4. A home on the Internet — Ludovic Courtès — Thoughts, Opinions, Links

4.1 On Scientific Research

4.2 Research in Computer Science & Software Development

  • In 2000, in a famous talk entitled Systems Software Research is Irrelevant, Rob Pike made a good summary of the current situation:
    What is Systems Research these days?

    Web caches, web servers, file systems, network packet delays, all that stuff. Performance, peripherals, and applications, but not kernels or even user-level applications.

    Mostly, though, it's just a lot of measurement; a misinterpretation and misapplication of the scientific method. Too much phenomenology: invention has been replaced by observation. Today we see papers comparing interrupt latency on Linux vs. Windows. They may be interesting, they may even be relevant, but they aren't research.

    In a misguided attempt to seem scientific, there's too much measurement: performance minutiae and bad charts.

    By contrast, a new language or OS can make the machine feel different, give excitement, novelty. But today that's done by a cool web site or a higher CPU clock rate or some cute little device that should be a computer but isn't.

    The art is gone.

    But art is not science, and that's part of the point. Systems research cannot be just science; there must be engineering, design, and art.

    This still looks so true from what I've observed during my PhD.
  • Hackers & Painters, by Paul Graham, mentions the situation of hackers working for research institutions.
  • The Rise of ``Worse is Better'', by Richard Gabriel, explains a commonly encountered tension between two software design philosophies, namely ``the Right Thing'' and ``Worse is Better''.
  • ``Trusted''/Treacherous computing and similar techniques represent threats over one's control over their own computer. Read on Bruce Schneier's Everyone Wants to ``Own'' Your PC and Marcus Brinkmann's essay on the introduction of OS-level mechanisms that remove authority from users.

4.3 Miscellaneous

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