Academic Software - Spaceships on Life Support
After a day of trying to get some source code from an academic group to work, I took to facebook to kvetch about academia and polish.
Ranting about the quality and polish of academic software is not fair to academics. I am reminded of this excerpt about Renault’s Fomula 1 car in the LA Times:
At Indy, their garage next to pit road contained Kovalainen’s and Fisichella’s cars and one complete spare, in case either crashes. The garage was about twice the size of a typical residential two-car garage.
But the word “garage” doesn’t do justice to the area. It looked more like a hospital operating room, and, when the cars were parked, they looked as if they were on life-support systems.
And like many doctors, each crewman was a specialist in only one aspect of the car — tires, engines, front end, rear end, traction, hydraulics and so forth.
Before the practice runs and qualifying, above each car was a high-tech metal canopy with lights, electrical outlets and more than a dozen black cables that dropped down and attached to the cars.
What were the cables for? After Fisichella and Kovalainen brought their cars in from the track, some cables instantly transmitted data about the cars to the team’s computers: Fuel consumption, tire wear and the car’s balance, to name a few areas.
Four other cables provided power to the blankets placed around each tire. Teams wanted the tires kept warm, so they would be soft and “grippy” the moment a driver went back racing.
Conversely, teams wanted to prevent the car’s brakes, engine and oil from overheating. That’s why they instantly attached the blowers that look like giant hair dryers to the wheels. They were actually pumping cool air to the brakes.
F1 cars don’t have radiators. So the team attached what look like oversized cup holders — each containing another blower — to each side of the body, then poured in dry ice. That forced cold air into the engine.
When the drivers came in, I saw their crews put a TV monitor in front of them and hand the drivers the remote control. That way Fisichella and Kovalainen picked from two viewing choices: A readout of every driver’s lap times, or the TV feed showing cars going around the track.
When you ask for research prototype code, you’re getting a Formula 1 car - a spaceship on life support.
Don’t expect a German luxury saloon car. That’s an itch for the industry to scratch.