Re: Open-source software finds a natural home

From: phil osborn (
Date: Mon May 15 2000 - 22:13:54 MDT

>From: "Gina Miller" <>
>Subject: Open-source software finds a natural home
>Date: Mon, 15 May 2000 17:31:42 -0700
>Dr. Dobbs-
>-snip-Dozens of studies during the last 20 years have shown that good
>working practices improve programmer productivity more than new languages,
>WYSIWYG interfaces, CASE tools, and other silver bullets (see, for
>Steve McConnell's Rapid Development, Microsoft Press, 1996, ISBN
>1556159005). Despite this, most programmers still start coding without a
>design, then go on to short-change testing and set wildly unrealistic
>delivery schedules.
>-snip-Open Source, Open Science
>The lack of software-engineering skills among scientists and engineers has
>become a critical bottleneck in many fields. Computer simulations are
>increasingly used to study problems that are too big, too small, too fast,
>too slow, too expensive, or too dangerous to study in the laboratory. Many
>scientists and engineers also now realize that publication and peer review
>of software need to be as integral a part of computational science as they
>are of experimental science (see "Catalyzing Open Source Development in
>Science," by J. Daniel Gezelter, Open Source/Open Science '99, http://
>www.openscience .org/talks/bnl/index.html).
>Read the whole article at:
The man who designed the Gossimer Albatross gave a talk a decade or so ago
which was broadcast on local radio. His subject was the cultural
differences in attitude toward "design." The British, he noted, used to
send agents out to find "mast trees." They would set a little fence around
the base of the tree with a sign indicating this was property of the crown.
The measure of a nation's naval power was how many "masts" it could float.

So then the British came to N. America, where they were faced with a literal
SEA of masts, as far as the eye could see or a horse carry one. The design
philosophy throughout Europe was based on scarcity of resources and a
plentitude of labor. Thus they thought nothing of making plans centuries in
advance - which meant keeping people occupied in such planning. Before you
acted, you spent real time and effort on design.

The design philosophy in America evolved in the late 19th or early 20th
century to the engineering maxim that "we can build anything for a dollar a
pound." It is worthwhile to compare the Amiga OS, which originated in
Britain as TRIPOS, a real-time industrial control mini-computer OS, or
LINUX, or Gasse's BeOS, with the American products - MS/DOS, Windows, MacOS.
  With design and forethought, the Amiga OS could easilly run rings around
Windows or the Mac at the same clock speed, yet it was much easier to use,
more stable, and a tiny fraction of the size. (Imagine being able to format
not one, but several floppies, simultaneously, while running five or six
applications and communicating online with no noticeable slowdown, and being
able to switch tasks in 1/60th of a second, reliably. The Amiga was doing
that in 1990.)

Then look at the absolutely unbelievable bugs and stupidity of Windows, that
can't even recall from one instant to the next what kind of view you want -
icons, list, details, big icons. It's a random draw - except when Windows
willy-nilly decides to default to some view permanently - which happens.
And the errors were carried forward from Win'95 to '98! If someone had told
me that such an atrocity was going to be the dominant OS of the year 2000 in
1980, I would have thought they were insane.

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