The importance of an engineer

The fact that I only get horny about engineers (and have married one of the brightest of all) is not a coincidence. Good, intelligent engineers are difficult to find around. Just like finding a woman who looks like a model and yet knows how to cook. Just as rare. Thing is, true engineers are needed in today’s world more than women who look like models and know how to cook. The problem arises when an engineer is needed but an engineer is not hired.

Recently, I made a specific bug report to an online outlet, that apparently created “unnecessary stress” to their (mostly CSS/Ajax) developers. The developer claimed that the bug is not a bug of their tools but a bug of the third party user plugin. Problem is, it’s their tools that created a kind of file that the user plugin can’t deal with. And how can they claim that this is not their bug when they don’t seem to know how to read the source code of their tools (they do have the source code as their tools is just an open source solution). Then they claimed that because a certain X application could use the file, it’s an indication that the user plugin is at fault. Which I personally dispute, because that certain X application uses the same open source library to read the file as their OSS tools. So if their OSS tools create a buggy file format, the X application WILL know how to deal with it, but that’s not necessarily true for the user plugin (plugin, which was written by the same people who spec’ed the file format). And that user plugin is the final target of their business, not the X application. Clearly, you need a C engineer, and you ask him to fix the tools to output a format that the user plugin can read.

But this is exactly a case where the company does not understand why they are in the business they are in. If you can’t hire a real C engineer to fix the *real* bugs, then close down the shop. That’s my opinion anyway. Hopefully they will see the light because despite all this, I like them. I have a weird way of showing this to people, but if I am downright rude and full of criticism, then it means that I care. Otherwise, I wouldn’t bother.

In the end, it boils down to open source being free only if your time and business have no value.

11 Comments »

l3v1 wrote on November 14th, 2007 at 1:39 AM PST:

“I am downright rude and full of criticism, then it means that I care”

“open source being free only if your time and business have no value”

Well, you must deeply love FOSS, with full dedication and religious respect then.


This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on November 14th, 2007 at 1:55 AM PST:

The OSS sentence is not criticism, it’s the reality. If a company wants to use OSS tools, they better have the right developer to enhance it or fix it to work better for the kind of job they want to do. No application, OSS or not, comes 100% pre-configured to do a job that it’s not generic.


jeff wrote on November 15th, 2007 at 1:59 AM PST:

I myself prefer lysol over Ajax


An engineer wrote on November 15th, 2007 at 12:30 PM PST:

Your post would be a lot more useful and easy to follow if you told us what you were talking about.

Part of what you’re saying is incredibly short-sighted. Engineering is the first half of successful companies – the second half is properly prioritizing the engineers’ time so they don’t waste it on tasks that aren’t worthwhile in the big picture. Excellent engineering skills are useless in the real world without prioritization. I say this as an engineer, because I know first-hand: I’m not very good at setting my own priorities or schedule. Once I accepted that and delegated it to others, I became much better.

The second half of what you’re saying is just plain wrong and shows a severe lack of real-world experience. OSS tools aren’t ready for production use without hacking the source? Is that really what you intended to say?

Do you regularly hack Apache and MySQL to run this website? How about the server’s kernel? The PHP interpreter?

Vimeo is using ffmpeg appropriately. It converts nearly any video format to nearly any other video format nearly all of the time. For their purposes, that’s close enough to perfect. It would be a complete waste to hire some engineers to patch ffmpeg to accommodate your odd encoding choice when it’s not affecting many users. The best thing they can do is to submit a bug report to the ffmpeg maintainers, since that’s what they *do*, and let them deal with it if they feel that it’s worthwhile. (And if they don’t, it probably isn’t important enough to significantly affect Vimeo either.)


Jeff wrote on November 15th, 2007 at 12:48 PM PST:

Many engineers actually never never admit mistakes. That’s the golden rule of many of the best i’ve known (and richest). And those same ones, I’ll say, usually are the most successful and make the most money, because they market themselves as premium quality. Its tough having to work or deal with them though if you aren’t paying them.

But you’re doing creative things Eugenia unlike a lot of them so I think your above this last post, don’t go to their level.

my 2 cents.


This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on November 15th, 2007 at 1:33 PM PST:

“Engineer”, my blog post was indeed about Vimeo (well, they went live with that, I didn’t). But it was twisted by the guy you are linking to. FFmpeg creates VALID .mp4 files. He says:

“So, we all agree that it’s not a common issue and we haven’t seen many users complain about this”

NO, we don’t agree. This was NOT an oddball file format. It is a very common file format, as most Linux apps use ffmpeg to do their job. The reason I called these files “tests”, was because I received word from someone saying that these ffmpeg files were not supported. So this wasn’t just a weird format that “I was testing Vimeo with” just to put stress on them.

The file was created BY ffmpeg, and it was meant to be re-encoded by FFmpeg as well, on their side. But it seems that their ffmpeg FAILS to properly create a PROPER flash video out of an h.264 ffmpeg-created file. This IS a common issue because ffmpeg is used by MANY converters out there. What REALLY pissed me off is that they say that the bug is Adobe’s Flash, not their own! THIS is what really infuriated me. Just because VLC can playback their INVALID flash file, they think it’s a valid Flash file. No, it’s not. Ffmpeg and VLC use the same libraries for Flash, so they are compatible, but their target as a business is Adobe’s Flash, not VLC. They just don’t get it.

The point is this: their ffmpeg gets a VALID mp4 file, and creates an INVALID one as far as Adobe is concerned. That’s clearly their bug, and even if it wasn’t, their business is to be compatible with Flash.

So whatever. If they don’t want to fix it, I can continue using Vegas to export, but for some people FFmpeg might be the only easy way of exporting for Vimeo (e.g. under Linux, or via some Windows converter, or via FfmpegX under OSX).


This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on November 15th, 2007 at 1:47 PM PST:

>It would be a complete waste to hire some engineers to patch ffmpeg

Hahaha… a complete waste of time to hire engineers to maintain the CORE of your business.

hahaha


An engineer wrote on November 15th, 2007 at 2:11 PM PST:

You’re nuts. I’m sorry I wasted my time typing out something reasonable before.


This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on November 15th, 2007 at 2:13 PM PST:

Right. I am the nuts one. Coolio.

I guess the people who agree with me are nuts too (and I discussed the issue with distinguished engineers already).


Jeff wrote on November 15th, 2007 at 2:22 PM PST:

I’m not convinced this vimeo thing is full 720p HD like they say.


This is the admin speaking...
Eugenia wrote on November 15th, 2007 at 2:24 PM PST:

Well, it depends what “HD” really means. For some definition, HD is not just the resolution, but also the bitrate. For that definition, Vimeo is not HD. But for the resolution one, it is.

I personally like Vimeo. But they don’t seem to have the business/engineering experience they need to go the extra mile.


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