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Is the Software Renaissance Ending? 171

An anonymous reader writes Writer and former software engineer Matt Gemmell adds his voice to the recent rumblings about writing code as a profession. Gemmell worries that the latest "software Renaissance," which was precipitated by the explosion of mobile devices, is drawing to a close. "Small shops are closing. Three-person companies are dropping back to sole proprietorships all over the place. Products are being acquired every week, usually just for their development teams, and then discarded. The implacable, crushing wheels of industry, slow to move because of their size, have at last arrived on the frontier. Our frontier, or at least yours now. I've relinquished my claim." He also pointed out the cumulative and intractable harm being done by software patents, walled-garden app stores, an increasingly crowded market, and race-to-the-bottom pricing. He says that while the available tools make it a fantastic time to develop software, actually being an independent developer may be less sustainable than ever.
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Is the Software Renaissance Ending?

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  • by jbolden ( 176878 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2014 @07:59PM (#47462717) Homepage

    There is a slew of missing applications for industry verticals where there is no race to the bottom. I don't see any evidence that the mobile world is even close to saturated. It may be that general audience horizontal applications aren't the best place for small teams but that isn't the end of the world. How many general purpose task managers and tower defense games do we need?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 15, 2014 @08:16PM (#47462815)

    The industry does not want independent software developers. The industry wants teams of full-time employees.

    Software suffers from the smartest cow problem (it only takes one cow to figure out how to open the gate in order for all the other cows to pass through). For example, once one company creates a really good word processor, we don't need ten more to compete with them. The result is total market dominance for the one who does it first (or markets it the best), and a tremendous incentive to lock their program up with patents to ensure that other companies can't just duplicate their work and compete with them.

    All of this drives the industry to take the form of a few enormous major players with teams of (cheap) developers working for them, and a shared interest in keeping all independent developers (who could upset their market dominance) out of the industry.

  • Re:Walled garden? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 15, 2014 @08:41PM (#47462957)

    False. What's wrong here is that there is a slew of young developers out there who don't want a job they need to wear a tie to so they go out and try to catch the latest "wave" of the app world. What we end up with is a thousand versions of Tower Defense and only 3 make any real money. That's reasonable to me as 95% of most apps out there come off like the degree capper project that they are. This isn't mature software, this is slackers who want that lottery ticket but haven't considered making something original and worthwhile. We see this with every software wave and mobile apps is just the most recent version of this.

  • by adosch ( 1397357 ) on Tuesday July 15, 2014 @09:14PM (#47463135)
    I read Matt's blog posting and I do have to say it sounds like his underlying issue is less of a quandary with a code renaissance being over and more of the drowning complexy and exhaustion involved with today's changing technology world from a code slingers perspective. Reading his blurb touching on a few profound things I find myself doing more and more as I get older in the tech industry: enjoying the simplicity of hacking shell or automative code in a text editor without launching an IDE, still having algorithmic thought processes and approaches, documenting less and thinking more. It sounds like his interests have just shifted and probably for the better. There's tons of shit that I look at on my shelves: projects started, topics heavily bookmarked in myriad of O'reilly books, half-finished circuit design on breadboards, code lying around here or there. It's just that: what was important now isn't and you're trying to just simplify the black hole of tech that was once an intriguing and mind-blowing ordeal.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 15, 2014 @09:31PM (#47463221)

    No. The software industry wants offshore dev houses or bottom-of-the barrel H-1Bs that are bottom of the barrel cheap, and can crank out code at a level where constant patching of their early beta quality app can keep the griping and one star reviews to a dull roar.

    Want to know what sells... fix bugs or add features to already present stuff. For example, if some college student found and checked in a patch to OpenSSL, they likely would be hired somewhere.

    The problem is the illusion of wealth. Instead of trying to work on infrastructure which will get props on the CV, people want that instant gratification of purchases and IAP content from writing yet another fleshlight app.

    Another cow analogy, If you are on the beaten path, and there are cows around you, don't expect any fresh/sweet plants to nibble on. Jump the electric fence and find new territory. Yes, it might not be comfortable, but that is where the money is.

    I can name 10 apps that may not be profitable, but extremely useful:

    1: A GOOD pgp/gpg app. There are a lot of crappy ones, but none that have a consistant UI and take advantages of the phone itself to store secure data. iOS has protected files, and Android can use loopback mounts to secure data. No PGP/gpg app on either platform takes advantage of this for keyring security.

    2: A program like USB Disk Pro on iOS which allows one to move files between cloud servers, work as a USB drive when connected, use WebDAV if you are using the same wireless segment as another computer, and offer FTP, samba, and NFS access. Pretty much a Rosetta Stone of file transfer protocols that would allow one to move data to the phone, then off to some cloud provider, optionally encrypting it with sturdy encryption (ideally OpenPGP packets.)

    3: An office suite that can keep all files in an encrypted container regardless of what OS it is sitting on. That way, confidential data that this app holds can't spill out, even if the device has no PIN/password.

    4: A client that can work with Splunk so one can write and push dashboard data which are securely (securely as in SSH-like application level encryption ontop of SSL) pushed to the device, so an admin can keep an eye on his machines when not in the office.

    5: An open alternative to Citrix Xen Desktop and Citrix Receiver.

    6: An Amazon Glacier client for archiving documents for the long haul. Not a proof of concept, but something full featured with encryption, and the ability to interrupt and resume uploads/downloads.

    7: For Android, a way to sync music between a PC and the device. iTunes sucks, but it does a good job at keeping track of songs, and if I erase my phone, good at throwing back all music, perhaps even transcoding it (the noise floor of my vehicle is so high, 192k AAC files sound OK.)

    8: A decent e-Book app that is completely vendor-neutral. Think Calibre, but for mobile devices. Bonus points for the ability to back up, sync, and restore the collection somewhere.

    9: For Android, an app that uses device admin privs to auto-erase the device if it has not successfully gotten onto any network for a period of time. Blackberries have this, and what this does is prevent a thief from accessing data by just yanking the SIM card, as well as ensuring the device only has "x" amount of time while it is offline before it kills itself.

    10: A studio quality mixer app and a hardware interface. That way, the phone or tablet can be used as a 4-track with good sound quality.

  • by petrus4 ( 213815 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2014 @12:28AM (#47463905) Homepage Journal

    I have overwhelmingly observed that the majority of computer users, do not want a truly free, democratic, autonomous, or self-empowering scenario, where their use of a computer is concerned.

    With computer use, we now essentially have two groups of people. A minority of specialised, elitist programmers who write software for an almost completely unskilled, disinterested, and technophobic majority; and said technophobic majority themselves.

    It seems that the proverbial "owner driver," of computers (a group among whom I gladly self-identify) are becoming a dying breed. I sat up all night last night, until 7 am this morning, compiling and re-compiling sources for my new NetBSD/amd64 vm. I have found use of that system tricky; and the current install is my third attempt. It is uneven in some areas, and there are many jagged edges. Nevertheless, I am determined, and while it has been somewhat frustrating, I have enjoyed the process; to the point where I have since only had six hours' sleep, in part due to my level of enthusiasm to get back into it.

    People need to understand that maintaining their freedom requires vigilance, personal initiative and responsibility, and active defense. The psychopaths are tireless in their attempts to take it away from us; and more, to convince us that we should actually want them to take it away.

    Learn to program yourself; but when I say this, I do not merely mean the new languages that are popular, which will win you approval from a manager. I mean the old languages, like C, FORTH, Tcl/Tk, shell, awk, m4, and LaTeX. Learn simple HTML, and use RMS' own web site [] as a code example if you do not know how. Java might bring you money, but in my observation at least, it will not bring you joy.

    Use the BSDs. Get comfortable with compiling something from source code. A lot of applications are designed much more smoothly than they used to be, so this is nowhere near as difficult as it once was. Get VMware Player, and install an Open or NetBSD guest. Use it to teach yourself the command line and shell scripting, and then realise that there is no reason for you to pay hundreds of dollars to Microsoft for Windows if you don't want to. You can buy a perfectly good computer from here [], which has completely Free Software compatible hardware, and then run one of the BSDs natively, and dual boot it with Windows if you want. I don't hate Microsoft at all; I just think people should have that choice.

    In addition to your use of Twitter, consider downloading XChat 2 [] and discovering Internet Relay Chat. Many open source software projects have IRC channels, so if you do start using *BSD, that will also be a good way of getting help if you need it.

    In addition to your use of Reddit, get Forte Agent [] and find out if your service provider maintains a Usenet server. If they don't, Forte sells Usenet access at $3/month for 20GB.

    I know many of you want the new, shiny thing; but voluntary simplicity is becoming a major movement in other areas of life as well, and truthfully I really think it's time we brought it to computer use as well. I am certified as a Permaculture [] designer, and I truthfully view use of the BSDs as being as close as I can get to using a computer in a Permacultural manner. The word Permaculture is short for "permanent culture," and UNIX is timeless.

  • by jbolden ( 176878 ) on Wednesday July 16, 2014 @07:24AM (#47465265) Homepage

    Sure. Take leisure and hospitality. The big vendors (and these have all hundreds of thousands of users): Par, Micros, Ceniua, Maestro, Infor, Agilysys don't have good applications that can tie to the guests or visitor mobiles. So there is no way that guest can use these systems to make requests, people still have to call the front desk to get more towels. Guests have no way of knowing about other services the hotel is offering. Most of these systems don't have good applications for their ground level workers as far as logistics so the maid can't put in she wants to pick up extra shifts and then get notified that the hotel is short so she can show up to work 3 hrs early.

"An open mind has but one disadvantage: it collects dirt." -- a saying at RPI