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Reverse Engineering Links Programming style Project Management Code Reviews and Inspections The Mythical Man-Month Design patterns CMM
Bad Software Information Overload Inhouse vs outsourced applications development OSS Development as a Special Type of Academic Research A Second Look at the Cathedral and Bazaar Labyrinth of Software Freedom  
Program Understanding Git Software archeology Refactoring vs Restructuring Software Testing Featuritis Managing Distributed Software Development
Distributed software development LAMP Stack Perl-based Bug Tracking Code Metrics   Cargo cult programming Document Management Systems
Testing Over 50 and unemployed          
Programming as a profession Primitive views of the Software Design Sysadmin Horror Stories Health Issues SE quotes Humor Etc

Software Engineering: A study akin to numerology and astrology, but lacking the precision of the former and the success of the latter.

KISS Principle     /kis' prin'si-pl/ n.     "Keep It Simple, Stupid". A maxim often invoked when discussing design to fend off creeping featurism and control development complexity. Possibly related to the marketroid maxim on sales presentations, "Keep It Short and Simple".

creeping featurism     /kree'ping fee'chr-izm/ n.     [common] 1. Describes a systematic tendency to load more chrome and features onto systems at the expense of whatever elegance they may have possessed when originally designed. See also feeping creaturism. "You know, the main problem with BSD Unix has always been creeping featurism." 2. More generally, the tendency for anything complicated to become even more complicated because people keep saying "Gee, it would be even better if it had this feature too". (See feature.) The result is usually a patchwork because it grew one ad-hoc step at a time, rather than being planned. Planning is a lot of work, but it's easy to add just one extra little feature to help someone ... and then another ... and another... When creeping featurism gets out of hand, it's like a cancer. Usually this term is used to describe computer programs, but it could also be said of the federal government, the IRS 1040 form, and new cars. A similar phenomenon sometimes afflicts conscious redesigns; see second-system effect. See also creeping elegance.
Jargon file

Software engineering (SE)  has probably largest concentration of snake oil salesman after OO programming and software architecture is far from being an exclusion.  Many published software methodologies/architectures claim to provide the benefits, that most of them can not deliver (UML is one good example). I see a lot of oversimplification of the real situation and unnecessary (and useless) formalisms.  The main idea advocated here is simplification of software architecture (including usage of well-understood "Pipe and Filter model")  and scripting languages.

There are few quality general architectural resources available from the Net, therefore the list below represent only some links that I am interested personally. The stress here is on skepticism and this collection is neither complete, nor up to date. But still it might help students that are trying to study this complex and interesting subject. Or perhaps, if you already a software architect you might be able to expand your knowledge of the subject. 

Excessive zeal in adopting some fashionable but questionable methodology is a "real and present danger" in software engineering. This is not a new threat, it started with structured programming revolution and then verification "holy land" searching with Edsger W. Dijkstra as a new prophet of an obsure cult.  The main problem here that all those methodologies contain 20% of useful elements; but the other 80% kill all the useful elements and introduce probably some real disadvantages. After a dozen or so partially useful but mostly useless methodologies came, were enthusiastically  adopted and went into oblivion we should definitely be skeptical.

All this "extreme programming" idiotism or CMM Lysenkoism should be treated as we treat dangerous religious sects.  It's undemocratic and stupid to prohibit them but it's equally dangerous and stupid to follow their recommendations ;-). As Talleyrand advised to junior diplomats: "Above all, gentlemen, not too much zeal. "  By this phrase, Talleyrand was reportedly recommended to his subordinates that important decisions must be based upon the exercise of cool-headed reason and not upon emotions or any waxing or waning popular delusion.

One interesting fact about software architecture is that it can't be practiced from the "ivory tower". Only when you do coding yourself and faces limitations of the tools and hardware you can create a great architecture.  See Real Insights into Architecture Come Only From Actual Programming

One interesting fact about software architecture is that it can't be practiced from the "ivory tower". Only when you do coding yourself and faces limitations of the tools and hardware you can create a great architecture.  See Real Insights into Architecture Come Only From Actual Programming

The primary purpose of Software Architecture courses is to teach students some higher level skills useful in designing and implementing complex software systems. In usually includes some information about classification (general and domain specific architectures), analysis and tools.  As guys in Breadmear consulting aptly noted in their paper  Who Software Architect Role:

A simplistic view of the role is that architects create architectures, and their responsibilities encompass all that is involved in doing so. This would include articulating the architectural vision, conceptualizing and experimenting with alternative architectural approaches, creating models and component and interface specification documents, and validating the architecture against requirements and assumptions.

However, any experienced architect knows that the role involves not just these technical activities, but others that are more political and strategic in nature on the one hand, and more like those of a consultant, on the other. A sound sense of business and technical strategy is required to envision the "right" architectural approach to the customer's problem set, given the business objectives of the architect's organization. Activities in this area include the creation of technology roadmaps, making assertions about technology directions and determining their consequences for the technical strategy and hence architectural approach.

Further, architectures are seldom embraced without considerable challenges from many fronts. The architect thus has to shed any distaste for what may be considered "organizational politics", and actively work to sell the architecture to its various stakeholders, communicating extensively and working networks of influence to ensure the ongoing success of the architecture.

But "buy-in" to the architecture vision is not enough either. Anyone involved in implementing the architecture needs to understand it. Since weighty architectural documents are notorious dust-gatherers, this involves creating and teaching tutorials and actively consulting on the application of the architecture, and being available to explain the rationale behind architectural choices and to make amendments to the architecture when justified.

Lastly, the architect must lead--the architecture team, the developer community, and, in its technical direction, the organization.

Again, I would like to stress that the main principle of software architecture is simple and well known -- it's famous KISS principle. While principle is simple its implementation is not and a lot of developers (especially developers with limited resources) paid dearly for violating this principle.  I have found one one reference on simplicity in SE: R. S. Pressman. Simplicity. In Software Engineering, A Practitioner's Approach, page 452. McGraw Hill, 1997. Here open source tools can help because for those tools a complexity is not such a competitive advantage as for closed source tools. But that not necessary true about actual tools as one problem with open source projects is change of the leader. This is the moment when many projects lose architectural integrity and became a Byzantium compendium of conflicting approaches.

I appreciate am architecture of software system that lead to small size implementations with simple, Spartan interface. In these days the usage of scripting languages can cut the volume of code more than in half in comparison with Java.  That's why this site is advocating usage of scripting languages for complex software projects.

"Real Beauty can be found in Simplicity," and as you may know already, ' "Less" sometimes equal "More".' I continue to adhere to that philosophy. If you, too, have an eye for simplicity in software engineering, then you might benefit from this collection of links.

I think writing a good software system is somewhat similar to writing a multivolume series of books. Most writers will rewrite each chapter of book several times and changes general structure a lot. Rewriting large systems is more difficult, but also very beneficial. It make sense always consider the current version of the system a draft that can be substantially improved and simplified by discovering some new unifying and simplifying paradigm.  Sometimes you can take a wrong direction, but still "nothing venture nothing have."

On a subsystem level a decent configuration management system can help going back. Too often people try to write and debug their fundamentally flawed architecturally "first draft", when it would have been much simpler and faster to rewrite it based on better understanding of architecture and better understanding of the problem.  Actually rewriting can save time spend in debugging of the old version.  That way, when you're done, you may get easy-to-understand, simple software systems, instead of just systems that "seems to work okay" (only as correct as your testing).

On component level refactoring (see Refactoring: Improving the Design of Existing Code) might be a useful simplification technique. Actually rewriting is a simpler term, but let's assume that refactoring is rewriting with some ideological frosting ;-). See Slashdot Book Reviews Refactoring Improving the Design of Existing Code.

I have found one reference on simplicity in SE: R. S. Pressman. Simplicity. In Software Engineering, A Practitioner's Approach, page 452. McGraw Hill, 1997.

Another relevant work (he try to promote his own solution -- you can skip this part) is the critique of "the technology mud slide" in a  book The Innovator's Dilemma by Harvard Business School Professor Clayton M. Christensen . He defined  the term"technology mudslide", the concept very similar to Brooks "software development tar pit" -- a perpetual cycle of abandonment or retooling of existing systems in pursuit of the latest fashionable technology trend -- a cycle in which

 "Coping with the relentless onslaught of technology change was akin to trying to climb a mudslide raging down a hill. You have to scramble with everything you've got to stay on top of it. and if you ever once stop to catch your breath, you get buried."

The complexity caused by adopting new technology for the sake of new technology is further exacerbated by the narrow focus and inexperience of many project leaders -- inexperience with mission-critical systems, systems of larger scale then previously built, software development disciplines, and project management. A Standish Group International survey recently showed that 46% of IT projects were over budget and overdue -- and 28% failed altogether. That's normal and probably the real failures figures are higher: great software managers and architects are rare and it is those people who determine the success of a software project.

Dr. Nikolai Bezroukov


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Old News ;-)

[Sep 18, 2019] the myopic drive to profitability and naivety to unintended consequences are pushing these tech out into the world before they are ready.

Sep 18, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org

A.L. , Sep 18 2019 19:56 utc | 31

@30 David G

perhaps, just like proponents of AI and self driving cars. They just love the technology, financially and emotionally invested in it so much they can't see the forest from the trees.

I like technology, I studied engineering. But the myopic drive to profitability and naivety to unintended consequences are pushing these tech out into the world before they are ready.

engineering used to be a discipline with ethics and responsibilities... But now anybody who could write two lines of code can call themselves a software engineer....

[Sep 14, 2019] The Man Who Could Speak Japanese

This impostor definitely demonstrated programming abilities, although at the time there was not such ter :-)
Notable quotes:
"... "We wrote it down. ..."
"... The next phrase was: ..."
"... " ' Booki fai kiz soy ?' " said Whitey. "It means 'Do you surrender?' " ..."
"... " ' Mizi pok loi ooni rak tong zin ?' 'Where are your comrades?' " ..."
"... "Tong what ?" rasped the colonel. ..."
"... "Tong zin , sir," our instructor replied, rolling chalk between his palms. He arched his eyebrows, as though inviting another question. There was one. The adjutant asked, "What's that gizmo on the end?" ..."
"... Of course, it might have been a Japanese newspaper. Whitey's claim to be a linguist was the last of his status symbols, and he clung to it desperately. Looking back, I think his improvisations on the Morton fantail must have been one of the most heroic achievements in the history of confidence men -- which, as you may have gathered by now, was Whitey's true profession. Toward the end of our tour of duty on the 'Canal he was totally discredited with us and transferred at his own request to the 81-millimeter platoon, where our disregard for him was no stigma, since the 81 millimeter musclemen regarded us as a bunch of eight balls anyway. Yet even then, even after we had become completely disillusioned with him, he remained a figure of wonder among us. We could scarcely believe that an impostor could be clever enough actually to invent a language -- phonics, calligraphy, and all. It had looked like Japanese and sounded like Japanese, and during his seventeen days of lecturing on that ship Whitey had carried it all in his head, remembering every variation, every subtlety, every syntactic construction. ..."
"... https://www.americanheritage.com/man-who-could-speak-japanese ..."
Sep 14, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Wukchumni , September 13, 2019 at 4:29 pm

Re: Fake list of grunge slang:

a fabulous tale of the South Pacific by William Manchester

The Man Who Could Speak Japanese

"We wrote it down.

The next phrase was:

" ' Booki fai kiz soy ?' " said Whitey. "It means 'Do you surrender?' "

Then:

" ' Mizi pok loi ooni rak tong zin ?' 'Where are your comrades?' "

"Tong what ?" rasped the colonel.

"Tong zin , sir," our instructor replied, rolling chalk between his palms. He arched his eyebrows, as though inviting another question. There was one. The adjutant asked, "What's that gizmo on the end?"

Of course, it might have been a Japanese newspaper. Whitey's claim to be a linguist was the last of his status symbols, and he clung to it desperately. Looking back, I think his improvisations on the Morton fantail must have been one of the most heroic achievements in the history of confidence men -- which, as you may have gathered by now, was Whitey's true profession. Toward the end of our tour of duty on the 'Canal he was totally discredited with us and transferred at his own request to the 81-millimeter platoon, where our disregard for him was no stigma, since the 81 millimeter musclemen regarded us as a bunch of eight balls anyway. Yet even then, even after we had become completely disillusioned with him, he remained a figure of wonder among us. We could scarcely believe that an impostor could be clever enough actually to invent a language -- phonics, calligraphy, and all. It had looked like Japanese and sounded like Japanese, and during his seventeen days of lecturing on that ship Whitey had carried it all in his head, remembering every variation, every subtlety, every syntactic construction.

https://www.americanheritage.com/man-who-could-speak-japanese

[Sep 08, 2019] The Art of Defensive Programming by Diego

Dec 25, 2016 | medium.com

... ... ...

Never trust user input

Assume always you're going to receive something you don't expect. This should be your approach as a defensive programmer, against user input, or in general things coming into your system. That's because as we said we can expect the unexpected. Try to be as strict as possible. Assert that your input values are what you expect.

The best defense is a good offense

Do whitelists not blacklists, for example when validating an image extension, don't check for the invalid types but check for the valid types, excluding all the rest. In PHP however you also have an infinite number of open source validation libraries to make your job easier.

The best defense is a good offense. Be strict

Use database abstraction

The first of OWASP Top 10 Security Vulnerabilities is Injection. That means someone (a lot of people out there) is yet not using secure tools to query their databases. Please use Database Abstraction packages and libraries. In PHP you can use PDO to ensure basic injection protection .

Don't reinvent the wheel

You don't use a framework (or micro framework) ? Well you like doing extra work for no reason, congratulations! It's not only about frameworks, but also for new features where you could easily use something that's already out there, well tested, trusted by thousands of developers and stable , rather than crafting something by yourself only for the sake of it. The only reasons why you should build something by yourself is that you need something that doesn't exists or that exists but doesn't fit within your needs (bad performance, missing features etc)

That's what is used to call intelligent code reuse . Embrace it

Don't trust developers

Defensive programming can be related to something called Defensive Driving . In Defensive Driving we assume that everyone around us can potentially and possibly make mistakes. So we have to be careful even to others' behavior. The same concept applies to Defensive Programming where us, as developers shouldn't trust others developers' code . We shouldn't trust our code neither.

In big projects, where many people are involved, we can have many different ways we write and organize code. This can also lead to confusion and even more bugs. That's because why we should enforce coding styles and mess detector to make our life easier.

Write SOLID code

That's the tough part for a (defensive) programmer, writing code that doesn't suck . And this is a thing many people know and talk about, but nobody really cares or put the right amount of attention and effort into it in order to achieve SOLID code .

Let's see some bad examples

Don't: Uninitialized properties

<?phpclass BankAccount
{
    protected $currency = null;
    public function setCurrency($currency) { ... }
    public function payTo(Account $to, $amount)
    {
        // sorry for this silly example
        $this->transaction->process($to, $amount, $this->currency);
    }
}// I forgot to call $bankAccount->setCurrency('GBP');
$bankAccount->payTo($joe, 100);

In this case we have to remember that for issuing a payment we need to call first setCurrency . That's a really bad thing, a state change operation like that (issuing a payment) shouldn't be done in two steps, using two(n) public methods. We can still have many methods to do the payment, but we must have only one simple public method in order to change the status (Objects should never be in an inconsistent state) .

In this case we made it even better, encapsulating the uninitialised property into the Money object

<?phpclass BankAccount
{
    public function payTo(Account $to, Money $money) { ... }
}$bankAccount->payTo($joe, new Money(100, new Currency('GBP')));

Make it foolproof. Don't use uninitialized object properties

Don't: Leaking state outside class scope

<?phpclass Message
{
    protected $content;
    public function setContent($content)
    {
        $this->content = $content;
    }
}class Mailer
{
    protected $message;
    public function __construct(Message $message)
    {
        $this->message = $message;
    }
    public function sendMessage(){
        var_dump($this->message);
    }
}$message = new Message();
$message->setContent("bob message");
$joeMailer = new Mailer($message);$message->setContent("joe message");
$bobMailer = new Mailer($message);$joeMailer->sendMessage();
$bobMailer->sendMessage();

In this case Message is passed by reference and the result will be in both cases "joe message" . A solution would be either cloning the message object in the Mailer constructor. But what we should always try to do is to use a ( immutable ) value object instead of a plain Message mutable object. Use immutable objects when you can

<?phpclass Message
{
    protected $content;
    public function __construct($content)
    {
        $this->content = $content;
    }
}class Mailer 
{
    protected $message;
    public function __construct(Message $message)
    {
        $this->message = $message;
    }
    public function sendMessage(
    {
        var_dump($this->message);
    }
}$joeMailer = new Mailer(new Message("bob message"));
$bobMailer = new Mailer(new Message("joe message"));$joeMailer->sendMessage();
$bobMailer->sendMessage();
Write tests

We still need to say that ? Writing unit tests will help you adhering to common principles such as High Cohesion, Single Responsibility, Low Coupling and right object composition . It helps you not only testing the working small unit case but also the way you structured your object's. Indeed you'll clearly see when testing your small functions how many cases you need to test and how many objects you need to mock in order to achieve a 100% code coverage

Conclusions

Hope you liked the article. Remember those are just suggestions, it's up to you to know when, where and if to apply them.

[Sep 07, 2019] Knuth: Early on in the TeX project I also had to do programming of a completely different type on Zilog CPU which was at the heart of lazer printer that I used

Sep 07, 2019 | archive.computerhistory.org

Knuth: Yeah. That's absolutely true. I've got to get another thought out of my mind though. That is, early on in the TeX project I also had to do programming of a completely different type. I told you last week that this was my first real exercise in structured programming, which was one of Dijkstra's huge... That's one of the few breakthroughs in the history of computer science, in a way. He was actually responsible for maybe two of the ten that I know.

So I'm doing structured programming as I'm writing TeX. I'm trying to do it right, the way I should've been writing programs in the 60s. Then I also got this typesetting machine, which had, inside of it, a tiny 8080 chip or something. I'm not sure exactly. It was a Zilog, or some very early Intel chip. Way before the 386s. A little computer with 8-bit registers and a small number of things it could do. I had to write my own assembly language for this, because the existing software for writing programs for this little micro thing were so bad. I had to write actually thousands of lines of code for this, in order to control the typesetting. Inside the machine I had to control a stepper motor, and I had to accelerate it.

Every so often I had to give another [command] saying, "Okay, now take a step," and then continue downloading a font from the mainframe.

I had six levels of interrupts in this program. I remember talking to you at this time, saying, "Ed, I'm programming in assembly language for an 8-bit computer," and you said "Yeah, you've been doing the same thing and it's fun again."

You know, you'll remember. We'll undoubtedly talk more about that when I have my turn interviewing you in a week or so. This is another aspect of programming: that you also feel that you're in control and that there's not a black box separating you. It's not only the power, but it's the knowledge of what's going on; that nobody's hiding something. It's also this aspect of jumping levels of abstraction. In my opinion, the thing that computer scientists are best at is seeing things at many levels of detail: high level, intermediate levels, and lowest levels. I know if I'm adding 1 to a certain number, that this is getting me towards some big goal at the top. People enjoy most the things that they're good at. Here's a case where if you're working on a machine that has only this 8-bit capability, but in order to do this you have to go through levels, of not only that machine, but also to the next level up of the assembler, and then you have a simulator in which you can help debug your programs, and you have higher level languages that go through, and then you have the typesetting at the top. There are these six or seven levels all present at the same time. A computer scientist is in heaven in a situation like this.

Feigenbaum: Don, to get back, I want to ask you about that as part of the next question. You went back into programming in a really serious way. It took you, as I said before, ten years, not one year, and you didn't quit. As soon as you mastered one part of it, you went into Metafont, which is another big deal. To what extent were you doing that because you needed to, what I might call expose yourself to, or upgrade your skills in, the art that had emerged over the decade-and-a-half since you had done RUNCIBLE? And to what extent did you do it just because you were driven to be a programmer? You loved programming.

Knuth: Yeah. I think your hypothesis is good. It didn't occur to me at the time that I just had to program in order to be a happy man. Certainly I didn't find my other roles distasteful, except for fundraising. I enjoyed every aspect of being a professor except dealing with proposals, which I did my share of, but that was a necessary evil sort of in my own thinking, I guess. But the fact that now I'm still compelled to I wake up in the morning with an idea, and it makes my day to think of adding a couple of lines to my program. Gives me a real high. It must be the way poets feel, or musicians and so on, and other people, painters, whatever. Programming does that for me. It's certainly true. But the fact that I had to put so much time in it was not totally that, I'm sure, because it became a responsibility. It wasn't just for Phyllis and me, as it turned out. I started working on it at the AI lab, and people were looking at the output coming out of the machine and they would say, "Hey, Don, how did you do that?" Guy Steele was visiting from MIT that summer and he said, "Don, I want to port this to take it to MIT." I didn't have two users.

First I had 10, and then I had 100, and then I had 1000. Every time it went to another order of magnitude I had to change the system, because it would almost match their needs but then they would have very good suggestions as to something it wasn't covering. Then when it went to 10,000 and when it went to 100,000, the last stage was 10 years later when I made it friendly for the other alphabets of the world, where people have accented letters and Russian letters. <p>I had started out with only 7-bit codes. I had so many international users by that time, I saw that was a fundamental error. I started out with the idea that nobody would ever want to use a keyboard that could generate more than about 90 characters. It was going to be too complicated. But I was wrong. So it [TeX] was a burden as well, in the sense that I wanted to do a responsible job.

I had actually consciously planned an end-game that would take me four years to finish, and [then] not continue maintaining it and adding on, so that I could have something where I could say, "And now it's done and it's never going to change." I believe this is one aspect of software that, not for every system, but for TeX, it was vital that it became something that wouldn't be a moving target after while.

Feigenbaum: The books on TeX were a period. That is, you put a period down and you said, "This is it."

[Sep 07, 2019] As soon as you stop writing code on a regular basis you stop being a programmer. You lose you qualification very quickly. That's a typical tragedy of talented programmers who became mediocre managers or, worse, theoretical computer scientists

Programming skills are somewhat similar to the skills of people who play violin or piano. As soon a you stop playing violin or piano still start to evaporate. First slowly, then quicker. In two yours you probably will lose 80%.
Notable quotes:
"... I happened to look the other day. I wrote 35 programs in January, and 28 or 29 programs in February. These are small programs, but I have a compulsion. I love to write programs and put things into it. ..."
Sep 07, 2019 | archive.computerhistory.org

Dijkstra said he was proud to be a programmer. Unfortunately he changed his attitude completely, and I think he wrote his last computer program in the 1980s. At this conference I went to in 1967 about simulation language, Chris Strachey was going around asking everybody at the conference what was the last computer program you wrote. This was 1967. Some of the people said, "I've never written a computer program." Others would say, "Oh yeah, here's what I did last week." I asked Edsger this question when I visited him in Texas in the 90s and he said, "Don, I write programs now with pencil and paper, and I execute them in my head." He finds that a good enough discipline.

I think he was mistaken on that. He taught me a lot of things, but I really think that if he had continued... One of Dijkstra's greatest strengths was that he felt a strong sense of aesthetics, and he didn't want to compromise his notions of beauty. They were so intense that when he visited me in the 1960s, I had just come to Stanford. I remember the conversation we had. It was in the first apartment, our little rented house, before we had electricity in the house.

We were sitting there in the dark, and he was telling me how he had just learned about the specifications of the IBM System/360, and it made him so ill that his heart was actually starting to flutter.

He intensely disliked things that he didn't consider clean to work with. So I can see that he would have distaste for the languages that he had to work with on real computers. My reaction to that was to design my own language, and then make Pascal so that it would work well for me in those days. But his response was to do everything only intellectually.

So, programming.

I happened to look the other day. I wrote 35 programs in January, and 28 or 29 programs in February. These are small programs, but I have a compulsion. I love to write programs and put things into it. I think of a question that I want to answer, or I have part of my book where I want to present something. But I can't just present it by reading about it in a book. As I code it, it all becomes clear in my head. It's just the discipline. The fact that I have to translate my knowledge of this method into something that the machine is going to understand just forces me to make that crystal-clear in my head. Then I can explain it to somebody else infinitely better. The exposition is always better if I've implemented it, even though it's going to take me more time.

[Sep 07, 2019] Knuth about computer science and money: At that point I made the decision in my life that I wasn't going to optimize my income;

Sep 07, 2019 | archive.computerhistory.org

So I had a programming hat when I was outside of Cal Tech, and at Cal Tech I am a mathematician taking my grad studies. A startup company, called Green Tree Corporation because green is the color of money, came to me and said, "Don, name your price. Write compilers for us and we will take care of finding computers for you to debug them on, and assistance for you to do your work. Name your price." I said, "Oh, okay. $100,000.", assuming that this was In that era this was not quite at Bill Gate's level today, but it was sort of out there.

The guy didn't blink. He said, "Okay." I didn't really blink either. I said, "Well, I'm not going to do it. I just thought this was an impossible number."

At that point I made the decision in my life that I wasn't going to optimize my income; I was really going to do what I thought I could do for well, I don't know. If you ask me what makes me most happy, number one would be somebody saying "I learned something from you". Number two would be somebody saying "I used your software". But number infinity would be Well, no. Number infinity minus one would be "I bought your book". It's not as good as "I read your book", you know. Then there is "I bought your software"; that was not in my own personal value. So that decision came up. I kept up with the literature about compilers. The Communications of the ACM was where the action was. I also worked with people on trying to debug the ALGOL language, which had problems with it. I published a few papers, like "The Remaining Trouble Spots in ALGOL 60" was one of the papers that I worked on. I chaired a committee called "Smallgol" which was to find a subset of ALGOL that would work on small computers. I was active in programming languages.

[Sep 07, 2019] Knuth: maybe 1 in 50 people have the "computer scientist's" type of intellect

Sep 07, 2019 | conservancy.umn.edu

Frana: You have made the comment several times that maybe 1 in 50 people have the "computer scientist's mind." Knuth: Yes. Frana: I am wondering if a large number of those people are trained professional librarians? [laughter] There is some strangeness there. But can you pinpoint what it is about the mind of the computer scientist that is....

Knuth: That is different?

Frana: What are the characteristics?

Knuth: Two things: one is the ability to deal with non-uniform structure, where you have case one, case two, case three, case four. Or that you have a model of something where the first component is integer, the next component is a Boolean, and the next component is a real number, or something like that, you know, non-uniform structure. To deal fluently with those kinds of entities, which is not typical in other branches of mathematics, is critical. And the other characteristic ability is to shift levels quickly, from looking at something in the large to looking at something in the small, and many levels in between, jumping from one level of abstraction to another. You know that, when you are adding one to some number, that you are actually getting closer to some overarching goal. These skills, being able to deal with nonuniform objects and to see through things from the top level to the bottom level, these are very essential to computer programming, it seems to me. But maybe I am fooling myself because I am too close to it.

Frana: It is the hardest thing to really understand that which you are existing within.

Knuth: Yes.

[Sep 07, 2019] conservancy.umn.edu

Sep 07, 2019 | conservancy.umn.edu

Knuth: Well, certainly it seems the way things are going. You take any particular subject that you are interested in and you try to see if somebody with an American high school education has learned it, and you will be appalled. You know, Jesse Jackson thinks that students know nothing about political science, and I am sure the chemists think that students don't know chemistry, and so on. But somehow they get it when they have to later. But I would say certainly the students now have been getting more of a superficial idea of mathematics than they used to. We have to do remedial stuff at Stanford that we didn't have to do thirty years ago.

Frana: Gio [Wiederhold] said much the same thing to me.

Knuth: The most scandalous thing was that Stanford's course in linear algebra could not get to eigenvalues because the students didn't know about complex numbers. Now every course at Stanford that takes linear algebra as a prerequisite does so because they want the students to know about eigenvalues. But here at Stanford, with one of the highest admission standards of any university, our students don't know complex numbers. So we have to teach them that when they get to college. Yes, this is definitely a breakdown.

Frana: Was your mathematics training in high school particularly good, or was it that you spent a lot of time actually doing problems?

Knuth: No, my mathematics training in high school was not good. My teachers could not answer my questions and so I decided I'd go into physics. I mean, I had played with mathematics in high school. I did a lot of work drawing graphs and plotting points and I used pi as the radix of a number system, and explored what the world would be like if you wanted to do logarithms and you had a number system based on pi. And I had played with stuff like that. But my teachers couldn't answer questions that I had.

... ... ... Frana: Do you have an answer? Are American students different today? In one of your interviews you discuss the problem of creativity versus gross absorption of knowledge.

Knuth: Well, that is part of it. Today we have mostly a sound byte culture, this lack of attention span and trying to learn how to pass exams. Frana: Yes,

[Sep 07, 2019] Knuth: I can be a writer, who tries to organize other people's ideas into some kind of a more coherent structure so that it is easier to put things together

Sep 07, 2019 | conservancy.umn.edu

Knuth: I can be a writer, who tries to organize other people's ideas into some kind of a more coherent structure so that it is easier to put things together. I can see that I could be viewed as a scholar that does his best to check out sources of material, so that people get credit where it is due. And to check facts over, not just to look at the abstract of something, but to see what the methods were that did it and to fill in holes if necessary. I look at my role as being able to understand the motivations and terminology of one group of specialists and boil it down to a certain extent so that people in other parts of the field can use it. I try to listen to the theoreticians and select what they have done that is important to the programmer on the street; to remove technical jargon when possible.

But I have never been good at any kind of a role that would be making policy, or advising people on strategies, or what to do. I have always been best at refining things that are there and bringing order out of chaos. I sometimes raise new ideas that might stimulate people, but not really in a way that would be in any way controlling the flow. The only time I have ever advocated something strongly was with literate programming; but I do this always with the caveat that it works for me, not knowing if it would work for anybody else.

When I work with a system that I have created myself, I can always change it if I don't like it. But everybody who works with my system has to work with what I give them. So I am not able to judge my own stuff impartially. So anyway, I have always felt bad about if anyone says, 'Don, please forecast the future,'...

[Sep 07, 2019] The idea of literate programming is that I'm talking to, I'm writing a program for, a human being to read rather than a computer to read. This is probably not enough

Knuth description is convoluted and not very convincing. Essntially Perl POD implements that idea of literate programming inside the Perl interpteter, alloing long fragments of documentation to be mixed with the test of the program. But this is not enough. Essentially Knuth simply adaped TeX to provide high level description of what program is doing. But mixing the description and text has one important problem. While it helps to understand the logic of the program, the program itself become more difficult to debug as it speds into way too many pages.
So there should be an additional step that provide the capability to separate the documentation and the program in the programming editor, folding all documentation (or folding all programming text). You need the capability to see see alternately just documentation of just program preserving the original line numbers. This issue evades Knuth, who probably mostly works with paper anyway.
Sep 07, 2019 | archive.computerhistory.org
Feigenbaum: I'd like to do that, to move on to the third period. You've already mentioned one of them, the retirement issue, and let's talk about that. The second one you mentioned quite early on, which is the birth in your mind of literate programming, and that's another major development. Before I quit my little monologue here I also would like to talk about random graphs, because I think that's a stunning story that needs to be told. Let's talk about either the retirement or literate programming.

Knuth: I'm glad you brought up literate programming, because it was in my mind the greatest spinoff of the TeX project. I'm not the best person to judge, but in some ways, certainly for my own life, it was the main plus I got out of the TeX project was that I learned a new way to program.

I love programming, but I really love literate programming. The idea of literate programming is that I'm talking to, I'm writing a program for, a human being to read rather than a computer to read. It's still a program and it's still doing the stuff, but I'm a teacher to a person. I'm addressing my program to a thinking being, but I'm also being exact enough so that a computer can understand it as well.

And that made me think. I'm not sure if I mentioned last week, but I think I did mention last week, that the genesis of literate programming was that Tony Hoare was interested in publishing source code for programs. This was a challenge, to find a way to do this, and literate programming was my answer to this question. That is, if I had to take a large program like TeX or METAFONT, fairly large, it's 5 or 600 pages of a book--how would you do that?

The answer was to present it as sort of a hypertext, where you have a lot of simple things connected in simple ways in order to understand the whole. Once I realized that this was a good way to write programs, then I had this strong urge to go through and take every program I'd ever written in my life and make it literate. It's so much better than the next best way, I can't imagine trying to write a program any other way. On the other hand, the next best way is good enough that people can write lots and lots of very great programs without using literate programming. So it's not essential that they do. But I do have the gut feeling that if some company would start using literate programming for all of its software that I would be much more inclined to buy that software than any other.

Feigenbaum: Just a couple of things about that that you have mentioned to me in the past. One is your feeling that programs can be beautiful, and therefore they ought to be read like poetry. The other one is a heuristic that you told me about, which is if you want to get across an idea, you got to present it two ways: a kind of intuitive way, and a formal way, and that fits in with literate programming.

Knuth: Right.

Feigenbaum: Do you want to comment on those?

Knuth: Yeah. That's the key idea that I realized as I'm writing The Art of Computer Programming, the textbook. That the key to good exposition is to say everything twice, or three times, where I say something informally and formally. The reader gets to lodge it in his brain in two different ways, and they reinforce each other. All the time I'm giving in my textbooks I'm saying not only that I'm.. Well, let's see. I'm giving a formula, but I'm also interpreting the formula as to what it's good for. I'm giving a definition, and immediately I apply the definition to a simple case, so that the person learns not only the output of the definition -- what it means -- but also to internalize, using it once in your head. Describing a computer program, it's natural to say everything in the program twice. You say it in English, what the goals of this part of the program are, but then you say in your computer language -- in the formal language, whatever language you're using, if it's LISP or Pascal or Fortran or whatever, C, Java -- you give it in the computer language.

You alternate between the informal and the formal.

Literate programming enforces this idea. It has very interesting effects. I find that, for example, writing a system program, I did examples with literate programming where I took device drivers that I received from Sun Microsystems. They had device drivers for one of my printers, and I rewrote the device driver so that I could combine my laser printer with a previewer that would get exactly the same raster image. I took this industrial strength software and I redid it as a literate program. I found out that the literate version was actually a lot better in several other ways that were completely unexpected to me, because it was more robust.

When you're writing a subroutine in the normal way, a good system program, a subroutine, is supposed to check that its parameters make sense, or else it's going to crash the machine.

If they don't make sense it tries to do a reasonable error recovery from the bad data. If you're writing the subroutine in the ordinary way, just start the subroutine, and then all the code.

Then at the end, if you do a really good job of this testing and error recovery, it turns out that your subroutine ends up having 30 lines of code for error recovery and checking, and five lines of code for what the real purpose of the subroutine is. It doesn't look right to you. You're looking at the subroutine and it looks the purpose of the subroutine is to write certain error messages out, or something like this.

Since it doesn't quite look right, a programmer, as he's writing it, is suddenly unconsciously encouraged to minimize the amount of error checking that's going on, and get it done in some elegant fashion so that you can see what the real purpose of the subroutine is in these five lines. Okay.

But now with literate programming, you start out, you write the subroutine, and you put a line in there to say, "Check for errors," and then you do your five lines.

The subroutine looks good. Now you turn the page. On the next page it says, "Check for errors." Now you're encouraged.

As you're writing the next page, it looks really right to do a good checking for errors. This kind of thing happened over and over again when I was looking at the industrial software. This is part of what I meant by some of the effects of it.

But the main point of being able to combine the informal and the formal means that a human being can understand the code much better than just looking at one or the other, or just looking at an ordinary program with sprinkled comments. It's so much easier to maintain the program. In the comments you also explain what doesn't work, or any subtleties. Or you can say, "Now note the following. Here is the tricky part in line 5, and it works because of this." You can explain all of the things that a maintainer needs to know.

I'm the maintainer too, but after a year I've forgotten totally what I was thinking when I wrote the program. All this goes in as part of the literate program, and makes the program easier to debug, easier to maintain, and better in quality. It does better error messages and things like that, because of the other effects. That's why I'm so convinced that literate programming is a great spinoff of the TeX project.

Feigenbaum: Just one other comment. As you describe this, it's the kind of programming methodology you wish were being used on, let's say, the complex system that controls an aircraft. But Boeing isn't using it.

Knuth: Yeah. Well, some companies do, but the small ones. Hewlett-Packard had a group in Boise that was sold on it for a while. I keep getting I got a letter from Korea not so long ago. The guy says he thinks it's wonderful; he just translated the CWEB manual into Korean. A lot of people like it, but it doesn't take over. It doesn't get to a critical mass. I think the reason is that a lot of people don't enjoy writing the English parts. A lot of good programmers don't enjoy writing the English parts. Two percent of the world's population is born to be programmers. I don't know what percent is born to be writers, but you have to be in the intersection in order to be really happy with literate programming. I tried it with Stanford students. I had seven undergraduates. We did a project leading to the Stanford GraphBase. Six of the seven did very well with it, and the seventh one hated it.

Feigenbaum: Don, I want to get on to other topics, but you mentioned GWEB. Can you talk about WEB and GWEB, just because we're trying to be complete?

Knuth: Yeah. It's CWEB. The original WEB language was invented before the [world wide] web of the internet, but it was the only pronounceable three-letter acronym that hadn't been used at the time. It described nicely the hypertext idea, which now is why we often refer to the internet as a web too. CWEB is the version that Silvio Levy ported from the original Pascal. English and Pascal was WEB. English and C is CWEB. Now it works also with C++. Then there's FWEB for Fortran, and there's noweb that works with any language. There's all kinds of spinoffs. There's the one for Lisp. People have written books where they have their own versions of CWEB too. I got this wonderful book from Germany a year ago that goes through the entire MP3 standard. The book is not only a textbook that you can use in an undergraduate course, but it's also a program that will read an MP3 file. The book itself will tell exactly what's in the MP3 file, including its header and its redundancy check mechanism, plus all the ways to play the audio, and algorithms for synthesizing music. All of it a part of a textbook, all part of a literate program. In other words, I see the idea isn't dying. But it's just not taking over.

Feigenbaum: We've been talking about, as we've been moving toward the third Stanford period which includes the work on literate programming even though that originated earlier. There was another event that you told me about which you described as probably your best contribution to mathematics, the subject of random graphs. It involved a discovery story which I think is very interesting. If you could sort of wander us through random graphs and what this discovery was.

[Sep 06, 2019] Oral histories

Sep 06, 2019 | www-cs-faculty.stanford.edu

Having just celebrated my 10000th birthday (in base three), I'm operating a little bit in history mode. Every once in awhile, people have asked me to record some of my memories of past events --- I guess because I've been fortunate enough to live at some pretty exciting times, computersciencewise. These after-the-fact recollections aren't really as reliable as contemporary records; but they do at least show what I think I remember. And the stories are interesting, because they involve lots of other people.

So, before these instances of oral history themselves begin to fade from my memory, I've decided to record some links to several that I still know about:

Interview by Philip L Frana at the Charles Babbage Institute, November 2001
transcript of OH 332
audio file (2:00:33)
Interviews commissioned by Peoples Archive, taped in March 2006
playlist for 97 videos (about 2--8 minutes each)
Interview by Ed Feigenbaum at the Computer History Museum, March 2007
Part 1 (3:07:25) Part 2 (4:02:46)
(transcript)
Interview by Susan Schofield for the Stanford Historical Society, May 2018
(audio files, 2:20:30 and 2:14:25; transcript)
Interview by David Brock and Hansen Hsu about the computer programs that I wrote during the 1950s, July 2018
video (1:30:0)
(texts of the actual programs)

Some extended interviews, not available online, have also been published in books, notably in Chapters 7--17 of Companion to the Papers of Donald Knuth (conversations with Dikran Karagueuzian in the summer of 1996), and in two books by Edgar G. Daylight, The Essential Knuth (2013), Algorithmic Barriers Falling (2014).

[Sep 06, 2019] Knuth: No, I stopped going to conferences. It was too discouraging. Computer programming keeps getting harder because more stuff is discovered

Sep 06, 2019 | conservancy.umn.edu

Knuth: No, I stopped going to conferences. It was too discouraging. Computer programming keeps getting harder because more stuff is discovered. I can cope with learning about one new technique per day, but I can't take ten in a day all at once. So conferences are depressing; it means I have so much more work to do. If I hide myself from the truth I am much happier.

[Sep 06, 2019] How TAOCP was hatched

Notable quotes:
"... Also, Addison-Wesley was the people who were asking me to do this book; my favorite textbooks had been published by Addison Wesley. They had done the books that I loved the most as a student. For them to come to me and say, "Would you write a book for us?", and here I am just a secondyear gradate student -- this was a thrill. ..."
"... But in those days, The Art of Computer Programming was very important because I'm thinking of the aesthetical: the whole question of writing programs as something that has artistic aspects in all senses of the word. The one idea is "art" which means artificial, and the other "art" means fine art. All these are long stories, but I've got to cover it fairly quickly. ..."
Sep 06, 2019 | archive.computerhistory.org

Knuth: This is, of course, really the story of my life, because I hope to live long enough to finish it. But I may not, because it's turned out to be such a huge project. I got married in the summer of 1961, after my first year of graduate school. My wife finished college, and I could use the money I had made -- the $5000 on the compiler -- to finance a trip to Europe for our honeymoon.

We had four months of wedded bliss in Southern California, and then a man from Addison-Wesley came to visit me and said "Don, we would like you to write a book about how to write compilers."

The more I thought about it, I decided "Oh yes, I've got this book inside of me."

I sketched out that day -- I still have the sheet of tablet paper on which I wrote -- I sketched out 12 chapters that I thought ought to be in such a book. I told Jill, my wife, "I think I'm going to write a book."

As I say, we had four months of bliss, because the rest of our marriage has all been devoted to this book. Well, we still have had happiness. But really, I wake up every morning and I still haven't finished the book. So I try to -- I have to -- organize the rest of my life around this, as one main unifying theme. The book was supposed to be about how to write a compiler. They had heard about me from one of their editorial advisors, that I knew something about how to do this. The idea appealed to me for two main reasons. One is that I did enjoy writing. In high school I had been editor of the weekly paper. In college I was editor of the science magazine, and I worked on the campus paper as copy editor. And, as I told you, I wrote the manual for that compiler that we wrote. I enjoyed writing, number one.

Also, Addison-Wesley was the people who were asking me to do this book; my favorite textbooks had been published by Addison Wesley. They had done the books that I loved the most as a student. For them to come to me and say, "Would you write a book for us?", and here I am just a secondyear gradate student -- this was a thrill.

Another very important reason at the time was that I knew that there was a great need for a book about compilers, because there were a lot of people who even in 1962 -- this was January of 1962 -- were starting to rediscover the wheel. The knowledge was out there, but it hadn't been explained. The people who had discovered it, though, were scattered all over the world and they didn't know of each other's work either, very much. I had been following it. Everybody I could think of who could write a book about compilers, as far as I could see, they would only give a piece of the fabric. They would slant it to their own view of it. There might be four people who could write about it, but they would write four different books. I could present all four of their viewpoints in what I would think was a balanced way, without any axe to grind, without slanting it towards something that I thought would be misleading to the compiler writer for the future. I considered myself as a journalist, essentially. I could be the expositor, the tech writer, that could do the job that was needed in order to take the work of these brilliant people and make it accessible to the world. That was my motivation. Now, I didn't have much time to spend on it then, I just had this page of paper with 12 chapter headings on it. That's all I could do while I'm a consultant at Burroughs and doing my graduate work. I signed a contract, but they said "We know it'll take you a while." I didn't really begin to have much time to work on it until 1963, my third year of graduate school, as I'm already finishing up on my thesis. In the summer of '62, I guess I should mention, I wrote another compiler. This was for Univac; it was a FORTRAN compiler. I spent the summer, I sold my soul to the devil, I guess you say, for three months in the summer of 1962 to write a FORTRAN compiler. I believe that the salary for that was $15,000, which was much more than an assistant professor. I think assistant professors were getting eight or nine thousand in those days.

Feigenbaum: Well, when I started in 1960 at [University of California] Berkeley, I was getting $7,600 for the nine-month year.

Knuth: Knuth: Yeah, so you see it. I got $15,000 for a summer job in 1962 writing a FORTRAN compiler. One day during that summer I was writing the part of the compiler that looks up identifiers in a hash table. The method that we used is called linear probing. Basically you take the variable name that you want to look up, you scramble it, like you square it or something like this, and that gives you a number between one and, well in those days it would have been between 1 and 1000, and then you look there. If you find it, good; if you don't find it, go to the next place and keep on going until you either get to an empty place, or you find the number you're looking for. It's called linear probing. There was a rumor that one of Professor Feller's students at Princeton had tried to figure out how fast linear probing works and was unable to succeed. This was a new thing for me. It was a case where I was doing programming, but I also had a mathematical problem that would go into my other [job]. My winter job was being a math student, my summer job was writing compilers. There was no mix. These worlds did not intersect at all in my life at that point. So I spent one day during the summer while writing the compiler looking at the mathematics of how fast does linear probing work. I got lucky, and I solved the problem. I figured out some math, and I kept two or three sheets of paper with me and I typed it up. ["Notes on 'Open' Addressing', 7/22/63] I guess that's on the internet now, because this became really the genesis of my main research work, which developed not to be working on compilers, but to be working on what they call analysis of algorithms, which is, have a computer method and find out how good is it quantitatively. I can say, if I got so many things to look up in the table, how long is linear probing going to take. It dawned on me that this was just one of many algorithms that would be important, and each one would lead to a fascinating mathematical problem. This was easily a good lifetime source of rich problems to work on. Here I am then, in the middle of 1962, writing this FORTRAN compiler, and I had one day to do the research and mathematics that changed my life for my future research trends. But now I've gotten off the topic of what your original question was.

Feigenbaum: We were talking about sort of the.. You talked about the embryo of The Art of Computing. The compiler book morphed into The Art of Computer Programming, which became a seven-volume plan.

Knuth: Exactly. Anyway, I'm working on a compiler and I'm thinking about this. But now I'm starting, after I finish this summer job, then I began to do things that were going to be relating to the book. One of the things I knew I had to have in the book was an artificial machine, because I'm writing a compiler book but machines are changing faster than I can write books. I have to have a machine that I'm totally in control of. I invented this machine called MIX, which was typical of the computers of 1962.

In 1963 I wrote a simulator for MIX so that I could write sample programs for it, and I taught a class at Caltech on how to write programs in assembly language for this hypothetical computer. Then I started writing the parts that dealt with sorting problems and searching problems, like the linear probing idea. I began to write those parts, which are part of a compiler, of the book. I had several hundred pages of notes gathering for those chapters for The Art of Computer Programming. Before I graduated, I've already done quite a bit of writing on The Art of Computer Programming.

I met George Forsythe about this time. George was the man who inspired both of us [Knuth and Feigenbaum] to come to Stanford during the '60s. George came down to Southern California for a talk, and he said, "Come up to Stanford. How about joining our faculty?" I said "Oh no, I can't do that. I just got married, and I've got to finish this book first." I said, "I think I'll finish the book next year, and then I can come up [and] start thinking about the rest of my life, but I want to get my book done before my son is born." Well, John is now 40-some years old and I'm not done with the book. Part of my lack of expertise is any good estimation procedure as to how long projects are going to take. I way underestimated how much needed to be written about in this book. Anyway, I started writing the manuscript, and I went merrily along writing pages of things that I thought really needed to be said. Of course, it didn't take long before I had started to discover a few things of my own that weren't in any of the existing literature. I did have an axe to grind. The message that I was presenting was in fact not going to be unbiased at all. It was going to be based on my own particular slant on stuff, and that original reason for why I should write the book became impossible to sustain. But the fact that I had worked on linear probing and solved the problem gave me a new unifying theme for the book. I was going to base it around this idea of analyzing algorithms, and have some quantitative ideas about how good methods were. Not just that they worked, but that they worked well: this method worked 3 times better than this method, or 3.1 times better than this method. Also, at this time I was learning mathematical techniques that I had never been taught in school. I found they were out there, but they just hadn't been emphasized openly, about how to solve problems of this kind.

So my book would also present a different kind of mathematics than was common in the curriculum at the time, that was very relevant to analysis of algorithm. I went to the publishers, I went to Addison Wesley, and said "How about changing the title of the book from 'The Art of Computer Programming' to 'The Analysis of Algorithms'." They said that will never sell; their focus group couldn't buy that one. I'm glad they stuck to the original title, although I'm also glad to see that several books have now come out called "The Analysis of Algorithms", 20 years down the line.

But in those days, The Art of Computer Programming was very important because I'm thinking of the aesthetical: the whole question of writing programs as something that has artistic aspects in all senses of the word. The one idea is "art" which means artificial, and the other "art" means fine art. All these are long stories, but I've got to cover it fairly quickly.

I've got The Art of Computer Programming started out, and I'm working on my 12 chapters. I finish a rough draft of all 12 chapters by, I think it was like 1965. I've got 3,000 pages of notes, including a very good example of what you mentioned about seeing holes in the fabric. One of the most important chapters in the book is parsing: going from somebody's algebraic formula and figuring out the structure of the formula. Just the way I had done in seventh grade finding the structure of English sentences, I had to do this with mathematical sentences.

Chapter ten is all about parsing of context-free language, [which] is what we called it at the time. I covered what people had published about context-free languages and parsing. I got to the end of the chapter and I said, well, you can combine these ideas and these ideas, and all of a sudden you get a unifying thing which goes all the way to the limit. These other ideas had sort of gone partway there. They would say "Oh, if a grammar satisfies this condition, I can do it efficiently." "If a grammar satisfies this condition, I can do it efficiently." But now, all of a sudden, I saw there was a way to say I can find the most general condition that can be done efficiently without looking ahead to the end of the sentence. That you could make a decision on the fly, reading from left to right, about the structure of the thing. That was just a natural outgrowth of seeing the different pieces of the fabric that other people had put together, and writing it into a chapter for the first time. But I felt that this general concept, well, I didn't feel that I had surrounded the concept. I knew that I had it, and I could prove it, and I could check it, but I couldn't really intuit it all in my head. I knew it was right, but it was too hard for me, really, to explain it well.

So I didn't put in The Art of Computer Programming. I thought it was beyond the scope of my book. Textbooks don't have to cover everything when you get to the harder things; then you have to go to the literature. My idea at that time [is] I'm writing this book and I'm thinking it's going to be published very soon, so any little things I discover and put in the book I didn't bother to write a paper and publish in the journal because I figure it'll be in my book pretty soon anyway. Computer science is changing so fast, my book is bound to be obsolete.

It takes a year for it to go through editing, and people drawing the illustrations, and then they have to print it and bind it and so on. I have to be a little bit ahead of the state-of-the-art if my book isn't going to be obsolete when it comes out. So I kept most of the stuff to myself that I had, these little ideas I had been coming up with. But when I got to this idea of left-to-right parsing, I said "Well here's something I don't really understand very well. I'll publish this, let other people figure out what it is, and then they can tell me what I should have said." I published that paper I believe in 1965, at the end of finishing my draft of the chapter, which didn't get as far as that story, LR(k). Well now, textbooks of computer science start with LR(k) and take off from there. But I want to give you an idea of

[Sep 06, 2019] Most mainstream OO languages with a type system to speak of actually get in the way of correctly classifying data by confusing the separate issues of reusing implementation artefacts (aka subclassing) and classifying data into a hierarchy of concepts (aka subtyping).

Notable quotes:
"... Most mainstream OO languages with a type system to speak of actually get in the way of correctly classifying data by confusing the separate issues of reusing implementation artefacts (aka subclassing) and classifying data into a hierarchy of concepts (aka subtyping). ..."
Sep 06, 2019 | news.ycombinator.com
fhars on Mar 29, 2011
Most mainstream OO languages with a type system to speak of actually get in the way of correctly classifying data by confusing the separate issues of reusing implementation artefacts (aka subclassing) and classifying data into a hierarchy of concepts (aka subtyping).

The only widely used OO language (for sufficiently narrow values of wide and wide values of OO) to get that right used to be Objective Caml, and recently its stepchildren F# and scala. So it is actually FP that helps you with the classification.

Xurinos on Mar 29, 2011

This is a very interesting point and should be highlighted. You said implementation artifacts (especially in reference to reducing code duplication), and for clarity, I think you are referring to the definition of operators on data (class methods, friend methods, and so on).

I agree with you that subclassing (for the purpose of reusing behavior), traits (for adding behavior), and the like can be confused with classification to such an extent that modern designs tend to depart from type systems and be used for mere code organization.

ajays on Mar 29, 2011
"was there really a point to the illusion of wrapping the entrypoint main() function in a class (I am looking at you, Java)?"

Far be it for me to defend Java (I hate the damn thing), but: main is just a function in a class. The class is the entry point, as specified in the command line; main is just what the OS looks for, by convention. You could have a "main" in each class, but only the one in the specified class will be the entry point.

GrooveStomp on Mar 29, 2011
The way of the theorist is to tell any non-theorist that the non-theorist is wrong, then leave without any explanation. Or, simply hand-wave the explanation away, claiming it as "too complex" too fully understand without years of rigorous training. Of course I jest. :)

[Sep 04, 2019] 737 MAX - Boeing Insults International Safety Regulators As New Problems Cause Longer Grounding

The 80286 Intel processors: The Intel 80286[3] (also marketed as the iAPX 286[4] and often called Intel 286) is a 16-bit microprocessor that was introduced on February 1, 1982. The 80286 was employed for the IBM PC/AT, introduced in 1984, and then widely used in most PC/AT compatible computers until the early 1990s.
Notable quotes:
"... The fate of Boeing's civil aircraft business hangs on the re-certification of the 737 MAX. The regulators convened an international meeting to get their questions answered and Boeing arrogantly showed up without having done its homework. The regulators saw that as an insult. Boeing was sent back to do what it was supposed to do in the first place: provide details and analysis that prove the safety of its planes. ..."
"... In recent weeks, Boeing and the FAA identified another potential flight-control computer risk requiring additional software changes and testing, according to two of the government and pilot officials. ..."
"... Any additional software changes will make the issue even more complicated. The 80286 Intel processors the FCC software is running on is limited in its capacity. All the extras procedures Boeing now will add to them may well exceed the system's capabilities. ..."
"... The old architecture was possible because the plane could still be flown without any computer. It was expected that the pilots would detect a computer error and would be able to intervene. The FAA did not require a high design assurance level (DAL) for the system. The MCAS accidents showed that a software or hardware problem can now indeed crash a 737 MAX plane. That changes the level of scrutiny the system will have to undergo. ..."
"... Flight safety regulators know of these complexities. That is why they need to take a deep look into such systems. That Boeing's management was not prepared to answer their questions shows that the company has not learned from its failure. Its culture is still one of finance orientated arrogance. ..."
"... I also want to add that Boeing's focus on profit over safety is not restricted to the 737 Max but undoubtedly permeates the manufacture of spare parts for the rest of the their plane line and all else they make.....I have no intention of ever flying in another Boeing airplane, given the attitude shown by Boeing leadership. ..."
"... So again, Boeing mgmt. mirrors its Neoliberal government officials when it comes to arrogance and impudence. ..."
"... Arrogance? When the money keeps flowing in anyway, it comes naturally. ..."
"... In the neoliberal world order governments, regulators and the public are secondary to corporate profits. ..."
"... I am surprised that none of the coverage has mentioned the fact that, if China's CAAC does not sign off on the mods, it will cripple, if not doom the MAX. ..."
"... I am equally surprised that we continue to sabotage China's export leader, as the WSJ reports today: "China's Huawei Technologies Co. accused the U.S. of "using every tool at its disposal" to disrupt its business, including launching cyberattacks on its networks and instructing law enforcement to "menace" its employees. ..."
"... Boeing is backstopped by the Murkan MIC, which is to say the US taxpayer. ..."
"... Military Industrial Complex welfare programs, including wars in Syria and Yemen, are slowly winding down. We are about to get a massive bill from the financiers who already own everything in this sector, because what they have left now is completely unsustainable, with or without a Third World War. ..."
"... In my mind, the fact that Boeing transferred its head office from Seattle (where the main manufacturing and presumable the main design and engineering functions are based) to Chicago (centre of the neoliberal economic universe with the University of Chicago being its central shrine of worship, not to mention supply of future managers and administrators) in 1997 says much about the change in corporate culture and values from a culture that emphasised technical and design excellence, deliberate redundancies in essential functions (in case of emergencies or failures of core functions), consistently high standards and care for the people who adhered to these principles, to a predatory culture in which profits prevail over people and performance. ..."
"... For many amerikans, a good "offensive" is far preferable than a good defense even if that only involves an apology. Remember what ALL US presidents say.. We will never apologize.. ..."
"... Actually can you show me a single place in the US where ethics are considered a bastion of governorship? ..."
"... You got to be daft or bribed to use intel cpu's in embedded systems. Going from a motorolla cpu, the intel chips were dinosaurs in every way. ..."
"... Initially I thought it was just the new over-sized engines they retro-fitted. A situation that would surely have been easier to get around by just going back to the original engines -- any inefficiencies being less $costly than the time the planes have been grounded. But this post makes the whole rabbit warren 10 miles deeper. ..."
"... That is because the price is propped up by $9 billion share buyback per year . Share buyback is an effective scheme to airlift all the cash out of a company towards the major shareholders. I mean, who wants to develop reliable airplanes if you can funnel the cash into your pockets? ..."
"... If Boeing had invested some of this money that it blew on share buybacks to design a new modern plane from ground up to replace the ancient 737 airframe, these tragedies could have been prevented, and Boeing wouldn't have this nightmare on its hands. But the corporate cost-cutters and financial engineers, rather than real engineers, had the final word. ..."
"... Markets don't care about any of this. They don't care about real engineers either. They love corporate cost-cutters and financial engineers. They want share buybacks, and if something bad happens, they'll overlook the $5 billion to pay for the fallout because it's just a "one-time item." ..."
"... Overall, Boeing buy-backs exceeded 40 billion dollars, one could guess that half or quarter of that would suffice to build a plane that logically combines the latest technologies. E.g. the entire frame design to fit together with engines, processors proper for the information processing load, hydraulics for steering that satisfy force requirements in almost all circumstances etc. New technologies also fail because they are not completely understood, but when the overall design is logical with margins of safety, the faults can be eliminated. ..."
"... Once the buyback ends the dive begins and just before it hits ground zero, they buy the company for pennies on the dollar, possibly with government bailout as a bonus. Then the company flies towards the next climb and subsequent dive. MCAS economics. ..."
"... The problem is not new, and it is well understood. What computer modelling is is cheap, and easy to fudge, and that is why it is popular with people who care about money a lot. Much of what is called "AI" is very similar in its limitations, a complicated way to fudge up the results you want, or something close enough for casual examination. ..."
Sep 04, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org

United Airline and American Airlines further prolonged the grounding of their Boeing 737 MAX airplanes. They now schedule the plane's return to the flight line in December. But it is likely that the grounding will continue well into the next year.

After Boeing's shabby design and lack of safety analysis of its Maneuver Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) led to the death of 347 people, the grounding of the type and billions of losses, one would expect the company to show some decency and humility. Unfortunately Boeing behavior demonstrates none.

There is still little detailed information on how Boeing will fix MCAS. Nothing was said by Boeing about the manual trim system of the 737 MAX that does not work when it is needed . The unprotected rudder cables of the plane do not meet safety guidelines but were still certified. The planes flight control computers can be overwhelmed by bad data and a fix will be difficult to implement. Boeing continues to say nothing about these issues.

International flight safety regulators no longer trust the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) which failed to uncover those problems when it originally certified the new type. The FAA was also the last regulator to ground the plane after two 737 MAX had crashed. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) asked Boeing to explain and correct five major issues it identified. Other regulators asked additional questions.

Boeing needs to regain the trust of the airlines, pilots and passengers to be able to again sell those planes. Only full and detailed information can achieve that. But the company does not provide any.

As Boeing sells some 80% of its airplanes abroad it needs the good will of the international regulators to get the 737 MAX back into the air. This makes the arrogance it displayed in a meeting with those regulators inexplicable:

Friction between Boeing Co. and international air-safety authorities threatens a new delay in bringing the grounded 737 MAX fleet back into service, according to government and pilot union officials briefed on the matter.

The latest complication in the long-running saga, these officials said, stems from a Boeing briefing in August that was cut short by regulators from the U.S., Europe, Brazil and elsewhere, who complained that the plane maker had failed to provide technical details and answer specific questions about modifications in the operation of MAX flight-control computers.

The fate of Boeing's civil aircraft business hangs on the re-certification of the 737 MAX. The regulators convened an international meeting to get their questions answered and Boeing arrogantly showed up without having done its homework. The regulators saw that as an insult. Boeing was sent back to do what it was supposed to do in the first place: provide details and analysis that prove the safety of its planes.

What did the Boeing managers think those regulatory agencies are? Hapless lapdogs like the FAA managers`who signed off on Boeing 'features' even after their engineers told them that these were not safe?

Buried in the Wall Street Journal piece quoted above is another little shocker:

In recent weeks, Boeing and the FAA identified another potential flight-control computer risk requiring additional software changes and testing, according to two of the government and pilot officials.

The new issue must be going beyond the flight control computer (FCC) issues the FAA identified in June .

Boeing's original plan to fix the uncontrolled activation of MCAS was to have both FCCs active at the same time and to switch MCAS off when the two computers disagree. That was already a huge change in the general architecture which so far consisted of one active and one passive FCC system that could be switched over when a failure occurred.

Any additional software changes will make the issue even more complicated. The 80286 Intel processors the FCC software is running on is limited in its capacity. All the extras procedures Boeing now will add to them may well exceed the system's capabilities.

Changing software in a delicate environment like a flight control computer is extremely difficult. There will always be surprising side effects or regressions where already corrected errors unexpectedly reappear.

The old architecture was possible because the plane could still be flown without any computer. It was expected that the pilots would detect a computer error and would be able to intervene. The FAA did not require a high design assurance level (DAL) for the system. The MCAS accidents showed that a software or hardware problem can now indeed crash a 737 MAX plane. That changes the level of scrutiny the system will have to undergo.

All procedures and functions of the software will have to be tested in all thinkable combinations to ensure that they will not block or otherwise influence each other. This will take months and there is a high chance that new issues will appear during these tests. They will require more software changes and more testing.

Flight safety regulators know of these complexities. That is why they need to take a deep look into such systems. That Boeing's management was not prepared to answer their questions shows that the company has not learned from its failure. Its culture is still one of finance orientated arrogance.

Building safe airplanes requires engineers who know that they may make mistakes and who have the humility to allow others to check and correct their work. It requires open communication about such issues. Boeing's say-nothing strategy will prolong the grounding of its planes. It will increases the damage to Boeing's financial situation and reputation.

--- Previous Moon of Alabama posts on Boeing 737 MAX issues:

Posted by b on September 3, 2019 at 18:05 UTC | Permalink


Choderlos de Laclos , Sep 3 2019 18:15 utc | 1

"The 80286 Intel processors the FCC software is running on is limited in its capacity." You must be joking, right? If this is the case, the problem is unfixable: you can't find two competent software engineers who can program these dinosaur 16-bit processors.
b , Sep 3 2019 18:22 utc | 2
You must be joking, right? If this is the case, the problem is unfixable: you can't find two competent software engineers who can program these dinosaur 16-bit processors.

One of the two is writing this.

Half-joking aside. The 737 MAX FCC runs on 80286 processors. There are ten thousands of programmers available who can program them though not all are qualified to write real-time systems. That resource is not a problem. The processors inherent limits are one.

Meshpal , Sep 3 2019 18:24 utc | 3
Thanks b for the fine 737 max update. Others news sources seem to have dropped coverage. It is a very big deal that this grounding has lasted this long. Things are going to get real bad for Boeing if this bird does not get back in the air soon. In any case their credibility is tarnished if not down right trashed.
BraveNewWorld , Sep 3 2019 18:35 utc | 4
@1 Choderlos de Laclos

What ever software language these are programmed in (my guess is C) the compilers still exist for it and do the translation from the human readable code to the machine code for you. Of course the code could be assembler but writing assembly code for a 286 is far easier than writing it for say an i9 becuase the CPU is so much simpler and has a far smaller set of instructions to work with.

Choderlos de Laclos , Sep 3 2019 18:52 utc | 5
@b: It was a hyperbole. I might be another one, but left them behind as fast as I could. The last time I had to deal with it was an embedded system in 1998-ish. But I am also retiring, and so are thousands of others. The problems with support of a legacy system are a legend.
psychohistorian , Sep 3 2019 18:56 utc | 6
Thanks for the demise of Boeing update b

I commented when you first started writing about this that it would take Boeing down and still believe that to be true. To the extent that Boeing is stonewalling the international safety regulators says to me that upper management and big stock holders are being given time to minimize their exposure before the axe falls.

I also want to add that Boeing's focus on profit over safety is not restricted to the 737 Max but undoubtedly permeates the manufacture of spare parts for the rest of the their plane line and all else they make.....I have no intention of ever flying in another Boeing airplane, given the attitude shown by Boeing leadership.

This is how private financialization works in the Western world. Their bottom line is profit, not service to the flying public. It is in line with the recent public statement by the CEO's from the Business Roundtable that said that they were going to focus more on customer satisfaction over profit but their actions continue to say profit is their primary motive.

The God of Mammon private finance religion can not end soon enough for humanity's sake. It is not like we all have to become China but their core public finance example is well worth following.

karlof1 , Sep 3 2019 19:13 utc | 7
So again, Boeing mgmt. mirrors its Neoliberal government officials when it comes to arrogance and impudence. IMO, Boeing shareholders's hair ought to be on fire given their BoD's behavior and getting ready to litigate.

As b notes, Boeing's international credibility's hanging by a very thin thread. A year from now, Boeing could very well see its share price deeply dive into the Penny Stock category--its current P/E is 41.5:1 which is massively overpriced. Boeing Bombs might come to mean something vastly different from its initial meaning.

bjd , Sep 3 2019 19:22 utc | 8
Arrogance? When the money keeps flowing in anyway, it comes naturally.
What did I just read , Sep 3 2019 19:49 utc | 10
Such seemingly archaic processors are the norm in aerospace. If the planes flight characteristics had been properly engineered from the start the processor wouldn't be an issue. You can't just spray perfume on a garbage pile and call it a rose.
VietnamVet , Sep 3 2019 20:31 utc | 12
In the neoliberal world order governments, regulators and the public are secondary to corporate profits. This is the same belief system that is suspending the British Parliament to guarantee the chaos of a no deal Brexit. The irony is that globalist, Joe Biden's restart the Cold War and nationalist Donald Trump's Trade Wars both assure that foreign regulators will closely scrutinize the safety of the 737 Max. Even if ignored by corporate media and cleared by the FAA to fly in the USA, Boeing and Wall Street's Dow Jones average are cooked gooses with only 20% of the market. Taking the risk of flying the 737 Max on their family vacation or to their next business trip might even get the credentialed class to realize that their subservient service to corrupt Plutocrats is deadly in the long term.
jared , Sep 3 2019 20:55 utc | 14
It doesn't get any TBTF'er than Boing. Bail-out is only phone-call away. With down-turn looming, the line is forming.
Piotr Berman , Sep 3 2019 21:11 utc | 15
"The latest complication in the long-running saga, these officials said, stems from a Boeing BA, -2.66% briefing in August that was cut short by regulators from the U.S., Europe, Brazil and elsewhere, who complained that the plane maker had failed to provide technical details and answer specific questions about modifications in the operation of MAX flight-control computers."

It seems to me that Boeing had no intention to insult anybody, but it has an impossible task. After decades of applying duct tape and baling wire with much success, they finally designed an unfixable plane, and they can either abandon this line of business (narrow bodied airliners) or start working on a new design grounded in 21st century technologies.

Ken Murray , Sep 3 2019 21:12 utc | 16
Boeing's military sales are so much more significant and important to them, they are just ignoring/down-playing their commercial problem with the 737 MAX. Follow the real money.
Arata , Sep 3 2019 21:57 utc | 17
That is unblievable FLight Control comptuer is based on 80286! A control system needs Real Time operation, at least some pre-emptive task operation, in terms of milisecond or microsecond. What ever way you program 80286 you can not achieve RT operation on 80286. I do not think that is the case. My be 80286 is doing some pripherial work, other than control.
Bemildred , Sep 3 2019 22:11 utc | 18
It is quite likely (IMHO) that they are no longer able to provide the requested information, but of course they cannot say that.

I once wrote a keyboard driver for an 80286, part of an editor, in assembler, on my first PC type computer, I still have it around here somewhere I think, the keyboard driver, but I would be rusty like the Titanic when it comes to writing code. I wrote some things in DEC assembler too, on VAXen.

Peter AU 1 , Sep 3 2019 22:14 utc | 19
Arata 16

The spoiler system is fly by wire.

Bemildred , Sep 3 2019 22:17 utc | 20
arata @16: 80286 does interrupts just fine, but you have to grok asynchronous operation, and most coders don't really, I see that every day in Linux and my browser. I wish I could get that box back, it had DOS, you could program on the bare wires, but God it was slow.
Tod , Sep 3 2019 22:28 utc | 21
Boeing will just need to press the TURBO button on the 286 processor. Problem solved.
karlof1 , Sep 3 2019 22:43 utc | 23
Ken Murray @15--

Boeing recently lost a $6+Billion weapons contract thanks to its similar Q&A in that realm of its business. Its annual earnings are due out in October. Plan to short-sell soon!

Godfree Roberts , Sep 3 2019 22:56 utc | 24
I am surprised that none of the coverage has mentioned the fact that, if China's CAAC does not sign off on the mods, it will cripple, if not doom the MAX.

I am equally surprised that we continue to sabotage China's export leader, as the WSJ reports today: "China's Huawei Technologies Co. accused the U.S. of "using every tool at its disposal" to disrupt its business, including launching cyberattacks on its networks and instructing law enforcement to "menace" its employees.

The telecommunications giant also said law enforcement in the U.S. have searched, detained and arrested Huawei employees and its business partners, and have sent FBI agents to the homes of its workers to pressure them to collect information on behalf of the U.S."

https://www.wsj.com/articles/huawei-accuses-the-u-s-of-cyberattacks-threatening-its-employees-11567500484?mod=hp_lead_pos2

Arioch , Sep 3 2019 23:18 utc | 25
I wonder how much blind trust in Boeing is intertwined into the fabric of civic aviation all around the world.

I mean something like this: Boeing publishes some research into failure statistics, solid materials aging or something. One that is really hard and expensive to proceed with. Everything take the results for granted without trying to independently reproduce and verify, because The Boeing!

Some later "derived" researches being made, upon the foundation of some prior works *including* that old Boeing research. Then FAA and similar company institutions around the world make some official regulations and guidelines deriving from the research which was in part derived form original Boeing work. Then insurance companies calculate their tarifs and rate plans, basing their estimation upon those "government standards", and when governments determine taxation levels they use that data too. Then airline companies and airliner leasing companies make their business plans, take huge loans in the banks (and banks do make their own plans expecting those loans to finally be paid back), and so on and so forth, building the cards-deck house, layer after layer.

And among the very many of the cornerstones - there would be dust covered and god-forgotten research made by Boeing 10 or maybe 20 years ago when no one even in drunk delirium could ever imagine questioning Boeing's verdicts upon engineering and scientific matters.

Now, the longevity of that trust is slowly unraveled. Like, the so universally trusted 737NG generation turned out to be inherently unsafe, and while only pilots knew it before, and even of them - only most curious and pedantic pilots, today it becomes public knowledge that 737NG are tainted.

Now, when did this corruption started? Wheat should be some deadline cast into the past, that since the day every other technical data coming from Boeing should be considered unreliable unless passing full-fledged independent verification? Should that day be somewhere in 2000-s? 1990-s? Maybe even 1970-s?

And ALL THE BODY of civic aviation industry knowledge that was accumulated since that date can NO MORE BE TRUSTED and should be almost scrapped and re-researched new! ALL THE tacit INPUT that can be traced back to Boeing and ALL THE DERIVED KNOWLEDGE now has to be verified in its entirety.

Miss Lacy , Sep 3 2019 23:19 utc | 26
Boeing is backstopped by the Murkan MIC, which is to say the US taxpayer. Until the lawsuits become too enormous. I wonder how much that will cost. And speaking of rigged markets - why do ya suppose that Trumpilator et al have been so keen to make huge sales to the Saudis, etc. etc. ? Ya don't suppose they had an inkling of trouble in the wind do ya? Speaking of insiders, how many million billions do ya suppose is being made in the Wall Street "trade war" roller coaster by peeps, munchkins not muppets, who have access to the Tweeter-in-Chief?
C I eh? , Sep 3 2019 23:25 utc | 27
@6 psychohistorian
I commented when you first started writing about this that it would take Boeing down and still believe that to be true. To the extent that Boeing is stonewalling the international safety regulators says to me that upper management and big stock holders are being given time to minimize their exposure before the axe falls.

Have you considered the costs of restructuring versus breaking apart Boeing and selling it into little pieces; to the owners specifically?

The MIC is restructuring itself - by first creating the political conditions to make the transformation highly profitable. It can only be made highly profitable by forcing the public to pay the associated costs of Rape and Pillage Incorporated.

Military Industrial Complex welfare programs, including wars in Syria and Yemen, are slowly winding down. We are about to get a massive bill from the financiers who already own everything in this sector, because what they have left now is completely unsustainable, with or without a Third World War.

It is fine that you won't fly Boeing but that is not the point. You may not ever fly again since air transit is subsidized at every level and the US dollar will no longer be available to fund the world's air travel infrastructure.

You will instead be paying for the replacement of Boeing and seeing what google is planning it may not be for the renewal of the airline business but rather for dedicated ground transportation, self driving cars and perhaps 'aerospace' defense forces, thank you Russia for setting the trend.

Lochearn , Sep 3 2019 23:45 utc | 30
As readers may remember I made a case study of Boeing for a fairly recent PHD. The examiners insisted that this case study be taken out because it was "speculative." I had forecast serious problems with the 787 and the 737 MAX back in 2012. I still believe the 787 is seriously flawed and will go the way of the MAX. I came to admire this once brilliant company whose work culminated in the superb 777.

America really did make some excellent products in the 20th century - with the exception of cars. Big money piled into GM from the early 1920s, especially the ultra greedy, quasi fascist Du Pont brothers, with the result that GM failed to innovate. It produced beautiful cars but technically they were almost identical to previous models.

The only real innovation over 40 years was automatic transmission. Does this sound reminiscent of the 737 MAX? What glued together GM for more than thirty years was the brilliance of CEO Alfred Sloan who managed to keep the Du Ponts (and J P Morgan) more or less happy while delegating total responsibility for production to divisional managers responsible for the different GM brands. When Sloan went the company started falling apart and the memoirs of bad boy John DeLorean testify to the complete disfunctionality of senior management.

At Ford the situation was perhaps even worse in the 1960s and 1970s. Management was at war with the workers, faulty transmissions were knowingly installed. All this is documented in an excellent book by ex-Ford supervisor Robert Dewar in his book "A Savage Factory."

dus7 , Sep 3 2019 23:53 utc | 32
Well, the first thing that came to mind upon reading about Boeing's apparent arrogance overseas - silly, I know - was that Boeing may be counting on some weird Trump sanctions for anyone not cooperating with the big important USian corporation! The U.S. has influence on European and many other countries, but it can only be stretched so far, and I would guess messing with Euro/internation airline regulators, especially in view of the very real fatal accidents with the 737MAX, would be too far.
david , Sep 4 2019 0:09 utc | 34
Please read the following article to get further info about how the 5 big Funds that hold 67% of Boeing stocks are working hard with the big banks to keep the stock high. Meanwhile Boeing is also trying its best to blackmail US taxpayers through Pentagon, for example, by pretending to walk away from a competitive bidding contract because it wants the Air Force to provide better cost formula.

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/articles/despite-devastating-737-crashes-boeing-stocks-fly-high/

So basically, Boeing is being kept afloat by US taxpayers because it is "too big to fail" and an important component of Dow. Please tell. Who is the biggest suckers here?

chu teh , Sep 4 2019 0:13 utc | 36
re Piotr Berman | Sep 3 2019 21:11 utc [I have a tiny bit of standing in this matter based on experience with an amazingly similar situation that has not heretofore been mentioned. More at end. Thus I offer my opinion.] Indeed, an impossible task to design a workable answer and still maintain the fiction that 737MAX is a hi-profit-margin upgrade requiring minimal training of already-trained 737-series pilots , either male or female. Turning-off autopilot to bypass runaway stabilizer necessitates : [1]

the earlier 737-series "rollercoaster" procedure to overcome too-high aerodynamic forces must be taught and demonstrated as a memory item to all pilots.

The procedure was designed for early Model 737-series, not the 737MAX which has uniquely different center-of-gravity and pitch-up problem requiring MCAS to auto-correct, especially on take-off. [2] but the "rollercoaster" procedure does not work at all altitudes.

It causes aircraft to lose some altitude and, therefore, requires at least [about] 7,000-feet above-ground clearance to avoid ground contact. [This altitude loss consumed by the procedure is based on alleged reports of simulator demonstrations. There seems to be no known agreement on the actual amount of loss]. [3] The physical requirements to perform the "rollercoaster" procedure were established at a time when female pilots were rare.

Any 737MAX pilots, male or female, will have to pass new physical requirements demonstrating actual conditions on newly-designed flight simulators that mimic the higher load requirements of the 737MAX . Such new standards will also have to compensate for left vs right-handed pilots because the manual-trim wheel is located between the .pilot/copilot seats.

================

Now where/when has a similar situation occurred? I.e., wherein a Federal regulator agency [FAA] allowed a vendor [Boeing] to claim that a modified product did not need full inspection/review to get agency certification of performance [airworthiness]. As you may know, 2 working, nuclear, power plants were forced to shut down and be decommissioned when, in 2011, 2 newly-installed, critical components in each plant were discovered to be defective, beyond repair and not replaceable. These power plants were each producing over 1,000 megawatts of power for over 20 years. In short, the failed components were modifications of the original, successful design that claimed to need only a low-level of Federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission oversight and approval. The mods were, in fact, new and untried and yet only tested by computer modeling and theoretical estimations based on experience with smaller/different designs.

<<< The NRC had not given full inspection/oversight to the new units because of manufacturer/operator claims that the changes were not significant. The NRC did not verify the veracity of those claims. >>>

All 4 components [2 required in each plant] were essentially heat-exchangers weighing 640 tons each, having 10,000 tubes carrying radioactive water surrounded by [transferring their heat to] a separate flow of "clean" water. The tubes were progressively damaged and began leaking. The new design failed. It can not be fixed. Thus, both plants of the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station are now a complete loss and await dismantling [as the courts will decide who pays for the fiasco].

Jen , Sep 4 2019 0:20 utc | 37
In my mind, the fact that Boeing transferred its head office from Seattle (where the main manufacturing and presumable the main design and engineering functions are based) to Chicago (centre of the neoliberal economic universe with the University of Chicago being its central shrine of worship, not to mention supply of future managers and administrators) in 1997 says much about the change in corporate culture and values from a culture that emphasised technical and design excellence, deliberate redundancies in essential functions (in case of emergencies or failures of core functions), consistently high standards and care for the people who adhered to these principles, to a predatory culture in which profits prevail over people and performance.

Phew! I barely took a breath there! :-)

Lochearn , Sep 4 2019 0:22 utc | 38
@ 32 david

Good article. Boeing is, or used to be, America's biggest manufacturing export. So you are right it cannot be allowed to fail. Boeing is also a manufacturer of military aircraft. The fact that it is now in such a pitiful state is symptomatic of America's decline and decadence and its takeover by financial predators.

jo6pac , Sep 4 2019 0:39 utc | 40
Posted by: Jen | Sep 4 2019 0:20 utc | 35

Nailed, moved to city of dead but not for gotten uncle Milton Frieman friend of aynn rand.

vk , Sep 4 2019 0:53 utc | 41
I don't think Boeing was arrogant. I think the 737 is simply unfixable and that they know that -- hence they went to the meeting with empty hands.
C I eh? , Sep 4 2019 1:14 utc | 42
They did the same with Nortel, whose share value exceeded 300 billion not long before it was scrapped. Insiders took everything while pension funds were wiped out of existence.

It is so very helpful to understand everything you read is corporate/intel propaganda, and you are always being setup to pay for the next great scam. The murder of 300+ people by boeing was yet another tragedy our sadistic elites could not let go to waste.

Walter , Sep 4 2019 3:10 utc | 43

...And to the idea that Boeing is being kept afloat by financial agencies.

Willow , Sep 4 2019 3:16 utc | 44
Aljazerra has a series of excellent investigative documentaries they did on Boeing. Here is one from 2014. https://www.aljazeera.com/investigations/boeing787/
Igor Bundy , Sep 4 2019 3:17 utc | 45
For many amerikans, a good "offensive" is far preferable than a good defense even if that only involves an apology. Remember what ALL US presidents say.. We will never apologize.. For the extermination of natives, for shooting down civilian airliners, for blowing up mosques full of worshipers, for bombing hospitals.. for reducing many countries to the stone age and using biological and chemical and nuclear weapons against the planet.. For supporting terrorists who plague the planet now. For basically being able to be unaccountable to anyone including themselves as a peculiar race of feces. So it is not the least surprising that amerikan corporations also follow the same bad manners as those they put into and pre-elect to rule them.
Igor Bundy , Sep 4 2019 3:26 utc | 46
People talk about Seattle as if its a bastion of integrity.. Its the same place Microsoft screwed up countless companies to become the largest OS maker? The same place where Amazon fashions how to screw its own employees to work longer and cheaper? There are enough examples that Seattle is not Toronto.. and will never be a bastion of ethics..

Actually can you show me a single place in the US where ethics are considered a bastion of governorship? Other than the libraries of content written about ethics, rarely do amerikans ever follow it. Yet expect others to do so.. This is getting so perverse that other cultures are now beginning to emulate it. Because its everywhere..

Remember Dallas? I watched people who saw in fascination how business can function like that. Well they cant in the long run but throw enough money and resources and it works wonders in the short term because it destroys the competition. But yea around 1998 when they got rid of the laws on making money by magic, most every thing has gone to hell.. because now there are no constraints but making money.. anywhich way.. Thats all that matters..

Igor Bundy , Sep 4 2019 3:54 utc | 47
You got to be daft or bribed to use intel cpu's in embedded systems. Going from a motorolla cpu, the intel chips were dinosaurs in every way. Requiring the cpu to be almost twice as fast to get the same thing done.. Also its interrupt control was not upto par. A simple example was how the commodore amiga could read from the disk and not stutter or slow down anything else you were doing. I never seen this fixed.. In fact going from 8Mhz to 4GHz seems to have fixed it by brute force. Yes the 8Mhz motorolla cpu worked wonders when you had music, video, IO all going at the same time. Its not just the CPU but the support chips which don't lock up the bus. Why would anyone use Intel? When there are so many specific embedded controllers designed for such specific things.
imo , Sep 4 2019 4:00 utc | 48
Initially I thought it was just the new over-sized engines they retro-fitted. A situation that would surely have been easier to get around by just going back to the original engines -- any inefficiencies being less $costly than the time the planes have been grounded. But this post makes the whole rabbit warren 10 miles deeper.

I do not travel much these days and find the cattle-class seating on these planes a major disincentive. Becoming aware of all these added technical issues I will now positively select for alternatives to 737 and bear the cost.

Joost , Sep 4 2019 4:25 utc | 50
I'm surprised Boeing stock still haven't taken nose dive

Posted by: Bob burger | Sep 3 2019 19:27 utc | 9

That is because the price is propped up by $9 billion share buyback per year . Share buyback is an effective scheme to airlift all the cash out of a company towards the major shareholders. I mean, who wants to develop reliable airplanes if you can funnel the cash into your pockets?

Once the buyback ends the dive begins and just before it hits ground zero, they buy the company for pennies on the dollar, possibly with government bailout as a bonus. Then the company flies towards the next climb and subsequent dive. MCAS economics.

Henkie , Sep 4 2019 7:04 utc | 53
Hi , I am new here in writing but not in reading.. About the 80286 , where is the coprocessor the 80287? How can the 80286 make IEEE math calculations? So how can it fly a controlled flight when it can not calculate its accuracy...... How is it possible that this system is certified? It should have at least a 80386 DX not SX!!!!
snake , Sep 4 2019 7:35 utc | 54
moved to Chicago in 1997 says much about the change in corporate culture and values from a culture that emphasised technical and design excellence, deliberate redundancies in essential functions (in case of emergencies or failures of core functions), consistently high standards and care for the people who adhered to these principles, to a predatory culture in which profits prevail over people and performance.

Jen @ 35 < ==

yes, the morally of the companies and their exclusive hold on a complicit or controlled government always defaults the government to support, enforce and encourage the principles of economic Zionism.

But it is more than just the corporate culture => the corporate fat cats 1. use the rule-making powers of the government to make law for them. Such laws create high valued assets from the pockets of the masses. The most well know of those corporate uses of government is involved with the intangible property laws (copyright, patent, and government franchise). The government generated copyright, franchise and Patent laws are monopolies. So when government subsidizes a successful outcome R&D project its findings are packaged up into a set of monopolies [copyrights, privatized government franchises which means instead of 50 companies or more competing for the next increment in technology, one gains the full advantage of that government research only one can use or abuse it. and the patented and copyrighted technology is used to extract untold billions, in small increments from the pockets of the public. 2. use of the judicial power of governments and their courts in both domestic and international settings, to police the use and to impose fake values in intangible property monopolies. Government-rule made privately owned monopoly rights (intangible property rights) generated from the pockets of the masses, do two things: they exclude, deny and prevent would be competition and their make value in a hidden revenue tax that passes to the privately held monopolist with each sale of a copyrighted, government franchised, or patented service or product. . Please note the one two nature of the "use of government law making powers to generate intangible private monopoly property rights"

Canthama , Sep 4 2019 10:37 utc | 56
There is no doubt Boeing has committed crimes on the 737MAX, its arrogance & greedy should be severely punished by the international commitment as an example to other global Corporations. It represents what is the worst of Corporate America that places profits in front of lives.
Christian J Chuba , Sep 4 2019 11:55 utc | 59
How the U.S. is keeping Russia out of the international market?

Iran and other sanctioned countries are a potential captive market and they have growth opportunities in what we sometimes call the non-aligned, emerging markets countries (Turkey, Africa, SE Asia, India, ...).

One thing I have learned is that the U.S. always games the system, we never play fair. So what did we do. Do their manufacturers use 1% U.S. made parts and they need that for international certification?

BM , Sep 4 2019 12:48 utc | 60
Ultimately all of the issues in the news these days are the same one and the same issue - as the US gets closer and closer to the brink of catastrophic collapse they get ever more desperate. As they get more and more desperate they descend into what comes most naturally to the US - throughout its entire history - frenzied violence, total absence of morality, war, murder, genocide, and everything else that the US is so well known for (by those who are not blinded by exceptionalist propaganda).

The Hong Kong violence is a perfect example - it is impossible that a self-respecting nation state could allow itself to be seen to degenerate into such idiotic degeneracy, and so grossly flaunt the most basic human decency. Ergo , the US is not a self-respecting nation state. It is a failed state.

I am certain the arrogance of Boeing reflects two things: (a) an assurance from the US government that the government will back them to the hilt, come what may, to make sure that the 737Max flies again; and (b) a threat that if Boeing fails to get the 737Max in the air despite that support, the entire top level management and board of directors will be jailed. Boeing know very well they cannot deliver. But just as the US government is desperate to avoid the inevitable collapse of the US, the Boeing top management are desperate to avoid jail. It is a charade.

It is time for international regulators to withdraw certification totally - after the problems are all fixed (I don't believe they ever will be), the plane needs complete new certification of every detail from the bottom up, at Boeing's expense, and with total openness from Boeing. The current Boeing management are not going to cooperate with that, therefore the international regulators need to demand a complete replacement of the management and board of directors as a condition for working with them.

Piotr Berman , Sep 4 2019 13:23 utc | 61
From ZeroHedge link:

If Boeing had invested some of this money that it blew on share buybacks to design a new modern plane from ground up to replace the ancient 737 airframe, these tragedies could have been prevented, and Boeing wouldn't have this nightmare on its hands. But the corporate cost-cutters and financial engineers, rather than real engineers, had the final word.

Markets don't care about any of this. They don't care about real engineers either. They love corporate cost-cutters and financial engineers. They want share buybacks, and if something bad happens, they'll overlook the $5 billion to pay for the fallout because it's just a "one-time item."

And now Boeing still has this plane, instead of a modern plane, and the history of this plane is now tainted, as is its brand, and by extension, that of Boeing. But markets blow that off too. Nothing matters.

Companies are getting away each with their own thing. There are companies that are losing a ton of money and are burning tons of cash, with no indications that they will ever make money. And market valuations are just ludicrous.

======

Thus Boeing issue is part of a much larger picture. Something systemic had to make "markets" less rational. And who is this "market"? In large part, fund managers wracking their brains how to create "decent return" while the cost of borrowing and returns on lending are super low. What remains are forms of real estate and stocks.

Overall, Boeing buy-backs exceeded 40 billion dollars, one could guess that half or quarter of that would suffice to build a plane that logically combines the latest technologies. E.g. the entire frame design to fit together with engines, processors proper for the information processing load, hydraulics for steering that satisfy force requirements in almost all circumstances etc. New technologies also fail because they are not completely understood, but when the overall design is logical with margins of safety, the faults can be eliminated.

Instead, 737 was slowly modified toward failure, eliminating safety margins one by one.

morongobill , Sep 4 2019 14:08 utc | 63

Regarding the 80286 and the 737, don't forget that the air traffic control system and the ICBM system uses old technology as well.

Seems our big systems have feet of old silicon.

Allan Bowman , Sep 4 2019 15:15 utc | 66
Boeing has apparently either never heard of, or ignores a procedure that is mandatory in satellite design and design reviews. This is FMEA or Failure Modes and Effects Analysis. This requires design engineers to document the impact of every potential failure and combination of failures thereby highlighting everthing from catastrophic effects to just annoyances. Clearly BOEING has done none of these and their troubles are a direct result. It can be assumed that their arrogant and incompetent management has not yet understood just how serious their behavior is to the future of the company.
fx , Sep 4 2019 16:08 utc | 69
Once the buyback ends the dive begins and just before it hits ground zero, they buy the company for pennies on the dollar, possibly with government bailout as a bonus. Then the company flies towards the next climb and subsequent dive. MCAS economics.

Posted by: Joost | Sep 4 2019 4:25 utc | 50

Well put!

Bemildred , Sep 4 2019 16:11 utc | 70
Computer modelling is what they are talking about in the cliche "Garbage in, garbage out".

The problem is not new, and it is well understood. What computer modelling is is cheap, and easy to fudge, and that is why it is popular with people who care about money a lot. Much of what is called "AI" is very similar in its limitations, a complicated way to fudge up the results you want, or something close enough for casual examination.

In particular cases where you have a well-defined and well-mathematized theory, then you can get some useful results with models. Like in Physics, Chemistry.

And they can be useful for "realistic" training situations, like aircraft simulators. The old story about wargame failures against Iran is another such situation. A lot of video games are big simulations in essence. But that is not reality, it's fake reality.

Trond , Sep 4 2019 17:01 utc | 79
@ SteveK9 71 "By the way, the problem was caused by Mitsubishi, who designed the heat exchangers."

Ahh. The furriners...

I once made the "mistake" of pointing out (in a comment under an article in Salon) that the reactors that exploded at Fukushima was made by GE and that GE people was still in charge of the reactors of American quality when they exploded. (The amerikans got out on one of the first planes out of the country).

I have never seen so many angry replies to one of my comments. I even got e-mails for several weeks from angry Americans.

c1ue , Sep 4 2019 19:44 utc | 80
@Henkie #53 You need floating point for scientific calculations, but I really doubt the 737 is doing any scientific research. Also, a regular CPU can do mathematical calculations. It just isn't as fast nor has the same capacity as a dedicated FPU. Another common use for FPUs is in live action shooter games - the neo-physics portions utilize scientific-like calculations to create lifelike actions. I sold computer systems in the 1990s while in school - Doom was a significant driver for newer systems (as well as hedge fund types). Again, don't see why an airplane needs this.

[Sep 02, 2019] The Joel Test 12 Steps to Better Code - Joel on Software by Joel Spolsky

Somewhat simplistic but still useful
Sep 02, 2019 | www.joelonsoftware.com
Wednesday, August 09, 2000

Have you ever heard of SEMA ? It's a fairly esoteric system for measuring how good a software team is. No, wait! Don't follow that link! It will take you about six years just to understand that stuff. So I've come up with my own, highly irresponsible, sloppy test to rate the quality of a software team. The great part about it is that it takes about 3 minutes. With all the time you save, you can go to medical school.

The Joel Test

  1. Do you use source control?
  2. Can you make a build in one step?
  3. Do you make daily builds?
  4. Do you have a bug database?
  5. Do you fix bugs before writing new code?
  6. Do you have an up-to-date schedule?
  7. Do you have a spec?
  8. Do programmers have quiet working conditions?
  9. Do you use the best tools money can buy?
  10. Do you have testers?
  11. Do new candidates write code during their interview?
  12. Do you do hallway usability testing?

The neat thing about The Joel Test is that it's easy to get a quick yes or no to each question. You don't have to figure out lines-of-code-per-day or average-bugs-per-inflection-point. Give your team 1 point for each "yes" answer. The bummer about The Joel Test is that you really shouldn't use it to make sure that your nuclear power plant software is safe.

A score of 12 is perfect, 11 is tolerable, but 10 or lower and you've got serious problems. The truth is that most software organizations are running with a score of 2 or 3, and they need serious help, because companies like Microsoft run at 12 full-time.

Of course, these are not the only factors that determine success or failure: in particular, if you have a great software team working on a product that nobody wants, well, people aren't going to want it. And it's possible to imagine a team of "gunslingers" that doesn't do any of this stuff that still manages to produce incredible software that changes the world. But, all else being equal, if you get these 12 things right, you'll have a disciplined team that can consistently deliver.

1. Do you use source control?
I've used commercial source control packages, and I've used CVS , which is free, and let me tell you, CVS is fine . But if you don't have source control, you're going to stress out trying to get programmers to work together. Programmers have no way to know what other people did. Mistakes can't be rolled back easily. The other neat thing about source control systems is that the source code itself is checked out on every programmer's hard drive -- I've never heard of a project using source control that lost a lot of code.

2. Can you make a build in one step?
By this I mean: how many steps does it take to make a shipping build from the latest source snapshot? On good teams, there's a single script you can run that does a full checkout from scratch, rebuilds every line of code, makes the EXEs, in all their various versions, languages, and #ifdef combinations, creates the installation package, and creates the final media -- CDROM layout, download website, whatever.

If the process takes any more than one step, it is prone to errors. And when you get closer to shipping, you want to have a very fast cycle of fixing the "last" bug, making the final EXEs, etc. If it takes 20 steps to compile the code, run the installation builder, etc., you're going to go crazy and you're going to make silly mistakes.

For this very reason, the last company I worked at switched from WISE to InstallShield: we required that the installation process be able to run, from a script, automatically, overnight, using the NT scheduler, and WISE couldn't run from the scheduler overnight, so we threw it out. (The kind folks at WISE assure me that their latest version does support nightly builds.)

3. Do you make daily builds?
When you're using source control, sometimes one programmer accidentally checks in something that breaks the build. For example, they've added a new source file, and everything compiles fine on their machine, but they forgot to add the source file to the code repository. So they lock their machine and go home, oblivious and happy. But nobody else can work, so they have to go home too, unhappy.

Breaking the build is so bad (and so common) that it helps to make daily builds, to insure that no breakage goes unnoticed. On large teams, one good way to insure that breakages are fixed right away is to do the daily build every afternoon at, say, lunchtime. Everyone does as many checkins as possible before lunch. When they come back, the build is done. If it worked, great! Everybody checks out the latest version of the source and goes on working. If the build failed, you fix it, but everybody can keep on working with the pre-build, unbroken version of the source.

On the Excel team we had a rule that whoever broke the build, as their "punishment", was responsible for babysitting the builds until someone else broke it. This was a good incentive not to break the build, and a good way to rotate everyone through the build process so that everyone learned how it worked.

Read more about daily builds in my article Daily Builds are Your Friend .

4. Do you have a bug database?
I don't care what you say. If you are developing code, even on a team of one, without an organized database listing all known bugs in the code, you are going to ship low quality code. Lots of programmers think they can hold the bug list in their heads. Nonsense. I can't remember more than two or three bugs at a time, and the next morning, or in the rush of shipping, they are forgotten. You absolutely have to keep track of bugs formally.

Bug databases can be complicated or simple. A minimal useful bug database must include the following data for every bug:

If the complexity of bug tracking software is the only thing stopping you from tracking your bugs, just make a simple 5 column table with these crucial fields and start using it .

For more on bug tracking, read Painless Bug Tracking .

5. Do you fix bugs before writing new code?
The very first version of Microsoft Word for Windows was considered a "death march" project. It took forever. It kept slipping. The whole team was working ridiculous hours, the project was delayed again, and again, and again, and the stress was incredible. When the dang thing finally shipped, years late, Microsoft sent the whole team off to Cancun for a vacation, then sat down for some serious soul-searching.

What they realized was that the project managers had been so insistent on keeping to the "schedule" that programmers simply rushed through the coding process, writing extremely bad code, because the bug fixing phase was not a part of the formal schedule. There was no attempt to keep the bug-count down. Quite the opposite. The story goes that one programmer, who had to write the code to calculate the height of a line of text, simply wrote "return 12;" and waited for the bug report to come in about how his function is not always correct. The schedule was merely a checklist of features waiting to be turned into bugs. In the post-mortem, this was referred to as "infinite defects methodology".

To correct the problem, Microsoft universally adopted something called a "zero defects methodology". Many of the programmers in the company giggled, since it sounded like management thought they could reduce the bug count by executive fiat. Actually, "zero defects" meant that at any given time, the highest priority is to eliminate bugs before writing any new code. Here's why.

In general, the longer you wait before fixing a bug, the costlier (in time and money) it is to fix.

For example, when you make a typo or syntax error that the compiler catches, fixing it is basically trivial.

When you have a bug in your code that you see the first time you try to run it, you will be able to fix it in no time at all, because all the code is still fresh in your mind.

If you find a bug in some code that you wrote a few days ago, it will take you a while to hunt it down, but when you reread the code you wrote, you'll remember everything and you'll be able to fix the bug in a reasonable amount of time.

But if you find a bug in code that you wrote a few months ago, you'll probably have forgotten a lot of things about that code, and it's much harder to fix. By that time you may be fixing somebody else's code, and they may be in Aruba on vacation, in which case, fixing the bug is like science: you have to be slow, methodical, and meticulous, and you can't be sure how long it will take to discover the cure.

And if you find a bug in code that has already shipped , you're going to incur incredible expense getting it fixed.

That's one reason to fix bugs right away: because it takes less time. There's another reason, which relates to the fact that it's easier to predict how long it will take to write new code than to fix an existing bug. For example, if I asked you to predict how long it would take to write the code to sort a list, you could give me a pretty good estimate. But if I asked you how to predict how long it would take to fix that bug where your code doesn't work if Internet Explorer 5.5 is installed, you can't even guess , because you don't know (by definition) what's causing the bug. It could take 3 days to track it down, or it could take 2 minutes.

What this means is that if you have a schedule with a lot of bugs remaining to be fixed, the schedule is unreliable. But if you've fixed all the known bugs, and all that's left is new code, then your schedule will be stunningly more accurate.

Another great thing about keeping the bug count at zero is that you can respond much faster to competition. Some programmers think of this as keeping the product ready to ship at all times. Then if your competitor introduces a killer new feature that is stealing your customers, you can implement just that feature and ship on the spot, without having to fix a large number of accumulated bugs.

6. Do you have an up-to-date schedule?
Which brings us to schedules. If your code is at all important to the business, there are lots of reasons why it's important to the business to know when the code is going to be done. Programmers are notoriously crabby about making schedules. "It will be done when it's done!" they scream at the business people.

Unfortunately, that just doesn't cut it. There are too many planning decisions that the business needs to make well in advance of shipping the code: demos, trade shows, advertising, etc. And the only way to do this is to have a schedule, and to keep it up to date.

The other crucial thing about having a schedule is that it forces you to decide what features you are going to do, and then it forces you to pick the least important features and cut them rather than slipping into featuritis (a.k.a. scope creep).

Keeping schedules does not have to be hard. Read my article Painless Software Schedules , which describes a simple way to make great schedules.

7. Do you have a spec?
Writing specs is like flossing: everybody agrees that it's a good thing, but nobody does it.

I'm not sure why this is, but it's probably because most programmers hate writing documents. As a result, when teams consisting solely of programmers attack a problem, they prefer to express their solution in code, rather than in documents. They would much rather dive in and write code than produce a spec first.

At the design stage, when you discover problems, you can fix them easily by editing a few lines of text. Once the code is written, the cost of fixing problems is dramatically higher, both emotionally (people hate to throw away code) and in terms of time, so there's resistance to actually fixing the problems. Software that wasn't built from a spec usually winds up badly designed and the schedule gets out of control. This seems to have been the problem at Netscape, where the first four versions grew into such a mess that management stupidly decided to throw out the code and start over. And then they made this mistake all over again with Mozilla, creating a monster that spun out of control and took several years to get to alpha stage.

My pet theory is that this problem can be fixed by teaching programmers to be less reluctant writers by sending them off to take an intensive course in writing . Another solution is to hire smart program managers who produce the written spec. In either case, you should enforce the simple rule "no code without spec".

Learn all about writing specs by reading my 4-part series .

8. Do programmers have quiet working conditions?
There are extensively documented productivity gains provided by giving knowledge workers space, quiet, and privacy. The classic software management book Peopleware documents these productivity benefits extensively.

Here's the trouble. We all know that knowledge workers work best by getting into "flow", also known as being "in the zone", where they are fully concentrated on their work and fully tuned out of their environment. They lose track of time and produce great stuff through absolute concentration. This is when they get all of their productive work done. Writers, programmers, scientists, and even basketball players will tell you about being in the zone.

The trouble is, getting into "the zone" is not easy. When you try to measure it, it looks like it takes an average of 15 minutes to start working at maximum productivity. Sometimes, if you're tired or have already done a lot of creative work that day, you just can't get into the zone and you spend the rest of your work day fiddling around, reading the web, playing Tetris.

The other trouble is that it's so easy to get knocked out of the zone. Noise, phone calls, going out for lunch, having to drive 5 minutes to Starbucks for coffee, and interruptions by coworkers -- especially interruptions by coworkers -- all knock you out of the zone. If a coworker asks you a question, causing a 1 minute interruption, but this knocks you out of the zone badly enough that it takes you half an hour to get productive again, your overall productivity is in serious trouble. If you're in a noisy bullpen environment like the type that caffeinated dotcoms love to create, with marketing guys screaming on the phone next to programmers, your productivity will plunge as knowledge workers get interrupted time after time and never get into the zone.

With programmers, it's especially hard. Productivity depends on being able to juggle a lot of little details in short term memory all at once. Any kind of interruption can cause these details to come crashing down. When you resume work, you can't remember any of the details (like local variable names you were using, or where you were up to in implementing that search algorithm) and you have to keep looking these things up, which slows you down a lot until you get back up to speed.

Here's the simple algebra. Let's say (as the evidence seems to suggest) that if we interrupt a programmer, even for a minute, we're really blowing away 15 minutes of productivity. For this example, lets put two programmers, Jeff and Mutt, in open cubicles next to each other in a standard Dilbert veal-fattening farm. Mutt can't remember the name of the Unicode version of the strcpy function. He could look it up, which takes 30 seconds, or he could ask Jeff, which takes 15 seconds. Since he's sitting right next to Jeff, he asks Jeff. Jeff gets distracted and loses 15 minutes of productivity (to save Mutt 15 seconds).

Now let's move them into separate offices with walls and doors. Now when Mutt can't remember the name of that function, he could look it up, which still takes 30 seconds, or he could ask Jeff, which now takes 45 seconds and involves standing up (not an easy task given the average physical fitness of programmers!). So he looks it up. So now Mutt loses 30 seconds of productivity, but we save 15 minutes for Jeff. Ahhh!

9. Do you use the best tools money can buy?
Writing code in a compiled language is one of the last things that still can't be done instantly on a garden variety home computer. If your compilation process takes more than a few seconds, getting the latest and greatest computer is going to save you time. If compiling takes even 15 seconds, programmers will get bored while the compiler runs and switch over to reading The Onion , which will suck them in and kill hours of productivity.

Debugging GUI code with a single monitor system is painful if not impossible. If you're writing GUI code, two monitors will make things much easier.

Most programmers eventually have to manipulate bitmaps for icons or toolbars, and most programmers don't have a good bitmap editor available. Trying to use Microsoft Paint to manipulate bitmaps is a joke, but that's what most programmers have to do.

At my last job , the system administrator kept sending me automated spam complaining that I was using more than ... get this ... 220 megabytes of hard drive space on the server. I pointed out that given the price of hard drives these days, the cost of this space was significantly less than the cost of the toilet paper I used. Spending even 10 minutes cleaning up my directory would be a fabulous waste of productivity.

Top notch development teams don't torture their programmers. Even minor frustrations caused by using underpowered tools add up, making programmers grumpy and unhappy. And a grumpy programmer is an unproductive programmer.

To add to all this... programmers are easily bribed by giving them the coolest, latest stuff. This is a far cheaper way to get them to work for you than actually paying competitive salaries!

10. Do you have testers?
If your team doesn't have dedicated testers, at least one for every two or three programmers, you are either shipping buggy products, or you're wasting money by having $100/hour programmers do work that can be done by $30/hour testers. Skimping on testers is such an outrageous false economy that I'm simply blown away that more people don't recognize it.

Read Top Five (Wrong) Reasons You Don't Have Testers , an article I wrote about this subject.

11. Do new candidates write code during their interview?
Would you hire a magician without asking them to show you some magic tricks? Of course not.

Would you hire a caterer for your wedding without tasting their food? I doubt it. (Unless it's Aunt Marge, and she would hate you for ever if you didn't let her make her "famous" chopped liver cake).

Yet, every day, programmers are hired on the basis of an impressive resumé or because the interviewer enjoyed chatting with them. Or they are asked trivia questions ("what's the difference between CreateDialog() and DialogBox()?") which could be answered by looking at the documentation. You don't care if they have memorized thousands of trivia about programming, you care if they are able to produce code. Or, even worse, they are asked "AHA!" questions: the kind of questions that seem easy when you know the answer, but if you don't know the answer, they are impossible.

Please, just stop doing this . Do whatever you want during interviews, but make the candidate write some code . (For more advice, read my Guerrilla Guide to Interviewing .)

12. Do you do hallway usability testing?
A hallway usability test is where you grab the next person that passes by in the hallway and force them to try to use the code you just wrote. If you do this to five people, you will learn 95% of what there is to learn about usability problems in your code.

Good user interface design is not as hard as you would think, and it's crucial if you want customers to love and buy your product. You can read my free online book on UI design , a short primer for programmers.

But the most important thing about user interfaces is that if you show your program to a handful of people, (in fact, five or six is enough) you will quickly discover the biggest problems people are having. Read Jakob Nielsen's article explaining why. Even if your UI design skills are lacking, as long as you force yourself to do hallway usability tests, which cost nothing, your UI will be much, much better.

Four Ways To Use The Joel Test

  1. Rate your own software organization, and tell me how it rates, so I can gossip.
  2. If you're the manager of a programming team, use this as a checklist to make sure your team is working as well as possible. When you start rating a 12, you can leave your programmers alone and focus full time on keeping the business people from bothering them.
  3. If you're trying to decide whether to take a programming job, ask your prospective employer how they rate on this test. If it's too low, make sure that you'll have the authority to fix these things. Otherwise you're going to be frustrated and unproductive.
  4. If you're an investor doing due diligence to judge the value of a programming team, or if your software company is considering merging with another, this test can provide a quick rule of thumb.

[Aug 31, 2019] The Substance of Style - Slashdot

Aug 31, 2019 | news.slashdot.org

Kazoo the Clown ( 644526 ) , Thursday October 16, 2003 @04:35PM ( #7233354 )

AESTHETICS of STYLE? Try CORRUPTION of GREED ( Score: 3 , Insightful)

You're looking at the downside of the "invisible hand" here, methinks.

Take anything by the Sharper Image for example. Their corporate motto is apparently "Style over Substance", though they are only one of the most blatant. A specifically good example would be their "Ionic Breeze." Selling points? Quieter than HEPA filters (that's because HEPA filters actually DO something). Empty BOXES are quiet too, and pollute your air less. Standardized tests show the Ionic Breeze's ability to remove airborne particles to be almost negligible. Tests also show it doesn't trap the particles it does catch very well such that they can be re-introduced to the environment. It produces levels of the oxidant gas ozone that accumulate over time, reportedly less than 0.05 ppm after 24 hours, but what after 48? The EPA's safe limit is 0.08, are you sure your ventilation is sufficient to keep it below that level if you have it on all the time? Do you trust the EPA's limit as being actually safe? (they dropped it to 0.08 from 0.12 in 1997 as apparently, 0.12 wasn't good enough). And what does it matter if the darn thing doesn't even remove dust and germs out of your environment worth a darn , because most dust and germs are not airborne? Oh, but it LOOKS SO SEXY.

There are countless products that people buy not because they are tuned into the brilliant aesthetics , but because the intimidation value of the brilliant marketing campaigns that convince them that if they don't have the product, they're deprived. That they need it to shallowly show off they have good taste when they really have no taste at all except that which was sold to them.

[Aug 31, 2019] Ask Slashdot How Would You Teach 'Best Practices' For Programmers - Slashdot

Aug 31, 2019 | ask.slashdot.org

Strider- ( 39683 ) , Sunday February 25, 2018 @08:43AM ( #56184459 )

Re:Back to basics ( Score: 5 , Insightful)

Oh hell no. So-called "self-documenting code" isn't. You can write the most comprehensible, clear code in the history of mankind, and that's still not good enough.

The issue is that your code only documents what the code is doing, not what it is supposed to be doing. You wouldn't believe how many subtle issues I've come across over the decades where on the face of it everything should have been good, but in reality the code was behaving slightly differently than what was intended.

JaredOfEuropa ( 526365 ) , Sunday February 25, 2018 @08:58AM ( #56184487 ) Journal
Re:Back to basics ( Score: 5 , Insightful)
The issue is that your code only documents what the code is doing, not what it is supposed to be doing

Mod this up. I aim to document my intent, i.e. what the code is supposed to do. Not only does this help catch bugs within a procedure, but it also forces me to think a little bit about the purpose of each method or function. It helps catch bugs or inconsistencies in the software architecture as well.

johnsnails ( 1715452 ) , Sunday February 25, 2018 @09:32AM ( #56184523 )
Re: Back to basics ( Score: 2 )

I agree with everything you said besides being short (whatever that is precisely). Sometimes a good comment will be a solid 4-5 line paragraph. But maybe I should fix the code instead that needs that long of a comment.

pjt33 ( 739471 ) , Sunday February 25, 2018 @04:06PM ( #56184861 )
Re: Back to basics ( Score: 2 )

I once wrote a library for (essentially) GIS which was full of comments that were 20 lines or longer. When the correctness of the code depends on theorems in non-Euclidean geometry and you can't assume that the maintainer will know any, I don't think it's a bad idea to make the proofs quite explicit.

[Aug 31, 2019] Programming is about Effective Communication

Aug 31, 2019 | developers.slashdot.org

Anonymous Coward , Friday February 22, 2019 @02:42PM ( #58165060 )

Algorithms, not code ( Score: 4 , Insightful)

Sad to see these are all books about coding and coding style. Nothing at all here about algorithms, or data structures.

My vote goes for Algorithms by Sedgewick

Seven Spirals ( 4924941 ) , Friday February 22, 2019 @02:57PM ( #58165150 )
MOTIF Programming by Marshall Brain ( Score: 3 )

Amazing how little memory and CPU MOTIF applications take. Once you get over the callbacks, it's actually not bad!

Seven Spirals ( 4924941 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

Interesting. Sorry you had that experience. I'm not sure what you mean by a "multi-line text widget". I can tell you that early versions of OpenMOTIF were very very buggy in my experience. You probably know this, but after OpenMOTIF was completed and revved a few times the original MOTIF code was released as open-source. Many of the bugs I'd been seeing (and some just strange visual artifacts) disappeared. I know a lot of people love QT and it's produced real apps and real results - I won't poo-poo it. How

SuperKendall ( 25149 ) writes:
Design and Evolution of C++ ( Score: 2 )

Even if you don't like C++ much, The Design and Evolution of C++ [amazon.com] is a great book for understanding why pretty much any language ends up the way it does, seeing the tradeoffs and how a language comes to grow and expand from simple roots. It's way more interesting to read than you might expect (not very dry, and more about human interaction than you would expect).

Other than that reading through back posts in a lot of coding blogs that have been around a long time is probably a really good idea.

Also a side re

shanen ( 462549 ) writes:
What about books that hadn't been written yet? ( Score: 2 )

You young whippersnappers don't 'preciate how good you have it!

Back in my day, the only book about programming was the 1401 assembly language manual!

But seriously, folks, it's pretty clear we still don't know shite about how to program properly. We have some fairly clear success criteria for improving the hardware, but the criteria for good software are clear as mud, and the criteria for ways to produce good software are much muddier than that.

Having said that, I will now peruse the thread rather carefully

shanen ( 462549 ) writes:
TMI, especially PII ( Score: 2 )

Couldn't find any mention of Guy Steele, so I'll throw in The New Hacker's Dictionary , which I once owned in dead tree form. Not sure if Version 4.4.7 http://catb.org/jargon/html/ [catb.org] is the latest online... Also remember a couple of his language manuals. Probably used the Common Lisp one the most...

Didn't find any mention of a lot of books that I consider highly relevant, but that may reflect my personal bias towards history. Not really relevant for most programmers.

TMI, but if I open up my database on all t

UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) , Friday February 22, 2019 @03:52PM ( #58165532 )
Programming is about **Effective Communication** ( Score: 5 , Insightful)

I've been programming for the past ~40 years and I'll try to summarize what I believe are the most important bits about programming (pardon the pun.) Think of this as a META: " HOWTO: Be A Great Programmer " summary. (I'll get to the books section in a bit.)

1. All code can be summarized as a trinity of 3 fundamental concepts:

* Linear ; that is, sequence: A, B, C
* Cyclic ; that is, unconditional jumps: A-B-C-goto B
* Choice ; that is, conditional jumps: if A then B

2. ~80% of programming is NOT about code; it is about Effective Communication. Whether that be:

* with your compiler / interpreter / REPL
* with other code (levels of abstraction, level of coupling, separation of concerns, etc.)
* with your boss(es) / manager(s)
* with your colleagues
* with your legal team
* with your QA dept
* with your customer(s)
* with the general public

The other ~20% is effective time management and design. A good programmer knows how to budget their time. Programming is about balancing the three conflicting goals of the Program Management Triangle [wikipedia.org]: You can have it on time, on budget, on quality. Pick two.

3. Stages of a Programmer

There are two old jokes:

In Lisp all code is data. In Haskell all data is code.

And:

Progression of a (Lisp) Programmer:

* The newbie realizes that the difference between code and data is trivial.
* The expert realizes that all code is data.
* The true master realizes that all data is code.

(Attributed to Aristotle Pagaltzis)

The point of these jokes is that as you work with systems you start to realize that a data-driven process can often greatly simplify things.

4. Know Thy Data

Fred Books once wrote

"Show me your flowcharts (source code), and conceal your tables (domain model), and I shall continue to be mystified; show me your tables (domain model) and I won't usually need your flowcharts (source code): they'll be obvious."

A more modern version would read like this:

Show me your code and I'll have to see your data,
Show me your data and I won't have to see your code.

The importance of data can't be understated:

* Optimization STARTS with understanding HOW the data is being generated and used, NOT the code as has been traditionally taught.
* Post 2000 "Big Data" has been called the new oil. We are generating upwards to millions of GB of data every second. Analyzing that data is import to spot trends and potential problems.

5. There are three levels of optimizations. From slowest to fastest run-time:

a) Bit-twiddling hacks [stanford.edu]
b) Algorithmic -- Algorithmic complexity or Analysis of algorithms [wikipedia.org] (such as Big-O notation)
c) Data-Orientated Design [dataorienteddesign.com] -- Understanding how hardware caches such as instruction and data caches matter. Optimize for the common case, NOT the single case that OOP tends to favor.

Optimizing is understanding Bang-for-the-Buck. 80% of code execution is spent in 20% of the time. Speeding up hot-spots with bit twiddling won't be as effective as using a more efficient algorithm which, in turn, won't be as efficient as understanding HOW the data is manipulated in the first place.

6. Fundamental Reading

Since the OP specifically asked about books -- there are lots of great ones. The ones that have impressed me that I would mark as "required" reading:

* The Mythical Man-Month
* Godel, Escher, Bach
* Knuth: The Art of Computer Programming
* The Pragmatic Programmer
* Zero Bugs and Program Faster
* Writing Solid Code / Code Complete by Steve McConnell
* Game Programming Patterns [gameprogra...tterns.com] (*)
* Game Engine Design
* Thinking in Java by Bruce Eckel
* Puzzles for Hackers by Ivan Sklyarov

(*) I did NOT list Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software as that leads to typical, bloated, over-engineered crap. The main problem with "Design Patterns" is that a programmer will often get locked into a mindset of seeing everything as a pattern -- even when a simple few lines of code would solve th eproblem. For example here is 1,100+ of Crap++ code such as Boost's over-engineered CRC code [boost.org] when a mere ~25 lines of SIMPLE C code would have done the trick. When was the last time you ACTUALLY needed to _modify_ a CRC function? The BIG picture is that you are probably looking for a BETTER HASHING function with less collisions. You probably would be better off using a DIFFERENT algorithm such as SHA-2, etc.

7. Do NOT copy-pasta

Roughly 80% of bugs creep in because someone blindly copied-pasted without thinking. Type out ALL code so you actually THINK about what you are writing.

8. K.I.S.S.

Over-engineering and aka technical debt, will be your Achilles' heel. Keep It Simple, Silly.

9. Use DESCRIPTIVE variable names

You spend ~80% of your time READING code, and only ~20% writing it. Use good, descriptive variable names. Far too programmers write usless comments and don't understand the difference between code and comments:

Code says HOW, Comments say WHY

A crap comment will say something like: // increment i

No, Shit Sherlock! Don't comment the obvious!

A good comment will say something like: // BUGFIX: 1234: Work-around issues caused by A, B, and C.

10. Ignoring Memory Management doesn't make it go away -- now you have two problems. (With apologies to JWZ)

TINSTAAFL.

11. Learn Multi-Paradigm programming [wikipedia.org].

If you don't understand both the pros and cons of these programming paradigms ...

* Procedural
* Object-Orientated
* Functional, and
* Data-Orientated Design

... then you will never really understand programming, nor abstraction, at a deep level, along with how and when it should and shouldn't be used.

12. Multi-disciplinary POV

ALL non-trivial code has bugs. If you aren't using static code analysis [wikipedia.org] then you are not catching as many bugs as the people who are.

Also, a good programmer looks at his code from many different angles. As a programmer you must put on many different hats to find them:

* Architect -- design the code
* Engineer / Construction Worker -- implement the code
* Tester -- test the code
* Consumer -- doesn't see the code, only sees the results. Does it even work?? Did you VERIFY it did BEFORE you checked your code into version control?

13. Learn multiple Programming Languages

Each language was designed to solve certain problems. Learning different languages, even ones you hate, will expose you to different concepts. e.g. If you don't how how to read assembly language AND your high level language then you will never be as good as the programmer who does both.

14. Respect your Colleagues' and Consumers Time, Space, and Money.

Mobile game are the WORST at respecting people's time, space and money turning "players into payers." They treat customers as whales. Don't do this. A practical example: If you are a slack channel with 50+ people do NOT use @here. YOUR fire is not their emergency!

15. Be Passionate

If you aren't passionate about programming, that is, you are only doing it for the money, it will show. Take some pride in doing a GOOD job.

16. Perfect Practice Makes Perfect.

If you aren't programming every day you will never be as good as someone who is. Programming is about solving interesting problems. Practice solving puzzles to develop your intuition and lateral thinking. The more you practice the better you get.

"Sorry" for the book but I felt it was important to summarize the "essentials" of programming.

--
Hey Slashdot. Fix your shitty filter so long lists can be posted.: "Your comment has too few characters per line (currently 37.0)."

raymorris ( 2726007 ) , Friday February 22, 2019 @05:39PM ( #58166230 ) Journal
Shared this with my team ( Score: 4 , Insightful)

You crammed a lot of good ideas into a short post.
I'm sending my team at work a link to your post.

You mentioned code can data. Linus Torvalds had this to say:

"I'm a huge proponent of designing your code around the data, rather than the other way around, and I think it's one of the reasons git has been fairly successful [â¦] I will, in fact, claim that the difference between a bad programmer and a good one is whether he considers his code or his data structures more important."

"Bad programmers worry about the code. Good programmers worry about data structures and their relationships."

I'm inclined to agree. Once the data structure is right, the code oftem almost writes itself. It'll be easy to write and easy to read because it's obvious how one would handle data structured in that elegant way.

Writing the code necessary to transform the data from the input format into the right structure can be non-obvious, but it's normally worth it.

[Aug 31, 2019] Slashdot Asks How Did You Learn How To Code - Slashdot

Aug 31, 2019 | ask.slashdot.org

GreatDrok ( 684119 ) , Saturday June 04, 2016 @10:03PM ( #52250917 ) Journal

Programming, not coding ( Score: 5 , Interesting)

i learnt to program at school from a Ph.D computer scientist. We never even had computers in the class. We learnt to break the problem down into sections using flowcharts or pseudo-code and then we would translate that program into whatever coding language we were using. I still do this usually in my notebook where I figure out all the things I need to do and then write the skeleton of the code using a series of comments for what each section of my program and then I fill in the code for each section. It is a combination of top down and bottom up programming, writing routines that can be independently tested and validated.

[Aug 28, 2019] CarpAssert - executable comments - metacpan.org

Aug 28, 2019 | metacpan.org

Contents [ show hide ]

NAME

Carp::Assert - executable comments

SYNOPSIS

# Assertions are on. use Carp::Assert ; $next_sunrise_time = sunrise(); # Assert that the sun must rise in the next 24 hours. assert(( $next_sunrise_time - time ) < 24*60*60) if DEBUG; # Assert that your customer's primary credit card is active affirm { my @cards = @{ $customer ->credit_cards}; $cards [0]->is_active; }; # Assertions are off. no Carp::Assert; $next_pres = divine_next_president(); # Assert that if you predict Dan Quayle will be the next president # your crystal ball might need some polishing. However, since # assertions are off, IT COULD HAPPEN! shouldnt( $next_pres , 'Dan Quayle' ) if DEBUG;

DESCRIPTION

"We are ready for any unforseen event that may or may not occur." - Dan Quayle

Carp::Assert is intended for a purpose like the ANSI C library assert.h . If you're already familiar with assert.h, then you can probably skip this and go straight to the FUNCTIONS section.

Assertions are the explicit expressions of your assumptions about the reality your program is expected to deal with, and a declaration of those which it is not. They are used to prevent your program from blissfully processing garbage inputs (garbage in, garbage out becomes garbage in, error out) and to tell you when you've produced garbage output. (If I was going to be a cynic about Perl and the user nature, I'd say there are no user inputs but garbage, and Perl produces nothing but...)

An assertion is used to prevent the impossible from being asked of your code, or at least tell you when it does. For example:

# Take the square root of a number. sub my_sqrt { my ( $num ) = shift ; # the square root of a negative number is imaginary. assert( $num >= 0); return sqrt $num ; }

The assertion will warn you if a negative number was handed to your subroutine, a reality the routine has no intention of dealing with.

An assertion should also be used as something of a reality check, to make sure what your code just did really did happen:

open (FILE, $filename ) || die $!; @stuff = <FILE>; @stuff = do_something( @stuff ); # I should have some stuff. assert( @stuff > 0);

The assertion makes sure you have some @stuff at the end. Maybe the file was empty, maybe do_something() returned an empty list... either way, the assert() will give you a clue as to where the problem lies, rather than 50 lines down at when you wonder why your program isn't printing anything.

Since assertions are designed for debugging and will remove themelves from production code, your assertions should be carefully crafted so as to not have any side-effects, change any variables, or otherwise have any effect on your program. Here is an example of a bad assertation:

assert( $error = 1 if $king ne 'Henry' ); # Bad!

It sets an error flag which may then be used somewhere else in your program. When you shut off your assertions with the $DEBUG flag, $error will no longer be set.

Here's another example of bad use:

assert( $next_pres ne 'Dan Quayle' or goto Canada); # Bad!

This assertion has the side effect of moving to Canada should it fail. This is a very bad assertion since error handling should not be placed in an assertion, nor should it have side-effects.

In short, an assertion is an executable comment. For instance, instead of writing this

# $life ends with a '!' $life = begin_life();

you'd replace the comment with an assertion which enforces the comment.

$life = begin_life(); assert( $life =~ /!$/ );

FUNCTIONS

assert
assert(EXPR) if DEBUG; assert(EXPR, $name ) if DEBUG;

assert's functionality is effected by compile time value of the DEBUG constant, controlled by saying use Carp::Assert or no Carp::Assert . In the former case, assert will function as below. Otherwise, the assert function will compile itself out of the program. See "Debugging vs Production" for details.

Give assert an expression, assert will Carp::confess() if that expression is false, otherwise it does nothing. (DO NOT use the return value of assert for anything, I mean it... really!).

The error from assert will look something like this:

Assertion failed! Carp::Assert::assert(0) called at prog line 23 main::foo called at prog line 50

Indicating that in the file "prog" an assert failed inside the function main::foo() on line 23 and that foo() was in turn called from line 50 in the same file.

If given a $name, assert() will incorporate this into your error message, giving users something of a better idea what's going on.

assert( Dogs->isa( 'People' ), 'Dogs are people, too!' ) if DEBUG; # Result - "Assertion (Dogs are people, too!) failed!"
affirm
affirm BLOCK if DEBUG; affirm BLOCK $name if DEBUG;

Very similar to assert(), but instead of taking just a simple expression it takes an entire block of code and evaluates it to make sure its true. This can allow more complicated assertions than assert() can without letting the debugging code leak out into production and without having to smash together several statements into one.

affirm { my $customer = Customer->new( $customerid ); my @cards = $customer ->credit_cards; grep { $_ ->is_active } @cards ; } "Our customer has an active credit card" ;

affirm() also has the nice side effect that if you forgot the if DEBUG suffix its arguments will not be evaluated at all. This can be nice if you stick affirm()s with expensive checks into hot loops and other time-sensitive parts of your program.

If the $name is left off and your Perl version is 5.6 or higher the affirm() diagnostics will include the code begin affirmed.

should
shouldnt
should ( $this , $shouldbe ) if DEBUG; shouldnt( $this , $shouldntbe ) if DEBUG;

Similar to assert(), it is specially for simple "this should be that" or "this should be anything but that" style of assertions.

Due to Perl's lack of a good macro system, assert() can only report where something failed, but it can't report what failed or how . should() and shouldnt() can produce more informative error messages:

Assertion ( 'this' should be 'that' !) failed! Carp::Assert::should( 'this' , 'that' ) called at moof line 29 main::foo() called at moof line 58

So this:

should( $this , $that ) if DEBUG;

is similar to this:

assert( $this eq $that ) if DEBUG;

except for the better error message.

Currently, should() and shouldnt() can only do simple eq and ne tests (respectively). Future versions may allow regexes.

Debugging vs Production

Because assertions are extra code and because it is sometimes necessary to place them in 'hot' portions of your code where speed is paramount, Carp::Assert provides the option to remove its assert() calls from your program.

So, we provide a way to force Perl to inline the switched off assert() routine, thereby removing almost all performance impact on your production code.

no Carp::Assert; # assertions are off. assert(1==1) if DEBUG;

DEBUG is a constant set to 0. Adding the 'if DEBUG' condition on your assert() call gives perl the cue to go ahead and remove assert() call from your program entirely, since the if conditional will always be false.

# With C<no Carp::Assert> the assert() has no impact. for (1..100) { assert( do_some_really_time_consuming_check ) if DEBUG; }

If if DEBUG gets too annoying, you can always use affirm().

# Once again, affirm() has (almost) no impact with C<no Carp::Assert> for (1..100) { affirm { do_some_really_time_consuming_check }; }

Another way to switch off all asserts, system wide, is to define the NDEBUG or the PERL_NDEBUG environment variable.

You can safely leave out the "if DEBUG" part, but then your assert() function will always execute (and its arguments evaluated and time spent). To get around this, use affirm(). You still have the overhead of calling a function but at least its arguments will not be evaluated.

Differences from ANSI C

assert() is intended to act like the function from ANSI C fame. Unfortunately, due to Perl's lack of macros or strong inlining, it's not nearly as unobtrusive.

Well, the obvious one is the "if DEBUG" part. This is cleanest way I could think of to cause each assert() call and its arguments to be removed from the program at compile-time, like the ANSI C macro does.

Also, this version of assert does not report the statement which failed, just the line number and call frame via Carp::confess. You can't do assert('$a == $b') because $a and $b will probably be lexical, and thus unavailable to assert(). But with Perl, unlike C, you always have the source to look through, so the need isn't as great.

EFFICIENCY

With no Carp::Assert (or NDEBUG) and using the if DEBUG suffixes on all your assertions, Carp::Assert has almost no impact on your production code. I say almost because it does still add some load-time to your code (I've tried to reduce this as much as possible).

If you forget the if DEBUG on an assert() , should() or shouldnt() , its arguments are still evaluated and thus will impact your code. You'll also have the extra overhead of calling a subroutine (even if that subroutine does nothing).

Forgetting the if DEBUG on an affirm() is not so bad. While you still have the overhead of calling a subroutine (one that does nothing) it will not evaluate its code block and that can save a lot.

Try to remember the if DEBUG .

ENVIRONMENT


NDEBUG
Defining NDEBUG switches off all assertions. It has the same effect as changing "use Carp::Assert" to "no Carp::Assert" but it effects all code.

PERL_NDEBUG
Same as NDEBUG and will override it. Its provided to give you something which won't conflict with any C programs you might be working on at the same time.

BUGS, CAVETS and other MUSINGS

Conflicts with POSIX.pm

The POSIX module exports an assert routine which will conflict with Carp::Assert if both are used in the same namespace. If you are using both together, prevent POSIX from exporting like so:

use POSIX (); use Carp::Assert ;

Since POSIX exports way too much, you should be using it like that anyway.

affirm and $^S

affirm() mucks with the expression's caller and it is run in an eval so anything that checks $^S will be wrong.

shouldn't

Yes, there is a shouldn't routine. It mostly works, but you must put the if DEBUG after it.

missing if DEBUG

It would be nice if we could warn about missing if DEBUG .

SEE ALSO

assert.h - the wikipedia page about assert.h .

Carp::Assert::More provides a set of convenience functions that are wrappers around Carp::Assert .

Sub::Assert provides support for subroutine pre- and post-conditions. The documentation says it's slow.

PerlX::Assert provides compile-time assertions, which are usually optimised away at compile time. Currently part of the Moops distribution, but may get its own distribution sometime in 2014.

Devel::Assert also provides an assert function, for Perl >= 5.8.1.

assertions provides an assertion mechanism for Perl >= 5.9.0.

REPOSITORY

https://github.com/schwern/Carp-Assert

COPYRIGHT

Copyright 2001-2007 by Michael G Schwern <schwern@pobox.com>.

This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the same terms as Perl itself.

See http://dev.perl.org/licenses/

AUTHOR

Michael G Schwern <schwern@pobox.com>

[Aug 27, 2019] Retire your debugger, log smartly with LogLog4perl! by Michael Schilli

This is a large currently unmaintained subsystem (last changes were in Feb 21, 2017) of questionable value for simple scripts(the main problem is overcomplexity and large amount of dependencies) . They make things way too complex for simple applications.
It still might make perfect sense for very complex applications.
Sep 11, 2002 | www.perl.com

You've rolled out an application and it produces mysterious, sporadic errors? That's pretty common, even if fairly well-tested applications are exposed to real-world data. How can you track down when and where exactly your problem occurs? What kind of user data is it caused by? A debugger won't help you there.

And you don't want to keep track of only bad cases. It's helpful to log all types of meaningful incidents while your system is running in production, in order to extract statistical data from your logs later. Or, what if a problem only happens after a certain sequence of 'good' cases? Especially in dynamic environments like the Web, anything can happen at any time and you want a footprint of every event later, when you're counting the corpses.

What you need is well-architected logging : Log statements in your code and a logging package like Log::Log4perl providing a "remote-control," which allows you to turn on previously inactive logging statements, increase or decrease their verbosity independently in different parts of the system, or turn them back off entirely. Certainly without touching your system's code – and even without restarting it.

However, with traditional logging systems, the amount of data written to the logs can be overwhelming. In fact, turning on low-level-logging on a system under heavy load can cause it to slow down to a crawl or even crash.

Log::Log4perl is different. It is a pure Perl port of the widely popular Apache/Jakarta log4j library [3] for Java, a project made public in 1999, which has been actively supported and enhanced by a team around head honcho Ceki Gülcü during the years.

The comforting facts about log4j are that it's really well thought out, it's the alternative logging standard for Java and it's been in use for years with numerous projects. If you don't like Java, then don't worry, you're not alone – the Log::Log4perl authors (yours truly among them) are all Perl hardliners who made sure Log::Log4perl is real Perl.

In the spirit of log4j , Log::Log4perl addresses the shortcomings of typical ad-hoc or homegrown logging systems by providing three mechanisms to control the amount of data being logged and where it ends up at:

In combination, these three control mechanisms turn out to be very powerful. They allow you to control the logging behavior of even the most complex applications at a granular level. However, it takes time to get used to the concept, so let's start the easy way:

Getting Your Feet Wet With Log4perl

If you've used logging before, then you're probably familiar with logging priorities or levels . Each log incident is assigned a level. If this incident level is higher than the system's logging level setting (typically initialized at system startup), then the message is logged, otherwise it is suppressed.

Log::Log4perl defines five logging levels, listed here from low to high:

    DEBUG
    INFO
    WARN
    ERROR
    FATAL

Let's assume that you decide at system startup that only messages of level WARN and higher are supposed to make it through. If your code then contains a log statement with priority DEBUG, then it won't ever be executed. However, if you choose at some point to bump up the amount of detail, then you can just set your system's logging priority to DEBUG and you will see these DEBUG messages starting to show up in your logs, too.

... ... ...

[Aug 27, 2019] perl defensive programming (die, assert, croak) - Stack Overflow

Aug 27, 2019 | stackoverflow.com

perl defensive programming (die, assert, croak) Ask Question Asked 5 years, 6 months ago Active 5 years, 6 months ago Viewed 645 times 2 0


Zaid ,Feb 23, 2014 at 17:11

What is the best (or recommended) approach to do defensive programming in perl? For example if I have a sub which must be called with a (defined) SCALAR, an ARRAYREF and an optional HASHREF.

Three of the approaches I have seen:

sub test1 {
    die if !(@_ == 2 || @_ == 3);
    my ($scalar, $arrayref, $hashref) = @_;
    die if !defined($scalar) || ref($scalar);
    die if ref($arrayref) ne 'ARRAY';
    die if defined($hashref) && ref($hashref) ne 'HASH';
    #do s.th with scalar, arrayref and hashref
}

sub test2 {
    Carp::assert(@_ == 2 || @_ == 3) if DEBUG;
    my ($scalar, $arrayref, $hashref) = @_;
    if(DEBUG) {
        Carp::assert defined($scalar) && !ref($scalar);
        Carp::assert ref($arrayref) eq 'ARRAY';
        Carp::assert !defined($hashref) || ref($hashref) eq 'HASH';
    }
    #do s.th with scalar, arrayref and hashref
}

sub test3 {
    my ($scalar, $arrayref, $hashref) = @_;
    (@_ == 2 || @_ == 3 && defined($scalar) && !ref($scalar) && ref($arrayref) eq 'ARRAY' && (!defined($hashref) || ref($hashref) eq 'HASH'))
        or Carp::croak 'usage: test3(SCALAR, ARRAYREF, [HASHREF])';
    #do s.th with scalar, arrayref and hashref
}

tobyink ,Feb 23, 2014 at 21:44

use Params::Validate qw(:all);

sub Yada {
   my (...)=validate_pos(@_,{ type=>SCALAR },{ type=>ARRAYREF },{ type=>HASHREF,optional=>1 });
   ...
}

ikegami ,Feb 23, 2014 at 17:33

I wouldn't use any of them. Aside from not not accepting many array and hash references, the checks you used are almost always redundant.
>perl -we"use strict; sub { my ($x) = @_; my $y = $x->[0] }->( 'abc' )"
Can't use string ("abc") as an ARRAY ref nda"strict refs" in use at -e line 1.

>perl -we"use strict; sub { my ($x) = @_; my $y = $x->[0] }->( {} )"
Not an ARRAY reference at -e line 1.

The only advantage to checking is that you can use croak to show the caller in the error message.


Proper way to check if you have an reference to an array:

defined($x) && eval { @$x; 1 }

Proper way to check if you have an reference to a hash:

defined($x) && eval { %$x; 1 }

Borodin ,Feb 23, 2014 at 17:23

None of the options you show display any message to give a reason for the failure, which I think is paramount.

It is also preferable to use croak instead of die from within library subroutines, so that the error is reported from the point of view of the caller.

I would replace all occurrences of if ! with unless . The former is a C programmer's habit.

I suggest something like this

sub test1 {
    croak "Incorrect number of parameters" unless @_ == 2 or @_ == 3;
    my ($scalar, $arrayref, $hashref) = @_;
    croak "Invalid first parameter" unless $scalar and not ref $scalar;
    croak "Invalid second parameter" unless $arrayref eq 'ARRAY';
    croak "Invalid third parameter" if defined $hashref and ref $hashref ne 'HASH';

    # do s.th with scalar, arrayref and hashref
}

[Aug 27, 2019] What Is Defensive Programming

Notable quotes:
"... Defensive programming is a method of prevention, rather than a form of cure. Compare this to debugging -- the act of removing bugs after they've bitten. Debugging is all about finding a cure. ..."
"... Defensive programming saves you literally hours of debugging and lets you do more fun stuff instead. Remember Murphy: If your code can be used incorrectly, it will be. ..."
"... Working code that runs properly, but ever-so-slightly slower, is far superior to code that works most of the time but occasionally collapses in a shower of brightly colored sparks ..."
"... Defensive programming avoids a large number of security problems -- a serious issue in modern software development. ..."
Aug 26, 2019 | Amazon.com

Originally from: Code Craft The Practice of Writing Excellent Code Pete Goodliffe 0689145711905 Amazon.com Gateway

Okay, defensive programming won't remove program failures altogether. But problems will become less of a hassle and easier to fix. Defensive programmers catch falling snowflakes rather than get buried under an avalanche of errors.

Defensive programming is a method of prevention, rather than a form of cure. Compare this to debugging -- the act of removing bugs after they've bitten. Debugging is all about finding a cure.

WHAT DEFENSIVE PROGRAMMING ISN'T

There are a few common misconceptions about defensive programming . Defensive programming is not:

Error checking
If there are error conditions that might arise in your code, you should be checking for them anyway. This is not defensive code. It's just plain good practice -- a part of writing correct code.
Testing
Testing your code is not defensive . It's another normal part of our development work. Test harnesses aren't defensive ; they can prove the code is correct now, but won't prove that it will stand up to future modification. Even with the best test suite in the world, anyone can make a change and slip it past untested.
Debugging
You might add some defensive code during a spell of debugging, but debugging is something you do after your program has failed. Defensive programming is something you do to prevent your program from failing in the first place (or to detect failures early before they manifest in incomprehensible ways, demanding all-night debugging sessions).

Is defensive programming really worth the hassle? There are arguments for and against:

The case against
Defensive programming consumes resources, both yours and the computer's.
  • It eats into the efficiency of your code; even a little extra code requires a little extra execution. For a single function or class, this might not matter, but when you have a system made up of 100,000 functions, you may have more of a problem.
  • Each defensive practice requires some extra work. Why should you follow any of them? You have enough to do already, right? Just make sure people use your code correctly. If they don't, then any problems are their own fault.
The case for
The counterargument is compelling.
  • Defensive programming saves you literally hours of debugging and lets you do more fun stuff instead. Remember Murphy: If your code can be used incorrectly, it will be.
  • Working code that runs properly, but ever-so-slightly slower, is far superior to code that works most of the time but occasionally collapses in a shower of brightly colored sparks.
  • We can design some defensive code to be physically removed in release builds, circumventing the performance issue. The majority of the items we'll consider here don't have any significant overhead, anyway.
  • Defensive programming avoids a large number of security problems -- a serious issue in modern software development. More on this follows.

As the market demands software that's built faster and cheaper, we need to focus on techniques that deliver results. Don't skip the bit of extra work up front that will prevent a whole world of pain and delay later.

[Aug 26, 2019] Error-Handling Techniques

Notable quotes:
"... Return a neutral value. Sometimes the best response to bad data is to continue operating and simply return a value that's known to be harmless. A numeric computation might return 0. A string operation might return an empty string, or a pointer operation might return an empty pointer. A drawing routine that gets a bad input value for color in a video game might use the default background or foreground color. A drawing routine that displays x-ray data for cancer patients, however, would not want to display a "neutral value." In that case, you'd be better off shutting down the program than displaying incorrect patient data. ..."
Aug 26, 2019 | Amazon.com

Originally from: Code Complete, Second Edition Books

Assertions are used to handle errors that should never occur in the code. How do you handle errors that you do expect to occur? Depending on the specific circumstances, you might want to return a neutral value, substitute the next piece of valid data, return the same answer as the previous time, substitute the closest legal value, log a warning message to a file, return an error code, call an error-processing routine or object, display an error message, or shut down -- or you might want to use a combination of these responses.

Here are some more details on these options:

Return a neutral value. Sometimes the best response to bad data is to continue operating and simply return a value that's known to be harmless. A numeric computation might return 0. A string operation might return an empty string, or a pointer operation might return an empty pointer. A drawing routine that gets a bad input value for color in a video game might use the default background or foreground color. A drawing routine that displays x-ray data for cancer patients, however, would not want to display a "neutral value." In that case, you'd be better off shutting down the program than displaying incorrect patient data.

Substitute the next piece of valid data. When processing a stream of data, some circumstances call for simply returning the next valid data. If you're reading records from a database and encounter a corrupted record, you might simply continue reading until you find a valid record. If you're taking readings from a thermometer 100 times per second and you don't get a valid reading one time, you might simply wait another 1/100th of a second and take the next reading.

Return the same answer as the previous time. If the thermometer-reading software doesn't get a reading one time, it might simply return the same value as last time. Depending on the application, temperatures might not be very likely to change much in 1/100th of a second. In a video game, if you detect a request to paint part of the screen an invalid color, you might simply return the same color used previously. But if you're authorizing transactions at a cash machine, you probably wouldn't want to use the "same answer as last time" -- that would be the previous user's bank account number!

Substitute the closest legal value. In some cases, you might choose to return the closest legal value, as in the Velocity example earlier. This is often a reasonable approach when taking readings from a calibrated instrument. The thermometer might be calibrated between 0 and 100 degrees Celsius, for example. If you detect a reading less than 0, you can substitute 0, which is the closest legal value. If you detect a value greater than 100, you can substitute 100. For a string operation, if a string length is reported to be less than 0, you could substitute 0. My car uses this approach to error handling whenever I back up. Since my speedometer doesn't show negative speeds, when I back up it simply shows a speed of 0 -- the closest legal value.

Log a warning message to a file. When bad data is detected, you might choose to log a warning message to a file and then continue on. This approach can be used in conjunction with other techniques like substituting the closest legal value or substituting the next piece of valid data. If you use a log, consider whether you can safely make it publicly available or whether you need to encrypt it or protect it some other way.

Return an error code. You could decide that only certain parts of a system will handle errors. Other parts will not handle errors locally; they will simply report that an error has been detected and trust that some other routine higher up in the calling hierarchy will handle the error. The specific mechanism for notifying the rest of the system that an error has occurred could be any of the following:

In this case, the specific error-reporting mechanism is less important than the decision about which parts of the system will handle errors directly and which will just report that they've occurred. If security is an issue, be sure that calling routines always check return codes.

Call an error-processing routine/object. Another approach is to centralize error handling in a global error-handling routine or error-handling object. The advantage of this approach is that error-processing responsibility can be centralized, which can make debugging easier. The tradeoff is that the whole program will know about this central capability and will be coupled to it. If you ever want to reuse any of the code from the system in another system, you'll have to drag the error-handling machinery along with the code you reuse.

This approach has an important security implication. If your code has encountered a buffer overrun, it's possible that an attacker has compromised the address of the handler routine or object. Thus, once a buffer overrun has occurred while an application is running, it is no longer safe to use this approach.

Display an error message wherever the error is encountered. This approach minimizes error-handling overhead; however, it does have the potential to spread user interface messages through the entire application, which can create challenges when you need to create a consistent user interface, when you try to clearly separate the UI from the rest of the system, or when you try to localize the software into a different language. Also, beware of telling a potential attacker of the system too much. Attackers sometimes use error messages to discover how to attack a system.

Handle the error in whatever way works best locally. Some designs call for handling all errors locally -- the decision of which specific error-handling method to use is left up to the programmer designing and implementing the part of the system that encounters the error.

This approach provides individual developers with great flexibility, but it creates a significant risk that the overall performance of the system will not satisfy its requirements for correctness or robustness (more on this in a moment). Depending on how developers end up handling specific errors, this approach also has the potential to spread user interface code throughout the system, which exposes the program to all the problems associated with displaying error messages.

Shut down. Some systems shut down whenever they detect an error. This approach is useful in safety-critical applications. For example, if the software that controls radiation equipment for treating cancer patients receives bad input data for the radiation dosage, what is its best error-handling response? Should it use the same value as last time? Should it use the closest legal value? Should it use a neutral value? In this case, shutting down is the best option. We'd much prefer to reboot the machine than to run the risk of delivering the wrong dosage.

A similar approach can be used to improve the security of Microsoft Windows. By default, Windows continues to operate even when its security log is full. But you can configure Windows to halt the server if the security log becomes full, which can be appropriate in a security-critical environment.

Robustness vs. Correctness

As the video game and x-ray examples show us, the style of error processing that is most appropriate depends on the kind of software the error occurs in. These examples also illustrate that error processing generally favors more correctness or more robustness. Developers tend to use these terms informally, but, strictly speaking, these terms are at opposite ends of the scale from each other. Correctness means never returning an inaccurate result; returning no result is better than returning an inaccurate result. Robustness means always trying to do something that will allow the software to keep operating, even if that leads to results that are inaccurate sometimes.

Safety-critical applications tend to favor correctness to robustness. It is better to return no result than to return a wrong result. The radiation machine is a good example of this principle.

Consumer applications tend to favor robustness to correctness. Any result whatsoever is usually better than the software shutting down. The word processor I'm using occasionally displays a fraction of a line of text at the bottom of the screen. If it detects that condition, do I want the word processor to shut down? No. I know that the next time I hit Page Up or Page Down, the screen will refresh and the display will be back to normal.

High-Level Design Implications of Error Processing High-Level Design Implications of Error Processing

With so many options, you need to be careful to handle invalid parameters in consistent ways throughout the program . The way in which errors are handled affects the software's ability to meet requirements related to correctness, robustness, and other nonfunctional attributes. Deciding on a general approach to bad parameters is an architectural or high-level design decision and should be addressed at one of those levels.

Once you decide on the approach, make sure you follow it consistently. If you decide to have high-level code handle errors and low-level code merely report errors, make sure the high-level code actually handles the errors! Some languages give you the option of ignoring the fact that a function is returning an error code -- in C++, you're not required to do anything with a function's return value -- but don't ignore error information! Test the function return value. If you don't expect the function ever to produce an error, check it anyway. The whole point of defensive programming is guarding against errors you don't expect.

This guideline holds true for system functions as well as for your own functions. Unless you've set an architectural guideline of not checking system calls for errors, check for error codes after each call. If you detect an error, include the error number and the description of the error.

[Aug 26, 2019] Example of correctable error

Aug 26, 2019 | www.amazon.com

Originally from: Good Habits for Great Coding Improving Programming Skills with Examples in Python Michael Stueben 9781484234587 Amazon.com

There is one danger to defensive coding: It can bury errors. Consider the following code:

def drawLine(m, b, image, start = 0, stop = WIDTH):
    step = 1
    start = int(start)
    stop =  int(stop)
    if stop-start < 0:
       step = -1
       print('WARNING: drawLine parameters were reversed.')
    for x in range(start, stop, step):
        index = int(m*x + b) * WIDTH + x
        if 0 <= index < len(image):
           image[index] = 255 # Poke in a white (= 255) pixel.

This function runs from start to stop . If stop is less than start , it just steps backward and no error is reported .

Maybe we want this kind of error to be "fixed " during the run -- buried -- but I think we should at least print a warning that the range is coming in backwards. Maybe we should abort the program .

[Aug 26, 2019] Being Defensive About Defensive Programming

Notable quotes:
"... Code installed for defensive programming is not immune to defects, and you're just as likely to find a defect in defensive-programming code as in any other code -- more likely, if you write the code casually. Think about where you need to be defensive , and set your defensive-programming priorities accordingly. ..."
Aug 26, 2019 | www.amazon.com

Originally from: Code Complete, Second Edition II. Creating High-Quality Code

8.3. Error-Handling Techniques

Too much of anything is bad, but too much whiskey is just enough. -- Mark Twain

Too much defensive programming creates problems of its own. If you check data passed as parameters in every conceivable way in every conceivable place, your program will be fat and slow.

What's worse, the additional code needed for defensive programming adds complexity to the software.

Code installed for defensive programming is not immune to defects, and you're just as likely to find a defect in defensive-programming code as in any other code -- more likely, if you write the code casually. Think about where you need to be defensive , and set your defensive-programming priorities accordingly.

Defensive Programming

General

Exceptions

Security Issues

[Aug 26, 2019] Creating High-Quality Code

Assertions as special statement is questionable approach unless there is a switch to exclude them from the code. Other then that BASH exit with condition or Perl die can serve equally well.
The main question here is which assertions should be in code only for debugging and which should be in production.
Notable quotes:
"... That an input parameter's value falls within its expected range (or an output parameter's value does) ..."
"... Many languages have built-in support for assertions, including C++, Java, and Microsoft Visual Basic. If your language doesn't directly support assertion routines, they are easy to write. The standard C++ assert macro doesn't provide for text messages. Here's an example of an improved ASSERT implemented as a C++ macro: ..."
"... Use assertions to document and verify preconditions and postconditions. Preconditions and postconditions are part of an approach to program design and development known as "design by contract" (Meyer 1997). When preconditions and postconditions are used, each routine or class forms a contract with the rest of the program . ..."
Aug 26, 2019 | www.amazon.com

Originally from: Code Complete A Practical Handbook of Software Construction, Second Edition Steve McConnell 0790145196705 Amazon.com Books

Assertions

An assertion is code that's used during development -- usually a routine or macro -- that allows a program to check itself as it runs. When an assertion is true, that means everything is operating as expected. When it's false, that means it has detected an unexpected error in the code. For example, if the system assumes that a customerinformation file will never have more than 50,000 records, the program might contain an assertion that the number of records is less than or equal to 50,000. As long as the number of records is less than or equal to 50,000, the assertion will be silent. If it encounters more than 50,000 records, however, it will loudly "assert" that an error is in the program .

Assertions are especially useful in large, complicated programs and in high-reliability programs . They enable programmers to more quickly flush out mismatched interface assumptions, errors that creep in when code is modified, and so on.

An assertion usually takes two arguments: a boolean expression that describes the assumption that's supposed to be true, and a message to display if it isn't. Here's what a Java assertion would look like if the variable denominator were expected to be nonzero:

Example 8-1. Java Example of an Assertion

assert denominator != 0 : "denominator is unexpectedly equal to 0.";

This assertion asserts that denominator is not equal to 0 . The first argument, denominator != 0 , is a boolean expression that evaluates to true or false . The second argument is a message to print if the first argument is false -- that is, if the assertion is false.

Use assertions to document assumptions made in the code and to flush out unexpected conditions. Assertions can be used to check assumptions like these:

Of course, these are just the basics, and your own routines will contain many more specific assumptions that you can document using assertions.

Normally, you don't want users to see assertion messages in production code; assertions are primarily for use during development and maintenance. Assertions are normally compiled into the code at development time and compiled out of the code for production. During development, assertions flush out contradictory assumptions, unexpected conditions, bad values passed to routines, and so on. During production, they can be compiled out of the code so that the assertions don't degrade system performance.

Building Your Own Assertion Mechanism

Many languages have built-in support for assertions, including C++, Java, and Microsoft Visual Basic. If your language doesn't directly support assertion routines, they are easy to write. The standard C++ assert macro doesn't provide for text messages. Here's an example of an improved ASSERT implemented as a C++ macro:

Cross-Reference

Building your own assertion routine is a good example of programming "into" a language rather than just programming "in" a language. For more details on this distinction, see Program into Your Language, Not in It .

Example 8-2. C++ Example of an Assertion Macro

#define ASSERT( condition, message ) {       \
   if ( !(condition) ) {                     \
      LogError( "Assertion failed: ",        \
          #condition, message );             \
      exit( EXIT_FAILURE );                  \
   }                                         \
}

Guidelines for Using Assertions

Here are some guidelines for using assertions:

Use error-handling code for conditions you expect to occur; use assertions for conditions that should. never occur Assertions check for conditions that should never occur. Error-handling code checks for off-nominal circumstances that might not occur very often, but that have been anticipated by the programmer who wrote the code and that need to be handled by the production code. Error handling typically checks for bad input data; assertions check for bugs in the code.

If error-handling code is used to address an anomalous condition, the error handling will enable the program to respond to the error gracefully. If an assertion is fired for an anomalous condition, the corrective action is not merely to handle an error gracefully -- the corrective action is to change the program's source code, recompile, and release a new version of the software.

A good way to think of assertions is as executable documentation -- you can't rely on them to make the code work, but they can document assumptions more actively than program -language comments can.

Avoid putting executable code into assertions. Putting code into an assertion raises the possibility that the compiler will eliminate the code when you turn off the assertions. Suppose you have an assertion like this:

Example 8-3. Visual Basic Example of a Dangerous Use of an Assertion

Debug.Assert( PerformAction() ) ' Couldn't perform action

Cross-Reference

You could view this as one of many problems associated with putting multiple statements on one line. For more examples, see " Using Only One Statement Per Line " in Laying Out Individual Statements .

The problem with this code is that, if you don't compile the assertions, you don't compile the code that performs the action. Put executable statements on their own lines, assign the results to status variables, and test the status variables instead. Here's an example of a safe use of an assertion:

Example 8-4. Visual Basic Example of a Safe Use of an Assertion

actionPerformed = PerformAction()
Debug.Assert( actionPerformed ) ' Couldn't perform action

Use assertions to document and verify preconditions and postconditions. Preconditions and postconditions are part of an approach to program design and development known as "design by contract" (Meyer 1997). When preconditions and postconditions are used, each routine or class forms a contract with the rest of the program .

Further Reading

For much more on preconditions and postconditions, see Object-Oriented Software Construction (Meyer 1997).

Preconditions are the properties that the client code of a routine or class promises will be true before it calls the routine or instantiates the object. Preconditions are the client code's obligations to the code it calls.

Postconditions are the properties that the routine or class promises will be true when it concludes executing. Postconditions are the routine's or class's obligations to the code that uses it.

Assertions are a useful tool for documenting preconditions and postconditions. Comments could be used to document preconditions and postconditions, but, unlike comments, assertions can check dynamically whether the preconditions and postconditions are true.

In the following example, assertions are used to document the preconditions and postcondition of the Velocity routine.

Example 8-5. Visual Basic Example of Using Assertions to Document Preconditions and Postconditions

Private Function Velocity ( _
   ByVal latitude As Single, _
   ByVal longitude As Single, _
   ByVal elevation As Single _
   ) As Single

   ' Preconditions
   Debug.Assert ( -90 <= latitude And latitude <= 90 )
   Debug.Assert ( 0 <= longitude And longitude < 360 )
   Debug.Assert ( -500 <= elevation And elevation <= 75000 )
   ...
   ' Postconditions Debug.Assert ( 0 <= returnVelocity And returnVelocity <= 600 )

   ' return value
   Velocity = returnVelocity
End Function

If the variables latitude , longitude , and elevation were coming from an external source, invalid values should be checked and handled by error-handling code rather than by assertions. If the variables are coming from a trusted, internal source, however, and the routine's design is based on the assumption that these values will be within their valid ranges, then assertions are appropriate.

For highly robust code, assert and then handle the error anyway. For any given error condition, a routine will generally use either an assertion or error-handling code, but not both. Some experts argue that only one kind is needed (Meyer 1997).

Cross-Reference

For more on robustness, see " Robustness vs. Correctness " in Error-Handling Techniques , later in this chapter.

But real-world programs and projects tend to be too messy to rely solely on assertions. On a large, long-lasting system, different parts might be designed by different designers over a period of 5–10 years or more. The designers will be separated in time, across numerous versions. Their designs will focus on different technologies at different points in the system's development. The designers will be separated geographically, especially if parts of the system are acquired from external sources. Programmers will have worked to different coding standards at different points in the system's lifetime. On a large development team, some programmers will inevitably be more conscientious than others and some parts of the code will be reviewed more rigorously than other parts of the code. Some programmers will unit test their code more thoroughly than others. With test teams working across different geographic regions and subject to business pressures that result in test coverage that varies with each release, you can't count on comprehensive, system-level regression testing, either.

In such circumstances, both assertions and error-handling code might be used to address the same error. In the source code for Microsoft Word, for example, conditions that should always be true are asserted, but such errors are also handled by error-handling code in case the assertion fails. For extremely large, complex, long-lived applications like Word, assertions are valuable because they help to flush out as many development-time errors as possible. But the application is so complex (millions of lines of code) and has gone through so many generations of modification that it isn't realistic to assume that every conceivable error will be detected and corrected before the software ships, and so errors must be handled in the production version of the system as well.

Here's an example of how that might work in the Velocity example:

Example 8-6. Visual Basic Example of Using Assertions to Document Preconditions and Postconditions

Private Function Velocity ( _
   ByRef latitude As Single, _
   ByRef longitude As Single, _
   ByRef elevation As Single _
   ) As Single

   ' Preconditions
   Debug.Assert ( -90 <= latitude And latitude <= 90 )       <-- 1
   Debug.Assert ( 0 <= longitude And longitude < 360 )         |
   Debug.Assert ( -500 <= elevation And elevation <= 75000 )       <-- 1
   ...

   ' Sanitize input data. Values should be within the ranges asserted above,
   ' but if a value is not within its valid range, it will be changed to the
   ' closest legal value
   If ( latitude < -90 ) Then       <-- 2
      latitude = -90                  |
   ElseIf ( latitude > 90 ) Then      |
      latitude = 90                   |
   End If                             |
   If ( longitude < 0 ) Then          |
      longitude = 0                   |
   ElseIf ( longitude > 360 ) Then       <-- 2
   ...

(1) Here is assertion code.

(2) Here is the code that handles bad input data at run time.

[Aug 26, 2019] Defensive Programming in C++

Notable quotes:
"... Defensive programming means always checking whether an operation succeeded. ..."
"... Exceptional usually means out of the ordinary and unusually good, but when it comes to errors, the word has a more negative meaning. The system throws an exception when some error condition happens, and if you don't catch that exception, it will give you a dialog box that says something like "your program has caused an error -- –goodbye." ..."
Aug 26, 2019 | www.amazon.com

Originally from: Amazon.com C++ by Example UnderC Learning Edition (0029236726768) Steve Donovan Gateway

There are five desirable properties of good programs : They should be robust, correct, maintainable, friendly, and efficient. Obviously, these properties can be prioritized in different orders, but generally, efficiency is less important than correctness; it is nearly always possible to optimize a well-designed program , whereas badly written "lean and mean" code is often a disaster. (Donald Knuth, the algorithms guru, says that "premature optimization is the root of all evil.")

Here I am mostly talking about programs that have to be used by non-expert users. (You can forgive programs you write for your own purposes when they behave badly: For example, many scientific number-crunching programs are like bad-tempered sports cars.) Being unbreakable is important for programs to be acceptable to users, and you, therefore, need to be a little paranoid and not assume that everything is going to work according to plan. ' Defensive programming ' means writing programs that cope with all common errors. It means things like not assuming that a file exists, or not assuming that you can write to any file (think of a CD-ROM), or always checking for divide by zero.

In the next few sections I want to show you how to 'bullet-proof' programs . First, there is a silly example to illustrate the traditional approach (check everything), and then I will introduce exception handling.

Bullet-Proofing Programs

Say you have to teach a computer to wash its hair. The problem, of course, is that computers have no common sense about these matters: "Lather, rinse, repeat" would certainly lead to a house flooded with bubbles. So you divide the operation into simpler tasks, which return true or false, and check the result of each task before going on to the next one. For example, you can't begin to wash your hair if you can't get the top off the shampoo bottle.

Defensive programming means always checking whether an operation succeeded. So the following code is full of if-else statements, and if you were trying to do something more complicated than wash hair, the code would rapidly become very ugly indeed (and the code would soon scroll off the page):


Code View: Scroll / Show All
void wash_hair()
{
  string msg = "";
  if (! find_shampoo() || ! open_shampoo()) msg = "no shampoo";
  else {
    if (! wet_hair()) msg = "no water!";
    else {
      if (! apply_shampoo()) msg = "shampoo application error";
      else {
        for(int i = 0; i < 2; i++)  // repeat twice
          if (! lather() || ! rinse()) {
                msg = "no hands!";
                break;  // break out of the loop
          }
          if (! dry_hair())  msg = "no towel!";
      }
    }
  }
  if (msg != "") cerr << "Hair error: " << msg << endl;
  // clean up after washing hair
  put_away_towel();
  put_away_shampoo();
}                                        

Part of the hair-washing process is to clean up afterward (as anybody who has a roommate soon learns). This would be a problem for the following code, now assuming that wash_hair() returns a string:

string wash_hair()
{
 ...
  if (! wet_hair()) return "no water!"
  if (! Apply_shampoo()) return "application error!";
...
}

You would need another function to call this wash_hair() , write out the message (if the operation failed), and do the cleanup. This would still be an improvement over the first wash_hair() because the code doesn't have all those nested blocks.

NOTE

Some people disapprove of returning from a function from more than one place, but this is left over from the days when cleanup had to be done manually. C++ guarantees that any object is properly cleaned up, no matter from where you return (for instance, any open file objects are automatically closed). Besides, C++ exception handling works much like a return , except that it can occur from many functions deep. The following section describes this and explains why it makes error checking easier.
Catching Exceptions

An alternative to constantly checking for errors is to let the problem (for example, division by zero, access violation) occur and then use the C++ exception-handling mechanism to gracefully recover from the problem.

Exceptional usually means out of the ordinary and unusually good, but when it comes to errors, the word has a more negative meaning. The system throws an exception when some error condition happens, and if you don't catch that exception, it will give you a dialog box that says something like "your program has caused an error -- –goodbye."

You should avoid doing that to your users -- at the very least you should give them a more reassuring and polite message.

If an exception occurs in a try block, the system tries to match the exception with one (or more) catch blocks.

try {  // your code goes inside this block
  ... problem happens - system throws exception
}
catch(Exception) {  // exception caught here
  ... handle the problem
}

It is an error to have a try without a catch and vice versa. The ON ERROR clause in Visual Basic achieves a similar goal, as do signals in C; they allow you to jump out of trouble to a place where you can deal with the problem. The example is a function div() , which does integer division. Instead of checking whether the divisor is zero, this code lets the division by zero happen but catches the exception. Any code within the try block can safely do integer division, without having to worry about the problem. I've also defined a function bad_div() that does not catch the exception, which will give a system error message when called:

int div(int i, int j)
{
 int k = 0;
 try {
   k = i/j;
   cout << "successful value " << k << endl;
 }
 catch(IntDivideByZero) {
   cout << "divide by zero\n";
 }
 return k;
}
;> int bad_div(int i,int j) {  return i/j; }
;> bad_div(10,0);
integer division by zero <main> (2)
;> div(2,1);
successful value 1
(int) 1
;> div(1,0);
divide by zero
(int) 0

This example is not how you would normally organize things. A lowly function like div() should not have to decide how an error should be handled; its job is to do a straightforward calculation. Generally, it is not a good idea to directly output error information to cout or cerr because Windows graphical user interface programs typically don't do that kind of output. Fortunately, any function call, made from within a try block, that throws an exception will have that exception caught by the catch block. The following is a little program that calls the (trivial) div() function repeatedly but catches any divide-by-zero errors:

// div.cpp
#include <iostream>
#include <uc_except.h>
using namespace std;

int div(int i, int j)
{  return i/j;   }

int main() {
 int i,j,k;
 cout << "Enter 0 0 to exit\n";
 for(;;) { // loop forever
   try {
     cout << "Give two numbers: ";
     cin >> i >> j;
     if (i == 0 && j == 0) return 0; // exit program!
     int k = div(i,j);
     cout << "i/j = " << k << endl;
   }  catch(IntDivideByZero) {
     cout << "divide by zero\n";
   }
  }
  return 0;
}

Notice two crucial things about this example: First, the error-handling code appears as a separate exceptional case, and second, the program does not crash due to divide-by-zero errors (instead, it politely tells the user about the problem and keeps going).

Note the inclusion of <uc_except.h> , which is a nonstandard extension specific to UnderC. The ISO standard does not specify any hardware error exceptions, mostly because not all platforms support them, and a standard has to work everywhere. So IntDivideByZero is not available on all systems. (I have included some library code that implements these hardware exceptions for GCC and BCC32; please see the Appendix for more details.)

How do you catch more than one kind of error? There may be more than one catch block after the try block, and the runtime system looks for the best match. In some ways, a catch block is like a function definition; you supply an argument, and you can name a parameter that should be passed as a reference. For example, in the following code, whatever do_something() does, catch_all_errors() catches it -- specifically a divide-by-zero error -- and it catches any other exceptions as well:

void catch_all_errors()
{
  try {
    do_something();
  }
  catch(IntDivideByZero) {
    cerr << "divide by zero\n";
  }
  catch(HardWareException& e) {
    cerr << "runtime error: " << e.what() << endl;
  }
  catch(Exception& e) {
    cerr << "other error " << e.what() << endl;
  }
}

The standard exceptions have a what() method, which gives more information about them. Order is important here. Exception includes HardwareException , so putting Exception first would catch just about everything. When an exception is thrown, the system picks the first catch block that would match that exception. The rule is to put the catch blocks in order of increasing generality.

Throwing Exceptions

You can throw your own exceptions, which can be of any type, including C++ strings. (In Chapter 8 , "Inheritance and Virtual Methods," you will see how you can create a hierarchy of errors, but for now, strings and integers will do fine.) It is a good idea to write an error-generating function fail() , which allows you to add extra error-tracking features later. The following example returns to the hair-washing algorithm and is even more paranoid about possible problems:

void fail(string msg)
{
  throw msg;
}

void wash_hair()
{
  try {
    if (! find_shampoo()) fail("no shampoo");
    if (! open_shampoo()) fail("can't open shampoo");
    if (! wet_hair())     fail("no water!");
    if (! apply_shampoo())fail("shampoo application error");
    for(int i = 0; i < 2; i++)  // repeat twice
      if (! lather() || ! rinse()) fail("no hands!");
    if (! dry_hair())     fail("no towel!");
  }
  catch(string err) {
    cerr << "Known Hair washing failure: " << err << endl;
  }
  catch(...) {
    cerr << "Catastropic failure\n";
  }
  // clean up after washing hair
  put_away_towel();
  put_away_shampoo();
}

In this example, the general logic is clear, and the cleanup code is always run, whatever disaster happens. This example includes a catch-all catch block at the end. It is a good idea to put one of these in your program's main() function so that it can deliver a more polite message than "illegal instruction." But because you will then have no information about what caused the problem, it's a good idea to cover a number of known cases first. Such a catch-all must be the last catch block; otherwise, it will mask more specific errors.

It is also possible to use a trick that Perl programmers use: If the fail() function returns a bool , then the following expression is valid C++ and does exactly what you want:

dry_hair() || fail("no towel");
lather() && rinse() || fail("no hands!");

If dry_hair() returns true, the or expression must be true, and there's no need to evaluate the second term. Conversely, if dry_hair() returns false, the fail() function would be evaluated and the side effect would be to throw an exception. This short-circuiting of Boolean expressions applies also to && and is guaranteed by the C++ standard.

[Aug 26, 2019] The Eight Defensive Programmer Strategies

Notable quotes:
"... Never Trust Input. Never trust the data you're given and always validate it. ..."
"... Prevent Errors. If an error is possible, no matter how probable, try to prevent it. ..."
"... Document Assumptions Clearly state the pre-conditions, post-conditions, and invariants. ..."
"... Automate everything, especially testing. ..."
Aug 26, 2019 | www.amazon.com

Originally from: Learn C the Hard Way Practical Exercises on the Computational Subjects You Keep Avoiding (Like C) by Zed Shaw

Once you've adopted this mind-set, you can then rewrite your prototype and follow a set of eight strategies to make your code as solid as possible.

While I work on the real version, I ruthlessly follow these strategies and try to remove as many errors as I can, thinking like someone who wants to break the software.

  1. Never Trust Input. Never trust the data you're given and always validate it.
  2. Prevent Errors. If an error is possible, no matter how probable, try to prevent it.
  3. Fail Early and Openly Fail early, cleanly, and openly, stating what happened, where, and how to fix it.
  4. Document Assumptions Clearly state the pre-conditions, post-conditions, and invariants.
  5. Prevention over Documentation. Don't do with documentation that which can be done with code or avoided completely.
  6. Automate Everything Automate everything, especially testing.
  7. Simplify and Clarify Always simplify the code to the smallest, cleanest form that works without sacrificing safety.
  8. Question Authority Don't blindly follow or reject rules.

These aren't the only strategies, but they're the core things I feel programmers have to focus on when trying to make good, solid code. Notice that I don't really say exactly how to do these. I'll go into each of these in more detail, and some of the exercises will actually cover them extensively.

[Aug 26, 2019] Clean Code in Python General Traits of Good Code

Notable quotes:
"... Different responsibilities should go into different components, layers, or modules of the application. Each part of the program should only be responsible for a part of the functionality (what we call its concerns) and should know nothing about the rest. ..."
"... The goal of separating concerns in software is to enhance maintainability by minimizing ripple effects. A ripple effect means the propagation of a change in the software from a starting point. This could be the case of an error or exception triggering a chain of other exceptions, causing failures that will result in a defect on a remote part of the application. It can also be that we have to change a lot of code scattered through multiple parts of the code base, as a result of a simple change in a function definition. ..."
"... Rule of thumb: Well-defined software will achieve high cohesion and low coupling. ..."
Aug 26, 2019 | www.amazon.com

Separation of concerns

This is a design principle that is applied at multiple levels. It is not just about the low-level design (code), but it is also relevant at a higher level of abstraction, so it will come up later when we talk about architecture.

Different responsibilities should go into different components, layers, or modules of the application. Each part of the program should only be responsible for a part of the functionality (what we call its concerns) and should know nothing about the rest.

The goal of separating concerns in software is to enhance maintainability by minimizing ripple effects. A ripple effect means the propagation of a change in the software from a starting point. This could be the case of an error or exception triggering a chain of other exceptions, causing failures that will result in a defect on a remote part of the application. It can also be that we have to change a lot of code scattered through multiple parts of the code base, as a result of a simple change in a function definition.

Clearly, we do not want these scenarios to happen. The software has to be easy to change. If we have to modify or refactor some part of the code that has to have a minimal impact on the rest of the application, the way to achieve this is through proper encapsulation.

In a similar way, we want any potential errors to be contained so that they don't cause major damage.

This concept is related to the DbC principle in the sense that each concern can be enforced by a contract. When a contract is violated, and an exception is raised as a result of such a violation, we know what part of the program has the failure, and what responsibilities failed to be met.

Despite this similarity, separation of concerns goes further. We normally think of contracts between functions, methods, or classes, and while this also applies to responsibilities that have to be separated, the idea of separation of concerns also applies to Python modules, packages, and basically any software component. Cohesion and coupling

These are important concepts for good software design.

On the one hand, cohesion means that objects should have a small and well-defined purpose, and they should do as little as possible. It follows a similar philosophy as Unix commands that do only one thing and do it well. The more cohesive our objects are, the more useful and reusable they become, making our design better.

On the other hand, coupling refers to the idea of how two or more objects depend on each other. This dependency poses a limitation. If two parts of the code (objects or methods) are too dependent on each other, they bring with them some undesired consequences:

Rule of thumb: Well-defined software will achieve high cohesion and low coupling.

[Aug 26, 2019] Software Development and Professional Practice by John Dooley

Notable quotes:
"... Did the read operation return anything? ..."
"... Did the write operation write anything? ..."
"... Check all values in function/method parameter lists. ..."
"... Are they all the correct type and size? ..."
"... You should always initialize variables and not depend on the system to do the initialization for you. ..."
"... taking the time to make your code readable and have the code layout match the logical structure of your design is essential to writing code that is understandable by humans and that works. Adhering to coding standards and conventions, keeping to a consistent style, and including good, accurate comments will help you immensely during debugging and testing. And it will help you six months from now when you come back and try to figure out what the heck you were thinking here. ..."
Jul 15, 2011 | www.amazon.com
Defensive Programming

By defensive programming we mean that your code should protect itself from bad data. The bad data can come from user input via the command line, a graphical text box or form, or a file. Bad data can also come from other routines in your program via input parameters like in the first example above.

How do you protect your program from bad data? Validate! As tedious as it sounds, you should always check the validity of data that you receive from outside your routine. This means you should check the following

What else should you check for? Well, here's a short list:

As an example, here's a C program that takes in a list of house prices from a file and computes the average house price from the list. The file is provided to the program from the command line.

/*
* program to compute the average selling price of a set of homes.
* Input comes from a file that is passed via the command line.

* Output is the Total and Average sale prices for
* all the homes and the number of prices in the file.
*
* jfdooley
*/
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <stdio.h>

int main(int argc, char **argv)
{
FILE *fp;
double totalPrice, avgPrice;
double price;
int numPrices;

/* check that the user entered the correct number of args */
if (argc < 2) {
fprintf(stderr,"Usage: %s <filename>\n", argv[0]);
exit(1);
}

/* try to open the input file */
fp = fopen(argv[1], "r");
if (fp == NULL) {
fprintf(stderr, "File Not Found: %s\n", argv[1]);
exit(1);
}
totalPrice = 0.0;
numPrices = 0;

while (!feof(fp)) {
fscanf(fp, "%10lf\n", &price);
totalPrice += price;
numPrices++;
}

avgPrice = totalPrice / numPrices;
printf("Number of houses is %d\n", numPrices);
printf("Total Price of all houses is $%10.2f\n", totalPrice);
printf("Average Price per house is $%10.2f\n", avgPrice);

return 0;
}

Assertions Can Be Your Friend

Defensive programming means that using assertions is a great idea if your language supports them. Java, C99, and C++ all support assertions. Assertions will test an expression that you give them and if the expression is false, it will throw an error and normally abort the program . You should use error handling code for errors you think might happen – erroneous user input, for example – and use assertions for errors that should never happen – off by one errors in loops, for example. Assertions are great for testing

your program , but because you should remove them before giving programs to customers (you don't want the program to abort on the user, right?) they aren't good to use to validate input data.

Exceptions and Error Handling

We've talked about using assertions to handle truly bad errors, ones that should never occur in production. But what about handling "normal" errors? Part of defensive programming is to handle errors in such a way that no damage is done to any data in the program or the files it uses, and so that the program stays running for as long as possible (making your program robust).

Let's look at exceptions first. You should take advantage of built-in exception handling in whatever programming language you're using. The exception handling mechanism will give you information about what bad thing has just happened. It's then up to you to decide what to do. Normally in an exception handling mechanism you have two choices, handle the exception yourself, or pass it along to whoever called you and let them handle it. What you do and how you do it depends on the language you're using and the capabilities it gives you. We'll talk about exception handling in Java later.

Error Handling

Just like with validation, you're most likely to encounter errors in input data, whether it's command line input, file handling, or input from a graphical user interface form. Here we're talking about errors that occur at run time. Compile time and testing errors are covered in the next chapter on debugging and testing. Other types of errors can be data that your program computes incorrectly, errors in other programs that interact with your program , the operating system for instance, race conditions, and interaction errors where your program is communicating with another and your program is at fault.

The main purpose of error handling is to have your program survive and run correctly for as long as possible. When it gets to a point where your program cannot continue, it needs to report what is wrong as best as it can and then exit gracefully. Exiting is the last resort for error handling. So what should you do? Well, once again we come to the "it depends" answer. What you should do depends on what your program's context is when the error occurs and what its purpose is. You won't handle an error in a video game the same way you handle one in a cardiac pacemaker. In every case, your first goal should be – try to recover.

Trying to recover from an error will have different meanings in different programs . Recovery means that your program needs to try to either ignore the bad data, fix it, or substitute something else that is valid for the bad data. See McConnell 8 for a further discussion of error handling. Here are a few examples of how to recover from errors,

__________

8 McConnell, 2004.

Exceptions in Java

Some programming languages have built-in error reporting systems that will tell you when an error occurs, and leave it up to you to handle it one way or another. These errors that would normally cause your program to die a horrible death are called exceptions . Exceptions get thrown by the code that encounters the error. Once something is thrown, it's usually a good idea if someone catches it. This is the same with exceptions. So there are two sides to exceptions that you need to be aware of when you're writing code:

Java has three different types of exceptions – checked exceptions, errors, and unchecked exceptions. Checked exceptions are those that you should catch and handle yourself using an exception handler; they are exceptions that you should anticipate and handle as you design and write your code. For example, if your code asks a user for a file name, you should anticipate that they will type it wrong and be prepared to catch the resulting FileNotFoundException . Checked exceptions must be caught.

Errors on the other hand are exceptions that usually are related to things happening outside your program and are things you can't do anything about except fail gracefully. You might try to catch the error exception and provide some output for the user, but you will still usually have to exit.

The third type of exception is the runtime exception . Runtime exceptions all result from problems within your program that occur as it runs and almost always indicate errors in your code. For example, a NullPointerException nearly always indicates a bug in your code and shows up as a runtime exception. Errors and runtime exceptions are collectively called unchecked exceptions (that would be because you usually don't try to catch them, so they're unchecked). In the program below we deliberately cause a runtime exception:

public class TestNull {
public static void main(String[] args) {
String str = null;
int len = str.length();
}
}

This program will compile just fine, but when you run it you'll get this as output:


Exception in thread "main" java.lang.NullPointerException

at TestNull.main(TestNull.java:4)


This is a classic runtime exception. There's no need to catch this exception because the only thing we can do is exit. If we do catch it, the program might look like:

public class TestNullCatch {
public static void main(String[] args) {
String str = null;

try {
int len = str.length();
} catch (NullPointerException e) {
System.out.println("Oops: " + e.getMessage());
System.exit(1);
}
}
}

which gives us the output


Oops: null

Note that the getMessage() method will return a String containing whatever error message Java deems appropriate – if there is one. Otherwise it returns a null . This is somewhat less helpful than the default stack trace above.

Let's rewrite the short C program above in Java and illustrate how to catch a checked exception .

import java.io.*;
import java.util.*;

public class FileTest

public static void main(String [] args)
{
File fd = new File("NotAFile.txt");
System.out.println("File exists " + fd.exists());

try {
FileReader fr = new FileReader(fd);
} catch (FileNotFoundException e) {
System.out.println(e.getMessage());
}
}
}

and the output we get when we execute FileTest is


File exists false

NotAFile.txt (No such file or directory)


By the way, if we don't use the try-catch block in the above program , then it won't compile. We get the compiler error message


FileTestWrong.java:11: unreported exception java.io.FileNotFoundException; must be caught or declared to be thrown

FileReader fr = new FileReader(fd);


^
1 error

Remember, checked exceptions must be caught. This type of error doesn't show up for unchecked exceptions. This is far from everything you should know about exceptions and exception handling in Java; start digging through the Java tutorials and the Java API!

The Last Word on Coding

Coding is the heart of software development. Code is what you produce. But coding is hard; translating even a good, detailed design into code takes a lot of thought, experience, and knowledge, even for small programs . Depending on the programming language you are using and the target system, programming can be a very time-consuming and difficult task.

That's why taking the time to make your code readable and have the code layout match the logical structure of your design is essential to writing code that is understandable by humans and that works. Adhering to coding standards and conventions, keeping to a consistent style, and including good, accurate comments will help you immensely during debugging and testing. And it will help you six months from now when you come back and try to figure out what the heck you were thinking here.

And finally,

I am rarely happier than when spending an entire day programming my computer to perform automatically a task that it would otherwise take me a good ten seconds to do by hand.

-- Douglas Adams, "Last Chance to See"

[Aug 26, 2019] Defensive Programming

Notable quotes:
"... How do you protect your program from bad data? Validate! As tedious as it sounds, you should always check the validity of data that you receive from outside your routine. This means you should check the following ..."
"... Check the number and type of command line arguments. ..."
Aug 26, 2019 | www.amazon.com

Originally from: Software Development and Professional Practice (Expert's Voice in Software Development) John Dooley 9781430238010 Amazon.com

By defensive programming we mean that your code should protect itself from bad data. The bad data can come from user input via the command line, a graphical text box or form, or a file. Bad data can also come from other routines in your program via input parameters like in the first example above.

How do you protect your program from bad data? Validate! As tedious as it sounds, you should always check the validity of data that you receive from outside your routine. This means you should check the following

What else should you check for? Well, here's a short list:

As an example, here's a C program that takes in a list of house prices from a file and computes the average house price from the list. The file is provided to the program from the command line.

/*
* program to compute the average selling price of a set of homes.
* Input comes from a file that is passed via the command line.

* Output is the Total and Average sale prices for
* all the homes and the number of prices in the file.
*
* jfdooley
*/
#include <stdlib.h>
#include <stdio.h>

int main(int argc, char **argv)
{
FILE *fp;
double totalPrice, avgPrice;
double price;
int numPrices;

/* check that the user entered the correct number of args */
if (argc < 2) {
fprintf(stderr,"Usage: %s <filename>\n", argv[0]);
exit(1);
}

/* try to open the input file */
fp = fopen(argv[1], "r");
if (fp == NULL) {
fprintf(stderr, "File Not Found: %s\n", argv[1]);
exit(1);
}
totalPrice = 0.0;
numPrices = 0;

while (!feof(fp)) {
fscanf(fp, "%10lf\n", &price);
totalPrice += price;
numPrices++;
}

avgPrice = totalPrice / numPrices;
printf("Number of houses is %d\n", numPrices);
printf("Total Price of all houses is $%10.2f\n", totalPrice);
printf("Average Price per house is $%10.2f\n", avgPrice);

return 0;
}

Assertions Can Be Your Friend

Defensive programming means that using assertions is a great idea if your language supports them. Java, C99, and C++ all support assertions. Assertions will test an expression that you give them and if the expression is false, it will throw an error and normally abort the program . You should use error handling code for errors you think might happen – erroneous user input, for example – and use assertions for errors that should never happen – off by one errors in loops, for example. Assertions are great for testing

your program , but because you should remove them before giving programs to customers (you don't want the program to abort on the user, right?) they aren't good to use to validate input data.

Exceptions and Error Handling

We've talked about using assertions to handle truly bad errors, ones that should never occur in production. But what about handling "normal" errors? Part of defensive programming is to handle errors in such a way that no damage is done to any data in the program or the files it uses, and so that the program stays running for as long as possible (making your program robust).

Let's look at exceptions first. You should take advantage of built-in exception handling in whatever programming language you're using. The exception handling mechanism will give you information about what bad thing has just happened. It's then up to you to decide what to do. Normally in an exception handling mechanism you have two choices, handle the exception yourself, or pass it along to whoever called you and let them handle it. What you do and how you do it depends on the language you're using and the capabilities it gives you. We'll talk about exception handling in Java later.

Error Handling

Just like with validation, you're most likely to encounter errors in input data, whether it's command line input, file handling, or input from a graphical user interface form. Here we're talking about errors that occur at run time. Compile time and testing errors are covered in the next chapter on debugging and testing. Other types of errors can be data that your program computes incorrectly, errors in other programs that interact with your program , the operating system for instance, race conditions, and interaction errors where your program is communicating with another and your program is at fault.

The main purpose of error handling is to have your program survive and run correctly for as long as possible. When it gets to a point where your program cannot continue, it needs to report what is wrong as best as it can and then exit gracefully. Exiting is the last resort for error handling. So what should you do? Well, once again we come to the "it depends" answer. What you should do depends on what your program's context is when the error occurs and what its purpose is. You won't handle an error in a video game the same way you handle one in a cardiac pacemaker. In every case, your first goal should be – try to recover.

Trying to recover from an error will have different meanings in different programs . Recovery means that your program needs to try to either ignore the bad data, fix it, or substitute something else that is valid for the bad data. See McConnell 8 for a further discussion of error handling. Here are a few examples of how to recover from errors,

__________

8 McConnell, 2004.

[Aug 26, 2019] Defensive programming the good, the bad and the ugly - Enterprise Craftsmanship

Notable quotes:
"... In any case, it's important not to allow those statements to spread across your code base. They contain domain knowledge about what makes data or an operation valid, and thus, should be kept in a single place in order to adhere to the DRY principle . ..."
"... Nulls is another source of bugs in many OO languages due to inability to distinguish nullable and non-nullable reference types. Because of that, many programmers code defensively against them. So much that in many projects almost each public method and constructor is populated by this sort of checks: ..."
"... While defensive programming is a useful technique, make sure you use it properly ..."
"... If you see duplicated pre-conditions, consider extracting them into a separate type. ..."
Aug 26, 2019 | enterprisecraftsmanship.com

Defensive programming: the good, the bad and the ugly

https://platform.twitter.com/widgets/follow_button.097c1f5038f9e8a0d62a39a892838d66.en.html#dnt=false&id=twitter-widget-0&lang=en&screen_name=vkhorikov&show_count=true&show_screen_name=true&size=m&time=1566789278322 In this post, I want to take a closer look at the practice of defensive programming. Defensive programming: pre-conditions

Defensive programming stands for the use of guard statements and assertions in your code base (actually, the definition of defensive programming is inconsistent across different sources, but I'll stick to this one). This technique is designed to ensure code correctness and reduce the number of bugs.

Pre-conditions are one of the most widely spread forms of defensive programming. They guarantee that a method can be executed only when some requirements are met. Here's a typical example:

public void CreateAppointment ( DateTime dateTime)

{

if (dateTime. Date < DateTime . Now . AddDays (1). Date )

throw new ArgumentException ( "Date is too early" );

if (dateTime. Date > DateTime . Now . AddMonths (1). Date )

throw new ArgumentException ( "Date is too late" );

/* Create an appointment */

}

Writing code like this is a good practice as it allows you to quickly react to any unexpected situations, therefore adhering to the fail fast principle .

When implementing guard statements, it's important to make sure you don't repeat them. If you find yourself constantly writing repeating code to perform some validations, it's a strong sign you fall into the trap of primitive obsession . The repeated guard clause can be as simple as checking that some integer falls into the expected range:

public void DoSomething ( int count)

{

if (count < 1 || count > 100)

throw new ArgumentException ( "Invalid count" );

/* Do something */

}

public void DoSomethingElse ( int count)

{

if (count < 1 || count > 100)

throw new ArgumentException ( "Invalid count" );

/* Do something else */

}

Or it can relate to some complex business rule which you might not even be able to verbalize yet.

In any case, it's important not to allow those statements to spread across your code base. They contain domain knowledge about what makes data or an operation valid, and thus, should be kept in a single place in order to adhere to the DRY principle .

The best way to do that is to introduce new abstractions for each piece of such knowledge you see repeated in your code base. In the sample above, you can convert the input parameter from integer into a custom type, like this:

public void DoSomething ( Count count)

{

/* Do something */

}

public void DoSomethingElse ( Count count)

{

/* Do something else */

}

public class Count

{

public int Value { get ; private set ; }

public Count ( int value)

{

if (value < 1 || value > 100)

throw new ArgumentException ( "Invalid count" );

Value = value;

}

}

With properly defined domain concepts, there's no need in duplicating pre-conditions.

Defensive programming: nulls

Nulls is another source of bugs in many OO languages due to inability to distinguish nullable and non-nullable reference types. Because of that, many programmers code defensively against them. So much that in many projects almost each public method and constructor is populated by this sort of checks:

public class Controller

{

public Controller ( ILogger logger, IEmailGateway gateway)

{

if (logger == null )

throw new ArgumentNullException ();

if (gateway == null )

throw new ArgumentNullException ();

/* */

}

public void Process ( User user, Order order)

{

if (user == null )

throw new ArgumentNullException ();

/* */

}

}

It's true that null checks are essential. If allowed to slip through, nulls can lead to obscure errors down the road. But you still can significantly reduce the number of such validations.

Do to that, you would need 2 things. First, define a special Maybe struct which would allow you to distinguish nullable and non-nullable reference types. And secondly, use the Fody.NullGuard library to introduce automatic checks for all input parameters that weren't marked with the Maybe struct.

After that, the code above can be turned into the following one:

public class Controller

{

public Controller ( ILogger logger, IEmailGateway gateway)

{

/* */

}

public void Process ( User user, Maybe < Order > order)

{

/* */

}

}

Note the absence of null checks. The null guard does all the work needed for you.

Defensive programming: assertions

Assertions is another valuable concept. It stands for checking that your assumptions about the code's execution flow are correct by introducing assert statements which would be validated at runtime. In practice, it often means validating output of 3rd party libraries that you use in your project. It's a good idea not to trust such libraries by default and always check that the result they produce falls into some expected range.

An example here can be an official library that works with a social provider, such as Facebook SDK client:

public void Register ( string facebookAccessToken)

{

FacebookResponse response = _facebookSdkClient . GetUser (facebookAccessToken);

if ( string . IsNullOrEmpty (response. Email ))

throw new InvalidOperationException ( "Invalid response from Facebook" );

/* Register the user */

}

public void SignIn ( string facebookAccessToken)

{

FacebookResponse response = _facebookSdkClient . GetUser (facebookAccessToken);

if ( string . IsNullOrEmpty (response. Email ))

throw new InvalidOperationException ( "Invalid response from Facebook" );

/* Sign in the user */

}

public class FacebookResponse // Part of the SDK

{

public string FirstName ;

public string LastName ;

public string Email ;

}

This code sample assumes that Facebook should always return an email for any registered user and validates that assumption by employing an assertion.

Just as with duplicated pre-conditions, identical assertions should not be allowed. The guideline here is to always wrap official 3rd party libraries with your own gateways which would encapsulate all the work with those libraries, including assertions.

In our case, it would look like this:

public void Register ( string facebookAccessToken)

{

UserInfo user = _facebookGateway . GetUser (facebookAccessToken);

/* Register the user */

}

public void SignIn ( string facebookAccessToken)

{

UserInfo user = _facebookGateway . GetUser (facebookAccessToken);

/* Sign in the user */

}

public class FacebookGateway

{

public UserInfo GetUser ( string facebookAccessToken)

{

FacebookResponse response = _facebookSdkClient . GetUser (facebookAccessToken);

if ( string . IsNullOrEmpty (response. Email ))

throw new InvalidOperationException ( "Invalid response from Facebook" );

/* Convert FacebookResponse into UserInfo */

}

}

public class UserInfo // Our own class

{

public Maybe < string > FirstName ;

public Maybe < string > LastName ;

public string Email ;

}

Note that along with the assertion, we also convert the object of type FacebookResponse which is a built-in class from the official SDK to our own UserInfo type. This way, we can be sure that the information about the user always resides in a valid state because we validated and converted it ourselves.

Summary

While defensive programming is a useful technique, make sure you use it properly.

[Jul 23, 2019] Object-Oriented Programming -- The Trillion Dollar Disaster

While OO critique is good (althoth most point are far from new) and up to the point the proposed solution is not. There is no universal opener for creating elegant reliable programs.
Notable quotes:
"... Object-Oriented Programming has been created with one goal in mind -- to manage the complexity of procedural codebases. In other words, it was supposed to improve code organization. There's no objective and open evidence that OOP is better than plain procedural programming. ..."
"... The bitter truth is that OOP fails at the only task it was intended to address. It looks good on paper -- we have clean hierarchies of animals, dogs, humans, etc. However, it falls flat once the complexity of the application starts increasing. Instead of reducing complexity, it encourages promiscuous sharing of mutable state and introduces additional complexity with its numerous design patterns . OOP makes common development practices, like refactoring and testing, needlessly hard. ..."
"... C++ is a horrible [object-oriented] language And limiting your project to C means that people don't screw things up with any idiotic "object model" c&@p. -- Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux ..."
"... Many dislike speed limits on the roads, but they're essential to help prevent people from crashing to death. Similarly, a good programming framework should provide mechanisms that prevent us from doing stupid things. ..."
"... Unfortunately, OOP provides developers too many tools and choices, without imposing the right kinds of limitations. Even though OOP promises to address modularity and improve reusability, it fails to deliver on its promises (more on this later). OOP code encourages the use of shared mutable state, which has been proven to be unsafe time and time again. OOP typically requires a lot of boilerplate code (low signal-to-noise ratio). ..."
Jul 23, 2019 | medium.com

The ultimate goal of every software developer should be to write reliable code. Nothing else matters if the code is buggy and unreliable. And what is the best way to write code that is reliable? Simplicity . Simplicity is the opposite of complexity . Therefore our first and foremost responsibility as software developers should be to reduce code complexity.

Disclaimer

I'll be honest, I'm not a raving fan of object-orientation. Of course, this article is going to be biased. However, I have good reasons to dislike OOP.

I also understand that criticism of OOP is a very sensitive topic -- I will probably offend many readers. However, I'm doing what I think is right. My goal is not to offend, but to raise awareness of the issues that OOP introduces.

I'm not criticizing Alan Kay's OOP -- he is a genius. I wish OOP was implemented the way he designed it. I'm criticizing the modern Java/C# approach to OOP.

I will also admit that I'm angry. Very angry. I think that it is plain wrong that OOP is considered the de-facto standard for code organization by many people, including those in very senior technical positions. It is also wrong that many mainstream languages don't offer any other alternatives to code organization other than OOP.

Hell, I used to struggle a lot myself while working on OOP projects. And I had no single clue why I was struggling this much. Maybe I wasn't good enough? I had to learn a couple more design patterns (I thought)! Eventually, I got completely burned out.

This post sums up my first-hand decade-long journey from Object-Oriented to Functional programming. I've seen it all. Unfortunately, no matter how hard I try, I can no longer find use cases for OOP. I have personally seen OOP projects fail because they become too complex to maintain.


TLDR

Object oriented programs are offered as alternatives to correct ones -- Edsger W. Dijkstra , pioneer of computer science

<img src="https://miro.medium.com/max/1400/1*MTb-Xx5D0H6LUJu_cQ9fMQ.jpeg" width="700" height="467"/>
Photo by Sebastian Herrmann on Unsplash

Object-Oriented Programming has been created with one goal in mind -- to manage the complexity of procedural codebases. In other words, it was supposed to improve code organization. There's no objective and open evidence that OOP is better than plain procedural programming.

The bitter truth is that OOP fails at the only task it was intended to address. It looks good on paper -- we have clean hierarchies of animals, dogs, humans, etc. However, it falls flat once the complexity of the application starts increasing. Instead of reducing complexity, it encourages promiscuous sharing of mutable state and introduces additional complexity with its numerous design patterns . OOP makes common development practices, like refactoring and testing, needlessly hard.

Some might disagree with me, but the truth is that modern OOP has never been properly designed. It never came out of a proper research institution (in contrast with Haskell/FP). I do not consider Xerox or another enterprise to be a "proper research institution". OOP doesn't have decades of rigorous scientific research to back it up. Lambda calculus offers a complete theoretical foundation for Functional Programming. OOP has nothing to match that. OOP mainly "just happened".

Using OOP is seemingly innocent in the short-term, especially on greenfield projects. But what are the long-term consequences of using OOP? OOP is a time bomb, set to explode sometime in the future when the codebase gets big enough.

Projects get delayed, deadlines get missed, developers get burned-out, adding in new features becomes next to impossible. The organization labels the codebase as the "legacy codebase" , and the development team plans a rewrite .

OOP is not natural for the human brain, our thought process is centered around "doing" things -- go for a walk, talk to a friend, eat pizza. Our brains have evolved to do things, not to organize the world into complex hierarchies of abstract objects.

OOP code is non-deterministic -- unlike with functional programming, we're not guaranteed to get the same output given the same inputs. This makes reasoning about the program very hard. As an oversimplified example, the output of 2+2 or calculator.Add(2, 2) mostly is equal to four, but sometimes it might become equal to three, five, and maybe even 1004. The dependencies of the Calculator object might change the result of the computation in subtle, but profound ways.


The Need for a Resilient Framework

I know, this may sound weird, but as programmers, we shouldn't trust ourselves to write reliable code. Personally, I am unable to write good code without a strong framework to base my work on. Yes, there are frameworks that concern themselves with some very particular problems (e.g. Angular or ASP.Net).

I'm not talking about the software frameworks. I'm talking about the more abstract dictionary definition of a framework: "an essential supporting structure " -- frameworks that concern themselves with the more abstract things like code organization and tackling code complexity. Even though Object-Oriented and Functional Programming are both programming paradigms, they're also both very high-level frameworks.

Limiting our choices

C++ is a horrible [object-oriented] language And limiting your project to C means that people don't screw things up with any idiotic "object model" c&@p. -- Linus Torvalds, the creator of Linux

Linus Torvalds is widely known for his open criticism of C++ and OOP. One thing he was 100% right about is limiting programmers in the choices they can make. In fact, the fewer choices programmers have, the more resilient their code becomes. In the quote above, Linus Torvalds highly recommends having a good framework to base our code upon.

<img src="https://miro.medium.com/max/1400/1*ujt2PMrbhCZuGhufoxfr5w.jpeg" width="700" height="465"/>
Photo by specphotops on Unsplash

Many dislike speed limits on the roads, but they're essential to help prevent people from crashing to death. Similarly, a good programming framework should provide mechanisms that prevent us from doing stupid things.

A good programming framework helps us to write reliable code. First and foremost, it should help reduce complexity by providing the following things:

  1. Modularity and reusability
  2. Proper state isolation
  3. High signal-to-noise ratio

Unfortunately, OOP provides developers too many tools and choices, without imposing the right kinds of limitations. Even though OOP promises to address modularity and improve reusability, it fails to deliver on its promises (more on this later). OOP code encourages the use of shared mutable state, which has been proven to be unsafe time and time again. OOP typically requires a lot of boilerplate code (low signal-to-noise ratio).

... ... ...

Messaging

Alan Kay coined the term "Object Oriented Programming" in the 1960s. He had a background in biology and was attempting to make computer programs communicate the same way living cells do.

<img src="https://miro.medium.com/max/1400/1*bzRsnzakR7O4RMbDfEZ1sA.jpeg" width="700" height="467"/>
Photo by Muukii on Unsplash

Alan Kay's big idea was to have independent programs (cells) communicate by sending messages to each other. The state of the independent programs would never be shared with the outside world (encapsulation).

That's it. OOP was never intended to have things like inheritance, polymorphism, the "new" keyword, and the myriad of design patterns.

OOP in its purest form

Erlang is OOP in its purest form. Unlike more mainstream languages, it focuses on the core idea of OOP -- messaging. In Erlang, objects communicate by passing immutable messages between objects.

Is there proof that immutable messages are a superior approach compared to method calls?

Hell yes! Erlang is probably the most reliable language in the world. It powers most of the world's telecom (and hence the internet) infrastructure. Some of the systems written in Erlang have reliability of 99.9999999% (you read that right -- nine nines). Code Complexity

With OOP-inflected programming languages, computer software becomes more verbose, less readable, less descriptive, and harder to modify and maintain.

-- Richard Mansfield

The most important aspect of software development is keeping the code complexity down. Period. None of the fancy features matter if the codebase becomes impossible to maintain. Even 100% test coverage is worth nothing if the codebase becomes too complex and unmaintainable .

What makes the codebase complex? There are many things to consider, but in my opinion, the top offenders are: shared mutable state, erroneous abstractions, and low signal-to-noise ratio (often caused by boilerplate code). All of them are prevalent in OOP.


The Problems of State

<img src="https://miro.medium.com/max/1400/1*1WeuR9OoKyD5EvtT9KjXOA.jpeg" width="700" height="467"/>
Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash

What is state? Simply put, state is any temporary data stored in memory. Think variables or fields/properties in OOP. Imperative programming (including OOP) describes computation in terms of the program state and changes to that state . Declarative (functional) programming describes the desired results instead, and don't specify changes to the state explicitly.

... ... ...

To make the code more efficient, objects are passed not by their value, but by their reference . This is where "dependency injection" falls flat.

Let me explain. Whenever we create an object in OOP, we pass references to its dependencies to the constructor . Those dependencies also have their own internal state. The newly created object happily stores references to those dependencies in its internal state and is then happy to modify them in any way it pleases. And it also passes those references down to anything else it might end up using.

This creates a complex graph of promiscuously shared objects that all end up changing each other's state. This, in turn, causes huge problems since it becomes almost impossible to see what caused the program state to change. Days might be wasted trying to debug such state changes. And you're lucky if you don't have to deal with concurrency (more on this later).

Methods/Properties

The methods or properties that provide access to particular fields are no better than changing the value of a field directly. It doesn't matter whether you mutate an object's state by using a fancy property or method -- the result is the same: mutated state.

Some people say that OOP tries to model the real world. This is simply not true -- OOP has nothing to relate to in the real world. Trying to model programs as objects probably is one of the biggest OOP mistakes.

The real world is not hierarchical

OOP attempts to model everything as a hierarchy of objects. Unfortunately, that is not how things work in the real world. Objects in the real world interact with each other using messages, but they mostly are independent of each other.

Inheritance in the real world

OOP inheritance is not modeled after the real world. The parent object in the real world is unable to change the behavior of child objects at run-time. Even though you inherit your DNA from your parents, they're unable to make changes to your DNA as they please. You do not inherit "behaviors" from your parents, you develop your own behaviors. And you're unable to "override" your parents' behaviors.

The real world has no methods

Does the piece of paper you're writing on have a "write" method ? No! You take an empty piece of paper, pick up a pen, and write some text. You, as a person, don't have a "write" method either -- you make the decision to write some text based on outside events or your internal thoughts.


The Kingdom of Nouns

Objects bind functions and data structures together in indivisible units. I think this is a fundamental error since functions and data structures belong in totally different worlds.

-- Joe Armstrong , creator of Erlang

Objects (or nouns) are at the very core of OOP. A fundamental limitation of OOP is that it forces everything into nouns. And not everything should be modeled as nouns. Operations (functions) should not be modeled as objects. Why are we forced to create a Multiplier class when all we need is a function that multiplies two numbers? Simply have a Multiply function, let data be data and let functions be functions!

In non-OOP languages, doing trivial things like saving data to a file is straightforward -- very similar to how you would describe an action in plain English.

Real-world example, please!

Sure, going back to the painter example, the painter owns a PaintingFactory . He has hired a dedicated BrushManager , ColorManager , a CanvasManager and a MonaLisaProvider . His good friend zombie makes use of a BrainConsumingStrategy . Those objects, in turn, define the following methods: CreatePainting , FindBrush , PickColor , CallMonaLisa , and ConsumeBrainz .

Of course, this is plain stupidity, and could never have happened in the real world. How much unnecessary complexity has been created for the simple act of drawing a painting?

There's no need to invent strange concepts to hold your functions when they're allowed to exist separately from the objects.


Unit Testing
<img src="https://miro.medium.com/max/1400/1*xGn4uGgVyrRAXnqSwTF69w.jpeg" width="700" height="477"/>
Photo by Ani Kolleshi on Unsplash

Automated testing is an important part of the development process and helps tremendously in preventing regressions (i.e. bugs being introduced into existing code). Unit Testing plays a huge role in the process of automated testing.

Some might disagree, but OOP code is notoriously difficult to unit test. Unit Testing assumes testing things in isolation, and to make a method unit-testable:

  1. Its dependencies have to be extracted into a separate class.
  2. Create an interface for the newly created class.
  3. Declare fields to hold the instance of the newly created class.
  4. Make use of a mocking framework to mock the dependencies.
  5. Make use of a dependency-injection framework to inject the dependencies.

How much more complexity has to be created just to make a piece of code testable? How much time was wasted just to make some code testable?

> PS we'd also have to instantiate the entire class in order to test a single method. This will also bring in the code from all of its parent classes.

With OOP, writing tests for legacy code is even harder -- almost impossible. Entire companies have been created ( TypeMock ) around the issue of testing legacy OOP code.

Boilerplate code

Boilerplate code is probably the biggest offender when it comes to the signal-to-noise ratio. Boilerplate code is "noise" that is required to get the program to compile. Boilerplate code takes time to write and makes the codebase less readable because of the added noise.

While "program to an interface, not to an implementation" is the recommended approach in OOP, not everything should become an interface. We'd have to resort to using interfaces in the entire codebase, for the sole purpose of testability. We'd also probably have to make use of dependency injection, which further introduced unnecessary complexity.

Testing private methods

Some people say that private methods shouldn't be tested I tend to disagree, unit testing is called "unit" for a reason -- test small units of code in isolation. Yet testing of private methods in OOP is nearly impossible. We shouldn't be making private methods internal just for the sake of testability.

In order to achieve testability of private methods, they usually have to be extracted into a separate object. This, in turn, introduces unnecessary complexity and boilerplate code.


Refactoring

Refactoring is an important part of a developer's day-to-day job. Ironically, OOP code is notoriously hard to refactor. Refactoring is supposed to make the code less complex, and more maintainable. On the contrary, refactored OOP code becomes significantly more complex -- to make the code testable, we'd have to make use of dependency injection, and create an interface for the refactored class. Even then, refactoring OOP code is really hard without dedicated tools like Resharper.

https://medium.com/media/b557e5152569ad4569e250d2c2ba21b6

In the simple example above, the line count has more than doubled just to extract a single method. Why does refactoring create even more complexity, when the code is being refactored in order to decrease complexity in the first place?

Contrast this to a similar refactor of non-OOP code in JavaScript:

https://medium.com/media/36d6f2f2e78929c6bcd783f12c929f90

The code has literally stayed the same -- we simply moved the isValidInput function to a different file and added a single line to import that function. We've also added _isValidInput to the function signature for the sake of testability.

This is a simple example, but in practice the complexity grows exponentially as the codebase gets bigger.

And that's not all. Refactoring OOP code is extremely risky . Complex dependency graphs and state scattered all over OOP codebase, make it impossible for the human brain to consider all of the potential issues.


The Band-aids
<img src="https://miro.medium.com/max/1400/1*JOtbVvacgu-nH3ZR4mY2Og.jpeg" width="700" height="567"/>
Image source: Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

What do we do when something is not working? It is simple, we only have two options -- throw it away or try fixing it. OOP is something that can't be thrown away easily, millions of developers are trained in OOP. And millions of organizations worldwide are using OOP.

You probably see now that OOP doesn't really work , it makes our code complex and unreliable. And you're not alone! People have been thinking hard for decades trying to address the issues prevalent in OOP code. They've come up with a myriad of design patterns.

Design patterns

OOP provides a set of guidelines that should theoretically allow developers to incrementally build larger and larger systems: SOLID principle, dependency injection, design patterns, and others.

Unfortunately, the design patterns are nothing other than band-aids. They exist solely to address the shortcomings of OOP. A myriad of books has even been written on the topic. They wouldn't have been so bad, had they not been responsible for the introduction of enormous complexity to our codebases.

The problem factory

In fact, it is impossible to write good and maintainable Object-Oriented code.

On one side of the spectrum we have an OOP codebase that is inconsistent and doesn't seem to adhere to any standards. On the other side of the spectrum, we have a tower of over-engineered code, a bunch of erroneous abstractions built one on top of one another. Design patterns are very helpful in building such towers of abstractions.

Soon, adding in new functionality, and even making sense of all the complexity, gets harder and harder. The codebase will be full of things like SimpleBeanFactoryAwareAspectInstanceFactory , AbstractInterceptorDrivenBeanDefinitionDecorator , TransactionAwarePersistenceManagerFactoryProxy or RequestProcessorFactoryFactory .

Precious brainpower has to be wasted trying to understand the tower of abstractions that the developers themselves have created. The absence of structure is in many cases better than having bad structure (if you ask me).

<img src="https://miro.medium.com/max/1400/1*_xDSrTC0F2lke6OYtkRm8g.png" width="700" height="308"/>
Image source: https://www.reddit.com/r/ProgrammerHumor/comments/418x95/theory_vs_reality/

Further reading: FizzBuzzEnterpriseEdition

[Jul 22, 2019] Is Object-Oriented Programming a Trillion Dollar Disaster - Slashdot

Jul 22, 2019 | developers.slashdot.org

Is Object-Oriented Programming a Trillion Dollar Disaster? (medium.com) Posted by EditorDavid on Monday July 22, 2019 @01:04AM from the OOPs dept. Senior full-stack engineer Ilya Suzdalnitski recently published a lively 6,000-word essay calling object-oriented programming "a trillion dollar disaster." Precious time and brainpower are being spent thinking about "abstractions" and "design patterns" instead of solving real-world problems... Object-Oriented Programming (OOP) has been created with one goal in mind -- to manage the complexity of procedural codebases. In other words, it was supposed to improve code organization . There's no objective and open evidence that OOP is better than plain procedural programming ... Instead of reducing complexity, it encourages promiscuous sharing of mutable state and introduces additional complexity with its numerous design patterns . OOP makes common development practices, like refactoring and testing, needlessly hard...

Using OOP is seemingly innocent in the short-term, especially on greenfield projects. But what are the long-term consequences of using OOP? OOP is a time bomb, set to explode sometime in the future when the codebase gets big enough. Projects get delayed, deadlines get missed, developers get burned-out, adding in new features becomes next to impossible . The organization labels the codebase as the " legacy codebase ", and the development team plans a rewrite .... OOP provides developers too many tools and choices, without imposing the right kinds of limitations. Even though OOP promises to address modularity and improve reusability, it fails to deliver on its promises...

I'm not criticizing Alan Kay's OOP -- he is a genius. I wish OOP was implemented the way he designed it. I'm criticizing the modern Java/C# approach to OOP... I think that it is plain wrong that OOP is considered the de-facto standard for code organization by many people, including those in very senior technical positions. It is also wrong that many mainstream languages don't offer any other alternatives to code organization other than OOP.

The essay ultimately blames Java for the popularity of OOP, citing Alan Kay's comment that Java "is the most distressing thing to happen to computing since MS-DOS." It also quotes Linus Torvalds's observation that "limiting your project to C means that people don't screw things up with any idiotic 'object model'."

And it ultimately suggests Functional Programming as a superior alternative, making the following assertions about OOP:

"OOP code encourages the use of shared mutable state, which has been proven to be unsafe time and time again... [E]ncapsulation, in fact, is glorified global state." "OOP typically requires a lot of boilerplate code (low signal-to-noise ratio)." "Some might disagree, but OOP code is notoriously difficult to unit test... [R]efactoring OOP code is really hard without dedicated tools like Resharper." "It is impossible to write good and maintainable Object-Oriented code."

segedunum ( 883035 ) , Monday July 22, 2019 @05:36AM ( #58964224 )

Re:Not Tiresome, Hilariously Hypocritical ( Score: 4 , Informative)
There's no objective and open evidence that OOP is better than plain procedural programming...

...which is followed by the author's subjective opinions about why procedural programming is better than OOP. There's no objective comparison of the pros and cons of OOP vs procedural just a rant about some of OOP's problems.

We start from the point-of-view that OOP has to prove itself. Has it? Has any project or programming exercise ever taken less time because it is object-oriented?

Precious time and brainpower are being spent thinking about "abstractions" and "design patterns" instead of solving real-world problems...

...says the person who took the time to write a 6,000 word rant on "why I hate OOP".

Sadly, that was something you hallucinated. He doesn't say that anywhere.

mfnickster ( 182520 ) , Monday July 22, 2019 @10:54AM ( #58965660 )
Re:Tiresome ( Score: 5 , Interesting)

Inheritance, while not "inherently" bad, is often the wrong solution. See: Why extends is evil [javaworld.com]

Composition is frequently a more appropriate choice. Aaron Hillegass wrote this funny little anecdote in Cocoa Programming for Mac OS X [google.com]:

"Once upon a time, there was a company called Taligent. Taligent was created by IBM and Apple to develop a set of tools and libraries like Cocoa. About the time Taligent reached the peak of its mindshare, I met one of its engineers at a trade show. I asked him to create a simple application for me: A window would appear with a button, and when the button was clicked, the words 'Hello, World!' would appear in a text field. The engineer created a project and started subclassing madly: subclassing the window and the button and the event handler. Then he started generating code: dozens of lines to get the button and the text field onto the window. After 45 minutes, I had to leave. The app still did not work. That day, I knew that the company was doomed. A couple of years later, Taligent quietly closed its doors forever."

Darinbob ( 1142669 ) , Monday July 22, 2019 @03:00AM ( #58963760 )
Re:The issue ( Score: 5 , Insightful)

Almost every programming methodology can be abused by people who really don't know how to program well, or who don't want to. They'll happily create frameworks, implement new development processes, and chart tons of metrics, all while avoiding the work of getting the job done. In some cases the person who writes the most code is the same one who gets the least amount of useful work done.

So, OOP can be misused the same way. Never mind that OOP essentially began very early and has been reimplemented over and over, even before Alan Kay. Ie, files in Unix are essentially an object oriented system. It's just data encapsulation and separating work into manageable modules. That's how it was before anyone ever came up with the dumb name "full-stack developer".

cardpuncher ( 713057 ) , Monday July 22, 2019 @04:06AM ( #58963948 )
Re:The issue ( Score: 5 , Insightful)

As a developer who started in the days of FORTRAN (when it was all-caps), I've watched the rise of OOP with some curiosity. I think there's a general consensus that abstraction and re-usability are good things - they're the reason subroutines exist - the issue is whether they are ends in themselves.

I struggle with the whole concept of "design patterns". There are clearly common themes in software, but there seems to be a great deal of pressure these days to make your implementation fit some pre-defined template rather than thinking about the application's specific needs for state and concurrency. I have seen some rather eccentric consequences of "patternism".

Correctly written, OOP code allows you to encapsulate just the logic you need for a specific task and to make that specific task available in a wide variety of contexts by judicious use of templating and virtual functions that obviate the need for "refactoring". Badly written, OOP code can have as many dangerous side effects and as much opacity as any other kind of code. However, I think the key factor is not the choice of programming paradigm, but the design process. You need to think first about what your code is intended to do and in what circumstances it might be reused. In the context of a larger project, it means identifying commonalities and deciding how best to implement them once. You need to document that design and review it with other interested parties. You need to document the code with clear information about its valid and invalid use. If you've done that, testing should not be a problem.

Some people seem to believe that OOP removes the need for some of that design and documentation. It doesn't and indeed code that you intend to be reused needs *more* design and documentation than the glue that binds it together in any one specific use case. I'm still a firm believer that coding begins with a pencil, not with a keyboard. That's particularly true if you intend to design abstract interfaces that will serve many purposes. In other words, it's more work to do OOP properly, so only do it if the benefits outweigh the costs - and that usually means you not only know your code will be genuinely reusable but will also genuinely be reused.

ImdatS ( 958642 ) , Monday July 22, 2019 @04:43AM ( #58964070 ) Homepage
Re:The issue ( Score: 5 , Insightful)
[...] I'm still a firm believer that coding begins with a pencil, not with a keyboard. [...]

This!
In fact, even more: I'm a firm believer that coding begins with a pencil designing the data model that you want to implement.

Everything else is just code that operates on that data model. Though I agree with most of what you say, I believe the classical "MVC" design-pattern is still valid. And, you know what, there is a reason why it is called "M-V-C": Start with the Model, continue with the View and finalize with the Controller. MVC not only stood for Model-View-Controller but also for the order of the implementation of each.

And preferably, as you stated correctly, "... start with pencil & paper ..."

Rockoon ( 1252108 ) , Monday July 22, 2019 @05:23AM ( #58964192 )
Re:The issue ( Score: 5 , Insightful)
I struggle with the whole concept of "design patterns".

Because design patterns are stupid.

A reasonable programmer can understand reasonable code so long as the data is documented even when the code isnt documented, but will struggle immensely if it were the other way around. Bad programmers create objects for objects sake, and because of that they have to follow so called "design patterns" because no amount of code commenting makes the code easily understandable when its a spaghetti web of interacting "objects" The "design patterns" dont make the code easier the read, just easier to write.

Those OOP fanatics, if they do "document" their code, add comments like "// increment the index" which is useless shit.

The big win of OOP is only in the encapsulation of the data with the code, and great code treats objects like data structures with attached subroutines, not as "objects" , and document the fuck out of the contained data, while more or less letting the code document itself. and keep OO elements to a minimum. As it turns out, OOP is just much more effort than procedural and it rarely pays off to invest that effort, at least for me.

Z00L00K ( 682162 ) , Monday July 22, 2019 @05:14AM ( #58964162 ) Homepage
Re:The issue ( Score: 4 , Insightful)

The problem isn't the object orientation paradigm itself, it's how it's applied.

The big problem in any project is that you have to understand how to break down the final solution into modules that can be developed independently of each other to a large extent and identify the items that are shared. But even when you have items that are apparently identical don't mean that they will be that way in the long run, so shared code may even be dangerous because future developers don't know that by fixing problem A they create problems B, C, D and E.

Futurepower(R) ( 558542 ) writes: < MJennings.USA@NOT_any_of_THISgmail.com > on Monday July 22, 2019 @06:03AM ( #58964326 ) Homepage
Eternal September? ( Score: 4 , Informative)

Eternal September [wikipedia.org]

gweihir ( 88907 ) , Monday July 22, 2019 @07:48AM ( #58964672 )
Re:The issue ( Score: 3 )
Any time you make something easier, you lower the bar as well and now have a pack of idiots that never could have been hired if it weren't for a programming language that stripped out a lot of complexity for them.

Exactly. There are quite a few aspects of writing code that are difficult regardless of language and there the difference in skill and insight really matters.

Joce640k ( 829181 ) , Monday July 22, 2019 @04:14AM ( #58963972 ) Homepage
Re:The issue ( Score: 2 )

OO programming doesn't have any real advantages for small projects.

ImdatS ( 958642 ) , Monday July 22, 2019 @04:36AM ( #58964040 ) Homepage
Re:The issue ( Score: 5 , Insightful)

I have about 35+ years of software development experience, including with procedural, OOP and functional programming languages.

My experience is: The question "is procedural better than OOP or functional?" (or vice-versa) has a single answer: "it depends".

Like in your cases above, I would exactly do the same: use some procedural language that solves my problem quickly and easily.

In large-scale applications, I mostly used OOP (having learned OOP with Smalltalk & Objective-C). I don't like C++ or Java - but that's a matter of personal preference.

I use Python for large-scale scripts or machine learning/AI tasks.

I use Perl for short scripts that need to do a quick task.

Procedural is in fact easier to grasp for beginners as OOP and functional require a different way of thinking. If you start developing software, after a while (when the project gets complex enough) you will probably switch to OOP or functional.

Again, in my opinion neither is better than the other (procedural, OOP or functional). It just depends on the task at hand (and of course on the experience of the software developer).

spazmonkey ( 920425 ) , Monday July 22, 2019 @01:22AM ( #58963430 )
its the way OOP is taught ( Score: 5 , Interesting)

There is nothing inherently wrong with some of the functionality it offers, its the way OOP is abused as a substitute for basic good programming practices. I was helping interns - students from a local CC - deal with idiotic assignments like making a random number generator USING CLASSES, or displaying text to a screen USING CLASSES. Seriously, WTF? A room full of career programmers could not even figure out how you were supposed to do that, much less why. What was worse was a lack of understanding of basic programming skill or even the use of variables, as the kids were being taught EVERY program was to to be assembled solely by sticking together bits of libraries. There was no coding, just hunting for snippets of preexisting code to glue together. Zero idea they could add their own, much less how to do it. OOP isn't the problem, its the idea that it replaces basic programming skills and best practice.

sjames ( 1099 ) , Monday July 22, 2019 @02:30AM ( #58963680 ) Homepage Journal
Re:its the way OOP is taught ( Score: 5 , Interesting)

That and the obsession with absofrackinglutely EVERYTHING just having to be a formally declared object including the while program being an object with a run() method.

Some things actually cry out to be objects, some not so much.Generally, I find that my most readable and maintainable code turns out to be a procedural program that manipulates objects.

Even there, some things just naturally want to be a struct or just an array of values.

The same is true of most ingenious ideas in programming. It's one thing if code is demonstrating a particular idea, but production code is supposed to be there to do work, not grind an academic ax.

For example, slavish adherence to "patterns". They're quite useful for thinking about code and talking about code, but they shouldn't be the end of the discussion. They work better as a starting point. Some programs seem to want patterns to be mixed and matched.

In reality those problems are just cargo cult programming one level higher.

I suspect a lot of that is because too many developers barely grasp programming and never learned to go beyond the patterns they were explicitly taught.

When all you have is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.

bradley13 ( 1118935 ) , Monday July 22, 2019 @02:15AM ( #58963622 ) Homepage
It depends... ( Score: 5 , Insightful)

There are a lot of mediocre programmers who follow the principle "if you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail". They know OOP, so they think that every problem must be solved in an OOP way. In fact, OOP works well when your program needs to deal with relatively simple, real-world objects: the modelling follows naturally. If you are dealing with abstract concepts, or with highly complex real-world objects, then OOP may not be the best paradigm.

In Java, for example, you can program imperatively, by using static methods. The problem is knowing when to break the rules. For example, I am working on a natural language system that is supposed to generate textual answers to user inquiries. What "object" am I supposed to create to do this task? An "Answer" object that generates itself? Yes, that would work, but an imperative, static "generate answer" method makes at least as much sense.

There are different ways of thinking, different ways of modelling a problem. I get tired of the purists who think that OO is the only possible answer. The world is not a nail.

Beechmere ( 538241 ) , Monday July 22, 2019 @02:31AM ( #58963684 )
Class? Object? ( Score: 5 , Interesting)

I'm approaching 60, and I've been coding in COBOL, VB, FORTRAN, REXX, SQL for almost 40 years. I remember seeing Object Oriented Programming being introduced in the 80s, and I went on a course once (paid by work). I remember not understanding the concept of "Classes", and my impression was that the software we were buying was just trying to invent stupid new words for old familiar constructs (eg: Files, Records, Rows, Tables, etc). So I never transitioned away from my reliable mainframe programming platform. I thought the phrase OOP had dies out long ago, along with "Client Server" (whatever that meant). I'm retiring in a few years, and the mainframe will outlive me. Everything else is buggy.

cb88 ( 1410145 ) , Monday July 22, 2019 @03:11AM ( #58963794 )
Going back to Torvald's quote.... ( Score: 5 , Funny)

"limiting your project to C means that people don't screw things up with any idiotic 'object model'."

GTK .... hold by beer... it is not a good argument against OOP languages. But first, lets see how OOP came into place. OOP was designed to provide encapsulation, like components, support reuse and code sharing. It was the next step coming from modules and units, which where better than libraries, as functions and procedures had namespaces, which helped structuring code. OOP is a great idea when writing UI toolkits or similar stuff, as you can as

DrXym ( 126579 ) , Monday July 22, 2019 @04:57AM ( #58964116 )
No ( Score: 3 )

Like all things OO is fine in moderation but it's easy to go completely overboard, decomposing, normalizing, producing enormous inheritance trees. Yes your enormous UML diagram looks impressive, and yes it will be incomprehensible, fragile and horrible to maintain.

That said, it's completely fine in moderation. The same goes for functional programming. Most programmers can wrap their heads around things like functions, closures / lambdas, streams and so on. But if you mean true functional programming then forget it.

As for the kernel's choice to use C, that really boils down to the fact that a kernel needs to be lower level than a typical user land application. It has to do its own memory allocation and other things that were beyond C++ at the time. STL would have been usable, so would new / delete, and exceptions & unwinding. And at that point why even bother? That doesn't mean C is wonderful or doesn't inflict its own pain and bugs on development. But at the time, it was the only sane choice.

[Jul 22, 2019] Almost right

Jul 22, 2019 | developers.slashdot.org
Tough Love ( 215404 ), Monday July 22, 2019 @01:27AM ( #58963442 )

The entire software world is a multi-trillion dollar disaster.

Agile, Waterfall, Oop, fucking Javascript or worse its wannabe spawn of the devil Node. C, C++, Java wankers, did I say wankers? Yes wankers.

IT architects, pundit of the week, carpetbaggers, Aspies, total incompetents moving from job to job, you name it.

Disaster, complete and utter. Anybody who doesn't know this hasn't been paying attention.

About the only bright spot is a few open source projects like Linux Kernel, Postgres, Samba, Squid etc, totally outnumbered by wankers and posers.

[Jul 01, 2019] I worked twenty years in commercial software development including in aviation for UA and while Indian software developers are capable, their corporate culture is completely different as is based on feudal workplace relations of subordinates and management that results with extreme cronyism

Notable quotes:
"... Being powerless within calcifies totalitarian corporate culture ..."
"... ultimately promoted wide spread culture of obscurantism and opportunism what amounts to extreme office politics of covering their own butts often knowing that entire development strategy is flawed, as long as they are not personally blamed or if they in fact benefit by collapse of the project. ..."
"... As I worked side by side and later as project manager with Indian developers I can attest to that culture which while widely spread also among American developers reaches extremes among Indian corporations which infect often are engaged in fraud to be blamed on developers. ..."
Jul 01, 2019 | www.moonofalabama.org
dh-mtl , Jun 30, 2019 3:51:11 PM | 29

@Kalen , Jun 30, 2019 12:58:14 PM | 13

The programmers in India are well capable of writing good software. The difficulty lies in communicating the design requirements for the software. If they do not know in detail how air planes are engineered, they will implement the design to the letter but not to its intent.

I worked twenty years in commercial software development including in aviation for UA and while Indian software developers are capable, their corporate culture is completely different as is based on feudal workplace relations of subordinates and management that results with extreme cronyism, far exceeding that in the US as such relations are not only based on extreme exploitation (few jobs hundreds of qualified candidates) but on personal almost paternal like relations that preclude required independence of judgment and practically eliminates any major critical discussions about efficacy of technological solutions and their risks.

Being powerless within calcifies totalitarian corporate culture facing alternative of hurting family-like relations with bosses' and their feelings, who emotionally and in financial terms committed themselves to certain often wrong solutions dictated more by margins than technological imperatives, ultimately promoted wide spread culture of obscurantism and opportunism what amounts to extreme office politics of covering their own butts often knowing that entire development strategy is flawed, as long as they are not personally blamed or if they in fact benefit by collapse of the project.

As I worked side by side and later as project manager with Indian developers I can attest to that culture which while widely spread also among American developers reaches extremes among Indian corporations which infect often are engaged in fraud to be blamed on developers.

In fact it is shocking contrast with German culture that practically prevents anyone engaging in any project as it is almost always, in its entirety, discussed, analyzed, understood and fully supported by every member of the team, otherwise they often simply refused to work on project citing professional ethics. High quality social welfare state and handsome unemployment benefits definitely supported such ethical stand back them

While what I describe happened over twenty years ago it is still applicable I believe.

[Jun 30, 2019] Design Genius Jony Ive Leaves Apple, Leaving Behind Crapified Products That Cannot Be Repaired naked capitalism

Notable quotes:
"... Honestly, since 2015 feels like Apple wants to abandon it's PC business but just doesn't know how so ..."
"... The new line seems like a valid refresh, but the prices are higher than ever, and remember young people are earning less than ever, so I still think they are looking for a way out of the PC trade, maybe this refresh is to just buy time for an other five years before they close up. ..."
"... I wonder how much those tooling engineers in the US make compared to their Chinese competitors? It seems like a neoliberal virtuous circle: loot/guts education, then find skilled labor from places that still support education, by moving abroad or importing workers, reducing wages and further undermining the local skill base. ..."
"... I sympathize with y'all. It's not uncommon for good products to become less useful and more trouble as the original designers, etc., get arrogant from their success and start to believe that every idea they have is a useful improvement. Not even close. Too much of fixing things that aren't broken and gilding lilies. ..."
Jun 30, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

As iFixit notes :

The iPod, the iPhone, the MacBook Air, the physical Apple Store, even the iconic packaging of Apple products -- these products changed how we view and use their categories, or created new categories, and will be with us a long time.

But the title of that iFixit post, Jony Ive's Fragmented Legacy: Unreliable, Unrepairable, Beautiful Gadgets , makes clear that those beautiful products carried with them considerable costs- above and beyond their high prices. They're unreliable, and difficult to repair.

Ironically. both Jobs and Ive were inspired by Dieter Rams – whom iFixit calls "the legendary industrial designer renowned for functional and simple consumer products." And unlike Apple. Rams believed that good design didn't have to come at the expense of either durability or the environment:

Rams loves durable products that are environmentally friendly. That's one of his 10 principles for good design : "Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment." But Ive has never publicly discussed the dissonance between his inspiration and Apple's disposable, glued-together products. For years, Apple has openly combated green standards that would make products easier to repair and recycle, stating that they need "complete design flexibility" no matter the impact on the environment.

Complete Design Flexibility Spells Environmental Disaster

In fact, that complete design flexibility – at least as practiced by Ive – has resulted in crapified products that are an environmental disaster. Their lack of durability means they must be repaired to be functional, and the lack of repairability means many of these products end up being tossed prematurely – no doubt not a bug, but a feature. As Vice recounts :

But history will not be kind to Ive, to Apple, or to their design choices. While the company popularized the smartphone and minimalistic, sleek, gadget design, it also did things like create brand new screws designed to keep consumers from repairing their iPhones.

Under Ive, Apple began gluing down batteries inside laptops and smartphones (rather than screwing them down) to shave off a fraction of a millimeter at the expense of repairability and sustainability.

It redesigned MacBook Pro keyboards with mechanisms that are, again, a fraction of a millimeter thinner, but that are easily defeated by dust and crumbs (the computer I am typing on right now -- which is six months old -- has a busted spacebar and 'r' key). These keyboards are not easily repairable, even by Apple, and many MacBook Pros have to be completely replaced due to a single key breaking. The iPhone 6 Plus had a design flaw that led to its touch screen spontaneously breaking -- it then told consumers there was no problem for months before ultimately creating a repair program . Meanwhile, Apple's own internal tests showed those flaws . He designed AirPods, which feature an unreplaceable battery that must be physically destroyed in order to open .

Vice also notes that in addition to Apple's products becoming "less modular, less consumer friendly, less upgradable, less repairable, and, at times, less functional than earlier models", Apple's design decisions have not been confined to Apple. Instead, "Ive's influence is obvious in products released by Samsung, HTC, Huawei, and others, which have similarly traded modularity for sleekness."

Right to Repair

As I've written before, Apple is leading opponent of giving consumers a right to repair. Nonetheless, there's been some global progress on this issue (see Global Gains on Right to Repair ). And we've also seen a widening of support in the US for such a right. The issue has arisen in the current presidential campaign, with Elizabeth Warren throwing down the gauntlet by endorsing a right to repair for farm tractors. The New York Times has also taken up the cause more generally (see Right to Repair Initiatives Gain Support in US ). More than twenty states are considering enacting right to repair statutes.


samhill , June 30, 2019 at 5:41 pm

I've been using Apple since 1990, I concur with the article about h/w and add that from Snow Leopard to Sierra the OSX was buggy as anything from the Windows world if not more so. Got better with High Sierra but still not up to the hype. I haven't lived with Mojave. I use Apple out of habit, haven't felt the love from them since Snow Leopard, exactly when they became a cell phone company. People think Apple is Mercedes and PCs are Fords, but for a long time now in practical use, leaving aside the snazzy aesthetics, under the hood it's GM vs Ford. I'm not rich enough to buy a $1500 non-upgradable, non-repairable product so the new T2 protected computers can't be for me.

The new Dell XPS's are tempting, they got the right idea, if you go to their service page you can dl complete service instructions, diagrams, and blow ups. They don't seem at all worried about my hurting myself.

In the last few years PCs offer what before I could only get from Apple; good screen, back lit keyboard, long battery life, trim size.

Honestly, since 2015 feels like Apple wants to abandon it's PC business but just doesn't know how so it's trying to drive off all the old legacy power users, the creative people that actually work hard for their money, exchanging them for rich dilettantes, hedge fund managers, and status seekers – an easier crowd to finally close up shop on.

The new line seems like a valid refresh, but the prices are higher than ever, and remember young people are earning less than ever, so I still think they are looking for a way out of the PC trade, maybe this refresh is to just buy time for an other five years before they close up.

When you start thinking like this about a company you've been loyal to for 30 years something is definitely wrong.

TG , June 30, 2019 at 6:09 pm

The reason that Apple moved the last of its production to China is, quite simply, that China now has basically the entire industrial infrastructure that we used to have. We have been hollowed out, and are now essentially third-world when it comes to industry. The entire integrated supply chain that defines an industrial power, is now gone.

The part about China no longer being a low-wage country is correct. China's wages have been higher than Mexico's for some time. But the part about the skilled workers is a slap in the face.

How can US workers be skilled at manufacturing, when there are no longer any jobs here where they can learn or use those skills?

fdr-fan , June 30, 2019 at 6:10 pm

A thin rectangle isn't more beautiful than a thick rectangle. They're both just rectangles.

Skip Intro , June 30, 2019 at 2:14 pm

I wonder how much those tooling engineers in the US make compared to their Chinese competitors? It seems like a neoliberal virtuous circle: loot/guts education, then find skilled labor from places that still support education, by moving abroad or importing workers, reducing wages and further undermining the local skill base.

EMtz , June 30, 2019 at 4:08 pm

They lost me when they made the iMac so thin it couldn't play a CD – and had the nerve to charge $85 for an Apple player. Bought another brand for $25. I don't care that it's not as pretty. I do care that I had to buy it at all.

I need a new cellphone. You can bet it won't be an iPhone.

John Zelnicker , June 30, 2019 at 4:24 pm

Jerri-Lynn – Indeed, a great article.

Although I have never used an Apple product, I sympathize with y'all. It's not uncommon for good products to become less useful and more trouble as the original designers, etc., get arrogant from their success and start to believe that every idea they have is a useful improvement. Not even close. Too much of fixing things that aren't broken and gilding lilies.

Charles Leseau , June 30, 2019 at 5:13 pm

Worst computer I've ever owned: Apple Macbook Pro, c. 2011 or so.

Died within 2 years, and also more expensive than the desktops I've built since that absolutely crush it in every possible performance metric (and last longer).

Meanwhile, I also still use a $300 Best Buy Toshiba craptop that has now lasted for 8 straight years.

Never again.

Alfred , June 30, 2019 at 5:23 pm

"Beautiful objects" – aye, there's the rub. In point of fact, the goal of industrial design is not to create beautiful objects. It is the goal of the fine arts to create beautiful objects. The goal of design is to create useful things that are easy to use and are effective at their tasks. Some -- including me -- would add to those most basic goals, the additional goals of being safe to use, durable, and easy to repair; perhaps even easy to adapt or suitable for recycling, or conservative of precious materials. The principles of good product design are laid out admirably in the classic book by Donald A. Norman, The Design of Everyday Things (1988). So this book was available to Jony Ive (born 1967) during his entire career (which overlapped almost exactly the wonder years of Postmodernism – and therein lies a clue). It would indeed be astonishing to learn that Ive took no notice of it. Yet Norman's book can be used to show that Ive's Apple violated so many of the principles of good design, so habitually, as to raise the suspicion that the company was not engaged in "product design" at all. The output Apple in the Ive era, I'd say, belongs instead to the realm of so-called "commodity aesthetics," which aims to give manufactured items a sufficiently seductive appearance to induce their purchase – nothing more. Aethetics appears as Dieter Rams's principle 3, as just one (and the only purely commercial) function in his 10; so in a theoretical context that remains ensconced within a genuine, Modernist functionalism. But in the Apple dispensation that single (aesthetic) principle seems to have subsumed the entire design enterprise – precisely as one would expect from "the cultural logic of late capitalism" (hat tip to Mr Jameson). Ive and his staff of formalists were not designing industrial products, or what Norman calls "everyday things," let alone devices; they were aestheticizing products in ways that first, foremost, and almost only enhanced their performance as expressions of a brand. Their eyes turned away from the prosaic prize of functionality to focus instead on the more profitable prize of sales -- to repeat customers, aka the devotees of 'iconic' fetishism. Thus did they serve not the masses but Mammon, and they did so as minions of minimalism. Nor was theirs the minimalism of the Frankfurt kitchen, with its deep roots in ethics and ergonomics. It was only superficially Miesian. Bauhaus-inspired? Oh, please. Only the more careless readers of Tom Wolfe and Wikipedia could believe anything so preposterous. Surely Steve Jobs, he of the featureless black turtleneck by Issey Miyake, knew better. Anyone who has so much as walked by an Apple Store, ever, should know better. And I guess I should know how to write shorter

[Jun 29, 2019] Boeing Outsourced Its 737 MAX Software To $9-Per-Hour Engineers

Jun 29, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

The software at the heart of the Boeing 737 MAX crisis was developed at a time when the company was laying off experienced engineers and replacing them with temporary workers making as little as $9 per hour, according to Bloomberg .

In an effort to cut costs, Boeing was relying on subcontractors making paltry wages to develop and test its software. Often times, these subcontractors would be from countries lacking a deep background in aerospace, like India.

Boeing had recent college graduates working for Indian software developer HCL Technologies Ltd. in a building across from Seattle's Boeing Field, in flight test groups supporting the MAX. The coders from HCL designed to specifications set by Boeing but, according to Mark Rabin, a former Boeing software engineer, "it was controversial because it was far less efficient than Boeing engineers just writing the code."

Rabin said: "...it took many rounds going back and forth because the code was not done correctly."

In addition to cutting costs, the hiring of Indian companies may have landed Boeing orders for the Indian military and commercial aircraft, like a $22 billion order received in January 2017 . That order included 100 737 MAX 8 jets and was Boeing's largest order ever from an Indian airline. India traditionally orders from Airbus.

HCL engineers helped develop and test the 737 MAX's flight display software while employees from another Indian company, Cyient Ltd, handled the software for flight test equipment. In 2011, Boeing named Cyient, then known as Infotech, to a list of its "suppliers of the year".

One HCL employee posted online: "Provided quick workaround to resolve production issue which resulted in not delaying flight test of 737-Max (delay in each flight test will cost very big amount for Boeing) ."

But Boeing says the company didn't rely on engineers from HCL for the Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System, which was linked to both last October's crash and March's crash. The company also says it didn't rely on Indian companies for the cockpit warning light issue that was disclosed after the crashes.

A Boeing spokesperson said: "Boeing has many decades of experience working with supplier/partners around the world. Our primary focus is on always ensuring that our products and services are safe, of the highest quality and comply with all applicable regulations."

HCL, on the other hand, said: "HCL has a strong and long-standing business relationship with The Boeing Company, and we take pride in the work we do for all our customers. However, HCL does not comment on specific work we do for our customers. HCL is not associated with any ongoing issues with 737 Max."

Recent simulator tests run by the FAA indicate that software issues on the 737 MAX run deeper than first thought. Engineers who worked on the plane, which Boeing started developing eight years ago, complained of pressure from managers to limit changes that might introduce extra time or cost.

Rick Ludtke, a former Boeing flight controls engineer laid off in 2017, said: "Boeing was doing all kinds of things, everything you can imagine, to reduce cost , including moving work from Puget Sound, because we'd become very expensive here. All that's very understandable if you think of it from a business perspective. Slowly over time it appears that's eroded the ability for Puget Sound designers to design."

Rabin even recalled an incident where senior software engineers were told they weren't needed because Boeing's productions were mature. Rabin said: "I was shocked that in a room full of a couple hundred mostly senior engineers we were being told that we weren't needed."

Any given jetliner is made up of millions of parts and millions of lines of code. Boeing has often turned over large portions of the work to suppliers and subcontractors that follow its blueprints. But beginning in 2004 with the 787 Dreamliner, Boeing sought to increase profits by providing high-level specs and then asking suppliers to design more parts themselves.

Boeing also promised to invest $1.7 billion in Indian companies as a result of an $11 billion order in 2005 from Air India. This investment helped HCL and other software developers.

For the 787, HCL offered a price to Boeing that they couldn't refuse, either: free. HCL "took no up-front payments on the 787 and only started collecting payments based on sales years later".

Rockwell Collins won the MAX contract for cockpit displays and relied in part on HCL engineers and contract engineers from Cyient to test flight test equipment.

Charles LoveJoy, a former flight-test instrumentation design engineer at the company, said: "We did have our challenges with the India team. They met the requirements, per se, but you could do it better."


Anonymous IX , 2 minutes ago link

I love it. A company which fell in love so much with their extraordinary profits that they sabatoged their design and will now suffer enormous financial consequences. They're lucky to have all their defense/military contracts.

scraping_by , 4 minutes ago link

Oftentimes, it's the cut-and-paste code that's the problem. If you don't have a good appreciation for what every line does, you're never going to know what the sub or entire program does.

vienna_proxy , 7 minutes ago link

hahahaha non-technical managers making design decisions are complete **** ups wherever they go and here it blew up in their faces rofl

Ignorance is bliss , 2 minutes ago link

I see this all the time, and a lot of the time these non-technical decision makers are women.

hispanicLoser , 13 minutes ago link

By 2002 i could not sit down with any developers without hearing at least one story about how they had been in a code review meeting and seen absolute garbage turned out by H-1B workers.

Lots of people have known about this problem for many years now.

brazilian , 11 minutes ago link

May the gods damn all financial managers! One of the two professions, along with bankers, which have absolutely no social value whatsoever. There should be open hunting season on both!

scraping_by , 15 minutes ago link

Shifting to high-level specs puts more power in the hands of management/accounting types, since it doesn't require engineering knowledge to track a deadline. Indeed, this whole story is the wet dream of business school, the idea of being able to accomplish technical tasks purely by demand. A lot of public schools teach kids science is magic so when they grow up, the think they can just give directions and technology appears.

pops , 20 minutes ago link

In this country, one must have a license from the FAA to work on commercial aircraft. That means training and certification that usually results in higher pay for those qualified to perform the repairs to the aircraft your family will fly on.

In case you're not aware, much of the heavy stuff like D checks (overhaul) have been outsourced by the airlines to foreign countries where the FAA has nothing to say about it. Those contractors can hire whoever they wish for whatever they'll accept. I have worked with some of those "mechanics" who cannot even read.

Keep that in mind next time the TSA perv is fondling your junk. That might be your last sexual encounter.

Klassenfeind , 22 minutes ago link

Boeing Outsourced Its 737 MAX Software To $9-Per-Hour Engineers

Long live the free market, right Tylers?

You ZH guys always rally against minimum wage here, well there you go: $9/hr aircraft 'engineers!' Happy now?

asteroids , 25 minutes ago link

You gotta be kidding. You let kids straight out of school write mission critical code? How ******* stupid are you BA?

reader2010 , 20 minutes ago link

Go to India. There are many outsourcing companies that only hire new college graduates for work and they are paid less than $2 an hour for the job.

For the DoD contractors, they have to bring them to the US to work. There are tons of H1B guys from India working for defense contractors.

[Jun 29, 2019] Hiring aircraft computer engineers at $9/hr by Boeing is a great idea. Who could argue with smart cost saving?

Jun 29, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

Anonymous IX , 3 minutes ago link

I love it. A company which fell in love so much with their extraordinary profits that they sabatoged their design and will now suffer enormous financial consequences. They're lucky to have all their defense/military contracts.

[Jun 29, 2019] If you have to be told that H-1B code in critical aircraft software might be not reliable you are too stupid to live

Jun 29, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

hispanicLoser , 25 minutes ago link

If you have to be told that H-1B code in aircraft software is not reliable you are too stupid to live.

zob2020 , 16 minutes ago link

Or this online shop designed back in 1997. It was supposed to take over all internet shopping that didn't really exist back then yet. And they used Indian doctors to code. Well sure they ended up with a site... but one so heavy with pictures it took 30min to open one page, another 20min to even click on a product to read its text etc-. This with good university internet.

Unsurprisingly i don't think they ever managed to sell anything. But they gave out free movie tickets to every registered customer... so me & friend each registered some 80 accounts and went to free movies for a good bit over a year.

mailman must have had fun delivering 160 letters to random names in the same student apartment :D

[Jun 26, 2019] The Individual Costs of Occupational Decline

Jun 26, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Yves here. You have to read a bit into this article on occupational decline, aka, "What happens to me after the robots take my job?" to realize that the authors studied Swedish workers. One has to think that the findings would be more pronounced in the US, due both to pronounced regional and urban/rural variations, as well as the weakness of social institutions in the US. While there may be small cities in Sweden that have been hit hard by the decline of a key employer, I don't have the impression that Sweden has areas that have suffered the way our Rust Belt has. Similarly, in the US, a significant amount of hiring starts with resume reviews with the job requirements overspecified because the employer intends to hire someone who has done the same job somewhere else and hence needs no training (which in practice is an illusion; how companies do things is always idiosyncratic and new hires face a learning curve). On top of that, many positions are filled via personal networks, not formal recruiting. Some studies have concluded that having a large network of weak ties is more helpful in landing a new post than fewer close connections. It's easier to know a lot of people casually in a society with strong community institutions.

The article does not provide much in the way of remedies; it hints at "let them eat training" when programs have proven to be ineffective. One approach would be aggressive enforcement of laws against age discrimination. And even though some readers dislike a Job Guarantee, not only would it enable people who wanted to work to keep working, but private sector employers are particularly loath to employ someone who has been out of work for more than six months, so a Job Guarantee post would also help keep someone who'd lost a job from looking like damaged goods.

By Per-Anders Edin, Professor of Industrial Relations, Uppsala University; Tiernan Evans, Economics MRes/PhD Candidate, LSE; Georg Graetz, Assistant Professor in the Department of Economics, Uppsala University; Sofia Hernnäs, PhD student, Department of Economics, Uppsala University; Guy Michaels,Associate Professor in the Department of Economics, LSE. Originally published at VoxEU

As new technologies replace human labour in a growing number of tasks, employment in some occupations invariably falls. This column compares outcomes for similar workers in similar occupations over 28 years to explore the consequences of large declines in occupational employment for workers' careers. While mean losses in earnings and employment for those initially working in occupations that later declined are relatively moderate, low-earners lose significantly more.

How costly is it for workers when demand for their occupation declines? As new technologies replace human labour in a growing number of tasks, employment in some occupations invariably falls. Until recently, technological change mostly automated routine production and clerical work (Autor et al. 2003). But machines' capabilities are expanding, as recent developments include self-driving vehicles and software that outperforms professionals in some tasks. Debates on the labour market implications of these new technologies are ongoing (e.g. Brynjolfsson and McAfee 2014, Acemoglu and Restrepo 2018). But in these debates, it is important to ask not only "Will robots take my job?", but also "What would happen to my career if robots took my job?"

Much is at stake. Occupational decline may hurt workers and their families, and may also have broader consequences for economic inequality, education, taxation, and redistribution. If it exacerbates differences in outcomes between economic winners and losers, populist forces may gain further momentum (Dal Bo et al. 2019).

In a new paper (Edin et al. 2019) we explore the consequences of large declines in occupational employment for workers' careers. We assemble a dataset with forecasts of occupational employment changes that allow us to identify unanticipated declines, population-level administrative data spanning several decades, and a highly detailed occupational classification. These data allow us to compare outcomes for similar workers who perform similar tasks and have similar expectations of future occupational employment trajectories, but experience different actual occupational changes.

Our approach is distinct from previous work that contrasts career outcomes of routine and non-routine workers (e.g. Cortes 2016), since we compare workers who perform similar tasks and whose careers would likely have followed similar paths were it not for occupational decline. Our work is also distinct from studies of mass layoffs (e.g. Jacobson et al. 1993), since workers who experience occupational decline may take action before losing their jobs.

In our analysis, we follow individual workers' careers for almost 30 years, and we find that workers in declining occupations lose on average 2-5% of cumulative earnings, compared to other similar workers. Workers with low initial earnings (relative to others in their occupations) lose more – about 8-11% of mean cumulative earnings. These earnings losses reflect both lost years of employment and lower earnings conditional on employment; some of the employment losses are due to increased time spent in unemployment and retraining, and low earners spend more time in both unemployment and retraining.

Estimating the Consequences of Occupational Decline

We begin by assembling data from the Occupational Outlook Handbooks (OOH), published by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, which cover more than 400 occupations. In our main analysis we define occupations as declining if their employment fell by at least 25% from 1984-2016, although we show that our results are robust to using other cutoffs. The OOH also provides information on technological change affecting each occupation, and forecasts of employment over time. Using these data, we can separate technologically driven declines, and also unanticipated declines. Occupations that declined include typesetters, drafters, proof readers, and various machine operators.

We then match the OOH data to detailed Swedish occupations. This allows us to study the consequences of occupational decline for workers who, in 1985, worked in occupations that declined over the subsequent decades. We verify that occupations that declined in the US also declined in Sweden, and that the employment forecasts that the BLS made for the US have predictive power for employment changes in Sweden.

Detailed administrative micro-data, which cover all Swedish workers, allow us to address two potential concerns for identifying the consequences of occupational decline: that workers in declining occupations may have differed from other workers, and that declining occupations may have differed even in absence of occupational decline. To address the first concern, about individual sorting, we control for gender, age, education, and location, as well as 1985 earnings. Once we control for these characteristics, we find that workers in declining occupations were no different from others in terms of their cognitive and non-cognitive test scores and their parents' schooling and earnings. To address the second concern, about occupational differences, we control for occupational earnings profiles (calculated using the 1985 data), the BLS forecasts, and other occupational and industry characteristics.

Assessing the losses and how their incidence varied

We find that prime age workers (those aged 25-36 in 1985) who were exposed to occupational decline lost about 2-6 months of employment over 28 years, compared to similar workers whose occupations did not decline. The higher end of the range refers to our comparison between similar workers, while the lower end of the range compares similar workers in similar occupations. The employment loss corresponds to around 1-2% of mean cumulative employment. The corresponding earnings losses were larger, and amounted to around 2-5% of mean cumulative earnings. These mean losses may seem moderate given the large occupational declines, but the average outcomes do not tell the full story. The bottom third of earners in each occupation fared worse, losing around 8-11% of mean earnings when their occupations declined.

The earnings and employment losses that we document reflect increased time spent in unemployment and government-sponsored retraining – more so for workers with low initial earnings. We also find that older workers who faced occupational decline retired a little earlier.

We also find that workers in occupations that declined after 1985 were less likely to remain in their starting occupation. It is quite likely that this reduced supply to declining occupations contributed to mitigating the losses of the workers that remained there.

We show that our main findings are essentially unchanged when we restrict our analysis to technology-related occupational declines.

Further, our finding that mean earnings and employment losses from occupational decline are small is not unique to Sweden. We find similar results using a smaller panel dataset on US workers, using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1979.

Theoretical implications

Our paper also considers the implications of our findings for Roy's (1951) model, which is a workhorse model for labour economists. We show that the frictionless Roy model predicts that losses are increasing in initial occupational earnings rank, under a wide variety of assumptions about the skill distribution. This prediction is inconsistent with our finding that the largest earnings losses from occupational decline are incurred by those who earned the least. To reconcile our findings, we add frictions to the model: we assume that workers who earn little in one occupation incur larger time costs searching for jobs or retraining if they try to move occupations. This extension of the model, especially when coupled with the addition of involuntary job displacement, allows us to reconcile several of our empirical findings.

Conclusions

There is a vivid academic and public debate on whether we should fear the takeover of human jobs by machines. New technologies may replace not only factory and office workers but also drivers and some professional occupations. Our paper compares similar workers in similar occupations over 28 years. We show that although mean losses in earnings and employment for those initially working in occupations that later declined are relatively moderate (2-5% of earnings and 1-2% of employment), low-earners lose significantly more.

The losses that we find from occupational decline are smaller than those suffered by workers who experience mass layoffs, as reported in the existing literature. Because the occupational decline we study took years or even decades, its costs for individual workers were likely mitigated through retirements, reduced entry into declining occupations, and increased job-to-job exits to other occupations. Compared to large, sudden shocks, such as plant closures, the decline we study may also have a less pronounced impact on local economies.

While the losses we find are on average moderate, there are several reasons why future occupational decline may have adverse impacts. First, while we study unanticipated declines, the declines were nevertheless fairly gradual. Costs may be larger for sudden shocks following, for example, a quick evolution of machine learning. Second, the occupational decline that we study mainly affected low- and middle-skilled occupations, which require less human capital investment than those that may be impacted in the future. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, our findings show that low-earning individuals are already suffering considerable (pre-tax) earnings losses, even in Sweden, where institutions are geared towards mitigating those losses and facilitating occupational transitions. Helping these workers stay productive when they face occupational decline remains an important challenge for governments.

Please see original post for references

[May 17, 2019] Shareholder Capitalism, the Military, and the Beginning of the End for Boeing

Highly recommended!
Notable quotes:
"... Like many of its Wall Street counterparts, Boeing also used complexity as a mechanism to obfuscate and conceal activity that is incompetent, nefarious and/or harmful to not only the corporation itself but to society as a whole (instead of complexity being a benign byproduct of a move up the technology curve). ..."
"... The economists who built on Friedman's work, along with increasingly aggressive institutional investors, devised solutions to ensure the primacy of enhancing shareholder value, via the advocacy of hostile takeovers, the promotion of massive stock buybacks or repurchases (which increased the stock value), higher dividend payouts and, most importantly, the introduction of stock-based pay for top executives in order to align their interests to those of the shareholders. These ideas were influenced by the idea that corporate efficiency and profitability were impinged upon by archaic regulation and unionization, which, according to the theory, precluded the ability to compete globally. ..."
"... "Return on Net Assets" (RONA) forms a key part of the shareholder capitalism doctrine. ..."
"... If the choice is between putting a million bucks into new factory machinery or returning it to shareholders, say, via dividend payments, the latter is the optimal way to go because in theory it means higher net returns accruing to the shareholders (as the "owners" of the company), implicitly assuming that they can make better use of that money than the company itself can. ..."
"... It is an absurd conceit to believe that a dilettante portfolio manager is in a better position than an aviation engineer to gauge whether corporate investment in fixed assets will generate productivity gains well north of the expected return for the cash distributed to the shareholders. But such is the perverse fantasy embedded in the myth of shareholder capitalism ..."
"... When real engineering clashes with financial engineering, the damage takes the form of a geographically disparate and demoralized workforce: The factory-floor denominator goes down. Workers' wages are depressed, testing and quality assurance are curtailed. ..."
May 17, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the corresponding end of the Soviet Empire gave the fullest impetus imaginable to the forces of globalized capitalism, and correspondingly unfettered access to the world's cheapest labor. What was not to like about that? It afforded multinational corporations vastly expanded opportunities to fatten their profit margins and increase the bottom line with seemingly no risk posed to their business model.

Or so it appeared. In 2000, aerospace engineer L.J. Hart-Smith's remarkable paper, sardonically titled "Out-Sourced Profits – The Cornerstone of Successful Subcontracting," laid out the case against several business practices of Hart-Smith's previous employer, McDonnell Douglas, which had incautiously ridden the wave of outsourcing when it merged with the author's new employer, Boeing. Hart-Smith's intention in telling his story was a cautionary one for the newly combined Boeing, lest it follow its then recent acquisition down the same disastrous path.

Of the manifold points and issues identified by Hart-Smith, there is one that stands out as the most compelling in terms of understanding the current crisis enveloping Boeing: The embrace of the metric "Return on Net Assets" (RONA). When combined with the relentless pursuit of cost reduction (via offshoring), RONA taken to the extreme can undermine overall safety standards.

Related to this problem is the intentional and unnecessary use of complexity as an instrument of propaganda. Like many of its Wall Street counterparts, Boeing also used complexity as a mechanism to obfuscate and conceal activity that is incompetent, nefarious and/or harmful to not only the corporation itself but to society as a whole (instead of complexity being a benign byproduct of a move up the technology curve).

All of these pernicious concepts are branches of the same poisoned tree: " shareholder capitalism ":

[A] notion best epitomized by Milton Friedman that the only social responsibility of a corporation is to increase its profits, laying the groundwork for the idea that shareholders, being the owners and the main risk-bearing participants, ought therefore to receive the biggest rewards. Profits therefore should be generated first and foremost with a view toward maximizing the interests of shareholders, not the executives or managers who (according to the theory) were spending too much of their time, and the shareholders' money, worrying about employees, customers, and the community at large. The economists who built on Friedman's work, along with increasingly aggressive institutional investors, devised solutions to ensure the primacy of enhancing shareholder value, via the advocacy of hostile takeovers, the promotion of massive stock buybacks or repurchases (which increased the stock value), higher dividend payouts and, most importantly, the introduction of stock-based pay for top executives in order to align their interests to those of the shareholders. These ideas were influenced by the idea that corporate efficiency and profitability were impinged upon by archaic regulation and unionization, which, according to the theory, precluded the ability to compete globally.

"Return on Net Assets" (RONA) forms a key part of the shareholder capitalism doctrine. In essence, it means maximizing the returns of those dollars deployed in the operation of the business. Applied to a corporation, it comes down to this: If the choice is between putting a million bucks into new factory machinery or returning it to shareholders, say, via dividend payments, the latter is the optimal way to go because in theory it means higher net returns accruing to the shareholders (as the "owners" of the company), implicitly assuming that they can make better use of that money than the company itself can.

It is an absurd conceit to believe that a dilettante portfolio manager is in a better position than an aviation engineer to gauge whether corporate investment in fixed assets will generate productivity gains well north of the expected return for the cash distributed to the shareholders. But such is the perverse fantasy embedded in the myth of shareholder capitalism.

Engineering reality, however, is far more complicated than what is outlined in university MBA textbooks. For corporations like McDonnell Douglas, for example, RONA was used not as a way to prioritize new investment in the corporation but rather to justify disinvestment in the corporation. This disinvestment ultimately degraded the company's underlying profitability and the quality of its planes (which is one of the reasons the Pentagon helped to broker the merger with Boeing; in another perverse echo of the 2008 financial disaster, it was a politically engineered bailout).

RONA in Practice

When real engineering clashes with financial engineering, the damage takes the form of a geographically disparate and demoralized workforce: The factory-floor denominator goes down. Workers' wages are depressed, testing and quality assurance are curtailed. Productivity is diminished, even as labor-saving technologies are introduced. Precision machinery is sold off and replaced by inferior, but cheaper, machines. Engineering quality deteriorates. And the upshot is that a reliable plane like Boeing's 737, which had been a tried and true money-spinner with an impressive safety record since 1967, becomes a high-tech death trap.

The drive toward efficiency is translated into a drive to do more with less. Get more out of workers while paying them less. Make more parts with fewer machines. Outsourcing is viewed as a way to release capital by transferring investment from skilled domestic human capital to offshore entities not imbued with the same talents, corporate culture and dedication to quality. The benefits to the bottom line are temporary; the long-term pathologies become embedded as the company's market share begins to shrink, as the airlines search for less shoddy alternatives.

You must do one more thing if you are a Boeing director: you must erect barriers to bad news, because there is nothing that bursts a magic bubble faster than reality, particularly if it's bad reality.

The illusion that Boeing sought to perpetuate was that it continued to produce the same thing it had produced for decades: namely, a safe, reliable, quality airplane. But it was doing so with a production apparatus that was stripped, for cost reasons, of many of the means necessary to make good aircraft. So while the wine still came in a bottle signifying Premier Cru quality, and still carried the same price, someone had poured out the contents and replaced them with cheap plonk.

And that has become remarkably easy to do in aviation. Because Boeing is no longer subject to proper independent regulatory scrutiny. This is what happens when you're allowed to " self-certify" your own airplane , as the Washington Post described: "One Boeing engineer would conduct a test of a particular system on the Max 8, while another Boeing engineer would act as the FAA's representative, signing on behalf of the U.S. government that the technology complied with federal safety regulations."

This is a recipe for disaster. Boeing relentlessly cut costs, it outsourced across the globe to workforces that knew nothing about aviation or aviation's safety culture. It sent things everywhere on one criteria and one criteria only: lower the denominator. Make it the same, but cheaper. And then self-certify the plane, so that nobody, including the FAA, was ever the wiser.

Boeing also greased the wheels in Washington to ensure the continuation of this convenient state of regulatory affairs for the company. According to OpenSecrets.org , Boeing and its affiliates spent $15,120,000 in lobbying expenses in 2018, after spending, $16,740,000 in 2017 (along with a further $4,551,078 in 2018 political contributions, which placed the company 82nd out of a total of 19,087 contributors). Looking back at these figures over the past four elections (congressional and presidential) since 2012, these numbers represent fairly typical spending sums for the company.

But clever financial engineering, extensive political lobbying and self-certification can't perpetually hold back the effects of shoddy engineering. One of the sad byproducts of the FAA's acquiescence to "self-certification" is how many things fall through the cracks so easily.

[May 05, 2019] Does America Have an Economy or Any Sense of Reality by Paul Craig Roberts

Notable quotes:
"... We are having a propaganda barrage about the great Trump economy. We have been hearing about the great economy for a decade while the labor force participation rate declined, real family incomes stagnated, and debt burdens rose. The economy has been great only for large equity owners whose stock ownership benefited from the trillions of dollars the Fed poured into financial markets and from buy-backs by corporations of their own stocks. ..."
"... Federal Reserve data reports that a large percentage of the younger work force live at home with parents, because the jobs available to them are insufficient to pay for an independent existence. How then can the real estate, home furnishings, and appliance markets be strong? ..."
"... In contrast, Robotics, instead of displacing labor, eliminates it. Unlike jobs offshoring which shifted jobs from the US to China, robotics will cause jobs losses in both countries. If consumer incomes fall, then demand for output also falls, and output will fall. Robotics, then, is a way to shrink gross domestic product. ..."
"... The tech nerds and corporations who cannot wait for robotics to reduce labor cost in their profits calculation are incapable of understanding that when masses of people are without jobs, there is no consumer income with which to purchase the products of robots. The robots themselves do not need housing, food, clothing, entertainment, transportation, and medical care. The mega-rich owners of the robots cannot possibly consume the robotic output. An economy without consumers is a profitless economy. ..."
"... A country incapable of dealing with real problems has no future. ..."
May 02, 2019 | www.unz.com

We are having a propaganda barrage about the great Trump economy. We have been hearing about the great economy for a decade while the labor force participation rate declined, real family incomes stagnated, and debt burdens rose. The economy has been great only for large equity owners whose stock ownership benefited from the trillions of dollars the Fed poured into financial markets and from buy-backs by corporations of their own stocks.

I have pointed out for years that the jobs reports are fabrications and that the jobs that do exist are lowly paid domestic service jobs such as waitresses and bartenders and health care and social assistance. What has kept the American economy going is the expansion of consumer debt, not higher pay from higher productivity. The reported low unemployment rate is obtained by not counting discouraged workers who have given up on finding a job.

Do you remember all the corporate money that the Trump tax cut was supposed to bring back to America for investment? It was all BS. Yesterday I read reports that Apple is losing its trillion dollar market valuation because Apple is using its profits to buy back its own stock. In other words, the demand for Apple's products does not justify more investment. Therefore, the best use of the profit is to repurchase the equity shares, thus shrinking Apple's capitalization. The great economy does not include expanding demand for Apple's products.

I read also of endless store and mall closings, losses falsely attributed to online purchasing, which only accounts for a small percentage of sales.

Federal Reserve data reports that a large percentage of the younger work force live at home with parents, because the jobs available to them are insufficient to pay for an independent existence. How then can the real estate, home furnishings, and appliance markets be strong?

When a couple of decades ago I first wrote of the danger of jobs offshoring to the American middle class, state and local government budgets, and pension funds, idiot critics raised the charge of Luddite.

The Luddites were wrong. Mechanization raised the productivity of labor and real wages, but jobs offshoring shifts jobs from the domestic economy to abroad. Domestic labor is displaced, but overseas labor gets the jobs, thus boosting jobs there. In other words, labor income declines in the country that loses jobs and rises in the country to which the jobs are offshored. This is the way American corporations spurred the economic development of China. It was due to jobs offshoring that China developed far more rapidly than the CIA expected.

In contrast, Robotics, instead of displacing labor, eliminates it. Unlike jobs offshoring which shifted jobs from the US to China, robotics will cause jobs losses in both countries. If consumer incomes fall, then demand for output also falls, and output will fall. Robotics, then, is a way to shrink gross domestic product.

The tech nerds and corporations who cannot wait for robotics to reduce labor cost in their profits calculation are incapable of understanding that when masses of people are without jobs, there is no consumer income with which to purchase the products of robots. The robots themselves do not need housing, food, clothing, entertainment, transportation, and medical care. The mega-rich owners of the robots cannot possibly consume the robotic output. An economy without consumers is a profitless economy.

One would think that there would be a great deal of discussion about the economic effects of robotics before the problems are upon us, just as one would think there would be enormous concern about the high tensions Washington has caused between the US and Russia and China, just as one would think there would be preparations for the adverse economic consequences of global warming, whatever the cause. Instead, the US, a country facing many crises, is focused on whether President Trump obstructed investigation of a crime that the special prosecutor said did not take place.

A country incapable of dealing with real problems has no future.

[Apr 28, 2019] AI is software. Software bugs. Software doesn't autocorrect bugs. Men correct bugs. A bugging self-driving car leads its passengers to death. A man driving a car can steer away from death

Apr 28, 2019 | www.unz.com

Vojkan , April 27, 2019 at 7:42 am GMT

The infatuation with AI makes people overlook three AI's built-in glitches. AI is software. Software bugs. Software doesn't autocorrect bugs. Men correct bugs. A bugging self-driving car leads its passengers to death. A man driving a car can steer away from death. Humans love to behave in erratic ways, it is just impossible to program AI to respond to all possible erratic human behaviour. Therefore, instead of adapting AI to humans, humans will be forced to adapt to AI, and relinquish a lot of their liberty as humans. Humans have moral qualms (not everybody is Hillary Clinton), AI being strictly utilitarian, will necessarily be "psychopathic".

In short AI is the promise of communism raised by several orders of magnitude. Welcome to the "Brave New World".

Digital Samizdat , says: April 27, 2019 at 11:42 am GMT

@Vojkan You've raised some interesting objections, Vojkan. But here are a few quibbles:

1) AI is software. Software bugs. Software doesn't autocorrect bugs. Men correct bugs. A bugging self-driving car leads its passengers to death. A man driving a car can steer away from death.

Learn to code! Seriously, until and unless the AI devices acquire actual power over their human masters (as in The Matrix ), this is not as big a problem as you think. You simply test the device over and over and over until the bugs are discovered and worked out -- in other words, we just keep on doing what we've always done with software: alpha, beta, etc.

2) Humans love to behave in erratic ways, it is just impossible to program AI to respond to all possible erratic human behaviour. Therefore, instead of adapting AI to humans, humans will be forced to adapt to AI, and relinquish a lot of their liberty as humans.

There's probably some truth to that. This reminds me of the old Marshall McCluhan saying that "the medium is the message," and that we were all going to adapt our mode of cognition (somewhat) to the TV or the internet, or whatever. Yeah, to some extent that has happened. But to some extent, that probably happened way back when people first began domesticating horses and riding them. Human beings are 'programmed', as it were, to adapt to their environments to some extent, and to condition their reactions on the actions of other things/creatures in their environment.

However, I think you may be underestimating the potential to create interfaces that allow AI to interact with a human in much more complex ways, such as how another human would interact with human: sublte visual cues, pheromones, etc. That, in fact, was the essence of the old Turing Test, which is still the Holy Grail of AI:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing_test

3) Humans have moral qualms (not everybody is Hillary Clinton), AI being strictly utilitarian, will necessarily be "psychopathic".

I don't see why AI devices can't have some moral principles -- or at least moral biases -- programmed into them. Isaac Asimov didn't think this was impossible either:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Laws_of_Robotics

reiner Tor , says: April 27, 2019 at 11:47 am GMT
@Digital Samizdat

You simply test the device over and over and over until the bugs are discovered and worked out -- in other words, we just keep on doing what we've always done with software: alpha, beta, etc.

Some bugs stay dormant for decades. I've seen one up close.

Digital Samizdat , says: April 27, 2019 at 11:57 am GMT
@reiner Tor

Well, you fix it whenever you find it!

That's a problem as old as programming; in fact, it's a problem as old as engineering itself. It's nothing new.

reiner Tor , says: April 27, 2019 at 12:11 pm GMT
@Digital Samizdat

What's new with AI is the amount of damage a faulty software multiplied many times over can do. My experience was pretty horrible (I was one of the two humans overseeing the system, but it was a pretty horrifying experience), but if the system was fully autonomous, it'd have driven my employer bankrupt.

Now I'm not against using AI in any form whatsoever; I also think that it's inevitable anyway. I'd support AI driving cars or flying planes, because they are likely safer than humans, though it's of course changing a manageable risk for a very small probability tail risk. But I'm pretty worried about AI in general.

[Mar 13, 2019] Pilots Complained About Boeing 737 Max 8 For Months Before Second Deadly Crash

Mar 13, 2019 | www.zerohedge.com

Several Pilots repeatedly warned federal authorities of safety concerns over the now-grounded Boeing 737 Max 8 for months leading up to the second deadly disaster involving the plane, according to an investigation by the Dallas Morning News . One captain even called the Max 8's flight manual " inadequate and almost criminally insufficient ," according to the report.

" The fact that this airplane requires such jury-rigging to fly is a red flag. Now we know the systems employed are error-prone -- even if the pilots aren't sure what those systems are, what redundancies are in place and failure modes. I am left to wonder: what else don't I know?" wrote the captain.

At least five complaints about the Boeing jet were found in a federal database which pilots routinely use to report aviation incidents without fear of repercussions.

The complaints are about the safety mechanism cited in preliminary reports for an October plane crash in Indonesia that killed 189.

The disclosures found by The News reference problems during flights of Boeing 737 Max 8s with an autopilot system during takeoff and nose-down situations while trying to gain altitude. While records show these flights occurred during October and November, information regarding which airlines the pilots were flying for at the time is redacted from the database. - Dallas Morning News

One captain who flies the Max 8 said in November that it was "unconscionable" that Boeing and federal authorities have allowed pilots to fly the plane without adequate training - including a failure to fully disclose how its systems were distinctly different from other planes.

An FAA spokesman said the reporting system is directly filed to NASA, which serves as an neutral third party in the reporting of grievances.

"The FAA analyzes these reports along with other safety data gathered through programs the FAA administers directly, including the Aviation Safety Action Program, which includes all of the major airlines including Southwest and American," said FAA southwest regional spokesman Lynn Lunsford.

Meanwhile, despite several airlines and foreign countries grounding the Max 8, US regulators have so far declined to follow suit. They have, however, mandated that Boeing upgrade the plane's software by April.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who chairs a Senate subcommittee overseeing aviation, called for the grounding of the Max 8 in a Thursday statement.

"Further investigation may reveal that mechanical issues were not the cause, but until that time, our first priority must be the safety of the flying public," said Cruz.

At least 18 carriers -- including American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, the two largest U.S. carriers flying the 737 Max 8 -- have also declined to ground planes , saying they are confident in the safety and "airworthiness" of their fleets. American and Southwest have 24 and 34 of the aircraft in their fleets, respectively. - Dallas Morning News

The United States should be leading the world in aviation safety," said Transport Workers Union president John Samuelsen. " And yet, because of the lust for profit in the American aviation, we're still flying planes that dozens of other countries and airlines have now said need to grounded ." Tags Disaster Accident

[Mar 13, 2019] Boeing's automatic trim for the 737 MAX was not disclosed to the Pilots by Bjorn Fehrm

The background to Boeing's 737 MAX automatic trim
Mar 13, 2019 | leehamnews.com

The automatic trim we described last week has a name, MCAS, or Maneuvering Characteristics Automation System.

It's unique to the MAX because the 737 MAX no longer has the docile pitch characteristics of the 737NG at high Angles Of Attack (AOA). This is caused by the larger engine nacelles covering the higher bypass LEAP-1B engines.

The nacelles for the MAX are larger and placed higher and further forward of the wing, Figure 1.

Figure 1. Boeing 737NG (left) and MAX (right) nacelles compared. Source: Boeing 737 MAX brochure.

By placing the nacelle further forward of the wing, it could be placed higher. Combined with a higher nose landing gear, which raises the nacelle further, the same ground clearance could be achieved for the nacelle as for the 737NG.

The drawback of a larger nacelle, placed further forward, is it destabilizes the aircraft in pitch. All objects on an aircraft placed ahead of the Center of Gravity (the line in Figure 2, around which the aircraft moves in pitch) will contribute to destabilize the aircraft in pitch.

... ... ...

The 737 is a classical flight control aircraft. It relies on a naturally stable base aircraft for its flight control design, augmented in selected areas. Once such area is the artificial yaw damping, present on virtually all larger aircraft (to stop passengers getting sick from the aircraft's natural tendency to Dutch Roll = Wagging its tail).

Until the MAX, there was no need for artificial aids in pitch. Once the aircraft entered a stall, there were several actions described last week which assisted the pilot to exit the stall. But not in normal flight.

The larger nacelles, called for by the higher bypass LEAP-1B engines, changed this. When flying at normal angles of attack (3° at cruise and say 5° in a turn) the destabilizing effect of the larger engines are not felt.

The nacelles are designed to not generate lift in normal flight. It would generate unnecessary drag as the aspect ratio of an engine nacelle is lousy. The aircraft designer focuses the lift to the high aspect ratio wings.

But if the pilot for whatever reason manoeuvres the aircraft hard, generating an angle of attack close to the stall angle of around 14°, the previously neutral engine nacelle generates lift. A lift which is felt by the aircraft as a pitch up moment (as its ahead of the CG line), now stronger than on the 737NG. This destabilizes the MAX in pitch at higher Angles Of Attack (AOA). The most difficult situation is when the maneuver has a high pitch ratio. The aircraft's inertia can then provoke an over-swing into stall AOA.

To counter the MAX's lower stability margins at high AOA, Boeing introduced MCAS. Dependent on AOA value and rate, altitude (air density) and Mach (changed flow conditions) the MCAS, which is a software loop in the Flight Control computer, initiates a nose down trim above a threshold AOA.

It can be stopped by the Pilot counter-trimming on the Yoke or by him hitting the CUTOUT switches on the center pedestal. It's not stopped by the Pilot pulling the Yoke, which for normal trim from the autopilot or runaway manual trim triggers trim hold sensors. This would negate why MCAS was implemented, the Pilot pulling so hard on the Yoke that the aircraft is flying close to stall.

It's probably this counterintuitive characteristic, which goes against what has been trained many times in the simulator for unwanted autopilot trim or manual trim runaway, which has confused the pilots of JT610. They learned that holding against the trim stopped the nose down, and then they could take action, like counter-trimming or outright CUTOUT the trim servo. But it didn't. After a 10 second trim to a 2.5° nose down stabilizer position, the trimming started again despite the Pilots pulling against it. The faulty high AOA signal was still present.

How should they know that pulling on the Yoke didn't stop the trim? It was described nowhere; neither in the aircraft's manual, the AFM, nor in the Pilot's manual, the FCOM. This has created strong reactions from airlines with the 737 MAX on the flight line and their Pilots. They have learned the NG and the MAX flies the same. They fly them interchangeably during the week.

They do fly the same as long as no fault appears. Then there are differences, and the Pilots should have been informed about the differences.

  1. Bruce Levitt
    November 14, 2018
    In figure 2 it shows the same center of gravity for the NG as the Max. I find this a bit surprising as I would have expected that mounting heavy engines further forward would have cause a shift forward in the center of gravity that would not have been offset by the longer tailcone, which I'm assuming is relatively light even with APU installed.

    Based on what is coming out about the automatic trim, Boeing must be counting its lucky stars that this incident happened to Lion Air and not to an American aircraft. If this had happened in the US, I'm pretty sure the fleet would have been grounded by the FAA and the class action lawyers would be lined up outside the door to get their many pounds of flesh.

    This is quite the wake-up call for Boeing.

    • OV-099
      November 14, 2018
      If the FAA is not going to comprehensively review the certification for the 737 MAX, I would not be surprised if EASA would start taking a closer look at the aircraft and why the FAA seemingly missed the seemingly inadequate testing of the automatic trim when they decided to certified the 737 MAX 8. Reply
      • Doubting Thomas
        November 16, 2018
        One wonders if there are any OTHER goodies in the new/improved/yet identical handling latest iteration of this old bird that Boeing did not disclose so that pilots need not be retrained.
        EASA & FAA likely already are asking some pointed questions and will want to verify any statements made by the manufacturer.
        Depending on the answers pilot training requirements are likely to change materially.
    • jbeeko
      November 14, 2018
      CG will vary based on loading. I'd guess the line is the rear-most allowed CG.
    • ahmed
      November 18, 2018
      hi dears
      I think that even the pilot didnt knew about the MCAS ; this case can be corrected by only applying the boeing check list (QRH) stabilizer runaway.
      the pilot when they noticed that stabilizer are trimming without a knewn input ( from pilot or from Auto pilot ) ; shout put the cut out sw in the off position according to QRH. Reply
      • TransWorld
        November 19, 2018
        Please note that the first actions pulling back on the yoke to stop it.

        Also keep in mind the aircraft is screaming stall and the stick shaker is activated.

        Pulling back on the yoke in that case is the WRONG thing to do if you are stalled.

        The Pilot has to then determine which system is lading.

        At the same time its chaning its behavior from previous training, every 5 seconds, it does it again.

        There also was another issue taking place at the same time.

        So now you have two systems lying to you, one that is actively trying to kill you.

        If the Pitot static system is broken, you also have several key instruments feeding you bad data (VSI, altitude and speed)

    • TransWorld
      November 14, 2018
      Grubbie: I can partly answer that.

      Pilots are trained to immediately deal with emergency issues (engine loss etc)

      Then there is a follow up detailed instructions for follow on actions (if any).

      Simulators are wonderful things because you can train lethal scenes without lethal results.

      In this case, with NO pilot training let alone in the manuals, pilots have to either be really quick in the situation or you get the result you do. Some are better at it than others (Sullenbergers along with other aspects elected to turn on his APU even though it was not part of the engine out checklist)

      The other one was to ditch, too many pilots try to turn back even though we are trained not to.

      What I can tell you from personal expereince is having got myself into a spin without any training, I was locked up logic wise (panic) as suddenly nothing was working the way it should.

      I was lucky I was high enough and my brain kicked back into cold logic mode and I knew the counter to a spin from reading)

      Another 500 feet and I would not be here to post.

      While I did parts of the spin recovery wrong, fortunately in that aircraft it did not care, right rudder was enough to stop it.

      Reply
  1. OV-099
    November 14, 2018
    It's starting to look as if Boeing will not be able to just pay victims' relatives in the form of "condolence money", without admitting liability. Reply
    • Dukeofurl
      November 14, 2018
      Im pretty sure, even though its an Indonesian Airline, any whiff of fault with the plane itself will have lawyers taking Boeing on in US courts.
  1. Tech-guru
    November 14, 2018
    Astonishing to say the least. It is quite unlike Boeing. They are normally very good in the documentation and training. It makes everyone wonder how such vital change on the MAX aircraft was omitted from books as weel as in crew training.
    Your explanation is very good as to why you need this damn MCAS. But can you also tell us how just one faulty sensor can trigger this MCAS. In all other Boeing models like B777, the two AOA sensor signals are compared with a calculated AOA and choose the mid value within the ADIRU. It eliminates a drastic mistake of following a wrong sensor input.
    • Bjorn Fehrm
      November 14, 2018
      Hi Tech-Gury,

      it's not sure it's a one sensor fault. One sensor was changed amid information there was a 20 degree diff between the two sides. But then it happened again. I think we might be informed something else is at the root of this, which could also trip such a plausibility check you mention. We just don't know. What we know is the MCAS function was triggered without the aircraft being close to stall.

      Reply
      • Matthew
        November 14, 2018
        If it's certain that the MCAS was doing unhelpful things, that coupled with the fact that no one was telling pilots anything about it suggests to me that this is already effectively an open-and-shut case so far as liability, regulatory remedies are concerned.

        The tecnical root cause is also important, but probably irrelevant so far as estbalishing the ultimate reason behind the crash.

        Reply

[Mar 13, 2019] Boeing Crapification Second 737 Max Plane Within Five Months Crashes Just After Takeoff

Notable quotes:
"... The key point I want to pick up on from that earlier post is this: the Boeing 737 Max includes a new "safety" feature about which the company failed to inform the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). ..."
"... Boeing Co. withheld information about potential hazards associated with a new flight-control feature suspected of playing a role in last month's fatal Lion Air jet crash, according to safety experts involved in the investigation, as well as midlevel FAA officials and airline pilots. ..."
"... Notice that phrase: "under unusual conditions". Seems now that the pilots of two of these jets may have encountered such unusual conditions since October. ..."
"... Why did Boeing neglect to tell the FAA – or, for that matter, other airlines or regulatory authorities – about the changes to the 737 Max? Well, the airline marketed the new jet as not needing pilots to undergo any additional training in order to fly it. ..."
"... In addition to considerable potential huge legal liability, from both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes, Boeing also faces the commercial consequences of grounding some if not all 737 Max 8 'planes currently in service – temporarily? indefinitely? -and loss or at minimum delay of all future sales of this aircraft model. ..."
"... If this tragedy had happened on an aircraft of another manufacturer other than big Boeing, the fleet would already have been grounded by the FAA. The arrogance of engineers both at Airbus and Boeing, who refuse to give the pilots easy means to regain immediate and full authority over the plane (pitch and power) is just appalling. ..."
"... Boeing has made significant inroads in China with its 737 MAX family. A dozen Chinese airlines have ordered 180 of the planes, and 76 of them have been delivered, according Boeing. About 85% of Boeing's unfilled Chinese airline orders are for 737 MAX planes. ..."
"... "It's pretty asinine for them to put a system on an airplane and not tell the pilots who are operating the airplane, especially when it deals with flight controls," Captain Mike Michaelis, chairman of the safety committee for the Allied Pilots Association, told the Wall Street Journal. ..."
"... The aircraft company concealed the new system and minimized the differences between the MAX and other versions of the 737 to boost sales. On the Boeing website, the company claims that airlines can save "millions of dollars" by purchasing the new plane "because of its commonality" with previous versions of the plane. ..."
"... "Years of experience representing hundreds of victims has revealed a common thread through most air disaster cases," said Charles Herrmann the principle of Herrmann Law. "Generating profit in a fiercely competitive market too often involves cutting safety measures. In this case, Boeing cut training and completely eliminated instructions and warnings on a new system. Pilots didn't even know it existed. I can't blame so many pilots for being mad as hell." ..."
"... The Air France Airbus disaster was jumped on – Boeing's traditional hydraulic links between the sticks for the two pilots ensuring they move in tandem; the supposed comments by Captain Sully that the Airbus software didn't allow him to hit the water at the optimal angle he wanted, causing the rear rupture in the fuselage both showed the inferiority of fly-by-wire until Boeing started using it too. (Sully has taken issue with the book making the above point and concludes fly-by-wire is a "mixed blessing".) ..."
"... Money over people. ..."
Mar 13, 2019 | www.nakedcapitalism.com

Posted on March 11, 2019 by Jerri-Lynn Scofield By Jerri-Lynn Scofield, who has worked as a securities lawyer and a derivatives trader. She is currently writing a book about textile artisans.

Yesterday, an Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed minutes after takeoff, killing all 157 passengers on board.

The crash occurred less than five months after a Lion Air jet crashed near Jakarta, Indonesia, also shortly after takeoff, and killed all 189 passengers.

Both jets were Boeing's latest 737 Max 8 model.

The Wall Street Journal reports in Ethiopian Crash Carries High Stakes for Boeing, Growing African Airline :

The state-owned airline is among the early operators of Boeing's new 737 MAX single-aisle workhorse aircraft, which has been delivered to carriers around the world since 2017. The 737 MAX represents about two-thirds of Boeing's future deliveries and an estimated 40% of its profits, according to analysts.

Having delivered 350 of the 737 MAX planes as of January, Boeing has booked orders for about 5,000 more, many to airlines in fast-growing emerging markets around the world.

The voice and data recorders for the doomed flight have already been recovered, the New York Times reported in Ethiopian Airline Crash Updates: Data and Voice Recorders Recovered . Investigators will soon be able to determine whether the same factors that caused the Lion Air crash also caused the latest Ethiopian Airlines tragedy.

Boeing, Crapification, Two 737 Max Crashes Within Five Months

Yves wrote a post in November, Boeing, Crapification, and the Lion Air Crash , analyzing a devastating Wall Street Journal report on that earlier crash. I will not repeat the details of her post here, but instead encourage interested readers to read it iin full.

The key point I want to pick up on from that earlier post is this: the Boeing 737 Max includes a new "safety" feature about which the company failed to inform the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). As Yves wrote:

The short version of the story is that Boeing had implemented a new "safety" feature that operated even when its plane was being flown manually, that if it went into a stall, it would lower the nose suddenly to pick airspeed and fly normally again. However, Boeing didn't tell its buyers or even the FAA about this new goodie. It wasn't in pilot training or even the manuals. But even worse, this new control could force the nose down so far that it would be impossible not to crash the plane. And no, I am not making this up. From the Wall Street Journal:

Boeing Co. withheld information about potential hazards associated with a new flight-control feature suspected of playing a role in last month's fatal Lion Air jet crash, according to safety experts involved in the investigation, as well as midlevel FAA officials and airline pilots.

The automated stall-prevention system on Boeing 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 models -- intended to help cockpit crews avoid mistakenly raising a plane's nose dangerously high -- under unusual conditions can push it down unexpectedly and so strongly that flight crews can't pull it back up. Such a scenario, Boeing told airlines in a world-wide safety bulletin roughly a week after the accident, can result in a steep dive or crash -- even if pilots are manually flying the jetliner and don't expect flight-control computers to kick in.

Notice that phrase: "under unusual conditions". Seems now that the pilots of two of these jets may have encountered such unusual conditions since October.

Why did Boeing neglect to tell the FAA – or, for that matter, other airlines or regulatory authorities – about the changes to the 737 Max? Well, the airline marketed the new jet as not needing pilots to undergo any additional training in order to fly it.

I see. Why Were 737 Max Jets Still in Service? Today, Boeing executives no doubt rue not pulling all 737 Max 8 jets out of service after the October Lion Air crash, to allow their engineers and engineering safety regulators to make necessary changes in the 'plane's design or to develop new training protocols.

In addition to considerable potential huge legal liability, from both the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines crashes, Boeing also faces the commercial consequences of grounding some if not all 737 Max 8 'planes currently in service – temporarily? indefinitely? -and loss or at minimum delay of all future sales of this aircraft model.

Over to Yves again, who in her November post cut to the crux:

And why haven't the planes been taken out of service? As one Wall Street Journal reader put it:

If this tragedy had happened on an aircraft of another manufacturer other than big Boeing, the fleet would already have been grounded by the FAA. The arrogance of engineers both at Airbus and Boeing, who refuse to give the pilots easy means to regain immediate and full authority over the plane (pitch and power) is just appalling.

Accident and incident records abound where the automation has been a major contributing factor or precursor. Knowing our friends at Boeing, it is highly probable that they will steer the investigation towards maintenance deficiencies as primary cause of the accident

In the wake of the Ethiopian Airlines crash, other countries have not waited for the FAA to act. China and Indonesia, as well as Ethiopian Airlines and Cayman Airways, have grounded flights of all Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, the Guardian reported in Ethiopian Airlines crash: Boeing faces safety questions over 737 Max 8 jets . The FT has called the Chinese and Indonesian actions an "unparalleled flight ban" (see China and Indonesia ground Boeing 737 Max 8 jets after latest crash ). India's air regulator has also issued new rules covering flights of the 737 Max aircraft, requiring pilots to have a minimum of 1,000 hours experience to fly these 'planes, according to a report in the Economic Times, DGCA issues additional safety instructions for flying B737 MAX planes.

Future of Boeing?

The commercial consequences of grounding the 737 Max in China alone are significant, according to this CNN account, Why grounding 737 MAX jets is a big deal for Boeing . The 737 Max is Boeing's most important plane; China is also the company's major market:

"A suspension in China is very significant, as this is a major market for Boeing," said Greg Waldron, Asia managing editor at aviation research firm FlightGlobal.

Boeing has predicted that China will soon become the world's first trillion-dollar market for jets. By 2037, Boeing estimates China will need 7,690 commercial jets to meet its travel demands.

Airbus (EADSF) and Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China, or Comac, are vying with Boeing for the vast and rapidly growing Chinese market.

Comac's first plane, designed to compete with the single-aisle Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A320, made its first test flight in 2017. It is not yet ready for commercial service, but Boeing can't afford any missteps.

Boeing has made significant inroads in China with its 737 MAX family. A dozen Chinese airlines have ordered 180 of the planes, and 76 of them have been delivered, according Boeing. About 85% of Boeing's unfilled Chinese airline orders are for 737 MAX planes.

The 737 has been Boeing's bestselling product for decades. The company's future depends on the success the 737 MAX, the newest version of the jet. Boeing has 4,700 unfilled orders for 737s, representing 80% of Boeing's orders backlog. Virtually all 737 orders are for MAX versions.

As of the time of posting, US airlines have yet to ground their 737 Max 8 fleets. American Airlines, Alaska Air, Southwest Airlines, and United Airlines have ordered a combined 548 of the new 737 jets, of which 65 have been delivered, according to CNN.

Legal Liability?

Prior to Sunday's Ethiopian Airlines crash, Boeing already faced considerable potential legal liability for the October Lion Air crash. Just last Thursday, the Hermann Law Group of personal injury lawyers filed suit against Boeing on behalf of the families of 17 Indonesian passengers who died in that crash.

The Families of Lion Air Crash File Lawsuit Against Boeing – News Release did not mince words;

"It's pretty asinine for them to put a system on an airplane and not tell the pilots who are operating the airplane, especially when it deals with flight controls," Captain Mike Michaelis, chairman of the safety committee for the Allied Pilots Association, told the Wall Street Journal.

The president of the pilots union at Southwest Airlines, Jon Weaks, said, "We're pissed that Boeing didn't tell the companies, and the pilots didn't get notice."

The aircraft company concealed the new system and minimized the differences between the MAX and other versions of the 737 to boost sales. On the Boeing website, the company claims that airlines can save "millions of dollars" by purchasing the new plane "because of its commonality" with previous versions of the plane.

"Years of experience representing hundreds of victims has revealed a common thread through most air disaster cases," said Charles Herrmann the principle of Herrmann Law. "Generating profit in a fiercely competitive market too often involves cutting safety measures. In this case, Boeing cut training and completely eliminated instructions and warnings on a new system. Pilots didn't even know it existed. I can't blame so many pilots for being mad as hell."

Additionally, the complaint alleges the United States Federal Aviation Administration is partially culpable for negligently certifying Boeing's Air Flight Manual without requiring adequate instruction and training on the new system. Canadian and Brazilian authorities did require additional training.

What's Next?

The consequences for Boeing could be serious and will depend on what the flight and voice data recorders reveal. I also am curious as to what additional flight training or instructions, if any, the Ethiopian Airlines pilots received, either before or after the Lion Air crash, whether from Boeing, an air safety regulator, or any other source.


el_tel , March 11, 2019 at 5:04 pm

Of course we shouldn't engage in speculation, but we will anyway 'cause we're human. If fly-by-wire and the ability of software to over-ride pilots are indeed implicated in the 737 Max 8 then you can bet the Airbus cheer-leaders on YouTube videos will engage in huge Schaudenfreude.

I really shouldn't even look at comments to YouTube videos – it's bad for my blood pressure. But I occasionally dip into the swamp on ones in areas like airlines. Of course – as you'd expect – you get a large amount of "flag waving" between Europeans and Americans. But the level of hatred and suspiciously similar comments by the "if it ain't Boeing I ain't going" brigade struck me as in a whole new league long before the "SJW" troll wars regarding things like Captain Marvel etc of today.

The Air France Airbus disaster was jumped on – Boeing's traditional hydraulic links between the sticks for the two pilots ensuring they move in tandem; the supposed comments by Captain Sully that the Airbus software didn't allow him to hit the water at the optimal angle he wanted, causing the rear rupture in the fuselage both showed the inferiority of fly-by-wire until Boeing started using it too. (Sully has taken issue with the book making the above point and concludes fly-by-wire is a "mixed blessing".)

I'm going to try to steer clear of my YouTube channels on airlines. Hopefully NC will continue to provide the real evidence as it emerges as to what's been going on here.

Monty , March 11, 2019 at 7:14 pm

Re SJW troll wars.

It is really disheartening how an idea as reasonable as "a just society" has been so thoroughly discredited among a large swath of the population.

No wonder there is such a wide interest in primitive construction and technology on YouTube. This society is very sick and it is nice to pretend there is a way to opt out.

none , March 11, 2019 at 8:17 pm

The version I heard (today, on Reddit) was "if it's Boeing, I'm not going". Hadn't seen the opposite version to just now.

Octopii , March 12, 2019 at 5:19 pm

Nobody is going to provide real evidence but the NTSB.

albert , March 12, 2019 at 6:44 pm

Indeed. The NTSB usually works with local investigation teams (as well as a manufacturers rep) if the manufacturer is located in the US, or if specifically requested by the local authorities. I'd like to see their report. I don't care what the FAA or Boeing says about it.
. .. . .. -- .

d , March 12, 2019 at 5:58 pm

fly by wire has been around the 90s, its not new

notabanker , March 11, 2019 at 6:37 pm

Contains a link to a Seattle Times report as a "comprehensive wrap":
Speaking before China's announcement, Cox, who previously served as the top safety official for the Air Line Pilots Association, said it's premature to think of grounding the 737 MAX fleet.

"We don't know anything yet. We don't have close to sufficient information to consider grounding the planes," he said. "That would create economic pressure on a number of the airlines that's unjustified at this point.

China has grounded them . US? Must not create undue economic pressure on the airlines. Right there in black and white. Money over people.

Joey , March 11, 2019 at 11:13 pm

I just emailed southwest about an upcoming flight asking about my choices for refusal to board MAX 8/9 planes based on this "feature". I expect pro forma policy recitation, but customer pressure could trump too big to fail sweeping the dirt under the carpet. I hope.

Thuto , March 12, 2019 at 3:35 am

We got the "safety of our customers is our top priority and we are remaining vigilant and are in touch with Boeing and the Civial Aviation Authority on this matter but will not be grounding the aircraft model until further information on the crash becomes available" speech from a local airline here in South Africa. It didn't take half a day for customer pressure to effect a swift reversal of that blatant disregard for their "top priority", the model is grounded so yeah, customer muscle flexing will do it

Jessica , March 12, 2019 at 5:26 am

On PPRUNE.ORG (where a lot of pilots hang out), they reported that after the Lion Air crash, Southwest added an extra display (to indicate when the two angle of attack sensors were disagreeing with each other) that the folks on PPRUNE thought was an extremely good idea and effective.
Of course, if the Ethiopian crash was due to something different from the Lion Air crash, that extra display on the Southwest planes may not make any difference.

JerryDenim , March 12, 2019 at 2:09 pm

"On PPRUNE.ORG (where a lot of pilots hang out)"

Take those comments with a large dose of salt. Not to say everyone commenting on PPRUNE and sites like PPRUNE are posers, but PPRUNE.org is where a lot of wanna-be pilots and guys that spend a lot of time in basements playing flight simulator games hang out. The "real pilots" on PPRUNE are more frequently of the aspiring airline pilot type that fly smaller, piston-powered planes.

Altandmain , March 11, 2019 at 5:31 pm

We will have to wait and see what the final investigation reveals. However this does not look good for Boeing at all.

The Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS) system was implicated in the Lion Air crash. There have been a lot of complaints about the system on many of the pilot forums, suggesting at least anecdotally that there are issues. It is highly suspected that the MCAS system is responsible for this crash too.

Keep in mind that Ethiopian Airlines is a pretty well-known and regarded airline. This is not a cut rate airline we are talking about.

At this point, all we can do is to wait for the investigation results.

d , March 12, 2019 at 6:01 pm

one other minor thing. you remember that shut down? seems that would have delayed any updates from Boeing. seems thats one of the things the pilots pointed out when it shutdown was in progress

WestcoastDeplorable , March 11, 2019 at 5:33 pm

What really is the icing on this cake is the fact the new, larger engines on the "Max" changed the center of gravity of the plane and made it unstable. From what I've read on aviation blogs, this is highly unusual for a commercial passenger jet. Boeing then created the new "safety" feature which makes the plane fly nose down to avoid a stall. But of course garbage in, garbage out on sensors (remember AF447 which stalled right into the S. Atlantic?).
It's all politics anyway .if Boeing had been forthcoming about the "Max" it would have required additional pilot training to certify pilots to fly the airliner. They didn't and now another 189 passengers are D.O.A.
I wouldn't fly on one and wouldn't let family do so either.

Carey , March 11, 2019 at 5:40 pm

If I have read correctly, the MCAS system (not known of by pilots until after the Lion Air crash) is reliant on a single Angle of Attack sensor, without redundancy (!). It's too early
to say if MCAS was an issue in the crashes, I guess, but this does not look good.

Jessica , March 12, 2019 at 5:42 am

If it was some other issue with the plane, that will be almost worse for Boeing. Two crash-causing flaws would require grounding all of the planes, suspending production, then doing some kind of severe testing or other to make sure that there isn't a third flaw waiting to show up.

vomkammer , March 12, 2019 at 3:19 pm

If MCAS relies only on one Angle of Attack (AoA) sensor, then it might have been an error in the system design an the safety assessment, from which Boeing may be liable.

It appears that a failure of the AoA can produce an unannuntiated erroneous pitch trim:
a) If the pilots had proper traning and awareness, this event would "only" increase their workload,
b) But for an unaware or untrained pilot, the event would impair its ability to fly and introduce excessive workload.

The difference is important, because according to standard civil aviation safety assessment (see for instance EASA AMC 25.1309 Ch. 7), the case a) should be classified as "Major" failure, whereas b) should be classified as "Hazardous". "Hazardous" failures are required to have much lower probability, which means MCAS needs two AoA sensors.

In summary: a safe MCAS would need either a second AoA or pilot training. It seems that it had neither.

drumlin woodchuckles , March 12, 2019 at 1:01 am

What are the ways an ignorant lay air traveler can find out about whether a particular airline has these new-type Boeing 737 MAXes in its fleet? What are the ways an ignorant air traveler can find out which airlines do not have ANY of these airplanes in their fleet?

What are the ways an ignorant air traveler can find out ahead of time, when still planning herm's trip, which flights use a 737 MAX as against some other kind of plane?

The only way the flying public could possibly torture the airlines into grounding these planes until it is safe to de-ground them is a total all-encompassing "fearcott" against this airplane all around the world. Only if the airlines in the "go ahead and fly it" countries sell zero seats, without exception, on every single 737 MAX plane that flies, will the airlines themselves take them out of service till the issues are resolved.

Hence my asking how people who wish to save their own lives from future accidents can tell when and where they might be exposed to the risk of boarding a Boeing 737 MAX plane.

Carey , March 12, 2019 at 2:13 am

Should be in your flight info, if not, contact the airline. I'm not getting on a 737 MAX.

pau llauter , March 12, 2019 at 10:57 am

Look up the flight on Seatguru. Generally tells type of aircraft. Of course, airlines do change them, too.

Old Jake , March 12, 2019 at 2:57 pm

Stop flying. Your employer requires it? Tell'em where to get off. There are alternatives. The alternatives are less polluting and have lower climate impact also. Yes, this is a hard pill to swallow. No, I don't travel for employment any more, I telecommute. I used to enjoy flying, but I avoid it like plague any more. Crapification.

Darius , March 12, 2019 at 5:09 pm

Additional training won't do. If they wanted larger engines, they needed a different plane. Changing to an unstable center of gravity and compensating for it with new software sounds like a joke except for the hundreds of victims. I'm not getting on that plane.

Joe Well , March 11, 2019 at 5:35 pm

Has there been any study of crapification as a broad social phenomenon? When I Google the word I only get links to NC and sites that reference NC. And yet, this seems like one of the guiding concepts to understand our present world (the crapification of UK media and civil service go a long way towards understanding Brexit, for instance).

I mean, my first thought is, why would Boeing commit corporate self-harm for the sake of a single bullet in sales materials (requires no pilot retraining!). And the answer, of course, is crapification: the people calling the shots don't know what they're doing.

none , March 11, 2019 at 11:56 pm

"Market for lemons" maybe? Anyway the phenomenon is well known.

Alfred , March 12, 2019 at 1:01 am

Google Books finds the word "crapification" quoted (from a 2004) in a work of literary criticism published in 2008 (Literature, Science and a New Humanities, by J. Gottschall). From 2013 it finds the following in a book by Edward Keenan, Some Great Idea: "Policy-wise, it represented a shift in momentum, a slowing down of the childish, intentional crapification of the city ." So there the word appears clearly in the sense understood by regular readers here (along with an admission that crapfication can be intentional and not just inadvertent). To illustrate that sense, Google Books finds the word used in Misfit Toymakers, by Keith T. Jenkins (2014): "We had been to the restaurant and we had water to drink, because after the takeover's, all of the soda makers were brought to ruination by the total crapification of their product, by government management." But almost twenty years earlier the word "crapification" had occurred in a comic strip published in New York Magazine (29 January 1996, p. 100): "Instant crapification! It's the perfect metaphor for the mirror on the soul of America!" The word has been used on television. On 5 January 2010 a sketch subtitled "Night of Terror – The Crapification of the American Pant-scape" ran on The Colbert Report per: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_The_Colbert_Report_episodes_(2010) . Searching the internet, Google results do indeed show many instances of the word "crapification" on NC, or quoted elsewhere from NC posts. But the same results show it used on many blogs since ca. 2010. Here, at http://nyceducator.com/2018/09/the-crapification-factor.html , is a recent example that comments on the word's popularization: "I stole that word, "crapification," from my friend Michael Fiorillo, but I'm fairly certain he stole it from someone else. In any case, I think it applies to our new online attendance system." A comment here, https://angrybearblog.com/2017/09/open-thread-sept-26-2017.html , recognizes NC to have been a vector of the word's increasing usage. Googling shows that there have been numerous instances of the verb "crapify" used in computer-programming contexts, from at least as early as 2006. Google Books finds the word "crapified" used in a novel, Sonic Butler, by James Greve (2004). The derivation, "de-crapify," is also attested. "Crapify" was suggested to Merriam-Webster in 2007 per: http://nws.merriam-webster.com/opendictionary/newword_display_alpha.php?letter=Cr&last=40 . At that time the suggested definition was, "To make situations/things bad." The verb was posted to Urban Dictionary in 2003: https://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=crapify . The earliest serious discussion I could quickly find on crapificatjon as a phenomenon was from 2009 at https://www.cryptogon.com/?p=10611 . I have found only two attempts to elucidate the causes of crapification: http://malepatternboldness.blogspot.com/2017/03/my-jockey-journey-or-crapification-of.html (an essay on undershirts) and https://twilightstarsong.blogspot.com/2017/04/complaints.html (a comment on refrigerators). This essay deals with the mechanics of job crapification: http://asserttrue.blogspot.com/2015/10/how-job-crapification-works.html (relating it to de-skilling). An apparent Americanism, "crapification" has recently been 'translated' into French: "Mon bled est en pleine urbanisation, comprends : en pleine emmerdisation" [somewhat literally -- My hole in the road is in the midst of development, meaning: in the midst of crapification]: https://twitter.com/entre2passions/status/1085567796703096832 Interestingly, perhaps, a comprehensive search of amazon.com yields "No results for crapification."

Joe Well , March 12, 2019 at 12:27 pm

You deserve a medal! That's amazing research!

drumlin woodchuckles , March 12, 2019 at 1:08 am

This seems more like a specific bussiness conspiracy than like general crapification. This isn't " they just don't make them like they used to". This is like Ford deliberately selling the Crash and Burn Pinto with its special explode-on-impact gas-tank feature

Maybe some Trump-style insults should be crafted for this plane so they can get memed-up and travel faster than Boeing's ability to manage the story. Epithets like " the new Boeing crash-a-matic dive-liner
with nose-to-the-ground pilot-override autocrash built into every plane." It seems unfair, but life and safety should come before fairness, and that will only happen if a world wide wave of fear MAKES it happen.

pretzelattack , March 12, 2019 at 2:17 am

yeah first thing i thought of was the ford pinto.

The Rev Kev , March 12, 2019 at 4:19 am

Now there is a car tailor made to modern suicidal Jihadists. You wouldn't even have to load it up with explosives but just a full fuel tank-

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgOxWPGsJNY

drumlin woodchuckles , March 12, 2019 at 3:27 pm

" Instant car bomb. Just add gas."

EoH , March 12, 2019 at 8:47 am

Good time to reread Yves' recent, Is a Harvard MBA Bad For You? :

The underlying problem is increasingly mercenary values in society.

JerryDenim , March 12, 2019 at 2:49 pm

I think crapification is the end result of a self-serving belief in the unfailing goodness and superiority of Ivy faux-meritocracy and the promotion/exaltation of the do-nothing, know-nothing, corporate, revolving-door MBA's and Psych-major HR types over people with many years of both company and industry experience who also have excellent professional track records. The latter group was the group in charge of major corporations and big decisions in the 'good old days', now it's the former. These morally bankrupt people and their vapid, self-righteous culture of PR first, management science second, and what-the-hell-else-matters anyway, are the prime drivers of crapification. Read the bio of an old-school celebrated CEO like Gordon Bethune (Continental CEO with corporate experience at Boeing) who skipped college altogether and joined the Navy at 17, and ask yourself how many people like that are in corporate board rooms today? I'm not saying going back to a 'Good Ole Boy's Club' is the best model of corporate governnace either but at least people like Bethune didn't think they were too good to mix with their fellow employees, understood leadership, the consequences of bullshit, and what 'The buck stops here' thing was really about. Corporate types today sadly believe their own propaganda, and when their fraudulent schemes, can-kicking, and head-in-the sand strategies inevitably blow up in their faces, they accept no blame and fail upwards to another posh corporate job or a nice golden parachute. The wrong people are in charge almost everywhere these days, hence crapification. Bad incentives, zero white collar crime enforcement, self-replicating board rooms, group-think, begets toxic corporate culture, which equals crapification.

Jeff Zink , March 12, 2019 at 5:46 pm

Also try "built in obsolescence"

VietnamVet , March 11, 2019 at 5:40 pm

As a son of a deceased former Boeing aeronautic engineer, this is tragic. It highlights the problem of financialization, neoliberalism, and lack of corporate responsibility pointed out daily here on NC. The crapification was signaled by the move of the headquarters from Seattle to Chicago and spending billions to build a second 787 line in South Carolina to bust their Unions. Boeing is now an unregulated multinational corporation superior to sovereign nations. However, if the 737 Max crashes have the same cause, this will be hard to whitewash. The design failure of windows on the de Havilland Comet killed the British passenger aircraft business. The EU will keep a discrete silence since manufacturing major airline passenger planes is a duopoly with Airbus. However, China hasn't (due to the trade war with the USA) even though Boeing is building a new assembly line there. Boeing escaped any blame for the loss of two Malaysian Airline's 777s. This may be an existential crisis for American aviation. Like a President who denies calling Tim Cook, Tim Apple, or the soft coup ongoing in DC against him, what is really happening globally is not factually reported by corporate media.

Jerry B , March 11, 2019 at 6:28 pm

===Boeing is now an unregulated multinational corporation superior to sovereign nations===

Susan Strange 101.

Or more recently Quinn Slobodian's Globalists: The End of Empire and the Birth of Neoliberalism.

And the beat goes on.

Synoia , March 11, 2019 at 6:49 pm

The design failure of windows on the de Havilland Comet killed the British passenger aircraft business.

Yes, a misunderstanding the the effect of square windows and 3 dimensional stress cracking.

Gary Gray , March 11, 2019 at 7:54 pm

Sorry, but 'sovereign' nations were always a scam. Nothing than a excuse to build capital markets, which are the underpinning of capitalism. Capital Markets are what control countries and have since the 1700's. Maybe you should blame the monarchies for selling out to the bankers in the late middle ages. Sovereign nations are just economic units for the bankers, their businesses they finance and nothing more. I guess they figured out after the Great Depression, they would throw a bunch of goodies at "Indo Europeans" face in western europe ,make them decadent and jaded via debt expansion. This goes back to my point about the yellow vests ..me me me me me. You reek of it. This stuff with Boeing is all profit based. It could have happened in 2000, 1960 or 1920. It could happen even under state control. Did you love Hitler's Voltswagon?

As for the soft coup .lol you mean Trumps soft coup for his allies in Russia and the Middle East viva la Saudi King!!!!!? Posts like these represent the problem with this board. The materialist over the spiritualist. Its like people who still don't get some of the biggest supporters of a "GND" are racialists and being somebody who has long run the environmentalist rally game, they are hugely in the game. Yet Progressives completely seem blind to it. The media ignores them for con men like David Duke(who's ancestry is not clean, no its not) and "Unite the Right"(or as one friend on the environmental circuit told me, Unite the Yahweh apologists) as whats "white". There is a reason they do this.

You need to wake up and stop the self-gratification crap. The planet is dying due to mishandlement. Over urbanization, over population, constant need for me over ecosystem. It can only last so long. That is why I like Zombie movies, its Gaia Theory in a nutshell. Good for you Earth .or Midgard. Which ever you prefer.

Carey , March 11, 2019 at 8:05 pm

Your job seems to be to muddy the waters, and I'm sure we'll be seeing much more of the same; much more.

Thanks!

pebird , March 11, 2019 at 10:24 pm

Hitler had an electric car?

JerryDenim , March 12, 2019 at 3:05 pm

Hee-hee. I noticed that one too.

TimR , March 12, 2019 at 9:41 am

Interesting but I'm unclear on some of it.. GND supporters are racialist?

JerryDenim , March 12, 2019 at 3:02 pm

Spot on comment VietnamVet, a lot of chickens can be seen coming home to roost in this latest Boeing disaster. Remarkable how not many years ago the government could regulate the aviation industry without fear of killing it, since there was more than one aerospace company, not anymore! The scourge of monsopany/monopoly power rears its head and bites in unexpected places.

Ptb , March 11, 2019 at 5:56 pm

More detail on the "MCAS" system responsible for the previous Lion Air crash here (theaircurrent.com)

It says the bigger and repositioned engine, which give the new model its fuel efficiency, and wing angle tweaks needed to fit the engine vs landing gear and clearance,
change the amount of pitch trim it needs in turns to remain level.

The auto system was added top neutralize the pitch trim during turns, too make it handle like the old model.

There is another pitch trim control besides the main "stick". To deactivate the auto system, this other trim control has to be used, the main controls do not deactivate it (perhaps to prevent it from being unintentionally deactivated, which would be equally bad). If the sensor driving the correction system gives a false reading and the pilot were unaware, there would be seesawing and panic

Actually, if this all happened again I would be very surprised. Nobody flying a 737 would not know after the previous crash. Curious what they find.

Ptb , March 11, 2019 at 6:38 pm

Ok typo fixes didn't register gobbledygook.

EoH , March 12, 2019 at 8:38 am

While logical, If your last comment were correct, it should have prevented this most recent crash. It appears that the "seesawing and panic" continue.

I assume it has now gone beyond the cockpit, and beyond the design, and sales teams and reached the Boeing board room. From there, it is likely to travel to the board rooms of every airline flying this aircraft or thinking of buying one, to their banks and creditors, and to those who buy or recommend their stock. But it may not reach the FAA for some time.

marku52 , March 12, 2019 at 2:47 pm

Full technical discussion of why this was needed at:

https://leehamnews.com/2018/11/14/boeings-automatic-trim-for-the-737-max-was-not-disclosed-to-the-pilots/

Ptb , March 12, 2019 at 5:32 pm

Excellent link, thanks!

Kimac , March 11, 2019 at 6:20 pm

As to what's next?

Think, Too Big To Fail.

Any number of ways will be found to put lipstick on this pig once we recognize the context.

allan , March 11, 2019 at 6:38 pm

"Canadian and Brazilian authorities did require additional training" from the quote at the bottom is not
something I've seen before. What did they know and when did they know it?

rd , March 11, 2019 at 8:31 pm

They probably just assumed that the changes in the plane from previous 737s were big enough to warrant treating it like a major change requiring training.

Both countries fly into remote areas with highly variable weather conditions and some rugged terrain.

dcrane , March 11, 2019 at 7:25 pm

Re: withholding information from the FAA

For what it's worth, the quoted section says that Boeing withheld info about the MCAS from "midlevel FAA officials", while Jerri-Lynn refers to the FAA as a whole.

This makes me wonder if top-level FAA people certified the system.

Carey , March 11, 2019 at 7:37 pm

See under "regulatory capture"

Corps run the show, regulators are window-dressing.

IMO, of course. Of course

allan , March 11, 2019 at 8:04 pm

It wasn't always this way. From 1979:

DC-10 Type Certificate Lifted [Aviation Week]

FAA action follows finding of new cracks in pylon aft bulkhead forward flange; crash investigation continues

Suspension of the McDonnell Douglas DC-10's type certificate last week followed a separate grounding order from a federal court as government investigators were narrowing the scope of their investigation of the American Airlines DC-10 crash May 25 in Chicago.

The American DC-10-10, registration No. N110AA, crashed shortly after takeoff from Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, killing 259 passengers, 13 crewmembers and three persons on the ground. The 275 fatalities make the crash the worst in U.S. history.

The controversies surrounding the grounding of the entire U.S. DC-10 fleet and, by extension, many of the DC-10s operated by foreign carriers, by Federal Aviation Administrator Langhorne Bond on the morning of June 6 to revolve around several issues.

Carey , March 11, 2019 at 8:39 pm

Yes, I remember back when the FAA would revoke a type certificate if a plane was a danger to public safety. It wasn't even that long ago. Now their concern is any threat to Boeing™. There's a name for that

Joey , March 11, 2019 at 11:22 pm

'Worst' disaster in Chicago would still ground planes. Lucky for Boeing its brown and browner.

Max Peck , March 11, 2019 at 7:30 pm

It's not correct to claim the MCAS was concealed. It's right in the January 2017 rev of the NG/MAX differences manual.

Carey , March 11, 2019 at 7:48 pm

Mmm. Why do the dudes and dudettes *who fly the things* say they knew nothing
about MCAS? Their training is quite rigorous.

Max Peck , March 11, 2019 at 10:00 pm

See a post below for link. I'd have provided it in my original post but was on a phone in an inconvenient place for editing.

Carey , March 12, 2019 at 1:51 am

'Boeing's automatic trim for the 737 MAX was not disclosed to the Pilots':

https://leehamnews.com/2018/11/14/boeings-automatic-trim-for-the-737-max-was-not-disclosed-to-the-pilots/

marku52 , March 12, 2019 at 2:39 pm

Leeham news is the best site for info on this. For those of you interested in the tech details got to Bjorns Corner, where he writes about aeronautic design issues.

I was somewhat horrified to find that modern aircraft flying at near mach speeds have a lot of somewhat pasted on pilot assistances. All of them. None of them fly with nothing but good old stick-and-rudder. Not Airbus (which is actually fully Fly By wire-all pilot inputs got through a computer) and not Boeing, which is somewhat less so.

This latest "solution came about becuse the larger engines (and nacelles) fitted on the Max increased lift ahead of the center of gravity in a pitchup situation, which was destabilizing. The MCAS uses inputs from air speed and angle of attack sensors to put a pitch down input to the horizonatal stablisizer.

A faluty AofA sensor lead to Lion Air's Max pushing the nose down against the pilots efforts all the way into the sea.

This is the best backgrounder

https://leehamnews.com/2018/11/14/boeings-automatic-trim-for-the-737-max-was-not-disclosed-to-the-pilots/

The Rev Kev , March 11, 2019 at 7:48 pm

One guy said last night on TV that Boeing had eight years of back orders for this aircraft so you had better believe that this crash will be studied furiously. Saw a picture of the crash site and it looks like it augured in almost straight down. There seems to be a large hole and the wreckage is not strew over that much area. I understand that they were digging out the cockpit as it was underground. Strange that.

Carey , March 11, 2019 at 7:55 pm

It's said that the Flight Data Recorders have been found, FWIW.

EoH , March 12, 2019 at 9:28 am

Suggestive of a high-speed, nose-first impact. Not the angle of attack a pilot would ordinarily choose.

Max Peck , March 11, 2019 at 9:57 pm

It's not true that Boeing hid the existence of the MCAS. They documented it in the January 2017 rev of the NG/MAX differences manual and probably earlier than that. One can argue whether the description was adequate, but the system was in no way hidden.

Carey , March 11, 2019 at 10:50 pm

Looks like, for now, we're stuck between your "in no way hidden", and numerous 737 pilots' claims on various online aviation boards that they knew nothing about MCAS. Lots of money involved, so very cloudy weather expected. For now I'll stick with the pilots.

Alex V , March 12, 2019 at 2:27 am

To the best of my understanding and reading on the subject, the system was well documented in the Boeing technical manuals, but not in the pilots' manuals, where it was only briefly mentioned, at best, and not by all airlines. I'm not an airline pilot, but from what I've read, airlines often write their own additional operators manuals for aircraft models they fly, so it was up to them to decide the depth of documentation. These are in theory sufficient to safely operate the plane, but do not detail every aircraft system exhaustively, as a modern aircraft is too complex to fully understand. Other technical manuals detail how the systems work, and how to maintain them, but a pilot is unlikely to read them as they are used by maintenance personnel or instructors. The problem with these cases (if investigations come to the same conclusions) is that insufficient information was included in the pilots manual explaining the MCAS, even though the information was communicated via other technical manuals.

vlade , March 12, 2019 at 11:50 am

This is correct.

A friend of mine is a commercial pilot who's just doing a 'training' exercise having moved airlines.

He's been flying the planes in question most of his life, but the airline is asking him to re-do it all according to their manuals and their rules. If the airline manual does not bring it up, then the pilots will not read it – few of them have time to go after the actual technical manuals and read those in addition to what the airline wants. [oh, and it does not matter that he has tens of thousands of hours on the airplane in question, if he does not do something in accordance with his new airline manual, he'd get kicked out, even if he was right and the airline manual wrong]

I believe (but would have to check with him) that some countries regulators do their own testing over and above the airlines, but again, it depends on what they put in.

Alex V , March 12, 2019 at 11:58 am

Good to head my understanding was correct. My take on the whole situation was that Boeing was negligent in communicating the significance of the change, given human psychology and current pilot training. The reason was to enable easier aircraft sales. The purpose of the MCAS system is however quite legitimate – it enables a more fuel efficient plane while compensating for a corner case of the flight envelope.

Max Peck , March 12, 2019 at 8:01 am

The link is to the actual manual. If that doesn't make you reconsider, nothing will. Maybe some pilots aren't expected to read the manuals, I don't know.

Furthermore, the post stated that Boeing failed to inform the FAA about the MCAS. Surely the FAA has time to read all of the manuals.

Darius , March 12, 2019 at 6:18 pm

Nobody reads instruction manuals. They're for reference. Boeing needed to yell at the pilots to be careful to read new pages 1,576 through 1,629 closely. They're a lulu.

Also, what's with screwing with the geometry of a stable plane so that it will fall out of the sky without constant adjustments by computer software? It's like having a car designed to explode but don't worry. We've loaded software to prevent that. Except when there's an error. But don't worry. We've included reboot instructions. It takes 15 minutes but it'll be OK. And you can do it with one hand and drive with the other. No thanks. I want the car not designed to explode.

The Rev Kev , March 11, 2019 at 10:06 pm

The FAA is already leaping to the defense of the Boeing 737 Max 8 even before they have a chance to open up the black boxes. Hope that nothing "happens" to those recordings.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-47533052

Milton , March 11, 2019 at 11:04 pm

I don't know, crapification, at least for me, refers to products, services, or infrastructure that has declined to the point that it has become a nuisance rather than a benefit it once was. This case with Boeing borders on criminal negligence.

pretzelattack , March 12, 2019 at 8:20 am

i came across a word that was new to me "crapitalism", goes well with crapification.

TG , March 12, 2019 at 12:50 am

1. It's really kind of amazing that we can fly to the other side of the world in a few hours – a journey that in my grandfather's time would have taken months and been pretty unpleasant and risky – and we expect perfect safety.

2. Of course the best-selling jet will see these issues. It's the law of large numbers.

3. I am not a fan of Boeing's corporate management, but still, compared to Wall Street and Defense Contractors and big education etc. they still produce an actual technical useful artifact that mostly works, and at levels of performance that in other fields would be considered superhuman.

4. Even for Boeing, one wonders when the rot will set in. Building commercial airliners is hard! So many technical details, nowhere to hide if you make even one mistake so easy to just abandon the business entirely. Do what the (ex) US auto industry did, contract out to foreign manufacturers and just slap a "USA" label on it and double down on marketing. Milk the cost-plus cash cow of the defense market. Or just financialize the entire thing and become too big to fail and walk away with all the profits before the whole edifice crumbles. Greed is good, right?

marku52 , March 12, 2019 at 2:45 pm

"Of course the best-selling jet will see these issues. It's the law of large numbers."

2 crashes of a new model in vary similar circumstances is very unusual. And FAA admits they are requiring a FW upgrade sometime in April. Pilots need to be hyperaware of what this MCAS system is doing. And they currently aren't.

Prairie Bear , March 12, 2019 at 2:42 am

if it went into a stall, it would lower the nose suddenly to pick airspeed and fly normally again.

A while before I read this post, I listened to a news clip that reported that the plane was observed "porpoising" after takeoff. I know only enough about planes and aviation to be a more or less competent passenger, but it does seem like that is something that might happen if the plane had such a feature and the pilot was not familiar with it and was trying to fight it? The below link is not to the story I saw I don't think, but another one I just found.

if it went into a stall, it would lower the nose suddenly to pick airspeed and fly normally again.

https://www.yahoo.com/gma/know-boeing-737-max-8-crashed-ethiopia-221411537.html

none , March 12, 2019 at 5:33 am

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-ethiopia-airplane-witnesses/ethiopian-plane-smoked-and-shuddered-before-deadly-plunge-idUSKBN1QS1LJ

Reuters reports people saw smoke and debris coming out of the plane before the crash.

Jessica , March 12, 2019 at 6:06 am

At PPRUNE.ORG, many of the commentators are skeptical of what witnesses of airplane crashes say they see, but more trusting of what they say they hear.
The folks at PPRUNE.ORG who looked at the record of the flight from FlightRadar24, which only covers part of the flight because FlightRadar24's coverage in that area is not so good and the terrain is hilly, see a plane flying fast in a straight line very unusually low.

EoH , March 12, 2019 at 8:16 am

The dodge about making important changes that affect aircraft handling but not disclosing them – so as to avoid mandatory pilot training, which would discourage airlines from buying the modified aircraft – is an obvious business-over-safety choice by an ethics and safety challenged corporation.

But why does even a company of that description, many of whose top managers, designers, and engineers live and breathe flight, allow its s/w engineers to prevent the pilots from overriding a supposed "safety" feature while actually flying the aircraft? Was it because it would have taken a little longer to write and test the additional s/w or because completing the circle through creating a pilot override would have mandated disclosure and additional pilot training?

Capt. "Sully" Sullenberger and his passengers and crew would have ended up in pieces at the bottom of the Hudson if the s/w on his aircraft had prohibited out of the ordinary flight maneuvers that contradicted its programming.

Alan Carr , March 12, 2019 at 9:13 am

If you carefully review the over all airframe of the 737 it has not hardly changed over the past 20 years or so, for the most part Boeing 737 specifications . What I believe the real issue here is the Avionics upgrades over the years has changed dramatically. More and more precision avionics are installed with less and less pilot input and ultimately no control of the aircraft. Though Boeing will get the brunt of the lawsuits, the avionics company will be the real culprit. I believe the avionics on the Boeing 737 is made by Rockwell Collins, which you guessed it, is owned by Boeing.

Max Peck , March 12, 2019 at 9:38 am

Rockwell Collins has never been owned by Boeing.

Also, to correct some upthread assertions, MCAS has an off switch.

WobblyTelomeres , March 12, 2019 at 10:02 am

United Technologies, UTX, I believe. If I knew how to short, I'd probably short this 'cause if they aren't partly liable, they'll still be hurt if Boeing has to slow (or, horror, halt) production.

Alan Carr , March 12, 2019 at 11:47 am

You are right Max I mis spoke. Rockwell Collins is owned by United Technologies Corporation

Darius , March 12, 2019 at 6:24 pm

Which astronaut are you? Heh.

EoH , March 12, 2019 at 9:40 am

Using routine risk management protocols, the American FAA should need continuing "data" on an aircraft for it to maintain its airworthiness certificate. Its current press materials on the Boeing 737 Max 8 suggest it needs data to yank it or to ground the aircraft pending review. Has it had any other commercial aircraft suffer two apparently similar catastrophic losses this close together within two years of the aircraft's launch?

Synoia , March 12, 2019 at 11:37 am

I am raising an issue with "crapification" as a meme. Crapification is a symptom of a specific behaviour.

GREED.

Please could you reconsider your writing to invlude this very old, tremendously venal, and "worst" sin?

US incentiveness of inventing a new word, "crapification" implies that some error cuould be corrected. If a deliberate sin, it requires atonement and forgiveness, and a sacrifice of wolrdy assets, for any chance of forgiveness and redemption.

Alan Carr , March 12, 2019 at 11:51 am

Something else that will be interesting to this thread is that Boeing doesn't seem to mind letting the Boeing 737 Max aircraft remain for sale on the open market

vlade , March 12, 2019 at 11:55 am

the EU suspends MAX 8s too

Craig H. , March 12, 2019 at 2:29 pm

The moderators in reddit.com/r/aviation are fantastic.

They have corralled everything into one mega-thread which is worth review:

https://www.reddit.com/r/aviation/comments/azzp0r/ethiopian_airlines_et302_and_boeing_737_max_8/

allan , March 12, 2019 at 3:00 pm

Thanks. That's a great link with what seem to be some very knowledgeable comments.

John Beech , March 12, 2019 at 2:30 pm

Experienced private pilot here. Lots of commercial pilot friends. First, the EU suspending the MAX 8 is politics. Second, the FAA mandated changes were already in the pipeline. Three, this won't stop the ignorant from staking out a position on this, and speculating about it on the internet, of course. Fourth, I'd hop a flight in a MAX 8 without concern – especially with a US pilot on board. Why? In part because the Lion Air event a few months back led to pointed discussion about the thrust line of the MAX 8 vs. the rest of the 737 fleet and the way the plane has software to help during strong pitch up events (MAX 8 and 9 have really powerful engines).

Basically, pilots have been made keenly aware of the issue and trained in what to do. Another reason I'd hop a flight in one right now is because there have been more than 31,000 trouble free flights in the USA in this new aircraft to date. My point is, if there were a systemic issue we'd already know about it. Note, the PIC in the recent crash had +8000 hours but the FO had about 200 hours and there is speculation he was flying. Speculation.

Anyway, US commercial fleet pilots are very well trained to deal with runaway trim or uncommanded flight excursions. How? Simple, by switching the breaker off. It's right near your fingers. Note, my airplane has an autopilot also. In the event the autopilot does something unexpected, just like the commercial pilot flying the MAX 8, I'm trained in what to do (the very same thing, switch the thing off).

Moreover, I speak form experience because I've had it happen twice in 15 years – once an issue with a servo causing the plane to slowly drift right wing low, and once a connection came loose leaving the plane trimmed right wing low (coincidence). My reaction is/was about the same as that of a experienced typist automatically hitting backspace on the keyboard upon realizing they mistyped a word, e.g. not reflex but nearly so. In my case, it was to throw the breaker to power off the autopilot as I leveled the plane. No big deal.

Finally, as of yet there been no analysis from the black boxes. I advise holding off on the speculation until they do. They've been found and we'll learn something soon. The yammering and near hysteria by non-pilots – especially with this thread – reminds me of the old saw about now knowing how smart or ignorant someone is until they open their mouth.

notabanker , March 12, 2019 at 5:29 pm

So let me get this straight.

While Boeing is designing a new 787, Airbus redesigns the A320. Boeing cannot compete with it, so instead of redesigning the 737 properly, they put larger engines on it further forward, which is never intended in the original design. So to compensate they use software with two sensors, not three, making it mathematically impossible to know if you have a faulty sensor which one it would be, to automatically adjust the pitch to prevent a stall, and this is the only true way to prevent a stall. But since you can kill the breaker and disable it if you have a bad sensor and can't possibly know which one, everything is ok. And now that the pilots can disable a feature required for certification, we should all feel good about these brand new planes, that for the first time in history, crashed within 5 months.

And the FAA, which hasn't had a Director in 14 months, knows better than the UK, Europe, China, Australia, Singapore, India, Indonesia, Africa and basically every other country in the world except Canada. And the reason every country in the world except Canada has grounded the fleet is political? Singapore put Silk Air out of business because of politics?

How many people need to be rammed into the ground at 500 mph from 8000 feet before yammering and hysteria are justified here? 400 obviously isn't enough.

VietnamVet , March 12, 2019 at 5:26 pm

Overnight since my first post above, the 737 Max 8 crash has become political. The black boxes haven't been officially read yet. Still airlines and aviation authorities have grounded the airplane in Europe, India, China, Mexico, Brazil, Australia and S.E. Asia in opposition to FAA's "Continued Airworthiness Notification to the International Community" issued yesterday.

I was wrong. There will be no whitewash. I thought they would remain silent. My guess this is a result of an abundance of caution plus greed (Europeans couldn't help gutting Airbus's competitor Boeing). This will not be discussed but it is also a manifestation of Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS). Since the President has started dissing Atlantic Alliance partners, extorting defense money, fighting trade wars, and calling 3rd world countries s***-holes; there is no sympathy for the collapsing hegemon. Boeing stock is paying the price. If the cause is the faulty design of the flight position sensors and fly by wire software control system, it will take a long while to design and get approval of a new safe redundant control system and refit the airplanes to fly again overseas. A real disaster for America's last manufacturing industry.

[Mar 13, 2019] Boing might not survive the third crash

Too much automation and too complex flight control computer engager life of pilots and passengers...
Notable quotes:
"... When systems (like those used to fly giant aircraft) become too automatic while remaining essentially stupid or limited by the feedback systems, they endanger the airplane and passengers. These two "accidents" are painful warnings for air passengers and voters. ..."
"... This sort of problem is not new. Search the web for pitot/static port blockage, erroneous stall / overspeed indications. Pilots used to be trained to handle such emergencies before the desk-jockey suits decided computers always know best. ..."
"... @Sky Pilot, under normal circumstances, yes. but there are numerous reports that Boeing did not sufficiently test the MCAS with unreliable or incomplete signals from the sensors to even comply to its own quality regulations. ..."
"... Boeing did cut corners when designing the B737 MAX by just replacing the engines but not by designing a new wing which would have been required for the new engine. ..."
"... I accept that it should be easier for pilots to assume manual control of the aircraft in such situations but I wouldn't rush to condemn the programmers before we get all the facts. ..."
Mar 13, 2019 | www.nytimes.com

Shirley OK March 11

I want to know if Boeing 767s, as well as the new 737s, now has the Max 8 flight control computer installed with pilots maybe not being trained to use it or it being uncontrollable.

A 3rd Boeing - not a passenger plane but a big 767 cargo plane flying a bunch of stuff for Amazon crashed near Houston (where it was to land) on 2-23-19. The 2 pilots were killed. Apparently there was no call for help (at least not mentioned in the AP article about it I read).

'If' the new Max 8 system had been installed, had either Boeing or the owner of the cargo plane business been informed of problems with Max 8 equipment that had caused a crash and many deaths in a passenger plane (this would have been after the Indonesian crash)? Was that info given to the 2 pilots who died if Max 8 is also being used in some 767s? Did Boeing get the black box from that plane and, if so, what did they find out?

Those 2 pilots' lives matter also - particularly since the Indonesian 737 crash with Max 8 equipment had already happened. Boeing hasn't said anything (yet, that I've seen) about whether or not the Max 8 new configuration computer and the extra steps to get manual control is on other of their planes.

I want to know about the cause of that 3rd Boeing plane crashing and if there have been crashes/deaths in other of Boeing's big cargo planes. What's the total of all Boeing crashes/fatalies in the last few months and how many of those planes had Max 8?

Rufus SF March 11

Gentle readers: In the aftermath of the Lion Air crash, do you think it possible that all 737Max pilots have not received mandatory training review in how to quickly disconnect the MCAS system and fly the plane manually?

Do you think it possible that every 737Max pilot does not have a "disconnect review" as part of his personal checklist? Do you think it possible that at the first hint of pitch instability, the pilot does not first think of the MCAS system and whether to disable it?

Harold Orlando March 11

Compare the altitude fluctuations with those from Lion Air in NYTimes excellent coverage( https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/11/16/world/asia/lion-air-crash-cockpit.html ), and they don't really suggest to me a pilot struggling to maintain proper pitch. Maybe the graph isn't detailed enough, but it looks more like a major, single event rather than a number of smaller corrections. I could be wrong.

Reports of smoke and fire are interesting; there is nothing in the modification that (we assume) caused Lion Air's crash that would explain smoke and fire. So I would hesitate to zero in on the modification at this point. Smoke and fire coming from the luggage bay suggest a runaway Li battery someone put in their suitcase. This is a larger issue because that can happen on any aircraft, Boeing, Airbus, or other.

mrpisces Loui March 11

Is is a shame that Boeing will not ground this aircraft knowing they introduced the MCAS component to automate the stall recovery of the 737 MAX and is behind these accidents in my opinion. Stall recovery has always been a step all pilots handled when the stick shaker and other audible warnings were activated to alert the pilots.

Now, Boeing invented MCAS as a "selling and marketing point" to a problem that didn't exist. MCAS kicks in when the aircraft is about to enter the stall phase and places the aircraft in a nose dive to regain speed. This only works when the air speed sensors are working properly. Now imagine when the air speed sensors have a malfunction and the plane is wrongly put into a nose dive.

The pilots are going to pull back on the stick to level the plane. The MCAS which is still getting incorrect air speed data is going to place the airplane back into a nose dive. The pilots are going to pull back on the stick to level the aircraft. This repeats itself till the airplane impacts the ground which is exactly what happened.

Add the fact that Boeing did not disclose the existence of the MCAS and its role to pilots. At this point only money is keeping the 737 MAX in the air. When Boeing talks about safety, they are not referring to passenger safety but profit safety.

Tony San Diego March 11

1. The procedure to allow a pilot to take complete control of the aircraft from auto-pilot mode should have been a standard eg pull back on the control column. It is not reasonable to expect a pilot to follow some checklist to determine and then turn off a misbehaving module especially in emergency situations. Even if that procedure is written in fine print in a manual. (The number of modules to disable may keep increasing if this is allowed).

2. How are US airlines confident of the safety of the 737 MAX right now when nothing much is known about the cause of the 2nd crash? What is known if that both the crashed aircraft were brand new, and we should be seeing news articles on how the plane's brand-new advanced technology saved the day from the pilot and not the other way round

3. In the first crash, the plane's advanced technology could not even recognize that either the flight path was abnormal and/or the airspeed readings were too erroneous and mandate the pilot to therefore take complete control immediately!

John✔️✔️Brews Tucson, AZ March 11

It's straightforward to design for standard operation under normal circumstances. But when bizarre operation occurs resulting in extreme circumstances a lot more comes into play. Not just more variables interacting more rapidly, testing system response times, but much happening quickly, testing pilot response times and experience. It is doubtful that the FAA can assess exactly what happened in these crashes. It is a result of a complex and rapid succession of man-machine-software-instrumentation interactions, and the number of permutations is huge. Boeing didn't imagine all of them, and didn't test all those it did think of.

The FAA is even less likely to do so. Boeing eventually will fix some of the identified problems, and make pilot intervention more effective. Maybe all that effort to make the new cockpit look as familiar as the old one will be scrapped? Pilot retraining will be done? Redundant sensors will be added? Additional instrumentation? Software re-written?

That'll increase costs, of course. Future deliveries will cost more. Looks likely there will be some downtime. Whether the fixes will cover sufficient eventualities, time will tell. Whether Boeing will be more scrupulous in future designs, less willing to cut corners without evaluating them? Will heads roll? Well, we'll see...

Ron SC March 11

Boeing has been in trouble technologically since its merger with McDonnell Douglas, which some industry analysts called a takeover, though it isn't clear who took over whom since MD got Boeing's name while Boeing took the MD logo and moved their headquarters from Seattle to Chicago.

In addition to problems with the 737 Max, Boeing is charging NASA considerably more than the small startup, SpaceX, for a capsule designed to ferry astronauts to the space station. Boeing's Starliner looks like an Apollo-era craft and is launched via a 1960's-like ATLAS booster.

Despite using what appears to be old technology, the Starliner is well behind schedule and over budget while the SpaceX capsule has already docked with the space station using state-of-art reusable rocket boosters at a much lower cost. It seems Boeing is in trouble, technologically.

BSmith San Francisco March 11

When you read that this model of the Boeing 737 Max was more fuel efficient, and view the horrifying graphs (the passengers spent their last minutes in sheer terror) of the vertical jerking up and down of both air crafts, and learn both crashes occurred minutes after take off, you are 90% sure that the problem is with design, or design not compatible with pilot training. Pilots in both planes had received permission to return to the airports. The likely culprit. to a trained designer, is the control system for injecting the huge amounts of fuel necessary to lift the plane to cruising altitude. Pilots knew it was happening and did not know how to override the fuel injection system.

These two crashes foretell what will happen if airlines, purely in the name of saving money, elmininate human control of aircraft. There will be many more crashes.

These ultra-complicated machines which defy gravity and lift thousands of pounds of dead weight into the stratesphere to reduce friction with air, are immensely complex and common. Thousands of flight paths cover the globe each day. Human pilots must ultimately be in charge - for our own peace of mind, and for their ability to deal with unimaginable, unforeseen hazards.

When systems (like those used to fly giant aircraft) become too automatic while remaining essentially stupid or limited by the feedback systems, they endanger the airplane and passengers. These two "accidents" are painful warnings for air passengers and voters.

Brez Spring Hill, TN March 11

1. Ground the Max 737.

2. Deactivate the ability of the automated system to override pilot inputs, which it apparently can do even with the autopilot disengaged.

3. Make sure that the autopilot disengage button on the yoke (pickle switch) disconnects ALL non-manual control inputs.

4. I do not know if this version of the 737 has direct input ("rope start") gyroscope, airspeed and vertical speed inticators for emergencies such as failure of the electronic wonder-stuff. If not, install them. Train pilots to use them.

5. This will cost money, a lot of money, so we can expect more self-serving excuses until the FAA forces Boeing to do the right thing.

6. This sort of problem is not new. Search the web for pitot/static port blockage, erroneous stall / overspeed indications. Pilots used to be trained to handle such emergencies before the desk-jockey suits decided computers always know best.

Harper Arkansas March 11

I flew big jets for 34 years, mostly Boeing's. Boeing added new logic to the trim system and was allowed to not make it known to pilots. However it was in maintenance manuals. Not great, but these airplanes are now so complex there are many systems that pilots don't know all of the intimate details.

NOT IDEAL, BUT NOT OVERLY SIGNIFICANT. Boeing changed one of the ways to stop a runaway trim system by eliminating the control column trim brake, ie airplane nose goes up, push down (which is instinct) and it stops the trim from running out of control.

BIG DEAL BOIENG AND FAA, NOT TELLING PILOTS. Boeing produces checklists for almost any conceivable malfunction. We pilots are trained to accomplish the obvious then go immediately to the checklist. Some items on the checklist are so important they are called "Memory Items" or "Red Box Items".

These would include things like in an explosive depressurization to put on your o2 mask, check to see that the passenger masks have dropped automatically and start a descent.

Another has always been STAB TRIM SWITCHES ...... CUTOUT which is surrounded by a RED BOX.

For very good reasons these two guarded switches are very conveniently located on the pedestal right between the pilots.

So if the nose is pitching incorrectly, STAB TRIM SWITCHES ..... CUTOUT!!! Ask questions later, go to the checklist. THAT IS THE PILOTS AND TRAINING DEPARTMENTS RESPONSIBILITY. At this point it is not important as to the cause.

David Rubien New York March 11

If these crashes turn out to result from a Boeing flaw, how can that company continue to stay in business? It should be put into receivership and its executives prosecuted. How many deaths are persmissable?

Osama Portland OR March 11

The emphasis on software is misplaced. The software intervention is triggered by readings from something called an Angle of Attack sensor. This sensor is relatively new on airplanes. A delicate blade protrudes from the fuselage and is deflected by airflow. The direction of the airflow determines the reading. A false reading from this instrument is the "garbage in" input to the software that takes over the trim function and directs the nose of the airplane down. The software seems to be working fine. The AOA sensor? Not so much.

experience Michiigan March 11

The basic problem seems to be that the 737 Max 8 was not designed for the larger engines and so there are flight characteristics that could be dangerous. To compensate for the flaw, computer software was used to control the aircraft when the situation was encountered. The software failed to prevent the situation from becoming a fatal crash.

A work around that may be the big mistake of not redesigning the aircraft properly for the larger engines in the first place. The aircraft may need to be modified at a cost that would be not realistic and therefore abandoned and a entirely new aircraft design be implemented. That sounds very drastic but the only other solution would be to go back to the original engines. The Boeing Company is at a crossroad that could be their demise if the wrong decision is made.

Sky Pilot NY March 11

It may be a training issue in that the 737 Max has several systems changes from previous 737 models that may not be covered adequately in differences training, checklists, etc. In the Lyon Air crash, a sticky angle-of-attack vane caused the auto-trim to force the nose down in order to prevent a stall. This is a worthwhile safety feature of the Max, but the crew was slow (or unable) to troubleshoot and isolate the problem. It need not have caused a crash. I suspect the same thing happened with Ethiopian Airlines. The circumstances are temptingly similar.

Thomas Singapore March 11

@Sky Pilot, under normal circumstances, yes. but there are numerous reports that Boeing did not sufficiently test the MCAS with unreliable or incomplete signals from the sensors to even comply to its own quality regulations. And that is just one of the many quality issues with the B737 MAX that have been in the news for a long time and have been of concern to some of the operators while at the same time being covered up by the FAA.

Just look at the difference in training requirements between the FAA and the Brazilian aviation authority.

Brazilian pilots need to fully understand the MCAS and how to handle it in emergency situations while FAA does not even require pilots to know about it.

Thomas Singapore March 11

This is yet another beautiful example of the difference in approach between Europeans and US Americans. While Europeans usually test their before they deliver the product thoroughly in order to avoid any potential failures of the product in their customers hands, the US approach is different: It is "make it work somehow and fix the problems when the client has them".

Which is what happened here as well. Boeing did cut corners when designing the B737 MAX by just replacing the engines but not by designing a new wing which would have been required for the new engine.

So the aircraft became unstable to fly at low speedy and tight turns which required a fix by implementing the MCAS which then was kept from recertification procedures for clients for reasons competitive sales arguments. And of course, the FAA played along and provided a cover for this cutting of corners as this was a product of a US company.

Then the proverbial brown stuff hit the fan, not once but twice. So Boeing sent its "thoughts and prayers" and started to hope for the storm to blow over and for finding a fix that would not be very expensive and not eat the share holder value away.

Sorry, but that is not the way to design and maintain aircraft. If you do it, do it right the first time and not fix it after more than 300 people died in accidents. There is a reason why China has copied the Airbus A-320 and not the Boeing B737 when building its COMAC C919. The Airbus is not a cheap fix, still tested by customers.

Rafael USA March 11

@Thomas And how do you know that Boeing do not test the aircrafts before delivery? It is a requirement by FAA for all complete product, systems, parts and sub-parts to be tested before delivery. However it seems Boeing has not approached the problem (or maybe they do not know the real issue).

As for the design, are you an engineer that can say whatever the design and use of new engines without a complete re-design is wrong? Have you seen the design drawings of the airplane? I do work in an industry in which our products are use for testing different parts of aircratfs and Boeing is one of our customers.

Our products are use during manufacturing and maintenance of airplanes. My guess is that Boeing has no idea what is going on. Your biased opinion against any US product is evident. There are regulations in the USA (and not in other Asia countries) that companies have to follow. This is not a case of untested product, it is a case of unknown problem and Boeing is really in the dark of what is going on...

Sam Europe March 11

Boeing and Regulators continue to exhibit criminal behaviour in this case. Ethical responsibility expects that when the first brand new MAX 8 fell for potentially issues with its design, the fleet should have been grounded. Instead, money was a priority; and unfortunately still is. They are even now flying. Disgraceful and criminal behaviour.

Imperato NYC March 11

@Sam no...too soon to come anywhere near that conclusion.

YW New York, NY March 11

A terrible tragedy for Ethiopia and all of the families affected by this disaster. The fact that two 737 Max jets have crashed in one year is indeed suspicious, especially as it has long been safer to travel in a Boeing plane than a car or school bus. That said, it is way too early to speculate on the causes of the two crashes being identical. Eyewitness accounts of debris coming off the plane in mid-air, as has been widely reported, would not seem to square with the idea that software is again at fault. Let's hope this puzzle can be solved quickly.

Wayne Brooklyn, New York March 11

@Singh the difference is consumer electronic products usually have a smaller number of components and wiring compared to commercial aircraft with miles of wiring and multitude of sensors and thousands of components. From what I know they usually have a preliminary report that comes out in a short time. But the detailed reported that takes into account analysis will take over one year to be written.

John A San Diego March 11

The engineers and management at Boeing need a crash course in ethics. After the crash in Indonesia, Boeing was trying to pass the blame rather than admit responsibility. The planes should all have been grounded then. Now the chickens have come to roost. Boeing is in serious trouble and it will take a long time to recover the reputation. Large multinationals never learn.

Imperato NYC March 11

@John A the previous pilot flying the Lion jet faced the same problem but dealt with it successfully. The pilot on the ill fated flight was less experienced and unfortunately failed.

BSmith San Francisco March 11

@Imperato Solving a repeat problem on an airplane type must not solely depend upon a pilot undertaking an emergency response! That is nonsense even to a non-pilot! This implies that Boeing allows a plane to keep flying which it knows has a fatal flaw! Shouldn't it be grounding all these planes until it identifies and solves the same problem?

Jimi DC March 11

NYT recently did an excellent job explaining how pilots were kept in the dark, by Boeing, during software update for 737 Max: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/03/world/asia/lion-air-plane-crash-pilots.html#click=https://t.co/MRgpKKhsly

Steve Charlotte, NC March 11

Something is wrong with those two graphs of altitude and vertical speed. For example, both are flat at the end, even though the vertical speed graph indicates that the plane was climbing rapidly. So what is the source of those numbers? Is it ground-based radar, or telemetry from onboard instruments? If the latter, it might be a clue to the problem.

Imperato NYC March 11

@Steve Addis Ababa is almost at 8000ft.

George North Carolina March 11

I wonder if, somewhere, there is a a report from some engineers saying that the system pushed by administrative-types to get the plane on the market quickly, will results in serious problems down the line.

Rebecca Michigan March 11

If we don't know why the first two 737 Max Jets crashed, then we don't know how long it will be before another one has a catastrophic failure. All the planes need to be grounded until the problem can be duplicated and eliminated.

Shirley OK March 11

@Rebecca And if it is something about the plane itself - and maybe an interaction with the new software - then someone has to be ready to volunteer to die to replicate what's happened.....

Rebecca Michigan March 12

@Shirley Heavens no. When investigating failures, duplicating the problem helps develop the solution. If you can't recreate the problem, then there is nothing to solve. Duplicating the problem generally is done through analysis and simulations, not with actual planes and passengers.

Sisifo Carrboro, NC March 11

Computer geeks can be deadly. This is clearly a software problem. The more software goes into a plane, the more likely it is for a software failure to bring down a plane. And computer geeks are always happy to try "new things" not caring what the effects are in the real world. My PC has a feature that controls what gets typed depending on the speed and repetitiveness of what I type. The darn thing is a constant source of annoyance as I sit at my desk, and there is absolutely no way to neutralize it because a computer geek so decided. Up in an airliner cockpit, this same software idiocy is killing people like flies.

Pooja MA March 11

@Sisifo Software that goes into critical systems like aircraft have a lot more constraints. Comparing it to the user interface on your PC doesn't make any sense. It's insulting to assume programmers are happy to "try new things" at the expense of lives. If you'd read about the Lion Air crash carefully you'd remember that there were faulty sensors involved. The software was doing what it was designed to do but the input it was getting was incorrect. I accept that it should be easier for pilots to assume manual control of the aircraft in such situations but I wouldn't rush to condemn the programmers before we get all the facts.

BSmith San Francisco March 11

@Pooja Mistakes happen. If humans on board can't respond to terrible situations then there is something wrong with the aircraft and its computer systems. By definition.

Patriot NJ March 11

Airbus had its own experiences with pilot "mode confusion" in the 1990's with at least 3 fatal crashes in the A320, but was able to control the media narrative until they resolved the automation issues. Look up Air Inter 148 in Wikipedia to learn the similarities.

Opinioned! NYC -- currently wintering in the Pacific March 11

"Commands issued by the plane's flight control computer that bypasses the pilots." What could possibly go wrong? Now let's see whether Boeing's spin doctors can sell this as a feature, not a bug.

Chris Hartnett Minneapolis March 11

It is telling that the Chinese government grounded their fleet of 737 Max 8 aircraft before the US government. The world truly has turned upside down when it potentially is safer to fly in China than the US. Oh, the times we live in. Chris Hartnett Datchet, UK (formerly Minneapolis)

Hollis Barcelona March 11

As a passenger who likes his captains with a head full of white hair, even if the plane is nosediving to instrument failure, does not every pilot who buckles a seat belt worldwide know how to switch off automatic flight controls and fly the airplane manually?

Even if this were 1000% Boeing's fault pilots should be able to override electronics and fly the plane safely back to the airport. I'm sure it's not that black and white in the air and I know it's speculation at this point but can any pilots add perspective regarding human responsibility?

Karl Rollings Sydney, Australia March 11

@Hollis I'm not a pilot nor an expert, but my understanding is that planes these days are "fly by wire", meaning the control surfaces are operated electronically, with no mechanical connection between the pilot's stick and the wings. So if the computer goes down, the ability to control the plane goes with it.

William Philadelphia March 11

@Hollis The NYT's excellent reporting on the Lion Air crash indicated that in nearly all other commercial aircraft, manual control of the pilot's yoke would be sufficient to override the malfunctioning system (which was controlling the tail wings in response to erroneous sensor data). Your white haired captain's years of training would have ingrained that impulse.

Unfortunately, on the Max 8 that would not sufficiently override the tail wings until the pilots flicked a switch near the bottom of the yoke. It's unclear whether individual airlines made pilots aware of this. That procedure existed in older planes but may not have been standard practice because the yoke WOULD sufficiently override the tail wings. Boeing's position has been that had pilots followed the procedure, a crash would not have occurred.

Nat Netherlands March 11

@Hollis No, that is the entire crux of this problem; switching from auto-pilot to manual does NOT solve it. Hence the danger of this whole system. T

his new Boeing 737-Max series are having the engines placed a bit further away than before and I don't know why they did this, but the result is that there can be some imbalance in air, which they then tried to correct with this strange auto-pilot technical adjustment.

Problem is that it stalls the plane (by pushing its nose down and even flipping out small wings sometimes) even when it shouldn't, and even when they switch to manual this system OVERRULES the pilot and switches back to auto-pilot, continuing to try to 'stabilize' (nose dive) the plane. That's what makes it so dangerous.

It was designed to keep the plane stable but basically turned out to function more or less like a glitch once you are taking off and need the ascend. I don't know why it only happens now and then, as this plane had made many other take-offs prior, but when it hits, it can be deadly. So far Boeings 'solution' is sparsely sending out a HUGE manual for pilots about how to fight with this computer problem.

Which are complicated to follow in a situation of stress with a plane computer constantly pushing the nose of your plane down. Max' mechanism is wrong and instead of correcting it properly, pilots need special training. Or a new technical update may help... which has been delayed and still hasn't been provided.

Mark Lebow Milwaukee, WI March 11

Is it the inability of the two airlines to maintain one of the plane's fly-by-wire systems that is at fault, not the plane itself? Or are both crashes due to pilot error, not knowing how to operate the system and then overreacting when it engages? Is the aircraft merely too advanced for its own good? None of these questions seems to have been answered yet.

Shane Marin County, CA March 11 Times Pick

This is such a devastating thing for Ethiopian Airlines, which has been doing critical work in connecting Africa internally and to the world at large. This is devastating for the nation of Ethiopia and for all the family members of those killed. May the memory of every passenger be a blessing. We should all hope a thorough investigation provides answers to why this make and model of airplane keep crashing so no other people have to go through this horror again.

Mal T KS March 11

A possible small piece of a big puzzle: Bishoftu is a city of 170,000 that is home to the main Ethiopian air force base, which has a long runway. Perhaps the pilot of Flight 302 was seeking to land there rather than returning to Bole Airport in Addis Ababa, a much larger and more densely populated city than Bishoftu. The pilot apparently requested return to Bole, but may have sought the Bishoftu runway when he experienced further control problems. Detailed analysis of radar data, conversations between pilot and control tower, flight path, and other flight-related information will be needed to establish the cause(s) of this tragedy.

Nan Socolow West Palm Beach, FL March 11

The business of building and selling airplanes is brutally competitive. Malfunctions in the systems of any kind on jet airplanes ("workhorses" for moving vast quantities of people around the earth) lead to disaster and loss of life. Boeing's much ballyhooed and vaunted MAX 8 737 jet planes must be grounded until whatever computer glitches brought down Ethiopian Air and LION Air planes -- with hundreds of passenger deaths -- are explained and fixed.

In 1946, Arthur Miller's play, "All My Sons", brought to life guilt by the airplane industry leading to deaths of WWII pilots in planes with defective parts. Arthur Miller was brought before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee because of his criticism of the American Dream. His other seminal American play, "Death of a Salesman", was about an everyman to whom attention must be paid. Attention must be paid to our aircraft industry. The American dream must be repaired.

Rachel Brooklyn, NY March 11

This story makes me very afraid of driverless cars.

Chuck W. Seattle, WA March 11

Meanwhile, human drivers killed 40,000 and injured 4.5 million people in 2018... For comparison, 58,200 American troops died in the entire Vietnam war. Computers do not fall asleep, get drunk, drive angry, or get distracted. As far as I am concerned, we cannot get unreliable humans out from behind the wheel fast enough.

jcgrim Knoxville, TN March 11

@Chuck W. Humans write the algorithms of driverless cars. Algorithms are not 100% fail-safe. Particularly when humans can't seem to write snap judgements or quick inferences into an algorithm. An algorithm can make driverless cars safe in predictable situations but that doesn't mean driveless cars will work in unpredictable events. Also, I don't trust the hype from Uber or the tech industry. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/24/technology/anthony-levandowski-waymo-uber-google-lawsuit.html?mtrref=t.co&gwh=D6880521C2C06930788921147F4506C8&gwt=pay

John NYC March 11

The irony here seems to be that in attempting to make the aircraft as safe as possible (with systems updates and such) Boeing may very well have made their product less safe. Since the crashes, to date, have been limited to the one product that product should be grounded until a viable determination has been made. John~ American Net'Zen

cosmos Washington March 11

Knowing quite a few Boeing employees and retirees, people who have shared numerous stories of concerns about Boeing operations -- I personally avoid flying. As for the assertion: "The business of building and selling jets is brutally competitive" -- it is monopolistic competition, as there are only two players. That means consumers (in this case airlines) do not end up with the best and widest array of airplanes. The more monopolistic a market, the more it needs to be regulated in the public interest -- yet I seriously doubt the FAA or any governmental agency has peeked into all the cost cutting measures Boeing has implemented in recent years

drdeanster tinseltown March 11

@cosmos Patently ridiculous. Your odds are greater of dying from a lightning strike, or in a car accident. Or even from food poisoning. Do you avoid driving? Eating? Something about these major disasters makes people itching to abandon all sense of probability and statistics.

Bob Milan March 11

When the past year was the dealiest one in decades, and when there are two disasters involved the same plane within that year, how can anyone not draw an inference that there are something wrong with the plane? In statistical studies of a pattern, this is a very very strong basis for a logical reasoning that something is wrong with the plane. When the number involves human lives, we must take very seriously the possibility of design flaws. The MAX planes should be all grounded for now. Period.

65 Recommend
mak pakistan March 11

@Bob couldn't agree more - however the basic design and engineering of the 737 is proven to be dependable over the past ~ 6 decades......not saying that there haven't been accidents - but these probably lie well within the industry / type averages. the problems seems to have arisen with the introduction of systems which have purportedly been introduced to take a part of the work-load off the pilots & pass it onto a central compuertised system.

Maybe the 'automated anti-stalling ' programme installed into the 737 Max, due to some erroneous inputs from the sensors, provide inaccurate data to the flight management controls leading to stalling of the aircraft. It seems that the manufacturer did not provide sufficent technical data about the upgraded software, & incase of malfunction, the corrective procedures to be followed to mitigate such diasters happening - before delivery of the planes to customers.

The procedure for the pilot to take full control of the aircraft by disengaging the central computer should be simple and fast to execute. Please we don't want Tesla driverless vehicles high up in the sky !

James Conner Northwestern Montana March 11

All we know at the moment is that a 737 Max crashed in Africa a few minutes after taking off from a high elevation airport. Some see similarities with the crash of Lion Air's 737 Max last fall -- but drawing a line between the only two dots that exist does not begin to present a useful picture of the situation.

Human nature seeks an explanation for an event, and may lead some to make assumptions that are without merit in order to provide closure. That tendency is why following a dramatic event, when facts are few, and the few that exist may be misleading, there is so much cocksure speculation masquerading as solid, reasoned, analysis. At this point, it's best to keep an open mind and resist connecting dots.

Peter Sweden March 11

@James Conner 2 deadly crashes after the introduction of a new airplane has no precedence in recent aviation history. And the time it has happened (with Comet), it was due to a faulty aircraft design. There is, of course, some chance that there is no connection between the two accidents, but if there is, the consequences are huge. Especially because the two events happened with very similar fashion (right after takeoff, with wild altitude changes), so there is more similarities than just the type of the plane. So there is literally no reason to keep this model in the air until the investigation is concluded. Oh well, there is: money. Over human lives.

svenbi NY March 11

It might be a wrong analogy, but if Toyota/Lexus recall over 1.5 million vehicles due to at least over 20 fatalities in relations to potentially fawlty airbags, Boeing should -- after over 300 deaths in just about 6 months -- pull their product of the market voluntarily until it is sorted out once and for all.

This tragic situation recalls the early days of the de Havilland Comet, operated by BOAC, which kept plunging from the skies within its first years of operation until the fault was found to be in the rectangular windows, which did not withstand the pressure due its jet speed and the subsequent cracks in body ripped the planes apart in midflight.

Thore Eilertsen Oslo March 11

A third crash may have the potential to take the aircraft manufacturer out of business, it is therefore unbelievable that the reasons for the Lion Air crash haven't been properly established yet. With more than a 100 Boeing 737 Max already grounded, I would expect crash investigations now to be severely fast tracked.

And the entire fleet should be grounded on the principle of "better safe than sorry". But then again, that would cost Boeing money, suggesting that the company's assessment of the risks involved favours continued operations above the absolute safety of passengers.

Londoner London March 11

@Thore Eilertsen This is also not a case for a secretive and extended crash investigation process. As soon as the cockpit voice recording is extracted - which might be later today - it should be made public. We also need to hear the communications between the controllers and the aircraft and to know about the position regarding the special training the pilots received after the Lion Air crash.

Trevor Canada March 11

@Thore Eilertsen I would imagine that Boeing will be the first to propose grounding these planes if they believe with a high degree of probability that it's their issue. They have the most to lose. Let logic and patience prevail.

Marvin McConoughey oregon March 11

It is very clear, even in these early moments, that aircraft makers need far more comprehensive information on everything pertinent that is going on in cockpits when pilots encounter problems. That information should be continually transmitted to ground facilities in real time to permit possible ground technical support.

[Feb 11, 2019] 6 most prevalent problems in the software development world

Dec 01, 2018 | www.catswhocode.com

November 20, 2018

[Dec 27, 2018] The Yoda of Silicon Valley by Siobhan Roberts

Highly recommended!
Although he is certainly a giant, Knuth will never be able to complete this monograph - the technology developed too quickly. Three volumes came out in 1963-1968 and then there was a lull. January 10, he will be 81. At this age it is difficult to work in the field of mathematics and system programming. So we will probably never see the complete fourth volume.
This inability to finish the work he devoted a large part of hi life is definitely a tragedy. The key problem here is that now it is simply impossible to cover the whole area of ​​system programming and related algorithms for one person. But the first three volumes played tremendous positive role for sure.
Also he was distracted for several years to create TeX. He needed to create a non-profit and complete this work by attracting the best minds from the outside. But he is by nature a loner, as many great scientists are, and prefer to work this way.
His other mistake is due to the fact that MIX - his emulator was too far from the IBM S/360, which became the standard de-facto in mid-60th. He then realized that this was a blunder and replaced MIX with more modem emulator MIXX, but it was "too little, too late" and it took time and effort. So the first three volumes and fragments of the fourth is all that we have now and probably forever.
Not all volumes fared equally well with time. The third volume suffered most IMHO and as of 2019 is partially obsolete. Also it was written by him in some haste and some parts of it are are far from clearly written ( it was based on earlier lectures of Floyd, so it was oriented of single CPU computers only. Now when multiprocessor machines, huge amount of RAM and SSD hard drives are the norm, the situation is very different from late 60th. It requires different sorting algorithms (the importance of mergesort increased, importance of quicksort decreased). He also got too carried away with sorting random numbers and establishing upper bound and average run time. The real data is almost never random and typically contain sorted fragments. For example, he overestimated the importance of quicksort and thus pushed the discipline in the wrong direction.
Notable quotes:
"... These days, it is 'coding', which is more like 'code-spraying'. Throw code at a problem until it kind of works, then fix the bugs in the post-release, or the next update. ..."
"... AI is a joke. None of the current 'AI' actually is. It is just another new buzz-word to throw around to people that do not understand it at all. ..."
"... One good teacher makes all the difference in life. More than one is a rare blessing. ..."
Dec 17, 2018 | www.nytimes.com

With more than one million copies in print, "The Art of Computer Programming " is the Bible of its field. "Like an actual bible, it is long and comprehensive; no other book is as comprehensive," said Peter Norvig, a director of research at Google. After 652 pages, volume one closes with a blurb on the back cover from Bill Gates: "You should definitely send me a résumé if you can read the whole thing."

The volume opens with an excerpt from " McCall's Cookbook ":

Here is your book, the one your thousands of letters have asked us to publish. It has taken us years to do, checking and rechecking countless recipes to bring you only the best, only the interesting, only the perfect.

Inside are algorithms, the recipes that feed the digital age -- although, as Dr. Knuth likes to point out, algorithms can also be found on Babylonian tablets from 3,800 years ago. He is an esteemed algorithmist; his name is attached to some of the field's most important specimens, such as the Knuth-Morris-Pratt string-searching algorithm. Devised in 1970, it finds all occurrences of a given word or pattern of letters in a text -- for instance, when you hit Command+F to search for a keyword in a document.

... ... ...

During summer vacations, Dr. Knuth made more money than professors earned in a year by writing compilers. A compiler is like a translator, converting a high-level programming language (resembling algebra) to a lower-level one (sometimes arcane binary) and, ideally, improving it in the process. In computer science, "optimization" is truly an art, and this is articulated in another Knuthian proverb: "Premature optimization is the root of all evil."

Eventually Dr. Knuth became a compiler himself, inadvertently founding a new field that he came to call the "analysis of algorithms." A publisher hired him to write a book about compilers, but it evolved into a book collecting everything he knew about how to write for computers -- a book about algorithms.

... ... ...

When Dr. Knuth started out, he intended to write a single work. Soon after, computer science underwent its Big Bang, so he reimagined and recast the project in seven volumes. Now he metes out sub-volumes, called fascicles. The next installation, "Volume 4, Fascicle 5," covering, among other things, "backtracking" and "dancing links," was meant to be published in time for Christmas. It is delayed until next April because he keeps finding more and more irresistible problems that he wants to present.

In order to optimize his chances of getting to the end, Dr. Knuth has long guarded his time. He retired at 55, restricted his public engagements and quit email (officially, at least). Andrei Broder recalled that time management was his professor's defining characteristic even in the early 1980s.

Dr. Knuth typically held student appointments on Friday mornings, until he started spending his nights in the lab of John McCarthy, a founder of artificial intelligence, to get access to the computers when they were free. Horrified by what his beloved book looked like on the page with the advent of digital publishing, Dr. Knuth had gone on a mission to create the TeX computer typesetting system, which remains the gold standard for all forms of scientific communication and publication. Some consider it Dr. Knuth's greatest contribution to the world, and the greatest contribution to typography since Gutenberg.

This decade-long detour took place back in the age when computers were shared among users and ran faster at night while most humans slept. So Dr. Knuth switched day into night, shifted his schedule by 12 hours and mapped his student appointments to Fridays from 8 p.m. to midnight. Dr. Broder recalled, "When I told my girlfriend that we can't do anything Friday night because Friday night at 10 I have to meet with my adviser, she thought, 'This is something that is so stupid it must be true.'"

... ... ...

Lucky, then, Dr. Knuth keeps at it. He figures it will take another 25 years to finish "The Art of Computer Programming," although that time frame has been a constant since about 1980. Might the algorithm-writing algorithms get their own chapter, or maybe a page in the epilogue? "Definitely not," said Dr. Knuth.

"I am worried that algorithms are getting too prominent in the world," he added. "It started out that computer scientists were worried nobody was listening to us. Now I'm worried that too many people are listening."


Scott Kim Burlingame, CA Dec. 18

Thanks Siobhan for your vivid portrait of my friend and mentor. When I came to Stanford as an undergrad in 1973 I asked who in the math dept was interested in puzzles. They pointed me to the computer science dept, where I met Knuth and we hit it off immediately. Not only a great thinker and writer, but as you so well described, always present and warm in person. He was also one of the best teachers I've ever had -- clear, funny, and interested in every student (his elegant policy was each student can only speak twice in class during a period, to give everyone a chance to participate, and he made a point of remembering everyone's names). Some thoughts from Knuth I carry with me: finding the right name for a project is half the work (not literally true, but he labored hard on finding the right names for TeX, Metafont, etc.), always do your best work, half of why the field of computer science exists is because it is a way for mathematically minded people who like to build things can meet each other, and the observation that when the computer science dept began at Stanford one of the standard interview questions was "what instrument do you play" -- there was a deep connection between music and computer science, and indeed the dept had multiple string quartets. But in recent decades that has changed entirely. If you do a book on Knuth (he deserves it), please be in touch.

IMiss America US Dec. 18

I remember when programming was art. I remember when programming was programming. These days, it is 'coding', which is more like 'code-spraying'. Throw code at a problem until it kind of works, then fix the bugs in the post-release, or the next update.

AI is a joke. None of the current 'AI' actually is. It is just another new buzz-word to throw around to people that do not understand it at all. We should be in a golden age of computing. Instead, we are cutting all corners to get something out as fast as possible. The technology exists to do far more. It is the human element that fails us.

Ronald Aaronson Armonk, NY Dec. 18

My particular field of interest has always been compiler writing and have been long awaiting Knuth's volume on that subject. I would just like to point out that among Kunth's many accomplishments is the invention of LR parsers, which are widely used for writing programming language compilers.

Edward Snowden Russia Dec. 18

Yes, \TeX, and its derivative, \LaTeX{} contributed greatly to being able to create elegant documents. It is also available for the web in the form MathJax, and it's about time the New York Times supported MathJax. Many times I want one of my New York Times comments to include math, but there's no way to do so! It comes up equivalent to: $e^{i\pi}+1$.

48 Recommend
henry pick new york Dec. 18

I read it at the time, because what I really wanted to read was volume 7, Compilers. As I understood it at the time, Professor Knuth wrote it in order to make enough money to build an organ. That apparantly happened by 3:Knuth, Searching and Sorting. The most impressive part is the mathemathics in Semi-numerical (2:Knuth). A lot of those problems are research projects over the literature of the last 400 years of mathematics.

Steve Singer Chicago Dec. 18

I own the three volume "Art of Computer Programming", the hardbound boxed set. Luxurious. I don't look at it very often thanks to time constraints, given my workload. But your article motivated me to at least pick it up and carry it from my reserve library to a spot closer to my main desk so I can at least grab Volume 1 and try to read some of it when the mood strikes. I had forgotten just how heavy it is, intellectual content aside. It must weigh more than 25 pounds.

Terry Hayes Los Altos, CA Dec. 18

I too used my copies of The Art of Computer Programming to guide me in several projects in my career, across a variety of topic areas. Now that I'm living in Silicon Valley, I enjoy seeing Knuth at events at the Computer History Museum (where he was a 1998 Fellow Award winner), and at Stanford. Another facet of his teaching is the annual Christmas Lecture, in which he presents something of recent (or not-so-recent) interest. The 2018 lecture is available online - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cR9zDlvP88

Chris Tong Kelseyville, California Dec. 17

One of the most special treats for first year Ph.D. students in the Stanford University Computer Science Department was to take the Computer Problem-Solving class with Don Knuth. It was small and intimate, and we sat around a table for our meetings. Knuth started the semester by giving us an extremely challenging, previously unsolved problem. We then formed teams of 2 or 3. Each week, each team would report progress (or lack thereof), and Knuth, in the most supportive way, would assess our problem-solving approach and make suggestions for how to improve it. To have a master thinker giving one feedback on how to think better was a rare and extraordinary experience, from which I am still benefiting! Knuth ended the semester (after we had all solved the problem) by having us over to his house for food, drink, and tales from his life. . . And for those like me with a musical interest, he let us play the magnificent pipe organ that was at the center of his music room. Thank you Professor Knuth, for giving me one of the most profound educational experiences I've ever had, with such encouragement and humor!

Been there Boulder, Colorado Dec. 17

I learned about Dr. Knuth as a graduate student in the early 70s from one of my professors and made the financial sacrifice (graduate student assistantships were not lucrative) to buy the first and then the second volume of the Art of Computer Programming. Later, at Bell Labs, when I was a bit richer, I bought the third volume. I have those books still and have used them for reference for years. Thank you Dr, Knuth. Art, indeed!

Gianni New York Dec. 18

@Trerra In the good old days, before Computer Science, anyone could take the Programming Aptitude Test. Pass it and companies would train you. Although there were many mathematicians and scientists, some of the best programmers turned out to be music majors. English, Social Sciences, and History majors were represented as well as scientists and mathematicians. It was a wonderful atmosphere to work in . When I started to look for a job as a programmer, I took Prudential Life Insurance's version of the Aptitude Test. After the test, the interviewer was all bent out of shape because my verbal score was higher than my math score; I was a physics major. Luckily they didn't hire me and I got a job with IBM.

M Martínez Miami Dec. 17

In summary, "May the force be with you" means: Did you read Donald Knuth's "The Art of Computer Programming"? Excellent, we loved this article. We will share it with many young developers we know.

mds USA Dec. 17

Dr. Knuth is a great Computer Scientist. Around 25 years ago, I met Dr. Knuth in a small gathering a day before he was awarded a honorary Doctorate in a university. This is my approximate recollection of a conversation. I said-- " Dr. Knuth, you have dedicated your book to a computer (one with which he had spent a lot of time, perhaps a predecessor to PDP-11). Isn't it unusual?". He said-- "Well, I love my wife as much as anyone." He then turned to his wife and said --"Don't you think so?". It would be nice if scientists with the gift of such great minds tried to address some problems of ordinary people, e.g. a model of economy where everyone can get a job and health insurance, say, like Dr. Paul Krugman.

Nadine NYC Dec. 17

I was in a training program for women in computer systems at CUNY graduate center, and they used his obtuse book. It was one of the reasons I dropped out. He used a fantasy language to describe his algorithms in his book that one could not test on computers. I already had work experience as a programmer with algorithms and I know how valuable real languages are. I might as well have read Animal Farm. It might have been different if he was the instructor.

Doug McKenna Boulder Colorado Dec. 17

Don Knuth's work has been a curious thread weaving in and out of my life. I was first introduced to Knuth and his The Art of Computer Programming back in 1973, when I was tasked with understanding a section of the then-only-two-volume Book well enough to give a lecture explaining it to my college algorithms class. But when I first met him in 1981 at Stanford, he was all-in on thinking about typography and this new-fangled system of his called TeX. Skip a quarter century. One day in 2009, I foolishly decided kind of on a whim to rewrite TeX from scratch (in my copious spare time), as a simple C library, so that its typesetting algorithms could be put to use in other software such as electronic eBook's with high-quality math typesetting and interactive pictures. I asked Knuth for advice. He warned me, prepare yourself, it's going to consume five years of your life. I didn't believe him, so I set off and tried anyway. As usual, he was right.

Baddy Khan San Francisco Dec. 17

I have signed copied of "Fundamental Algorithms" in my library, which I treasure. Knuth was a fine teacher, and is truly a brilliant and inspiring individual. He taught during the same period as Vint Cerf, another wonderful teacher with a great sense of humor who is truly a "father of the internet". One good teacher makes all the difference in life. More than one is a rare blessing.

Indisk Fringe Dec. 17

I am a biologist, specifically a geneticist. I became interested in LaTeX typesetting early in my career and have been either called pompous or vilified by people at all levels for wanting to use. One of my PhD advisors famously told me to forget LaTeX because it was a thing of the past. I have now forgotten him completely. I still use LaTeX almost every day in my work even though I don't generally typeset with equations or algorithms. My students always get trained in using proper typesetting. Unfortunately, the publishing industry has all but largely given up on TeX. Very few journals in my field accept TeX manuscripts, and most of them convert to word before feeding text to their publishing software. Whatever people might argue against TeX, the beauty and elegance of a property typeset document is unparalleled. Long live LaTeX

PaulSFO San Francisco Dec. 17

A few years ago Severo Ornstein (who, incidentally, did the hardware design for the first router, in 1969), and his wife Laura, hosted a concert in their home in the hills above Palo Alto. During a break a friend and I were chatting when a man came over and *asked* if he could chat with us (a high honor, indeed). His name was Don. After a few minutes I grew suspicious and asked "What's your last name?" Friendly, modest, brilliant; a nice addition to our little chat.

Tim Black Wilmington, NC Dec. 17

When I was a physics undergraduate (at Trinity in Hartford), I was hired to re-write professor's papers into TeX. Seeing the beauty of TeX, I wrote a program that re-wrote my lab reports (including graphs!) into TeX. My lab instructors were amazed! How did I do it? I never told them. But I just recognized that Knuth was a genius and rode his coat-tails, as I have continued to do for the last 30 years!

Jack512 Alexandria VA Dec. 17

A famous quote from Knuth: "Beware of bugs in the above code; I have only proved it correct, not tried it." Anyone who has ever programmed a computer will feel the truth of this in their bones.

[Dec 11, 2018] Software "upgrades" require workers to constantly relearn the same task because some young "genius" observed that a carefully thought out interface "looked tired" and glitzed it up.

Dec 11, 2018 | www.ianwelsh.net

S Brennan permalink April 24, 2016

My grandfather, in the early 60's could board a 707 in New York and arrive in LA in far less time than I can today. And no, I am not counting 4 hour layovers with the long waits to be "screened", the jets were 50-70 knots faster, back then your time was worth more, today less.

Not counting longer hours AT WORK, we spend far more time commuting making for much longer work days, back then your time was worth more, today less!

Software "upgrades" require workers to constantly relearn the same task because some young "genius" observed that a carefully thought out interface "looked tired" and glitzed it up. Think about the almost perfect Google Maps driver interface being redesigned by people who take private buses to work. Way back in the '90's your time was worth more than today!

Life is all the "time" YOU will ever have and if we let the elite do so, they will suck every bit of it out of you.

[Nov 05, 2018] Revisiting the Unix philosophy in 2018 Opensource.com by Michael Hausenblas

Nov 05, 2018 | opensource.com

Revisiting the Unix philosophy in 2018 The old strategy of building small, focused applications is new again in the modern microservices environment.

Program Design in the Unix Environment " in the AT&T Bell Laboratories Technical Journal, in which they argued the Unix philosophy, using the example of BSD's cat -v implementation. In a nutshell that philosophy is: Build small, focused programs -- in whatever language -- that do only one thing but do this thing well, communicate via stdin / stdout , and are connected through pipes.

Sound familiar?

Yeah, I thought so. That's pretty much the definition of microservices offered by James Lewis and Martin Fowler:

In short, the microservice architectural style is an approach to developing a single application as a suite of small services, each running in its own process and communicating with lightweight mechanisms, often an HTTP resource API.

While one *nix program or one microservice may be very limited or not even very interesting on its own, it's the combination of such independently working units that reveals their true benefit and, therefore, their power.

*nix vs. microservices

The following table compares programs (such as cat or lsof ) in a *nix environment against programs in a microservices environment.

*nix Microservices
Unit of execution program using stdin / stdout service with HTTP or gRPC API
Data flow Pipes ?
Configuration & parameterization Command-line arguments,
environment variables, config files
JSON/YAML docs
Discovery Package manager, man, make DNS, environment variables, OpenAPI

Let's explore each line in slightly greater detail.

Unit of execution

More on Microservices

The unit of execution in *nix (such as Linux) is an executable file (binary or interpreted script) that, ideally, reads input from stdin and writes output to stdout . A microservices setup deals with a service that exposes one or more communication interfaces, such as HTTP or gRPC APIs. In both cases, you'll find stateless examples (essentially a purely functional behavior) and stateful examples, where, in addition to the input, some internal (persisted) state decides what happens. Data flow

Traditionally, *nix programs could communicate via pipes. In other words, thanks to Doug McIlroy , you don't need to create temporary files to pass around and each can process virtually endless streams of data between processes. To my knowledge, there is nothing comparable to a pipe standardized in microservices, besides my little Apache Kafka-based experiment from 2017 .

Configuration and parameterization

How do you configure a program or service -- either on a permanent or a by-call basis? Well, with *nix programs you essentially have three options: command-line arguments, environment variables, or full-blown config files. In microservices, you typically deal with YAML (or even worse, JSON) documents, defining the layout and configuration of a single microservice as well as dependencies and communication, storage, and runtime settings. Examples include Kubernetes resource definitions , Nomad job specifications , or Docker Compose files. These may or may not be parameterized; that is, either you have some templating language, such as Helm in Kubernetes, or you find yourself doing an awful lot of sed -i commands.

Discovery

How do you know what programs or services are available and how they are supposed to be used? Well, in *nix, you typically have a package manager as well as good old man; between them, they should be able to answer all the questions you might have. In a microservices setup, there's a bit more automation in finding a service. In addition to bespoke approaches like Airbnb's SmartStack or Netflix's Eureka , there usually are environment variable-based or DNS-based approaches that allow you to discover services dynamically. Equally important, OpenAPI provides a de-facto standard for HTTP API documentation and design, and gRPC does the same for more tightly coupled high-performance cases. Last but not least, take developer experience (DX) into account, starting with writing good Makefiles and ending with writing your docs with (or in?) style .

Pros and cons

Both *nix and microservices offer a number of challenges and opportunities

Composability

It's hard to design something that has a clear, sharp focus and can also play well with others. It's even harder to get it right across different versions and to introduce respective error case handling capabilities. In microservices, this could mean retry logic and timeouts -- maybe it's a better option to outsource these features into a service mesh? It's hard, but if you get it right, its reusability can be enormous.

Observability

In a monolith (in 2018) or a big program that tries to do it all (in 1984), it's rather straightforward to find the culprit when things go south. But, in a

yes | tr \\n x | head -c 450m | grep n

or a request path in a microservices setup that involves, say, 20 services, how do you even start to figure out which one is behaving badly? Luckily we have standards, notably OpenCensus and OpenTracing . Observability still might be the biggest single blocker if you are looking to move to microservices.

Global state

While it may not be such a big issue for *nix programs, in microservices, global state remains something of a discussion. Namely, how to make sure the local (persistent) state is managed effectively and how to make the global state consistent with as little effort as possible.

Wrapping up

In the end, the question remains: Are you using the right tool for a given task? That is, in the same way a specialized *nix program implementing a range of functions might be the better choice for certain use cases or phases, it might be that a monolith is the best option for your organization or workload. Regardless, I hope this article helps you see the many, strong parallels between the Unix philosophy and microservices -- maybe we can learn something from the former to benefit the latter.

Michael Hausenblas is a Developer Advocate for Kubernetes and OpenShift at Red Hat where he helps appops to build and operate apps. His background is in large-scale data processing and container orchestration and he's experienced in advocacy and standardization at W3C and IETF. Before Red Hat, Michael worked at Mesosphere, MapR and in two research institutions in Ireland and Austria. He contributes to open source software incl. Kubernetes, speaks at conferences and user groups, and shares good practices...

[Nov 05, 2018] The Linux Philosophy for SysAdmins And Everyone Who Wants To Be One eBook by David Both

Nov 05, 2018 | www.amazon.com

Elegance is one of those things that can be difficult to define. I know it when I see it, but putting what I see into a terse definition is a challenge. Using the Linux diet
command, Wordnet provides one definition of elegance as, "a quality of neatness and ingenious simplicity in the solution of a problem (especially in science or mathematics); 'the simplicity and elegance of his invention.'"

In the context of this book, I think that elegance is a state of beauty and simplicity in the design and working of both hardware and software. When a design is elegant,
software and hardware work better and are more efficient. The user is aided by simple, efficient, and understandable tools.

Creating elegance in a technological environment is hard. It is also necessary. Elegant solutions produce elegant results and are easy to maintain and fix. Elegance does not happen by accident; you must work for it.

The quality of simplicity is a large part of technical elegance. So large, in fact that it deserves a chapter of its own, Chapter 18, "Find the Simplicity," but we do not ignore it here. This chapter discusses what it means for hardware and software to be elegant.

Hardware Elegance

Yes, hardware can be elegant -- even beautiful, pleasing to the eye. Hardware that is well designed is more reliable as well. Elegant hardware solutions improve reliability'.

[Oct 27, 2018] One issue with Microsoft (not just Microsoft) is that their business model (not the benefit of the users) requires frequent changes in the systems, so bugs are introduced at the steady clip.

Oct 27, 2018 | www.moonofalabama.org

Piotr Berman , Oct 26, 2018 2:55:29 PM | 5 ">link

"Even Microsoft, the biggest software company in the world, recently screwed up..."

Isn't it rather logical than the larger a company is, the more screw ups it can make? After all, Microsofts has armies of programmers to make those bugs.

Once I created a joke that the best way to disable missile defense would be to have a rocket that can stop in mid-air, thus provoking the software to divide be zero and crash. One day I told that joke to a military officer who told me that something like that actually happened, but it was in the Navy and it involved a test with a torpedo. Not only the program for "torpedo defense" went down but the system crashed too and the engine of the ship stopped working as well. I also recall explanations that a new complex software system typically has all major bugs removed after being used for a year. And the occasion was Internal Revenue Service changing hardware and software leading to widely reported problems.

One issue with Microsoft (not just Microsoft) is that their business model (not the benefit of the users) requires frequent changes in the systems, so bugs are introduced at the steady clip. Of course, they do not make money on bugs per se, but on new features that in time make it impossible to use older versions of the software and hardware.

[Sep 21, 2018] 'It Just Seems That Nobody is Interested in Building Quality, Fast, Efficient, Lasting, Foundational Stuff Anymore'

Sep 21, 2018 | tech.slashdot.org

Nikita Prokopov, a software programmer and author of Fira Code, a popular programming font, AnyBar, a universal status indicator, and some open-source Clojure libraries, writes :

Remember times when an OS, apps and all your data fit on a floppy? Your desktop todo app is probably written in Electron and thus has userland driver for Xbox 360 controller in it, can render 3d graphics and play audio and take photos with your web camera. A simple text chat is notorious for its load speed and memory consumption. Yes, you really have to count Slack in as a resource-heavy application. I mean, chatroom and barebones text editor, those are supposed to be two of the less demanding apps in the whole world. Welcome to 2018.

At least it works, you might say. Well, bigger doesn't imply better. Bigger means someone has lost control. Bigger means we don't know what's going on. Bigger means complexity tax, performance tax, reliability tax. This is not the norm and should not become the norm . Overweight apps should mean a red flag. They should mean run away scared. 16Gb Android phone was perfectly fine 3 years ago. Today with Android 8.1 it's barely usable because each app has become at least twice as big for no apparent reason. There are no additional functions. They are not faster or more optimized. They don't look different. They just...grow?

iPhone 4s was released with iOS 5, but can barely run iOS 9. And it's not because iOS 9 is that much superior -- it's basically the same. But their new hardware is faster, so they made software slower. Don't worry -- you got exciting new capabilities like...running the same apps with the same speed! I dunno. [...] Nobody understands anything at this point. Neither they want to. We just throw barely baked shit out there, hope for the best and call it "startup wisdom." Web pages ask you to refresh if anything goes wrong. Who has time to figure out what happened? Any web app produces a constant stream of "random" JS errors in the wild, even on compatible browsers.

[...] It just seems that nobody is interested in building quality, fast, efficient, lasting, foundational stuff anymore. Even when efficient solutions have been known for ages, we still struggle with the same problems: package management, build systems, compilers, language design, IDEs. Build systems are inherently unreliable and periodically require full clean, even though all info for invalidation is there. Nothing stops us from making build process reliable, predictable and 100% reproducible. Just nobody thinks its important. NPM has stayed in "sometimes works" state for years.


K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) , Friday September 21, 2018 @11:32AM ( #57354556 )

Re:Why should they? ( Score: 4 , Insightful)

Less resource use to accomplish the required tasks? Both in manufacturing (more chips from the same amount of manufacturing input) and in operation (less power used)?

K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) writes: on Friday September 21, 2018 @11:58AM ( #57354754 )
Re:Why should they? ( Score: 2 )

Ehm...so for example using smaller cars with better mileage to commute isn't more environmentally friendly either, according to you?https://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=12644750&cid=57354556#

DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) writes: on Friday September 21, 2018 @12:04PM ( #57354826 )
Re:Why should they? ( Score: 2 )

iPhone 4S used to be the best and could run all the applications.

Today, the same power is not sufficient because of software bloat. So you could say that all the iPhones since the iPhone 4S are devices that were created and then dumped for no reason.

It doesn't matter since we can't change the past and it doesn't matter much since improvements are slowing down so people are changing their phones less often.

Mark of the North ( 19760 ) , Friday September 21, 2018 @01:02PM ( #57355296 )
Re:Why should they? ( Score: 5 , Interesting)

Can you really not see the connection between inefficient software and environmental harm? All those computers running code that uses four times as much data, and four times the number crunching, as is reasonable? That excess RAM and storage has to be built as well as powered along with the CPU. Those material and electrical resources have to come from somewhere.

But the calculus changes completely when the software manufacturer hosts the software (or pays for the hosting) for their customers. Our projected AWS bill motivated our management to let me write the sort of efficient code I've been trained to write. After two years of maintaining some pretty horrible legacy code, it is a welcome change.

The big players care a great deal about efficiency when they can't outsource inefficiency to the user's computing resources.

eth1 ( 94901 ) , Friday September 21, 2018 @11:45AM ( #57354656 )
Re:Why should they? ( Score: 5 , Informative)
We've been trained to be a consuming society of disposable goods. The latest and greatest feature will always be more important than something that is reliable and durable for the long haul.

It's not just consumer stuff.

The network team I'm a part of has been dealing with more and more frequent outages, 90% of which are due to bugs in software running our devices. These aren't fly-by-night vendors either, they're the "no one ever got fired for buying X" ones like Cisco, F5, Palo Alto, EMC, etc.

10 years ago, outages were 10% bugs, and 90% human error, now it seems to be the other way around. Everyone's chasing features, because that's what sells, so there's no time for efficiency/stability/security any more.

LucasBC ( 1138637 ) , Friday September 21, 2018 @12:05PM ( #57354836 )
Re:Why should they? ( Score: 3 , Interesting)

Poor software engineering means that very capable computers are no longer capable of running modern, unnecessarily bloated software. This, in turn, leads to people having to replace computers that are otherwise working well, solely for the reason to keep up with software that requires more and more system resources for no tangible benefit. In a nutshell -- sloppy, lazy programming leads to more technology waste. That impacts the environment. I have a unique perspective in this topic. I do web development for a company that does electronics recycling. I have suffered the continued bloat in software in the tools I use (most egregiously, Adobe), and I see the impact of technological waste in the increasing amount of electronics recycling that is occurring. Ironically, I'm working at home today because my computer at the office kept stalling every time I had Photoshop and Illustrator open at the same time. A few years ago that wasn't a problem.

arglebargle_xiv ( 2212710 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 3 )

There is one place where people still produce stuff like the OP wants, and that's embedded. Not IoT wank, but real embedded, running on CPUs clocked at tens of MHz with RAM in two-digit kilobyte (not megabyte or gigabyte) quantities. And a lot of that stuff is written to very exacting standards, particularly where something like realtime control and/or safety is involved.

The one problem in this area is the endless battle with standards morons who begin each standard with an implicit "assume an infinitely

commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) , Friday September 21, 2018 @03:58PM ( #57356680 ) Journal
Re:Why should they? ( Score: 3 )

> Poor software engineering means that very capable computers are no longer capable of running modern, unnecessarily bloated software.

Not just computers.

You can add Smart TVs, settop internet boxes, Kindles, tablets, et cetera that must be thrown-away when they become too old (say 5 years) to run the latest bloatware. Software non-engineering is causing a lot of working hardware to be landfilled, and for no good reason.

[Sep 21, 2018] Fast, cheap (efficient) and reliable (robust, long lasting): pick 2

Sep 21, 2018 | tech.slashdot.org

JoeDuncan ( 874519 ) , Friday September 21, 2018 @12:58PM ( #57355276 )

Obligatory ( Score: 2 )

Fast, cheap (efficient) and reliable (robust, long lasting): pick 2.

roc97007 ( 608802 ) , Friday September 21, 2018 @12:16PM ( #57354946 ) Journal
Re:Bloat = growth ( Score: 2 )

There's probably some truth to that. And it's a sad commentary on the industry.

[Sep 21, 2018] Since Moore's law appears to have stalled since at least five years ago, it will be interesting to see if we start to see algorithm research or code optimization techniques coming to the fore again.

Sep 21, 2018 | tech.slashdot.org

Anonymous Coward , Friday September 21, 2018 @11:26AM ( #57354512 )

Moore's law ( Score: 5 , Interesting)

When the speed of your processor doubles every two year along with a concurrent doubling of RAM and disk space, then you can get away with bloatware.

Since Moore's law appears to have stalled since at least five years ago, it will be interesting to see if we start to see algorithm research or code optimization techniques coming to the fore again.

[Sep 16, 2018] After the iron curtain fell, there was a big demand for Russian-trained programmers because they could program in a very efficient and light manner that didn't demand too much of the hardware, if I remember correctly

Notable quotes:
"... It's a bit of chicken-and-egg problem, though. Russia, throughout 20th century, had problem with developing small, effective hardware, so their programmers learned how to code to take maximum advantage of what they had, with their technological deficiency in one field giving rise to superiority in another. ..."
"... Russian tech ppl should always be viewed with certain amount of awe and respect...although they are hardly good on everything. ..."
"... Soviet university training in "cybernetics" as it was called in the late 1980s involved two years of programming on blackboards before the students even touched an actual computer. ..."
"... I recall flowcharting entirely on paper before committing a program to punched cards. ..."
Aug 01, 2018 | turcopolier.typepad.com

Bill Herschel 2 days ago ,

Very, very slightly off-topic.

Much has been made, including in this post, of the excellent organization of Russian forces and Russian military technology.

I have been re-investigating an open-source relational database system known as PosgreSQL (variously), and I remember finding perhaps a decade ago a very useful whole text search feature of this system which I vaguely remember was written by a Russian and, for that reason, mildly distrusted by me.

Come to find out that the principle developers and maintainers of PostgreSQL are Russian. OMG. Double OMG, because the reason I chose it in the first place is that it is the best non-proprietary RDBS out there and today is supported on Google Cloud, AWS, etc.

The US has met an equal or conceivably a superior, case closed. Trump's thoroughly odd behavior with Putin is just one but a very obvious one example of this.

Of course, Trump's nationalistic blather is creating a "base" of people who believe in the godliness of the US. They are in for a very serious disappointment.

kao_hsien_chih Bill Herschel a day ago ,

After the iron curtain fell, there was a big demand for Russian-trained programmers because they could program in a very efficient and "light" manner that didn't demand too much of the hardware, if I remember correctly.

It's a bit of chicken-and-egg problem, though. Russia, throughout 20th century, had problem with developing small, effective hardware, so their programmers learned how to code to take maximum advantage of what they had, with their technological deficiency in one field giving rise to superiority in another.

Russia has plenty of very skilled, very well-trained folks and their science and math education is, in a way, more fundamentally and soundly grounded on the foundational stuff than US (based on my personal interactions anyways).

Russian tech ppl should always be viewed with certain amount of awe and respect...although they are hardly good on everything.

TTG kao_hsien_chih a day ago ,

Well said. Soviet university training in "cybernetics" as it was called in the late 1980s involved two years of programming on blackboards before the students even touched an actual computer.

It gave the students an understanding of how computers works down to the bit flipping level. Imagine trying to fuzz code in your head.

FarNorthSolitude TTG a day ago ,

I recall flowcharting entirely on paper before committing a program to punched cards. I used to do hex and octal math in my head as part of debugging core dumps. Ah, the glory days.

Honeywell once made a military computer that was 10 bit. That stumped me for a while, as everything was 8 or 16 bit back then.

kao_hsien_chih FarNorthSolitude 10 hours ago ,

That used to be fairly common in the civilian sector (in US) too: computing time was expensive, so you had to make sure that the stuff worked flawlessly before it was committed.

No opportunity to seeing things go wrong and do things over like much of how things happen nowadays. Russians, with their hardware limitations/shortages, I imagine must have been much more thorough than US programmers were back in the old days, and you could only get there by being very thoroughly grounded n the basics.

[Sep 07, 2018] How Can We Fix The Broken Economics of Open Source?

Notable quotes:
"... [with some subset of features behind a paywall] ..."
Sep 07, 2018 | news.slashdot.org

If we take consulting, services, and support off the table as an option for high-growth revenue generation (the only thing VCs care about), we are left with open core [with some subset of features behind a paywall] , software as a service, or some blurring of the two... Everyone wants infrastructure software to be free and continuously developed by highly skilled professional developers (who in turn expect to make substantial salaries), but no one wants to pay for it. The economics of this situation are unsustainable and broken ...

[W]e now come to what I have recently called "loose" open core and SaaS. In the future, I believe the most successful OSS projects will be primarily monetized via this method. What is it? The idea behind "loose" open core and SaaS is that a popular OSS project can be developed as a completely community driven project (this avoids the conflicts of interest inherent in "pure" open core), while value added proprietary services and software can be sold in an ecosystem that forms around the OSS...

Unfortunately, there is an inflection point at which in some sense an OSS project becomes too popular for its own good, and outgrows its ability to generate enough revenue via either "pure" open core or services and support... [B]uilding a vibrant community and then enabling an ecosystem of "loose" open core and SaaS businesses on top appears to me to be the only viable path forward for modern VC-backed OSS startups.
Klein also suggests OSS foundations start providing fellowships to key maintainers, who currently "operate under an almost feudal system of patronage, hopping from company to company, trying to earn a living, keep the community vibrant, and all the while stay impartial..."

"[A]s an industry, we are going to have to come to terms with the economic reality: nothing is free, including OSS. If we want vibrant OSS projects maintained by engineers that are well compensated and not conflicted, we are going to have to decide that this is something worth paying for. In my opinion, fellowships provided by OSS foundations and funded by companies generating revenue off of the OSS is a great way to start down this path."

[Apr 30, 2018] New Book Describes Bluffing Programmers in Silicon Valley

Notable quotes:
"... Live Work Work Work Die: A Journey into the Savage Heart of Silicon Valley ..."
"... Older generations called this kind of fraud "fake it 'til you make it." ..."
"... Nowadays I work 9:30-4:30 for a very good, consistent paycheck and let some other "smart person" put in 75 hours a week dealing with hiring ..."
"... It's not a "kids these days" sort of issue, it's *always* been the case that shameless, baseless self-promotion wins out over sincere skill without the self-promotion, because the people who control the money generally understand boasting more than they understand the technology. ..."
"... In the bad old days we had a hell of a lot of ridiculous restriction We must somehow made our programs to run successfully inside a RAM that was 48KB in size (yes, 48KB, not 48MB or 48GB), on a CPU with a clock speed of 1.023 MHz ..."
"... So what are the uses for that? I am curious what things people have put these to use for. ..."
"... Also, Oracle, SAP, IBM... I would never buy from them, nor use their products. I have used plenty of IBM products and they suck big time. They make software development 100 times harder than it could be. ..."
"... I have a theory that 10% of people are good at what they do. It doesn't really matter what they do, they will still be good at it, because of their nature. These are the people who invent new things, who fix things that others didn't even see as broken and who automate routine tasks or simply question and erase tasks that are not necessary. ..."
"... 10% are just causing damage. I'm not talking about terrorists and criminals. ..."
"... Programming is statistically a dead-end job. Why should anyone hone a dead-end skill that you won't be able to use for long? For whatever reason, the industry doesn't want old programmers. ..."
Apr 30, 2018 | news.slashdot.org

Long-time Slashdot reader Martin S. pointed us to this an excerpt from the new book Live Work Work Work Die: A Journey into the Savage Heart of Silicon Valley by Portland-based investigator reporter Corey Pein.

The author shares what he realized at a job recruitment fair seeking Java Legends, Python Badasses, Hadoop Heroes, "and other gratingly childish classifications describing various programming specialities.

" I wasn't the only one bluffing my way through the tech scene. Everyone was doing it, even the much-sought-after engineering talent.

I was struck by how many developers were, like myself, not really programmers , but rather this, that and the other. A great number of tech ninjas were not exactly black belts when it came to the actual onerous work of computer programming. So many of the complex, discrete tasks involved in the creation of a website or an app had been automated that it was no longer necessary to possess knowledge of software mechanics. The coder's work was rarely a craft. The apps ran on an assembly line, built with "open-source", off-the-shelf components. The most important computer commands for the ninja to master were copy and paste...

[M]any programmers who had "made it" in Silicon Valley were scrambling to promote themselves from coder to "founder". There wasn't necessarily more money to be had running a startup, and the increase in status was marginal unless one's startup attracted major investment and the right kind of press coverage. It's because the programmers knew that their own ladder to prosperity was on fire and disintegrating fast. They knew that well-paid programming jobs would also soon turn to smoke and ash, as the proliferation of learn-to-code courses around the world lowered the market value of their skills, and as advances in artificial intelligence allowed for computers to take over more of the mundane work of producing software. The programmers also knew that the fastest way to win that promotion to founder was to find some new domain that hadn't yet been automated. Every tech industry campaign designed to spur investment in the Next Big Thing -- at that time, it was the "sharing economy" -- concealed a larger programme for the transformation of society, always in a direction that favoured the investor and executive classes.

"I wasn't just changing careers and jumping on the 'learn to code' bandwagon," he writes at one point. "I was being steadily indoctrinated in a specious ideology."


Anonymous Coward , Saturday April 28, 2018 @11:40PM ( #56522045 )

older generations already had a term for this ( Score: 5 , Interesting)

Older generations called this kind of fraud "fake it 'til you make it."

raymorris ( 2726007 ) , Sunday April 29, 2018 @02:05AM ( #56522343 ) Journal
The people who are smarter won't ( Score: 5 , Informative)

> The people can do both are smart enough to build their own company and compete with you.

Been there, done that. Learned a few lessons. Nowadays I work 9:30-4:30 for a very good, consistent paycheck and let some other "smart person" put in 75 hours a week dealing with hiring, managing people, corporate strategy, staying up on the competition, figuring out tax changes each year and getting taxes filed six times each year, the various state and local requirements, legal changes, contract hassles, etc, while hoping the company makes money this month so they can take a paycheck and lay their rent.

I learned that I'm good at creating software systems and I enjoy it. I don't enjoy all-nighters, partners being dickheads trying to pull out of a contract, or any of a thousand other things related to running a start-up business. I really enjoy a consistent, six-figure compensation package too.

brian.stinar ( 1104135 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

* getting taxes filled eighteen times a year.

I pay monthly gross receipts tax (12), quarterly withholdings (4) and a corporate (1) and individual (1) returns. The gross receipts can vary based on the state, so I can see how six times a year would be the minimum.

Cederic ( 9623 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

Fuck no. Cost of full automation: $4m Cost of manual entry: $0 Opportunity cost of manual entry: $800/year

At worse, pay for an accountant, if you can get one that cheaply. Bear in mind talking to them incurs most of that opportunity cost anyway.

serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

Nowadays I work 9:30-4:30 for a very good, consistent paycheck and let some other "smart person" put in 75 hours a week dealing with hiring

There's nothing wrong with not wnting to run your own business, it's not for most people, and even if it was, the numbers don't add up. But putting the scare qoutes in like that makes it sound like you have huge chip on your shoulder. Those things re just as essential to the business as your work and without them you wouldn't have the steady 9:30-4:30 with good paycheck.

raymorris ( 2726007 ) writes:
Important, and dumb. ( Score: 3 , Informative)

Of course they are important. I wouldn't have done those things if they weren't important!

I frequently have friends say things like "I love baking. I can't get enough of baking. I'm going to open a bakery.". I ask them "do you love dealing with taxes, every month? Do you love contract law? Employment law? Marketing? Accounting?" If you LOVE baking, the smart thing to do is to spend your time baking. Running a start-up business, you're not going to do much baking.

If you love marketing, employment law, taxes

raymorris ( 2726007 ) writes:
Four tips for a better job. Who has more? ( Score: 3 )

I can tell you a few things that have worked for me. I'll go in chronological order rather than priority order.

Make friends in the industry you want to be in. Referrals are a major way people get jobs.

Look at the job listings for jobs you'd like to have and see which skills a lot of companies want, but you're missing. For me that's Java. A lot companies list Java skills and I'm not particularly good with Java. Then consider learning the skills you lack, the ones a lot of job postings are looking for.

Certifi

goose-incarnated ( 1145029 ) , Sunday April 29, 2018 @02:34PM ( #56524475 ) Journal
Re: older generations already had a term for this ( Score: 5 , Insightful)
You don't understand the point of an ORM do you? I'd suggest reading why they exist

They exist because programmers value code design more than data design. ORMs are the poster-child for square-peg-round-hole solutions, which is why all ORMs choose one of three different ways of squashing hierarchical data into a relational form, all of which are crappy.

If the devs of the system (the ones choosing to use an ORM) had any competence at all they'd design their database first because in any application that uses a database the database is the most important bit, not the OO-ness or Functional-ness of the design.

Over the last few decades I've seen programs in a system come and go; a component here gets rewritten, a component there gets rewritten, but you know what? They all have to work with the same damn data.

You can more easily switch out your code for new code with new design in a new language, than you can switch change the database structure. So explain to me why it is that you think the database should be mangled to fit your OO code rather than mangling your OO code to fit the database?

cheekyboy ( 598084 ) writes:
im sick of reinventors and new frameworks ( Score: 3 )

Stick to the one thing for 10-15years. Often all this new shit doesn't do jack different to the old shit, its not faster, its not better. Every dick wants to be famous so make another damn library/tool with his own fancy name and feature, instead of enhancing an existing product.

gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

amen to that.

Or kids who can't hack the main stuff, suddenly discover the cool new, and then they can pretend they're "learning" it, and when the going gets tough (as it always does) they can declare the tech to be pants and move to another.

hence we had so many people on the bandwagon for functional programming, then dumped it for ruby on rails, then dumped that for Node.js, not sure what they're on at currently, probably back to asp.net.

Greyfox ( 87712 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

How much code do you have to reuse before you're not really programming anymore? When I started in this business, it was reasonably possible that you could end up on a project that didn't particularly have much (or any) of an operating system. They taught you assembly language and the process by which the system boots up, but I think if I were to ask most of the programmers where I work, they wouldn't be able to explain how all that works...

djinn6 ( 1868030 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )
It really feels like if you know what you're doing it should be possible to build a team of actually good programmers and put everyone else out of business by actually meeting your deliverables, but no one has yet. I wonder why that is.

You mean Amazon, Google, Facebook and the like? People may not always like what they do, but they manage to get things done and make plenty of money in the process. The problem for a lot of other businesses is not having a way to identify and promote actually good programmers. In your example, you could've spent 10 minutes fixing their query and saved them days of headache, but how much recognition will you actually get? Where is your motivation to help them?

Junta ( 36770 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

It's not a "kids these days" sort of issue, it's *always* been the case that shameless, baseless self-promotion wins out over sincere skill without the self-promotion, because the people who control the money generally understand boasting more than they understand the technology. Yes it can happen that baseless boasts can be called out over time by a large enough mass of feedback from competent peers, but it takes a *lot* to overcome the tendency for them to have faith in the boasts.

It does correlate stron

cheekyboy ( 598084 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

And all these modern coders forget old lessons, and make shit stuff, just look at instagram windows app, what a load of garbage shit, that us old fuckers could code in 2-3 weeks.

Instagram - your app sucks, cookie cutter coders suck, no refinement, coolness. Just cheap ass shit, with limited usefulness.

Just like most of commercial software that's new - quick shit.

Oh and its obvious if your an Indian faking it, you haven't worked in 100 companies at the age of 29.

Junta ( 36770 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

Here's another problem, if faced with a skilled team that says "this will take 6 months to do right" and a more naive team that says "oh, we can slap that together in a month", management goes with the latter. Then the security compromises occur, then the application fails due to pulling in an unvetted dependency update live into production. When the project grows to handling thousands instead of dozens of users and it starts mysteriously folding over and the dev team is at a loss, well the choice has be

molarmass192 ( 608071 ) , Sunday April 29, 2018 @02:15AM ( #56522359 ) Homepage Journal
Re:older generations already had a term for this ( Score: 5 , Interesting)

These restrictions is a large part of what makes Arduino programming "fun". If you don't plan out your memory usage, you're gonna run out of it. I cringe when I see 8MB web pages of bloated "throw in everything including the kitchen sink and the neighbor's car". Unfortunately, the careful and cautious way is a dying in favor of the throw 3rd party code at it until it does something. Of course, I don't have time to review it but I'm sure everybody else has peer reviewed it for flaws and exploits line by line.

AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) writes: < mojo@@@world3...net > on Sunday April 29, 2018 @05:15AM ( #56522597 ) Homepage Journal
Re:older generations already had a term for this ( Score: 4 , Informative)
Unfortunately, the careful and cautious way is a dying in favor of the throw 3rd party code at it until it does something.

Of course. What is the business case for making it efficient? Those massive frameworks are cached by the browser and run on the client's system, so cost you nothing and save you time to market. Efficient costs money with no real benefit to the business.

If we want to fix this, we need to make bloat have an associated cost somehow.

locketine ( 1101453 ) writes:
Re: older generations already had a term for this ( Score: 2 )

My company is dealing with the result of this mentality right now. We released the web app to the customer without performance testing and doing several majorly inefficient things to meet deadlines. Once real load was put on the application by users with non-ideal hardware and browsers, the app was infuriatingly slow. Suddenly our standard sub-40 hour workweek became a 50+ hour workweek for months while we fixed all the inefficient code and design issues.

So, while you're right that getting to market and opt

serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

In the bad old days we had a hell of a lot of ridiculous restriction We must somehow made our programs to run successfully inside a RAM that was 48KB in size (yes, 48KB, not 48MB or 48GB), on a CPU with a clock speed of 1.023 MHz

We still have them. In fact some of the systems I've programmed have been more resource limited than the gloriously spacious 32KiB memory of the BBC model B. Take the PIC12F or 10F series. A glorious 64 bytes of RAM, max clock speed of 16MHz, but not unusual to run it 32kHz.

serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

So what are the uses for that? I am curious what things people have put these to use for.

It's hard to determine because people don't advertise use of them at all. However, I know that my electric toothbrush uses an Epson 4 bit MCU of some description. It's got a status LED, basic NiMH batteryb charger and a PWM controller for an H Bridge. Braun sell a *lot* of electric toothbrushes. Any gadget that's smarter than a simple switch will probably have some sort of basic MCU in it. Alarm system components, sensor

tlhIngan ( 30335 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 3 , Insightful)
b) No computer ever ran at 1.023 MHz. It was either a nice multiple of 1Mhz or maybe a multiple of 3.579545Mhz (ie. using the TV output circuit's color clock crystal to drive the CPU).

Well, it could be used to drive the TV output circuit, OR, it was used because it's a stupidly cheap high speed crystal. You have to remember except for a few frequencies, most crystals would have to be specially cut for the desired frequency. This occurs even today, where most oscillators are either 32.768kHz (real time clock

Anonymous Coward writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 , Interesting)

Yeah, nice talk. You could have stopped after the first sentence. The other AC is referring to the Commodore C64 [wikipedia.org]. The frequency has nothing to do with crystal availability but with the simple fact that everything in the C64 is synced to the TV. One clock cycle equals 8 pixels. The graphics chip and the CPU take turns accessing the RAM. The different frequencies dictated by the TV standards are the reason why the CPU in the NTSC version of the C64 runs at 1.023MHz and the PAL version at 0.985MHz.

Wraithlyn ( 133796 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

LOL what exactly is so special about 16K RAM? https://yourlogicalfallacyis.c... [yourlogicalfallacyis.com]

I cut my teeth on a VIC20 (5K RAM), then later a C64 (which ran at 1.023MHz...)

Anonymous Coward writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 , Interesting)

Commodore 64 for the win. I worked for a company that made detection devices for the railroad, things like monitoring axle temperatures, reading the rail car ID tags. The original devices were made using Commodore 64 boards using software written by an employee at the one rail road company working with them.

The company then hired some electrical engineers to design custom boards using the 68000 chips and I was hired as the only programmer. Had to rewrite all of the code which was fine...

wierd_w ( 1375923 ) , Saturday April 28, 2018 @11:58PM ( #56522075 )
... A job fair can easily test this competency. ( Score: 4 , Interesting)

Many of these languages have an interactive interpreter. I know for a fact that Python does.

So, since job-fairs are an all day thing, and setup is already a thing for them -- set up a booth with like 4 computers at it, and an admin station. The 4 terminals have an interactive session with the interpreter of choice. Every 20min or so, have a challenge for "Solve this problem" (needs to be easy and already solved in general. Programmers hate being pimped without pay. They don't mind tests of skill, but hate being pimped. Something like "sort this array, while picking out all the prime numbers" or something.) and see who steps up. The ones that step up have confidence they can solve the problem, and you can quickly see who can do the work and who can't.

The ones that solve it, and solve it to your satisfaction, you offer a nice gig to.

ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) , Sunday April 29, 2018 @01:50AM ( #56522321 )
Re:... A job fair can easily test this competency. ( Score: 5 , Informative)
Then you get someone good at sorting arrays while picking out prime numbers, but potentially not much else.

The point of the test is not to identify the perfect candidate, but to filter out the clearly incompetent. If you can't sort an array and write a function to identify a prime number, I certainly would not hire you. Passing the test doesn't get you a job, but it may get you an interview ... where there will be other tests.

wierd_w ( 1375923 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

BINGO!

(I am not even a professional programmer, but I can totally perform such a trivially easy task. The example tests basic understanding of loop construction, function construction, variable use, efficient sorting, and error correction-- especially with mixed type arrays. All of these are things any programmer SHOULD now how to do, without being overly complicated, or clearly a disguised occupational problem trying to get a free solution. Like I said, programmers hate being pimped, and will be turned off

wierd_w ( 1375923 ) , Sunday April 29, 2018 @04:02AM ( #56522443 )
Re: ... A job fair can easily test this competency ( Score: 5 , Insightful)

Again, the quality applicant and the code monkey both have something the fakers do not-- Actual comprehension of what a program is, and how to create one.

As Bill points out, this is not the final exam. This is the "Oh, I see you do actually know how to program-- show me more" portion of the process. This is the part that HR drones are not capable of performing, due to Dunning-Krueger. Those that are actually, REALLY competent will do more than just satisfy the requirements of the challenge, they will provide actually working solutions to the challenge that properly validate their input, and return proper error states if the input is invalid, etc-- You can learn a LOT about a potential hire by observing their work. *THAT* is what this is really about. The triviality of the problem is a necessity, because you ***DON'T*** try to get free solutions out of people.

I realize that may be difficult for you to comprehend, but you *DON'T* do that. The job fair is to let people know that you have a position available, and try to curry interest in people to apply. A successful pre-screening is confidence building, and helps the potential hire to feel that your company is actually interested in actually hiring somebody, and not just fucking off in the booth, to cover for "failing to find somebody" and then "Getting yet another H1B". It gives them a chance to show you what they can do. That is what it is for, and what it does. It also excludes the fakers that this article is about-- The ones that can talk a good talk, but could not program a simple boolean check condition if their life depended on it.

If it were not for the time constraints of a job fair (usually only 2 days, and in that time you need to try and pre-screen as many as possible), I would suggest a tiered challenge, with progressively harder challenges, where you hand out resumes to the ones that make it to the top 3 brackets, but that is not the way the world works.

luis_a_espinal ( 1810296 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )
This in my opinion is really a waste of time. Challenges like this have to be so simple they can be done walking up to a booth are not likely to filter the "all talks" any better than a few interview questions could (imperson so the candidate can't just google it).

Tougher more involved stuff isn't good either it gives a huge advantage to the full time job hunter, the guy or gal that already has a 9-5 and a family that wants to seem them has not got time for games. We have been struggling with hiring where I work ( I do a lot of the interviews ) and these are the conclusions we have reached

You would be surprised at the number of people with impeccable-looking resumes failing at something as simple as the FizzBuzz test [codinghorror.com]

PaulRivers10 ( 4110595 ) writes:
Re: ... A job fair can easily test this competenc ( Score: 2 )

The only thing fuzzbuzz tests is "have you done fizzbuzz before"? It's a short question filled with every petty trick the author could think ti throw in there. If you haven't seen the tricks they trip you up for no reason related to your actual coding skills. Once you have seen them they're trivial and again unrelated to real work. Fizzbuzz is best passed by someone aiming to game the interview system. It passes people gaming it and trips up people who spent their time doing on the job real work.

Hognoxious ( 631665 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )
they trip you up for no reason related to your actual codung skills.

Bullshit!

luis_a_espinal ( 1810296 ) , Sunday April 29, 2018 @07:49AM ( #56522861 ) Homepage
filter the lame code monkeys ( Score: 4 , Informative)
Lame monkey tests select for lame monkeys.

A good programmer first and foremost has a clean mind. Experience suggests puzzle geeks, who excel at contrived tests, are usually sloppy thinkers.

No. Good programmers can trivially knock out any of these so-called lame monkey tests. It's lame code monkeys who can't do it. And I've seen their work. Many night shifts and weekends I've burned trying to fix their shit because they couldn't actually do any of the things behind what you call "lame monkey tests", like:

    pulling expensive invariant calculations out of loops using for loops to scan a fucking table to pull rows or calculate an aggregate when they could let the database do what it does best with a simple SQL statement systems crashing under actual load because their shitty code was never stress tested ( but it worked on my dev box! .) again with databases, having to redo their schemas because they were fattened up so much with columns like VALUE1, VALUE2, ... VALUE20 (normalize you assholes!) chatting remote APIs - because these code monkeys cannot think about the need for bulk operations in increasingly distributed systems. storing dates in unsortable strings because the idiots do not know most modern programming languages have a date data type.

Oh and the most important, off-by-one looping errors. I see this all the time, the type of thing a good programmer can spot on quickly because he or she can do the so-called "lame monkey tests" that involve arrays and sorting.

I've seen the type: "I don't need to do this shit because I have business knowledge and I code for business and IT not google", and then they go and code and fuck it up... and then the rest of us have to go clean up their shit at 1AM or on weekends.

If you work as an hourly paid contractor cleaning that crap, it can be quite lucrative. But sooner or later it truly sucks the energy out of your soul.

So yeah, we need more lame monkey tests ... to filter the lame code monkeys.

ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 3 )
Someone could Google the problem with the phone then step up and solve the challenge.

If given a spec, someone can consistently cobble together working code by Googling, then I would love to hire them. That is the most productive way to get things done.

There is nothing wrong with using external references. When I am coding, I have three windows open: an editor, a testing window, and a browser with a Stackoverflow tab open.

Junta ( 36770 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

Yeah, when we do tech interviews, we ask questions that we are certain they won't be able to answer, but want to see how they would think about the problem and what questions they ask to get more data and that they don't just fold up and say "well that's not the sort of problem I'd be thinking of" The examples aren't made up or anything, they are generally selection of real problems that were incredibly difficult that our company had faced before, that one may not think at first glance such a position would

bobstreo ( 1320787 ) writes:
Nothing worse ( Score: 2 )

than spending weeks interviewing "good" candidates for an opening, selecting a couple and hiring them as contractors, then finding out they are less than unqualified to do the job they were hired for.

I've seen it a few times, Java "experts", Microsoft "experts" with years of experience on their resumes, but completely useless in coding, deployment or anything other than buying stuff from the break room vending machines.

That being said, I've also seen projects costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, with y

Anonymous Coward , Sunday April 29, 2018 @12:34AM ( #56522157 )
Re:Nothing worse ( Score: 4 , Insightful)

The moment you said "contractors", and you have lost any sane developer. Keep swimming, its not a fish.

Anonymous Coward writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 , Informative)

I agree with this. I consider myself to be a good programmer and I would never go into contractor game. I also wonder, how does it take you weeks to interview someone and you still can't figure out if the person can't code? I could probably see that in 15 minutes in a pair coding session.

Also, Oracle, SAP, IBM... I would never buy from them, nor use their products. I have used plenty of IBM products and they suck big time. They make software development 100 times harder than it could be. Their technical supp

Lanthanide ( 4982283 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

It's weeks to interview multiple different candidates before deciding on 1 or 2 of them. Not weeks per person.

Anonymous Coward writes:
Re: ( Score: 3 , Insightful)
That being said, I've also seen projects costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, with years of delays from companies like Oracle, Sun, SAP, and many other "vendors"

Software development is a hard thing to do well, despite the general thinking of technology becoming cheaper over time, and like health care the quality of the goods and services received can sometimes be difficult to ascertain. However, people who don't respect developers and the problems we solve are very often the same ones who continually frustrate themselves by trying to cheap out, hiring outsourced contractors, and then tearing their hair out when sub par results are delivered, if anything is even del

pauljlucas ( 529435 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

As part of your interview process, don't you have candidates code a solution to a problem on a whiteboard? I've interviewed lots of "good" candidates (on paper) too, but they crashed and burned when challenged with a coding exercise. As a result, we didn't make them job offers.

VeryFluffyBunny ( 5037285 ) writes:
I do the opposite ( Score: 2 )

I'm not a great coder but good enough to get done what clients want done. If I'm not sure or don't think I can do it, I tell them. I think they appreciate the honesty. I don't work in a tech-hub, startups or anything like that so I'm not under the same expectations and pressures that others may be.

Tony Isaac ( 1301187 ) writes:
Bigger building blocks ( Score: 2 )

OK, so yes, I know plenty of programmers who do fake it. But stitching together components isn't "fake" programming.

Back in the day, we had to write our own code to loop through an XML file, looking for nuggets. Now, we just use an XML serializer. Back then, we had to write our own routines to send TCP/IP messages back and forth. Now we just use a library.

I love it! I hated having to make my own bricks before I could build a house. Now, I can get down to the business of writing the functionality I want, ins

Anonymous Coward writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 , Insightful)

But, I suspect you could write the component if you had to. That makes you a very different user of that component than someone who just knows it as a magic black box.

Because of this, you understand the component better and have real knowledge of its strengths and limitations. People blindly using components with only a cursory idea of their internal operation often cause major performance problems. They rarely recognize when it is time to write their own to overcome a limitation (or even that it is possibl

Tony Isaac ( 1301187 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

You're right on all counts. A person who knows how the innards work, is better than someone who doesn't, all else being equal. Still, today's world is so specialized that no one can possibly learn it all. I've never built a processor, as you have, but I still have been able to build a DNA matching algorithm for a major DNA lab.

I would argue that anyone who can skillfully use off-the-shelf components can also learn how to build components, if they are required to.

thesupraman ( 179040 ) writes:
Ummm. ( Score: 2 )

1, 'Back in the Day' there was no XML, XMl was not very long ago.
2, its a parser, a serialiser is pretty much the opposite (unless this weeks fashion has redefined that.. anything is possible).
3, 'Back then' we didnt have TCP stacks...

But, actually I agree with you. I can only assume the author thinks there are lots of fake plumbers because they dont cast their own toilet bowels from raw clay, and use pre-build fittings and pipes! That car mechanics start from raw steel scrap and a file.. And that you need

Tony Isaac ( 1301187 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

For the record, XML was invented in 1997, you know, in the last century! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]
And we had a WinSock library in 1992. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

Yes, I agree with you on the "middle ground." My reaction was to the author's point that "not knowing how to build the components" was the same as being a "fake programmer."

Tony Isaac ( 1301187 ) , Sunday April 29, 2018 @01:46AM ( #56522313 ) Homepage
Re:Bigger building blocks ( Score: 5 , Interesting)

If I'm a plumber, and I don't know anything about the engineering behind the construction of PVC pipe, I can still be a good plumber. If I'm an electrician, and I don't understand the role of a blast furnace in the making of the metal components, I can still be a good electrician.

The analogy fits. If I'm a programmer, and I don't know how to make an LZW compression library, I can still be a good programmer. It's a matter of layers. These days, we specialize. You've got your low-level programmers that make the components, the high level programmers that put together the components, the graphics guys who do HTML/CSS, and the SQL programmers that just know about databases. Every person has their specialty. It's no longer necessary to be a low-level programmer, or jack-of-all-trades, to be "good."

If I don't know the layout of the IP header, I can still write quality networking software, and if I know XSLT, I can still do cool stuff with XML, even if I don't know how to write a good parser.

frank_adrian314159 ( 469671 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 3 )

I was with you until you said " I can still do cool stuff with XML".

Tony Isaac ( 1301187 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

LOL yeah I know it's all JSON now. I've been around long enough to see these fads come and go. Frankly, I don't see a whole lot of advantage of JSON over XML. It's not even that much more compact, about 10% or so. But the point is that the author laments the "bad old days" when you had to create all your own building blocks, and you didn't have a team of specialists. I for one don't want to go back to those days!

careysub ( 976506 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 3 )

The main advantage is that JSON is that it is consistent. XML has attributes, embedded optional stuff within tags. That was derived from the original SGML ancestor where is was thought to be a convenience for the human authors who were supposed to be making the mark-up manually. Programmatically it is a PITA.

Cederic ( 9623 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 3 )

I got shit for decrying XML back when it was the trendy thing. I've had people apologise to me months later because they've realized I was right, even though at the time they did their best to fuck over my career because XML was the new big thing and I wasn't fully on board.

XML has its strengths and its place, but fuck me it taught me how little some people really fucking understand shit.

Anonymous Coward writes:
Silicon Valley is Only Part of the Tech Business ( Score: 2 , Informative)

And a rather small part at that, albeit a very visible and vocal one full of the proverbial prima donas. However, much of the rest of the tech business, or at least the people working in it, are not like that. It's small groups of developers working in other industries that would not typically be considered technology. There are software developers working for insurance companies, banks, hedge funds, oil and gas exploration or extraction firms, national defense and many hundreds and thousands of other small

phantomfive ( 622387 ) writes:
bonfire of fakers ( Score: 2 )

This is the reason I wish programming didn't pay so much....the field is better when it's mostly populated by people who enjoy programming.

Njovich ( 553857 ) , Sunday April 29, 2018 @05:35AM ( #56522641 )
Learn to code courses ( Score: 5 , Insightful)
They knew that well-paid programming jobs would also soon turn to smoke and ash, as the proliferation of learn-to-code courses around the world lowered the market value of their skills, and as advances in artificial intelligence allowed for computers to take over more of the mundane work of producing software.

Kind of hard to take this article serious after saying gibberish like this. I would say most good programmers know that neither learn-to-code courses nor AI are going to make a dent in their income any time soon.

AndyKron ( 937105 ) writes:
Me? No ( Score: 2 )

As a non-programmer Arduino and libraries are my friends

Escogido ( 884359 ) , Sunday April 29, 2018 @06:59AM ( #56522777 )
in the silly cone valley ( Score: 5 , Interesting)

There is a huge shortage of decent programmers. I have personally witnessed more than one phone "interview" that went like "have you done this? what about this? do you know what this is? um, can you start Monday?" (120K-ish salary range)

Partly because there are way more people who got their stupid ideas funded than good coders willing to stain their resume with that. partly because if you are funded, and cannot do all the required coding solo, here's your conundrum:

  • top level hackers can afford to be really picky, so on one hand it's hard to get them interested, and if you could get that, they often want some ownership of the project. the plus side is that they are happy to work for lots of equity if they have faith in the idea, but that can be a huge "if".
  • "good but not exceptional" senior engineers aren't usually going to be super happy, as they often have spouses and children and mortgages, so they'd favor job security over exciting ideas and startup lottery.
  • that leaves you with fresh-out-of-college folks, which are really really a mixed bunch. some are actually already senior level of understanding without the experience, some are absolutely useless, with varying degrees in between, and there's no easy way to tell which is which early.

so the not-so-scrupulous folks realized what's going on, and launched multiple coding boot camps programmes, to essentially trick both the students into believing they can become a coder in a month or two, and also the prospective employers that said students are useful. so far it's been working, to a degree, in part because in such companies coding skill evaluation process is broken. but one can only hide their lack of value add for so long, even if they do manage to bluff their way into a job.

quonset ( 4839537 ) , Sunday April 29, 2018 @07:20AM ( #56522817 )
Duh! ( Score: 4 , Insightful)

All one had to do was look at the lousy state of software and web sites today to see this is true. It's quite obvious little to no thought is given on how to make something work such that one doesn't have to jump through hoops.

I have many times said the most perfect word processing program ever developed was WordPefect 5.1 for DOS. Ones productivity was astonishing. It just worked.

Now we have the bloated behemoth Word which does its utmost to get in the way of you doing your work. The only way to get it to function is to turn large portions of its "features" off, and even then it still insists on doing something other than what you told it to do.

Then we have the abomination of Windows 10, which is nothing but Clippy on 10X steroids. It is patently obvious the people who program this steaming pile have never heard of simplicity. Who in their right mind would think having to "search" for something is more efficient than going directly to it? I would ask the question if these people wander around stores "searching" for what they're looking for, but then I realize that's how their entire life is run. They search for everything online rather than going directly to the source. It's no wonder they complain about not having time to things. They're always searching.

Web sites are another area where these people have no clue what they're doing. Anything that might be useful is hidden behind dropdown menus, flyouts, popup bubbles and intriately designed mazes of clicks needed to get to where you want to go. When someone clicks on a line of products, they shouldn't be harassed about what part of the product line they want to look at. Give them the information and let the user go where they want.

This rant could go on, but this article explains clearly why we have regressed when it comes to software and web design. Instead of making things simple and easy to use, using the one or two brain cells they have, programmers and web designers let the software do what it wants without considering, should it be done like this?

swb ( 14022 ) , Sunday April 29, 2018 @07:48AM ( #56522857 )
Tech industry churn ( Score: 3 )

The tech industry has a ton of churn -- there's some technological advancement, but there's an awful lot of new products turned out simply to keep customers buying new licenses and paying for upgrades.

This relentless and mostly phony newness means a lot of people have little experience with current products. People fake because they have no choice. The good ones understand the general technologies and problems they're meant to solve and can generally get up to speed quickly, while the bad ones are good at faking it but don't really know what they're doing. Telling the difference from the outside is impossible.

Sales people make it worse, promoting people as "experts" in specific products or implementations because the people have experience with a related product and "they're all the same". This burns out the people with good adaption skills.

DaMattster ( 977781 ) , Sunday April 29, 2018 @08:39AM ( #56522979 )
Interesting ( Score: 3 )

From the summary, it sounds like a lot of programmers and software engineers are trying to develop the next big thing so that they can literally beg for money from the elite class and one day, hopefully, become a member of the aforementioned. It's sad how the middle class has been utterly decimated in the United States that some of us are willing to beg for scraps from the wealthy. I used to work in IT but I've aged out and am now back in school to learn automotive technology so that I can do something other than being a security guard. Currently, the only work I have been able to find has been in the unglamorous security field.

I am learning some really good new skills in the automotive program that I am in but I hate this one class called "Professionalism in the Shop." I can summarize the entire class in one succinct phrase, "Learn how to appeal to, and communicate with, Mr. Doctor, Mr. Lawyer, or Mr. Wealthy-man." Basically, the class says that we are supposed to kiss their ass so they keep coming back to the Audi, BMW, Mercedes, Volvo, or Cadillac dealership. It feels a lot like begging for money on behalf of my employer (of which very little of it I will see) and nothing like professionalism. Professionalism is doing the job right the first time, not jerking the customer off. Professionalism is not begging for a 5 star review for a few measly extra bucks but doing absolute top quality work. I guess the upshot is that this class will be the easiest 4.0 that I've ever seen.

There is something fundamentally wrong when the wealthy elite have basically demanded that we beg them for every little scrap. I can understand the importance of polite and professional interaction but this prevalent expectation that we bend over backwards for them crosses a line with me. I still suck it up because I have to but it chafes my ass to basically validate the wealthy man.

ElitistWhiner ( 79961 ) writes:
Natural talent... ( Score: 2 )

In 70's I worked with two people who had a natural talent for computer science algorithms .vs. coding syntax. In the 90's while at COLUMBIA I worked with only a couple of true computer scientists out of 30 students. I've met 1 genius who programmed, spoke 13 languages, ex-CIA, wrote SWIFT and spoke fluent assembly complete with animated characters.

According to the Bluff Book, everyone else without natural talent fakes it. In the undiluted definition of computer science, genetics roulette and intellectual d

fahrbot-bot ( 874524 ) writes:
Other book sells better and is more interesting ( Score: 2 )
New Book Describes 'Bluffing' Programmers in Silicon Valley

It's not as interesting as the one about "fluffing" [urbandictionary.com] programmers.

Anonymous Coward writes:
Re: ( Score: 3 , Funny)

Ah yes, the good old 80:20 rule, except it's recursive for programmers.

80% are shit, so you fire them. Soon you realize that 80% of the remaining 20% are also shit, so you fire them too. Eventually you realize that 80% of the 4% remaining after sacking the 80% of the 20% are also shit, so you fire them!

...

The cycle repeats until there's just one programmer left: the person telling the joke.

---

tl;dr: All programmers suck. Just ask them to review their own code from more than 3 years ago: they'll tell you that

luis_a_espinal ( 1810296 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 3 )
Who gives a fuck about lines? If someone gave me JavaScript, and someone gave me minified JavaScript, which one would I want to maintain?

I donβ(TM)t care about your line savings, less isnβ(TM)t always better.

Because the world of programming is not centered about JavasScript and reduction of lines is not the same as minification. If the first thing that came to your mind was about minified JavaScript when you saw this conversation, you are certainly not the type of programmer I would want to inherit code from.

See, there's a lot of shit out there that is overtly redundant and unnecessarily complex. This is specially true when copy-n-paste code monkeys are left to their own devices for whom code formatting seems

Anonymous Coward , Sunday April 29, 2018 @01:17AM ( #56522241 )
Re:Most "Professional programmers" are useless. ( Score: 4 , Interesting)

I have a theory that 10% of people are good at what they do. It doesn't really matter what they do, they will still be good at it, because of their nature. These are the people who invent new things, who fix things that others didn't even see as broken and who automate routine tasks or simply question and erase tasks that are not necessary. If you have a software team that contain 5 of these, you can easily beat a team of 100 average people, not only in cost but also in schedule, quality and features. In theory they are worth 20 times more than average employees, but in practise they are usually paid the same amount of money with few exceptions.

80% of people are the average. They can follow instructions and they can get the work done, but they don't see that something is broken and needs fixing if it works the way it has always worked. While it might seem so, these people are not worthless. There are a lot of tasks that these people are happily doing which the 10% don't want to do. E.g. simple maintenance work, implementing simple features, automating test cases etc. But if you let the top 10% lead the project, you most likely won't be needed that much of these people. Most work done by these people is caused by themselves, by writing bad software due to lack of good leader.

10% are just causing damage. I'm not talking about terrorists and criminals. I have seen software developers who have tried (their best?), but still end up causing just damage to the code that someone else needs to fix, costing much more than their own wasted time. You really must use code reviews if you don't know your team members, to find these people early.

Anonymous Coward , Sunday April 29, 2018 @01:40AM ( #56522299 )
Re:Most "Professional programmers" are useless. ( Score: 5 , Funny)
to find these people early

and promote them to management where they belong.

raymorris ( 2726007 ) , Sunday April 29, 2018 @01:51AM ( #56522329 ) Journal
Seems about right. Constantly learning, studying ( Score: 5 , Insightful)

That seems about right to me.

I have a lot of weaknesses. My people skills suck, I'm scrawny, I'm arrogant. I'm also generally known as a really good programmer and people ask me how/why I'm so much better at my job than everyone else in the room. (There are a lot of things I'm not good at, but I'm good at my job, so say everyone I've worked with.)

I think one major difference is that I'm always studying, intentionally working to improve, every day. I've been doing that for twenty years.

I've worked with people who have "20 years of experience"; they've done the same job, in the same way, for 20 years. Their first month on the job they read the first half of "Databases for Dummies" and that's what they've been doing for 20 years. They never read the second half, and use Oracle database 18.0 exactly the same way they used Oracle Database 2.0 - and it was wrong 20 years ago too. So it's not just experience, it's 20 years of learning, getting better, every day. That's 7,305 days of improvement.

gbjbaanb ( 229885 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

I think I can guarantee that they are a lot better at their jobs than you think, and that you are a lot worse at your job than you think too.

m00sh ( 2538182 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )
That seems about right to me.

I have a lot of weaknesses. My people skills suck, I'm scrawny, I'm arrogant. I'm also generally known as a really good programmer and people ask me how/why I'm so much better at my job than everyone else in the room. (There are a lot of things I'm not good at, but I'm good at my job, so say everyone I've worked with.)

I think one major difference is that I'm always studying, intentionally working to improve, every day. I've been doing that for twenty years.

I've worked with people who have "20 years of experience"; they've done the same job, in the same way, for 20 years. Their first month on the job they read the first half of "Databases for Dummies" and that's what they've been doing for 20 years. They never read the second half, and use Oracle database 18.0 exactly the same way they used Oracle Database 2.0 - and it was wrong 20 years ago too. So it's not just experience, it's 20 years of learning, getting better, every day. That's 7,305 days of improvement.

If you take this attitude towards other people, people will not ask your for help. At the same time, you'll be also be not able to ask for their help.

You're not interviewing your peers. They are already in your team. You should be working together.

I've seen superstar programmers suck the life out of project by over-complicating things and not working together with others.

raymorris ( 2726007 ) writes:
Which part? Learning makes you better? ( Score: 2 )

You quoted a lot. Is there one part exactly do you have in mind? The thesis of my post is of course "constant learning, on purpose, makes you better"

> you take this attitude towards other people, people will not ask your for help. At the same time, you'll be also be not able to ask for their help.

Are you saying that trying to learn means you can't ask for help, or was there something more specific? For me, trying to learn means asking.

Trying to learn, I've had the opportunity to ask for help from peop

phantomfive ( 622387 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

The difference between a smart programmer who succeeds and a stupid programmer who drops out is that the smart programmer doesn't give up.

complete loony ( 663508 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

In other words;

What is often mistaken for 20 years' experience, is just 1 year's experience repeated 20 times.
serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

10% are just causing damage. I'm not talking about terrorists and criminals.

Terrorists and criminals have nothing on those guys. I know guy who is one of those. Worse, he's both motivated and enthusiastic. He also likes to offer help and advice to other people who don't know the systems well.

asifyoucare ( 302582 ) , Sunday April 29, 2018 @08:49AM ( #56522999 )
Re:Most "Professional programmers" are useless. ( Score: 5 , Insightful)

Good point. To quote Kurt von Hammerstein-Equord:

"I divide my officers into four groups. There are clever, diligent, stupid, and lazy officers. Usually two characteristics are combined. Some are clever and diligent -- their place is the General Staff. The next lot are stupid and lazy -- they make up 90 percent of every army and are suited to routine duties. Anyone who is both clever and lazy is qualified for the highest leadership duties, because he possesses the intellectual clarity and the composure necessary for difficult decisions. One must beware of anyone who is stupid and diligent -- he must not be entrusted with any responsibility because he will always cause only mischief."

gweihir ( 88907 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

Oops. Good thing I never did anything military. I am definitely in the "clever and lazy" class.

apoc.famine ( 621563 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

I was just thinking the same thing. One of my passions in life is coming up with clever ways to do less work while getting more accomplished.

Software_Dev_GL ( 5377065 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

It's called the Pareto Distribution [wikipedia.org]. The number of competent people (people doing most of the work) in any given organization goes like the square root of the number of employees.

gweihir ( 88907 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

Matches my observations. 10-15% are smart, can think independently, can verify claims by others and can identify and use rules in whatever they do. They are not fooled by things "everybody knows" and see standard-approaches as first approximations that, of course, need to be verified to work. They do not trust anything blindly, but can identify whether something actually work well and build up a toolbox of such things.

The problem is that in coding, you do not have a "(mass) production step", and that is the

geoskd ( 321194 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

In basic concept I agree with your theory, it fits my own anecdotal experience well, but I find that your numbers are off. The top bracket is actually closer to 20%. The reason it seems so low is that a large portion of the highly competent people are running one programmer shows, so they have no co-workers to appreciate their knowledge and skill. The places they work do a very good job of keeping them well paid and happy (assuming they don't own the company outright), so they rarely if ever switch jobs.

The

Tablizer ( 95088 ) , Sunday April 29, 2018 @01:54AM ( #56522331 ) Journal
Re:Most "Professional programmers" are useless. ( Score: 4 , Interesting)
at least 70, probably 80, maybe even 90 percent of professional programmers should just fuck off and do something else as they are useless at programming.

Programming is statistically a dead-end job. Why should anyone hone a dead-end skill that you won't be able to use for long? For whatever reason, the industry doesn't want old programmers.

Otherwise, I'd suggest longer training and education before they enter the industry. But that just narrows an already narrow window of use.

Cesare Ferrari ( 667973 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

Well, it does rather depend on which industry you work in - i've managed to find interesting programming jobs for 25 years, and there's no end in sight for interesting projects and new avenues to explore. However, this isn't for everyone, and if you have good personal skills then moving from programming into some technical management role is a very worthwhile route, and I know plenty of people who have found very interesting work in that direction.

gweihir ( 88907 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 3 , Insightful)

I think that is a misinterpretation of the facts. Old(er) coders that are incompetent are just much more obvious and usually are also limited to technologies that have gotten old as well. Hence the 90% old coders that can actually not hack it and never really could get sacked at some time and cannot find a new job with their limited and outdated skills. The 10% that are good at it do not need to worry though. Who worries there is their employers when these people approach retirement age.

gweihir ( 88907 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

My experience as an IT Security Consultant (I also do some coding, but only at full rates) confirms that. Most are basically helpless and many have negative productivity, because people with a clue need to clean up after them. "Learn to code"? We have far too many coders already.

tomhath ( 637240 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

You can't bluff you way through writing software, but many, many people have bluffed their way into a job and then tried to learn it from the people who are already there. In a marginally functional organization those incompetents are let go pretty quickly, but sometimes they stick around for months or years.

Apparently the author of this book is one of those, probably hired and fired several times before deciding to go back to his liberal arts roots and write a book.

DaMattster ( 977781 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

There are some mechanics that bluff their way through an automotive repair. It's the same damn thing

gweihir ( 88907 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )

I think you can and this is by far not the first piece describing that. Here is a classic: https://blog.codinghorror.com/... [codinghorror.com]
Yet these people somehow manage to actually have "experience" because they worked in a role they are completely unqualified to fill.

phantomfive ( 622387 ) writes:
Re: ( Score: 2 )
Fiddling with JavaScript libraries to get a fancy dancy interface that makes PHB's happy is a sought-after skill, for good or bad. Now that we rely more on half-ass libraries, much of "programming" is fiddling with dark-grey boxes until they work good enough.

This drives me crazy, but I'm consoled somewhat by the fact that it will all be thrown out in five years anyway.

[Nov 30, 2017] Will Robots Kill the Asian Century

This aritcle is two years old and not much happned during those two years. But still there is a chance that highly authomated factories can make manufacturing in the USA again profitable. the problme is that they will be even more profible in East Asia;-)
Notable quotes:
"... The National Interest ..."
The National Interest

The rise of technologies such as 3-D printing and advanced robotics means that the next few decades for Asia's economies will not be as easy or promising as the previous five.

OWEN HARRIES, the first editor, together with Robert Tucker, of The National Interest, once reminded me that experts-economists, strategists, business leaders and academics alike-tend to be relentless followers of intellectual fashion, and the learned, as Harold Rosenberg famously put it, a "herd of independent minds." Nowhere is this observation more apparent than in the prediction that we are already into the second decade of what will inevitably be an "Asian Century"-a widely held but rarely examined view that Asia's continued economic rise will decisively shift global power from the Atlantic to the western Pacific Ocean.

No doubt the numbers appear quite compelling. In 1960, East Asia accounted for a mere 14 percent of global GDP; today that figure is about 27 percent. If linear trends continue, the region could account for about 36 percent of global GDP by 2030 and over half of all output by the middle of the century. As if symbolic of a handover of economic preeminence, China, which only accounted for about 5 percent of global GDP in 1960, will likely surpass the United States as the largest economy in the world over the next decade. If past record is an indicator of future performance, then the "Asian Century" prediction is close to a sure thing.

[Nov 29, 2017] Take This GUI and Shove It

Providing a great GUI for complex routers or Linux admin is hard. Of course there has to be a CLI, that's how pros get the job done. But a great GUI is one that teaches a new user to eventually graduate to using CLI.
Notable quotes:
"... Providing a great GUI for complex routers or Linux admin is hard. Of course there has to be a CLI, that's how pros get the job done. But a great GUI is one that teaches a new user to eventually graduate to using CLI. ..."
"... What would be nice is if the GUI could automatically create a shell script doing the change. That way you could (a) learn about how to do it per CLI by looking at the generated shell script, and (b) apply the generated shell script (after proper inspection, of course) to other computers. ..."
"... AIX's SMIT did this, or rather it wrote the commands that it executed to achieve what you asked it to do. This meant that you could learn: look at what it did and find out about which CLI commands to run. You could also take them, build them into a script, copy elsewhere, ... I liked SMIT. ..."
"... Cisco's GUI stuff doesn't really generate any scripts, but the commands it creates are the same things you'd type into a CLI. And the resulting configuration is just as human-readable (barring any weird naming conventions) as one built using the CLI. I've actually learned an awful lot about the Cisco CLI by using their GUI. ..."
"... Microsoft's more recent tools are also doing this. Exchange 2007 and newer, for example, are really completely driven by the PowerShell CLI. The GUI generates commands and just feeds them into PowerShell for you. So you can again issue your commands through the GUI, and learn how you could have done it in PowerShell instead. ..."
"... Moreover, the GUI authors seem to have a penchant to find new names for existing CLI concepts. Even worse, those names are usually inappropriate vagueries quickly cobbled together in an off-the-cuff afterthought, and do not actually tell you where the doodad resides in the menu system. With a CLI, the name of the command or feature set is its location. ..."
"... I have a cheap router with only a web gui. I wrote a two line bash script that simply POSTs the right requests to URL. Simply put, HTTP interfaces, especially if they implement the right response codes, are actually very nice to script. ..."
Slashdot

Deep End's Paul Venezia speaks out against the overemphasis on GUIs in today's admin tools, saying that GUIs are fine and necessary in many cases, but only after a complete CLI is in place, and that they cannot interfere with the use of the CLI, only complement it. Otherwise, the GUI simply makes easy things easy and hard things much harder. He writes, 'If you have to make significant, identical changes to a bunch of Linux servers, is it easier to log into them one-by-one and run through a GUI or text-menu tool, or write a quick shell script that hits each box and either makes the changes or simply pulls down a few new config files and restarts some services? And it's not just about conservation of effort - it's also about accuracy. If you write a script, you're certain that the changes made will be identical on each box. If you're doing them all by hand, you aren't.'"

alain94040 (785132)

Here is a Link to the print version of the article [infoworld.com] (that conveniently fits on 1 page instead of 3).

Providing a great GUI for complex routers or Linux admin is hard. Of course there has to be a CLI, that's how pros get the job done. But a great GUI is one that teaches a new user to eventually graduate to using CLI.

A bad GUI with no CLI is the worst of both worlds, the author of the article got that right. The 80/20 rule applies: 80% of the work is common to everyone, and should be offered with a GUI. And the 20% that is custom to each sysadmin, well use the CLI.

maxwell demon:

What would be nice is if the GUI could automatically create a shell script doing the change. That way you could (a) learn about how to do it per CLI by looking at the generated shell script, and (b) apply the generated shell script (after proper inspection, of course) to other computers.

0123456 (636235) writes:

What would be nice is if the GUI could automatically create a shell script doing the change.

While it's not quite the same thing, our GUI-based home router has an option to download the config as a text file so you can automatically reconfigure it from that file if it has to be reset to defaults. You could presumably use sed to change IP addresses, etc, and copy it to a different router. Of course it runs Linux.

Alain Williams:

AIX's SMIT did this, or rather it wrote the commands that it executed to achieve what you asked it to do. This meant that you could learn: look at what it did and find out about which CLI commands to run. You could also take them, build them into a script, copy elsewhere, ... I liked SMIT.

Ephemeriis:

What would be nice is if the GUI could automatically create a shell script doing the change. That way you could (a) learn about how to do it per CLI by looking at the generated shell script, and (b) apply the generated shell script (after proper inspection, of course) to other computers.

Cisco's GUI stuff doesn't really generate any scripts, but the commands it creates are the same things you'd type into a CLI. And the resulting configuration is just as human-readable (barring any weird naming conventions) as one built using the CLI. I've actually learned an awful lot about the Cisco CLI by using their GUI.

We've just started working with Aruba hardware. Installed a mobility controller last week. They've got a GUI that does something similar. It's all a pretty web-based front-end, but it again generates CLI commands and a human-readable configuration. I'm still very new to the platform, but I'm already learning about their CLI through the GUI. And getting work done that I wouldn't be able to if I had to look up the CLI commands for everything.

Microsoft's more recent tools are also doing this. Exchange 2007 and newer, for example, are really completely driven by the PowerShell CLI. The GUI generates commands and just feeds them into PowerShell for you. So you can again issue your commands through the GUI, and learn how you could have done it in PowerShell instead.

Anpheus:

Just about every Microsoft tool newer than 2007 does this. Virtual machine manager, SQL Server has done it for ages, I think almost all the system center tools do, etc.

It's a huge improvement.

PoV:

All good admins document their work (don't they? DON'T THEY?). With a CLI or a script that's easy: it comes down to "log in as user X, change to directory Y, run script Z with arguments A B and C - the output should look like D". Try that when all you have is a GLUI (like a GUI, but you get stuck): open this window, select that option, drag a slider, check these boxes, click Yes, three times. The output might look a little like this blurry screen shot and the only record of a successful execution is a window that disappears as soon as the application ends.

I suppose the Linux community should be grateful that windows made the fundemental systems design error of making everything graphic. Without that basic failure, Linux might never have even got the toe-hold it has now.

skids:

I think this is a stronger point than the OP: GUIs do not lead to good documentation. In fact, GUIs pretty much are limited to procedural documentation like the example you gave.

The best they can do as far as actual documentation, where the precise effect of all the widgets is explained, is a screenshot with little quote bubbles pointing to each doodad. That's a ridiculous way to document.

This is as opposed to a command reference which can organize, usually in a pretty sensible fashion, exact descriptions of what each command does.

Moreover, the GUI authors seem to have a penchant to find new names for existing CLI concepts. Even worse, those names are usually inappropriate vagueries quickly cobbled together in an off-the-cuff afterthought, and do not actually tell you where the doodad resides in the menu system. With a CLI, the name of the command or feature set is its location.

Not that even good command references are mandatory by today's pathetic standards. Even the big boys like Cisco have shown major degradation in the quality of their documentation during the last decade.

pedantic bore:

I think the author might not fully understand who most admins are. They're people who couldn't write a shell script if their lives depended on it, because they've never had to. GUI-dependent users become GUI-dependent admins.

As a percentage of computer users, people who can actually navigate a CLI are an ever-diminishing group.

arth1: /etc/resolv.conf

/etc/init.d/NetworkManager stop
chkconfig NetworkManager off
chkconfig network on
vi /etc/sysconfig/network
vi /etc/sysconfig/network-scripts/eth0

At least they named it NetworkManager, so experienced admins could recognize it as a culprit. Anything named in CamelCase is almost invariably written by new school programmers who don't grok the Unix toolbox concept and write applications instead of tools, and the bloated drivel is usually best avoided.

Darkness404 (1287218) writes: on Monday October 04, @07:21PM (#33789446)

There are more and more small businesses (5, 10 or so employees) realizing that they can get things done easier if they had a server. Because the business can't really afford to hire a sysadmin or a full-time tech person, its generally the employee who "knows computers" (you know, the person who has to help the boss check his e-mail every day, etc.) and since they don't have the knowledge of a skilled *Nix admin, a GUI makes their administration a lot easier.

So with the increasing use of servers among non-admins, it only makes sense for a growth in GUI-based solutions.

Svartalf (2997) writes: Ah... But the thing is... You don't NEED the GUI with recent Linux systems- you do with Windows.

oatworm (969674) writes: on Monday October 04, @07:38PM (#33789624) Homepage

Bingo. Realistically, if you're a company with less than a 100 employees (read: most companies), you're only going to have a handful of servers in house and they're each going to be dedicated to particular roles. You're not going to have 100 clustered fileservers - instead, you're going to have one or maybe two. You're not going to have a dozen e-mail servers - instead, you're going to have one or two. Consequently, the office admin's focus isn't going to be scalability; it just won't matter to the admin if they can script, say, creating a mailbox for 100 new users instead of just one. Instead, said office admin is going to be more focused on finding ways to do semi-unusual things (e.g. "create a VPN between this office and our new branch office", "promote this new server as a domain controller", "install SQL", etc.) that they might do, oh, once a year.

The trouble with Linux, and I'm speaking as someone who's used YaST in precisely this context, is that you have to make a choice - do you let the GUI manage it or do you CLI it? If you try to do both, there will be inconsistencies because the grammar of the config files is too ambiguous; consequently, the GUI config file parser will probably just overwrite whatever manual changes it thinks is "invalid", whether it really is or not. If you let the GUI manage it, you better hope the GUI has the flexibility necessary to meet your needs. If, for example, YaST doesn't understand named Apache virtual hosts, well, good luck figuring out where it's hiding all of the various config files that it was sensibly spreading out in multiple locations for you, and don't you dare use YaST to manage Apache again or it'll delete your Apache-legal but YaST-"invalid" directive.

The only solution I really see is for manual config file support with optional XML (or some other machine-friendly but still human-readable format) linkages. For example, if you want to hand-edit your resolv.conf, that's fine, but if the GUI is going to take over, it'll toss a directive on line 1 that says "#import resolv.conf.xml" and immediately overrides (but does not overwrite) everything following that. Then, if you still want to use the GUI but need to hand-edit something, you can edit the XML file using the appropriate syntax and know that your change will be reflected on the GUI.

That's my take. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

icebraining (1313345) writes: on Monday October 04, @07:24PM (#33789494) Homepage

I have a cheap router with only a web gui. I wrote a two line bash script that simply POSTs the right requests to URL. Simply put, HTTP interfaces, especially if they implement the right response codes, are actually very nice to script.

devent (1627873) writes:

Why Windows servers have a GUI is beyond me anyway. The servers are running 99,99% of the time without a monitor and normally you just login per ssh to a console if you need to administer them. But they are consuming the extra RAM, the extra CPU cycles and the extra security threats. I don't now, but can you de-install the GUI from a Windows server? Or better, do you have an option for no-GUI installation? Just saw the minimum hardware requirements. 512 MB RAM and 32 GB or greater disk space. My server runs

sirsnork (530512) writes: on Monday October 04, @07:43PM (#33789672)

it's called a "core" install in Server 2008 and up, and if you do that, there is no going back, you can't ever add the GUI back.

What this means is you can run a small subset of MS services that don't need GUI interaction. With R2 that subset grew somwhat as they added the ability to install .Net too, which mean't you could run IIS in a useful manner (arguably the strongest reason to want to do this in the first place).

Still it's a one way trip and you better be damn sure what services need to run on that box for the lifetime of that box or you're looking at a reinstall. Most windows admins will still tell you the risk isn't worth it.

Simple things like network configuration without a GUI in windows is tedious, and, at least last time i looked, you lost the ability to trunk network poers because the NIC manufactuers all assumed you had a GUI to configure your NICs

prichardson (603676) writes: on Monday October 04, @07:27PM (#33789520) Journal

This is also a problem with Max OS X Server. Apple builds their services from open source products and adds a GUI for configuration to make it all clickable and easy to set up. However, many options that can be set on the command line can't be set in the GUI. Even worse, making CLI changes to services can break the GUI entirely.

The hardware and software are both super stable and run really smoothly, so once everything gets set up, it's awesome. Still, it's hard for a guy who would rather make changes on the CLI to get used to.

MrEricSir (398214) writes:

Just because you're used to a CLI doesn't make it better. Why would I want to read a bunch of documentation, mess with command line options, then read whole block of text to see what it did? I'd much rather sit back in my chair, click something, and then see if it worked. Don't make me read a bunch of man pages just to do a simple task. In essence, the question here is whether it's okay for the user to be lazy and use a GUI, or whether the programmer should be too lazy to develop a GUI.

ak_hepcat (468765) writes: <leif@MENCKENdenali.net minus author> on Monday October 04, @07:38PM (#33789626) Homepage Journal

Probably because it's also about the ease of troubleshooting issues.

How do you troubleshoot something with a GUI after you've misconfigured? How do you troubleshoot a programming error (bug) in the GUI -> device communication? How do you scale to tens, hundreds, or thousands of devices with a GUI?

CLI makes all this easier and more manageable.

arth1 (260657) writes:

Why would I want to read a bunch of documentation, mess with command line options, then read whole block of text to see what it did? I'd much rather sit back in my chair, click something, and then see if it worked. Don't make me read a bunch of man pages just to do a simple task. Because then you'll be stuck at doing simple tasks, and will never be able to do more advanced tasks. Without hiring a team to write an app for you instead of doing it yourself in two minutes, that is. The time you spend reading man

fandingo (1541045) writes: on Monday October 04, @07:54PM (#33789778)

I don't think you really understand systems administration. 'Users,' or in this case admins, don't typically do stuff once. Furthermore, they need to know what he did and how to do it again (i.e. new server or whatever) or just remember what he did. One-off stuff isn't common and is a sign of poor administration (i.e. tracking changes and following processes).

What I'm trying to get at is that admins shouldn't do anything without reading the manual. As a Windows/Linux admin, I tend to find Linux easier to properly administer because I either already know how to perform an operation or I have to read the manual (manpage) and learn a decent amount about the operation (i.e. more than click here/use this flag).

Don't get me wrong, GUIs can make unknown operations significantly easier, but they often lead to poor process management. To document processes, screenshots are typically needed. They can be done well, but I find that GUI documentation (created by admins, not vendor docs) tend to be of very low quality. They are also vulnerable to 'upgrades' where vendors change the interface design. CLI programs typically have more stable interfaces, but maybe that's just because they have been around longer...

maotx (765127) writes: <maotx@NoSPAM.yahoo.com> on Monday October 04, @07:42PM (#33789666)

That's one thing Microsoft did right with Exchange 2007. They built it entirely around their new powershell CLI and then built a GUI for it. The GUI is limited in compared to what you can do with the CLI, but you can get most things done. The CLI becomes extremely handy for batch jobs and exporting statistics to csv files. I'd say it's really up there with BASH in terms of scripting, data manipulation, and integration (not just Exchange but WMI, SQL, etc.)

They tried to do similar with Windows 2008 and their Core [petri.co.il] feature, but they still have to load a GUI to present a prompt...Reply to This

Charles Dodgeson (248492) writes: <jeffrey@goldmark.org> on Monday October 04, @08:51PM (#33790206) Homepage Journal

Probably Debian would have been OK, but I was finding admin of most Linux distros a pain for exactly these reasons. I couldn't find a layer where I could do everything that I needed to do without worrying about one thing stepping on another. No doubt there are ways that I could manage a Linux system without running into different layers of management tools stepping on each other, but it was a struggle.

There were other reasons as well (although there is a lot that I miss about Linux), but I think that this was one of the leading reasons.

(NB: I realize that this is flamebait (I've got karma to burn), but that isn't my intention here.)

[Nov 28, 2017] Sometimes the Old Ways Are Best by Brian Kernighan

Notable quotes:
"... Sometimes the old ways are best, and they're certainly worth knowing well ..."
Nov 01, 2008 | IEEE Software, pp.18-19

As I write this column, I'm in the middle of two summer projects; with luck, they'll both be finished by the time you read it.

... ... ...

Here has surely been much progress in tools over the 25 years that IEEE Software has been around, and I wouldn't want to go back in time.

But the tools I use today are mostly the same old ones-grep, diff, sort, awk, and friends. This might well mean that I'm a dinosaur stuck in the past.

On the other hand, when it comes to doing simple things quickly, I can often have the job done while experts are still waiting for their IDE to start up. Sometimes the old ways are best, and they're certainly worth knowing well

[Nov 28, 2017] Rees Re OO

Notable quotes:
"... The conventional Simula 67-like pattern of class and instance will get you {1,3,7,9}, and I think many people take this as a definition of OO. ..."
"... Because OO is a moving target, OO zealots will choose some subset of this menu by whim and then use it to try to convince you that you are a loser. ..."
"... In such a pack-programming world, the language is a constitution or set of by-laws, and the interpreter/compiler/QA dept. acts in part as a rule checker/enforcer/police force. Co-programmers want to know: If I work with your code, will this help me or hurt me? Correctness is undecidable (and generally unenforceable), so managers go with whatever rule set (static type system, language restrictions, "lint" program, etc.) shows up at the door when the project starts. ..."
Nov 04, 2017 | www.paulgraham.com

(Jonathan Rees had a really interesting response to Why Arc isn't Especially Object-Oriented , which he has allowed me to reproduce here.)

Here is an a la carte menu of features or properties that are related to these terms; I have heard OO defined to be many different subsets of this list.

  1. Encapsulation - the ability to syntactically hide the implementation of a type. E.g. in C or Pascal you always know whether something is a struct or an array, but in CLU and Java you can hide the difference.
  2. Protection - the inability of the client of a type to detect its implementation. This guarantees that a behavior-preserving change to an implementation will not break its clients, and also makes sure that things like passwords don't leak out.
  3. Ad hoc polymorphism - functions and data structures with parameters that can take on values of many different types.
  4. Parametric polymorphism - functions and data structures that parameterize over arbitrary values (e.g. list of anything). ML and Lisp both have this. Java doesn't quite because of its non-Object types.
  5. Everything is an object - all values are objects. True in Smalltalk (?) but not in Java (because of int and friends).
  6. All you can do is send a message (AYCDISAM) = Actors model - there is no direct manipulation of objects, only communication with (or invocation of) them. The presence of fields in Java violates this.
  7. Specification inheritance = subtyping - there are distinct types known to the language with the property that a value of one type is as good as a value of another for the purposes of type correctness. (E.g. Java interface inheritance.)
  8. Implementation inheritance/reuse - having written one pile of code, a similar pile (e.g. a superset) can be generated in a controlled manner, i.e. the code doesn't have to be copied and edited. A limited and peculiar kind of abstraction. (E.g. Java class inheritance.)
  9. Sum-of-product-of-function pattern - objects are (in effect) restricted to be functions that take as first argument a distinguished method key argument that is drawn from a finite set of simple names.

So OO is not a well defined concept. Some people (eg. Abelson and Sussman?) say Lisp is OO, by which they mean {3,4,5,7} (with the proviso that all types are in the programmers' heads). Java is supposed to be OO because of {1,2,3,7,8,9}. E is supposed to be more OO than Java because it has {1,2,3,4,5,7,9} and almost has 6; 8 (subclassing) is seen as antagonistic to E's goals and not necessary for OO.

The conventional Simula 67-like pattern of class and instance will get you {1,3,7,9}, and I think many people take this as a definition of OO.

Because OO is a moving target, OO zealots will choose some subset of this menu by whim and then use it to try to convince you that you are a loser.

Perhaps part of the confusion - and you say this in a different way in your little memo - is that the C/C++ folks see OO as a liberation from a world that has nothing resembling a first-class functions, while Lisp folks see OO as a prison since it limits their use of functions/objects to the style of (9.). In that case, the only way OO can be defended is in the same manner as any other game or discipline -- by arguing that by giving something up (e.g. the freedom to throw eggs at your neighbor's house) you gain something that you want (assurance that your neighbor won't put you in jail).

This is related to Lisp being oriented to the solitary hacker and discipline-imposing languages being oriented to social packs, another point you mention. In a pack you want to restrict everyone else's freedom as much as possible to reduce their ability to interfere with and take advantage of you, and the only way to do that is by either becoming chief (dangerous and unlikely) or by submitting to the same rules that they do. If you submit to rules, you then want the rules to be liberal so that you have a chance of doing most of what you want to do, but not so liberal that others nail you.

In such a pack-programming world, the language is a constitution or set of by-laws, and the interpreter/compiler/QA dept. acts in part as a rule checker/enforcer/police force. Co-programmers want to know: If I work with your code, will this help me or hurt me? Correctness is undecidable (and generally unenforceable), so managers go with whatever rule set (static type system, language restrictions, "lint" program, etc.) shows up at the door when the project starts.

I recently contributed to a discussion of anti-OO on the e-lang list. My main anti-OO message (actually it only attacks points 5/6) was http://www.eros-os.org/pipermail/e-lang/2001-October/005852.html . The followups are interesting but I don't think they're all threaded properly.

(Here are the pet definitions of terms used above:

Complete Exchange

[Nov 28, 2017] Sometimes the Old Ways Are Best by Brian Kernighan

Nov 01, 2008 | IEEE Software, pp.18-19

As I write this column, I'm in the middle of two summer projects; with luck, they'll both be finished by the time you read it.

... ... ...

Here has surely been much progress in tools over the 25 years that IEEE Software has been around, and I wouldn't want to go back in time.

But the tools I use today are mostly the same old ones-grep, diff, sort, awk, and friends. This might well mean that I'm a dinosaur stuck in the past.

On the other hand, when it comes to doing simple things quickly, I can often have the job done while experts are still waiting for their IDE to start up. Sometimes the old ways are best, and they're certainly worth knowing well

[Nov 27, 2017] Stop Writing Classes

Notable quotes:
"... If there's something I've noticed in my career that is that there are always some guys that desperately want to look "smart" and they reflect that in their code. ..."
Nov 27, 2017 | www.youtube.com

Tom coAdjoint , 1 year ago

My god I wish the engineers at my work understood this

kobac , 2 years ago

If there's something I've noticed in my career that is that there are always some guys that desperately want to look "smart" and they reflect that in their code.

If there's something else that I've noticed in my career, it's that their code is the hardest to maintain and for some reason they want the rest of the team to depend on them since they are the only "enough smart" to understand that code and change it. No need to say that these guys are not part of my team. Your code should be direct, simple and readable. End of story.

[Nov 27, 2017] Stop Writing Classes

Notable quotes:
"... If there's something I've noticed in my career that is that there are always some guys that desperately want to look "smart" and they reflect that in their code. ..."
Nov 27, 2017 | www.youtube.com

Tom coAdjoint , 1 year ago

My god I wish the engineers at my work understood this

kobac , 2 years ago

If there's something I've noticed in my career that is that there are always some guys that desperately want to look "smart" and they reflect that in their code.

If there's something else that I've noticed in my career, it's that their code is the hardest to maintain and for some reason they want the rest of the team to depend on them since they are the only "enough smart" to understand that code and change it. No need to say that these guys are not part of my team. Your code should be direct, simple and readable. End of story.

[Nov 27, 2017] The Robot Productivity Paradox and the concept of bezel

This concept of "bezel" is an important one
Notable quotes:
"... "In many ways the effect of the crash on embezzlement was more significant than on suicide. To the economist embezzlement is the most interesting of crimes. Alone among the various forms of larceny it has a time parameter. Weeks, months or years may elapse between the commission of the crime and its discovery. (This is a period, incidentally, when the embezzler has his gain and the man who has been embezzled, oddly enough, feels no loss. There is a net increase in psychic wealth.) ..."
"... At any given time there exists an inventory of undiscovered embezzlement in – or more precisely not in – the country's business and banks. ..."
"... This inventory – it should perhaps be called the bezzle – amounts at any moment to many millions [trillions!] of dollars. It also varies in size with the business cycle. ..."
"... In good times people are relaxed, trusting, and money is plentiful. But even though money is plentiful, there are always many people who need more. Under these circumstances the rate of embezzlement grows, the rate of discovery falls off, and the bezzle increases rapidly. ..."
"... In depression all this is reversed. Money is watched with a narrow, suspicious eye. The man who handles it is assumed to be dishonest until he proves himself otherwise. Audits are penetrating and meticulous. Commercial morality is enormously improved. The bezzle shrinks ..."
Feb 22, 2017 | econospeak.blogspot.com

Sandwichman -> Sandwichman ... February 24, 2017 at 08:36 AM

John Kenneth Galbraith, from "The Great Crash 1929":

"In many ways the effect of the crash on embezzlement was more significant than on suicide. To the economist embezzlement is the most interesting of crimes. Alone among the various forms of larceny it has a time parameter. Weeks, months or years may elapse between the commission of the crime and its discovery. (This is a period, incidentally, when the embezzler has his gain and the man who has been embezzled, oddly enough, feels no loss. There is a net increase in psychic wealth.)

At any given time there exists an inventory of undiscovered embezzlement in – or more precisely not in – the country's business and banks.

This inventory – it should perhaps be called the bezzle – amounts at any moment to many millions [trillions!] of dollars. It also varies in size with the business cycle.

In good times people are relaxed, trusting, and money is plentiful. But even though money is plentiful, there are always many people who need more. Under these circumstances the rate of embezzlement grows, the rate of discovery falls off, and the bezzle increases rapidly.

In depression all this is reversed. Money is watched with a narrow, suspicious eye. The man who handles it is assumed to be dishonest until he proves himself otherwise. Audits are penetrating and meticulous. Commercial morality is enormously improved. The bezzle shrinks."

Sanwichman, February 24, 2017 at 05:24 AM

For nearly a half a century, from 1947 to 1996, real GDP and real Net Worth of Households and Non-profit Organizations (in 2009 dollars) both increased at a compound annual rate of a bit over 3.5%. GDP growth, in fact, was just a smidgen faster -- 0.016% -- than growth of Net Household Worth.

From 1996 to 2015, GDP grew at a compound annual rate of 2.3% while Net Worth increased at the rate of 3.6%....

-- Sanwichman

anne -> anne... February 24, 2017 at 05:25 AM

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=cOU6

January 15, 2017

Gross Domestic Product and Net Worth for Households & Nonprofit Organizations, 1952-2016

(Indexed to 1952)

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=cPq1

January 15, 2017

Gross Domestic Product and Net Worth for Households & Nonprofit Organizations, 1992-2016

(Indexed to 1992)

anne -> Sandwichman ... February 24, 2017 at 03:35 PM

The real home price index extends from 1890. From 1890 to 1996, the index increased slightly faster than inflation so that the index was 100 in 1890 and 113 in 1996. However from 1996 the index advanced to levels far beyon