Tag Archives: book

Read This Book: The Change Function

Just a few days into the new year is a great time to look back at 2007 and reflect about what book influenced me the most. Pip Coburn’s The Change Function–recommended by my friend and colleague Erik Meijer–stands out as the clear winner.

Pip shares his insight about assessing the success of high-tech products. He boils it down to the ratio between the current customer pain (P) and the total perceived pain of adoption (TPPA) for a new technology. From Chapter 5 on the book contains case studies and projections for various products, including DEC’s Alpha chip, ISDN, TiVo, flat panel TV, and satellite radio. The probing questions from Chapter 11 are great!

Going through this book influenced the way I think about technology products in general, and software projects in particular. I got to enjoy the mental exercise of understanding and articulating the customer pain, and then the total perceived pain of adopting the solution(s).

On the last day of 2007 an email inquiry about Kindle reminded me of the Change Function–perfect timing for a reminder to reflect about the year’s most influential book. Answer the following questions to compute its Change Function:

  • What is the crisis ?
  • Is the crisis the supplier’s or the consumers’ ?
  • What is the perceived pain of adopting the solution ?

Patterns for Fault Tolerant Software

My fellow Hillsider Robert S. Hanmer has just finished his book on fault tolerant patterns (to be available from John Wiley & Sons, October-November 2007). Here’s the book’s descritiption, in Bob’s words:

This book presents proven techniques to achieve highly available, fault tolerant software that can be implemented by software developers, software architects and small teams. The techniques are presented in the form of patterns as a resource for teaching developers and students about fault tolerance principles and also as a reference for experts seeking to select the technique appropriate for a given system.

Within the phases of fault tolerance (fault detection, error processing and fault treatment) the patterns will be organized in a way that leads from high-level abstractions to the concrete mechanisms. The collection of techniques will be programming language independent, and will be presented in a way that supports their working together to design fault tolerant software. This allows the designer to build the fault tolerant pattern language needed to solve their unique design problems.

Readers are guided from concepts and terminology, through common principles and methods to advanced techniques and practices in the development of software systems.

This book gives present proven methods of increasing the fault tolerance in a way that helps individual architects and developers. The fault tolerance domain lacks a handbook that provides well-known techniques and practices that are larger in scope than ‘defensive programming’ as many books focus on specific techniques or exclusively on reliability engineering.

I’ve been following Bob’s work and I am very happy to see it come to fruition in this form. For years seasoned programmers have been extracting techniques and insight from carrier grade software. It’s great to see a book on this topic from one of the long time members of the patterns community!

Silicon Valley’s Secret Sauce

In his latest essay Paul Graham dissects what makes Silicon Valley “the” Silicon Valley. As someone who lived and worked in two (self proclaimed) Silicon Valley-like technology parks (the Silicon Alps and the Silicon Prairie) I found Graham’s discussion of the key ingredients interesting. (BTW, Wired sheds additional light over the Silicon envy.) While Grenoble has great schools and location (with ski slopes a 45 minute bus ride from the campus), and Chambana great schools and cornfields (with tall, thick corn next to the movie theater’s parking lot), neither achieved the Silicon Valley critical mass while I lived there.I also have the benefit of having read an excellent book on the topic, and am waiting for a second one to be published:

  • The Man Behind the Microchip: Robert Noyce and the Invention of Silicon Valley, a great book in at least 3 ways: the story of Robert Noyce; the history of semiconductors (from Ge transistors to Intel’s 4004); history of the Valley.

  • Broken Genius : The Rise and Fall of William Shockley, Creator of the Electronic Age is not out yet, but I’ve added it to my wishlist after hearing an NPR interview with the author.