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Sorely missed 
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Heinlein Nexus
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Post Sorely missed
Not exactly topical, I know, but... I just felt the need to give a shout-out to Richard Feynman, one of the greatest scientists in history, and not afraid to call a spade a spade, even if it meant his comments getting relegated to an appendix of the Challenger report:
Quote:
If a reasonable launch schedule is to be maintained, engineering
often cannot be done fast enough to keep up with the expectations of
originally conservative certification criteria designed to guarantee a
very safe vehicle. In these situations, subtly, and often with
apparently logical arguments, the criteria are altered so that flights
may still be certified in time. They therefore fly in a relatively
unsafe condition, with a chance of failure of the order of a percent
(it is difficult to be more accurate).

Official management, on the other hand, claims to believe the
probability of failure is a thousand times less. One reason for this
may be an attempt to assure the government of NASA perfection and
success in order to ensure the supply of funds. The other may be that
they sincerely believed it to be true, demonstrating an almost
incredible lack of communication between themselves and their working
engineers.
(http://science.ksc.nasa.gov/shuttle/missions/51-l/docs/rogers-commission/Appendix-F.txt)

I haven't seen any sign of change in NASA managers, and I haven't seen anyone with the guts and standing of Feynman come along in his stead. Damn, I miss him.


Wed Apr 18, 2012 9:48 am
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Post Re: Sorely missed
A friend of mine was an expert on rocket engine testing and served on a NASA committee to review engine development for the space shuttle. He was one of those who recommended against the use of solid fuel rockets on manned vehicle. His comment was how do you test fire a solid rocket before flight.


Wed Apr 18, 2012 10:47 am
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Post Re: Sorely missed
Peter, at least he left us some great books. I had better get to work on mine, I don't think my blogs are enough to ensure relative immortality. :lol:

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Wed Apr 18, 2012 10:57 am
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Post Re: Sorely missed
Having just spent a day battling with PowerPoint, which I am now in all seriousness nominating as the single worst program in common usage (limiting the category to widespread payware from major makers), and by a wide, wide margin... I was highly amused to read a Cracked article blaming the loss of the Columbia on... PowerPoint.

http://www.cracked.com/article_19776_6- ... faces.html

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Wed Apr 18, 2012 4:01 pm
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Post Re: Sorely missed
JamesGifford wrote:
Having just spent a day battling with PowerPoint, which I am now in all seriousness nominating as the single worst program in common usage


Sorry for the dreaded link post, but Don McMillan agrees with you.

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Wed Apr 18, 2012 4:15 pm
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Heinlein Nexus
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Post Re: Sorely missed
Yes, I have experienced the PowerPoint trap also. Recently a major (I mean multimillion dollar strategic change of direction, ramifications for a decade) task was laid down from management and we engineers worked up a preliminary presentation on architecture and technical risk, occupying over 40 slides. It had to be reduced to six slides of nontechnical terminology and all the items that spelled out risk of any form removed before being deemed suitable for the management review that would cast final judgement on the effort. No, I am not kidding. This is routine, happens every time.

The Columbia report was the same report as the Challenger report and the same as the Apollo I report. Every time, management overruled engineers on matters of human safety. I'd have jailed them. And it'll happen again, assuming NASA continues to put people into space, because their managers haven't learned a damn thing.


Wed Apr 18, 2012 7:34 pm
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Post Re: Sorely missed
Well, the dismal and jumbled content of most PP presentations is completely secondary. I am, pity me, having to prepare two wildly different presentations that because of end-presenter demands absolutely MUST be in PukePoint.

I intend to write this up at length, perhaps in the form of a piece for Cracked ("Ten Reasons Why PowerPoint is the Worst Software on Earth") - but in very short, it is a tool that is SO designed to be by morons, for morons, to make things to show to morons, that at core it cannot do the job it purports to do.

Many people hate Word; in fifteen minutes of reconfiguration I can make it a slick, mean, powerful wordage engine. The functions are there, just buried under crap and marketing dross.

Not PowerPoint. The entire program is cotton candy, with no core or bones underneath. Its primary job - creating a series of more or less identically formatted pages for presentation - is almost impossible to accomplish. (There is no hyperbole in that last sentence: PP's job number one is almost impossible to accomplish using the interface, tools and helpful AI the program has.)

They even stripped out macros in the last version, something an advanced user could use to work around the lack of form, control and a usable UI.

The fact that PP is usually used to create vapid space-fillers from information no one wants and has no need for, or filled with info that is a pallid, beaten shadow of what it should be, is totally secondary. You can write both War and Peace and illiterate mash notes with Word, too. But at least you can write them there. PP is garbage to produce garbage that is likely filled with garbage.

I have to finish the second one today, which at least I created from scratch knowing the limitations. Yesterday's, a long dense presentation created by someone else, dam' near killed me.

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Thu Apr 19, 2012 6:15 am
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Post Re: Sorely missed
Can you be specific? I've been pee-peeing a lot recently and the 2007 Windows version at least isn't giving me any real grief. I'm not intuiting what you're running into. I think the real issue with PP is what people create with it, not the tool itself.


Thu Apr 19, 2012 6:03 pm
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Post Re: Sorely missed
PeterScott wrote:
Can you be specific? I've been pee-peeing a lot recently and the 2007 Windows version at least isn't giving me any real grief. I'm not intuiting what you're running into. I think the real issue with PP is what people create with it, not the tool itself.

I'd have to go on at vast length and I hope to channel the rage into my first Cracked.com article... but in very short, what we have here is a tool that exists for almost no purpose except to style small amounts of text consistently... and not only does it lack the tools to apply consistent styles, but every single tool in it actively works against the notion of consistency.

Every single thing you do in PP changes the format of the slide and/or text, and there is NO WAY to re-impose consistency. At all. So even after hard work to the contrary you end up with a jumbled mess that jumps around in layout, type size, bullet spacing, etc.

Which doesn't even touch on the massive overload of tools to make the presentation even uglier and more annoying. But the fact that MS has slowly removed and degraded every single consistency tool is fault #1, and the other (many) faults pale by comparison even though the next four or five are just as unilaterally damning.


Sun Apr 22, 2012 11:14 am
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Post Re: Sorely missed
IMSHO any presentation should be so light on text and bullet points as to be completely out of ammo. This is a favorite hobby horse (I have given presentations on it). The ideal slide is a chart with a few elements, or one or two images, or up to about ten words. Anything more complex belongs in a handout or reference material, not on a slide. Any audience not equipped with opera glasses can't even read text below 30pt, for heaven's sake. You don't use this for communicating a lot of textual information, but many people don't realize that. Instead they turn into PowerPoint parrots, there solely to provide a soundtrack for the slides, a human echo.

My starting point is a blank black slide. If I have nothing that's more important for my audience to pay attention to than me, it stays blank. Otherwise I usually find myself dragging an image to it or typing a couple of words. That's about it. c.f. "Takahashi style."


Sun Apr 22, 2012 12:27 pm
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