More Goals for HBO’s Silicon Valley

After already introducing a measurement standard for compression and giving us a mathematical treatise on mass stimulation, the show Silicon Valley can already be considered as productively prolific, in addition to being hilariously comedic. Obviously, the show is capable of giving us so much more, and we should challenge them to surpass their own past achievements. So, I think I speak for all of us when I say that we expect at least one of the following challenges to be met by the end of the second season:

  1. To create the general specifications for the firmware of a “companion” robot being built by Jian, that will possess both the AI needed to pass the Lovelace test and the kinematic equations needed to pass the Linda Lovelace test.
  2. To prototype the first online bartering system and bartering message protocol, which Erlich will build for use in his new (and legal) business project WeedNeed (where people will exchange old mobile phones for drone-delivered marijuana).
  3. To develop (and then open source) a script utility that will allow you to create a customized set of VRF tables and DNS entries, which Gilfoyle will then use to create and traceroute a poem about how much Dinesh is gay for his code.
  4. To invent an accepted scoring system for the static code analysis of Java (probably by Dinesh), in which a minimum score of 90 will get you one free turn with Jian’s new “companion” robot.
  5. To create a simple package for script kiddies that exploits CVE-2014-6271, which Gilfoyle uses to replace the home page for JQuery with a picture of monkeys masturbating.

  6. To roughly outline a new method for software development called The Starving Startup, in which different planning stages of the business are devised at different levels of hunger and isolation of the designers. (Jared had an epiphany for this idea during his latest sabbatical.)
  7. To create an accurate measurement standard for image recognition, that will benchmark Hooli’s new IR system as it attempts to censor the Mad Bomber (who photobombs popular restaurant cams with his penis in hot dog buns).

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.

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Failed Software Stacks

Some software stacks, like LAMP, flourished…and others, well, they just didn’t make the grade.

Facebook, LUa, and KErberos

Google Wave, ASP, Sparrow, Truecrypt, and Encarta

Flat files, APache, and PYthon

Hadoop, Yo, PErl, Swift, and a Segway

Scala, a CHange purse, Java EE, and Tomcat

F#, Access, IIS, and Longhorn

NOde.js, BLOBs, JQuery, and some Oracle Bloatware

GO, AnguLarJS, Offers, Nest API, and Google Maps

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.

If Web Development Met the DMV

Any U.S. citizen can describe the awful experiences which accompany the use of a DMV (or, in some relevant cases, a post office). The minutes or hours of waiting in a line, the callous cackle of laughter of a pensioned employee doing nothing in a back room, the complete apathy behind the counter, the ambient despair hanging in the air…these are the hallmarks of its routine service. However, I would still rather wait in the line of a DMV than pursue another elaborate web development project…for, at the very least, there is still a shroud of humanity left in the husk of a DMV, even if it’s barely clinging to the inside like the placental tissue of a pumpkin. I wonder, though, if we were to apply the tools and norms of web development to the DMV…it might look a little something like this:

  • Debugging: As you walk into the lobby of the DMV, you swing the door a bit too quickly, causing the hinge to be pulled out of the door’s frame. Some of the DMV employees give you paper clips and a stapler in order to repair it. In order to be a good sport, you give it a half-hearted try, and when that doesn’t work, the DMV staff understand the futility of it. Instead, they tell you to come back later; they have concluded that the whole DMV office needs to be closed indefinitely, since it will need to be rebuilt entirely.
  • Error-Handling: Later, when you approach the counter and ask for a change-of-location form, the clerk just stands there. The clerk could correct your mistake and inform you that it’s a change-of-address form, not a change-of-location form…but instead, the clerk just stands there and looks back at you.
  • Browser Compatibility: When you approach the counter about renewing your license, they inform you that the process involves interacting with several different people: a photographer, a clerk, and a test administrator. However, for each different person, you will need to change outfits, speak a different language, and rearrange the furniture in the room to his/her preference.
  • Lack of Online Help: While attempting to actually renew the license, you are defenestrated from the second floor by the test administrator (despite wearing a blue shirt, speaking Turkish, and pointing all the chairs to the southwest). When you ask other DMV attendees for their advice on how to resolve this problem, each one has a different answer, but none of them actually help you.
  • Using WordPress: Frustrated with your trips to the DMV, you finally give up and hire Toonces the Driving Cat. At first, everything works perfectly, as you only ask him to drive you to work and back home. However, when you ask him to take a different route one day, he quickly starts to become frustrated, and in a state of panic, he drives the both of you off a nearby cliff, where you both perish in a mass of twisted metal.

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.

10 Software Hurdles for Google’s Self-Driving Cars

1.) All software for the cars must be developed with only Angular JS and Dart, using an IDE on an Android tablet.

2.) Since the self-driving software needs a plethora of data about a local area in order to drive properly around there, the neural network of each SD (i.e., self-driving) car will need to learn by driving over nearly every mile of the roads in its customer’s region before being used. As long as you’re comfortable with waiting several months after purchase and starting with 100,000 miles on the odometer, then the car is yours.

3.) In order to eat their own dog food, Google is looking to replace its entire Google StreetMap van fleet with the SD model. However, the car has yet to properly handle certain tasks of a Google Van, like taking embarrassing pictures of public urination/nudity and recording “random” samples of nearby WiFi traffic.

4.) Unfortunately, the SD patriarch Kit has reached a certain age where it’s harder to rise to the occasion, and in order for him to reproduce with the female self-driving cars, he will need to remedy his “dysfunction” with certain patches to his operating system.

5.) The OCR system will need to properly identify and react to any signs held by roadside people, like policemen warning of danger ahead or high school cheerleaders who are holding a charity car wash.

6.) Weather has been a persistent problem with the navigation system, especially with the presence of precipitation (including rain and snow). In order to address the problem, the SD model will need to recognize this perilous situation, and the current desired implementation will switch the vehicle into Transformer mode, where it will turn into a 5-story robot and commence walking down the highway.

7.) Unfortunately, the SD model is still a pervert, and it has a nasty habit of recording your sessions with your girlfriend in the back seat. Just skip the roadhead until it’s fixed.

8.) Currently, the OCR system has difficulty with the identification of pedestrians and bicyclists running on the roads, especially in that it records only 5 experience points when it runs a cyclist off the road. Cyclists are clearly worth at least 10 XP.

9.) Even though the system does not yet currently handle unexpected traffic lights properly, it will attempt to react to these lights in the best way possible, namely to follow the Starman Creed and run through every yellow light.

10.) For any legal infraction incurred during its driving, the software of the SD model is supposed to be able to automatically contest the ticket online. As this functionality is still pending, it will be programmed in the meantime to bust into traffic court Kool-Aid Man style and argue with the judge on your behalf.

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.

Steve Ballmer’s Syllabus for Next Semester

Fall 2014
Instructor: Steve Ballmer

Classroom: Stanford, Room 666
Office: My 300-room mansion on the top of a mountain
Office Hours: I’ll be available to students when the Microsoft App Store is a success
Contact Info: Kiss my bald head

Description: This course will provide business students with the knowledge and skills to plot the course of an enterprise, especially in how to navigate a product’s journey from inception to complete and utter disaster.

Organization: This is an unconventional course, in that there are actually no complete lectures. Instead, utilizing something called the Longhorn method, Professor Ballmer will start each lecture passionately, suddenly stop and postpone it indefinitely, and then return to it weeks later when everybody is past caring about it.

Course Objectives:
1.) To teach students on how a business can develop its own product line by copying from others, borrowing only the worst ideas and leaving the good ones behind.
2.) To introduce students on the best practices for ignoring technological trends (i.e., the emergence of the Internet) and scrambling to keep up with them when vastly behind the times.
3.) To acquaint students with the notion of being complacent when a business has reached a certain level of success and to prepare students on how to properly underestimate one’s competitors.

Grading Plan: Much like the historical practices of Microsoft, Professor Ballmer’s class will enforce the use of stack ranking. As a result, despite all actual grades, a guaranteed 10 percent will fail, and another 70 percent* will need to plead with Professor Ballmer for a passing grade at the end of the course.

* More than likely, the “adequate” 70% will become students at other universities and become more productive in those environments.

Required Supplies (one of each):
Surface RT
Surface Pro 1
Surface Pro 2
Surface Pro 3

Course Topics:
How to Reduce Costs by Reducing Market Share
Keep It Stupid, Simple: You Have to Spend Money to Lose Money
Pull a 360: How to Make Your Business Go in Circles and Never Really Go Anywhere
The Key to Marketing Is Confusing Commercials
Everybody Loves a Bully: Lose Respect in Your Industry by Being Hostile to Collaboration
Developers, Developers, Developers
Go Clippers

Classroom Rules of Conduct: Students are encouraged to be belligerent and assertive when participating in discussions. Any sign of weakness will not be tolerated, and those offenders will be sent to the corner of the classroom and forced to wear the Kin Beanie as punishment.

Suggestions for Success:
Professor Ballmer says “When it comes to making big decisions, just do everything in the opposite way that I did…oh, and remember to make friends with people on your dorm floor.”

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.

Signs that Your Project Isn’t Making the Release Date

1.) Not only do you not have a QA machine, but your production environment has been nicknamed by everyone as “the vaporware” and has bets placed on it to eventually beat the record of Duke Nukem Forever.

2.) You are supposedly only a few weeks away from the alpha, and you’re still interviewing people for your team.

3.) When you look at the scheduling system for all employees, you see that the majority of management has scheduled vacations around the supposed release date. More importantly, due to the excruciating pain which it has endured from morons, you see that the project has gained sentience and scheduled some vacation for itself, booking a week-long stay in Aruba.

4.) When you return to the operations floor, you observe that the devops team, the sysadmin team, and the network team are still pointing guns at each other in a Mexican standoff…just as you had left them six months ago.

5.) Metaphorically, even though your company is standing on a beach and facing an approaching tsunami wave of destruction, your various directors still insist on planting flags in the sand and arguing over who has jurisdiction over the greatest number of shells. (And when the eventual happens, they will probably use your body as a flotation device in order save their own ass.)

6.) Management finally decides to deal with the low morale and the high rate of employee turnover, and in an effort to help with the problem, they install a revolving door on your floor.

7.) Near the beginning of the project, your boss would occasionally buy pizza as lunch or dinner for the team. However, with the looming release date, your boss has proclaimed eating as “wasting precious time”, and instead, he starts to liquefy all bought pizza and prep it in enlarged hamster bottles that are hanging in each cubicle. “Drink and work, my little hamsters! Hurry!”

8.) Your belated launch of the release candidate went surprisingly well (as customers have lined up for preorders), but your payment system currently only accepts Bitcoin. When you ask the eCommerce team about credit cards, they sadly shake their heads, but they do promise that the next iteration will accept Beaver Bucks from Hustler’s.

9.) The sysadmin group is starting to wear so many different hats that they’ve taken the more practical route of mounting a hat rack to their heads. (I know that you admins love the puns!)

10.) Even though the release date is just a few weeks away and your project is clearly headed for disaster, your company throws an impromptu celebration for all of your hard work, providing all the grape Kool-Aid that you can drink and some really comfortable pillows.

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.

More Tips for a Software Résumé

The previous list is here.

1.) List your previous jobs and/or projects in descending chronological order. By not doing so, I’m going to assume that you’re a disorganized mess, even if you do have an actual time machine and even if you were employed in randomly scattered decades alongside Doc Brown.

2.) Spelling is an indication of being meticulous, and it leaves such an impression of you on the interviewer. Plus, it purges all ambiguities from the record. For example, if you list yourself as an advocate of “open sores”, you might waste a few minutes of my time, as I attempt to find my hazmat suit in preparation for meeting your skanky ass.

3.) When you want to convey your skills and familiarity with software and languages, you should briefly describe how you used them to achieve a goal or complete a project. In other words, it’s not convincing if you simply mention a project and then list the used components (i.e., “Ecommerce Project – Java, Servlets, JSP, Agile/SCRUM, Design Patterns, EJB, JDBC, XML/XSL, JQuery”). I’ve never seen a recipe for a dessert which read something like “Soufflé Project – Cream, Air, Ramekan, Eggs, Heat, Sugar, Gravity”. As it turns out, there are a few more details which are needed in order to paint the whole picture.

4.) It’s better to leave out the mention of any vendor-provided classes regarding technology. We both know that you could have learned everything necessary from provided documentation and simple Internet access (especially from StackOverflow). It was simply an opportunity to get out of work for a week, and if you were lucky, you got to stay at a hotel on the company’s dime. We can all agree on one thing: nothing tastes better than free.

5.) If you have used a software package or an IDE, you can simply list it once, and I will assume that you’re familiar with the latest (or penultimate) edition. If you insist on doing otherwise (i.e., “Eclipse Galileo, Eclipse Indigo, Eclipse Kepler”), I will require that you write an essay explaining the difference between all of them. And you will have to write it in calligraphy.

6.) When applying for a particular position, it’s in your best interest to convince me that you have a skillset which is a perfect match for that position. If I’m looking to hire a C# applications programmer, the majority of your résumé should probably mention experience with programming applications in C#. On the other side of that same coin, you should not attempt to tell me about being able to develop Android applications, being able to mod the graphics algorithms of the Source game engine, or being able to solder circuit boards blindfolded. More than likely, I will not believe anything you wrote, but more importantly, nor will I care.

7.) Don’t be longwinded in your résumé in an attempt to score points. Being verbose does not make you appear more knowledgeable. For example, telling me that “you have written in the Java application programming language for a JVM” and that “you have used MSSQL as a database platform for enterprise data” just makes me think that you love to hear yourself talk. It’s not that I don’t understand, though. Empathetically, I also love to hear myself talk…but I’m also polite enough to censor myself, since I’m aware that nobody else cares to hear it. My fiancée is especially appreciative of that.

8.) Similar to the previous item, don’t pad your CV in order to look more impressive. It has, in fact, the opposite effect. It’s perfectly fine to mention a few things that you’re familiar with…but be reasonable. When you start to list every imported package which you’ve used in your Java code, I will begin to see red and insist on making papercuts between your fingers until you cry for mercy.

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.

5 Ways to Deal with Software Patent Trolls

1.) Take a page from the Phelps family. Before starting your software company, find a suitable mate and produce a number of offspring, raising them with the tenet that God loves lawyers (except for patent trolls), technological innovation, and the shocking disruption of a peaceful funeral. Now, with your efforts bearing the fruit of a legal army of devoted children (all bearing the title “Esquire”), you can start your software company with peace of mind.

2.) Spend an entire lifetime learning artificial intelligence, all to create the first A.I. that will successfully pass the Lovelace Test. Then, by seeding it with creativity and business intelligence (but yet keeping it loyal only to you), your new minion can create various software companies on your behalf and forward its profits to your bank account. More importantly, since your A.I. is not an actual person, patent trolls have no recourse when it comes to filing a suit against a ghost in the shell. However, in the case that they attempt to do so, your A.I. can deal with them by taking control of their next elevator ride and by plunging them to their deaths.

3.) Spread false humors to the North Korean government that The Interview is still filming extra footage inside various courtrooms of East Texas. Of course, the other part of this plan is to provide North Korea with an ICBM, but I’ll leave that small detail to you.

4.) Befriend Adam Carolla and join his crusade. By participating in the production of a séance podcast with Adam and Jimmy Kimmel, the three of you can raise the corpse of Bill Foster and use him as your inebriated, zombie hitman. Patent trolls everywhere will defecate themselves when they hear the approaching, moaning chant of “ziggy socky ziggy socky hoi hoi hoi”.

5.) Even though it will take a fair amount of obfuscation and years of devoted inquiry, repeatedly file the necessary applications until you have been awarded the patent for “production and/or distribution of textual and multimedia content which forms a letter of intent meant to initiate the instance of a legal proceeding”. By doing so, you can hold the entire litigation sector as a hostage and demand the lobotomies of all patent trolls as payment.

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.

Kids Are Doing What?! How Kids Are Hiding Secret Conversations under Their Parents’ Noses

When you’re developing programs that collect data, you don’t really expect to find any juicy surprises, but it’s certainly welcome when you do, especially when you uncover the clever techniques of children. As I was scraping data online to learn more about self-published titles, authors, and series, I would randomly scrutinize the pages of books in order to validate my results. In scraping data from Amazon and the like, something interesting began to manifest from underneath the covers. I began to notice strange conversations taking place in the reviews section, amid the comments of disappointment or satisfaction. There would be the occasional remark about performing an act of sex or something which mentioned fighting animals. Say, what was this about?

“Puts dic.k vin her pussy and fucks hard and fast”
“No. Three feet of my cck in your ass. ;}”

“He heard the black stallion and galloped across the grassy plain, stopping a good distance away. He reared and whinied challenge.”

As a pattern began to emerge, my interest was suddenly piqued. You can’t expect me to walk past a door that opens to an odd theme park. I’m going to step over the threshold; there are no other alternatives. As I read further, it became apparent that there were two types of activities which were taking place: game roleplaying and virtual sex. The first was fairly innocent, as the writers pretended to be animals. My initial guess was that these review sections were an online sanctuary for furries (and for the first time, I began to feel a bit of sympathy for them). The horseplay was fairly timid, but the cats converged into “clans” and fought wars with each other:

“How long have you been RPing?”
“Yup. I started out at the Hunger Game books, then got locked out of ALL of them. But my friends lead me here…curse them…I hate RP, but I can’t stop.”

“I saw…I tried making GoreClan…But only cats with bad grammar and the wannabe ‘pure black pelt with icy blue eyes’. FAIL”

The virtual sex, on the other hand, was a facetious attempt at being lascivious, and I thought that I might be reading the lost passages of Scrotie McBoogerballs. Who would attempt to reverse engineer a reviews section into a Penthouse Forum? Some kind of bored prankster? I present only one of these choice exhibits:

“Evan started to drink Cat’s pee. Evan pulled off Cat’s shirt and bra. Cat started squirting milk at Evan and her pee stream died down. Evan took one of Cat’s boobs and his tongue drew circles around her nipple. Evan pushed Cat to the ground, spread her legs, and began to lick Cat’s pussy. Cat became wetter and wetter. Her juices flew into Evan’s mouth. Cat let out a scream in delight. Cat sucked all the cum out of Evan’s cock. Evan said, ’Hey Cat. Do you wanna walk home…naked?’ ‘Yes.’ replied Cat. Evan stuffed the trash can with their clothes. Cat walked Evan home, then she walked home. The two texted each other. Evan sent her a video of him squirting cum at the camera. Cat sent back ‘LOL’ and a picture of her boobs sqirting milk. They texted all night and the next day Evan said, [END] PESTORY 4 AT STOP THE WORLD I NEED TO PEE!!!!!”

As I read the “review”, the sophomoric side of me began to chuckle a bit. Boobs…whose inner child doesn’t find something like that amusing? And, more importantly, what child-brained idiot would use such language in an attempt to titillate someone’s loins? And that’s when I began to ponder another possibility. Maybe it’s not a child-brained adult moron. Maybe, it’s just simply a child. As I began to look further at the reviews, I found all the proof that I needed:

“xD Luckeh…and talon, we were talking bout how i was waiting for my mum to take meh to the doc since im sick. Then Slaughter said that….post below yours.”

“What’s gs? That’s a beautiful name Demon. I really like it. I know a girl name [name omitted]. She had a BF, then an 8th grader said that he caught them having se<_>x. Everyone at school said she was pregnant. She was such a sweet girl…I pissed me off to hear what they said about her.”
“If peeps are making fun of you, they must be very immature. What grade are you in? Only second graders would make fun of that. Nobody makes fun of Brad Pitt.”

“DOUBLE FIST PUMP!!!! Hey my sister and I share this [device] so we’ll be posting as SoftShine and Outt. Sorry for the inconvienence, but go ahead and KILL HER!!!!!!!”

And that’s when all the pieces fell into place (especially with certain words being purposefully mangled in order to avoid detection by parental filters). Kids around the world were using the reviews sections of books on a bookseller web site to socialize through their fantasies (whether it be surreal, violent, or sexual). More than likely, I imagine that these children had parents who were trying to protect them in some way, with limited amounts of computer usage and with parental filters put on the eReader device. But anyone who remembers being a kid knows one thing: there’s always ways around an obstacle.

Upon finding their intended forum (i.e., reviews section of a book), the child would create and then update a single review repeatedly, using it as a conduit for conversation. Once they were done, their last entry would be something innocuous, like “Great book!” or “Goodbye!”…and it would be as if the lewd conversation had never taken place. They had found a WiFi detour around their parents’ intentions of sheltering them…just as I and many others had. In a way, you could say that they had done all of us proud. Unfortunately, though, some of us were less proud. As expected, some pious adults took offense to it, and they updated their own reviews in order to scold these bawdy, heretical children:

“Listen, this is very innapropriate. Please stop. I cant live a life of horror and everyone on my [device] saying stuff that you did, [name omitted]. Please stop. I am a daughter of god and i dont need to know that kind of stuff. That was very innapropriate and i can report that. But because i know that when i make a mistake, i can repent, you can fix this.”

And some of the more gentle ranks of the roleplayers were disappointed and frustrated in their sexual peers, vowing to gather and stop their brothers and sisters:

“Do you mean [device] sex? Because that is not how you spell it it is not spelled s-e-c-k-s it is spelled s-e-x. If u do mean [device] sex, dont do it. It is terrible so dont do it and dont support it. If you r against it too, go to star res 11 to help me stop it. My code name is silverleapord.”

I know that some parents might take umbrage with this sort of thing, especially with the concern that devious adults might be interacting with their children. “How can we protect our children from this awfulness? What companies and government agencies can we yell at?” Could companies do something about this issue, by blocking children from the reviews section? Possibly. But what if they actually wanted to review the book and reach others’ thoughts? More importantly, there’s a broader lesson here which should be learned by parents. With something as ubiquitous as the Internet, children will eventually find access to it and will then interact with the rest of the world. It’s only a matter of when…but it will eventually happen.

After spending a few minutes going through these humorous comments, I was generally amused and baffled at this vibrant subculture, likely created through an eReader device. As we get farther from childhood, we forget how isolated and curious children are. In that way, I found it somewhat encouraging that children still sought to push the envelope and explore, in an age where technology encourages them to be passive. Eh, as long as it stays online, who cares? Let kids be kids…hmmm…but wait a minute…then again, what if I was the author? On a more negative point, I realized that authors might not want these kids playing in the reviews of their books, since it might have an adverse effect on sales…if I found myself in that position, my more benevolent stance might suddenly switch to “Get off my lawn, you little bastards”…

…however, context is everything. There might not be a need to stifle these kids. We know that children’s creative energy needs only to be pointed in the right direction. So, let’s do the right thing here. I can imagine a situation where ribald conversations in the reviews section might actually do some good.

“Hey, kids, Uncle Pete knows a spot where all the cool kids hang out. Right over there!:)

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.