Lots of great inventions seem obvious in retrospect….

“Lots of great inventions seem obvious in retrospect. About 30 years ago, one of our clients realized that if you attach a small pom-pom to the back of a short tennis sock, the sock won’t slip down into your tennis shoe. The idea sounds obvious, but designers had wrestled for years with the problem until our client solved it. He patented the idea – and retired.” cite

Lots of great inventions seem obvious in retrospect….

“Lots of great inventions seem obvious in retrospect. About 30 years ago, one of our clients realized that if you attach a small pom-pom to the back of a short tennis sock, the sock won’t slip down into your tennis shoe. The idea sounds obvious, but designers had wrestled for years with the problem until our client solved it. He patented the idea – and retired.” cite

Benchmarking real-time

We’ve got time to develop some comprehensive benchmarks of other proposed “real-time Linux” solutions and I’ve started reading up on published benchmarks. We had the advantage of a large number of customers with real applications to assist us in figuring out what to benchmark and the standard tests with RTLinux and RTLightning (FSMLabs version of RTLinux optimized for enterprise) are reasonably solid. So it is fascinating to read other people’s benchmarks and try to figure out what applications they had in mind. One thing that stands out is the brevity of testing. For example in Andrew Webber’s 2002 Linux journal article, there is an interesting section title

Largest interrupt latency time measured over 3.5 million samples.

Well, if the interrupt frequency is 1megahertz, then that is under one hour. The headline

Largest interrupt latency time measured over almost one hour.

would be less impressive sounding.

(RTLinux is a trademark of WindRiver Systems, RTLightning is a trademark of FSMLabs).

Free as in double espresso

Good news as coffee distribution giant Starbucks comes to an agreement with Ethiopia about coffee ip. The case for Ethiopia owning trademarks to its own famous brands is simple: the value line in coffee production is drawn near the cup, not near the tree. Owning trademarks gives the growers some leverage on pricing. The relationship between coffee and software is even more fundamental than I had supposed.

Prelapsarian software

In the myth, back in the good old days of the MIT AI lab, programmers lived by the hacker ethos and were above such low things as trade and commerce. Scientifically, it’s clear that the AI Lab was the least interesting part of the old Project MAC – which produced Multics. The AI project itself was at the same time technically shallow and profoundly creepy. The “fall” when Symbolics split out of the lab and looked for revenue beyond military funding doesn’t strike me as immoral. I just don’t accept the theory that writing and giving away software for the Defense Department is ethically superior to selling “proprietary” software. Software was free when it had no commercial value: when it was either tightly tied to hardware vendors products or produced mostly as military research.

Marge Piercy’s classic feminist novel Small Changes features a programmer heroine in Cambridge Mass in the early 1970s and provides a rather unpleasant picture of the technology world.

Confession: the primary motivation of this post was an excuse to use the word “prelapsarian”.