[GRLUG] sysadmin job opening

Michael Mol mikemol at gmail.com
Mon Feb 1 11:24:24 EST 2010

On 2/1/2010 11:04 AM, Bob Kline wrote:
> One could throw in parallel programming.

As what? You didn't intersperse your reply, so I don't know what this is 
in reply to.

> But what emerges is that someone
> has to decide how to balance cost,
> performance, and who can do what.
> Knowing the strengths and weaknesses
> of most platforms and languages today
> is probably beyond any one person, so
> the decision is inherently difficult.

One doesn't need to know everything, or even most things, in order to 
have a broad enough toolkit to know when to pull out a screwdriver 
instead of a claw hammer.  It's good to be passably proficient in 
multiple languages, so you know when one tool is likely to be better 
than another.

 > Individuals
> often argue for what they know - both in the
> hardware and software side of things.

I don't understand how this is relevant.

 > Having
> to come up to speed on something new
> guarantees that amateurs will be doing the
> job, and the results will reflect this.

A proficient programmer needs to be at least passably familiar with 
multiple tools. Otherwise, he's not much better the guy who gets hired 
because he's good with a sledgehammer.

It's also true that in the computing fields, the cost equation for how 
to get the best computing bang for the hardware buck leads to constant 
shifting around in the hardware and network architecture. Twenty years 
ago, it was thick-client software. Ten years ago, it was the gigahertz 
race. Recently, it's been the multicore race.  Soon, it's going to be a 
split between breaking problems into massively parallel work sets and 
making things run on processors without some of the in-CPU optimizations 
we've come to depend on.

And, certainly, things will shift in a different direction within the 
next fifteen years.

All of this leads to new languages, new libraries, and new requirements 
for how one thinks about a problem.

 > If
> engineering departments could get around
> these points, then one would have demonstrated
> the intelligence of a mob.  But any working
> person knows that a camel is a horse designed
> by a committee.

I don't know where you're going with this, unless you're trying to say 
that langauges like PHP try to be too many things to too many people. 
However, that would seem to conflict with your implied argument that 
C/asm should be enough for everyone. If that were the case, what other 
features could a language designed by committee possibly pick up?

> Perhaps the proliferation of "languages" has
> simply complicated everything.  Each new one
> is supposed to be the greatest thing since
> sliced bread - one's thesis said that.  But it
> rarely works out that way.

Ech...You're only hearing about the languages that are trumpeted and get 
a lot of chatter.  There's more than just those out there, believe me. 
I was surprised to hear that someone on this list uses R.  I've seen 
plenty of R code, but I hadn't noticed anyone talk about it outside 
Rosetta Code.

> In the not so distant past it was clear that
> if you wanted a program to execute 10X faster,
> buy hardware that went 10X faster.  Concepts
> like caching have been around a long time,
> but only recently has the hardware been
> cheap enough to routinely support them.
> I'll agree that speed is both program and
> context dependent, and that one usually
> only has control over a few of the factors.

It's perfectly plausible to have control; It's a matter of managing your 

> On Mon, Feb 1, 2010 at 10:36 AM, Michael Mol <mikemol at gmail.com
> <mailto:mikemol at gmail.com>> wrote:
>     On Mon, Feb 1, 2010 at 10:01 AM, Bob Kline <bob.kline at gmail.com
>     <mailto:bob.kline at gmail.com>> wrote:
>      > Uhmmm,  isn't execution speed and
>      > coding speed the usual tradeoff with
>      > high level languages?  A shell script
>      > can get small things done in a hurry.
>      > No one expects it to execute fast.  Or
>      > should anyway.
>     True, to an extent, but some will perform better than others when
>     given the exact same instructions. Keep in mind is that different
>     languages have different ways to let you reach the same end
>     efficiently. Taking advantage of language idioms will go a long way in
>     making a "slow" work better.
>     I won't pretend to be able to back up the point with specific
>     examples, though. I'd have to be an expert in each language.
>      > Isn't it usually the case that one
>      > needs a compiled version of high
>      > level code before the speed improves?
>     No. Speed improvements usually occur in a few stages (in no
>     particular order):
>     * Throw more/better hardware at the problem.
>     * Take advantage of caching in more places
>     * Refactor the code to meet different design requirements.
>     * Refactor the code because you learned how to better write to the
>     langauge
>     * Change your execution environment.
>     There's a *lot* of gain that can be gained from those first four, and
>     by the time you can refactor to write to the language, your market
>     value probably doubled compared to when you first started writing in
>     that language professionally.
>      > As in an order of magnitude and more?
>      > High level languages keep people
>      > from having to learn things like assembly
>      > language and "C,"  reduce expensive
>      > labor costs, and exploit cheaper, faster
>      > hardware, but I'd of thought that it was
>      > clear what the price of them is.
>     Writing in a more expressive ("higher level") language improves labor
>     costs because it allows you to decrease your iteration time in
>     development.
>      > They are relatively slow. You never get
>      > it all.
>     You never get it all with any language. It's a matter of looking at
>     the task at hand, and choosing the right tool for the job. Would you
>     write a wiki in C, much less assembler? I wouldn't even *try* it in
>     C++ (the language I'm most proficient in) until I had a few more years
>     of professional development under my belt, and I'd probably be smart
>     enough to know better by then.
>     --
>     :wq
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