Ravi Mohan's Blog

Monday, October 10, 2005

Gloom And Despair

Eight years ago, I was writing code like

public class PaymentProcessor {...}

A year and a half ago, I was writing code like

public class PaymentProcessor {....} (oh yeah, this time there was a class PaymentProcessorTest backing this up)

I was gloomily reflecting on those wasted years when I came across this snippet (from news.com)

"... Stanford University's Racing Team has accomplished a historic feat of robotics, finishing first in the DARPA Grand Challenge, a 131.6-mile driverless car race that no artificially intelligent machine has ever conquered before. ... Onlookers were wide-eyed watching the vehicles work their way through the extremely tricky course even though much of the race they could see only by wide-screen TVs in the spectator tent or by a real-time mapping tent.

For example, people in the spectator tent watched on with awe when Stanley drove over and down Beer Bottle Pass, which has 1,000-foot drops and hairpin turns. The packed crowd cheered when the car made it around the first switchback and then began chanting "Stanley, Stanley" as it drove down. .... "

Now that is real programming. While Providence was kind enough to set me back on track, I still can't get over how many years I wasted on "enterprise" code, essentially writing the same web->db->web routines over and over and over.

I am depressed.


chandrakant said...

Hi Ravi,
is there a market for scientific software? I am looking to do some programming in non-conventional languages like Scheme, Erlang etc. Just wanted to know how to proceed if I wanted to take this route instead of enterprise software. I am aware that the best way to find out is to research on the internet etc, but I just wanted a few suggestions from someone whos already on that track. Take care.

Ravi said...


I am not very sure of the market potential for languages like Erlang or scheme. But there seems to be a market for solving tough problems, which are often much easier in erlang etc. I would assume that if you are already in the USA (and thus have your green card etc squared away so you can travel in peace) you should be able to make out all right.

Most of my work comes to me through word of mouth from people I have already worked for. Also most involve a lot of very heavy math, which is more of a problem (at least it was for me) rather than the software aspects.

Chandrakant, if I remember right from your blog, you are an IIT grad (I could be wrong). With that kind of pedigree you can walk into any company (including google) and be sure to get an interview.

As an e.g. Google is looking for people in some very tough domains and they have an awesome culture to boot. I suggest, if you are in the USA you give them a try. You have a 99.99% chance to get good problems to work on, though, last I heard they do work in "conventional" languages like C or python.

An interesting little langauge has been written by (googler) Rob Pike. see (http://labs.google.com/papers/sawzall-sciprog.pdf)

From what I hear, a good many programs seem to be written in Sawzall. I have the need of something like this and willl time permitting write an interpreter for something like this soon.

Aargh, I am rambling. So I'll stop.

chandrakant said...

thanks for your inputs. Experiences and opinions are always valuable. I am perplexed as to how you guessed that I am an IIT grad. You are right about that but I am not sure I mentioned it anywhere in my blog. Maybe you did not read that about me but ended up guessing right anyway!
Thanks for the link on Sawzall. Ever since I chanced upon languages like Erlang or Scheme, I have been amazed that one can still create languages that far exceed current ones in succintness and power. Before I discovered them I was thinking that research potential in languages were pretty much saturated. Thats far from the truth.
May I ask where you are located? I will be visiting India this month and if you are around Chennai or Hyderabad I would love to meet up.
Thanks again for your take.

Ravi said...

I think I ay have got the "iit grad" impression from blogs linked from your site, if not fro your blog.

I am in Bangalore.I will be here throughout October. My movements in the first half of NOvember are uncertain. Let me know if you come this way.

Nikhil said...

If I may... sometimes your circumstances put you in a position which may not be optimal and to get back on track could take time. But I'm sure someone like you wouldn't get rusty and let the kind of work being done get to you. At the moment I don't feel too good about my work either and I'm trying to move on. It bugs me that I'm doing what I'm doing.

Ravi said...

you are right of course. I don't grudge the time I spend to get back "on track". By the Grace of God, these days I have interesting projects and plans. But I do think I should have got out of the "enterprise" (con) game, particularly the "cheap Indian Outsourced" variant, much earlier.

All I suggest is that people, particulary the young folks who *like* programming get out of the "outsourced enterprise" game asap and do something worthwhile with their lives. :-) You do NOT want to end up like me do you ? :-)