Misinterpreting complexity for sophistication


Dick Hobbs - new TV-Bay Magazine
Read ezine online
i
Professor Niklaus Wirth was one of the pioneers of computing as we know it. He was responsible for the Pascal language, a project he completed in 1970. Wirth became professor of computing studies at ETH-Zrich, and retired in 1999, although he remains active to this day.

He grew ever-more despairing of the complexities of computing systems, which led him to his life's key work, Project Oberon. Oberon was all about a close link between the programming language, the compiler and the computer. Wirth wanted it to be simple, to be readily understood by those involved with it.

In 1995 he published a statement which has come to be known as Wirth's Law, an important corollary to Moore's Law, the one about computing power doubling every 18 months.

Wirth's Law states that software is getting slower more rapidly than hardware is becoming faster.

We are all aware of what is commonly known as "bloatware": software getting more complex for probably no better reason than we expect a new version every year. I am writing this in Microsoft Word, as you would expect. At the top of the screen there are nine top level menu items, containing a total of 128 choices, about half of which have sub-menus or dialogue boxes. Add to that the ranks of buttons at the top of the window.

To complete this piece I will use barely a handful: new document; select a style for the heading (which automatically selects normal for the rest of the piece); copy (from other references) and paste; delete; save. All the other stuff is just sitting there taking up processor cycles, waiting for a more adventurous user.

Wirth argued that "people are increasingly misinterpreting complexity as sophistication¦ these details are cute but not essential, and they have a hidden cost". He talked of "customers' ignorance of features that are essential versus nice to have".

This is the first piece I have written since returning from this year's NAB. This year's excursion to the desert seems a particularly apt time to recall Wirth and his desire for simplicity, because we are currently running dangerously close to misinterpreting complexity for sophistication.

Let me emphasise that there was a huge amount of good news. SMPTE has achieved FCD status for a really important group of standards: ST2110, on connectivity over IP for audio, video and control. FCD is final committee draft, which means that the technology is done and the only changes are likely to be the odd moved comma.

Following on from the remarkable presentation at IBC, there was another interoperability zone at NAB, with monitors showing content passing seamlessly between applications from different vendors. Because of the speedy work on the standard, many vendors have promised ST2110 products before the end of the year.

But the feeling I came away with was that the hard work is just beginning. We can move realtime signals around a best-of-breed software-defined architecture, and that is terrific. To get from this science project to a real-world system is going to take more big steps, though.

First, and most obviously vital, is security. Thomas Edwards of Fox cropped up in several conference sessions I attended, and he clearly has an excellent handle on the real issues in IP. "No-one has ever been hacked over SDI," he said. "Security always has to be the top priority. But that might be in conflict with business requirements like flexibility and scalability."

So we have to be extremely controlled over what connects to what. Current thinking is that every packet on the network has to be authorised, which imposes a real processing overhead, potentially limiting progress.

That leads to my second concern. As Brad Gilmer of AMWA so eloquently put it, "how are we going to do all this processing without roasting a chicken?" Just throwing ever more processors at a task not only kills our green credentials, it eliminates one of the supposed benefits of software-defined architectures which is that we get away from vast rooms full of air-conditioned hardware.

Ramki Sankaranarayanan, CEO of Prime Focus Technologies, said at the IABM breakfast meeting "remodelling your processes will only get you so far. You have to look at business transformation." Whether in your building or in the cloud, that depends on virtualisation: integrated systems tuned so that the minimum number of processors are working with the maximum utilisation.

That, in turn, means that interoperability has to be much more than IP streams flowing with PTP timing. It means that all the functionality has to work from the same user interface, or at least all the user interfaces should have an identical look and feel, tuned to the task in hand.

Users, wherever they are in the content chain, should be able to walk up to the equipment and do what they need to do. Ideally it should be so intuitive that most can have zero hours training. Certainly, the user experience must be simple and focused entirely on outcomes. For, as Niklaus Wirth once said, "our heads are no longer capable of processing everything".


Tags: iss125 | cutting room | dick hobbs | niklaus wirth | pscal | oberon | brad gilmer | amwa | Dick Hobbs - new
Contributing Author Dick Hobbs - new

Read this article in the tv-bay digital magazine
Article Copyright tv-bay limited. All trademarks recognised.
Reproduction of the content strictly prohibited without written consent.

Related Shows
  • Training for the future with ITTP: BVE Day 2

    Training for the future with ITTP: BVE Day 2


Articles
Accelerated Workflows with eGPU
Mike Griggs From the UK’s National Trust to magazine publishers to manufacturers, digital content creator Mike Griggs has a wide and varied portfolio of clients for whom he creates 3D art, motion graphics and multimedia exhibits. A typical day might involve sampling birdsong near Virginia Woolf’s country estate or creating 3D animations for VR. To keep on top of these demands, Griggs wanted to take the full power of the GPU computing revolution on the road.
Tags: iss134 | sonnet | egpu | amd | post production | editing | Mike Griggs
Contributing Author Mike Griggs Click to read or download PDF
Giving Welsh sport a global audience
Adam Amor From the Ospreys Rugby Union team, to the Football Association of Wales, as well as national cycling, swimming and boxing coverage, Port Talbot based Buffoon Film and Media has been heavily involved in putting Welsh sports on the world stage.
Tags: iss134 | blackmagic | atem | buffoon | micro studio camera | Adam Amor
Contributing Author Adam Amor Click to read or download PDF
Keeping it remotely real
Reuben Such Everyone wants to do more with less. Always have, although it could be argued that doing more with more is something to aspire to, not many have that luxury. So let’s stick with the prevailing winds of doing more with less, and not just doing more, but doing it remotely, particularly in terms of production. Remote production, in particular, is getting a lot of attention in the field these days, but not so much in terms of the remote operation of fixed studios.
Tags: iss134 | remote control | IPE | IDS | Reuben Such
Contributing Author Reuben Such Click to read or download PDF
What content providers need to know about OTT
Hiren Hindocha As OTT (Over-The-Top) technology has gotten more mature and established robust standards over the years, the concept of OTT monitoring is gaining popularity. With customer expectations soaring, it’s vital for OTT providers to deliver superior quality content. To deliver Quality of Experience (QoE) on par with linear TV broadcast, the entire system, starting from ingest to multi-bitrate encoding to delivery to CDN must be monitored continuously.
Tags: iss134 | ott monitoring | qos | logging | compliance | dash | atsc | cloud | Hiren Hindocha
Contributing Author Hiren Hindocha Click to read or download PDF
An Obituary to Timecode
Bruce Devlin - new A stoic and persistent character that stubbornly refused to change with the times, Timecode has finally passed on, but no-one has noticed. A long-lasting industry veteran, Timecode was brought into this world at an uncertain date in the late 1960s due to the needs of analogue tape workflows and the demand for synchronisation between audio and video devices. A joint activity between SMPTE and the EBU led to the work on Time and Control codes starting its journey to standardisation in the early 1970s.
Tags: iss134 | timecode | smpte | ebu | edit | Bruce Devlin - new
Contributing Author Bruce Devlin - new Click to read