Content from 2007-11

Random Quote Post
posted on 2007-11-24 19:07:55
I've been stumbling across these this morning and find them all quite provocative. What do you think?

"As Navrozov explains, the word "power" in Russian means "possession" and is a cognate to the English word "wield." Since in a democracy public opinion is power and universities are the source of all legitimate opinion, they can be said in a sense to possess and wield our minds. So no one at a university should be surprised to smell the marmoset, not even in an innocent little department called "computer science," but I knew the stench from childhood and to say I was shocked would be an understatement." - Unqualified Reservations

"Of course, in a sense, anything you do with in a computer can be described as "mathematics." The point is not whether or not programming is math. The point is what notation is most effective for expressing programs. Choosing the best notation is the entire problem of programming language design, and this problem is neither mathematical nor scientific. A programming language is a user interface for programmers, and if you can reduce UI design to math, science, or any formal process, call Apple, not me." - Unqualified Reservations
Spontaneous Posting
posted on 2007-11-24 07:31:25
Okay.

Random blog post thingie. I didn't really expect to post anything but frequent, random and disjointed is a lot easier than occasional and structured/intelligent. So here goes.

First of all, many of you may know/love XKCD. I mentioned to some of you but for some reason didn't think to post that I found this great little talk that the author of XKCD, Randall Munroe, gave at a programming conference. It's actually totally worth watching for at least the first 10 to 20 minutes just to hear some of his funny stories about FAA Regulations on Kite Flying and other such craziness. After that he talks for another hour about other stuff and there's comedy interspersed but it's not quite as constant.

There were some reassuring thoughts after having watched the first hour or so of that. One significant one being that Randall Munroe doesn't think he's a very good programmer because he can settle for "good enough" style hacks. The other being that here's this guy who's clearly pretty intelligent but maybe not interested in "the real world" and managed to go off and be interesting and do his own thing that he's interested in. He created a successful job that I couldn't have imagined and that certainly if it had been mentioned in table conversation as a future aspiration would've been laughed at. But look at him now. It makes me feel like you really can come up with some crazy thing and maybe actually live off it. Then again he might just be extraordinarily entertaining.

Two other thoughts:
What if hiring companies (you know, outsourced HR) did hiring like mutual fund and brokerage groups do investment? What if employees were low, medium, and high risk and selected by experts in a given sector of business? Certainly would change things a bit wouldn't it? And if people are really the biggest investments a company makes why isn't this done? (I'm thinking of this in terms of software and in response to a lot of things I've read lately including the latest raganwald post and some resumes. It's an interesting thought though isn't it?)

Finally, I read a really cool blog entry by a pretty smart and experienced guy (intimidating resume, don't know that mine could ever look like that) about an Erlang-based OS running on Minix 3. It's really a what-if kind of thing but very interesting none the less and compelling if one considers the fact that we are moving away from the present single processor, non-parallel, side effect laden nature of software.
XMas List
posted on 2007-11-21 19:03:20
Just for the heck of it, you know?

Hardware
It'd be pretty swell if I could get a BenQ FP222WH Flatscreen Monitor. It takes HDMI input so I wouldn't need a TV in my first apartment!
Zareason is producing some Ubuntu keyboards and I need a USB keyboard to hack on my PS3 so that would come in handy.

Content
Considering that I'm leaving school for a bit this list will mostly be books to study next semester but really anything off my Amazon wishlist will do bookwise.
The following 12 books would be my 12 books of Xmas. They're of particular importance to me. And I say buy used.

Algebra by I.M. Gelfand (Author), Alexander Shen (Author)
Functions and Graphs (Dover Books on Mathematics) by I. M. Gelfand (Author), et al.
The Method of Coordinates by I.M. Gelfand (Author), et al.
Introduction to Linear Algebra, Third Edition by Gilbert Strang (Author)
Discrete Mathematics and Its Applications by Kenneth H. Rosen (Author)
Concrete Mathematics: A Foundation for Computer Science (2nd Edition) by Ronald L. Graham (Author), et al.
Calculus by Michael Spivak (Author)
Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs - 2nd Edition by Harold Abelson (Author), Gerald Jay Sussman (Author)
How to Design Programs: An Introduction to Programming and Computing by Matthias Felleisen (Author), et al.
Programming Erlang: Software for a Concurrent World by Joe Armstrong (Author)
Introduction to Algorithms by Thomas H. Cormen (Author), et al.
Watchmen (Absolute Edition) by Alan Moore (Author), Dave Gibbons (Illustrator)

Finally, you gotta have some useless stuff:
Like video games. Uncharted on the PS3 and Okami or Shadow of the Colussus or Rogue Galaxy on the PS2.
And wall art. I guess I should have something on at least one wall in the apartment next semester right?
Cool wall art includes disassembly maps of famous old games like Super Mario Bros and Pac-Man. Or some of the cool internet maps from the XKCD store.

Yeah. That's about all I can think of. Be careful though. Give me all that stuff and some rice and you might not hear from me for another few months. Now then, what do you guys want for Christmas (or insert holiday here)?
Thanksgiving Greetings
posted on 2007-11-21 18:44:02
Wow. I've been just terrible about posting in here lately. I'm alive and excited to be on Thanksgiving break though. Now, let's see if I can't update this thing without creating a disgusting mega-post.

The news:
- I am not going back to school next semester. For sure. I'm taking some time off and studying programming and math in my free time. I'll also be working full time and the odds look pretty good that'll be at TVSA. Awesome!!!
- I still don't know where I'm going to be living though.
- You probably already know I'm dating this really cool girl Teresa Finn. She's cute and nerdy and good to talk to and...ahem. Yeah.

The questions:
- If you still read this thing what do you enjoy hearing about? Do you primarily read it to know my crazy business or do you like my thoughts on specific subjects (poetry, computing, etc)?
- What are you dying to get for Christmas?

The upcoming posts:
- One about architectural changes and shifts in the computing industry. Expect to hear all the standard fare about CPU/GPU convergence, multicore hoo-ha, virtualization, the shift towards mobile and open, and other smatterings as well.
- One about the education system, creativity, entrepreneurism, innovation, and everything else under the sun by the sounds of it.
A Quiet Weekend at my Getaway Home
posted on 2007-11-03 03:14:02
First off, I'd just like to thank everybody who commented on my last post. There was some lively discussion and I feel like I benefitted from all that. Thanks.

So, Mom and Dad have me house sitting. That's cool with me though because they have a cozy little place and it'll give me an excuse to cook and eat real food which is always fun. I don't get to try cooking much.

In other news, this week had more going on than I would've liked but I've persevered and all told I'm doing pretty well at School, Work, etc. Now, with that out of the way...

I've been thinking about hardware and software lately, as usual. Some of this is related to the recent PS3 purchase and some of this is just...unrelated...to anything really.

On the hardware end I've been thinking a lot about display technology. See, I have this nice idea that I'll buy a monitor that I can use for my video game console(s) and my PC and I can never need to own a TV. The problem with that is that display technology is completely ridiculous. 10 years ago it was easy. With CRTs things were pretty fixed. There were a few good manufacturers and you got one of those models in the price range (size) you could afford and that was it.

Ever since the invention of the flat screen that possibility has gone out the window. Which isn't to say it's unbelievably hard to find reasonably priced (and very lightweight/sexy) flatscreens, more that there are tradeoff costs involved that I don't remember being present 10 years ago. Specifically, you pretty much have a scale with speed (response times) on one end and picture quality (color reproduction, etc) on the other end.

Regardless of what you are told on the box, you are trading some of one for the other on some level. Now some of the nicer picture quality leaning displays have pretty good response times and some of the nicer speed leaning displays have decent color reproduction but you still have that trade off.

But then there's this one other problem...you have to remember I want to use this as a TV for my game console. So it needs some form of video-in besides VGA and DVI cables. S-Video or HDMI would be preferable though Composite(RCA) or Component would probably be fine too. This pretty much narrows my choices to two displays, the BenQ FP222WH (which has HDMI) or the Dell 2007WFP (which has S-Video and Composite).

Now, my personal leaning is to the Dell 2007WFP regardless of the fact that the video quality isn't as good as the almighty HDMI. The thing is though then you have to figure out how to get that pesky audio out into your desktop speakers...and then what? A switcher appliance? Or manually unplugging and replugging every time you switch between systems? Elegance is such a tricky thing. I just can't help but feel like better solutions should exist in this space. Maybe Apple will finally make a games console and make it easy on all of us.

That said, the PS3 I do find to be pretty amazing because for all their stupid mistakes, and there are plenty, Sony has made it a pretty good and VERY open system. The only remotely closed thing they've tried to do is lock out access to the RSX (the video card) via a hypervisor.

I've never quite understood the rational behind that decision but I read this week over on dave airlie's blog that some progress is being made at getting access to it and working 3D in spite of that. He's a hacker working at Red Hat by the way for those of you who may not know. Anyway, I found a wealth of programming resources for the PS3 and look forward to playing around with those when I get a chance.

That's it for now. I'm taking the weekend off. But I'm prepping two very exciting articles for next week, one is about my generation's value judgments and the other is about shifts in the hardware market (mostly GPUs and CPUs) and upcoming architectures. Which one would you guys prefer first?

PS: Bria Rose, every time you send me a mix CD God unkills several thousand kittens and Prince makes Doves Cry. You are awesome. Now, like I've said, come home.

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