project at Chrysler.  It’s a great read.

Now, the payroll program would handle Chrysler’s entire payroll, representing 1/10 of 1 percent of the entire US gross national product — at that scale, with union rules and all the places they operate, it’s a complicated program. They had a crying business need; it had to work. At the same time, this wasn’t rocket science — we just had to execute.

So, after a couple of weeks I interviewed everyone one-on-one. I told the first guy that we’ll divide the project into three-week intervals called, say, iterations. In each iteration we’ll implement a few new features called stories. We’ll write down all the stories we need, slot them into the iterations, then do it.

I told the next guy [I interviewed] that we have these three-week iterations divided into stories. For each story we’ll write these, um, acceptance tests to demonstrate that the stories meet the customer’s expectations.

With each person I interviewed I added a little more. By the end of the day, I’d interviewed 20 people and had laid out Extreme Programming’s basics.

My favorite quote from the article? “Sucks less isn’t progress.”

August 12, 2008  7:22 PM

Overheard: If it was every twelve minutes in 2006, what’s the lucky number now?

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
mark_ward1.jpg If every hour a burglar turned up at your house and rattled the locks on the doors and windows to see if he could get in, you might consider moving to a safer neighbourhood. And while that may not be happening to your home, it probably is happening to any PC you connect to the net.

Mark Ward, Tracking down hi-tech crime

In 2006, a BBC News technology team set up a honeypot and found that the average home computer was attacked from the Internet once every twelve minutes. I wonder what the number is now?


August 12, 2008  5:51 AM

Overheard: Monetizing web video with product placement

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
frank_rose.jpg Sure, the YouTube explosion was fueled by amateurs, but it will be showbiz professionals who cash in on Web video. That’s because most big corporate advertisers want a safe, predictable environment — not the latest YouTube one-off, no matter how viral.

Frank Rose, Hollywood Has Finally Figured Out How to Make Web Video Pay

Frank Rose put together an interesting look at the scramble to monetize web video. I hadn’t realized that some TV execs were looking at Web video as the farm team for the big league. It also hadn’t occurred to me that product placement in web video could be big business.

On a sunny afternoon in March, Rogow pulls his black Porsche SUV to the curb, collects a ticket from the valet, and walks briskly into the Creative Artists Agency building on LA’s Avenue of the Stars. Perfectly framed in an enormous glass wall is the Hollywood sign, 8 miles away. Rogow is here to meet with Anita Lawhon, the Cisco executive in charge of entertainment partnerships. This is crunch time for Gemini Division, the weeks when everything — advertising, distribution, financing, production — must come together. On a table in the vast marble reception zone sits this morning’s Daily Variety. “Changes to Biz Give Town the Jitters,” reads the front-page headline.

Today, Rogow is focused on how to get that business model working. It’s going well — so well that Herskovitz recently met with his CAA agents to learn how Electric Farm is doing it. Cisco is key. Those Gemini Division agents are going to wield some pretty cool tech, much of it — thanks to a deal brokered by CAA — actual products from Cisco: a video surveillance system that sends an alert when someone penetrates the wrong sector; digital billboards that can be reprogrammed on the fly; TelePresence, a teleconferencing system with life-size video so hi-def it makes virtual meetings seem almost real. In the past few weeks, similar deals have been cut with Acura, Intel, Microsoft, and UPS. “In a cold business sense,” Rogow confides, “this show is a self-financing marketing vehicle.”

Another quote from this article got me thinking: “In 1908, movies were 10 minutes long because that’s all you could get on a reel of film, and the actors who appeared in them were anonymous. ” Sound familiar?


August 11, 2008  6:15 PM

Tag: You’re IT! — Meet Mark Schoonover

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
markschoonover.jpg Last week we tagged Mark Schoonover. We invite you to tag his blog and follow Mark too!

1. When did you first discover your love for technology?
As soon as I was old enough to hold a screwdriver and take things apart!

2. How do you earn a living?
I’m a developer on the United States Navy and Marine Corp Intranet.

3. What do you love most about your work?
Very challenging assignments, great people, huge network.

4. What keeps you up at night?
Lately it’s been devoting time to the Drizzle project.

5. What do you do when you’re not working?
Coach soccer, referee, ultracycling, bugging my wife and kids….

6. You’ve looked in your crystal ball and have seen the future of enterprise IT. What does it look like?
Bigger, faster, more cores! There’s going to be a limit on CPU speeds, so the only way to go faster is to do things in parallel across many cores/CPUs at a time.


August 11, 2008  6:03 PM

Tag: You’re IT! Meet Pam Baker

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
Last week we tagged Pam Baker!

1. Pam, when did you first discover your love for technology?
I’m the cat that curiosity is always stalking! I love to learn new things and technology is constantly about new things, so it’s a natural match for my questing mind. There is much to accomplish but only one lifetime to do it in; technology allows us to super-speed our accomplishments to roughly double the time we actually have. Combine the lightning speed action with the continuous intellectual exercise, and you have the reason I’m addicted to tech!

2. How do you earn a living?
I am a full-time freelance writer who also does significant analytical work as a contracted analyst for various research firms, most notably for UK-based Visiongain using the pen name Pam Duffey, but also for several other research firms. I also do “big picture” consulting work, meaning I help start-ups and tech companies figure out how to make money from their great tech ideas. I repair the disconnect between great adoption rates and poor monetization.

3. What keeps you up at night?
Fear of human nature. Technology within itself is neither good nor bad — the humans wielding it however are often both. Greed is growing at an unprecedented rate while compassion, decency, and respect for privacy are wilting everyday. I fear what the man behind the curtain may do to the munchkins of the land if left unchecked. To many of our so-called over-seers and governmental regulators are far too ignorant of technology to properly protect the people — and they too are a mix of good and evil. In my opinion, human nature is the scariest thing out there.

4. What do you do when you’re not working?
I play hard. Not being one to tackle anything half-heartedly, I go after pleasure with the same gusto that I tackle a work project. Generally, I love to travel and learn new cultures whether that’s in another state or another country. Once there, I try out just about anything the locals enjoy. Told you, the cat that curiosity stalks!

Downtime at home, I enjoy great sci-fi movies, books of all kinds, my wonderful dogs, and long walks through the woods. Pretty sedate really.

5. You’ve looked in your crystal ball and have seen the future of enterprise IT. What does it look like?
A greatly diminished data center as everything goes Software as a Service (SaaS) and to cloud computing. Companies will crystallize their efforts to their core competencies and outsource everything else; hosted everything will rule the day. Unified communications and universal compatibility will make everything easier to do and use. Vulnerability, however, will sky-rocket because of this.

Outsourcing things like contact centers to foreign countries, however, will crash and burn as great customer service once again becomes vital to bottom-lines and companies realize that “cost per contact” is not nearly as important as “outcome per contact.” Using locals in contact centers for any given region is the only way companies can achieve the customer satisfaction levels they need to boost sales and brand loyalty, so expect offshore outsourcing to revert to near-shore and onshore outsourcing. In fact, some of that is happening now.

Nanotechnology will finally burst through the manufacturing obstacles and devices and hardware will become much smaller, better and faster, further reducing the size of the data center, the impact on the environment, and the cost of IT.

Google and Apple will eventually break the U.S. carrier stranglehold, possibly Yahoo will have a role in that as well, and the U.S. will finally see more benefits in mobile technology than we imagine today. That too, will further change enterprise IT. But until we get our carriers to play ball, mobile’s not going to be much more than it currently is here. Mobile advertising here is going to fail, largely because of carrier shortsightedness and their fear of becoming “dumb pipes.” It will take years before companies will be willing to try mobile advertising again after that, but they will eventually, and the second wave will be tremendously successful because carrier obstruction will be dealt with and because new business models will make mobile advertising more lucrative.

Broadband speeds in the U.S. will finally come up to par to other countries, once we eventually get around to redefining what constitutes “high-speed” broadband. Broadband issues will become paramount as companies turn to more telecommuters worldwide in order to satisfy their talent needs and lower energy needs. Enterprises will push hard for the change — and get it — as they learn from the global marketplace how badly out-of-whack the U.S. is, comparatively speaking.

The same is true with SOA. Only the U.S. sees SOA as a reuse advantage, other countries see it as a business process advantage. Because of this, U.S. based companies are not realizing the full benefits of SOA, but that will change in the near-future.

That’s just a few of the changes I see coming.

Bonus Question: If Stephen Spielberg was going to make a movie about your life, what would it be called?

It would definitely be an action movie, most likely a sci-fi movie too because the role technology has in my life, and a bit of a thriller since even I never know what’s going to happen next, lol, so maybe it would be called “The Wonder-lust Chronicles” or “Chaos Trapper.”


August 11, 2008  12:21 PM

Overheard: The great wall of…sheep

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
defcon_logo.jpg A group of reporters from Global Security Mag were kicked out of the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas after stealing password information from another reporter who will remain nameless—we’ll call him “me.”

Brian Prince, How eWEEK Got Hacked at Black Hat

Alas, I broke one of the cardinal rules of security and, but for the grace of the Black Hat conference staff, would have had my name added to the infamous Wall of Sheep.

Hackers have the most colorful language. The Wall of Sheep is run by volunteers at the DEFCON security conference. It’s a projection on a wall that lists users at the conference who put their data at risk by running unencrypted information on the conference’s open network. Originally the offender’s names were posted on white paper plates — the wall filled with crinkle-edged paper plates looked like a kindergarten bulletin board of little fluffy sheep and the name stuck.

wall_of_sheep.jpg


August 8, 2008  1:17 PM

Overheard: Software testing explained

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
black_box.jpg A software system can be tested in two ways. It depends on your point of view. It can be with or without technical knowledge of the system.

Léon Meijer, Test-driven development, Unit Test, VSTS, NUnit, TestDriven.NET, whats all this?

Black-box tests can be functional or non-functional, though usually functional. The tester selects valid and invalid input for the test and determines if the output is correct. The tester doesn’t need to have knowledge of the internal structure of the system. Typical black-box test design techniques include:

  • Equivalence partitioning; To reduce the number of test cases and select test cases that cover all possible scenarios
  • Boundary value analysis Validates input and checks if the input is in the valid range, i.e. if (month > 0 && month < 13)
  • Decision table testing Are about if- and switch-statements. Decision tables model conditional logic.
  • Pairwise testing Test each pair of input parameters to a method. Simple bugs are triggered by a single parameter, next simplest category of bugs consists of those dependent on interactions between pairs of parameters.
  • State transition tables Shows in what state a system moves to, based on the current state and input parameters.
  • Use case testing Users work through use cases with the aid to verify that a UI fulfills the needs of its users, as described in the use case model. The tester identifies which use case(s) to test, the actors (users), input, output and system effects and the flows of interest between the use cases.
  • Cross-functional testing The work of one person is reviewed by the team as a whole.


August 7, 2008  6:32 PM

Tag: You’re IT — Meet Alan Kay

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
alan_kay_kyoto.jpg Today, we tagged Dr. Alan Kay

1. Dr. Kay, when did you first discover your love for technology?
I can’t remember when I wasn’t fascinated by “the hip bone is connected to the thigh bone”, i.e. all kinds of causality in all kinds of systems. The non-specific children’s building toys of the 40s (like TinkerToy and Erector and Meccano) plus growing up on a “farm with books” put me in contact with a lot of real examples of causal systems and lots of ways (adults, reading, building, taking apart, etc.) to get more savvy about them.

2. How do you earn a living?
For a few years, I earned a living and college expenses playing jazz guitar, then gradually the majority income came from computer programming. In 1966 I went to grad school and started to earn my living by being sponsored to do research. This was easier in the late sixties and through the seventies when research funders understood the game, and has been more difficult since with funders who by in large do not understand how to fund research (and do not really understand how “research” differs from other technological pastimes).

3. What do you love most about your work?
It’s similar to other forms of art in which I’ve participated. The “stuff” (materials) and flow of ideas one encounters in a civilization create “itches that must be scratched” and “smells that must be followed”. The compulsive nature of this is one of its main properties, and it has nothing at all to do with any kind of compensation or reward, but the need to “scratch” and “sniff”. There is a tension that new ideas relieve.

However, nothing about the process guarantees that success will produce anything cosmically good or useful (think of a huge flea market as evidence for compulsions that produced enormous numbers of items of little artistic or pragmatic value). A tricky part of dealing with the compulsions is to also somehow set thresholds for “goodness” that are more than subjective. This results in a super-tension. The complex part of dealing with this is how to be super-critical about one’s ideas without sliding into immobilizing depression.

The “love” is quite like and is as intense as one’s feelings for one’s beloved, which in part is to want to merge with one’s love. I have a friend who is a glassblower and who once said that he would take a bite out of a glob of molten glass if he could. That is, he wants to become one with the glass. I understand what he means quite deeply.

4. What keeps you up at night?
Human beings stubbornly staying unaware, becoming ever more dangerous, and doing ever more dangerous things to themselves and their surrounds.

5. What do you do when you’re not working?
“Working” for me is fund raising for our research, and to a lesser extent dealing with the human factors associated with the group nature of computing research. Everything else has been and is real play, both in computing, music and my other interests. The key is to spend more time playing than working….

6. Youʼve looked in your crystal ball and have seen the future of enterprise IT. What does it look like?
Enterprise IT has changed very slowly over the years (and in some senses has not changed at all except for size). For a large variety of reasons it has always been disinclined to learn important things about computing and has eschewed the idea of taking control of its own destiny despite the enormous backing and resources available.

Contrast this with Xerox PARC in which the major technologies of today were invented in a few years by about two dozen researchers total, including designing and building all the hardware and software. This was relatively easy, very inexpensive, and produced a revolution in how computing can be done. It also earned Xerox about a factor of 100 in profit over its costs for PARC (10,000% ROI, which my business friends say is good).

Nonetheless I’m not aware of any company that is funding processes like those of PARC today. As Pogo said in a cartoon “We have met the enemy and they are us”. This is not likely to change anytime soon, since how businesses are trying to cope with situations that actually need new inventions, is making the situations worse, to which they respond with more coping instead of sponsoring much better ways to do things.

Bonus Question: If Stephen Spielberg was going to make a movie about your life, what would it be called?
Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind


August 7, 2008  1:01 PM

Overheard: The father of object-oriented programming

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
alan_kay.jpg But just to show how stubbornly an idea can hang on, all through the seventies and eighties, there were many people who tried to get by with “Remote Procedure Call” instead of thinking about objects and messages.

Dr. Alan Kay (he coined the name OOP)

Doesn’t this quote remind you of Grace Hopper? She said: The most dangerous phrase in the language is, “We’ve always done it this way.”

If you want to learn more about the guy who “invented” object-oriented programming, Wikipedia has a good entry — but I absolutely love this video where he shares his ideas about how we learn. I HIGHLY recommend it. Apple should have a poster for Alan Kay. He thinks different(ly). My favorite quote of Dr. Kay’s is “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”


August 6, 2008  7:45 PM

Tag: You’re IT — Meet Aseem Kishore

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse
walter_bender2.jpg We tagged Aseem Kishore this week!

1. Aseem, when did you first discover your love for technology?
When I was about 7 years old. It was the first time my father asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I told him to get me something that was “electronic”, whatever it was. For several years, I took apart anything that was no longer being used: VCR, camera, watches, etc. After that I knew I would always be interested in technology.

2. How do you earn a living?
I work as an IT Systems Analyst/Programmer in Dallas, TX. I mostly design and write software for a laboratory.

3. What keeps you up at night?
Usually thinking of ways to quit my job and start my own Internet Marketing or blog consulting company!

4. What do you do when you’re not working?
You can find me spending time with my wife, reading blogs, researching the newest gadgets like TVs or computers, and writing my own tech blog.

5. You’ve looked in your crystal ball and have seen the future of enterprise IT. What does it look like?
Virtual. Virtual servers. Virtual desktops. Also, cloud computing. Everything will eventually be in “the cloud”.

Bonus Question: If Stephen Spielberg was going to make a movie about your life, what would it be called?
The Digital Life


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