The Lights Have Been On At a Massachusetts School For Over a Year Because No One Can Turn Them Off

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: For nearly a year and a half, a Massachusetts high school has been lit up around the clock because the district can’t turn off the roughly 7,000 lights in the sprawling building. The lighting system was installed at Minnechaug Regional High School when it was built over a decade ago and was intended to save money and energy. But ever since the software that runs it failed on Aug. 24, 2021, the lights in the Springfield suburbs school have been on continuously, costing taxpayers a small fortune.

“We are very much aware this is costing taxpayers a significant amount of money,” Aaron Osborne, the assistant superintendent of finance at the Hampden-Wilbraham Regional School District, told NBC News. “And we have been doing everything we can to get this problem solved.” Osborne said it’s difficult to say how much money it’s costing because during the pandemic and in its aftermath, energy costs have fluctuated wildly. “I would say the net impact is in the thousands of dollars per month on average, but not in the tens of thousands,” Osborne said. That, in part, is because the high school uses highly efficient fluorescent and LED bulbs, he said. And, when possible, teachers have manually removed bulbs from fixtures in classrooms while staffers have shut off breakers not connected to the main system to douse some of the exterior lights.

But there’s hope on the horizon that the lights at Minnechaug will soon be dimmed. Paul Mustone, president of the Reflex Lighting Group, said the parts they need to replace the system at the school have finally arrived from the factory in China and they expect to do the installation over the February break. “And yes, there will be a remote override switch so this won’t happen again,” said Mustone, whose company has been in business for more than 40 years.

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MSI Intends ‘To Continue With Afterburner’ Overclocking App Despite Not Paying Its Russian Dev

Jacob Ridley writes via PC Gamer: MSI Afterburner is an app used the world over for graphics card monitoring, overclocking, and undervolting. It’s become pretty synonymous with general GPU tinkering, yet the app’s developer has suggested it might not have long left to live in a forum post earlier this month. MSI disagrees, telling us “we fully intend to continue with MSI Afterburner.” MSI Afterburner is developed by Alexey ‘Unwinder’ Nicolaychuk, a Russian national who has kept the overclocking app functioning over many years. Nicolaychuk is also responsible for the development of RivaTuner Statistics Server, which is part of the foundational software layer powering Afterburner. In a post on the Guru3D forums (via TechPowerUp), Nicolaychuk suggests that Afterburner’s development has been “semi-abandoned.” “…MSI afterburner project is probably dead,” Nicolaychuk says.

“War and politics are the reasons. I didn’t mention it in MSI Afterburner development news thread, but the project is semi abandoned by company during quite a long time already. Actually we’re approaching the one year mark since the day when MSI stopped performing their obligations under Afterburner license agreement due to ‘politic [sic] situation’.” Nicolaychuk says development of the app has continued over the past 11 months, but that may also be ending soon. “I tried to continue performing my obligations and worked on the project on my own during the last 11 months, but it resulted in nothing but disappointment; I have a feeling that I’m just beating a dead horse and waste energy on something that is no longer needed by company. “Anyway I’ll try to continue supporting it myself while I have some free time, but will probably need to drop it and switch to something else, allowing me to pay my bills.”

Development of the RivaTuner Statistics Server — software is pivotal to many of the functions of Afterburner — is materially separate from Afterburner and will continue, Nicolaychuk notes. Nicolaychuk suggests the issue comes down to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and we’ve since confirmed with MSI that this is the case. MSI has stated to PC Gamer that the payments were halted due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, saying: “payments had been put on hold due to the RU/UA war and the economic regulations that entailed.” […] On this being the end for Afterburner, MSI disagrees. “We fully intend to continue with MSI Afterburner,” MSI tells PC Gamer. “MSI have been working on a solution and expect it to be resolved soon.”

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Frederick P. Brooks Jr., Computer Design Innovator, Dies at 91

Frederick P. Brooks Jr., whose innovative work in computer design and software engineering helped shape the field of computer science, died on Thursday at his home in Chapel Hill, N.C. He was 91. His death was confirmed by his son, Roger, who said Dr. Brooks had been in declining health since having a stroke two years ago. The New York Times reports: Dr. Brooks had a wide-ranging career that included creating the computer science department at the University of North Carolina and leading influential research in computer graphics and virtual reality. But he is best known for being one of the technical leaders of IBM’s 360 computer project in the 1960s. At a time when smaller rivals like Burroughs, Univac and NCR were making inroads, it was a hugely ambitious undertaking. Fortune magazine, in an article with the headline “IBM’s $5,000,000,000 Gamble,” described it as a “bet the company” venture.

Until the 360, each model of computer had its own bespoke hardware design. That required engineers to overhaul their software programs to run on every new machine that was introduced. But IBM promised to eliminate that costly, repetitive labor with an approach championed by Dr. Brooks, a young engineering star at the company, and a few colleagues. In April 1964, IBM announced the 360 as a family of six compatible computers. Programs written for one 360 model could run on the others, without the need to rewrite software, as customers moved from smaller to larger computers. The shared design across several machines was described in a paper, written by Dr. Brooks and his colleagues Gene Amdahl and Gerrit Blaauw, titled “Architecture of the IBM System/360.”
“That was a breakthrough in computer architecture that Fred Brooks led,” Richard Sites, a computer designer who studied under Dr. Brooks, said in an interview.

But there was a problem. The software needed to deliver on the IBM promise of compatibility across machines and the capability to run multiple programs at once was not ready, as it proved to be a far more daunting challenge than anticipated. Operating system software is often described as the command and control system of a computer. The OS/360 was a forerunner of Microsoft’s Windows, Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android. At the time IBM made the 360 announcement, Dr. Brooks was just 33 and headed for academia. He had agreed to return to North Carolina, where he grew up, and start a computer science department at Chapel Hill. But Thomas Watson Jr., the president of IBM, asked him to stay on for another year to tackle the company’s software troubles. Dr. Brooks agreed, and eventually the OS/360 problems were sorted out. The 360 project turned out to be an enormous success, cementing the company’s dominance of the computer market into the 1980s. “Fred Brooks was a brilliant scientist who changed computing,” Arvind Krishna, IBM’s chief executive and himself a computer scientist, said in a statement. “We are indebted to him for his pioneering contributions to the industry.”

Dr. Brooks published a book in 1975 titled, “The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering.” It was “a quirky classic, selling briskly year after year and routinely cited as gospel by computer scientists,” reports the Times.

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The Collapse of Complex Software

Nolan Lawson, writing in a blogpost: Anyone who’s worked in the tech industry for long enough, especially at larger organizations, has seen it before. A legacy system exists: it’s big, it’s complex, and no one fully understands how it works. Architects are brought in to “fix” the system. They might wheel out a big whiteboard showing a lot of boxes and arrows pointing at other boxes, and inevitably, their solution is… to add more boxes and arrows. Nobody can subtract from the system; everyone just adds. This might go on for several years. At some point, though, an organizational shakeup probably occurs — a merger, a reorg, the polite release of some senior executive to go focus on their painting hobby for a while. A new band of architects is brought in, and their solution to the “big diagram of boxes and arrows” problem is much simpler: draw a big red X through the whole thing. The old system is sunset or deprecated, the haggard veterans who worked on it either leave or are reshuffled to other projects, and a fresh-faced team is brought in to, blessedly, design a new system from scratch.

As disappointing as it may be for those of us who might aspire to write the kind of software that is timeless and enduring, you have to admit that this system works. For all its wastefulness, inefficiency, and pure mendacity (“The old code works fine!” “No wait, the old code is terrible!”), this is the model that has sustained a lot of software companies over the past few decades. Will this cycle go on forever, though? I’m not so sure. Right now, the software industry has been in a nearly two-decade economic boom (with some fits and starts), but the one sure thing in economics is that booms eventually turn to busts. During the boom, software companies can keep hiring new headcount to manage their existing software (i.e. more engineers to understand more boxes and arrows), but if their labor force is forced to contract, then that same system may become unmaintainable. A rapid and permanent reduction in complexity may be the only long-term solution.

One thing working in complexity’s favor, though, is that engineers like complexity. Admit it: as much as we complain about other people’s complexity, we love our own. We love sitting around and dreaming up new architectural diagrams that can comfortably sit inside our own heads — it’s only when these diagrams leave our heads, take shape in the real world, and outgrow the size of any one person’s head that the problems begin. It takes a lot of discipline to resist complexity, to say “no” to new boxes and arrows. To say, “No, we won’t solve that problem, because that will just introduce 10 new problems that we haven’t imagined yet.” Or to say, “Let’s go with a much simpler design, even if it seems amateurish, because at least we can understand it.” Or to just say, “Let’s do less instead of more.”

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Banking Giant Capital One Enters B2B Software Industry With Launch of New Business

Capital One, a major player in America’s banking industry with $434 billion in assets and more than 100 million customers, is launching Capitol One Software, “a business that develops and sells software products to companies scaling up their use of data and cloud computing,” reports Forbes. From the report: The new venture, which has been created by Capital One’s CEO and founder, Rich Fairbank, is based at the company’s headquarters in McLean, Virginia, and has its own dedicated personnel as well as access to software developers in Capital One’s 12,000-strong technology team. Its first product, Capital One Slingshot, helps companies speed up their adoption of Snowflake, a popular cloud data platform, and manage costs associated with it. […] Ravi Raghu, the head of Capital One Software, says executives at Capital One see its creation as a natural evolution of the overall company’s digital journey. “We’ve been talking of Capital One as a technology company for a while now. The best proof of that is [to become] a technology company that’s actually selling software. That innovation just runs in our DNA.”

Still, making Capital One Software a success will be no slam dunk. The markets the new business is targeting are big but they are also full of formidable competitors whose sole focus is on software and there are significant costs associated with things such as building teams that consult with customers to help them get the most out of the products they buy. Capital One may also need to reassure investors, who have seen its share price fall by almost 12% this year to $127.86 at close of trading on May 31, that its move into the software business will not distract executives from its core finance ones, especially as the economy shows signs it may be tilting towards recession.

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