Recently in Geekdom Category

So true - writing code

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I have been playing with a Software Defined Radio recently and using the Raspberry Pi - canned programs are fine but I want to brush up on my C++ and write my own. This cartoon really brings home programming logic:


An interesting hotel in Japan - Henn na

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Means weird. BBC Click's Spencer Kelly travels to Sasebo, Nagasaki to find out more.

Video dates from 2015 - it would be interesting to see the upgrades. Hotel's English language website: Henn na Hotel

Some experimental airplanes have reached this high but here, we are talking about an unpowered glider. From NBC News:

Experimental glider smashes record for high-altitude flight
Riding the wind above the Andes Mountains, an experimental glider has set a world record for high-altitude flight.

On Sept. 2, the sleek Perlan 2 glider carried two pilots to 76,100 feet, or more than 14 miles, over the El Calafate region in southern Argentina. That’s the highest altitude ever reached by humans aboard an unpowered fixed-wing aircraft, and one of the highest altitudes reached by an aircraft of any description. Only spy planes and specialized balloons have flown higher.

“The biggest impression is, it's a long ways down from up here,” one of the pilots, Jim Payne, said after the record-setting flight, which was one in a series of test flights sponsored by aerospace giant Airbus. “The horizon starts to have a curvature in it and the sky is getting darker as we climb. … It's a fantastic experience, once in a lifetime.”

The record eclipses one set during a previous Perlan 2 flight over El Calafate on Aug. 28, which reached an altitude of 65,600 feet.

But the recent outing, which took about five hours, wasn’t just about establishing bragging rights. Ed Warnock, the aerospace engineer who heads the Perlan Project, a Beaverton, Oregon-based nonprofit that designed and built the $3 million glider, said data collected by the glider would help provide a better understanding of high-altitude air currents. That could help commercial pilots avoid dangerous but invisible regions of turbulence.

Very cool - here is the website for The Perlan Project They are going to try for 90,000 in a few days and then, new wings and 100,000.

A clever idea - The Skim Reaper

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Credit Card skimmers are devices added to Credit Card readers that allow malicious types to read the magnetic stripe on a users card as well as record their keystrokes to get the PIN.

Someone finally came up with a card that can be inserted into a suspect reader - it will detect if there are more than one read heads. From the 2018 Usenix Security Symposium:

Fear the Reaper: Characterization and Fast Detection of Card Skimmers
Payment card fraud results in billions of dollars in losses annually. Adversaries increasingly acquire card data using skimmers, which are attached to legitimate payment devices including point of sale terminals, gas pumps, and ATMs. Detecting such devices can be difficult, and while many experts offer advice in doing so, there exists no large-scale characterization of skimmer technology to support such defenses. In this paper, we perform the first such study based on skimmers recovered by the NYPD's Financial Crimes Task Force over a 16 month period. After systematizing these devices, we develop the Skim Reaper, a detector which takes advantage of the physical properties and constraints necessary for many skimmers to steal card data. Our analysis shows the Skim Reaper effectively detects 100% of devices supplied by the NYPD. In so doing, we provide the first robust and portable mechanism for detecting card skimmers.

The paper goes in to a lot of detail - a very elegant hack to cure a very serious problem.

Happy birthday eBay

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From the Infogalactic entry for Pierre Omidyar:

In 1995, at the age of 28, Omidyar began to write the original computer code for an online venue to enable the listing of a direct person-to-person auction for collectible items. He created a simple prototype on his personal web page, and on Labor Day, Monday, September 4, 1995, he launched an online service called, Auction Web, which would eventually become the auction site eBay. In May 2003, eBay was successfully sued by Thomas Woolston for patent infringement of online auction software Woolston had invented in the late 1990s. The service was hosted on a website Omidyar had originally created for information on the Ebola virus. The first item sold on the site was a broken laser pointer. Omidyar was astonished that anyone would pay for the device in its broken state, but the buyer assured him that he was deliberately collecting broken laser pointers. Similar surprises followed. The business exploded as correspondents began to register trade goods of an unimaginable variety.

Omidyar incorporated the enterprise; the small fee he collected on each sale financed the expansion of the site. The revenue soon outstripped his salary at General Magic and nine months later, Omidyar decided to dedicate his full attention to his new enterprise.

One of the better Silicon Valley success stories - right place, right idea, right time.

Magnetic tape data storage

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Yes, really - some fascinating advances being made. From IEEE Spectrum. The author - Mark Lantz - is the manager of the Advanced Tape Technologies at IBM Research Zurich.

Why the Future of Data Storage is (Still) Magnetic Tape
It should come as no surprise that recent advances in big-data analytics and artificial intelligence have created strong incentives for enterprises to amass information about every measurable aspect of their businesses. And financial regulations now require organizations to keep records for much longer periods than they had to in the past. So companies and institutions of all stripes are holding onto more and more.

Studies show [PDF] that the amount of data being recorded is increasing at 30 to 40 percent per year. At the same time, the capacity of modern hard drives, which are used to store most of this, is increasing at less than half that rate. Fortunately, much of this information doesn’t need to be accessed instantly. And for such things, magnetic tape is the perfect solution.

Seriously? Tape? The very idea may evoke images of reels rotating fitfully next to a bulky mainframe in an old movie like Desk Set or Dr. Strangelove. So, a quick reality check: Tape has never gone away!

Indeed, much of the world’s data is still kept on tape, including data for basic science, such as particle physics and radio astronomy, human heritage and national archives, major motion pictures, banking, insurance, oil exploration, and more. There is even a cadre of people (including me, trained in materials science, engineering, or physics) whose job it is to keep improving tape storage.

A long and readable overview of the advancements in data storage. An amazing world we live in.

Also, had completely forgotten about the movie Desk Set - a wonderful comedy directed by Walter Lang and starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn. Don't see it on Netflix but I will try Amazon and see if they have it. Really funny film!

A very fun mashup

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From BoingBoing:

Tom Clancy's Jim Ryan
John Krasinski is best known for playing Jim Halpert in the TV series The Office. Now he's playing the title character in Amazon's new series Jack Ryan (available as of today), based on the Tom Clancy character. It only makes sense that the CIA operative would be instantly mashed up with The Office. Funny or Die jumped on that idea.


Well crap - it used to be that the open source crowd was one of the most inclusive (and fun) groups of people you could ever meet. They would hang out with the far left, the far right, the military, big corporations, black-hat hackers, white-hat hackers, vegans, bikers, etc... etc... etc...

Seems like some of them (at MIT no less) got a big social justice warrior hard-on and are engaging in major virtue signaling. From the preeminent open source file-sharing site GitHub:

Add text to MIT License banning ICE collaborators
The following license shall not be granted to the following entities or any
subsidiary thereof due to their collaboration with US Immigration and Customs
Enforcement ("ICE"):

- "Microsoft Corporation"
- "Palantir Technologies"
- ", Inc."
- "Northeastern University"
- "Ernst & Young"
- "Thomson Reuters"
- "Motorola Solutions"
- "Deloitte Consulting LLP"
- "Johns Hopkins University"
- "Dell Inc"
- "Xerox Corporation"
- "Canon Inc"
- "Vermont State Colleges"
- "Charter Communications"
- "LinkedIn Corporation"
- "United Parcel Service Co"

We will see how well that goes - a lot of large open source software projects are funded by grants from corporations - talk about byte-ing the hand that feeds you...

Fun stuff - Raspberry Pi computers

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I have been playing with the Raspberry Pi single board computers for two years now but always using code written by other people. I used to be OK at C++ programming but am looking to brush up on it in the next couple of months - an alternative to watching YouTube videos...

When you write code, you use an editor and there are programming editors that integrate with the compiler and other bits and pieces of code generation. This is called an IDE - Integrated Development Environment. Once such example is Microsoft's Visual Studio. I used to be good at VS5 but they are up to 2017 now so a lot has changed. They do offer a free version but their cheapest commercial version is $539/year

Fortunately, the open source community has come out with Code::Blocks. I have downloaded it and playing around with it. Looks pretty nice and it works with compilers that support 64-bit code. It compiles to Windows, Linux and Mac operating systems so will work just fine on the Pi.

About those $15/hour minimum wages

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Meet your new chef - Creator:

A couple of photos from today

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Meeting the local amateur radio operators and they are universally turning out to be a well educated fun group of people. Today's potluck picnic was no exception. Here are some photos of the event:


The event sprawled out over a fairly large area - probably about 50 people there.


Lots of food - people brought their choice of protein to grill and also a side dish. I brought a good potato salad which Costco has started carrying recently and some hot dogs for me and whomever wanted any too.


There were a lot of radios in operation here - the guy on the right was setting up a digital station with a Linux netbook and a handheld walkie-talkie and the woman on the left was using a standard 2 Meter handheld to reach out to the island repeater.


The venue was a really nice small park on the south end of the island. Little stage for music and movies. Great store and deli next door.


Here is the pond - it is a natural spring and has been stocked with fish. It has also been a popular place for pet goldfish when the owner gets 'tired' of them. Aparently some of them are quite large.

All in all, a delightful summer day spent with good people.

A bit of rain

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Near Camano Island the valleys are very broad and flat. We got about a half of an inch of rain this afternoon (and some thunder and lightning too!) - this precipitation is reflected in the flow of the Stillaguamish River:


This was the gauge near Arlington, WA will a good ten miles before the river reaches the ocean. I will take a look tomorrow at the Stanwood data to see what it shows.

A great resource for radio - Intercept

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A great website if you want to find local police, fire and emergency service frequencies. Perfectly legal to monitor, you just cannot transmit. This site ties into the FCC main database so you can also get frequencies for commercial business radio, school districts, highway and construction. Amazing what is out there.

Check out Intercept

Very cool tool - ZipLevel

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I had an engineer come out to the house today to see about fixing the drainage problem as well as propping up where the foundation had settled.

He brought out one of the coolest tools I have seen in a long long time. A ZipLevel. It is a case with a hose reel and a box on the end of the hose. Inside the box is a pressure sensor that looks at the relative difference in air pressure between the box and the other end of the hose. Yes. That sensitive.  You zero out the box and can then walk around and the box will display its relative height compared to the zero point. If you get the high precision version, it is accurate to 0.01 inches. Srandard is just 0.1" or 1/8th inch. High precision version sells for about $1,200 with all the accessories.

WIth this, he was able to walk around the house mapping out the high and low points.


Great opening set - Kraftwerk

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Guten Abend Kraftwerk, guten Abend Stuttgart!
On 20 July 2018 around 21:50 local time, ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst welcomed the legendary electronic band Kraftwerk and 7500 visitors to the Jazz Open Festival on Stuttgart's Schlossplatz – live from the International Space Station, where he will live and work until mid-December 2018. During the call with space, Kraftwerk founding member Ralf Hütter and Alexander played a special duet version of the track Spacelab, for which Alexander had a tablet computer configured with virtual synthesizers on board. With thanks to Kraftwerk for sharing this video footage.

News you can use - Epoxy

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Great to know - big fan of JB Weld:

Long day today

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Spent the morning packing up kitchen stuff and then ran into the condo later this afternoon. There was a meeting of our Ham Radio Digital Group tonight so planned to attend that and very glad I did.

There was a presentation on HamWAN

A modern, multi-megabit, IP-based, digital network for amateur radio use!
HamWAN is a non-profit organization (501c3) developing best practices for high speed amateur radio data networks. HamWAN also runs the Puget Sound Data Ring, which is a real-world network implementation of the proposed designs.

So far, HamWAN networks have been used for things like low-latency repeater linking, real-time video feeds from distant locations, serving APRS I-gates, providing redundant internet access to emergency operations centers, and more. Any licensed radio amateur in the service area can connect their shack directly to the network with just a small investment in equipment and no recurring cost. Since many traditional uses for Internet at home are not compatible with Part 97 rules, this won't replace your home Internet connection. However, it works and acts just like one.

This service is available throughout most of Puget Sound and they are rapidly expanding. Like the blurb says, it will not replace a home internet connection but the equipment is hardened and in the event of an earthquake or sustained power outage it will provide decent connectivity. The antenna and modem are about $200 - cheap. Unfortunately, no service yet where I live but it is a fun technology to see develop.

I have been assembling parts for a go-box - a carrying case with a portable radio, digital modem, computer, battery and antenna that can be deployed in a moments notice. Someone brought theirs in tonight for show and tell and I got some great ideas.

Back around 2000, an English ham radio operator John Hey, G3TDZ developed a specalized radio for use in cave rescues. "Normal" radio frequencies do not go through earth very well - the higher the frequenices, the more they are blocked. Normal ham radio bands range from around 3 million Hz up to 440 million and up. John's device operated at 87 thousand Hz and is therefore able to penetrate earth and rock.

The HeyPhone was used in the Thai cave rescue. Here is the website:  HeyPhone Cave Rescue Communication System 

Here is an article on various cave radio systems from 2001: The HeyPhone Story

Fascinating technology. Works so well it has not been changed in 18 years.

Celebrating Independence Day

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Firing an anvil. The one being launched weighs 80 pounds. The one on the base is 150 pounds and the charge is one pound of black powder.

From one of my favorite YouTube channels: Essential Craftsman

From The Smithsonian:

Buried by the Ash of Vesuvius, These Scrolls Are Being Read for the First Time in Millennia
It’s July 12, 2017, and Jens Dopke walks into a windowless room in Oxfordshire, England, all of his attention trained on a small, white frame that he carries with both hands. The space, which looks like a futuristic engine room, is crowded with sleek metal tables, switches and platforms topped with tubes and boxes. A tangle of pipes and wires covers the walls and floor like vines.

In the middle of the room, Dopke, a physicist, eases the frame into a holder mounted on a metal turntable, a red laser playing on the back of his hand. Then he uses his cellphone to call his colleague Michael Drakopoulos, who is sitting in a control room a few yards away. “Give it another half a millimeter,” Dopke says. Working together, they adjust the turntable so that the laser aligns perfectly with a dark, charred speck at the center of the frame.

The author takes some time setting up the story - here is a bit more:

The facility, called Diamond Light Source, is one of the most powerful and sophisticated X-ray facilities in the world, used to probe everything from viruses to jet engines. On this summer afternoon, though, its epic beam will focus on a tiny crumb of papyrus that has already survived one of the most destructive forces on the planet—and 2,000 years of history. It comes from a scroll found in Herculaneum, an ancient Roman resort on the Bay of Naples, Italy, that was buried by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79. In the 18th century, workmen employed by King Charles III of Spain, then in charge of much of southern Italy, discovered the remains of a magnificent villa, thought to have belonged to Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus (known as Piso), a wealthy statesman and the father-in-law of Julius Caesar. The luxurious residence had elaborate gardens surrounded by colonnaded walkways and was filled with beautiful mosaics, frescoes and sculptures. And, in what was to become one of the most frustrating archaeological discoveries ever, the workmen also found approximately 2,000 papyrus scrolls.

And in 1883-4, they tried unrolling a few of these scrolls with disastrous results. They crumbled. Fortunately, the rest of the 2,000+ were left intact - they did not try to read them. Very cool move - there will always be some technology in the future to fix what you can not do today.

The article is a long and wonderful read - the lead researcher was able to cobble together elements of Computer Tomography and use a particle accelerator for high energy X-Ray spectroscopy to differentiate between the ink, the carbon from the charing of the paper and the paper substrate itself. They are now able to read the scrolls without having to unroll them. This was the personal library of some Very Rich Dude from 2,000 years ago.

Fun time to be alive. Web site for: Diamond Light Source

Light Saber in real life

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What would happen if they were real:

Probably will not even see the light of day - if it ever does, it will give the Juicero a run for its money as the most hyped/under performing modern product. From Engadget:

The SWORD is a weapon-detecting smartphone case
No matter how stylishly makers dress them up, most smartphone cases are really about one thing: protecting screens from smashing. They're fragile cargo, we get it. Of course, some enterprising companies have taken things further, whipping up cases that transform into Android phones and selfie drones. Now Royal Holdings has jumped into the fray with SWORD, a five ounce phone case that works like a 3D-imaging scanner.

Let's get the drawbacks out of the way first. Right now, SWORD is only compatible with iPhone 8 Plus and Google's Pixel 2XL, so its applications are limited. On the other hand, SWORD can scan individuals from up to 40m away -- non-invasively -- to determine whether they're carrying concealed weapons.

It supposedly does this via a programmable 3D sensor that's able to infiltrate objects using radio waves. SWORD's antennas relay a signal toward an individual and receive returning signals that are subsequently recorded by an integrated circuit. There's also a facial recognition feature that compares a person's face against a watch list, and would alert any attending security officer. Everything happens through a dedicated app and take a fraction of a second.

For all of its superhero associations, SWORD has obvious security benefits. Barry Oberholzer, the CEO of Royal Holdings, says "this type of product doesn't exist right now" but the ramifications for personnel working in airports or restricted areas are promising. If you were planning on buying SWORD, expect to pay a high price. Pre-orders are already open at $950 and you'll need to pay a $30 monthly subscription on top. There's still the question of whether SWORD can uphold all its vows, but we'll know more in spring 2019 when shipments begin.

I can only imagine the lawsuits if it mistakes something like a hip implant (which I have) for a weapon. Or the metal in the frame of a backpack or briefcase, or if it fails to detect a goblin who was wearing sunglasses that afternoon.

Stunt doubles

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Walt Disney is working on autonomous robot stunt doubles for movie making. Here is a 40 second brag reel:

Very cool and these are just the 1.0 versions...

Turns out there is a back door to the Office email system - from Cyber Security Blog:

Exposing the Secret Office 365 Forensics Tool
An ethical crisis in the digital forensics industry came to a head last week with the release of new details on Microsoft’s undocumented “Activities” API. A previously unknown trove of access and activity logs held by Microsoft allows investigators to track Office 365 mailbox activity in minute detail. Following a long period of mystery and rumors about the existence of such a tool, the details finally emerged, thanks to a video by Anonymous and follow-up research by CrowdStrike.

Now, investigators have access to a stockpile of granular activity data going back six months—even if audit logging was not enabled. For victims of Business Email Compromise (BEC), this is huge news, because investigators are now far more likely to be able to “rule out” unauthorized access to specific emails and attachments.

The secret tool provides evidence that could have saved hundreds—if not thousands—of companies from having to declare a data breach. It is very likely that small businesses were disproportionately affected, since they lack the budget to employ forensics firms and to utilize Office 365 subscriptions that support audit logging.

Until now, this level of granularity was thought not to exist. Turns out, however, that it did, and those who were in the know kept this knowledge a secret.

Much more at the site - as they say:  ...developing...


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What if Microsoft did phones 20 years ago:

10,000,000 patents

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Wow!  Talk about being a productive nation. The US Patent Office just issued it's 10 millionth patent three days ago.

Here is a link to the patent: Coherent LADAR using intra-pixel quadrature detection

Here is a link to the US Patent Office's commemoration page: 10 million patents

Interesting project in New York

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From the New York City FOX affiliate:

Fixing a massive NYC plumbing leak, 55 stories underground
New York City is in the midst of a plumbing repair job of monumental proportions.

Hard-hat workers are toiling deep underground, 55 stories beneath the Hudson River, to eliminate gushing leaks in an aging tunnel that carries half the city's water supply over 85 miles from Catskill Mountain reservoirs. Using a cylindrical, space-rocket-size borer, they are carving through solid rock to create a 2.5-mile bypass tunnel around the worst of the leaks.

When they finish the $1 billion tunnel in 2022, the entire Delaware Aqueduct will be shut down for months to prepare for the diversion. And if they do it right, New Yorkers turning on their faucets will never even notice.

"It's really the largest and most complex water tunnel repair that the city of New York has ever done," said Vincent Sapienza, commissioner of the city Department of Environmental Protection. "There's a lot of moving parts that we've been wrestling with for several years now."

Big engineering projects fascinate me a lot. They are losing 18 million gallons of water each day - too big to ignore.

I resemble that:

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From the UC Berkeley website Project IRENE

Project IRENE at UC Berkeley is a collaborative effort, funded by grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Science Foundation, with team members from the UC Berkeley Linguistics Department, UC Library, Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology, and the particle physics division at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The project aims to use the innovative technique of non-contact optical scanning, to create digital versions of the audio recorded on the nearly 3000 wax cylinders in the Hearst Museum collection over a total of three years. 

The cylinders themselves were recorded in the field by UC Anthropologists under the direction of Alfred Kroeber between 1900 and 1940. They recorded Native Californians from many regions, and cultures speaking and singing; reciting histories, narratives and prayers, listing names for places and objects among many other things, all in a wide variety of languages. Many of the languages recorded on the cylinders have transformed, fallen out of use, or are no longer spoken at all, making this collection a unique and invaluable resource for linguists and contemporary community members hoping to learn about or revitalize languages, or retrieve important pieces of cultural heritage. 

Scholars and community members are already engaging with the collection through the California Language Archive (CLA), which facilitates restricted access to existing transfers. Though transfers already exist, they are not exhaustive, are often of poor quality and, largely, have not been made digital. This project will increase the scope and ease of access to the collection by creating digital versions of the entire collection, at higher, more easily listenable quality and turning them over to the CLA, who will provide access under appropriate restrictions.

Here is a short video of the guy involved in the project talking about the technology - very clever.

Clever fire-fighting robot

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Meet the Dragon Fire Fighting robot:

One of the designs for the Tough Robotics Challenge at Tadohoku University. From their website:

In recent years, large scale disasters have occurred frequently. Application of robot technologies to improving disaster response, recovery, preparedness and mitigation capabilities, improving efficiency, and at the same time ensuring the safety of responders is an urgent issue. However, current robots are delicate goody-goodies that cannot show the same performance of work in the extreme environment of disasters as they can indoors. Their ability to respond to unexpected situations is low.

Artificial Intelligence and the military

From Reuters:

Deep in the Pentagon, a secret AI program to find hidden nuclear missiles
The U.S. military is increasing spending on a secret research effort to use artificial intelligence to help anticipate the launch of a nuclear-capable missile, as well as track and target mobile launchers in North Korea and elsewhere.

The effort has gone largely unreported, and the few publicly available details about it are buried under a layer of near impenetrable jargon in the latest Pentagon budget. But U.S. officials familiar with the research told Reuters there are multiple classified programs now under way to explore how to develop AI-driven systems to better protect the United States against a potential nuclear missile strike.

If the research is successful, such computer systems would be able to think for themselves, scouring huge amounts of data, including satellite imagery, with a speed and accuracy beyond the capability of humans, to look for signs of preparations for a missile launch, according to more than half a dozen sources. The sources included U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the research is classified.


Forty years ago yesterday, Intel released the 8086 CPU chip and the world shifted on its axis - from Extreme Tech:

Happy 40th Anniversary to the Original Intel 8086 and the x86 Architecture
Forty years ago today, Intel launched the original 8086 microprocessor — the grandfather of every x86 CPU ever built, including the ones we use now. This, it must be noted, is more or less the opposite outcome of what everyone expected at the time, including Intel.

According to Stephen P. Morse, who led the 8086 development effort, the new CPU “was intended to be short-lived and not have any successors.” Intel’s original goal with the 8086 was to improve overall performance relative to previous products while retaining source compatibility with earlier products (meaning assembly language for the 8008, 8080, or 8085 could be run on the 8086 after being recompiled). It offered faster overall performance than the 8080 or 8085 and could address up to 1MB of RAM (the 8085 topped out at 64KB). It contained eight 16-bit registers, which is where the x86 abbreviation comes from in the first place, and was originally offered at a clock speed of 5MHz (later versions were clocked as high as 10MHz).

Morse had experience in software as well as hardware and, as this  historical retrospective makes clear, made decisions intended to make it easy to maintain backwards compatibility with earlier Intel products. He even notes that had he known he was inventing an architecture that would power computing for the next 40 years, he would’ve done some things differently, including using a symmetric register structure and avoiding segmented addressing. Initially, the 8086 was intended to be a stopgap product while Intel worked feverishly to finish its real next-generation microprocessor — the iAPX 432, Intel’s first 32-bit microprocessor. When sales of the 8086 began to slip in 1979, Intel made the decision to launch a massive marketing operation around the chip, dubbed Operation Crush. The goal? Drive adoption of the 8086 over and above competing products made by Motorola and Zilog (the latter founded by former Intel employees, including Federico Faggin, lead architect on the first microprocessor, Intel’s 4004). Project Crush was quite successful and is credited with spurring IBM to adopt the 8088 (a cut-down 8086 with an 8-bit bus) for the first IBM PC.

One might expect, given the x86 architecture’s historic domination of the computing industry, that the chip that launched the revolution would have been a towering achievement or quantum leap above the competition. The truth is more prosaic. The 8086 was a solid CPU core built by intelligent architects backed up by a strong marketing campaign. The computer revolution it helped to launch, on the other hand, transformed the world.

The segmented architecture made a lot of early adapters want to segment some of the design engineers. When programming in a higher-level language, this was not a problem as the compiler took care of this for you but when you wanted to optimize some code and write it in assembly, it was all kinds of fun. Still, it was a powerful instruction set, reasonably fast and very cheap.

It has been a great ride and still looking forward!

Keeping fingers crossed - GitHub

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I work with a lot of open source software - these are applications developed by teams of volunteers who publish not only their programs but also the source code for these programs inviting anyone to make additions, changes or improvements. These files are kept in a repository accessable by the general public - the biggest and best of which is GitHub. They offer this service for free, making their money by hosting the same service for businesses for internal file storage. They recently celebrated their 10th anniversary.

From Microsoft:

Microsoft to acquire GitHub for $7.5 billion
REDMOND, Wash. — June 4, 2018 — Microsoft Corp. on Monday announced it has reached an agreement to acquire GitHub, the world’s leading software development platform where more than 28 million developers learn, share and collaborate to create the future. Together, the two companies will empower developers to achieve more at every stage of the development lifecycle, accelerate enterprise use of GitHub, and bring Microsoft’s developer tools and services to new audiences.

“Microsoft is a developer-first company, and by joining forces with GitHub we strengthen our commitment to developer freedom, openness and innovation,” said Satya Nadella, CEO, Microsoft. “We recognize the community responsibility we take on with this agreement and will do our best work to empower every developer to build, innovate and solve the world’s most pressing challenges.”

Under the terms of the agreement, Microsoft will acquire GitHub for $7.5 billion in Microsoft stock. Subject to customary closing conditions and completion of regulatory review, the acquisition is expected to close by the end of the calendar year.

GitHub will retain its developer-first ethos and will operate independently to provide an open platform for all developers in all industries. Developers will continue to be able to use the programming languages, tools and operating systems of their choice for their projects — and will still be able to deploy their code to any operating system, any cloud and any device.

Microsoft Corporate Vice President Nat Friedman, founder of Xamarin and an open source veteran, will assume the role of GitHub CEO. GitHub’s current CEO, Chris Wanstrath, will become a Microsoft technical fellow, reporting to Executive Vice President Scott Guthrie, to work on strategic software initiatives.

If MSFT can keep their mitts off GitHub and let it continue to run as it does, this will be wonderful. I hope they have the wisdom to do so.

Fun times in Vancouver - SIGGRAPH

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Special Interest Group - Graphics. Meets every year and highlights the developments in computer graphics. Some amazing stuff - here is a short brag reel:

T and I have been talking about some traveling in the future. Iceland and Scotland are being discussed. I think I found one of our destinations:

First put into operation in 1906 - here is the website: Sumburgh Head Foghorn  They also have a Stevenson lighthouse (yes, that Stevenson and this Grandson) as well as one of the first RADAR installations - beginning operation December 27th, 1939.

Looks like quite a place to visit.

Happy 45th birthday - Ethernet

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The backbone of the internet - from Infogalactic:

Ethernet was developed at Xerox PARC between 1973 and 1974. It was inspired by ALOHAnet, which Robert Metcalfe had studied as part of his PhD dissertation. The idea was first documented in a memo that Metcalfe wrote on May 22, 1973, where he named it after the disproven luminiferous ether as an "omnipresent, completely-passive medium for the propagation of electromagneticwaves". In 1975, Xerox filed a patent application listing Metcalfe, David Boggs, Chuck Thacker, and Butler Lampson as inventors. In 1976, after the system was deployed at PARC, Metcalfe and Boggs published a seminal paper.

More at The Register:

Ethernet — a networking protocol name for the ages
In the beginning, Ethernet was optional. When Bob Metcalfe and David Boggs cooked up their network protocol at Xerox PARC in the early 1970s, it was meant to connect the research haven’s now famous Alto machines — but only if researchers felt the need. “Each scientist would get a kind of Alto order form,” Metcalfe remembers, “and you had to check a box if you wanted Ethernet.”

Then, one afternoon, with maybe ten Altos on the desks of ten PARC researchers, someone accidentally disconnected a networking cable. When ten people stood up to ask “What happened?,” Metcalfe realized his fledgling network protocol might be a keeper. “From then on,” he says, “Ethernet was not an option.”

More than thirty years later, Metcalfe went looking for a new Ethernet cable, strolling into an everyday American electronics retailer. “The woman at the cash register took me to a twenty-foot-wide wall filled with cables and said ’What color do you want?’”

Pervasive and foolproof. The backbone of modern computing.

Found on the web

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Presented for your enjoyment:


Handy Chrome tips and tricks

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Been using Google's Chrome browser for quite a few years now. Here are some handy tips you might not know.
From Fast Company:

27 Incredibly Useful Things You Didn’t Know Chrome Could Do
These days, a browser is more than just a basic navigator for the web. It’s effectively a second desktop—a gateway to countless apps, sites, and services. And optimizing that environment can go a long way in increasing your efficiency.

Google’s Chrome in particular is full of hidden shortcuts, features, and power-user possibilities. Take the time to learn these tips, and watch your productivity soar.

Going to incorporate these in my daily browsing...

Pocket calculators - a history

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Fascinating article about the origins of the HP-35 pocket calculator. This was manufactured by Hewlett Packard and was the first calculator that could perform trig functions. Here are some excerpts of this from Codex 99:

The article starts by talking about HP and how it had grown from two people in a garage to 9,000 employees:

Tom Osborne, a Berkeley-trained electrical engineer, wasn’t one of those 9000 employees. In his Bay-area apartment, he had built a floating-point electronic calculator he called the Green Machine (after the color of the automotive touch-up paint he used on the balsa wood case). He tried shopping it around but no one was interested until he showed it to HP in June, 1965. Bill Hewlett asked “can it do transcendentals [sine, cosine, tangent, etc]?” Osborne’s Frankenmachine couldn’t, but he replied “Sure, why not?” Hewlett was sufficiently impressed and convinced Osborne to stay on for six weeks as a consultant to see if he could turn his device into a proper calculator.

And, a few years later, they came out with 1.0

“I was barely able to stay ahead of the alligators on my tail,” Osborne recalled. His six weeks became six months, then a year, and then another, but, finally, in early 1968, they had finished the 40-pound, typewriter-sized 9100A Computing Calculator.

The 9100 was introduced at the New York IEEE show on March 11th, 1968. It filled a gap in the market between simple adding machines and complicated mainframes and was, in many ways, the first personal computer. Steve Jobs (yeah, that Steve Jobs) remembered the 9100 as the first desktop computer he ever saw.

The HP-35 was released in January 4th, 1972 and they were stunned by the demand. Everyone wanted one. I had serious lust in my heart but could not afford the $395 price tag. I did get an HP-45 when they came out though - also a great machine. The first year of sales accounted for half of HP's profits. Not bad.

A fun and well-written article - worth reading if you are interested in the history of electronics.

An interesting observation from Popular Mechanics:

The Longest Route You Can Sail in a Straight Line Without Hitting Land
The Earth is about 71 percent ocean. If you start at a port and head into the sea, you’ll likely travel hundreds or thousands of miles before seeing land again. But what course would allow you to travel the farthest distance in a straight line without ever hitting land?

Back in 2012, a Reddit user by the name of kepleronlyknows posted an interesting map of the world, showing a line from Pakistan to Russia across the Indian, Atlantic, and Pacific oceans. The poster claimed that this was the longest straight-line path anyone could take without touching land. The problem was that such a claim was extremely difficult to prove mathematically.

Now, two computer scientists, Rohan Chabukswar at the United Technologies Research Center in Ireland and Kushal Mukherjee at IBM Research in India, developed an algorithm to find a solution. The problem is that manually checking every straight-line path would take ages, so instead the researchers employed a much faster technique called the branch and bound method.

Much more at the site - the route is 19,939.6 miles, just about 5,000 miles short of the planet's circumference. I bet someone somewhere is thinking about getting a boat and outfitting it for this journey...

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