January 31, 2003
Bits ... in ... Spa-a-a-ace!!
NASA is working on hooking up its missions to the 'net. They're running Red Hat, so that should be OK then.
Posted by daen at 09:30 PM
"Soul of a New Machine" by Tracy Kidder
This isn't really a review of the book : for that, or to order it , visit Amazon. This blog entry is sort of a personal perspective on re-reading "SoaNM" nearly twenty years later.
For those of you who haven't read it, "Soul of a New Machine" is the story of the people behind a new computer being designed at Data General in the late 1970s.
I'm fully re-reading this book after nearly twenty years. Normally, I re-read books after a couple of years, but this one got lent to someone who a) lives a long way away and b) never quite got around to reading it after a long time. I went and retrieved it in 2000 and started to re-read it early 2001.
I put it back on the bookshelf after reading the first 20 pages. It bored me.
Now, the funny thing is that when I first read "Soul of a New Machine", I was from cover to cover in a couple of days. What changed?
In 1999, I went through a number of shall we say "life change" which, for a while, turned me off computers. One of these was the failure of my software business. Another was the elopement of my wife with one of my employees, a software developer. I got very depressed. What would Dr Freud have made of it all? :-).
Now, more than two years on, things look very different again.
On Monday I picked the book up again and started reading it. And to my surprise, it was once more the interesting book I first read.
What's going on here? I'm back into computers again, for a start. There's a lot of fun things happened in technology since 1999 - the rise of blogging, for a start. And GPS-for-the-masses. I'm living with someone I love very much in a great apartment in Copenhagen. My life is stable again. I'm working in a different country in a different industry. I'm not earning as much, but I am getting an education.
But what does it mean? When I first read the book, I was a teenager who dreamt of getting into programming, who tinkered around a bit at home with his ZX-80 (later an Atari 400, then an 800) and fooled around a bit with electronics. One lucky break, 17 years and umpteen jobs later ... well, it didn't quite turn out the way I expected. Is that what my renewed interest in the book means? Am I yearning once again for a challenging software job where you work weekends and long hours for basic pay, where the reward is seeing your code ship in a product, and the intellectual stimulation is enough? If that's what it is, then I'm kidding myself, because I was never that good. A lot of my code never made it into a product. I know I have some of my work from 1997 and 1998 still chundering away on a deal-routing system in a high street bank in London (and New York and Singapore and probably Hong Kong). Whoopee-doo.
The environment that the book describes has gone - forever. Data General was described as being close to half-billion dollar company. I'm not sure, but even in these troubled economic times, I don't think a $500mn company is so huge. I world for a small pharma company, and their annual turnover is close to $250mn. Even taking inflation into account, that puts the value of my employer close to DG's value in the book at present day prices. The playing field was also, I guess, changing dramatically in the late 1970s for hardware and software companies in the US, so a book about DG five years later might have had the company at a much greater value. But then again, DG is now part of EMC, the storage vendors, and the North American Data General Users' Group shut down on October 31 2001. Eclipse and NOVA, like VAX and PDP before them, are solidly consigned to the category of legacy systems.
And attitudes have changed. Po Bronson drew the distinction in his excellent book about life in Silicon Valley, "The Nudist on the Late Shift", that software developers and techies in the late 90's were more likely to be free-wheeling haxx0r/contract types on massive hourly rates than "signed-up" corporate engineers on a fixed salary. Now the dotcom bubble has ... well, let's say deflated ... the contrast might not be so clear, of course. I've tried both approaches, and they've both got their ups and downs.
I think the poignancy of this disappeared world - the people and companies in "SoaNM", my own (largely unfulfilled) career potential, the occasional connection I've had with the experiences of the people in the book - has made it more appealing once again.
I'm receptive again to what it has to say. I'm missing the teamwork that the book describes. I miss the mental stimulation that programming brings.
But I think my next set of intellectual puzzles will be from a different direction. A student friend of mine from last year's Open University course, Ron Beemster, e-mailed me this morning to say he'd landed a PhD in bio-engineering. I'm really envious but also very happy for Ron. I'd like to go in that direction, too.
And that's what "SoaNM" has chimed with in me, again : the possibility of new paths to follow and a new set of puzzles to solve - and probably another new career ...
Posted by daen at 01:56 PM
"Play Hookey" : techie tutorials out of the classroom
Fancy learning about op-amps, half-adders and other dangerous sounding bits of technical doo-daddery? Visit Ken Bigelow's techie tutorial website ...
While you're out of the classroom, there's no reason why you can't learn a little something and enjoy yourself while you're doing it. That's the basic purpose of this site ...
This Website is intended for those intrepid individuals who, for whatever reason, find themselves looking for a less than formal approach to useful education in a number of technical fields. Unlike the University-based courses which I have found on the Internet, the "lessons" provided here will be available to anyone at any time, and at no cost..
Nice one, Ken!
I like Ken's style:
For those thrill-seeking individuals who prefer the security risks of Internet Explorer, IE4 and later will also handle the interactions currently in use. This site will never attempt to exploit the security holes offered by IE, but we do feel you should be aware of the hazard.
Posted by daen at 11:26 AM
January 30, 2003
Terragen : Grand Canyon
If anyone feels like looking at the Grand Canyon from any particular angle, visit Tim O'Donoghue's site and download the Terragen terrain files. Pictures will come soon (once my PC has finished rendering them!)
Posted by daen at 09:29 PM
Like robots? Like LEGO? Then play this game.
(Thanks to Irregular Orbit again)
Posted by daen at 06:15 PM
40 orders of magnitude
Remember the old short film zooming in from the Milky Way down through the solar system, Earth, a guy, a mosquito biting the guy, down to the atomic level? This is the same thing, only as a Java applet. Cool.
Posted by daen at 11:27 AM
Hell's (Door) Bells
|My favourite is 54.
I wonder if there are any in Denmark?
Posted by daen at 12:02 AM
January 29, 2003
To Insanity ... and Beyond!
|Nutty Ozzie bloke with a neat hobby ... versus nutty Americans with billions of dollars to spend. You tell me which is which ...! (thanks to boingboing)|
Posted by daen at 11:37 PM
Brush the barking spider's teeth ...
Toothbrush ... haemorrhoids. Not two words you would necessarily think could be linked. But a report from 2001 details how one gent used the former to try to relieve the latter, with a trip to the X-ray machine and a close encounter with a pair of biopsy forceps to remember the experience by.
It appears to be the first and only time doctors have recorded a toothbrush being used in this way.
But accident and emergency departments have reported similar incidents with other dental instruments, including toothbrush holders, toothbrush packages and toothpicks.
Toothpicks? Ye Gods, I hope they asked to leave the table first.
The title of the report, by the way, is "Don't Forget Your Toothbrush". Which, come to think of it, is a pretty good link between toothbrushes and haemorrhoids.
Posted by daen at 10:27 PM
ICPS 2003 is in Odense. Last year's was in Hungary. Become a physics student, and see the World!
Posted by daen at 09:55 PM
Which side to drive on today ...?
Found it! After perusing the pathetic so-called "British Embassy" website and, momentarily getting excited to find a "Driver Licence (British)" link ... and - yes, that's right it takes you to the DVLA homepage!! AARGH!!.
But then I calmed down (a bit) and figured out that I might need to get my license converted to a Danish one (after hunting through the DVLA for some clues). And waddya know - I googled for "danmark kørekort" and found the link above (well, actually the Danish version, but what the heck) which explains everything :-). Huzzah.
So, being a good citizen (apart from posting an incitement to peaceful demonstration on this website yesterday :-) I thought it would be good to let the Embassy know, so they could include this link for puzzled ex-pats like myself.
But look carefully at their website, gentle surfer, and tell me if you can find an effin' telephone number, let alone an e-mail address, barring the irrelevant "commercial contacts" who are at least "jacked into the matrix" (sarcasm).
I give up. No wonder we lost the bloody Empire.
Posted by daen at 09:24 PM
January 28, 2003
Goldilocks & the Three Planets
"Who's been sleeping in my porridge?"
It seems that it's trickier than previously thought to keep an Earth-like world neither too hot nor too cold in orbit around a star. Another tweak to the Drake Equation?
Posted by daen at 11:21 PM
War in Iraq? No, thanks!
Danish and UK websites representing those who oppose war in Iraq.
The Danish activists are planning a demonstration outside the
British American embassy in Copenhagen (Dag Hammarskjölds Allé 24, Østerbro) on 15 Feb 2003 at 12pm.
You have to ask what possible good could come from a war in Iraq. Whether the US succeeded in destroying Saddam's regime or not, the attendant loss of Iraqi civilian and American military lives would be terrible. The US would face further reprisals from hardline Muslim states which, though no friends of Saddam, would not want to be next in the cross sights. Former allies of the US, such as France and Germany, would possibly put trade sanctions in place in protest. And once more, civil rights in the US would take a downward swing, as right wing politicians push the "national security" hot button to try to get the go ahead to snoop in everyone's social security and medical records in the hope of discovering that John Q Citizen is a terrorist.
Sorry about the rant, but the World is a mad place.
Posted by daen at 10:31 PM
This incredible FREE program lets you make photorealistic images of the most stunning fantasy landscapes. I'm hooked.
Posted by daen at 05:52 PM
January 27, 2003
Udvikleren ("The Developer")
Denmark's own little slice of /.
Posted by daen at 08:50 PM
A walk in Tisvilde Hegn #2
Found on 25 Jan 2003 by Johanne & Daen
Difficulty: 1.5 Terrain: 1.5
Location: Tisvilde Hegn, Denmark
This cache is well hidden under an old root, in a relative young area of trees, witch makes it fairly difficult to reach.
The cache is an old canister of hot chocolate, unfortunately the canister isn't large enough to contain a tin of kippers, at least not Gløngøre Pepper Kippers.
The cache contains:
A golf ball
2 small candles
A box of matches
4 Mb ram 30 Pin
The cannister has been switched to a larger tupperware-like box, but for historical reasons, the cannister is still at the cache.
Posted by daen at 12:01 AM
January 26, 2003
Geocache "View of the Kat"
A walk in Tisvilde Hegn #1
Found on 25 Jan 2003 by Johanne & Daen
Difficulty: 1.5 Terrain: 1
This cache is in a small ravine, well hidden under an old root.
The cache is transparent plastic box contains 5 things starting with C!
The plastic box is in a small dark green plastic bag, wich makes it a bit difficult to see
Posted by daen at 11:59 PM
January 23, 2003
Collective animal terms
All those wacky terms for animals you never knew you needed.
How many boars in a singular? How many in a sounder? What animal is the collective term bellowing applied to? And how the hell did thrushes get the collective noun "mutation"?!
Posted by daen at 01:30 PM
January 19, 2003
What can I say? You just have to visit many.dk to get a feel for its strangeness.
Posted by daen at 06:03 PM
January 18, 2003
Geocaching is a recent sport, and one I've just started to follow courtesy of my Big Christmas Present ...
a Garmin eTrex Venture! The sport is surprisingly big in Denmark ...
Join Geocaching -
The sport where YOU are the search engine.
A GPS device and a hunger for adventure are all you need for high tech treasure hunting. Here you can find the latest caches in your area, how to hide your own cache, and information on how to get started in this fun and exciting sport.
Posted by daen at 09:45 PM
This one, I'm still working on ... I found the first bottle today so I now have the co-ordinates for the next bottle ... but I ran out of time / light ...
Difficulty: 2.5 Terrain: 1.5
This harbor was a lively industrial area from the mid 19th century until the 1990s. It is now being transformed into an upmarket residential area. The harbor was once dominated by ferry traffic to Landskrona i Skåne (1953-1993). It is now being transformed into a pleasure boat harbor. The harbor has some little known World War II memorials.
This tour of contrasts has three stops:
Stop 1 is at the cache coordinates. Your target is a bottle. On the label on the neck of the bottle a year is mentioned. Call that four-digit number Y.
Stop 2 is a small glass jar, about 4 cm in size. The coordinates are N 55º 43.abc', E 12º 35.xyz'. To determine abc, subtract 1247 from Y. To determine xyz, subtract 1627 from Y. About 40 m south of stop 2 you can see two more bottles. Unfortunately they are not accessible to the public these days.
The glass jar at stop 2 contains the coordinates of stop 3, which is a 3 liter plastic box wrapped in a plastic bag.
Posted by daen at 09:27 PM
Geocache "Kongie #3#
... and this is my second!
Difficulty: 1 Terrain: 1
This time you have to put on a pair of good solid boots as you have to leave the pavement...
"Kongie #3" is a blue/red box placed in a transparant plasticbag. You have to be like a "Tarzan" to find it. BUT - it is not up in the trees. On the contrerary. In the cache I originally placed the following, when I placed it the 30. june 2002:
The traditional kippers which is a danish "must"
A fine pen
A müesli bar
A miniature formula 1 car
plus a first finders certificate, the Geocache letter and a pen to use in the logbook.
Posted by daen at 09:11 PM
Geocache "PKN go west"
My first ever found geocache, on 30 Dec 2002 ...
Difficulty: 1 Terrain: 1
Cachen er placeret på Amager fællede.
En lille insider-cache med slet skjult budskab. ;-)
Alle er velkommen til af finde den.
(Og meget gerne før PK!)
Koordinaterne er revideret d. 10.12.2002 med lidt hjælp fra "Jens". ;-)
Posted by daen at 08:20 PM