Sunday, August 26, 2012

Farewell Neil Armstrong

As soon as I heard about the death of Neil Armstrong I felt like I had to say something:

But I wanted to say a bit more. I was only 3 when we first landed on the moon. I'm told you shouldn't really be able to remember things that far back, or when you're that young, but I do: we had a black-and-white TV and I recall sitting on the floor of the living room watching the landing. Whether it would have happened with or without that moment, from then on I always had science, astronomy and space flight in my mind. Whether it was reading about black holes, rockets, time dilation or science fiction, or going to university and studying physics and astrophysics, they all pushed me in the same direction.

Landing on the moon was a pivotal event for the world and also for me personally. And Neil Armstrong was the focus of that event. I never met him, but for the past 40+ years I've felt his influence on many of the things I've done in my life. Thanks Neil!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

JavaOne 2012

I just got my schedule for JavaOne and was also informed that I'll be on their "Featured Speaker"
carousel at the top of the JavaOne 2012 home page. Here's my schedule in case anyone wants to meet up or listen to a session:

Session ID: CON4385
Session Title: Dependability Challenges for Java Middleware
Venue / Room: Parc 55 - Cyril Magnin II/III
Date and Time: 10/1/12, 15:00 - 16:00

Session ID: CON10656
Session Title: JavaEE.Next(): Java EE 7, 8, and Beyond
Venue / Room: Parc 55 - Cyril Magnin II/III
Date and Time: 10/3/12, 16:30 - 17:30

Session ID: CON4367
Session Title: Java Everywhere: Ready for Mobile and Cloud
Venue / Room: Parc 55 - Market Street
Date and Time: 10/3/12, 11:30 - 12:30

Monday, August 06, 2012

Tower of Babel

I've been spending the weekend stripping my garage ready for it to be demolished: we're having an extension built which means a new garage. During this I came across some bags that had been stored for over 10 years and was pleasantly surprised when I looked within: lots of old school and university books on physics, chemistry, maths and computer science. The latter contained a number of language books that I'd used since I started with computers way back in the late 1970s and it got me thinking about what languages I've learnt and used over the years. So at least for my own edification, here they are in roughly chronological order (ignoring domain specific languages, such as SQL):

Basic - various dialects such as Commodore, zx80, BBC.
6502 machine code.
Lisp, Forth, Prolog, Logo.
68000 machine code and others ...
Pascal-w, Concurrent Euclid, Occam, Ada, Smalltalk-80.
C++, Simula.
Java, Python.
D, Erlang.
Io, Ruby, Ceylon (still a work in progress), Scala, Clojure.

There are probably others I've forgotten about. Truth be told, over the years I've forgotten much of several of the ones above as well! But now I've found the books again, I'm going to refresh my memory.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Gossip and Twitter

I had to explain gossip protocols to a group of students the other day. Now in the past when I've done this I've gone through some worked examples, using people and rumour mongering, followed by a more formal analysis of the algorithms underlying the various protocols. However, this time I decided to use something that most people have direct experience with: Twitter. Using some well documented examples of how gossip and rumours spread via Twitter, as well as a real-time experiment with the students, it seemed to go down much easier. So I think I'll stick with Twitter as a good example of how gossip protocols can work. Of course it's not the full picture, but it's a good way of broaching the subject.

HP missed the Android boat

I'm just back from my annual vacation to visit the in-laws in Canada. Apart from the usual things I do there, such as fishing, diving and relaxing by the pool under 30 Centigrade temperatures with not a single cloud in the sky, I usually end up spending some time at technical support for the extended family. This time one of the things I ended up doing was something I wanted to do for myself earlier this year: install Android on an HP TouchPad. When HP ditched the TouchPad I tried to get hold of one of them when they were cheap (about $100); not for WebOS but because the hardware was pretty good. Unfortunately I couldn't get hold of one, but my mother-in-law did and she's suffered under the lack of capabilities and apps ever since.

So I installed ICS on the TouchPad relatively easily and the rest, as they say, is history. Apart from the camera not working (hopefully there'll be a patch eventually), the conclusion from my in-law is that it's a completely new device. And after having used it myself for a few days, I have to agree. Even 8+ months after it was released, the TouchPad ran Android as smoothly as some of the newer devices I've experienced. I think it's a real shame that HP decided to get out of the tablet business (at least for now) with an attitude that it either had to be WebOS or nothing. I can also understand the business reasons why they wanted to get value out of the Palm acquisition. But I do think they missed a great opportunity to create a wonderful Android tablet.