Sunday, April 29, 2012

IntelliFest 2012


October Rules Fest (2008, 2009) in "Big D" morphed into just Rules Fest (2010, 2011) in Silicon Valley and it looks as though Rules Fest has morphed into IntelliFest 2012 - possibly again in Silicon Valley or maybe back in Big D (Dallas), just not in August as the Web Page used to say.  Count on October.  (Maybe November but probably October.)  This year, according to our Fearless Leader, Jason Morris, we're going to have several tracks - one of which will be a management track and another will be an academic track and maybe a medical track.  All of this to go along with the regular rulebase and BRMS tracks.  The home page should change next week to allow registration and the REAL location and dates; so be patient.  Jason just started his la few weeks ago in Australia so now maybe he will have some time to devote to more serious things - like IntelliFest in Silly Valley.  He still has a long way to go on the AU thing but he's back home now.

So, you heard it here first.  This blog is totally unauthorized and I'll probably get booted off the Intellifest Organizing Committee for doing such a dastardly deed but somebody had to get the word out to the rest of the Great Unwashed Herd of Programmer Elite.  :-)  Now you know, so go to your managers and start needling them for the funds to go to the meetings.  Plan on the first or second week  in October.  Tell them that this will be the Greatest Show of Technical Fireworks since Java One back in 1998 or 1999.  And if you don't get to go, then you will be branded for life as having missed out and will be (technically) left behind in the dust of your companions who were fortunate enough to have nice managers who were smart enough to send their smartest and brightest programmers to IntelliFest 2012.

This post was updated on 27 May 2012 by jco.




Engineers are rapidly disappearing.  Why?  Because the learning curve to be a "real" engineer, of any kind, is extremely hard.  Usually the second semester of Calculus causes lots of dropouts.  If not, then Partial Differential Equations gets another 1/3 of them.  Finally, if the school still offers it, Abstract Algebra and/or Advanced Statistics / Forecasting will cook the goose of any slackers left over by their junior year.  The senior year was actually a breeze.  By that time, the professors had weeded out the slackers and "engineer wannabes" and we had fun doing fun work.  Even the Masters programs were run about the same way.  The first year was bad.  The last years were fun.   But most students can't make through the first three years of Engineering Basic Training - much like the Navy SEAL training. 

Very few programmers ever have any of the aforementioned items in the title of this blog.  Not in any quantity of any consequence.  Not if they remain programmers.   However, Chris Taylor recently pointed out that the gigantic Obama Recovery Act that laid out $845 BILLION USD to various places (of which the great State of Texas claimed about $17 Billion for such projects as The First Methodist Church of Dallas and a moving company in Denton) that created darned few jobs but lots money for Health Care IT and other stuff - meaning money for existing doctors ($40K - $65K per physician) and hospitals (about $11M each hospital) that was supposed to go help create jobs.  Did you get any of that???

Well, I certainly hope that the quack that screwed up my back got his share of the "Great American Bailout" since he has now proclaimed me "healed" when my insurance ran out.  That guy would make a great TV evangelist - but I've never seen a TV Islam Evangelist.  Too bad...  He would have made a good one.  Originally he was supposed to have fixed the problem of the breakdown between the 5th and 6th lumbar - instead he decided (with my previously written permission that you have to give or they won't operate) - that he would fix my slight sway back (technically, scoliosis) that I have had since I was a child and it really never bothered me. 

Now I can walk more than 25 yards only with the help of two canes.  At my last session he finally told me that I would have to come back in a year or two and fix that 5th lumbar.  I came really close to being convicted of 2nd degree homicide in a later court appearance.  And I had two canes in my hands with which to accomplish such a task.  Oh, well.  Y'Shua, an Essene Jewish Rabbi two thousand years ago, taught that forgiveness was better than vengeance.  (How do I know he was Essene?  He had a Passover supper the night before the rest of the Jewish population had their Passover supper meaning that he followed the Essene calendar and not the "new and improved" Jewish calendar.")

Enough on religion and bad doctors!  How about us, the lowly, the pale-skinned, cube dwellers who toil long hours under artificial, fluorescent, mercury-vapor, cool-white lamps to help the middle managers make twice or three times our salary and bonuses while the CxO (Charlie Guys) make 10 times our salaries and/or bonuses for driving us to higher and higher production with fewer and fewer people who work for less and less money.  Well, most of us, that is.  Some of us had the good sense to quite the rat race part and become "consultants"for just wee bit more money and HECK (H E Double Tooth Picks) of a lot more freedom of movement.  Unfortunately, that also comes with long periods of unemployment and a sense of loneliness that is lost only with Webinars and Skype conferences with others of the same ilk.  Or playing chess against the computer at higher and higher skill levels.

Here's the real two-pronged problem: First, The Charlie Boys gave the Middle Managers some short term (three to twelve month) goals to improve production with less personnel and less money.  So, the MM cut their top money makers (meaning the older, higher-paid troops with the experience) and hired off-shore or recently on-shored labor (i.e., Green Card Guys) who were lots cheaper but didn't know diddly squat about programming enterprise projects nor really technical tools.  Yeah, they know Java, J2EE/Spring and some other "cool" stuff but they don't have the engineering background of the REAL programmers.  Things like Unix internals, nor real OOAD nor how the Rete Algorithm actually works, nor Conflict Resolution in the Rete Algorithm - all that they have are some highlights to fool middle management. 

Second, HR is too danged (this gets me a PG-13 rating since I didn't use the real D-word) lazy to do the ground work for themselves so they hire off-shore or recently on-shored companies to do a "warm-body" search for people to fill "warm-body" slots in the company.  The few technical people left at the company are allowed to interview ONLY the lowest-paid 10% of the ones that HR found, not the real programmers that cost more than the ridiculous amount that HR had set as the maximum that they would pay for a certain position. 

OK, this has now turned into what sounds like a previous rant but it has to be said over and over again that HR and Middle Management (at the direction of Upper Management Charlie Boys) are screwing up the world, not just the USA.  Only in the UK and a couple of other countries are they actually hiring and paying their technical people what they are worth.   The next few years will see if the USA companies have learned their lessor or not AND whether or not the difference between the two policies (USA vs UK / France / Deutchland / etc) will pay off in the long run.  China has that policy and it hasn't worked for them very well in the long run.  I've learned to looks at labels and those that say, 'Made in China" I drop like a hot rock in West Texas. 

So, if you got this far in the blog, you deserve at least a "B" for having the perseverance (or the stupidity) to read this far.  Leave a comment and have the bravery to at least sign it.  ;-)


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Seven Programming Myths


Neil McAllister of InfoWorld wrote a great little article (which he probably plagerized from some other editor somewhere - just my guess, not fact!) but it's really great and should be read by all of us.  You can check it out for yourself at and be sure to read them all.  The first one really caught my eye was #1; off-shore programming is cheaper.  Another one (this should catch the eye of all those Jess and Drools programmers) was Myth # 5:  The more eyes on the code the better the code, meaning that open source has more eyes on it and therefore it will be better.  Boy! Neil took that one apart.  Sorry Mark, but I have to kind of agree with his analysis - most guys don't develop Drools, they just use it and develop the part that fails when they use it.  :-)  Note, I said most, not all.  (Most could be 51%.)

Anyway, take a look at it.  I'll list them for you here so you can see if you want to look at them: 
  1. Offshoring produces software faster and cheaper
  2.  Good coders work long hours
  3. Great developers are 10 times more productive
  4. Cutting-edge tools produce better results
  5. The more eyes on the code, the fewer bugs
  6. Great programmers write the fastest code
  7. Good code is "simple" or "elegant"     
So, there you have it - Seven things that you thought were set in concrete busted up and pulverized into dust for all time.  Of course, there are 27 comments already; some for (most) and some against (few) so jump in and either cast your own pundits or plaudits.  Me?  I liked all of them.  Which is why I'm writing this silly blog about some else's blog.  :-)


Benchmarks Summer/Fall 2012


OK, we're off and running again on benchmarks.  CLIPS, Jess, OPSJ and Sparkling Logic are in the running since they have agreed to provide their programs to run on my machine; a Dell i7 with 12GB of RAM, a 7200rpm 1TB HD and a wonderful graphics board.   Oh, and a 32" High Resolution monitor that can display anything that I throw at it.

Anyway, now the technical part.  The first hurdle will be WaltzDB-16 that will build 16 3-D boxes from a series of random lines generated from another program.  After that will come the more cumbersome WaltzDB-200, WaltzDB-400 and WaltzDB-600.  All of these will have to be written and run for a specific rulebase.  CLIPS, Jess, OPSJ and Sparkling Logic have been done for DB-16 and DB-200 and published for OPSJ in InfoWorld as the introduction for Rete-NT some time ago.  Drools DB-16 was written some time ago but I haven't checked it for accuracy yet since it seems to run inordinately fast and doesn't fire the same number of rules as other rule engines.   I've been told that WaltzDB-16 was written for ILOG JRules but we don't have a copy here.

However, I'm going to re-write the benchmarks so that I don't use the number of rules as the acid test that it actually ran correctly.  Rather, it will check that it built the 16 boxes correctly for WaltzDB-16, 200 boxes for WaltzDB-200, etc.  The 36 or 37 rules are absolutely non-trivial rules and should prove to be a good starting point for testing any rulebase.  I'll have to get FICO to provide me with Blaze Advisor as well as get IBM to provide me with a valid copy of JRules rather than that silly sandbox that they now provide. 

Also, I would like to run Open Rules, Drools, and some others (they do provide their engines) as well as the code for the WaltzDB-16, 200, 400, 600.  I can check the code but I refuse to write the code for all of the engines in the world.  These tests will more than stress the ability of the engines to run large, complex problems.

After that, Mark Proctor of Drools (Red Hat) suggested that we have a 1K, 5K and 10K rule set with  sufficiently large data set to test what he and others call "real world" problems.  I have no issue with this approach but I do no have such a test suite and, to my knowledge, neither does anyone else.  Or, rather, no one has offered to provide one for testing purposes.  I'm sure that there are many of them out there and I have seen them but they usually exist at some customer's site and are not for publication.  I do have one that maybe I can use later but it will be 2013 before I can get around to producing a general purpose rulebase with all of the proprietary information removed from both the rules and data.

So, let me know if your company would like to participate and, if so, send me a working version of the engine and a 12-month license and we'll get cranking.  Also, I will need a technical contact person at the company for help should something go bottoms up.  :-)


Beware "The Cloud"


Today everyone seems enamored of "The Cloud."  Don Adams of Tibco recently blogged about this at when he had the audacity to say that there is a possibility that "The Cloud" is not secure.  THANK YOU, DON!!  This is what I have been saying for six months now!  I don't want my software running on YOUR servers somewhere (who knows where?) and controlled by (who knows who?) and subject to backups (what and when) and subject to security attacks of all kinds. 

Sorry - I don't want to have to go to your company to inspect every month and examine all of your security and backup procedures when I'm already doing that very same thing for my own servers.  Why not just do this ONCE at my own place of business and not have to worry about YOUR security, YOUR network lag, YOUR performance problems when your other customers are crunching up the CPU time that I need for my customers.  Nope, I want MY software on MY machines where I can control everything myself.

Any bank, insurance company, stock brokerage or other financial firm that allows their software to reside and have their data to travel across "The Cloud" is insane.  Keep your data and software at home under your own control.  If some miscreant breaks in (meaning you were using Windoze rather than Unix servers) then you are at fault, not the company managing "The Cloud" software. 

Besides, real data security never allows itself on the internet in the first place, right?  Of course, right!!  You would keep your data and access off the internet and run them securely only within a tight, on-site environment.  Difficult?  Darned right it is!  But it's the only way to be 100% secure and 100% sure that there are no outside hackers.  Inside hackers?  Well, that's another problem for another article at another date.  :-)


Tuesday, April 24, 2012



OK, this is a blog to grouse about the world in general but somebody has to say something!
  • Golf Tournaments have all been renamed from their founders to some fancy company name.  It's like the founders just passed into the sunset and we can now forget about them and focus only on the big company.  Hey!  The guys who founded this thing should STILL be honored and remembered that they were the ones who started this blooming thing - not the fancy-schamcy company with the big bucks who can afford to buy out the little guys.
  • The Bing Crosby ProAm Clambake => AT&T Pebble Beach ProAm. Not only that but they keep running the same stupid commercial with the same two slackers "that is so seven seconds ago" over and over and over.
  • Jackie Gleason Inverrary => The Honda Classic
  • Dean Martin / Joe Garagiola Tuscon Open => defunct
  • Sammy Davis Jr. Greater Hartford Open => Travelers Championship
  • Bob Hope Desert Classic => Humana Challenge
  • Andy Williams Sandiego Open => Farmers Insurance Open
  • Glen Campbell Los Angeles Open => Northern Trust Open
  • Danny Thomas Memphis Classic => FedEx St. Jude Classic
  • Ed McMahon - Jaycees Quad City Open => John Deere Open
  • The world is facing a nuclear war with Iran that nobody is talking about
  • We have a bus-sized meteor headed our way that will pass between us and the moon (hopefully) sometime in December - more coming in a few years so if that one doesn't get maybe one of the others will.
  • Greeks are throwing Molotov cocktails at the police because they don't want to work
  • The Syrian population has been begging the USA and the Arab League for months for help against an evil dictator who is slaughtering his own people - for six months everyone just watches and watches while he kills more and more with the help of the Russian government
  • The USA is going deeper into debt and the depression is deepening and nobody blames the President for any of it.  
  • Our President still bows to the Arabs and Nicaragua while denying Canadian oil after promising that he would cut off the evil oil barons of the east and South America when he was running for the office of President.
  • We have an oil glut in the USA that came from our ground that Exxon/Mobile and others are selling on the international market at ridiculous prices and at our own oil pumps
  • Israel and Iran are killing each others diplomats and soon we will have WW III
  • The news shows during the day (and evening a few weeks ago) were mostly tied up with details about the accidental drowning of a singer. Now I loved Whitney Houston. I have only 15 or 20 Direct Disks vinyl recordings that I bought when I was a starving student in the 70's and one of them is hers. But we need to get a grip and face the bigger issues in the world.
  •  Every day this week we see more about the fiasco in Columbia with the Secret Service
  • Every day this week we see more details about nothing that leads me to believe that we don't have decent news to report so they have to run something and they can only rehash old news just like they rehash old movies.
Well, I've done my grousing so I'm going back to the reality of my programming.  It seems that the last place that I have for truth is my own silly computer that does exactly what I told it to do and not necessarily what I wanted it to do.

So, in conclusion, keep the faith, be strong, protect the widows and orphans and screw the politicians and big business companies to the proverbial wall for all of their lies and false promises.  Especially Exxon/Mobile and President Obama.  (This is not a political message, just a personal opinion)

(updated 25 April 2012 1715hrs)

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Gatekeepers to my Clients


Yes, it's been a while since I've written anything of anything of any consequence lately. But something has been bugging me of late - the "gatekeepers", those hired by increasingly indolent HR personnel whose first question, without having read my CV, is "What is your lowest all-inclusive rate?" and their second question is immediately, "Is there any room for negotiation there since that seems a little high for this position?" Now, remember, these gatekeepers are keeping about 40% or more for themselves when they used to keep only 5% (this was 10 years ago when Maxim and TekSystems were the "biggies") of the payout from the client.

Also, in the "Golden Days of the Programmers and Designers" the real recruiters actually screened the potential candidates rather than being "body shops" and they delivered actual workers who could deliver "the goods" for the clients. Today, what gets delivered to the client just happens to be a cousin or an uncle from the gatekeepers village or home town who can spell Java or BRMS that gets the chance to get the job. And all that the person has to do is to know a few "buzz words" to impress the poor manager that has to hire "someone to fill a slot."

The "real deal" guys who have devoted their lives to the industry to learning the technology for 10 or 20 years? Well, you don't stand a chance. First, you cost too much; or so the "gatekeepers" say. Secondly your rate has to be "all-inclusive" at $60 per hour. $60 per hour when it costs about $35 to $45 per hour to fly in and out of town every three weeks (not weekly like 10 years ago) rent a car by the month, rent a room by the month, pay for food and incidentals, pay for laundry and/or dry cleaning because you are there for a month at a time, etc, etc. That leaves the worker bee (you) clearing about $20 to $30 per hour (before taxes) working out of town when you could stay home and make $70 per hour (or much more) working for a local company if you are in a town like Dallas, Atlanta, San Francisco, San Diego, NYC, etc.

My advice? Set up your OWN corporation - it can be done for about $200 or less. Hire a CPA (about $500 per year or so - and they will save you way more than that) to be sure that everything is OK with the IRS and local government agencies. Stay the heck away from Dice, Monster, and other major head hunter swamps. Now, just network with your friends and the major companies that you used to work with in the past; let them know that you are still available and maybe at a lower rate than before since you can now work direct rather than going through head hunters. Work with a GOOD local designer and make up some GREAT brochures that tell an HR and an IT guy what you can do for them. Make some cold calls on major local Fortune-500 companies and leave lots of those brochures and business cards around. Work with HR and get your company on the "Approved Vendor" list. (You might have to take someone from HR to a nice place for lunch a time or two but it will be worth it in the long run.) Be your own boss and forget about the "gatekeepers" who take all of the profit out of a job and do absolutely nothing in return for that small fortune except send for more relatives to employ more gatekeepers!

Oh, one other thing: If at all possible, make sure that you can do training for their personnel on whatever subject you are going to work, whether Java, C#, C++, Unix, BRMS, whatever... That will really impress them. Be sure to have the training materials, programs and software; they'll have the rooms and laptops.