One thing that always thrilled me is the idea that physics today is quite similar to software bugs triaging. You have a currently (or previously) accepted theory, and you make experiments that will show that the reality sometimes does not work according to that theory.
That is essentially what happens at CERN and the CMS experiment. There were suspicions (theories) that the universe contains more types of particles than we supposed at some time. In order to show that, physicists decided to build a large particle collider and measure monitor for events that don’t fit the previously accepted theories.
Now, when these ‘bugs’ in the fabric of reality are found, the scientists do not try to fix them (you can’t change reality), but rather to make a mathematical model that describes the real world better than the last one.
Fixing bugs in Plasma
This is where software developers differ. We also try to make collisions which will expose problems in our software, but we are allowed to change the reality and fix the bugs instead of ‘just’ writing a new specification of our programs that includes the bugs as its essential parts.
My main task at the Plasma sprint we had in CERN was to actually perform as many collisions I can with the activity switcher, and fix all the bugs that I could find. Sometimes the collisions exposed issues outside the switcher – in other parts of Plasma.
I am glad that I can say that I’ve fixed quite a few issues where most were not previously known. Plasma 5.6 will have a more streamlined activity switcher than it used to because its back-end was completely revamped, and it will be much more stable thanks to all the bugs that went away.
Plasma is for scientists
We usually tend to cater to ordinary users, and computer geeks, and tend to get excited every time we see a computer screen with KDE software displayed on some popular TV show or a movie.
But I have to say that all these screenshots that many of us collected during the years fade a bit in comparison to seeing Plasma running on most computers in the control centre of the CMS experiment.
Plasma, KWin, Dolphin, and all the shebang. :)