Out of Scope May/June 2010

The Importance of Being Urgent

The nickname ?Crackberry? has been around for years, and the addictive nature of the Blackberry and other smartphones is certainly not a surprise to users. Now, however, there?s research to support these beliefs. According to an article in Australia?s The Age, a recent study by Melissa Gregg, of Sydney University, suggests that ?participants believed checking and sending e-mails from home did not constitute work. Yet e-mails were constantly invading evenings and weekends, potentially affecting family relationships.?

Gregg found that ?workers were checking e-mail at night in bed and as early as 6 a.m. before children woke so they could focus on ?real work? in office hours.? Sound familiar? Barbara Pocock, of the University of South Australia, summed it up best: ?It fractures people?s attention because there?s this dipping in and out. I?m curious about what this is doing to productivity. We?re interrupting completion of task, where the urgent overrides the important.?

The urgent?or, more likely, the appearance of urgency?overrides the important. The next time you take out your smartphone at some off hour, you might want to think about that line?I know I will. Perhaps the best approach would be to shove the thing back in its case until some more appropriate time. There really are things in life more important than e-mail.

Want to Supersize That Software?

In a tunnel 17 miles in circumference, some 500 feet beneath the Franco-Swiss border, lies the LHC (the Large Hadron Collider), ?the world?s most powerful particle accelerator. High-energy protons in two counter-rotating beams [are] smashed together in a search for signatures of supersymmetry, dark matter and the origins of mass. … The detectors could see up to 600 million collision events per second.?

And do you know what has to sift through all those events? Software. A recent article on arstechnica.com explains the role of software in this dizzying search for the origins of the universe. The scope of the data that must be processed coming from the LHC is staggering. Ofer Rind, a physicist at Brookhaven National Labs, describes all this in computer science terms as an ?embarrassingly parallel problem.?

So, when you?re having some trouble building an enterprise architecture blueprint or CRM?s got you down, buck up. You could be dealing with an environment in which data produced will hit a total output of 15 petabytes per year, and the result of your work would be ?the answer [to] many of the most fundamental questions in physics [and] the deep structure of space and time.? Maybe ERP isn?t so bad after all.

Oh, Say Can You ?C??

Who doesn?t like indices, lists, Top 10s? Well, here?s a neat one: The ?TIOBE Programming Community Index for April 2010.? For those of you keeping score, the ?C programming language [is] back at number 1 position!?

Interestingly, C has hovered around or been on top for quite some time?not because it?s on the rise, but because of the decline of its competitor Java. ?Java has a long-term downward trend. It is losing ground to other languages.? Some of those other languages in the Top 10 are: C++, PHP, (Visual) Basic, C#, Python, Perl, Delphi and JavaScript.

Want to see what?s at the very bottom? How about these clunkers: Groovy, Smalltalk, J and C Shell. So, C is a cool software letter, but J isn?t? And plays on C don?t cut it either?C Shell, indeed. And who can imagine a coder working with anything called Groovy.

So, if you?re starting a new project based on Smalltalk, or are going back to school to learn Groovy, think twice. It?s all C, all the time.