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“Engineering design is like playing Whack-a-Mole. You have a problem sticking up over there. You go and whack it, and it goes away. But have you really fixed it, or has it just moved somewhere else? It's often hard to tell whether you've solved the problem or moved the problem. And more often than not, when people say they've solved the problem, they've just moved the problem. It's almost a truism that you never actually find a perfect answer to a problem. You just find the answer that causes the fewest new problems.”
-James Gosling (inventor of Java)

Bulletproof

Filed under: Uncategorized — mgrusin at 12:04 pm on Thursday, January 25, 2007

Tanenbaum outlines his vision for a grandma-proof OS (Computerworld Australia)

From the title of this article I thought computer science legend Andrew Tanenbaum would be discussing one of my interests; user interfaces and software design for non-computer literates (see the remarkable design of the OLPC). However, he was actually speaking about another of my interests; the sorry state of what passes for consumer operating systems today.

Tanenbaum, who developed a small teaching OS called Minix which was a precursor to Linux, recently spoke at a Linux conference about a fundamental and escalating problem with modern operating systems: the fact that they’re big and getting bigger automatically means that they’ll be increasingly buggy. He supports a return to the fundamentals: small modules of code which can be kept reasonably bug-free, and isolating these modules from each other so a failure in one doesn’t cascade to others. Hopefully the Linux developers he spoke to take this advice to heart; Linux isn’t immune from this effect.

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