The Daily Parker

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Shut. The. Front. DOOR.

Via Raymond Chen, Eric Shlaepfer built a 6502 emulator out of full-size components:

The MOnSter 6502

A dis-integrated circuit project to make a complete, working transistor-scale replica of the classic MOS 6502 microprocessor.

How big is it?

It's a four layer circuit board, 12 × 15 inches, 0.1 inches thick, with surface mount components on both sides.

Can you hook it up inside an Apple ][ and run Oregon Trail?

No, not directly. It's neat to think of plugging the MOnSter 6502's in-circuit emulator (ICE) in-circuit replica (ICR) cable directly into a socket inside an Apple ][, but that wouldn't actually work. The Apple ][ design relies on a number of clever tricks that derive timing for video generation and peripheral control from the main clock signal — all of which will fail if you need to run at a slower speed.

Are you going to make one out of vacuum tubes next?

No.

Make sure you watch the 2-minute video.

Morning reading list

Before diving back into one of the most abominable wrecks of a software application I've seen in years, I've lined up some stuff to read when I need to take a break:

OK. Firing up Visual Studio, reaching for the Valium...

Lunchtime reading list

While trying to debug an ancient application that has been the undoing of just about everyone on my team, I've put these articles aside for later:

Back to the mouldering pile of fetid dingo kidneys that is this application...

The tragedy of Agile

Uncle Bob riffs on Martin Fowler's speech at Agile Australia this week. He is saddened:

It was programmers who started the Agile movement as a way to say: “Hey look! Teams matter. Code should be clean. We want to collaborate with the customer. And we want to deliver early and often.”

The Agile movement was started by programmers, and software professionals, who held the ideals of Craftsmanship dear. But then the project managers rushed in and said: “Wow! Agile is a cool new variation on how to manage projects.”

There’s an old song, by Alan Sherman, called J. C. Cohen. It’s about a subway conductor who did such a great job at pushing people into the train cars, that he pushed the engineer out. This is what happened to the Agile movement. They pushed so many project managers in, they pushed the programmers out.

The programmers continued to pursue Agile as it was originally conceived. Read the opening line of the Agile Manifesto: “We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.” It is Software Crafts-men and -women who are continuing that work. It’s not the project managers in the Agile movement. They’re off pursuing something else?

He has hit on the sadness all us old craftsmen feel when we encounter Management.

You're not wrong, voice-command assistant UIs are horrible

The Nielsen-Norman Group has released recent research on user interactions with intelligent assistants like Alexa and Google Home. The results are not great:

Usability testing finds that both voice-only and screen-based intelligent assistants work well only for very limited, simple queries that have fairly simple, short answers. Users have difficulty with anything else.

Our user research found that current intelligent assistants fail on all 6 questions (5 technologies plus integration), resulting in an overall usability level that’s close to useless for even slightly complex interactions. For simple interactions, the devices do meet the bare minimum usability requirements. Even though it goes against the basic premise of human-centered design, users have to train themselves to understand when an intelligent assistant will be useful and when it’s better to avoid using it.

Our ideology has always been that computers should adapt to humans, not the other way around. The promise of AI is exactly one of high adaptability, but we didn’t see that that when observing actual use. In contrast, observing users struggle with the AI interfaces felt like a return to the dark ages of the 1970s: the need to memorize cryptic commands, oppressive modes, confusing content, inflexible interactions — basically an unpleasant user experience.

Are we being unreasonable? Isn’t it true that AI-based user interfaces have made huge progress in recent years? Yes, current AI products are better than many of the AI research systems of past decades. But the requirements for everyday use by average people are dramatically higher than the requirements for a graduate student demo. The demos we saw at academic conferences 20 years ago were impressive and held great promise for AI-based interactions. The current products are better, and yet don’t fulfill the promise.

We're not up to HAL or Her yet, in other words, but we're making progress.

The whole article is worth a read.

Cool new feature in Weather Now

I've finally gotten around to extending the historical weather feature in Weather Now. Now, you can get any archival report that the system has, back to 2013. (I have many more archival reports from before then but they're not online.)

For example, here's the last time I arrived in London, or the time I took an amazing photo in Hermosa Beach, Calif.

I don't know why it took me so long to code this feature. It only took about 4 hours, including testing. And it also led me to fix a bug that has been in the feature since 2008.

Morning links

I didn't have a chance to read these yesterday:

Now I'm off to work. The heat wave of the last few days has finally broken!

Lunchtime reading

Not all of this is as depressing as yesterday's batch:

I'm sure there will be more later.

List of 2018 A-to-Z topics

Blogging A to ZHere's the complete list of topics in the Daily Parker's 2018 Blogging A-to-Z challenge on the theme "Programming in C#":

Generally I posted all of them at noon UTC (7am Chicago time) on the proper day, except for the ones with stars. (April was a busy month.)

I hope you've enjoyed this series. I've already got topic ideas for next year. And next month the blog will hit two huge milestones, so stay tuned.