Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Dissertation Published

So, after dozens of hours of work, my 1995 dissertation is published on the Internet.

This work honors the hundreds of hours that I spent documenting years of work on the project itself.

The document on the Internet differs from the printed version in a few ways:
  • It isn't broken into pages, but there are separate HTML documents for each chapter and each appendix.
  • The bibliography isn't formatted yet.
  • The screenshots from TOOL are colored instead of black-and-white.
Otherwise, I've been very careful to leave in original mistakes, except for a handful of typo corrections. But nothing substantive.

So, it stands as it did in 1995. In some ways it is considerably out of date. But the main topic is still pertinent today. How to facilitate programming by end-users is still an open question.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Golden Gate Bridge

Yes, we are back in the San Francisco area, even though we had a bad experience here only two and a half months ago.

But, we only drove into San Francisco today because I missed the exit at the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge. Did a quick u-turn at the south end and drove back to the Vista Point parking area at the north end.

Then we proceeded to walk the length of the bridge from north to south (8,981 feet!), took a brief rest on a bench, ate an ice cream bar and walked all the way back. Two hours of very pleasant workout.

At the very middle of the longest span, where the suspending cable is lowest, I was able to reach up and touch it. What fun!

Otherwise, we're just hanging out, enjoying a beautiful location, surrounded by vegetation and bird song. Barbecued suppers. Good company.

Finished converting Chapter 3 of my dissertation.

Monday, March 10, 2008


In case you don't know where it is, Sausalito is just north of San Francisco: the first town after the Golden Gate bridge.

And that's where Sara and I are located right now. We are house-sitting, enjoying the home of a friend of a friend, who is herself whale-watching in Mexico.

We had a long but uneventful drive yesterday from Elko, Nevada, having arrived there the night before, after Andrew's birthday party. Hard to believe he will soon be 19.

I have now published Chapter 2 of my dissertation.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Painful Times

Not being allowed to defend my dissertation was a painful time. But, there is no point in belaboring that now.

Whatever the reasons my adviser and the department had for their decisions, I am going ahead with my own decision to self-publish the dissertation on the Internet.

It is proving quite painful to convert WordPerfect documents into HTML documents. Microsoft Word helps a bit, but doesn't do a very good job of rendering the images. I'll work more on those as time permits.

In the meantime, I've finished the first cut at converting Chapter 1.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

All But Dissertation Defence

In 1986, while I was an assistant professor at the University of Lethbridge, I enrolled in the Computer Science Ph.D. program at the University of Calgary.

It is important to a university that its professors hold the Ph.D. degree, so the University of Lethbridge encouraged and helped me in this endeavor. I was in a tenure track position, and as I neared the next evaluation point, it became clear that I would not complete the requirements of the Ph.D. degree in time. For that and other reasons, I left this position and took employment at WordPerfect Corporation in Orem, Utah.

I kept in touch with the department at the University of Calgary, and, shortly before the 10 year limit, completed the writing of a dissertation. All that was left then was to defend it in front of a committee. This I was not allowed to do.

So, I hold what is considered to be a Ph.D. ABD (all but dissertation). In my case, the dissertation is written but not defended.

Looking through old disk drives recently, I located the files from which I printed out the dissertation. Now, I am in the process of publishing the dissertation on the Internet. It is quite difficult because the documents were produced using WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS, and Microsoft Word doesn't convert these files very well.

So, I'm running WordPerfect inside of DOSbox and saving each file in a generic format and then hand editing by inserting HTML tags. The diagrams are screen-captured from Word's attempt, or reconstructed. Otherwise, I am leaving everything exactly as I wrote it in 1995.

So far all that I have to show for it is Chapter 6.