DevTopics is a high-level and sometimes satirical look at software development and computer technology. When we occasionally dive into the details, it's usually about C# and .NET programming. DevTopics is written by Timm Martin, a software developer and entrepreneur. (More)
Tom Ollar and Jim Bennett have developed a very interesting prototype for a next-generation version of the Visual Studio 2010 IDE. They present 20 new concepts ranging from the inherently useful (visual stack) to the somewhat silly (remoting eye, an eyeball that indicates your programming partner is connected to the session).
One interesting concept is the “mini,” shown in the photo at left. Before you say “not another diagramming standard!” note that the “mini” DebugDiagrammer is pluggable and can be replaced with UML or your own custom diagrammer. The intent is to visualize objects, not classes. The “mini” acts as a thumbnail showing the working internals of an object.
I’m a sucker for next-generation user interfaces. I love watching movies like Johnny Mnemonic and Minority Report to ogle their futuristic UIs. But I believe that future interfaces will be more simple and less cluttered, similar to what we’re seeing emerge on the iPhone. The days of “command smorgasbords” — layers upon layers of menus, toolbars and panels — will eventually give way to simple, malleable interfaces that provide just the information and controls you need at any one time to perform your task.
Microsoft may ship Windows 7 on PCs by September, said Compal president Ray Chen at an investor’s conference. Compal builds personal computers for Acer, HP and other major PC vendors. The news matches rumors that Microsoft hopes to release Windows 7 well ahead of the holidays. This would give Microsoft some time to hopefully iron out some of the initial bugs and avoid the major embarrassment it saw with people downgrading back to XP because Vista simply wouldn’t work.
Microsoft spokeswoman Amelia Agrawal maintains the company’s official position that Windows 7 will ship within three years of Vista, which means by early 2010. This estimate is presumably conservative to avoid embarrassment in the event of an unexpected delay, as happened repeatedly with Vista, which shipped more than two years after its original scheduled date. Microsoft has acknowledged an expedited testing phase for Windows 7 that includes just one public beta and one release candidate before shipping. But so far Windows 7 has been relatively stable in testing.
Microsoft is under significant pressure to release Windows 7 this year to offset the first significant declines in Windows revenue in Microsoft’s history. These declines are the result of the global recession, plus continued reluctance by both consumers and enterprises to adopt Windows Vista. Windows 7 is said to improve the user interface and performance, especially on hardware with more modest specifications.
The decline of western civilization is now complete. The #1 app for the iPhone is iFart, the digital equivalent of a whoopie cushion. The software sold $10,000 worth on its first day. And since no good deed goes unchallenged, there are over 75 farting apps now available for the iPhone.
And just when you thought that things couldn’t get any stinkier, InfoMedia, which developed iFart Mobile, filed a legal complaint in Colorado District Court against Air-O-Matic, makers of the rival “Pull My Finger” app. Apparently Air-O-Matic sought $50,000 from InfoMedia for using the terminology “pull my finger” in a news release and YouTube promo video. Air-O-Matic also asked Apple to remove iFart from the iPhone App Store, but Apple told the companies to work it out themselves.
So InfoMedia decided to take the matter to court, claiming that the term “pull my finger” is common English slang and a “descriptive phrase” and therefore not covered by trademark.
The RAND Corporation has published a book called “A Million Random Digits with 100,000 Normal Deviates.” Here’s a brief description: “Not long after research began at RAND in 1946, the need arose for ‘random numbers’ that could be used to solve problems of various kinds of experimental probability procedures. These applications, called Monte Carlo methods, required a large supply of random digits and normal deviates of high quality, and the tables presented here were produced to meet those requirements. Still the largest published source of random digits and normal deviates, the work is routinely used by statisticians, physicists, polltakers, market analysts, lottery administrators, and quality control engineers.”
If the mere existence of such a book isn’t funny enough, check out the user reviews found on Amazon.com:
almost perfect, October 26, 2006 By a curious reader
Such a terrific reference work! But with so many terrific random digits, it’s a shame they didn’t sort them, to make it easier to find the one you’re looking for.
Sloppy., July 27, 2005 By B. MCGROARTY
The book is a promising reference concept, but the execution is somewhat sloppy. Whatever algorithm they used was not fully tested. The bulk of each page seems random enough. However at the lower left and lower right of alternate pages, the number is found to increment directly.
People often say that one’s design should be modular. Sadly, many people take this as meaning “use modules.” Having modules in a program does not mean that the program is modular. This is generally the point where I whip out the strong coupling and zero-dependency diagrams and beat your brain into submission, but my law school exams have been going pretty well, so I’ll try a nicer approach today.
You know what’s modular in the real world? Condoms. They can be used as a contraceptive, to prevent STDs, as a barrel plug on paintball guns, to protect a live gun barrel from moisture when wading through rivers, to smuggle liquids or powders in the human body, and so on. But what makes condoms so modular in the first place?
Keyboards are a terrific example of how bad design can get stuck in a rut and unable to overcome inertia. Everyone says dvorak keyboards are far superior to qwerty, yet even after 25 years of dvorak, qwery is still king because its use is so ingrained.
But another aspect of keyboard design that has me really grumpy is the numeric keypad appendage on desktop keyboards. It is a holdover from the days when users were “data entry clerks.” But we are stuck with this design, and it has started to annoy me lately because I’ve been switching between a laptop during the day and a desktop at night.
Working with a desktop keyboard after using my laptop is strange and difficult. After some reflection, I realized the problem. My right-hand is used to shifting all the time between jkl; and the mouse. On the laptop, this is a subtle and effortless gesture. On the desktop, it’s like playing table tennis.