Perry Rhodan

29. September, 2011

For the next four days, I’ll be in Mannheim, Germany at the PERRY RHODAN-WeltCon 2011 (their caps).

If you didn’t know, Perry Rhodan is the “most successful science fiction book series ever written” (Wikipedia) with over one billion copies sold in Germany alone.

Make you wonder why it isn’t as famous as StarTrek or Star Wars or Babylon 5. Well, there was never a TV series.

The Private and Social Costs of Patent Trolls

26. September, 2011

Another study by James E. Bessen: “The Private and Social Costs of Patent Trolls

Patent trolls did cost society over $500 billion in the past 20 years. That’s not the money they sued for – that’s the money shareholders lost because of diving quotes because of a lawsuit. It’s money that was converted to nothing. No one, not even the trolls, had any advantage from it.

The study also shows that patent trolls only sue big companies. This is an indication of a weakness in the current patent system (the one after the “huge” reform).


22. September, 2011

I just attended the Sonar presentation given by Olivier Gaudin of sonarsource. Some impressions.

A good definition of quality:

A well-written program is a program where the cost of implementing a feature is constant throughout the program’s lifetime

— Itay Maman

In Martin Fowler’s “Technical Debt Quadrant“, Sonar is in the upper right corner: It doesn’t solve your problems, it just helps you know what they are. Or as the guys at sonarsource put it: Sonar puts  your technical debt under control.

A good book which you may want to read in this area is “Clean Code – A Handbook of Agile Software Craftsmanship” by Robert C. Martin.

List of the 7 Deadly Sins:

  • Code duplication (cut&paste)
  • Bad distribution of complexity
  • Spaghetti design
  • Lack of unit tests
  • No coding standards
  • Potential bugs
  • Not enough or too many comments

Remote Controlled Cows

20. September, 2011

You could use a dog or a horse but an RC so much more fun!

Samsung vs Apple

19. September, 2011

Happy suing everywhere.

My only comment: This litigation is going to cost millions of dollars. Many millions. I’m thinking hundreds.

Of course, both companies are rich, so they can afford it.

Sadly, that was once our money, your and mine. So in a way, they are wasting perfectly fine money. Money which could have been invested in, say, R&D, making better products, sell their products cheaper, world peace.

You could argue that any fines aren’t wasted. But I wonder: If Samsung has to pay, say, $100 million in fines to Apple (I actually wrote Sony here – no idea why), how much of that money actually goes to attorneys?

And what about customers who are no longer allowed to buy certain products while the lawsuit lasts?

I imagine this: We all built a sandbox for all of us to play in. We spent time and effort and passion. And now, the bullies are taking over the place, driving us out. For perfectly legal reasons of course. No doubt. Not a one.

Does that make you feel better?

Futuristic Fountain

14. September, 2011

Here is an amazing example of a 21st century fountain:

Makes me feel like someone during the age when fountains were invented.

Source: Water Screen WIN

Why Writing Software is Not Like Engineering

12. September, 2011

Excellent article by Terence ParrWhy writing software is not like engineering

Main points:

  • “Congress does not go to NASA halfway through a moonshot and ask them to go to Mars instead.”
  • When building a house, it’s pretty hard to make the toilet flush when you ring the doorbell. In languages like C++, it’s very hard to make 100% sure this can’t happen.
  • Is it science? No, science is about conducting experiments and accumulating knowledge.

I don’t agree with software == art. Art is meant to make emotions available to a larger audience. Maybe writing error messages at M$ is an art form but general coding isn’t.

Conclusion: Software development is a craft just like carpentry or masonry.

Related articles:

Last Thoughts on 9/11

11. September, 2011

Who knows the truth? No one.

There seems to be a lot of convincing evidence that the “official truth” about the Twin Tower attack is not correct. Well, I know for sure that the “official truth” is not 100% correct for these reasons:

  1. The people who planned the attack haven’t stepped forward and explained them in detail to us so far. Anyone else is just an outside observer at best, so how are they supposed to know “the truth”?
  2. Anyone planning a big project knows that there is always a gap between the goals and the result. So even if there wasn’t a huge pressure on the people writing the official report, the official report has to be incomplete or wrong in some respect. The pressure just made it worse. Which means the report isn’t as correct as it could have been. And even if it was, that still wouldn’t be the truth.
  3. There is a part in your brain that filters anything “unimportant” out before the information can reach your consciousness (see “The Invisible Gorilla” for an example). That means for you, this information never existed in the first place. This and other factors make eyewitnesses so unreliable. The same is true for the victims of the attack and the people who wrote the report.

So we have two sides, the US government and “the terrorists” (whoever that might be). We suspect that the government is lying but we ignore the fact that huge bodies a) sometimes make huge mistakes, b) there is always political agenda (like Bush wanting Bin Laden dead for any reason, so why waste more effort in a deeper investigation?) and c) the people writing the official report didn’t have all the facts (for many reasons).

For me, 9/11 just gave a bunch of people a perfect excuse to create more terrorists, for example by killing more than 100’000 civilians (irritating thought: Do you believe this number after reading the above?).

Remember: If you want to make a situation worse, you send an army – they are trained to conquer and destroy. To contain a situation, you send the police – they are trained to contain and deescalate.

Another Reason Against Copyright

10. September, 2011

The EU is about to extend the duration of the copyright for music from 50 to 70 years.

That means recordings (not the music, only the original tapes and records) of the Beatles, Elvis, etc. will generate revenue for another 20 years. Who gets that revenue? The “Big Four”: EMI, Sony Music, Universal Music and Warner Music (72%). Then 24% goes to rich, already established artists like The Rolling Stones, which make up about 20% of all artists. The rest (80%) get 4%.

Revolutions don’t start because people are hungry, they start because there is enough for everyone but most people are starving and they are fed up with a greedy few.


9. September, 2011

Yesterday, I attended, “Four days of science, critical thinking & intelligent entertainment.”

The first event was a discussion about “skeptic blogging” where seven bloggers talked about what they do, where they get their ideas from and how they handle feedback.

For example, if you blog about a controversial topic like religion, you will get some heated feedback. The stance of the bloggers was that you won’t sway the die-hard believers. But a lot more people are just curious or want a second opinion. For those, “independent” blogs are a great help. I quote that because no one of us is really independent and that is something we all need to keep in mind.

There is a part of your brain which filters anything coming in through the senses long before the facts reach the consciousness. It’s easy to forget this since it’s so handy normally. Without it, it would be impossible to concentrate on something. While reading this text, you would have to listen to what the people next to you are talking about, how the seat below you feels like, or the clothes on your skin, what the air smells like and not to forget all those words on this page that you don’t want to read all at the same time – your eyes see all of them all the time, but the filtering makes sure that you can understand them one at a time.

In the Q&A session, someone said that the Internet became one of the most important tools in the Arabic world today. As many of you probably know, there were huge advances in science in Arabia while the Christians suppressed any free thought (6th to 15th century). Without those people,  astronomy, mathematics and chemistry wouldn’t be what they are today. We’d use Roman numerals instead of Arabic ones. Astrology would try to avoid launching probes to the moon lest we found “something”.

But religious fundamentalism led to a ban on thinking in the Arabic world. There was a comment that religion led to a lot of wars. That isn’t true. Greed and power lead to war, religion is just a handy tool in this context to rally emotions. Saying “we kill them because they are assholes/heretics/infidels” always gets better reception than saying “we kill them because they are more wealthy.” The latter is like saying “We’re too dumb to make a living, so let’s make someone else miserable, too.”

As Vince Ebert puts it, “if the Islamists were true to their belief, they’d attacked the Twin Towers not in air planes but with a battering ram.”

There was also some talk about what is religion and what is science.

I think religion is what you know for sure while science is what you know not. I tried to make this clear in a comment I gave in the Q&A session. When there is a light switch on the wall, the religious person tends to believe that it works while the scientist tries to come up with an experiment that proves that it doesn’t. While a religious person might flip the switch to “prove” that it works, a scientist will install sensors near the lamp and the switch to see if the time between flipping the switch and the reaction is always the same – someone else could operate the real switch. Or they’ll follow the wiring. They might influence the voltage on the wires to see if it’s the same on both ends to make sure this wire actually goes to the light bulb.

This might sound ridiculous but the problem with experiments is that they are only “true” as long as someone can’t prove them wrong. Einstein isn’t right, it’s just that so far no one could falsify his theory and since a lot of smart people tried, it’s probably a good theory in the sense that it’s resilient. Astrology wasn’t ever tried. No astrologer took a million people, followed them for years, noting down interesting events in their lives to see if there is a correlation to celestial “bodies” like the “houses” into which we are born. They always take each person individually, see “oh, here I was right, so my theory works” and they’re happy. If their theory fails, they don’t ask how they could conduct an experiment to verify anything, they just think “oh, well, outlier.”

Another good point by Lars Fischer: Most scientific publications are hard to understand. So if you don’t understand something, it’s probably scientific because the frauds try hard to make their lies easy to grasp.

Florian Freistetter has another summary of the event in his blog.