Updated: February 4, 2010 19:40 IST

Four models of software evolution

D. Murali
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Beginning with mobile Linux, ‘Professional Ubuntu Mobile Development’ ( covers topics such as power management, application development, packaging, theming, kernel fine-tuning, testing and so on, all aimed at developers interested in ‘a practical, hands-on way of learning development on mobile devices.’

However, the authors Ian Robert Lawrence and Rodrigo Cesar Lopes Belem concede that some of things in the book might change by the time you read them because the scope of Ubuntu is large and the mobile project is so new.

They aptly cite ‘The Moving Target Problem,’ an article published by The North-China Herald on August 28, 1909. It was on ‘the growing popularity of moving targets at the expense of the bull’s-eye when training riflemen.’ This was much to the chagrin of the military, which maintained that the best riflemen in actual warfare would be the one who had had careful training on the bull’s-eye and had from his earliest career sought to observe and then rectify his errors in marksmanship, the authors add.

They advise that the most important thing when developing for an embedded device is to have a development environment set-up. “Once this is done, it is possible to develop, package, and test your application in an environment that provides a reasonable approximation of a real device.”

The chapters – which are the result of real-world situations in mobile device development and ‘customixation,’ as the authors describe – can help you ‘when deadlines are looming’! Intro leads you through Netbook Remix, UDS Intrepid, Jaunty, Karmic, ARM and so forth.

For starters, ‘Ubuntu is an operating system built by a worldwide team of expert developers. It contains all the applications you need: a web browser, office suite, media apps, instant messaging and much more. Ubuntu is an open-source alternative to Windows and Office,’ as informs.

It is named after the Southern African ethical ideology Ubuntu (‘humanity towards others’) and is distributed as free and open source software, says Wikipedia. “Ubuntu is an ethic or humanist philosophy focusing on people’s allegiances and relations with each other. The word has its origin in the Bantu languages of southern Africa.”

Drawing inspiration from the works of natural philosophers, a chapter titled ‘mobile directions’ speaks of four models of software evolution, viz. Darwin, Mendel, Mayr, and Frankenstein.

Applying the Darwin Model helps explain why more people use Windows than DOS, why Linux has become more prevalent than UNIX, and why notebooks replaced laptops (which previously supplanted luggables), the authors observe. “The Darwin Model explains why computers don’t need to be 50 feet long and 8 feet tall.”

The Mendel Model (named after Gregor Johann Mendel, considered the Father of Modern Genetics) is about ‘best of breed’ outcomes. Linux-based distributions are careful, selective, scientific, and personalised works of many people individually ‘breeding’ their own distributions, write Lawrence and Belem.

“Creating a distribution is essentially a work of Mendelian selection. The individual programs, packages, and customisations in a distro are tailored to the preferences and needs of the people who are creating the distribution.”

Enrnst Mayr, the evolutionary biologist whose work ‘revealed the intricacies of adaptation and multiplication of species,’ is the name behind the third model, because his work ‘harmonised and connected the work of Darwin and Mendel.’

Mayr’s theories built bridges rather than walls, the authors find. “Mayr was well known for the way in which he recruited and mentored other interested scientists through bird watching societies.” So too, the third model is about the coexistence of diverse Linux distributions.

And, the fourth model is based frighteningly on Mary Shelly’s ‘Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus,’ an 1818 novel about a scientist bringing horror to life! Similarly, outcomes can sometimes, despite the best of intentions, come up short of original expectations, the authors caution.

“These are the projects that don’t end well for anyone. Yet, the code still lives on. If there is a lesson to be learned, Frankenstein the scientist puts it this way: ‘Peace! Peace! Learn my miseries, and do not seek to increase your own.’”




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