GDT::Computing::Bits::Archive::Year 2007

Computing::Bits
BASH Makes a Great 1st Programming Language
I attended the Techie Tuesday on 11 December 2007. I made a comment about how every high-school student should be able to write simple computer programs. I was asked what programming language is the best first language and my response was something like the following.
   I'd have you learn how to use a Unix system from the 
   command-line.  Once you've learned the command-line
   and a text editor, you would write programs in BASH.
   Avoid C++ as a first language. 

I also had a chance to promote Linux, GIMP and OpenOffice.

[22 December 2007, top]

Happy 20th Birthday To Perl
Perl was created by Larry Wall during 1987. On 18 December 2007, many people around the world said Happy Birthday Perl!

Perl is a popular programming language that is an excellent tool for processing text and Larry Wall is a guru computer programmer.

[19 December 2007, top]

Interview With C++ Creator Bjarne Stroustrup
Bjarne Stroustrup created the C++ programming language when he was at AT&T Bell Labs. These days Stroustrup is a CS professor at Texas A&M University.

The following is a quote from Stroustrup.

   "The Bell Labs Computer Science Research Center was -- at the height 
    of its powers -- a uniquely stimulating environment. The people there, 
    such as Doug McIlroy, Al Aho, Brian Kernighan, Bob Morris, Sandy Fraser, 
    Dennis Ritchie, and many others, just made the Labs the greatest 
    'playground' for a young computer scientist."

Sys-con.com:: C++ Inventor On Factors That Make for Great Technology Innovation

[18 December 2007, top]

Keep An Eye Out For "Invisible Computers"
Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) was the first all-electronic programmable computer.
   "During World War II the Army ran out of male mathematicians 
    and turned to six women to program the world's first computer 
    - ENIAC. Historian Kathy Kleiman has recorded oral histories 
    of these women - now in their 80s - in her upcoming documentary 
    film, 'Invisible Computers.'"

Kleiman is 100% correct when she writes: "The names of Betty Snyder Holberton, Jean Jennings Bartik, Kathleen Mauchly Antonelli, Marlyn Wescoff Meltzer, Ruth Lichterman Teitelbaum (D) and Frances Bilas Spence belong in our history books and computer courses."

Women in computing remains an oxymoronic phrase.

   "Figures from the National Science Foundation show women earn 
    more than half of all bachelor's degrees in science, yet fewer 
    than 25 percent take computer science. By comparison, women 
    represent 59 percent of all graduates in biology and agricultural 
    sciences and 47 percent of math degrees."

[13 December 2007, top]

The Red Shift Has Started?
Is 2008 the year the "Red Shift" begins in earnest?

In a nutshell, Red Shift is "supplying scale efficient infrastructure to deal with the last=mile bandwidth, high-performance computing and on-demand applications."

According to Dan Farber, vice-president of editorial at CNET Networks and editor in chief of ZDNet, the Red Shift "may express a faint red tinge next year, but it will take at least a decade for a substantive phase change."

SeekingAlpha.com:: Sun Anticipating the 'Red Shift'

[10 December 2007, top]

Kudos To Susan Decker
Susan Decker, President of Yahoo!, received a raise to $815,000. Her annual target cash bonus will be 150 percent of her base salary. In addition, Decker was granted a stock option to purchase 300,000 shares at a per-share exercise price of $26.20 and 200,000 shares of restricted stock units.

Kudos to Susan Decker!

[10 December 2007, top]

Tim Berners-Lee Wants Long-Term Thinking
Kudos to Sir Tim Berners-Lee for speaking up and kudos to Financial Times for posting their interview with him.
   "I think there's a lot of concern the web companies
    are thinking short-term." -- Tim Berners-Lee

And of Sir Tim is correct when he says stuff like the following.

   "Because it's so easy to make a Web 2.0 site you can 
    clone a lot of them very easily, and as a result people 
    are bringing out new sites with a modicum of new polish 
    on them - but they're not really thinking up the new ideas."

I want to switch from three-month quarters to one-year quarters, but the chances that that happening are probably nil.

FT.com:: Web founder warns of short-termism

[06 December 2007, top]

Neuroinformatics at Virginia Tech and General Motors
From this form of Informatics to that form of Informatics... now we read about Neuroinformatics.
   "Advances in sensing technologies have made exquisite 
    measurements of brain activity possible in the past 
    decade. Using these measurements, computer scientists 
    will now help neuroscientists discover the complex neuronal 
    networks in the brain that result in the actions we take 
    for granted, like reaching for a glass of water."

VT.edu:: General Motors, Virginia Tech scientists collaborate to advance neuroinformatics

[extra] Ray Hammond say "our lives in 2030 will be unrecognisable today" and I believe him. More neuroinformatics? In 2030 we will all have "neurological interfaces to a super-intelligent Internet."

VNUnet.com:: Futurologist predicts life in 2030

[03 December 2007, top]

IT Dinosaurs Are Easy To Spot
An IT professional who has worked for the Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) for 11 years filed a lawsuit a couple years ago alleging they were denied promotions due to discrimination. The IT profession is a meritocracy; therefore, I hope the MCCCD gave this person a "test" before handing over $50,000. I hope the MCCCD brought in an independent group of 3-5 computer professionals--who provided their time for free --to give the person a test before handing over $50,000. IT dinosaurs are quickly discovered and IT dinosaurs never merit promotion. I hope the MCCCD didn't give $50,000 to an IT dinosaur.

[01 December 2007, top]

220 Megapixels (or 100-Times High-Def TV)
High-performance visualization systems are of interest to scientists and engineers working on the "earth sciences, climate prediction, biomedical engineering, genomics, and brain imaging."
   "Engineers at the University of California, San Diego, have 
    built the world's highest-resolution computer display, a 
    55-panel screen capable of zooming in on a live picture 
    of a human brain to give a clear image of a nerve cell."
    [220 megapixels, 100 times higher than an high-def TV]

   "The UCSD system is linked to a 50-panel high-resolution display 
    in UC Irvine through a fiber optic Ethernet cable that can carry 
    data at 2 Gbps."

InformationWeek.com:: UCSD Engineers Build World's Highest-Resolution Computer Display

[26 November 2007, top]

Brain Drain--Part of Being a Company
I've been reading about a "brain drain" at Yahoo! Now somebody says the same thing is happening at Google. I have no doubt employees come and go. I also have no doubt Yahoo! and Google wished they could keep all the brains they hire. Companies have had to battle brain drainage for decades and there is no reason to believe Yahoo! and Google would be immune to this reality.

SeekingAlpha.com:: A Google Brain Drain?

[24 November 2007, top]

Al Gore Following In Bill Joy's Footsteps
Al Gore is following in Bill Joy's footsteps...
   "The Nobel Peace Prize winner and former vice president 
    joins Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers as it and dozens 
    of other venture firms headquartered in Silicon Valley expand 
    beyond software, computer hardware, the Internet and biotechnology 
    to so-called 'clean-tech' investments worldwide."

Joy was named a partner in Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers during January of 2005. Joy has been quoted saying: "My method is to look at something that seems like a good idea and assume it's true."

Bill Joy, who co-founded Sun Microsystems in 1982, is a GDT::DreamTeam member.

[Extra] During 2003, Gore joined Apple's Board of Directors. Gore is also a senior adviser to Google.

Wired.com:: The Resurrection of Al Gore

[17 November 2007, top]

Spammers are Criminals
On 25 October 2007 my gdt at deru dot com email address got hit hard by spam. The spam continued throughout the next day and the next and the next. In a nutshell, spam continues to be a huge problem and spammers are criminals (or at least that is how they should be treated).

We went to the Arizona State Fair on the afternoon of 26 October 2007 and the first thing we encountered upon entering the fairgrounds was SPAM. (Note: there are even more SPAM at the 2006 Arizona State Fair.)

[10 November 2007, top]

Slashdot Digs the EFF
Slashdot digs the EFF. Slashdot is celebrating its 10-year anniversity during 2007 and they are having a charity auction. Monies raised by the auction will be donated to the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation).

I investigated getting a "swag package of items accrued over 10 years," but the current bid of $676.00 was too high for me.

Slashdot.org:: Slashdot 10-Year Anniversary Charity Auction for the EFF

[24 October 2007, top]

Computing Horror Stories
Somebody posted a message to the AZIPA mailing-list asking people to share their IT horror stories. The stories had to be expressed in 150 words or less. I submitted the following.
   I sent new software to 300+ stores one evening.
   The update script contained a defect that left
   a "flag" set that subsequently prevented all
   of the stores from "opening" on the next business
   day.  Resetting the flag required the tiny support
   staff to dial-up each store and execute a couple 
   of commands.

A second story, which I didn't submit, was the time I put a GUI front-end on the deleting of users from a Unix system. One option on the delete program was to remove all of the users files and directories. To avoid permission problems, the delete program was always executed with super-user privileges. The delete program used a recursive remove to remove files and directories. While testing the 'remove files' option on the delete program, I noticed the program was taking a lot longer than it should have been (e.g. a minute versus a few seconds). The reason for this was because the delete program did its recursive remove starting from the root directory instead of the deleted users home directory. I had to return to work that night to restore the test system.

[20 October 2007, top]

Three Computing Gurus Share Their Insights
A blogger at Barron's reported on a question and answer session with a panel at the TechCrunch 40 conference. The panel included Marc Andreessen (Mosaic/Netscape/Opsware/Ning), David Filo (co-founder of Yahoo!) and Chad Hurley (co-founder of YouTube). Some of their responses are worth reading.

Blogs.Barrons.com:: TC40: Moritz, Filo, Andreessen and Hurley

[11 October 2007, top]

NSF Allocating Funds for Computing Education
GDT's CSzero "Learning About Computing" died a few years ago, but the need for CSzero is stronger today than it was then.
   "The National Science Foundation's (NSF) Directorate for Computer 
    and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) has completed awarding 
    grants for its CISE Pathways to Revitalized Undergraduate Computing 
    Education (CPATH) program, an initiative that aims to transform 
    undergraduate computing education on a national scale. More than 
    25 institutions across the country received grants totaling $6 million."

$6 million is not much money, but it's better than nothing.

NSF.gov:: NSF Provides Funding to Transform Computing Education

[07 October 2007, top]

Google's AI Guru Speaks About AI
Google Director of Research is Peter Norvig. Norvig is an AI guru and he gave the opening keynote address at the second day of the Singularity conference, which drew about 800 attendees. The so-called singularity refers to the point at which advances in artificial intelligence will bring about self-improving machines that are smarter than humans.
   "That's the promise of what humans are. It's not the individual 
    intelligence but this collective intelligent culture."

CNET News.com:: Google's director of research talks AI

[07 October 2007, top]

Sun Microsoftsystems?
Microsoft Corporation and Sun Microsystems announced that "Sun has signed on as a Windows Server OEM. Additionally, Sun and Microsoft will collaborate to further enable deployment of Windows Server on Sun x64 systems."

Wow... this probably would have never happened with McNealy running Sun Microsystems. (But we should never say never.)

Sun.com:: Sun x64 Systems - Microsoft Windows Compatibility

[07 October 2007, top]

MCCCD IT Practices Need Improvement
The Maricopa County Community College District has been having problems with their Blackboard system. The following action was recommended.
   "Clean up the data base immediately.  The server is needlessly 
    burdened with unused/inactive courses and user IDs.  These 
    courses and inactive users burden and slow down the operations 
    of active classes and users."

If "unused/inactive courses" and "inactive users" cause a system to not work correctly, then the system is a piece of foo.

[07 October 2007, top]

Demand-Supply Ratio Will Eventually Favor ITers
GDT has said for many years that being a computer user does not make one computer literate. The following quotes basically says the same thing.
   "I don't think they are tech savvy. They're not aware of 
    technology, it's so regular and normal to use it they 
    don't consider it." -- Rob Bamforth, analyst for research 
    firm Quocirca

GDT agrees with the assessment that too many students are staying clear of fields that have right/wrong answers.

   "It does seem there are more complex subjects with definitely 
    right and wrong answers and that's more of a challenge for 
    some people. Everybody struggles to see the way scientific 
    subjects and maths as well are useful in the real world."
    -- Rob Bamforth, analyst for research firm Quocirca

Ding, ding, ding, ding... I agree with the following.

   "There's a perception problem with parents, teachers and 
    school kids themselves about the IT industry. It's seen 
    as a poor career choice, contrary to employment rates."
    -- Mike Rodd, director at the British Computer Society

ITpro.co.uk:: Why don't tech savvy students study IT?

[07 October 2007, top]

Wanted: Women in Computing (Still)
SCC question to Thurman back in 1997: How would grow CSC at SCC? Thurman's response: If the female-to-male ratio was 1:1, we would double the number of CSC students.

Fast foward to 2007 (i.e. a decade later).

   "If 50% of women became interested in IT, it would solve 
    the problem we have regarding the lack of talent in the 
    IT workforce." --Telle Whitney, president and CEO, 
    Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology

The following is true with respect to both women and men.

   "Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology President 
    Telle Whitney says the recent media focus on IT outsourcing 
    has convinced many women, and parents of college-aged students, 
    that IT does not have a solid future, which is partly to blame 
    for women's lack of interest in IT careers compared to men."

During the 1980s, America was able to attract women to computing, but most of that progress was lost during the last half of the 20th century.

   "The Information Technology Association of America reports that 
    the number of women in IT declined 20 percent from 1996 to 2004, 
    and the National Science Foundation says women received just 
    28 percent of computer science bachelor's degrees in the 
    United States in 2003, compared to 38 percent in 1985."

IT professionals that lack people skills will have sustainability issues.

   Whitney said: "If you ask both genders to identify what an IT 
   professional looks like, the answer is still that it's a man 
   with a pocket protector and glasses. And there is a belief 
   that you spend all of your time in front of a computer and 
   don't work with people, but the reality is quite different." 

Computing is a great career choice for women--too bad we continue to fail at getting this information public.

ITStrategyCenter.com:: Attracting Women to IT

[07 October 2007, top]

Jonathan Schwartz is This Session's DreamTeam Addition
Jonathan Schwartz is the CEO of Sun Microsystems. Schwartz is also a blogger and it appears as though he is turning things around at Sun. Although changing a company's stock symbol doesn't mean anything, Sun Microsystems has switched its stock symbol from SUNW to JAVA while Schwartz has been CEO. Java is a popular programming language. Stock symbols are typically attached with company names; therefore, Sun Microsystems (JAVA) is a constant reminder that Sun Microsystems created the Java object-oriented programming language.

BusinessWeek.com:: The 'Warrior' Within Jonathan Schwartz

[Extra] Carl Ichan has been buying lots of BEA Systems Inc.'s( BEAS) stock. According to Maps.Yahoo.com, Sun Microsystems is 2.6 miles from BEA Systems. BEA Systems was "founded in 1995 and is headquartered in San Jose, California," and Sun Microsystems was "founded in 1982 and is based in Santa Clara, California."

[Extra] Jonathan Schwartz was the Fall 2007 addition to the GDT::DreamTeam.

[05 October 2007, top]

Computer Professionals On the Forbes 400 List
Half of the top 10 richest Americans made their fortunes in the computing world.

For the 14th year in a row Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates top the Forbes 400 List of Richest Americans with a net worth of $59 billion. Paul Allen, another Microsoft co-founder, was #11 with a $16.8 billion net worth. Steven Ballmer, Microsoft's current CEO, was #16 with a $15.2 net worth.

Lawrence Ellison (Oracle) was #4 with a net worth of $26 billion.

Tied for 5th were Google's co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page. Brin (age 34) and Page (age 34) each have a net worth of $18.5 billion. Google's CEO, Eric Schmidt, was #48 with a net worth of $6.5 billion.

Some other computer professionals found on the Forbes 400 list.

   Michael Dell                #8         $17.2 billion
   Pierre Omidyar (eBay)       #32        $ 8.9 billion
   Jeffrey Bezos (Amazon)      #35        $ 8.7 billion
   Steven Jobs (Apple)         #56        $ 5.7 billion
   David Filo (Yahoo!)         #239       $ 2.0 billion
   Jerry Yang (Yahoo!)         #261       $ 1.9 billion
   Margaret Whitman (eBay)     #361       $ 1.4 billion

[22 September 2007, top]

European Union Wants Less Microsoft, More Choice
This should be good news for Microsoft competitors, but not so good news for Microsoft and its partners.
   "A European Union court backed a European Commission ruling that 
    Microsoft, the world's largest software maker, illegally abused 
    its market power to crush competitors.

    Europe's top competition regulator said the ruling could lead to 
    a 'significant drop' in Microsoft's 95 percent market share."

95 percent market share is a significant share of the market.

Matthew Szulik, Chairman and CEO of Red Hat, said the following about the EU's Microsoft ruling.

   "Today's decision by the Court of First Instance in Luxembourg in 
    the Microsoft matter is great news for innovation and consumer 
    choice, both in Europe and around the world. The Court has confirmed 
    that competition law prevents a monopolist from simply using its 
    control of the market to lock in customers and stifle new competitors."

Brad Smith, Microsoft general counsel, made the following comment.

   "The decision is not what we would have hoped for. To say anything 
    less would be less than candid. But it does provide us some new 
    clarity, and on that clarity I hope we can start to build a new 
    and stronger relationship with the European Commission."

[17 September 2007, top]

Talking About HPC in CSC100
The following tidbits were mentioned during the second week of CSC100 at SCC.

[tidbit] HPC (High Performance/Productivity Computing) can be accomplished using "clusters." A computer cluster is a collection of two or more computers that are viewed as a single computer.

[tidbit] LCI is the Linux Cluster Institute and Peter Ungaro is the CEO and president of Cray, Inc. Ungaro has predicted a "one million core system" within five years. {Wikipedia.org:: Multi-core (computing)}

[tidbit] Cray.com:: Scientists Develop Groundbreaking Strategies in Weather Prediction

[tidbit] Sony's PlayStation 3 (PS3) is part of Stanford's Folding@Home Distributed Computing project. In a nutshell: Idle machines become workers; there are numerous screen savers that do more than just save screens.

[tidbit] Knoppix.net:: Cluster Live CD turns a collection of unused personal computers into a cluster.

[tidbit] AzGrid.net:: The Next Era of Computing are notes from a lecture I gave during the Spring of 2007.

[16 September 2007, top]

Why Pay $59.95 When You Can Pay $0.00?
The following was posted to the Maricopa.edu "Announcements" mailing-list.
   "Today, September 12 is the launch of the Ultimate Steal for 
    Office 2007.  College students (any student w/university email 
    address) will be able to obtain a copy of Office 2007 Ultimate 
    for $59.95."

Why is this an "ultimate steal" when students (and anybody else for that matter) could get OpenOffice for $0.00? [Plus, no a university email address is required.]

Jonathan Schwartz, CEO of Sun Microsystems, wrote the following in his blog on 11 September 2007.

   "So get OpenOffice here, and tell your friends - if they'd like 
    Microsoft Office compatible office productivity software, at 
    home or at work or at school, they can get it.

    Free.

    In all the right senses of that word."

OpenOffice.org:: IBM Joins OpenOffice.org CommunitY

[12 September 2007, top]

C Gives Programmers Lots of Freedom
Narain Gehani is Chairman of the Computer Science Department at NJIT (New Jersey Institute of Technology. He has authored numerous computer books including a couple on the C programming language.
   "C is a flexible programming language that gives a great deal of
    freedom to the programmer.  This freedom is the source of much
    of its expressive power... However, undisciplined use of this
    freedom can lead to errors."

Gehani also wrote the following: "Unethical hackers have used the lack of array bounds checking in C to compromise some widely used C program by forcing 'buffer overflow' to get unauthorized access into networks and websites."

"Unethical hackers" are called crackers and crackers are huge fans of buffer overflows.

Books.Google.com:: C: ANSI C Edition by Narain Gehani.

[30 August 2007, top]

JAVA To Become Sun Microsystems New Stock Symbol
Sun Microsystems announced they are changing their stock symbol from SUNW to JAVA. Sun's CEO, Jonathan Schwartz, posted the following to his blog.
   "Because Java touches nearly everyone - everyone - who touches 
    the internet. Hundreds of millions of users see Java, and its 
    ubiquitous logo, every day. On PC's, mobile phones, game consoles 
    - you name it, wherever the network travels, the odds are good 
    Java's powering a portion of the experience."

   ...and...

   "What's that distribution and awareness worth to us? It's hard 
    to say - brands, like employees, aren't expenses, they're 
    investments. Measuring their value is more art than science. 
    But there's no doubt in my mind more people know Java than 
    Sun Microsystems. There's similarly no doubt they know Java 
    more than nearly any other brand on the internet."

Blogs.Sun.com::Jonathan:: The Rise of JAVA - The Retirement of SUNW

[24 August 2007, top]

VMware Has a Successful IPO
It appears as if virtualization is morphing into a growth industry. Despite poor market conditions, VMware had a successful IPO (Initial Public Offering). They sold 33 million shares (or about 10% of the company) to the public. VMware is majorily owned by EMC.

VMware, founded in 1998, has software that creates "multiple 'virtual' servers within a physical server. This saves customers money because they can pack more software onto servers."

Shortly after VMware went public, Citrix Systems announced it was paying $500 million for a small VMware rival called XenSource, which "sells 'virtualization' software products that help make servers more efficient."

Finance.Yahoo.com:: VMW

[23 August 2007, top]

IBM and Sun Microsystems to Collaborate
IBM and Sun Microsystems announced they are going to collaborate on server technologies. Initially, the plan is get Sun's Solaris operating system to run on IBM's "x" series of servers, but they also want to have Solaris running on IBM mainframes.
   "Our view is when you make your products available on 
    other people's platforms, you just meet more customers, 
    which just gives you more opportunities."
    --Jonathan Schwartz, Sun's CEO 

If I were a SysAdmin, I'd be excited about having the option to run Solaris on IBM hardware.

Blogs.Sun.com::Jonathan:: Momentous Day for Solaris

[17 August 2007, top]

Good, Free, Online C++ Tutorials
In a few days I will be starting a CSC100 class at SCC. CSC100 is titled "Introdution to Computer Science (CS) for Non-CS Majors." In a nutshell, it is an introductory programming course that uses C++ as the programming language. I'd like students to be able to take the course without purchasing a textbook; therefore, that means finding good C++ resources on the web that are provided for free (where free is as in free beer). CPlusPlus.com (great domain name) has a good looking tutorial.

CPlusPlus.com:: C++ Language Tutorial

[16 August 2007, top]

Usama Fayyad is a Data Mining Guru at Yahoo
The ACM (Association for Computing Machinery) has awarded its 2007 Innovation Award to Usama Fayyad. These days Fayyad is chief data officer and an executive vice president for Yahoo!. The ACM said Fayyad "made major contributions to the advancement of the data mining and knowledge discovery field, including machine learning and data mining algorithms that scale to large commercial database systems and the development of fundamental applications in mining massive science data sets that have lead to significant new scientific discoveries." Kudos to Fayyad and let's hope he has a long stay at Yahoo!.

[11 August 2007, top]

Hacker Usage in "What the Dormouse Said"
I started using the term "hacker" in character names (RoadHacker, FoodHacker, LitterHacker) not because I am a hacker, but because I wanted to maintain and restore the positive connotations that are attached to the title of "hacker."

The following is from the book "What the Dormouse Said" by John Markoff.

   Notes::Preface::#3
   "The meaning of the term 'hacker' changed beginning in the 
    early 1990s, when it came to refer to teenagers who used 
    modems to break into computers. Originally the term was 
    used to describe a group of almost exclusively young men 
    who were passionate in their obsession with computing and 
    computers.  This book uses the term in its original sense."

People who use computers to commit crimes are crackers. General rule of thumb: Hackers good; crackers bad.

[03 August 2007, top]

Hewlett-Packard Buys Opsware
Marc Andreessen posted to his blog about Hewlett-Packard buying Opsware. Now we have to wait to see if Ning goes public.

Blog.pMarcA.com:: HP buys my company Opsware for more than $1.6 billion in cash

[03 August 2007, top]

Doug Engelbart in "What the Dormouse Said"
The following are two notes from the book "What the Dormouse Said" by John Markoff.
Chapter 1: The Prophet and the True Believers (page 4)
   John Markoff wrote:
   "A dreamy engineer with a mind of his own, Doug Engelbart was 
    not an easy person to control.  He had joined the group in 1957, 
    and though he recognized that he had to earn his keep by working 
    on SRI projects, he arrived with own agenda: a scheme for building 
    a machine to 'augment' human intelligence."
Chapter 5: Dealing Lightning (page 148)
   John Markoff wrote:
   "On December 9, 1968, the oNLine System was shown publicly to the
    world for the first time. [...] In one stunning ninety-minute 
    session, he [Engelbart] showed how was possible to edit text 
    on a display screen, to make hypertext links from one electronic 
    document to another, and to mix text and graphics, and even video 
    and graphics.  He also sketched out a vision of an experimental 
    computer network to be called ARPAnet and suggested within a 
    year he would be able to give the same demonstration remotely 
    to locations across the country."

[21 July 2007, top]

IT Needs To Become Sexy (Sex Sells)
We need to get kids excited about computing and I'm not talking about high-school students. High-school aged students are *not* kids.
   "America's kids have concluded that infotech is a dead-end field for 
    nerd losers, and they're avoiding it like last month's ringtone."

Corporate America is going to have to play a whole role in turning young people onto computing.

   "Companies big and small desperately need well-rounded IT experts, 
    and that's a huge opportunity for young people and for the country."

Money.CNN.com:: Turning our backs on tech

[17 July 2007, top]

ACM, CPSR, EFF--Now Also a FSF Member
I became an Associate Member of the Free Software Foundation on 16 July 2007. I don't know why I waited so long to join the FSF, but that's now moot. I am currently a member of the following organizations: ACM (Association for Computing Machinery), CPSR (Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility), EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) and the FSF (Free Software Foundation).

[16 July 2007, top]

Informatics at Indiana University
Just like at Arizona State University, the University of Indiana is serious about getting into 21st century Informatics.

Informatics.Indiana.edu:: New leadership begins at IU School of Informatics

[15 July 2007, top]

Valued Versus Dead Computing Skills
ComputerWorld.com has posted a couple of articles hightlighting today's most and least desired skills.
   Dead skills:  Cobol, Nonrelational DBMS, Non-IP networks,
   cc:Mail, ColdFusion, C programming, PowerBuilder, Certified 
   NetWare Engineers, PC Network Admins, and OS/2.

   Valued skills:  Machine learning, mobilizing applications,
   wireless networking, human-computer interface, project management,
   general networking skills, network convergence technicians,
   open-source pgoramming, business intelligence systems,
   embedded security, digital home technology integration,
   .Net, C#, C++, Java--with an edge.

ComputerWorld.com:: 12 IT skills that employers can't say no to

[12 July 2007, top]

All of CS Needs Logic, But Not Necessarily Math
There are different levels of "computer science" and the levels don't require the same level of mathematics.
   "A new book seeks to demolish the concept that computer science 
    is rooted in mathematics and, in particular that the notion of 
    the algorithm is fundamental to computer science."

Algorithms themselves might not be necessary for all levels of CS, but all levels of CS do require the ability to do computational thinking.

   "Mathematicians and computer scientists are pursuing fundamentally 
    different aims, and the mathematician's tools are not as appropriate 
    as was once supposed to the questions of the computer scientist. The 
    primary questions of computer science are not of computational 
    possibilities but of expressional possibilities. Computer science 
    does not need a theory of computation; it needs a comprehensive 
    theory of process expression."

Interesting phrase... process expression. I can see how process expression and algorithms are different things. I agree with the following comment.

   "To say 'forget math' is not the issue. Math and CS are both 
    applications of logic. Let's see someone write an article called 
    'Want to do CS? Forget logic.' You can't do it."

ITWire.com:: Want to be a computer scientist? Forget maths

[09 July 2007, top]

Sophie Vandebroek Awarded National Medal of Technology
So many great things have discovered by Xerox. It appears the company is still a technology leader thanks to Sophie Vandebroek. This month (July, 2007), Vandebroek will receive National Medal of Technology from President Bush. Xerox is working on the "smart document." Sophie says: "I want the document to be smart enough so I don't need to worry about it."

Money.CNN.com:: Xerox's inventor-in-chief

[08 July 2007, top]

Following Jeanette Wing's Lead
Carnegie Mellon University computer science department head Jeanette Wing, who was selected by the NSF to lead its new Information Science and Engineering Directorate beginning in July, sat down with Computerworld to discuss her vision of the project. Computational thinking is the philosophy that "The ideas in computing, the abstractions we bring from CS, will pervade all other disciplines--not just other sciences and engineering --but also humanities, arts, social sciences, entertainment, and everything." She envisions algorithms created in the NSF project being applied in the future for uses that couldn't be predicted today. Wing is also an active supporter of computer science education, and believes that the public, specifically the youth, must be informed as to the "deep intellectual challenges that remain in the field." As far as gender inequality in computer science, Wing is more concerned with the overall drop in undergraduate enrollment and sees the need to show that the field is "not just geeky, nerdy types, and it's not just programming."

ComputerWorld.com:: Q&A: Jeanette Wing talks about upcoming NSF role

[Extra] News.CS.CMU.edu::
Carnegie Mellon Professor Jeannette Wing Chosen To Head NSF Computer & Information Science and Engineering Directorate

[08 July 2007, top]

Alcatel-Lucent's Bell Labs Lives
Yikes... this posting has been sitting un-posted since early April of 2007 (i.e. three months).

Bell Labs is currently part of Alcatel-Lucent and they have generated a lot of IP (Intellectual Property) over the last eight decades. From MarketWatch.com: "Susan Pan, a patent lawyer with the firm Sughrue Mion in Washington, D.C., said owners of Bell Labs-related patents benefit from historical diversity. 'Bell Labs had the luxury of being an early entrant and being able to pursue patents in a lot of different areas -- that is something they're reaping the rewards of presently,' Pan said."

How true... Bell Labs has patents in a "lot of different areas."

MarketWatch.com:: Bell Labs legend haunts courtroom tech rivals

[08 July 2007, top]

SCI's the Limit at ASU
SCI is "sky" at ASU. The SCI is the limit. Hopefully, SCI will have lots of blue sky in its future. SCI is the School for Computing and Informatics located within the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering. All college students need to be exposed to computing and informatics.

SCI.ASU.edu:: School of Computing and Informatics at Arizona State University

[21 June 2007, top]

What's a Collaboration Engineer?
I saw the following on the email signature of somebody who posted a help wanted advertisement to the aztech-work mailing-list.
   Somebody's name
   Collaboration, Engineer
   somebody@somecompany.com

Collaboration is not just a 21st century buzzword: it's a keyword.

[21 June 2007, top]

Andreessen Blogging About Virtualization
The following about virtualization was copied from Marc Andreessen's blog.
   "Virtualization is the biggest thing to hit the operating 
    system world since protected memory.

    Why?

    Virtualization -- in the form of software like Parallels and 
    VMWare Fusion -- lets you deal with an individual operating 
    system as if it were an application.

    You can install it, copy it, back it up, revert it, and (critically) 
    delete it just like you can do those things to applications.

    This is incredibly useful when dealing with normal operating 
    systems like Linux."

    This is invaluable when dealing with an operating system like 
    Windows XP that can become easily corrupted or degraded over time."

Key point: Virtualization treats operating systems as if they are applications.

[21 June 2007, top]

Google Acquires Peakstream
Google has acquired a startup called PeakStream that specializes in software programming tools for high performance, multi-core and parallel processors.
   Google said, "We believe the PeakStream team's broad technical 
   expertise can help build products and features that will benefit 
   our users. We look forward to providing them with additional 
   resources as they continue developing high performance applications 
   for modern multi-core systems."

According to the press release, PeakStream advertises that it "makes it easy to program new high performance, multi-core and parallel processors, and convert them into radically powerful computing engines for computationally intense applications."

Radar.OReilly.com:: Google's Acquisition of Peakstream

[21 June 2007, top]

EFF and Novell Want To Reform Patents
Computing and law -- what a powerful combination.

Novell and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) announced they are teaming up to work on reforms to software patents worldwide. "It is increasingly obvious that software patents are not a meaningful measure of innovation," said Jeff Jaffe, executive vice president and chief technology officer at NOVL. "As a long-time innovator in the industry and a holder of many significant patents, we understand the rationale behind the patent system in general. But we believe that software patent system reform is necessary to promote software innovation going forward."

EFF.org:: Novell and EFF Team Up to Reform Software Patents

[16 June 2007, top]

Google VP of People Operations on Immigration
The following quotes were copied from BusinessWeek Online. The quotes are from Laszlo Bock, Vice-President for People Operations at Google, Inc. Bock's quotes are from immigration testimony that he gave to Congress.
   "The fact is that we are in a fierce worldwide competition 
    for top talent unlike ever before. As companies in India, 
    China, and other countries step up efforts to attract highly 
    skilled employees, the United States must continue to focus 
    on attracting and retaining these great minds."

Many people have claimed that working at Google is like working at the United Nations.

   "Immigrants from countries like Canada, Iran, and Switzerland 
    now lead our business operations, global marketing, global 
    business development, and data infrastructure operations."

Google was co-found by Sergey Brin. Brin was born on 21 August 1973.

   "Sergey's parents fled the Soviet Union in 1979 when he 
    was six. A first-generation American, he is now one of 
    the most successful entrepreneurs in the world."

Google just recently opened a second center of operations in Israel.

   "However, many of our core products are created and improved here 
    in the U.S., and we believe that worker satisfaction is higher 
    when employees can work in the location they prefer.  Being able 
    to have H-1B visa holders remain in the U.S., building our products 
    and expanding our business, also translates into more jobs and 
    greater economic growth here at home."

How ironic--Bock, an immigrant, speaking to the U.S. Congress on the controversial topic of immigration.

   "I will take a moment to note, Madam Chair, that I, too, am an 
    immigrant to America. My parents came here when they fled 
    communist Romania when I was a child. My mother is here with 
    me today. I cannot begin to tell you what a proud moment this 
    is for her--and a humbling one for me. Under the Ceausescu 
    dictatorship, she could not have dreamed of her son testifying 
    before a committee of the United States Congress."

There is talk about immigration transitioning into a meritocracy; immigration into the U.S. based on merit instead of the womb.

After a short discussion about immigration with another person, I realized that my editorial comment about not all wombs being equal needs elaboration. When time permits, I will expand on "merit-based" immigration using a GDT::Speaks.

[07 June 2007, top]

The ACM Turns 60
The Communications of the ACM for May 2007 (Volume 50, Number 5) was about "ACM at Sixty: A look back in time." The "Viewpoint" section was "The Rime of the Ancyent Programmer" by Stephen B. Jenkins.

The "rime" started with...

   "There was ancyent programmer,
    a hacker proud was he,
    and though well past his prime, he knew
    a thing or two or three."

   "His hair was in a ponytail,
    his bushy beard gone gray,
    his face lined with years of toil,
    and this he had to say:"

My access to the computing world is enabled by Unix systems. And the following verse was a favorite.

   "Those first few years I worked in C,
    but soon I learned that knack
    of using scripting languages
    and never have looked back."

I have advocated that BASH makes an excellent introductory programming language given the student knows how to use BASH as a command-line interpreter.

Jenkins ultimately found Perl.

   "The language, it was Perl, of course,
    I took to right away,
    It was such fun, to get things done,
    that work seemed more like play,"

Jenkins also found Linux and Open Source, but let's jump to the last verse of 53 versus.

   "I know the old programmer well;
    so well, because you see...
    that bearded, balding, code hacker
    is none other than me."

Thank You Stephen B. Jenkins for writing your "rime" and Thank You to the ACM for printing it in the May 2007 edition of the Communications of the ACM.

[02 June 2007, top]

Slashdot Poll--Best Munchies for Coding?
Slashdot conduct a poll wanting to know the "best muchies for coding?" The choices were limited to "potato chips, pretzels, corn chips, pizza pockets, popcorn, nanchos and salsa, cheetos and neal mix." As of "Thu May 24 06:51:14 MST 2007" the outcome was too close to call with pretzels #1 at 17%, nachos and salsa #2 at 16% and pizza pockets #3 at 15%. I cannot visualize eating chips and salsa while coding. What's neal mix?

Slashdot.org:: Best munchies for coding?

[24 May 2007, top]

Peak Loads Are When Systems Are Most Critical
The Maricopa Community Colleges HRMS (Human Resource Management System) was "appearing" to have "intermittent problems."
   "The problem was resolved.  It only effected a small number 
    of users, and then only at peak loads."

It appears as though the HRMS had problems; not that it was just giving the "appearance" of having problems.

I recall a HIS (Hotel Information System) that basically helped a small company go out of business because it didn't work well "only at peak loads." In other words, it is at peak loads that systems are most critical. For example, in the hotel environment, a peak load occurs when there's a line of people needing to checkout so they can catch a plane.

[22 May 2007, top]

Computer Related Degrees are In-Demand
The 13 April 2007 edition of the Phoenix Business Journal published a list of "Hot Jobs" (i.e. the most in-demand college degrees). The list started with accounting number one and business administration number two; however, computer science was third, information sciences and systems was sixth and computer engineering was eighth. In other words, three of the top 10 most in-demand degrees were computer related. Note: electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and civil engineering were fourth, fifth and ninth, respectively.

[04 May 2007, top]

Computational Thinking and the Unix Philosophy
It was nice to hear the Computer Science faculty from the University of Arizona mention "computational thinking" at the Spring 2007 ATF meeting. I was able to share with them that I had just (yesterday) given a talk about the next era of computing in which I ended by saying something about "computational thinking."

I am going to investigate if the Unix philosophy can be used as an introduction to "computational thinking." In order to get started, I must first come up with an "official" definition for "computational thinking."

CS.Rutgers.edu:: Computational Thinking [fall 2006]

[04 May 2007, top]

Computer Users Paying Patent Taxes
Patents are complicated things... the next decade or two are going to be great for good patent lawyers--even the just good enough lawyers will make money for a while. There are many who believe it makes no sense to patent software, but existing algorithms must change and new algorithms must be invented in order for software to take advantage of HPC (High-Performance/Productivity Computing).
   "According to a calculation done by the Software Freedom 
    Law Center (SFLA), users of Microsoft Windows are paying 
    as much as $21.50 more for each copy of the operating system 
    they buy, thanks to the so-called 'patent tax' that Microsoft 
    is forced to pay to various companies that hold software patents."

ARSTechnica.com:: Windows costs $21.50 extra in "patent tax"

[Extra] Speaking of Microsoft...
Steve Ballmer, Microsoft's CEO, was quoted saying: "Google built one very good business. They only have one thing they do. Everything else is sort of cute." Let's hope we get more "cute" stuff from Google.

[Extra++] Speaking of Microsoft...
Slashdot.org:: Bill Gates Talk From 1989 Surfaces

[04 May 2007, top]

California Remains Technological Leader
AeA, the country's largest technology trade association, issued an extensive technology report and some of the findings are presented in this posting.
   "U.S. tech industry employed 5.8 million people last 
    year -- up 2.6 percent from 2005. The industry gained 
    nearly 147,000 positions in 2006, compared with 87,400 
    jobs added in 2005."

Although I don't see it at the Maricopa Community Colleges, software is a growth industry.

   "The strongest subcategory of technology in the 10th annual 
    AeA report was software, which employed more than 1.5 million 
    people and created 88,500 new jobs last year."

Not just anybody can build computers and write computer programmers and that is being reflected in salaries.

   "The average technology worker nationwide earns $75,500, 
    86% more than the average private sector wage of $40,500."

The unemployment rate implies "full employment."

   "The unemployment rate for computer scientists last year was 
    2.5 percent, and for electrical engineers it was 1.9 percent."

California, Texas and Florida remain the spots to be if you're into technology.

   "California added 14,400 tech jobs and employed 919,300 tech 
    workers last year, more than double No. 2 Texas and more than 
    triple No. 3 New York.  The state with the fastest rate of tech 
    job growth was Florida, where the sector employed 276,400 people 
    -- mostly at software companies spread from Tallahassee to Miami."

Silicon Valley is also a leading biotech hub.

[28 April 2007, top]

Research and Development Spending
It is important that comporate America pumps money into research and development efforts. When it comes to R&D spending, Microsoft, IBM are Intel and the three leaders.
   Company                R&D Spending
                          (in millions)
   ====================================
   Microsoft              $6,584
   IBM                    $6,107
   Intel                  $5,873
   Hewlett Packard        $3,591
   Texas Instruments      $2,195
   Sun Microsystems       $2,046
   Oracle                 $1,872
   SAP                    $1,781
   Google                 $1,228
   AMD                    $1,206

CIOInsight.com:: I.T.'s Top 81 R&D Spenders

[21 April 2007, top]

School of Computers and Informatics at ASU
I am looking forward to ASU's last Discovery Tour for the Spring 2007 semester. How do we define inter-disciplinary?

Dr. Sethuraman Panchanathan (Panch), Director of the new School of Computing and Informatics, will "describe his new school and how the new school will pursue informatics education and research in partnership with the Arts, Media and Engineering program, the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, the School of Life Sciences, the Department of Mathematics and Statistics, the Department of Psychology, the Biodesign Institute, the Global Institute for Sustainability, W.P. Carey School of Business, the College of Nursing and Healthcare Innovation, the School of Earth and Space Exploration, the Center for Law, Science and Technology and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences."

The "tour" is at 4:00pm on Tuesday, 8 May 2007, at the ASU Brickyard located on Mill Avenue in Tempe, Arizona.

SCI.ASU.edu:: School of Computing and Informatics

[14 April 2007, top]

Car Technology Versus Computer Technology
The book "Math Through the Ages" contains the following quote from "The Analytical Engine" written in 1990 by R. Decker and S. Hirshfield.
   "There has never been a technology in the history of the 
    world that has progressed as fast as computer technology... 
    If automotive technology had progressed as fast as computer 
    technology between 1960 and today, the car of today would 
    have an engine less than a one tenth of an inch across; the 
    car would get 120,000 miles to a gallon of gas, have a top 
    speed of 240,000 miles per hour and it cost $4."

The "today" in the previous quote was in 1990.

[04 April 2007, top]

CSC100 At SCC During Fall 2007 Semester
The following was created for the Advisement Center at Scottsdale Community College (SCC).
CSC100     3-credits      Tuesday/Thursday       1:30-2:45 
"Introduction to Computer Science for Non-Computer Majors"

CSC100 is an introductory programming course that is used to introduce Computer Science (CS) to non-CS majors. The course satisfies the Computer and Statistics requirement for many degrees and certificates available from the MCCCD.

CSC100 introduces programming concepts to students using the C++ programming language; however, C++ is used mostly as a better "C". The software methodologies of "object-oriented" and "generic" are covered, but "structured" programs are written.

CSC100 should be taken by students interested in math, science, engineering and healthcare. At this point and time, it should not be taken by CS majors. Beyond the Fall 2007 semester, CSC100 will count as a CS1 course at ASU (Tempe campus at a minimum), UofA and NAU.

[29 March 2007, top]

Tempe-based Limelight Networks Going Public
Tempe, Arizona-based Limelight Networks Inc. has filed a Form S-1 for an IPO (Initial Public Offering). Limelight Networks is a "provider of high-performance content delivery network services. They digitally deliver content for traditional and emerging media companies, or content providers, including businesses operating in the television, music, radio, newspaper, magazine, movie, videogame and software industries. Using Limelight's content delivery network, or CDN, content providers are able to provide their end-users with a high-quality media experience for rich media content, including video, music, games, software and social media."

At a minimum, Limelight Networks' PR group are buzzword-aware: high-performance, media companies, content provider, rich media, TV, music, video, games, software and social media.

Limelight Networks is estimating that their IPO will result in "net proceeds of approximately $113.9 million." The company could net $138.3 million if over-allotments are exercised.

SEC.gov:: Limelight Networks Inc. Form S-1

[28 March 2007, top]

CSC-IC Joins the New ENV-IC
The Maricopa Community Colleges are in the process of creating an ENV-IC (i.e. an instructional council for environmental studies). CSC was given an opportunity to join the ENV-IC so it did. The ENV-IC includes members from the following existing ICs: Agriculture, Applied Technology, Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Engineering, Geography, Geology, Mathematics and Physics.

Arizona's second annual Nanotechnology Symposium was held on 23 March 2007. Dr. Wade Adams was the morning keynote speaker and his talk was about how technology will play a key role in allaying many of our upcoming energy issues. Technology, which includes computing, will also play a major role in helping with looming environmental issues.

[27 March 2007, top]

DreamTeam Additions: Jeannette Wing and Brian Behlendorf
Jeannette Wing, head of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University, has been added to the GDT::DreamTeam. Wing is the third woman to make the team. Dr. Wing believes strongly in the power of "computational thinking" and is an advocate of CS education.

Opsware, whose chairman is DreamTeam member Marc Andreesseen, announced that CollabNet joined its Technology Alliance Partner program. CollabNet provides "on-demand collaborative software development solutions." Brian Behlendorf is co-founder and CTO of CollabNet. DreamTeam member Tim O'Reilly is on CollabNet's board of directors. It should have happened a long time ago, but I have finally added Brian Behlendorf to the GDT::DreamTeam.

[16 March 2007, top]

Numerous DreamTeam Members Considered i-Technology Heroes
Web2.0 Journal had an article titled "Who Are The All-Time Heroes of i-Technology?" It's a long article, but many of those listed are also GDT::DreamTeam members.
   Tim Berners-Lee, James Gosling, Bill Joy, Mitch Kapor,
   Brian Kernighan, Tim O'Reilly, Rob Pike, Dennis Ritchie,
   Richard Stallman, Bjarne Stroustrup and Ken Thompson.

There were other names mentioned, but I'll save those for a future posting.

Rob Pike, who is currently a commander at Google, was quoted saying the following.

   "The Web is too large to fit on a single machine so it's 
    no surprise that searching the Web requires the coordination 
    of many machines, too. A single Google query may touch over 
    a thousand machines before the results are returned to the 
    user, all in a fraction of a second."

Web2Journal.com:: Who Are The All-Time Heroes of i-Technology?

[06 March 2007, top]

Warren Buffett Likes Susan Decker
Susan Decker, Yahoo!'s CFO, must be good. Warren Buffett's company, Berkshire Hathaway Inc., announced that Decker will be joining their board. Buffett wrote in his annual letter to shareholders that Berkshire Hathaway was "looking to expand its next generation of leadership." Kudos to Susan Decker.

It was reported that Buffett said his company is looking for young people who are "genetically programmed to recognize and avoid serious mistakes, including those never before encountered." He wants "independent thinking, emotional stability and a keen understanding of both human and institutional behavior is vital to long-term investment success." Buffett made a point to indicate that Decker's age was 44 (young compared to his). Again, Kudos to Susan Decker.

[05 March 2007, top]

The Death of Computing?
I am seeing Computer Science programs at U.S. universities undergoing significant restructuring.
   "The environment within which computing operates in the 21 century 
    is dramatically different to that of the 60s, 70s, 80s and even 
    early 90s. Computers are an accepted part of the furniture of 
    life, ubiquitous and commoditised."

Who needs C when there's Ruby on Rails?

Neil McBride is a principal lecturer in the School of Computing, De Montfort University.

   "Computer science curricula are old, stale and increasing irrelevant."
   "Perhaps this represents an early move towards a new kind 
    of computing discipline. As the roots rot and the tree 
    falls a vast array of new saplings appear. Those saplings 
    may be the start of a new inter-discipline: new computing 
    for the 21st century."

BCS.org:: The death of computing

[01 March 2007, top]

Opsware Prepared for 11 March 2007
11 March 2007 is a milestone date in the computing world. I don't think it is as significant as 1 January 2000, but it might still cause a few problems some of which could be major.

Beginning in 2007, Daylight Saving Time (DST) will be observed from the second Sunday in March (instead of the first Sunday in April) to the first Sunday in November (instead of the last Sunday in October).

Dates and times have always been difficult objects to keep sane in the computing world. Many older programs have been written assuming there would never be a change to when DST occurs; therefore, these programs might contain hard-coded behavior. This hard-coded behavior could be problematic.

The following was copied from an Opsware press release.

   "Having systems out of synch with the change in Daylight 
    Saving Time could have a devastating effect on an enterprise 
    and, if not addressed immediately, has the potential to 
    significantly impact the bottom line," said Tim Howes, 
    CTO of Opsware Inc.

Opsware.com:: New Daylight Saving Time Can Wreak Havoc on Computer Software

[28 February 2007, top]

IT -- A Sustainable Career
For some reason people continue to ignore this upcoming supply/demand imbalance.
   "The percentage of IT workers over the age of 55 is expected 
    to increase from 13 percent in 2000 to 17 percent in 2010, 
    according to the U.S. Department of Labor."

   "Former U.S. Secretary of Labor Robert Reich predicts that while 
    21 million new IT workers will be needed in the next five years, 
    the field will come up 4 million workers short."

   "This is largely due to the 39 percent decrease in the number of 
    students choosing computer science as a field of study between 
    2000 and 2004."

If "older" IT workers keep current with their skills, then they should have minimal problems sustaining their careers. In computing, experience has lots of value.

PCWorld.com:: The Graying of the IT Workforce

[Extra] Computer Science is not a "hot" major these days at universities.

   "After peaking in 1999 and 2000, interest in CS as a major 
    fell 70 percent between 2000 and 2005. In the fall of 2006, 
    1.1 percent of incoming freshmen indicated CS as their 
    probable major, the same as in 2005."

CRA.org:: Low Interest in CS and CE Among Incoming Freshmen

[27 February 2007, top]

Rugged Laptop News Item
I was driving to SCC on the morning of 27 February 2007 and heard a weird news story on the radio. A driver was using their laptop while driving their little car. They crossed the median and had a head-on collision with a Hummer. The driver of the little car died, but their laptop survived.

[27 February 2007, top]

Software That Does Text Enrichment
According to BusinessWeek.com, "Israel-based WhiteSmoke has devised a program that, by checking against a vast database, makes English text more fluent. Its top market? The U.S." This is yet another example of 21st century informatics.

BusinessWeek.com:: Software That Will This Sentence Fix

[22 February 2007, top]

Metcalfe Inducted Into Inventors Hall of Fame
From Slashdot on 11 February 2007 we learned that Bob Metcalfe, a creator of Ethernet, was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame.
   "Bob Metcalfe, along with David Boggs, created Ethernet technology 
    while the two were researchers Xerox PARC in 1973. Originally, the 
    technology transmitted data at 3Mbps over thick coaxial cable. Today 
    Ethernet travels as fast as 10Gbps, and runs over mostly twisted pair 
    copper and fiber optic cabling. Ethernet became an IEEE standard, known 
    as 802.3, in 1983. Metcalfe took his invention to the market in 1979 
    when he founded networking company 3Com."

Metcalfe's law: "The value of a telecommunications network is proportional to the square of the number of users of the system." Metcalfe's law has been disputed: "The value of a network with n members is not n squared, but rather n times the logarithm of n."

In 2003, Metcalfe received the National Medal of Technology and in 1996 he was awared an IEEE Medal of Honor.

[15 February 2007, top]

New DeadTeam Member: Jean Ichbiah
Jean Ichbiah, the chief designer of the Ada programming language, died on 26 January 2007. Jean received a Certificate of Distinguished Service from the DoD (Department of Defense) for his Ada efforts. Bertrand Meyer wrote: "I learned with great sadness that Jean Ichbiah, who played such an important role in the history of European informatics, passed away on the 26th, from a brain tumor." {GDT:: DeadTeam}

[09 February 2007, top]

Jim Gray Still Missing at Sea
James N. Gray, computing guru and GDT DreamTeam member, was reported lost at sea on 28 January 2007. As of 9 February 2007, I have been unable to find any updated news. An extensive search for Dr. Gray has been executed, but all efforts to find him have failed.

In 1998, Gray received the Turing Award "for seminal contributions to database and transaction processing research and technical leadership in system implementation." While searching the Internet for some updated information Gray, I came across an interview with him conducted by ACM Queue during June of 2003.

ACMQueue.org:: A Conversation with Jim Gray

[09 February 2007, top]

Software is Hard
I am looking forward to reading the book Dreaming in Code by Scott Rosenberg. The book is about the development of Mitch Kapor's "Chandler," an "open source effort to rethink the world of e-mail and scheduling." Rosenberg spent three years following the work of the Chandler developers and he tells their stories in "Dreaming in Code."

Salon.com:: Software is hard

[04 February 2007, top]

Difficult Daylight-Savings-Time Switch Coming Up
I have no doubts that the following is a "big deal."
   "At first blush it may seem like no big deal: clocks will 
    move ahead by an hour three weeks earlier than usual this 
    year. But for today's networked businesses, the simple change 
    could mean complex problems if IT shops aren't prepared, 
    industry experts say."

I didn't know we were changing when we switch to DST (daylight savings time).

   "For more than two decades, daylight-saving time has begun on 
    the first Sunday of April and reverted to standard time on the 
    last Sunday in October. But beginning this year, due to the Energy 
    Policy Act of 2005, the daylight-saving schedule will be extended 
    by a month, with the period beginning on the second Sunday in March 
    and ending on the first Sunday in November. Legislators backing the 
    change say it will save some 100,000 barrels of oil a day."

Again, I can see how this can be a problem for many computer systems.

NetworkWorld.com:: Daylight Saving changes: No Y2K, but there could be headaches

[31 January 2007, top]

Jim Gray Missing at Sea
Let's hope this turns okay...
   [source: MercuryNews.com]
   "Jim Gray, founder and manager of Microsoft's Bay Area 
    Research Center, is missing after he left Sunday morning 
    for what he told family was a day sailing trip to the Farallon 
    Islands to dispose of his mother's ashes."

Gray is a GDT::DreamTeam member. He was awarded an A.M. Turing Award in 1998 for his "body of work, which helped paved the way for automatic-teller machines, computerized airline reservations and e-commerce."

[30 January 2007, top]

Mouse Rage Syndrome?
Time and time again I can't believe the mouse is still a primary way to input data into a computer. I've never had "Mouse Rage Syndrome," but I understand how the computer mouse can cause a "medical syndrome recognizable by a quickening of the heart, profuse sweating, and furious clicking and bashing of the mouse. In extreme cases, the ailment can be identified by loud screaming at video screens."
   "What's the root cause of Mouse Rage Syndrome? It's primarily 
    caused by badly designed and hosted Web sites."

EETimes.com:: Are you suffering from 'Mouse Rage Syndrome?

[28 January 2007, top]

Lessig Writes About Network Neutrality
Wired 15.01 has a posting by Lawrence Lessig on Net Neutrality. Lessig writes about "last-mile broadband" and the issue of "traditional broadband providers" versus "municipal broadband." Lessig is looking for a "Linux-like miracle to counteract innovation-threatening broadband business models."
   "We pro-regulators were making an assumption that history 
    has shown to be completely false: That something as complex 
    as an OS has to be built by a commercial entity. Only crazies 
    imagined that volunteers outside the control of a corporation 
    could successfully create a system over which no one had 
    exclusive command. We knew those crazies. They worked on 
    something called Linux.

Wired.com:: I Blew It on Microsoft

[16 January 2007, top]

K-12 Students Need More Computing
There was discussion about Arizona K-12 students learning more math. I again spoke-up about Arizona K-12 students learning more computing. Somebody on the AzCentral.com thinks my point of view is crazy.
   Comment from: Bob9352

   12/28/06 @ 10:23
   I wonder what planet Gerald lives on. Why would somebody running 
   a check-out computer at Walmarts need to write code? Are they going 
   to reprogram it? People who actually write code have a BS in computer 
   science, or something similar.

   Comment from: Gerald8100

   01/02/07 @ 06:13
   To Bob9352: I live happily on planet earth. Learning how to program 
   a computer opens up the true power of the Internet. Learning how to 
   code has enabled many people to realize their American dreams and that 
   is going to be even more true in the 21st century. Go look at the list 
   of the top 10 richest Americans--40% of them made their fortunes thanks 
   to computing.

   Also to Bob9352: I know many fine programmers who don't have a BS in 
   CS. Heck they don't have a BS in anything. I agree with those who 
   believe learning how to program can potentially help develop math 
   skills. Students that learn how to program, but don't want to invest 
   the time learning calculus, will be able to have decent life-long careers.

[16 January 2007, top]

The World is Full of Bad Software
A computer science instructor named Platt thinks our world is full of bad software; however, I take exception with the following.
   "The problem, says consultant David Platt, lies not with the user 
    but with the programmers, who just don't think like the people 
    who use their products."

It's easy to blame the programmer, but it is the employer's who are ultimately responsible. Microsoft has had great success producing "just good enough software;" therefore, many software companies follow Microsoft's lead.

I agree with Platt on the following: "Error messages represent software communication at its worst."

I also agree with Platt that programmers must constantly remind themselves of the following: "Your user is not you."

Platt has recently written a book titled "Why Software Sucks ... And What You Can Do About It." It might be an interesting read.

[04 January 2007, top]

Math is Important, But So is Computing
There has been discussion on AzCentral.com about high-school students needing "more math." I've commented that they also need some computing, but not everybody agrees. The following is a copy of one of my comment in which I list my five top programmers.

Comment from: Gerald8100 on 01/03/07 @ 15:41

Hello Bob9352... I think you and I banged heads over e-voting systems. Now we disagree over the importance of learning about computer programming. At least we're chatting.

Bob9352 wrote: "Learning how to program a computer has nothing to do with using the internet."

Using the word 'nothing' makes you wrong. Learning to program Web 2.0 is all about Internet because the Web depends on the Internet. There would be no web as we know it without the Internet. There would be no web without programmers writing programs.

Bob9352 wrote: "Finally, I suspect your standards for "fine programmers" don't meet those of most employers of programmers."

My top five programmers are: 1) Ken Thompson (now a Fellow at Entrisphere), (2) Dennis Ritchie (now at Alcatel-Lucent, but same office), (3) Rob Pike (now a Commander at Google), (4) Linus Torvalds (now at the Open Source Development Lab doing Linux) and (5) Larry Wall (Mr. Perl).

Bob9352 wrote: "Suggesting to any talented HS student that they could bypass college training with an intro course in programming would be a very bad piece of advice."

I agree that it probably would be a "very bad piece of advice" and most times I wouldn't think of giving it. Never the less, if the right type of geek comes along, in some cases, it could be excellent advice. If geek gets excited--watch out.

[04 January 2007, top]

The ACM Honors Yahoo! Researchers
Yahoo! Inc. announced that Senior Vice President and Chief Data Officer, Dr. Usama Fayyad, has been chosen as a 2006 Fellow of the Association of Computing Machinery (ACM).
   "Fayyad was recognized for his extensive contributions to the fields 
    of machine learning and data mining and for his significant scientific 
    and commercial applications in the field of knowledge discovery in 
    databases. As Yahoo!'s chief data officer and senior vice president 
    of research & strategic data solutions, Fayyad is responsible for 
    Yahoo!'s overall data strategy, as well as overseeing the Yahoo! 
    Research organization."

A big "YAHOO!" to Dr. Fayyad for his ACM award.

Yahoo! has an outstanding research organization.

   "In continued demonstration of Yahoo!'s world-class Research team, 
    Fayyad joins three current ACM Fellows at Yahoo!: Ron Brachman, 
    vice president, Yahoo! Research operations; Prabhakar Raghavan, 
    head of Yahoo! Research and Raghu Ramakrishnan, vice president, 
    Yahoo! Research. In addition to Fayyad's honor, newly appointed 
    2006 ACM Distinguished Scientists from Yahoo! include Jan Pedersen, 
    chief scientist for search and marketplace, and John Tomlin, 
    senior research scientist."

A big "YAHOO!" to Yahoo!

[04 January 2007, top]

About Computing Bits
The Computing Bits blog was created on 14 September 2001 and it starts 2007 with 221 postings. Computing Bits is a blog that supports "learning about computing a bit at a time." It is a great time to live in the computing world and I am looking forward to creating some fun bits this year.

Computing Bits Archives: 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003-02-01

[01 January 2007, top]


Author: Gerald D. Thurman [deru@deru.com]
Last Modified: Saturday, 05-Jan-2013 11:18:31 MST

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