Before Apollo computers were huge and filled whole rooms like this :
Apollo guidance system was this :
Space industry led the way to a complete new era of digital personal computers.
We are now in 2020 and we all saw the first launch of a manned private mission to Space Station : the SpaceX dragon capsule attacched to ISS and astronauts @AstroBehnken and @Astro_Doug used a docking interface on a touchscreen device (try it out here https://iss-sim.spacex.com ) to dock dragon.
So consumer/private technology is currently used in the space industry : the complete opposite of Apollo/GoToTheMoon era.
Think of this from a political point of view : there were times when the biggest achievements in technology were driven by US federal agencies, pouring public money into research, universities, private companies to reach unbelievable goals (go to the moon). Those investment has been around $280 billion of today money. This drove the country into years of technological leadership, leadership US is loosing against another country (china) which is doing exactly what US did during the 60s i.e. pouring money into the economy with state participated companies.
Its time for another “go to the moon” type of effort and the new moon is giving this planet sustainable energy for sustainable growth.
Many time we face situation were productivity of a software team is impaired by initial flaws in system design. These initial flaws require too much time to be completely removed (the effort of complete rewrite is only marginally touched here and is normally and indication of other problems in your software project )
So, in order for a software team to be able to work at its maximum, good design is a must. Design is much more responsible for productivity than any single coder, scrum master, product manager or development methodology/language in the sense that bad design can take an all-star team using top tools/methodology to perform badly.
That kind of intellectual activity which creates a whole from its diverse parts may be called the design of a system
Melvin E. Conway, How Do Committees Invent?
So you compose parts to make the whole system. How you do this ?
It is basically decomposition to generate single parts that acting together will generate the goal. The 2 tools you will need as a designer are :
But first of all you need :
understanding of the system boundaries : the borders of the nation your system lives in
understanding the global scenario of what your system is going to do. Designing subsystems without knowing the whole picture is not a good idea.
Why decomposition of a system into smaller components (services) is good for you :
information hiding : well identified interfaces create a contract that the component has to provide, hiding any network/system implementation details. This will make the component implementation completely free to be modified/enhanced as long as the new implementation is compliant with the contract.
less development time : separate components/services can be developed in parallel since they don’t require (or require little) external dependencies, so less contention between engineers. Every component is independent on integration and performance test that can be developed autonomously.
scalability : with little effort in design every component might be deployed in a way to be one of many instances that will make that service scalable when traffic increases.
clarity : the system could be studied a component (service) at a time with the result that the whole system could be better designed because it was better understood
We could go on here and analyze what are the criteria to be used in decomposing a system into services. I’ll leave this to another moment and you can find some interesting notes here :
What I would like to stress is that design is a fundamental phase in software engineering. You can’t just skip it and pretend that since you have a good team you’ll get a good job done.
Thanks to the following for inspiring me on this post :
Thanks to god after year 2000 information technology has started moving towards more pragmatic, simple and effective tools and languages. Some examples that in my opinion make this evident :
Languages and language tools
go, rust, swift are all born with the goal of simplifying their direct parents (c++, objectiveC) and removing their pitfalls.
UML abandoned : this is a relief for all coders which had to deal with it. I don’t know anyone using it nowadays.
git : finally some one (thanks Linux Torvalds) simplified svn/sourcesafe by putting features that are needed by developers in a clear, pretty intuitive command line interface
atom/sublime : reaction to the complexity of Visual Studio, IBM Rational, Eclipse ? I think yes
Key-value stores/noSQL are just taking ER/SQL model and making it simpler, providing only the features needed in 99% of the applications. Boyce-Codd normal form is pretty nice and interesting but in real world applications you’ll never use it.
Object Databases completely disappeared and in some way also the idea that OO methodology/hierarchy could be applied everywhere (just because you are where using OO languages)
docker/rkt are slim alternatives to virtualization and virtual machines
plain old REST API aren’t just a simple way for doing things without having to Corba/Soap ?
gRPC : provides corba like features while being 1 order of magnitude more efficent and portable on any platform.
What I’m saying is that the 90s produced a lot of unnecessarily complicated tools and technology which developer just did not need/like which is being progressively substituted with simpler stuff.
Interesting to note that the phrase “Less is more” is originally attributed to Mies Van Der Rohe for his minimalism in architecture design . Looks at his buildings : nothing more than necessary and functional elements are present.
Friday for Future is running and I feel the need of making sure (firstly to myself) that the process that will bring us totally away from fossil fuel consumption is possible, maybe long, but possible.
Decarbonization (this is the name given to the biggest revamping project in the world) is possible; will require money and time; will require the mutual work of Politics, Science and Industry toward the goals of :
producing electricity totally from renewable sources, decentralize prodution
reducing the energy consumption in all areas were this is possible
decentralize smart grid and electricity storage development
substitute direct fossil fuel consumption with renewable alternatives
stop deforestation process
substitute fossil fuel derived products with fossil derived recycled ones (or carbon free ones if possible)
100 % recycle, waste to energy for the non recyclable
Ambitious plan ? I think this is the biggest revamping project you can immagine and it is already running but I think that the message we all sent last last friday is that we need to ‘deliver’ sooner 🙂
Producing electricity totaly from renewable sources
48 % of CO2 is emitted producing heat or electricity. Many countries are already active in the area of producing electricity from renewables, take Germany for example. 7 year ago (just after fukushima) Germany started phase out of nuclear power by incrementing the share of energy produced by renewables. Some data :
In 1 year Germany increased production from wind energ for example by 20 GWh. Continue this for 10 years and your reach more than half the whole country energy requirements. In fact Germany has also started a plan for removing coal in energy production.
In the first 6 months of 2019 Germany has produced more energy from renewables than from fossile/nuclear : here for some references.
Again from Germany, a national plan to increase the efficency of systems in all areas which is estimating to produce a saving of 12 to 20% over 2020. Reducing the current energy footprint is fundamental for allowing new segments of activities to start using clean energy (think at electrical traction in automotive which is going to increase national demand)
Decentralize smart grid and electricity storage development
The example here comes form Australia were private energy company GreenSync is stimulating customers to setup local electricity storage to be used when there is shortage of power on the grid. Customers are being paid for the storage. For reason not known to me the biggest development in decentralized grid and storage is taking place in Australia and Japan.
Substitute direct fossil fuel consumption with renewable alternatives, limit impatc of direct CO2 emission
This is probably the biggest task in the project because it is spread over a tens of different segments which need to be revamped to achieve the goal :
Road Transportation : around 15% of total CO2 emissions. Redesigning this segment is going to be one of most serious tasks : cars and trucks make up 1/3 of the co2 emissions in countries like US and it is mostly a consumer segment. Battery powered electric cars, pickups and trucks seems to be the directions with Tesla, the real game changer, paving the road. All automotive industry is trying to catchup. 44 Billion investments announces by Volkswagen group over the next 5 years.
Agricolture : How much CO2 is produced by agricolture is the most controversial issue with estimates ranging from 13% of total CO2 emissions to 18% on fao docs, up to 51% including the effect of not having forests where we make food for cows, pigs and chicken. These comes mainly from Cattle belching (CH4) and the addition of natural or synthetic fertilizers and wastes to soils. Here the only possible change is reducing the use of fertilizers and reduce cattle breeding by eating less meat. Read Jonathan Safran Foer book if you want to dig into this more.
Maritime Transportation : 5% of total CO2 emissions, The world’s merchant fleet consists of around 100,000 ships and these are estimated to consume 250 million tonnes of bunker fuel annually. Just one Capesize Bulk Carrier or Bulker can use 40 metric tonnes or fuel or more a day leading to an annual fuel consumption of approximately 10,400 tonnes. This results in the emission of around 32,988 tonnes of CO2 and 959 tonnes of SOx or more. This is just from one ship. Still no real prototypes afaik in this area but good project and potential around with project like Acquarius.
Air Transportation : 2% to 3.5% of total CO2 emissions . Various activities undergoing reduction of carbon footprint in aviation.
Substitute fossil fuel derived products with fossil derived recycled ones (or carbon free ones if possible)
This is probably the biggest task in the project because it is spread over a tens of different segments which need to be revamped to achieve the goal :
This point will require a complete structured analysis by its own. International energy agency dedicates a complete section on petrochemicals. They are not easy to replace : recycle will be the solution while Science and Industry find better substitutes.
I’ll stop here at least for now : the message I’m trying to share is that the matter is highly complex and cannot be simplified by just switching off air conditioning or doing these kind of things.
ALL activities have to be done at the same time (thanks Greta for having said this) and Politics IS the driver for all of them.
I think this book is full of valuable thoughts that I would like to recap in this post :
A broken window. One broken window, left unrepaired for any substantial length of time, instills in the inhabitants of the building a sense of abandonment—a sense that the powers that be don’t care about the building. So another window gets broken. People start littering. Graffiti appears. Serious structural damage begins. In a relatively short space of time, the building becomes damaged beyond the owner’s desire to fix it, and the sense of abandonment becomes reality.
How often this applies to software : you can have the best design guidelines but leaving a broken windows (bad design, wrong decisions, poor code) will slowly propagate that error to all the new code written.
Know when to stop
In some ways, programming is like painting. You start with a blank canvas and certain basic raw materials. You use a combination of science, art, and craft to determine what to do with them. You sketch out an overall shape, paint the underlying environment, then fill in the details. You constantly step back with a critical eye to view what you’ve done. Every now and then you’ll throw a canvas away and start again. But artists will tell you that all the hard work is ruined if you don’t know when to stop. If you add layer upon layer, detail over detail, the painting becomes lost in the paint.
I read this as don’t over engineer : let your code do the jobs for some time, don’t over refine.
Dry (Don’t Repeat Yourself)
Every piece of knowledge must have a single, unambiguous, authoritative representation within a system.
We all know this right ? But it is not a matter od duplicating code : it is about duplicating knowledge.
In computing, the term has come to signify a kind of independence or decoupling. Two or more things are orthogonal if changes in one do not affect any of the others. In a well-designed system, the database code will be orthogonal to the user interface: you can change the interface without affecting the database, and swap databases without changing the interface.
You are familiar with orthgonality ( modular, component-based, and layered are synonyms). I read this as : think at your module/component as a service that exposes an API to users :
efficient development (no one is waiting for now one else for stuff to be done)
easy to test : orthogonal systems can be tested independently
Since end of 2016 the European Parliament has filed a proposal for a directive in the area of digital markets and copyrights. As part of this proposal the Article 13 introduces a new concept :
Internet platforms hosting “large amounts” of user-uploaded content must monitor user behavior and filter their contributions to identify and prevent copyright infringement.
As you may imagine this changes the game pretty much.
Let’s make an example : a rightholder of music rights may ask platforms like www.soundcloud.com (Germany) to keep a look over a set of their works. Soundcloud will have to start monitoring all uploads to make sure that those materials are not uploaded by anyone on their platform.
Impact of this regulation, if it is going to pass, will be pretty strong on the EU contries economy. Let’s try to put down some points :
Putting all the control burden on internet platforms hosting contents will probably result in :
being much more difficult for EU companies to compete with US/Asia content providers
get-away from EU countries for all new startups and existing companies in order to not have to comply with regulation
Filter technology is too vast and complicated to be approached by each and single content provider : hundreds of rightholders requiring control over multiple sets of data ( text, images, audio, video, music score, software code ) will generate the need of content check providers that will de facto have censorship power .
Guilty until proven innocent paradigma : if a filter erroneously blocks legal content it will be up to the content owner fight to make his content reinstated
False positives : as in all automated checking procedures the number of false positives could be extremely high resulting in a limitation of freedom of expression
Many campaigns around this can be found :
Save Your Internet: “Stand up and ask Europe to protect Your Internet” (offers contact-your-MEP tool)
Say No to Online Censorship by the Civil Liberties Union for Europe: “Act now! It’s about our freedom to speak. It’s about censorship.” (offers email-your-MEP tool)
#SaveTheMeme,referring to parodies and other expressions of web culture that may be removed by such filtering technology
Create•Refresh: “These changes put the power of small, independent creators in jeopardy. Creative expression will effectively be censored, leaving only the bigger, more established players protected. Many of the sites that we use every day for information or entertainment may cease to exist.”