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Dark Software: Roundtable Tuesday, January 18, 2016 11: 00 AM

It's only the beginning of the year, but a leading contender for the word of 2016 may be dark. Dark is everywhere these days:

  • Politics: Dark money is money raised by individuals, campaigns and various groups that is untraceable (or traceable only with great effort). Who's spending that money? Who's receiving it?
  • Communications: Dark fiber is fiber optic cable that is not currently used. Some of it was bult as fiber-optic networks have been built out. Because so much of the cost of laying cable is on the engineering side along with labor, over-building makes a lot of sense: The cost of the cable itself may be only 10% of the total project cost.
  • Cosmology: "Dark matter a hypothetical kind of matter that cannot be seen with telescopes, but accounts for most of the matter in the universe." (Wikipedia). Is that like this hypothetical bridge in Brooklyn I'd like to sell you?
  • More cosmology from Wikipedia and the Planck mission from the European Space Agency (ESA): "The total mass-energy of the known universe contains:
    • Ordinary (baryonic) matter - 4.9%
    • Dark matter - 26.8%
    • Dark energy - 68.3% (we won't go there right now -- takes too much energy to get there)"
  • Technology: Dark software. Mostly unknown but often essential it's all over the place. Sometimes it's used (and occasionally misused or causes problems), and oftentimes it just sits there unused having been created and sold at great expense. Ian Foster at Argonne National Laboratory and University of Chicago writes a summary of his work here focusing on dark software in extreme-scale projects. (There's a link to the full paper here.) Jesse focuses on the dark software in commonly-used software such as word processors, spreadsheets, website development, chat support, and much more. This dark software represents a waste of time and energy in its development and testing, opportunities lost for end-users who don't know about it or use it, and in many respects, a drain of resources as the same basic utility software is written and rewritten (and tested and retested) ad infinitum.

Joe Donahue and Jesse Feiler discuss dark software on The Roundtable, Tuesday, January 18, 2016 at 11:00 AM.

Guide to Your Own Dark Software

Here's Jesse's list of some of the major dark software tools you probably have and don't use. People spent hours and hours (days and years often) designing, developing, testing, and updating it. Then you bought it (even if it was free). All that effort is gone to waste unless you use it. And, by the way, chances are it could make your work and play more enjoyable and more useful. Here's a list of what you probably have by product category (not brand -- the issue transcends brands):

 

  • Work processing: Styles and stylesheets to avoid formatting individual letters, words, and paragraphs (often inconsistently).
  • Databases: Relationships and normalization.
  • Spreadsheets: Worksheets or multi-table spreadsheets.
  • Web authoring: Cascading style sheets (CSS).
  • Presentation software: Styles, backgrounds.

Nest Thermostat Glitch: When Dark Software Goes Wrong

Here's a roundup of some of the recent articles about the problem with the Nest Learning Thermostat. The device and its functionality are great, but as this problem demonstrates, problems can occur over time. Was this a case of Dark Software in action? Jesse's guess is "yes," but we don't know the details (see the Nest link below).

Dark Software: Ian Foster's Paper

A look at the unseen, unknown, unappreeciated (and sometimes troubling or dangerous) world of Dark Software.

Here's the formal citation:

Foster, Ian (2014): Dark software: Addressing the productivity challenges of extreme-scale science on-ramps and off-ramps. figshare. 

https://dx.doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.899207

Telecommunications: The Next Five Years

Very good article from HPE (Hewlett Packard Enterprise) on the future of telecom. Well thought-out and not a commercial for their products. Worth reading.

https://www.hpematter.com/issue-no-4-spring-2015/content-barons-smart-du...

Introducing SQLite for Mobile Developers - Jesse Feiler/Apress

Introducing SQLite for Mobile Developers

This brief book is a basic introduction to SQLite for iOS, Android, and PHP developers. The book includes a simple introduction to SQL, a discussion of when to use SQLite, and chapters devoted to using SQLite with the most likely development environments: PHP (web on any platform), Swift and Objective-C, on iOS or. Java on Android.

 

What you’ll learn

What You Will Learn:The basics of SQLite

The SQL syntax you need to use SQLite effectively

How to integrate database functionality into your mobile app.

 

Who this book is for

This book is for iOS, Android, or PHP developers who wish to use a lightweight but flexible database for their applications. It assumes some mobile development experience but does not assume any database knowledge.

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