Software Craftsmanship

Joel Spolsky writes that “When software is built by a true craftsman, all the screws line up. When you do something rare, the application behaves intelligently. More effort went into getting rare cases exactly right than getting the main code working. Even if it took an extra 500% effort to handle 1% of the cases.”

The World in 2004

Get a copy of the Economist’s annual which looks ahead to the next year. It has some very interesting articles. Here are a few I liked:

India will see general elections in 2004 – the question is will they be in April-May or September. “The economy will enter 2004 in party mood: the best monsoon for at least five years has cheered farmers and urban consumers alike; prices are stable; foreign-exchange reserves are bulging; and the rupee, after weakening steadily for years, is enjoying a new bout of strength…Industry will grow at a respectable 6-7% in 2004. More spectacular successes will distinguish the services sector: India is set to consolidate its place as the world leader in the relocation of information-technology enabled services. From its strong bases at both the high end of the business (writing and developing software) and the low end (telephone call-centres), India’s outsourcing expertise will spread into new areas, especially in the financial-services industry. This may provoke some protectionist rhetoric in America and Europe. But the globalisation of services will prove as unstoppable as that of manufacturing.”

Oracle’s Larry Ellison identifies 3 ideas whose time has come: Linux, grid computing, and software as a service. “Linux, the open-source movement’s free operating system, has been around for several years, but it is only now that its full potential and significance is becoming widely understood. Grid computing, utility computing or computing-on-demandwhatever you want to call itis also not new as an idea, but only now is the technology emerging to make it possible. The same is true of selling software as a service: it has been coming for some time, but in 2004 it will really start to take off.”

The Return of the Dotcom: “In 2004 e-commerce will finally come of age as a dynamic, global and, yes, highly profitable business. And firms that became famous as the pioneers of online commerce, such as, Yahoo! and, above all, eBay, will lead the way…The winners, it will become increasingly clear, are those firms that make the most of the internet’s unique strengths by creating transparent, real-time places where people can interact with each other efficientlyespecially in markets that have hitherto been fragmented, so that the cost of finding other people to interact with was often prohibitively high.”

The post-imperial multinational corporation identified by: further dispersion of headquarters, more outsourcing of key business processes to the developing world, more integration of managers of different nationalities, and growing use of R&D from sources other than the firm’s own laboratories.

An emerging revolution in computing is that driven by intelligent sensors or smart-dust: “computers so small that you would not notice if one floated in through your window on the breeze (and, of course, the CIA has already spotted what that might do for them). They lie at one extreme end of the sensor revolution that sees a glorious future in combining sensors, limited intelligence and communication abilities in vast numbers of tiny computers. Smart-dust advocates have visions of sending billions of these machines into the atmosphere so that the entire planet could be wired. Stupendous networks of communicating sensors would give the earth a digital nervous system accessible to the web and giant search engines, from which we could instantly access anything about the state of the planet, from changing weather to the state of forests.”

Localising Linux

The Economist writes that one of the opportunities for Linux and open-source software to make inroads on the desktop could be to provide support for the plethora of languages that are there in the world:

Open-source software has particular appeal in developing countries. In China, South Korea, India, Brazil and other countries, governments are promoting the use of such software which, unlike the proprietary kind, allows users to inspect, modify and freely redistribute its underlying programming instructions. The open-source approach has a number of attractions. Adopting open-source software can reduce costs, allay security concerns and ensure there is no danger of becoming too dependent on a foreign supplier. But there is another benefit, too: because it can be freely modified, open-source software is also easier to translate, or localise, for use in a particular language. This involves translating the menus, dialogue boxes, help files, templates and message strings to create a new version of the software.

The leading desktop interfaces for the open-source Linux operating systemKDE and GNOMEare, between them, available in more than twice as many languages as Windows. KDE has already been localised for 42 languages, with a further 46 in the pipeline. Similarly, Mozilla, an open-source web browser, now speaks 65 languages, with 34 more to follow. OpenOffice, the leading open-source office suite, is available in 31 languages, including Slovenian, Basque and Galician, and Indian languages such as Gujarati, Devanagari, Kannada and Malayalam. And another 44 languages including Icelandic, Lao, Latvian, Welsh and Yiddish are on the way.

We support the IndLinux project in India, which is making its own efforts on this front.