All entries for Tuesday 12 July 2005

July 12, 2005

Competition == Inovation?

It's certainly the economics of a free market that I was taught.

My title is a bit of a misnomer, as I intend to write about the massive selection/competition in the area of J2EE frameworks. I've been doing a bit of research in anticipation of my job and the selection of frameworks for building serverside java application is huge. The selection of application servers is also huge; a lot of big names seem to have their own proprietary, as well as Tomcat and JBoss being the open source offerings. I may just settle for plain JSP and Servlets, but Java Server Faces looks pretty interesting and a new approach to something like Struts. There is also Velocity, Tapestry, Cocoon, Spring, Hibernate, JDO… those are the ones i can name off the top of my head, and apparently there are currently about 35 different frameworks.

On the other hand the .Net platform has just the Microsoft offering, as far as i know, please correct me if that is not the case. Python has quite a healthy selection, but not of the scale of Java. Ruby has just Rails, and php and perl are themselves.

So all this competition for J2EE applications. I hope despite the daunting look to the uninitiated, it promotes innovation. I think the apache projects in this area are an immediate testament to this, so very interesting ideas going on there.

To carry on with the theme of innovation, there was an interview with Steve Ballmer which was posted on Slashdot a few days ago. The interview covered a number of topics, all good marketing stuff from the crazy man himself, but the point of interest to the Slashdot discussion was Ballmers comments about who was innovating in the IT industry.

He cited Microsofts work on interactive TV, the tablet platform, Office, Live Communicator, Visual studio, Msn Messenger, Longhorn and the Xbox 360… as all being 'super innovative stuff'. I could grant him the tablet platform… but Messenger? And Longhorn for that matter, there seems to have been plenty of press releases over the past few months about all the features that are being left out or being back ported to XP!

He goes on to deny the innovation of other companies.

I look out at the world and I say ‘who is doing the innovative stuff over the last few years?’ Did IBM out innovate us? I don’t think so. I don’t think they’ve done much interesting at all. What about Oracle? I don’t think they’ve done much innovative at all. What about the open source guys? Ah, the business model is interesting but we haven’t seen much in the way of technical innovation. People cite Google. Google has done some interesting stuff.

Least they actually accept that Google is rocking their world. IBM… not doing interesting stuff… did the Cell processor pass Ballmer by? IBM also has plenty of stuff going on underneath the surface and their history of innovation is rock solid. "The open source guys"... no technical innovation? Granted there are plenty of Yet Another * applications, but there are plenty of very cool systems. Bit-torrent is one that comes to mind… even Microsoft secretly recognises that one, they are doing their 'embrace and extend', and making their own version of Bit-torrent. If we are calling MSN super innovative, then lets puts some perspective on things, and think about Ruby on Rails. A still un-matured web-programming framework, but has received plenty of attention for its extremely rapid development abilities, very cool features and thorough use of things like AJAX.

The transcript
and The video

And of course any reference to Steve Ballmer should always reference this

Oh dear me.

In general Ballmer's words are getting at something. There may not be any 'real' innovation, what ever that is, and that definitely includes Microsoft. I think it is an important thing to encourage the IT world, to be driving to innovate, as that is a key ingredient. I personally think there is plenty of innovation going on, limited amounts of major innovation, but we should always been searching for more.

Now how is that for meandering.

Quantum Romance?

The content for this blog post actually arose out of a conversation with a friend, about their current fancy, but first some background.

Schrödinger's cat, is an illustration thought up by Erwin Schrödinger (founder of wave mechanics) in 1935. It aim is to get at the apparent discrepancy between what quantum theory says about matter and the behaviour that we as humans observe. Essentially, matter behaviour at microscopic and macroscopic levels.

My formal physics education stopped after A2 Level, so I shall try my best to be accurate yet accessible.

Schrödinger's cat experiment went as such. There is a box in which both a cat and a device is place. The device is constructed of a radioactive source and a detector which linked to a hammer and a vial of poison. The radioactive source has a half life, such that on average an atom decays once every hour. The detector, hammer and vial are set up such that any decay particle is guaranteed to be detected, and the detector triggers a relay which drives the hammer to break the vial and consequently killing the cat (sorry to any cat sensitive readers).

The experiment is illustrating the quantum law of superposition. During our test period we cannot know wether an atom has decays setting of a chain of events which kill the cat. Nuclear decay is completely random and can only be averaged over time. Therefore the observer cannot know when an atom has or is going to decay. Because of this condition, according the quantum law of superposition the cat is both alive and dead. It is only when we open the box and observe the actual state of the cat, that we lose the superposition, eg it becomes dead or alive.

This is known as the observer's paradox:

the observation or measurement itself affects an outcome, so that it can never be known what the outcome would have been if it were not observed.

So this is where I will leave the physics to return later, and now I will continue with the initial disscussion. My friend says they honestly have no idea of how their object of desire feels about them. The feelings are currently unobservable, which according to my tenuous quantum romance theory means that the potential for a relationship is both alive and dead.
That much is easy enough to agree. Where it gets more interesting, is likening the observer's paradox.

The act of 'observing' in this case is, expressing one's feelings and/or asking the person out on a date, or something to that effect.
It seems fair enough to argue that the act of observation or measurement will affect the outcome in the case of romance.

You ask and they might not have fully developed their feelings for you. You could even extending that time line to the case that they might not feel about you in that way now, but in the future they will. But you've asked, so there is no way you'll ever know what it could have been at a later time. This could be described as 'asking too soon'.

It could also be the case that they like you now but you do not for a period of time, and they move on and forget about you or even pursue someone else. They assume that as you have made no attempt to develop the relationship, that you are not interested in that. This could be described as 'asking too late'. You ask too late and you will never know what could have been, had you 'observed' earlier.

A stunning likeness to Schrödinger's experiment in my opinion. It of course offers no council to those of you are currently love stricken. In fact it probably worsens your dilemma of how and when to act.

I guess you can rest in the hope that my extrapolation of quantum theory is flawed. (I think it's rather good myself ;) ). I'm single, I'm sure that brings a few laughs. I'm enjoying my humorous view of relationships from a distance while it lasts. There is of course something to say for a bit of a intuition and failing that, risk. My friend has remained nameless, but upon reflection maybe a bit of 3rd party 'observation/measurement' might get it kick-started… Warwick Blogs, what a way to get that out in the open, heh I'm so cruel.

To conclude I'll go back to the physics.

To quote one of the the articles that I used in research for this article.

We know that superposition actually occurs at the subatomic level, because there are observable effects of interference, in which a single particle is demonstrated to be in multiple locations simultaneously. What that fact implies about the nature of reality on the observable level (cats, for example, as opposed to electrons) is one of the stickiest areas of quantum physics. Schrödinger himself is rumoured to have said, later in life, that he wished he had never met that cat.

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