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Cold Showers

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Cold Showers

It’s great when people get excited about things, but sometimes they get a little too excited. This an awesome (rigorous and respectful) and curated (I read every suggestion and make judgement calls) list of cold showers on overhyped topics. This does not mean the enthusiasm is bad or wrong: we’re just reminding people to stay grounded. Feel free to submit your favorites!

Verification Techniques (PDF)

  • Hype: “Formal Verification is a great way to write software. We should prove all of our code correct.”

  • Shower: Extensive literature review showing that formal methods are hard to learn, extremely expensive to apply, and often miss critical bugs.

  • Caveats: Written in 2000 and doesn’t cover modern tools/techniques, such as TLA+ or dependent typing.

  • Notes: Part of Peter Gutmann‘s thesis, “The Design and Verification of a Cryptographic Security Architecture”. The whole thesis can be found here.

Static vs Dynamic Typing: a literature review

  • Hype: “Static Typing reduces bugs.”

  • Shower: A review of all the available literature (up to 2014), showing that the solid research is inconclusive, while the conclusive research had methodological issues.

  • Caveats: Does not cover other possible benefits of static typing, like documentation. Does not address research on gradual type systems, like mypy or Typescript.

Scalability! but at what COST?

  • Hype: “We need big data systems to handle big data.”

  • Shower: Benchmarking cutting-edge graph-processing algorithms running on 128-core clusters against a single-threaded 2014 Macbook Pro. The laptop consistently wins, sometimes by an order of magnitude.

  • Caveats: McSherry is really good at optimizing his algorithms and has skills the average data scientist does not. Big data systems might be better if you have ad-hoc queries and don’t want to take the time to optimize them.

  • Notes: “If you are going to use a big data system for yourself, see if it is faster than your laptop. If you are going to build a big data system for others, see that it is faster than my laptop.”

Web Framework Benchmarks

  • Hype: Anything about performance or scalability of various languages/web frameworks/databases.

  • Shower: Actual hard data of various combinations of solutions under various tasks.

  • Caveats: Raw data you have to interpret yourself. Does not provide a complete dump of the raw data for your own analysis. Raw data can now be found here

  • Notes: Continually updating with new benchmarks. All implementations are public and you can improve them with a PR.

Agile Methods: The Good, the Hype and the Ugly (Video)

  • Hype: “We should develop software using Agile.”

  • Shower: Review of all the different styles of Agile and how some of the practices (particularly replacing requirements with user stories and the lack of proper specification) are harmful in the long run.

  • Caveats: While Meyer calls out some problems, overall he’s very positive about Agile and recommends it as a good (but imperfect) methodology.

  • Notes: Starts at 3: 30. There’s a followup video where he answers audience questions.

An Empirical Study on the Correctness of Formally Verified Systems (PDF)

  • Hype: “If I formally verify my code, I don’t need to test it!”

  • Shower: Researchers looked at three formally verified systems, and found critical correctness bugs in all three. The bugs were from “a wide range of mismatched assumptions” and caused servers to crash or produce wrong data.

  • Caveats: Most bugs were at the system boundaries; none were found in the implemented protocols. Formally verified systems, while not perfect, were considerably less buggy than unverified systems.

  • Notes: Systems were verified with Coq and Z3. Further discussion at The Morning Paper.

Fixing Faults in C and Java Source Code: Abbreviated vs. Full-word Identifier Names (PDF)

  • Hype: “Identifiers should be self-documenting! Use full names, not abbreviations.”

  • Shower: Researchers had programmers fix bugs in a codebase, either with all of the identifiers were abbreviated, or where all of the identifiers were full-words. They found no difference in time taken or quality of debugging.

  • Caveats: Only applies to fixing bugs. Otherwise watertight. This is honestly one of the most rigorous and comprehensive papers I’ve ever read.

  • Notes: Includes ethnography on how programmers debug abbreviated code. Link is to the author preprint.

Microservices – Please, don’t

  • Hype: “Microservices! Microservices!”

  • Shower: Presents five fallacies of “why microservices solve problems monoliths have” and shows how either monoliths don’t actually have those problems or that microservices make the problem even worse.

  • Caveats: Abstract arguments and experience, no case studies or examples.

VM Warmup Blows Hot and Cold

  • Hype: Your favourite programming language has been updated. The new
    version makes impressive performance improvement claims.

  • Shower: Benchmarking modern programming languages under near-ideal
    circumstances, just for longer than before, suggests that we have not been
    benchmarking language implementations as accurately as we might wish. Many
    benchmarks slow down over time. Some never stabilise. Many benchmarking
    experiments will not be repeatable due to non-determinism. Warmup time is
    important, but is usually either ignored, or reported inaccurately.

  • Caveats: Only evaluates the x86_64 architecture, and for only two
    operating systems (Linux and OpenBSD). Experiment conducted in 2017 (prior to
    meltdown patching). Evaluates mainly JITted language implementations
    (although C benchmarks were included).

  • Notes: The experiment and the benchmark runner are published under an
    open source license. Start here.

Scaling SQLite to 4M QPS on a Single Server

  • Hype: “Scaling out is better than scaling up. Cloud is more scalable than bare metal.”

  • Shower: Expensify found that running a single bare-metal server was both faster and cheaper than using a x1e.32xlarge EC2 instance. By using one server, they could avoid sharding their data.

  • Caveats: Does not cover if scaling out bare metal has the same advantages over scaling out EC2 (assuming you can afford sharding). Can’t really compare how much cheaper the bare metal is because they don’t list the cost. I’m guessing their servers are 100k each? No basis for that guess though.

Understanding Real-World Concurrency Bugs in Go (PDF)

  • Hype: Compared to other languages, Go’s concurrency system of goroutines and channels is easier to understand, easier to use, and is less prone to bugs and memory leaks.

  • Shower: According to an empirical study by Tu, et al, there are plenty of concurrency-related bugs related to the difficulty in understanding and following the concurrency features and patterns provided by Go.

  • Caveats: This study is specific to Go. Though other languages provide similar facilities, they are not covered in this article. Also, the types of bugs seen with channels and shared memory are different. Channels lead to more blocking bugs (deadlocks, dangling channels) while shared-memory lead to more nonblocking bugs (race conditions, dirty reads).

  • Notes: “We studied six popular Go software including Docker, Kubernetes, and gRPC. We analyzed 171 concurrency bugs in total, with more than half of them caused by non-traditional, Go-specific problems”

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You can find my general ravings on my website or twitter.

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USB logos finally make sense, thanks to a redesign

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USB logos finally make sense, thanks to a redesign


Author: Mark Hachman
, Senior Editor

As PCWorld’s senior editor, Mark focuses on Microsoft news and chip technology, among other beats. He has formerly written for PCMag, BYTE, Slashdot, eWEEK, and ReadWrite.

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Cheaper OLED monitors might be coming soon

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Cheaper OLED monitors might be coming soon


Author: Michael Crider
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Michael is a former graphic designer who’s been building and tweaking desktop computers for longer than he cares to admit. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.

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New Pixel Watch leak reveals watch faces, strap styles and more

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New Pixel Watch leak reveals watch faces, strap styles and more
Google Pixel watch



The Google Pixel Watch is incoming
(Image credit: Google)

We’re expecting the Google Pixel Watch to make its full debut on Thursday, October 6 – alongside the Pixel 7 and the Pixel 7 Pro – but in the meantime a major leak has revealed much more about the upcoming smartwatch.

Seasoned tipster @OnLeaks (opens in new tab) has posted the haul, which shows off some of the color options and band styles that we can look forward to next week. We also get a few shots of the watch interface and a picture of it being synced with a smartphone.

Watch faces are included in the leak too, covering a variety of different approaches to displaying the time – both in analog and digital formats. Another image shows the watch being used to take an ECG reading to assess heartbeat rate.

Just got my hands on a bunch of #Google #PixelWatch promo material showing all color options and Watch Bands for the first time. Some details revealed as well…@Slashleaks 👉🏻 https://t.co/HzbWeGGSKP pic.twitter.com/N0uiKaKXo0October 1, 2022

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Full colors

If the leak is accurate, then we’ve got four silicone straps on the way: black, gray, white, and what seems to be a very pale green. Leather straps look to cover black, orange, green and white, while there’s also a fabric option in red, black and green.

We already know that the Pixel Watch is going to work in tandem with the Fitbit app for logging all your vital statistics, and included in the leaked pictures is an image of the Pixel Watch alongside the Fitbit app running on an Android phone.

There’s plenty of material to look through here if you can’t wait until the big day – and we will of course be bringing you all the news and announcements as the Google event unfolds. It gets underway at 7am PT / 10am ET / 3pm BST / 12am AEDT (October 7).


Analysis: a big moment for Google

It’s been a fair while since Google launched itself into a new hardware category, and you could argue that there’s more riding on the Pixel Watch than there is on the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro – as Google has been making phones for years at this point.

While Wear OS has been around for a considerable amount of time, Google has been leaving it to third-party manufacturers and partners to make the actual hardware. Samsung recently made the switch back to Wear OS for the Galaxy Watch 5 and the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, for example.

Deciding to go through with its own smartwatch is therefore a big step, and it’s clear that Google is envious of the success of the Apple Watch. It’s the obvious choice for a wearable for anyone who owns an iPhone, and Google will be hoping that Pixel phones and Pixel Watches will have a similar sort of relationship.

What’s intriguing is how Fitbit fits in – the company is now run by Google, but so far we haven’t seen many signs of the Fitbit and the Pixel lines merging, even if the Pixel Watch is going to come with support for the Fitbit app.

Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you’ll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.

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