Monday, May 24, 2004

Out Sourced

One of the more controversial topics in my Software Engineering classes is outsourcing. Ankita Parikh was the author of this entry and makes some great points -- My comment in Ankita's logbook was - " Outsourcing is a difficult issue and as you correctly stated it has been happening for centuries. The response for us has to be is there an opportunity here? Even with outsourcing folks, still are not satisfied with the state of software development and maintenance – outsourcing does not cure all the issues, it mainly reduces the cost."

Ankita's entry and my response reminded me of an article by Herbert A. Simon, Nobel Prize winner in Economics, titled, "Prometheus or Pandora: The influence of automation on society." It was in the November 1981 issue of IEEE Computer. Although not spot on the topic he does discuss how automation affects employment and it is a great read. Unfortunately, it is in no electronic archive, so you are going to have to walk to the library to get a copy. Some gems from the article: "... the level of employment in a society has nothing to do with that society's level of productivity"... "In a very obvious way a society is capable of making use of the human resources it displaces by increasing productivity." ... "We have seen no large disturbances in our society over the last 35 years that were caused by worker displacement through automation."

Since I believe that outsourcing is a technological twist (caused in part by cheap, high quality communication), the article does bear on the current issue. The key is to see what opportunities outsourcing provides. Concentrate on improving the lot of software not simply making it cheaper to produce. Making software that is more reliable, flexible, human engineered, ... the software industry has lots to improve on that adds value and that outsourcing wouldn't fix.

So read the rest of this post and read Simon's article and think about the opportunities. It would be great if you would add comments to this post. I am sure this will not be our last post on outsourcing! Later.

“Exporting America”

I just read an article in TIME about “Exporting America” and the concern it rises. Is outsourcing going to be taking away more jobs than it already has? According to article, by the end of the year 588, 000 jobs will have left the country and 1.6 million by 2010. Should we all be worried? I am really not sure how I feel about this current uproar. I guess because I know I will have a job once I graduate. But I am a little worried that if more and more jobs in Information Technology are being sent overseas; I may be at risk of losing my job in another 3 – 4 years. Many of the big power houses don’t see a problem with outsourcing because for them it’s saving money. It’s all about making money huh? It tough for me to take sides for the reason that I understand both point of views. I have never been a selfish person and I won’t be starting now. I won’t deny it’s a problem nonetheless. It’s ironic that outsourcing has become such a big issue recently, when we’ve had outsourcing since the start of our country. Everything from clothing to electronics to cars has been coming from other countries. So why the big uproar now? It’s finally hit our professional job market. Before the jobs that were being sent off shore were labor job – manufacturing. Now, it’s more alarming because we may actually lose the jobs that we spent the last four years preparing for.

Monday, May 10, 2004

On Performance

After an inter semester hiatus, this blog should show activity again. This post is again from one of the logbook entries of a student last semester, Aagmik Parikh, and is being posted with his permission. It deals with computational and theatrical performance (see my slashed. "//" comments at the end of the posting). I offer it because there does not seem to be enough attention given to performance in the early stages of a project yet there are many instances where we still hit the wall on performance.

Even when performance is considered, the assumption is that the user will upgrade to match the needs of the software. For esoteric applications that is reasonable but it should be the exception not the rule. An extreme example of this cavalier approach to cycles is the rumored requirements of Microsoft's next generation operating system codenamed "Longhorn." According to slashdot,

Longhorn will require dual 4-6Ghz processors, 2 Gigabytes of RAM, new graphics processors, a Terabyte of disk and an extremely fast network. Be prepared to upgrade even your newest PC in a few years if you would like to keep up to the latest Microsoft operating system. I hope the rumor turns out to be unfounded. We need to stop the disposable computer attitude, regardless of the price drops. New PCs cause lost productivity during the transition (not to mention the costs of transition), the old PCs choke landfills and expenditure for supporting software tax corporate budgets. At the very least we should all petition for upgradeable machines! Flame off! Enjoy Aagmik's excellent and entertaining post. Later!

A true Masterpiece .....Lord of the Rings…….making of Gollum

This week we were shown a video of the making of the Lord of the Rings, emphasizing creation of the character Gollum. There are no doubts that the digital team involved broke all barriers in CG, but the creation of this character was really interesting. Initially they had implemented a methodology called key frame animation for creation of this character. I don’t want to go to the detail of the working of this method , but in short it revolves around the making an initial frame based on a model of the character and then working on the frame to produce motion. But with the talent of the actor Andy Serkis (voice of Gollum), and the digital team they redesigned the whole project to produce a new version , which became a spectacular hit. In their new approach they used Andy’s motion capture (another method used in animation) to produce Gollum’s movements. Hence their new approach used key frame animation along with motion capture. This concept was implemented for the first time and it became an instant success.

Analyzing their work, the first think that comes to mind is….anything for performance!!. In fact I am sure their animation success is going to be a benchmark for others. They redesigned their whole approach to strive ultimate performance. It can be also related to prototyping and throw away prototyping. Their initial model lacked the energy and performance present in their later models. I also think that this is a classic example of Business Process Redesign (BPR) as they redesigned the whole process, making changes in their approach.

//I do not know if it was Business Process Redesign as much as it was technical process redesign. They really did do a great job. It is interesting that you mention performance since performance in this instance takes on two meanings: the theatrical performance which was enhanced by th emotion capture and the skill of the actor and the animation performance/speed which was enhanced by their technology. When we build systems we do not pay enough attention to either brand of performance --- our systems are in front of an audience “our users” all the time.