29 Oct

GeekWire – Gates to students: Don’t try to be a billionaire, it’s overrated

Bill Gates made a rare appearance at the University of Washington this afternoon, talking about how qualitative and measurable advances in technology are coming together for major advances in the areas he cares most about these days, including education and efforts to help the poor people of the world.

But the appearance in the UW Computer Science & Engineering Department was most memorable for the question-and-answer session with students at the end — including one student who asked Gates for advice on how she could become rich like him.

“I can understand wanting to have millions of dollars, there’s a certain freedom, meaningful freedom, that comes with that. But once you get much beyond that, I have to tell you, it’s the same hamburger. Dick’s has not raised their prices enough,” he said, referring to the Seattle-area fast-food chain. “But being ambitious is good. You just have to pick what you enjoy doing.”

Here are notes from the presentation and the Q&A session with students, not verbatim quotes but a shorthand summary to convey what was said as accurately as possible on the fly. You’ll find lots of little gems sprinkled throughout, particularly in the Q&A session.

via GeekWire – Gates to students: Don’t try to be a billionaire, it’s overrated. Some really interesting stuff in here.

27 Oct

DARPA Shredder Challenge

Today’s troops often confiscate the remnants of destroyed documents in war zones, but reconstructing them is a daunting task. DARPA’s Shredder Challenge calls upon computer scientists, puzzle enthusiasts and anyone else who likes solving complex problems to compete for up to $50,000 by piecing together a series of shredded documents.

The goal is to identify and assess potential capabilities that could be used by our warfighters operating in war zones, but might also create vulnerabilities to sensitive information that is protected through our own shredding practices throughout the U.S. national security community.

Do you have the skills to reconstruct shredded documents and solve the puzzle?

Can you form a team to help solve the complex physical and analytical problems associated with document reconstruction?

If so, register today for a chance to win $50,000!

via DARPA Shredder Challenge. Neat challenge, it would be cool to work on this problem but image analysis is so far out of my area of expertise. It’s nice to know also that as it stands a good cross-cut shredder renders your documents virtually useless to either law enforcement or criminals.

26 Oct

BBC News – Blackberry PlayBook operating software update delayed

The maker of the Blackberry PlayBook has delayed an update to the tablet computer’s operating system until next year.

Research In Motion said it expects to deliver the software in February. It had been due this month.

RIM has admitted that sales of the device are lower than it anticipated. It acknowledged customers want native email, calendar and contacts applications.

The update aims to add the features.

A company blog described the decision as "difficult", but promised the revision will allow the firm’s phones and PlayBooks "to work together even better".

RIM’s shares closed down 7.5% on the news.

via BBC News – Blackberry PlayBook operating software update delayed. Who could have guessed that people would want native email, calendar and contacts apps?

26 Oct

Panic Blog – Panic State of the Union ’11

Finally, the only part you care about: Coda 2.

Coda 2 has now been in development for about a year and a half. All of us have been working incredibly hard on this forthcoming release. We’re finishing up new features, boosting up the editor, dramatically cleaning up the UI, and improving what Coda already does well today, all while, hopefully, keeping things extremely light and lean. By the time you see it, Coda might look a little different than you’re used to, but we think it’s for good reason. We’ll see how it shakes out, but we’re very excited.

Yes, we can at last see the light at the end of the tunnel. That means I have to make good on the promise I made in last year’s State of the Union, and tell you: we’re almost ready to start private beta testing.

via Panic Blog – Panic State of the Union ’11. Coda is the app I probably spend the most time in outside of the browser, can’t wait for version 2.

24 Oct

TechCrunch – Creator Of Lisp, John McCarthy, Dead At 84

The creator of Lisp and arguably the father of modern artificial intelligence, John McCarthy, died last night. He studied mathematics with the famous John Nash at Princeton and, notably, held the first “computer-chess” match between scientists in the US and the USSR. He transmitted the moves by telegraph.

McCarthy believed AI should be interactive, allowing for a give and take similar to AI simulators like Eliza and, more recently, Siri. His own labs were run in an open, free-wheeling fashion, encouraging exploration and argument. He won the Turing Award from the Association for Computing Machinery in 1972 and the National Medal of Science in 1991.

He was born in 1927 in Boston and taught himself higher math using Caltech textbooks when his family moved to the area, allowing him to take advanced classes when he enrolled as a teenager. He received a Ph.D. from Princeton in 1951.

via TechCrunch – Creator Of Lisp, John McCarthy, Dead At 84. Reminded of what I wrote not even two weeks ago after Dennis Ritchie died, of how the innovators of Computer Science were mostly still alive and it became a little less true.

23 Oct

Marco.org – What’s Next for Apple

It’s painful for me to see the sad state of consumer electronics. People are so shamelessly ripped off by low-rent retailers to get such low-quality products.

One of the reasons people get so emotionally attached to Apple is that the entire experience, from walking into the store and buying something to using it at home, is so starkly different that there’s a strong feeling that Apple is saving us from the Best Buys of the world.

via Marco.org – What’s Next for Apple. Too true.

17 Oct

My Dinner With Android – Four months with Android: reflections, grievances and some tenuous metaphors bundled up into a weighty tome

If I could simultaneously re-experience my first time using iOS and my first time using Android, I don’t know how the two instances could ever reconcile. iOS feels like technology that’s years ahead of Android just through polish and design. And while a lot of Android users have told me that stuff doesn’t bother them, I can’t get over it. Why choose the tool that feels worse?

via My Dinner With Android – Four months with Android: reflections, grievances and some tenuous metaphors bundled up into a weighty tome. That pretty much sums up every bit of experience of Android I’ve ever heard.

13 Oct

Tim Bray – Dennis Ritchie

It is impossible — absolutely impossible — to overstate the debt my profession owes to Dennis Ritchie. I’ve been living in a world he helped invent for over thirty years.

via Tim Bray – Dennis Ritchie. I remember in one of my early Computer Science courses, the professor mentioned that one of the great things about Computer Science is that the field is so young the people who invented the core theory are still alive. That became a little less true today.

06 Oct

Seldo.Com Blog – PHP needs to die. What will replace it?

Ten years later, I can feel the tide turning again. Developers’ expectations of languages have moved on. If the critical thing Perl was lacking was PHP’s wonderfully flexible "associative arrays" (aka smart hashes), then what PHP is lacking is lambdas and method chaining. While PHP used to be the language where you could write a web page in twenty lines of code, nowadays it doesn’t feel like you’re doing it properly unless you’ve laid down at least a basic MVC framework of some kind. That boilerplate code is the tell: the language now requires modification by a framework to do what you need.

Back then, I felt the die-hards clinging to Perl for web development were silly. Now, with ten years of PHP experience under my belt, I’m in the same position. I can knock out a good website in an hour in PHP, and an excellent one in a day or two. Its performance characteristics are well-known and understood, so I can make it scale pretty much indefinitely. Every developer we’d want to hire knows it, and every system we’d integrate with has a wrapper library written in it. I am trapped by the convenience of PHP in a language that is losing its suitability for the task.

via Seldo.Com Blog – PHP needs to die. What will replace it?. I know what he’s talking about PHP is a language that at times shows it’s age and is ridiculed by people on the latest and greatest (Node.js/Ruby on Rails/etc). That being said PHP has some advantages that anytime soon are going to be hard to meet in terms of ease of deployment (name a shared hosts that doesn’t have PHP on it), tools and frameworks (WordPress, CakePHP, etc). I use PHP for my day job every day and will probably still be using it years from now, but there are times I wish the language itself was more modern. For a great overview of issues with PHP from a language design standpoint Hypercritical Episode 17 goes into some of the problems.