Undersea Observatory Survives Setback

Neptune Canada recovers from an outage and its U.S. counterpart finally gets started

3 min read
Photo: CSSF/IFREMER/NEPTUNE Canada
Undersea instruments: The Tempo-Mini platform, part of Neptune Canada, houses temperature and chemical sensors.
Photo: CSSF/IFREMER/NEPTUNE Canada

Few things make engineers as proud as seeing their creations shrug off a failure and keep delivering. That's exactly how the designers and operators of Neptune Canadathe world's largest remotely operated undersea observatory—must feel. Since going live in December 2009, Neptune has weathered several insults, including a dangerous encounter with a trawler, but it has still produced a near-continuous stream of live data from over 125 instruments at depths of nearly 2400 meters, including deep-sea video cameras, sonars, seismometers, and robotic crawlers.

At the end of last year, Neptune Canada had managed to bounce back from its biggest technical troubles yet, but now it faces a budget crunch that could put it on life support as early as next month. And that's happening just as the observatory's colleagues in the U.S. Pacific Northwest seem to finally be overcoming budget constraints that held up a sister observatory.

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Why Functional Programming Should Be the Future of Software Development

It’s hard to learn, but your code will produce fewer nasty surprises

11 min read
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A plate of spaghetti made from code
Shira Inbar
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You’d expectthe longest and most costly phase in the lifecycle of a software product to be the initial development of the system, when all those great features are first imagined and then created. In fact, the hardest part comes later, during the maintenance phase. That’s when programmers pay the price for the shortcuts they took during development.

So why did they take shortcuts? Maybe they didn’t realize that they were cutting any corners. Only when their code was deployed and exercised by a lot of users did its hidden flaws come to light. And maybe the developers were rushed. Time-to-market pressures would almost guarantee that their software will contain more bugs than it would otherwise.

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