Posts

Holiday Borg

Image
The Borg were a fearsome adversary introduced in Star Trek: The Next Generation.  With a collective hive mind, they assimilated entire worlds, stealing their technology and enslaving the population to serve as drones.  Able to adapt to and neutralize any defense thrown up by their victims, the Borg were relentless.

While much has been written about the Borg, here are some little known facts about them.

Earth's first Borg was Earnest Borgnine. His name should have given him away, but he looked human and was very likable.


A very distant descendant of his was Annika Hansen, better known as Seven of Nine.

Earth did eventually succeed in capturing and containing the Borg.  Below is a monument to this achievement.

And turning the tables, we see Christmas has assimilated the Borg.

Happy Holidays!

The Best Selling Tech Book On Amazon Is ...

Image
After reviewing some books I considered classics¹, I wondered what tomes were popular nowadays.  I was disappointed to learn the #1 best seller on Amazon, in the category of data structure and algorithms, was Cracking the Coding Interview.
Was this a direct result of raising students on "teaching to the test?"  Were companies so confused about hiring, they needed to administer a programming puzzle to find a suitable candidate?
The reviews ranked Cracking the Coding Interview highly, and the contents were substantive, not fluff.  Yet, glancing over to my bookshelf, I would want candidates to be acquainted with titles like these: More Programming Pearls by Jon Bentley, The Cathedral & The Bazaar by Eric S. Raymond, Algorithms in C by Robert Sedgewick, and a classic-to-be, Joel On Software by Joel Spolsky.

When software development was novel (circa 1980), a popular notion was that the skills required for programming were similar to the skills needed in music and chess.  Fi…

Bookshelf Classic: Byte Magazine - Inside The IBM PC

Image
While not a book, it is a classic. Published November 1983 with 720 pages, the magazine featured articles describing the innards of the IBM Personal Computer. The clever cover art shown here was created by Robert Tinney.  Byte's Robert Tinney era spanned from the mid-70s to 1990, and his covers showed an uncommon thoughtfulness.  Think vinyl record album sleeves of the day, where the artwork could have meanings on multiple levels.

Inside, you can find an interview with Philip Estridge, president of IBM's Entry Systems Division, and it included a discussion about keyboards. IBM was renowned for building high quality keyboards, and the unique tactile and audible feedback carried over to the keyboard for the IBM PC.  But the atypical placement of the left shift key and the return key, along with the function keys being on the left instead of across the top, prompted Byte to remind Estridge that "some customers were upset."  The layout didn't match the keyboards of …

Why I Like vi

Image
Having already written about hardware tools, this post examines one of my favorite software tools, namely vi (aka vim ).

I've chosen the photo essay format, because vi, like a clever joke, an amazing magic trick, or a masterpiece of art,  is ruined if you try to explain it.











Automating Dark Mode

Image
Back in the monochrome days of PC computing, our choices were green on black, or amber on black.  The amber monitors actually cost a bit more because European studies of the day showed amber was easier on the eyes.

Apple's Macintosh Computer introduced the black text on white paper look.  In emulating paper though, I found my eyes fatiguing more quickly.  I expressed to a friend and colleague that it felt like a swath of electrons beaming into my eyes, in which he replied, "okay."

To this day, I'm not sure if he was in solid agreement, or patting my head and humoring me.  Judge for yourself with the sample color schemes I've created at the end of this post.

With macOS Mojave, Apple introduced Dark Mode, which in essence, is a return to the calm and focused energy levels of green, amber, and black. I really like it, but one cannot live on dark chocolate and dark coffee alone.  We can switch between Dark Mode and Light Mode via the System Preferences.

But wouldn&#…

Bookshelf Classic: The Mythical Man-Month

Image
More than 250,000 copies were printed, and yet, that was not enough to spare me countless programming and management fads.  So popular was this title that it earned a 20th Anniversary Edition and still, buzzwords like "pair-programming," "open workspaces," "test driven development," and "military style management" forced their way into my vocabulary.
Frederick P. Brooks, Jr., in 1964, managed the software side in the creation of the IBM 360 Mainframe Computer.  Working on the famed project also afforded him a view of the hardware management side, and by way of comparison, he noticed that no developments in software could, or ever would, improve productivity, reliability, and simplicity in the same way hardware improved with advances in electronics, transistors, and large-scale integration.  Noting Moore's law, Brooks writes "We cannot expect ever to see two-fold gains every two years." 
The essays in The Mythical Man-Month shed lig…

A Tale Of Two Sundials

Image
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, ... it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair ... With apologies to Charles Dickens, I am writing about two sundials on Cornell's campus. One is outside Goldwin Smith Hall in the Arts Quad while the other is in the Engineering Quad.

As an undergrad, I didn't pay much attention to either of these works of art.  Apparently, neither do current students as they hurried past me while I was taking pictures.

But these two sun dials merit contemplation.  One is from the past, and with the gravitas that a layer of patina brings, provokes thoughts of time and mortality. The other looks outward, and with modern, shiny arms, seeks to embrace a future where the sky's the limit.

When family and friends talk about college, and when college bound students ask me what they should study, I show them these two photos and ask them which one piques their curiosity.

Note…