Monday, December 29, 2008

Frank Borman Interview

An excellent interview with Frank Borman.


Rick sent me this video of The Edgar Winter Group performing Frankenstein!

Sunday, December 28, 2008


From this post by Mark Guzdial, JavaGami looks interesting.

Installing Your Own Apps on Android

Question: How do I install my own apps, that I've written, onto my Android phone?


Ubuntu Releases, Versions, and Names

I can never remember the various Ubuntu release names, their version numbers, and the correlations. It's all at this site:

Here's a partial list:

  • Ubuntu 6.06.2 LTS (Dapper Drake)
  • Ubuntu 6.10 (Edgy Eft)
  • Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn)
  • Ubuntu 7.10 (Gutsy Gibbon)
  • Ubuntu 8.04.1 LTS (Hardy Heron)
  • Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex)

Even older releases are at this site:

The releases themselves are.

  • Ubuntu 4.10 (Warty Warthog)
  • Ubuntu 5.04 (Hoary Hedgehog)
  • Ubuntu 5.10 (Breezy Badger)
  • Ubuntu 6.10 (Edgy Eft)
  • Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn)
The current release is the Intrepid Ibex.

Ubuntu 9.04 will be Jaunty Jackalope.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Hello World from Android

This is my first post and Internet message of any kind from the Google Android phone.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Winter Solstice!

The winter solstice this year occurred this morning at Sunday 21 Dec 2008 07:04 EST (12:04 UTC).

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lights on Computers

Hah!  Something just occurred to me.

In the old days, even in the 70s when I first became exposed to computers, it was normal to represent the contents of memory registers as blinking lights.  By the 70s these were red LEDs of course, which were lower power.

These days equipment has lights but it's usually a flashing LED for network activity on a port, power lights, run status lights, and such.

But what if a modern computer was attached to a display that had an LED for every bit in every CPU register!  What would that look like?  Well, at CPU speed the changes would be so fast that all of the LEDs would probably all glow at a nearly equal continuous glow.  If some bits were statistically more often a one or zero, they would be slightly brighter or dimmer than average.  So you'd actually have to, I suppose, just periodically sample register state to get actual blinking.

With 32-bit and 64-bit registers and lots of them, it would be an interesting display.  With today's absurd multi-colored LEDs, it would also be a pretty display.

LEDs are also absurdly bright now.  In the HPC ELLIPSE cluster at Emory, each X2200 had a bright green LED which was pretty much too bright to look at.  Due to the color of green and the brightness of these lights, I'm convinced they are the same LEDs that are used in green traffic lights.

They also had locator lights (which you can flash with software to find a particular machine—a common feature on high-density, clustered machines these days).  The locator light was a blueish white LED that's as bright as what they use in those new flashlights, meaning it was like a spot light!

Lost in Space! and the Burroughs B-205

My long time friend Phillip told me about IMDB featuring all the full episodes of Lost in Space!  The streaming is actually by Hulu.  This is actually a great Christmas present!

I hadn't seen this show very much over the years and it was one of my favorites in the past.  

It was interesting to watch the two pilots.  The first pilot was pretty laid back and almost like Disney's Swiss Family Robinson, no accident I'm sure!  It appears as Episode 0 in this list.

Then they produced a second pilot ,which wrote in both Dr. Smith and the Robot, and takes the form of a two-part series.  Looking down the epidode list it appears that they reused the removed sections from the first pilot in later shows during the first season.

The first pilot also used the theme music from The Day the Earth Stood Still which made it sort of neat.  The real jet pack, the Bell Rocket Belt, appears in the first pilot, too, though not really operating of course—it's a dummy suspended on a wire or something like that.

I was  struck by the computers that appeared in Alpha Control and again in the Jupiter Two space ship.  When I looked these up, I found they were actually consoles from the Burroughs B-205!  It turns out that the B-205 was used in many TV shows and movies like Batman, The Time Tunnel, The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes, and more!  I now realize that this machine strongly influenced my idea of what a computer looked like in the mid-60s.

The B-205 was a fascinating decimal-based computer (not binary really) with rotating-drum memory, i.e., no electronic memory in the usual sense!  Numbers were made up of decimal digits represented by four-bit bytes (which means some patters were left over of course).

The console displays the registers and their bit patterns with lights, as many computers did in those days.

The Lost in Space autographed picture is from

The Burroughs console is from the TV show Batman, 20th Century Fox Television, Greenway Production, ABC, and DC Comics.

A-Z of Programming Languages

Techworld has been featuring a series of interviews with the creators of various programming langauges.  It's hard to find a “home page” for the series but here's the most recent page, I think.

The interviews aren't excellent and are repetitive at times, they are probably done by email, but still interesting reads particularly when you place the various authors' responses side by side.  Warning, the Stroustrup interview is interesting but almost unbearably long.  It's not really that long but it seems that way sometimes.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Rocket Man

It's pretty much old news now, but rocket man Yves Rossy crossed the English Channel using his back-mounted rocket wings on 26 Sep 2008.

Unfortunately, on the National Geographic video (and on the TV show which I actually watched) I think they looped in a rocket sound while he was flying. 

Thursday, December 11, 2008

What's All This Fuss About Erlang?

A nice article on Erlang on the Pragmatic Programmers.

Quote of the Day

The economy outside is frightful, but our machines are so delightful…

Which Programming Paradigm

Once again this age old question comes up on Slashdot with a focus on the question of which paradigm should be learned, imperative, OOP, or functional.  The usual discussions of various languages ensues.

There was also this discussion of programming languages (“for Linux”).

Here's a book!  In one of the posts, this book (which is said to be used for the introductory programming class at MIT) is linked to:   Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs by Albelson, Sussman and Sussman, MIT Press, 1996.  The entire text is on-line.

My Humble Opinion

Oh, you want to know what I think?

I think the order should be:
  1. Imperative language
  2. OOP
  3. I'm not even sure about functional yet, but it should probably be learned at some point.

I would add the principles of structured programming into the process of learning procedural programming using the imperative language.

What language do I currently think should be taught as a first programming language?

What order did I learn in?

Please note this caveat:  I'm not suggesting this as an order that should be followed now.  The years over which I learned these languages span from the mid 1970s to the present and this order is strongly linked to the history of the development of programming and languages.

Focusing on mainly the languages that mattered somehow, and skipping those that I dabbled in some.
  2. BASIC (almost immediately after)
  3. Pascal (structured programming)
  4. Modula-2  (modules!)
  5. C   (and the world of UNIX)
  6. Objective-C  (my first OOPL)
  7. Perl   (more real work than in any other language)
  8. Smalltalk (OO purity)
  9. Python  (The same slot as Perl)

I learned BASIC on the CDC Cyber mainframe computer and in later years used it on micro computers.  (Remember when they were called micro computers?  Hah.  I wonder when that term went out of use?  Probably around the time the so-called micros became more powerful than the mainframes&hellip).

What about LISP?  Well, I learned it around the same time that I learned Pascal, but never did a whole that was useful with it.