Contemporary Disappointment

Two Day. Back to gym. Sparse. Lost day. At least the good clerk is returned, complaining greatly about having to return from holiday. Sadly, this is the contemporary state. No one seems happy nor content with their work.

On the opposite tack, I ran across an article [Link] entitled “Scientists suggest a PC to solve complex problems tens of times faster than with massive supercomputers.” The title is a bit whacked. What these wonks in Russia found was that running their code on a GPU on their PC was orders of magnitude faster than running them on a supercompiter. 

Not surprising. Some of the game graphics rendering is a lot nastier than most simulations. And than well posed physics codes.

Nonetheless, such posing is an art form and I have known very few Amerikan STEMs – especially Computer Science types – who were very good at it. They kept wanting to either use library routines or what was in the rather inadequate textbooks on the subject. SO much of their ineptitude is not their fault, but that of their education. 

I should like to say that this is what comes of the overemphasis/dependence on GUI, but that is only part of it. Ultimately the key component missing is the time and effort to find (or develop) the best algorithms and write all the code for efficiency. 

One doesn’t do well trying to kill flies with ten pound sledges.

Caves of PC

Two Day.Pleasing breeze this morning. Gym again sparse and the podcasts acceptable if not memorable. The Guardian science podcast episode was an interview of some fellow who had written a book on radiation and based on his performance in the interview came across as rather lame and unreadable. His explanations were not inaccurate just rather Barnumish. Still he must have decent credential for the tome to be published by Princeton’s press.

So I had a bit of time to cogitate on an article [Link] that I saw yesterday entitled “All the Times Science Fiction Authors Have Shilled Random Products.” Given Lifehacker’s horrible standards of scholarship I think we can ignore the “All” as one of the egregencies of contemporary journalism. What riveted me was not the article per se, but this picture:

Somehow I managed to miss this – the holy Isaac (number 2) pandering Tandy bits. Not as bad as the holy Isaac (number 1) pandering feline sanitation products, complete with celebrity wig, but bad enough because I missed it. Or it didn’t register? Naah!

As I recall, the handheld that thI is holding was actually made by SHARP? I know I had a SHARP with exactly the same layout except the URH logoing. It was rather a disappointment. Now I had access to real (?) computers: a CDC 6600 and an HP 9830 or 9845. So I wasn’t in dire shortage of number crunching capability. So I noodled with it a bit and after a month it was back in its original box growing dust on a shelf. Couldn’t really compare to my HP calculator for utility.

I did buy a computer from Radio Shack.  It was a small thing called a Color Computer, as I recall, that programmed in BASIC. I got some limited use from but could never get the cassette deck interface to work properly. But it did get me well started on use-once-throw-away code that I somehow excelled (no pun) at. If was replaced in 1984 with an IBM PC and the parting was untearful.

Also frustrating until Phillipe Kahn, the REAL enabler of personal computing, brought out Turbo Pascal and the process of code writing ceased to be so natteringly administrative. Up to that point – this was the DOS days – you loaded a text editor, keyed some code, saved it in a file, closed the text editor, invoked the compiler (FORTRAN mostly in my case,) loaded the text editor again, looked at either the failure dump file, made notes of the relevant intelligence, closed that file, opened the code file, and modified the code,… or looked at the output file and ….

With TP all you did was load the program. Editor and compiler were built in and you stayed in the one program. Time was saved. And ulcers were minimized.

But I still don;t remember Asimov being mercantile.

Unintended (??????) Consequences

Six day. Foretold to be scorching. And I have to get out. In fact, got out already to park for constitutional. Air temperature fair. Breeze marginal. No wolves. Nor any great thoughts.

I ran across an article [Link] from the Register in their weekly summary that talks about a prediction of further decreases in PC sales/shipments. And the reason for this is Winders X. Seems that between WX being pushed out so aggressively (tyrannically? Fascistic?) to current boxes and people with current boxes avoiding/evading WX like rats bearing fleas bearing plague. 

That comparison is probably more apt than it seems.

Anyway, Megahard is the cause of this increased decrease in PC movement. They have deeply disinclined people to buy new boxes. So the box sales magnates are micturated.

Maybe now they will push Linux more? That would have the advantage that they wouldn’t have to pay so much to MegaHard. And we could be assured of boxes that didn’t have to be bashed to overcome the MegaHard lock-out BIOS every time we boot.

Which is probably such a good reason that it won’t happen.

Divergence is the Ground State

Off again this morning to the park for constitutional. Air temperature eight degF less than yesterday. Better walking weather. 

Repeated the exercise of yesterday of listening to podcast but within a minute diverted by their discussion of “Convergence”, the new end goal of BIG IT. Megahard and Canonical, primarily.

It’s rubbish.

Smelly, stinky, nauseating rubbish.

The idea of convergence is in essence a race to the bottom. It’s the idea that the phonelet will be the computing – i.e. CPU and main memory – that one uses for all one’s computing needs. One metaphor is that this stays the same as one scales up the visual real estate.

I am not sure how this is supposed to work on the first scale up from phonelet to ‘real’ tablet but the scale up to lap or desk box is to dock the phonelet with the box. 

I admit this is a neat idea. But it’s flawed. Why would anyone cram a multi-processor (say 20-30 cores,0 especially one of the upcoming 3-D CPUs with special cooling into a phonelet. They’d be as thick as my first cellular, one of those Motorola Flip-Phones. Nice phone for the day but it was also a defense against muggers and terrorists.

And what about RAM? Most phonelets these days have 1-3 Gb of RAM. I want a minimum of 16 Gb and preferably 32 Gb in my desk box.

And how do we handle video? I want my lap box to be HD minimum and my desk box to be 4K minimum. How does a phonelet drive that or interface between its video driver and box’s?

By now I hope you perceive the ridiculousness of this. What I do on a phonelet – audio telephone calls and texts primarily with some eMail when I don’t have to pay for the data connection – isn’t what I do on a desk box. And that is the Achilles heel of Convergence.

If you do the same things on a desk box that you do on your phonelet, then convergence makes sense. Maybe. But if you do real work on a desk or lap box, Convergence is a Red Herring, a rat hole, a criminal diversion.

So please stop treating me like a schmucklet and drop this Convergence chatter. It’s annoying and diverts me from being constructive. Which you aren’t.

Which is why I am downusing MegaHard (zeroed except for support to Scientific Word) and Canonical (abandonment of ALL the ‘buntus.)

Freedom. Creativity. Happiness.

Strange in the Mouth

I do detest winter. And while this is not nasty yet, it is biting and evil. And the nasty is supposed to arrive next week.

Spent yesterday morning in company of dentist. Had a couple of teeth crowned, at least initially. Now my mouth is that of a stranger. This leads me to wonder about all these nonsense things like brain transplants (mind transfers?) into cloned bodies. With or without fixes. But even if the genetics is the same, the environment was’t. 

I also ran across this cartoon: [Link]

I have to admit that the first thing I did was to gooey this Simmons chap. Not impressed. If it had been one of the Kingston Trio or some other folk musician, perhaps, but after all these are entertainers and we don’t really care whether they have any real mentation or not. Talent, after all, is not the same as intelligence. Or smarts.

I had a computer as a child. An older child, I admit, but that was in the ’50’s and ’60’s. But I had an analog computer that I built myself. Had to learn how to solder. And it crunched numbers. Heck, all computers crunch numbers but most of that crunching these days is like this Simmons chap. Entertainment. Not smarts.

Low Temperature & Computer Shmek

Freya’s day. Air temperature way down. Greater Metropolitan Arab weather station reports 32.2 degF. On the liquid side of the phase change. So no constitutional. Just a period on the stationary bicycle. And the morrow is foretold to be a bit lower. 

I do so detest winter. And the holidays, since they are the entryway of winter. 

Where is my suspended animation unit? I want to be able to skip forward in time over winter and summer, just enjoying fall and spring.

Speaking of enjoying, I ran across an article [Link] entitled “Tips To Make Learning Programming Easy” The tips are – I think – 

  • Commit to one programming language
  •      Java
  •       PHP
  • Break your learning into smaller goals
  • Language basics
  • Web framework
  • Using tutorials efficiently


I say think because the headings are identically formatted but a couple don’t make sense as tips. But then, most of them are rather ambiguously tips.

I’m not at all sure the first – one language – is a tip. Only an overdriven polymath would try to learn several languages at once. (It sorta works for Romance languages but going at, e.g., Latin and Mandarin simultaneously is going to almost always make sure you fail.

So while I agree with the dictum/tip/nugget/idea I think it’s so obvious that it either doesn’t need to be said or it says something for the stupidity level of people trying to learn how to code.

I started out with FORTRAN. In a college environment. Lectures and labs. And I dragged that model along with me through C and ADA and PASCAL and FORTH. Not necessarily the classroom formality, although that helps for me. But definitely the lecture and labs part. Which is hard, since learning a programming language is definitely a Type II course in Chad Orzel’s taxonomy.

(Incidentally, Chad recently lost a close adopted member of his family. [Link] Since FD SCP and I are sitting the grandog this week out, the wee hund and I sat a bit of Kaddish last night. Since a lot of what makes us human came through our long association, it seemed meet.)

As previously, JAVA and PHP are ambiguously tips. They seem to be recommendations of languages to begin with but neither strikes me as good. What I know about JAVA is that it is a necessary evil and PHP is unknown to me. Neither therefore is a real programming language in the sense of being fundamentally about number crunching. Real programming is all about number smashing and data handling and FORTRAN at least does the former fairly well.

Again, I admit I don’t do GUI. Command line and text files are more efficient and effective. Don’t need a thousand lines of interface code to implement a ten line integration approximation.

I won;t say GUI grappling isn’t a good business kill what with making APPs for Bogs, but that’s not what physics is about.

OK, I amend that a bit. Manuscript writing is a lot easier with pseudo-WYSIWYG.And graphification is necessary. But making pretty point-and-click is not the same as figuring out some whacked quadrature geometry and implementing it. I don’t want to do the GUI grappling and others don’t want to do the number bashing.

That pretty much retires the rest of the “tips”. I am not sure how you can program without learning how to partition the task, and I have never seen a tutorial that was either efficient nor effective. They often seem to be when compared to non-academic programming instruction. I once went to a noted vendor of computer training and found the information density SO LOW that I stomped out on the second day and initiated legal action against them for fraud and misrepresentation. 

The tuition was refunded along with the cost of my time. And they were blackballed for five years by the local training authority.

After that I stuck to real academics, mostly the U of Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill and my own, independent study. I found I learned more on my own.

One of the things I find distressing about this is how hard it is portrayed. When I started out all we had was main frames. The only textbooks were on COBOL and FORTRAN. Computer manuals were hens teeth. Today every language has a text and we all have PCs we can write code on. Lab exercises on our own. Without long queues and key punch machines. And today is hard?

Fear boys with bugs.

Warmth and Frigidity

Freya’s day. Air temperature high. Thermostat reported external air temperature of 60 degF. So I lightly bundled and sallied forth to the park for constitutional. To discover that my headlamp batteries were almost depleted. And that a mist was falling/engulfing. The weather beavers will likely call this frawg but this is an area that they stand almost always in error.

To say nothing of the accuracy  of their minimum air temperature forecasts.

So I fell back on one of my secondary hand lamps and trod the (highly cracked and uneven) walking path. Happily most of the christmas lamps were extinguished so I was not exposed to that horror very strongly. And the mist was no more than a minor nuisance compared to the protests of my legs – joints and muscles. Sometimes the promise of “Make Room! Make Room!” is attractive.

Meanwhile, I reflected – very briefly – on an article [Link] reporting that Winders Movable, aka MegaHard Cellular OS, is doomed. Seems they are at 0.022 of market and are projected to grow no more than to 0.023 by 2019. Not engaging. Happiness actually. If trustable, which given journalism probably isn’t.

More engaging is the question of whether MegaHard will put this discorporate equine on medical support just to maintain their fiction? I am of divided mental argument on this one so I will bide my time and watch. 

The bad part is that the “other” category is even lower. So unless some sweeping dynamic emerges we can weep for the likes of the FireFox and Ubuntu phones. Well, maybe not the latter. Except as a George to MegaHard and Gooey’s dragons? Especially since I heard this week that Canonical is scoping down the permissions in their phone implementation as compared to desktop. So much for their claims of the phone doing all. The wonder, however, is that anyone continues to do volunteer work for canonical, They have shown themselves to be as fascist and evil as “Adolph” the Trumpeter.

I am also a bit peeved at Mozilla. They seem to have cut loose Thunderbird.[Link] This indicates a serious mental deficiency on the part of their management. The closest comparison I can make, that is appropriate, is the Oneonta Telephone Company. The latter is a small rural (?) telephone company that provides service to Greater Metropolitan Arab (Mediocre service, but service nonetheless.) Some time ago they decided to contract out their ISP business and concentrate on land line. This despite their land line business steadily decreasing by o(0.1) per annum and ISP business increasing similarly. Classic case of business schule mismanagement.

The Mozilla situation is similar. FireFox has been slipping badly lately but Thunderbird is still a mainstay of the desktop client market. It has lost a bit but mostly due to Mozilla’s lack of support than market demand. The same cannot be said of FireFox which continues to lose against Gooey’s product. Not as nice a case study but still an apparently blatant example of mismanagement..

I suspect there may be some actual evil here. Since ThunderBird is a mainstay of the market it seems reasonable that the FOSS community may take it up and do wonders, once more proving how inept the IT SW industry really is. So is this actually altruism in action? The World Wonders.

And doubts. Mozilla may not be as evil as Canonical or MegaHard but it definitely is an organization on the dark side.

Not that I like Star Wars metaphors. Mostly because I disapprove of those who support slavery. But since this is a slavery thing it seems fitting.