Archive for the 'Thoughts' Category

Software is like… roads

When tasked with finding an analogy for the software development process, I came up with roads. This was greatly inspired by the surface we were driving upon at the time.

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If you’re going to make a better mouse trap, make sure it catches mice

My parents house is covered in picture frames, so for for christmas I got my dad one of those digital ones. At least that way they can reclaim some of their wallspace. Anyway before giving it to him I got the chance to load it with some images and have a bit of a play. While not disappointed I was surprised at some of the basic stuff the manufacturer got wrong. So here’s a couple of tips for you digital picture/photo frame designers:

Aesthetic look

Picture frames shouldn’t detract from the picture. They act as border and help focus the viewers attention perhaps even adding depth to an overall image. A corporate logo emblazed across the bottom of your frame does not meet any of these goals.


Picture frames primary function is to display pictures. That’s what they were designed to do. Calling your product a digital picture frame and then failing to actually display pictures when you turn it on is crazy. In this particular case you are instead greeted with a menu where you have to select you want to look at photos off of this USB key.

Oh and why do most of them have speakers?!?

A new version of software X is ready to install

How come every Windows application has to provide its own upgrade system? Logging on to my machine can consist of several prompts of how new updates are ready to install, firefox needs to restart, antivirus definitions have been downloaded, and by the way would you like to update these plugins?

I can’t even play a game of Rainbow Six Vegas without it checking for an update first.

Ubuntu Linux handles this much much better. Most (if not all) of your installed applications are managed by a central repository. Only one update program is needed and it doesn’t ask you to reboot every twenty minutes.

I propose a similar system for Windows.

First step is to create an open specification which details:

  • how to register your application with the update system
  • format of application version information and how they are to be retrieved
  • how updates are performed
  • user interface guidelines (when to show notifications, information to show, etc)
  • what to do in the event of competing update systems

Second step is to create an open source implementation based on that specification. This is important as it gives people something to play with straight away. It also doesn’t lock them into your upgrade system and allows for outside improvements. If they don’t like it, they are free to use another implementation (or even create their own!).

An updater systems falls into the same category as installers; they are complicated and hard to do right. You shouldn’t be creating your own installer, so why should you create your own updater?

Instead concentrate on your own product and stop bombarding me with update notifications!

Portal technology

Portals like those seen in Narbacular Drop, Prey, and the soon to be released Portal have far more uses than just personal transport. For starters if you have portal technology you have the potential for unlimited energy…

Well that is assuming that the amount of energy required to maintain a portal is negligible. In which case you could create your own hydro electric power plant by sticking a turbine in between two portals and just add water.
Thermal gradients are another obvious source of energy. One end of the portal near a hot region (sun?) and the other near a body of water. Although this then raises the question of whether all the air on earth would be blown out into space?

So lets assume that portals do in fact require a large amount of energy to create and maintain. Not only in an effort to respect the conservation of energy, but to avoid the anarchy that would result from personal portal devices. At least this way governments, large corporations, and billionaires would be the only people in control of them.

Sure the technology would be abused but just think; here we have the solution to world hunger, population overcrowding, public transportation, non-renewable resources, and space exploration. All because portals allow objects to be transported from one location to another instantly.

A really good book featuring this technology is Pandora’s Star by Peter F Hamilton.