Orcmid's Lair (Dennis Hamilton)

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Welcome to Orcmid's Lair, the playground for family connections, pastimes, and scholarly vocation -- the collected professional and recreational work of Dennis E. Hamilton
Updated: 11 years 8 weeks ago

Slipping Into the Water

October 28, 2006 - 12:51pm
This is the final official post that will be made to the Orcmid’s Lair blog at location http://nfocentrale.net/orcmid/blog.The site feed will also be interrupted.From now on, all posts will appear at the official Orcmid’s Lair URL, http://orcmid.com/blog.  The official site feed is also the one that is assured to always work.You will know that you are at the old blog location if you see no post more recent than this one, neither on the web page or in the site feed.PS: Sometime in the next few weeks, the old URLs will be moved atop the new, official ones and either set of URLs will work just fine.  For a while.  But the official ones will always work.  You shouldn’t be using the old ones.  Really.  
Categories: Attendees

Orcmid's Lair Disruption

October 11, 2006 - 11:29am
I’m consolidating all of the nfoCentrale web sites (this is one of them) on a single web hosting account at A2 Hosting.  I have already moved most of my sites to that account, with only minor breakage around Apache case sensitivity.  Sites that have blogs or that have e-mail accounts are trickier to move and I have saved those for last.   Today is moving day for orcmid.com and the Orcmid’s Lair blog.{tags: }What this means for the readers of this and associated blogs is that the best reception will be found at URLs like http://orcmid.com/blog and not http://nfocentrale.net/orcmid/blog.  In fact, the second URL and the site feed at the same location will be not see more blog updates for several weeks.   The Orcmid’s Lair blog and feed at http://orcmid.com/blog will see little or no interruption.  There may be some breakage, with templates, links, images, and archive pages possibly having problems until the construction crew can straighten things out.  In the long run, it will all become much nicer.The long-term benefit is that URLs like http://orcmid.com will not forward to a different URL.  Instead, all nfoCentrale sites will have full-size, grown-up, first-class, independent domains with sites to match.   Now bookmarks made to pages found through orcmid.com follow the site wherever it may happen to be hosted in the future.OK, everyone, cross your fingers.
Categories: Attendees

Steve Wozniak on Designing and Building Apples 1 and 2.

October 7, 2006 - 5:01pm
Port 25 : Catching up with Woz: Sam interviews Steve Wozniak. I was in the audience for Robert Scoble’s interview with Steve Wozniak at the University of Washington on Friday, October 6. What Woz had to say about the ways that he built on the work of others and how he passed it on to others was inspiring for me.  It is too easy to forget how much we did that in the first generations of computing.  I was also fascinated by his account of what inspired him to become an engineer.  I urged those in his party to encourage visits to pre-collegiate settings where youngsters can learn what can be inspiring and rewarding through exploration of technology.{tags: }The PodTech.net interview may not be up for a while.  Meanwhile, there is a great interview recorded earlier Friday while Woz visited Microsoft’s Open Source Software Lab. Port 25 has the video clip for Windows Media Player, an MP3 feed of the audio, and a link to an MPEG-4 of the 16–minute video interview. The entire video is worth watching. About 9m30s in, Woz talks about how he included graphics as well as text, realizing that he could now implement a software Breakout, the game he originally created for Atari arcade hardware.  That is when he realized that games with Apple Basic would open up new worlds of creativity for hobbyists, enthusiasts, and everyone else who would use an Apple 2 in the home (wasn’t it Apple ][, or am I thinking of something else?).  Following that, he describes his commitment to provide all of the technical documentation so that others could understand the workings of the computer and build on it.[updated 2006–10–11T19:25Z I formatted the tag links incorrectly and have to repost to fix them. updated 2006–10–08T18:54Z I fractured so many sentences that I couldn’t stand it and have reposted a cleaner version.  And then corrected the new mistakes that introduced.]
Categories: Attendees

It Was the Best of Webs, the Worst of Webs

September 3, 2006 - 4:33pm
[update 2006-09-04-11:16 I have MSDN on the brain after spending so much recent time on MSDN Forums.  It was MSN Spaces, of course.]I have two sayings about the Web:
  • The great thing about the Web is that it provides a breakthrough in application deployment.
  • The bad news about the Web is that applications can be deployed effortlessly.
{tags: } My poster child for this phenomenon is , the host of my blog-page content (but not where the articles are published, thank you very much).  Thanks to Blogger, I have enjoyed prolific posting to my blogs.  That’s easy deployment that works.  I also need to correct posts with significant regularity.  I do because I can.I also had the prescience to host my blogs on my own site, so that the published form of the content appears in folders of sites that I control and can back up.  That’s been important, because I have had to use my backups to make repairs following misadventures in the bowels of the Blogger system.  It also means that I can rehost the content-management part to some other service and maintain historical continuity with my existing site feeds and archives.The downside of easy deployment also shows up in my personal superstition that Blogger breakage is most likely to be noticed on a Friday, because Blogger (and apparently Google) do system-wide updates on Thursdays.  That’s right up there with Second Life Wednesdays (only they don’t do hands-free, secure deployment with Second Life and the almost-weekly mandatory update downloads will seriously impede the ability of Second Life to retain users).End-to-end testing and management of a coherent user experience is very difficult when it comes to the Internet and especially the web.  The web makes it as easy (and perhaps inevitable) that updates to web-born applications and their host sites will eventually break something.  In addition, it is difficult to provide system testing in a way that doesn’t subject loyal users to risk.  The apparently-hasty roll-out of an MSDN Spaces (now Windows Live Spaces) refresh is a case in point.  I have participated in web-download troubleshooting where the developers and system operators simply threw up their hands and gave up.  There is no good way to know how many others have given up on obtaining updates to the software because the downloads consistently fail to install for some of us.An example of the incoherence that can result occurred just today in updating the Professor von Clueless blog.  When I posted my article on Core Incompetencies (a great expression from Ted Dziuba) the entire article was digested into my site feed with content ofEpsilon-Delta trustworthy relationship with adopters at the heart of it.This appears to be the first two words of the article, followed by the last nine.  That’s it.  This is especially striking because my Blogger settings are to have full content included in my site feeds.  It’s also the case that I am accustomed to this.   I have let Blogger train me to the fact that these odd digests arrive and, sometime later, a full-text version will emerge from my site feed.  When I posted a second article, that’s exactly what happened.  My site feed gave me fresh full-content articles for the new article, the Core Incompetencies article and even the article posted before that one, on August 12.  I don’t know how I missed having the full content for that article until today.  I claim this as evidence for the degree that we are still at the mumbo-jumbo witch-doctor, tribal herbalist, and snake-oil medicine show stage of software development.   It is daunting that we are rushing headlong into the wonderful world of Ajax and Web 2.0 while nothing new has been added with regard to creating dependable experiences for users.  The hard work remains and there are new barriers (such as life in perpetual beta) that we can exploit to excuse ourselves from rising to the challenge.
Categories: Attendees

Ignaz Semmelweis and the State of Software Reliability

August 18, 2006 - 2:28pm
Sir Tony Hoare has been delivering powerful exhortations to computer scientists and theoreticians at this week’s sessions of the 2006 Federated Logic Conference (FLoC) in Seattle, Washington.  When Hoare spoke of the importance of forwarding theory, experiments, and scientific tools as collegial specializations, it struck me that the status of the software industry today has some uncanny parallels to the state of medical practice as recently as 1850.{tags: }In the 1840s and earlier, young mothers feared delivering their babies in hospitals because of the pronounced incident of deaths in childbirth.  Deaths by infection after injuries and surgeries was so commonplace as to be feared as inevitable.  The Hungarian-Austrian physician Ignaz Semmelweis determined that there was a correlation between the incidence of death by sepsis in otherwise healthy women and the lack of antiseptic procedures by physicians in the hospital.  Semmelweis could not explain why there was a correlation, because microbes and the micro-organism theory of transmittable diseases was not yet established.  He had the experiments and the tools, but not the theory.  The medical establishment of the time ridiculed and rejected the findings of Semmelweis, some of whose efforts to be heard were self-defeating.  In hindsight we know that the infections were carried to the women from the doctors’ unprotected contact with infected patients and even corpses.  Many more women would die in childbirth before the clinical practice of medicine was altered to include the stringent antiseptic procedures that we now know as commonplace and routine.It seems to me that today’s software developers are very much pre-scientific software clinicians.  Our software exhibits the ravages of disease.  Our programmed offspring are often still-born or suffer infant death.  Yet we resist the application of even the simplest prophylactic methods for production of healthier software.  We behave as though disease is inevitable and has nothing to do with us.  Software developers are resigned to the existence of defects and and the public has become jaded in a world where it is commonplace to have to shutdown and restart even the most mundane electronic devices in order to recover from software-injected defects.I take this medical-science and disease-treatment analogy as good news.  As Thomas Ball remarked to me as we were breaking for lunch today, we have before us the possibility that a century from now software engineers will be amazed to look back to the state of the art as it is practiced today.  They may shake their heads over the crude conceptions and ill-conceived approaches that were dogmatically applied in the early history of software development.  Bugs and mistakes may never be eliminated (we do not control disease by stamping out all bacteria and viruses of the biological kind), but we can imagine the benefits of prevention (and healthy software lifestyles) in place of post-trauma palliatives for the fortunate survivors of software disease.Progress will take more than my flip suggestion that programmers wash their hands before picking up their mouse.  There is certainly much to stop and consider before hacking out one more program, no more reliable than the previous one.  We have no idea what will happen that makes it possible and practical for bug-free software to be produced outright.  But the future will be grateful for the importunings of Dijkstra, Hoare, and others who insisted that we never give up on the ideal of demonstrably-correct software.  In Tony’s words before a panel on Grand Challenges for Software Verification earlier this week, “We should all look forward to the day when software is accepted as the most reliable component of the system that contains it.”  I originally named “Linneaus” during the session when remarking on this analogy to the primitiveness of medicine in the recent historical past.  It took my search for a citation that had me realize that I was thinking of Semmelweis.  I can’t imagine what had this occur to me other than having read a historical novel based on the life of Semmelweis over 40 years ago.  I also see that Tony Hoare came here after providing related exhortations at a Summer School in Germany. [update:2006-09-12 corrected spelling of “Dijkstra.”]
Categories: Attendees

A Turn at Live Blogging

August 12, 2006 - 10:58am
2006-08-11: I’m at a workshop one day before the 2006 Federated Logic Conference (FLoC’06) here in Seattle.  My initial tasks are to confirm wireless connectivity and setting the configuration on Quadro, my current Tablet PC.   I’ve also obtained all of my registration materials and I will move to the first workshop in a few minutes.  This post is also a day late, but I was resolved to actually perform it from the conference and here it is.{tags: }It is either very simple or a little complicated to explain my participation for these 9 days.  There is an amazing confluence of conference opportunities in the Pacific Northwest over the next few months, and I did not know when there might be another opportunity for me.With regard to the subject matter, it is a long-standing but neglected interest that I would like to re-invigorate.That’s the simple answer and I’ll stick with it for now.  More posts from Professor von Clueless and on Numbering Peano will deal with the technical bits.Starting out, this is my first live blogging from an event.  Sitting down to confirm WiFi access, I just heard a fellow speaking Italian to his computer, so I have now introduced myself to three Italian-speaking visitors who are also early arrivals, two from Venezia (fighting jealousy here) and one from Malta.  The young man from Malta is currently in Japan on an internship, demonstrating the international reach of this conference.This is a test post, so I am not going to embellish it farther.  It is already overdue.
Categories: Attendees