[LEAPSECS] Time is hard...

Rob Seaman seaman at noao.edu
Wed Dec 31 20:06:40 EST 2008

Poul-Henning Kamp wrote:

> Happy new year and leap-second.


> Further evidence that average programmers should not be let near

> timekeeping:


> http://gizmodo.com/5121822/official-fix-for-the-zune-30-fail

Not to discount the bug reported, but there are lots of other more
complex issues with such a device. In addition to the question of why
the Zune should care particularly about the date in the first place -
something to do with syncing with the mothership? The bug's
description online, including the official support page, is really poor.

Knowing a little something about data compression, I would suggest
that such a device has lots of much more complex and subtle
compression issues. Also a variety of embedded device issues,
encryption issues, etc.

One could say that an "average" programmer shouldn't be allowed to
work on encryption without thoroughly digesting Bruce Schneier's
books. I think rather highly of Dave Mills' NTP book, but if one
could find a copy on the shelf of your local Borders, it would be
dwarfed by the number of security books, itself not a huge segment of
the computer section of a bookstore. All those ITU "above-average"
experts could have better spent the past nine years writing a few more
books to describe what they do for a living.

What precisely is an "average" programmer, anyway? This is a very
multimodal discipline. There mostly appear to be OS kernel/device
driver hackers and scientific programmers on this list. The
observatory just rolled out a new web page, an entirely different
regime of expertise. My brother-in-law works in banking, originally
Cobal. GUI programmers. We employ a lot of instrument programmers
who use anything from C++ to LabVIEW to microcode. Telescope control
system programmers who use various messaging protocols. Pipeline
programmers. Our archive is an Enterprise Java code base. XML.
Databases. (All our best DB programmers eventually end up getting
hired away by Amazon or Google.) Grid and parallel processing - much
harder than leap seconds. And dozens of other major divisions.

I can personally attest to the stupid lpd tricks the BSD line printer
daemon can be jollied into doing :-) (CUPS isn't nearly as flexible.)

It's been an hour. Anything blow?


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