Freesteel Blog » 2006 » July

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006 at 11:24 am - - Weekends 3 Comments »

cliffs of bolt tail

We had good weather down in Devon, and were determined to stay until it went bad. But it just got hotter and hotter until we couldn’t take it anymore. It was a a boil-in-a-bag in our suits when we went out on our kayaks. The water was still freezing when we dived deep, so was quite refreshing. I meant to have a write-up up, but the Python Imaging Library you get with Python24 of enthought can’t decode jpgs, so there goes my standard scheme of shrinking batches of photos to the correct size. I’ve put up much less on the wikiscuba about all this than I intended to by now.

It’s so easy to fall behind on the write-ups of holidays when you’re taking enough, and interesting things are happening during them. I can bore people silly in the pub about what I did last weekend. Sometimes they’re interested, and sometimes they’re just being polite. If you put it up on the web they can read it themselves — if they want to — during work when they have even less good things to do. Then you’re freed from keeping track of who you have blabbed your latest anecdote to, because you can assume anyone could have seen it.

I’m always amazed at how we do this — not only remembering stuff, but remembering who we have told our stuff to. Occasionally I get it wrong and tell very interesting story to the same person twice. Sometimes the person I’m telling it to takes the piss and tries to make the mistake into an embarrassing incident. Computers have cache tables, so it’s up to the receiver to tell whether it has heard the information already. That would be more sensible. Maybe we shouldn’t mind hearing the same story twice; it gives us a opportunity to tell whether anything has been changed in it, and determine what information is unreliable. Maybe if people allowed that to happen, we’d be telling the same stories over and over again every night.

I want to put a link to the numbers joke here, but I can’t find it. The story is as follows: Stranger in bar hears a local say “63”, and everyone chuckles. It’s explained to him that they’ve all heard the stories so often that they’ve numbered them to save their breath. Stranger says, “Okay, I’ll try. 47!” Whole place falls down laughing as if it’s the funniest thing they have ever heard. Stranger asks, “What was it?” The local replies, “It’s the way you told it.”

Anyone got a link to a list of jokes of such nature for citations? Jokes are very difficult to remember, but you can be very popular with friends and strangers and potential girlfriends if you know a lot of good ones. So why don’t we soak them up naturally? I’d been meaning to learn some, along with some magic tricks before I go backpacking again.

Anyway, we’re back. Nothing went wrong with our kayak diving this time, and we still can’t believe no one else does it seriously. We’ve been out on a boat in Liverpool Bay since them, and dived a couple of wrecks near the giant gas platform. They’re building another field of wind turbines out there, which will be a lot nicer.

Tuesday, July 4th, 2006 at 4:50 pm - - Machining, Weekends

I hope to be heading off for some kayak diving down in South Devon shortly. Someone has just given us a car. Martin will stay at home and struggle with difficult compiler problems to do with multithreading.

In the future, according to this article about the end of the free lunch with regards to processors speeding up software, multithreading will no longer be optional when we have multicore machines. It’ll take deep understanding of the algorithms to break them apart into different processes to get the better performance.

Meanwhile, some business deals are being stitched up here at freesteel. If I wasn’t such a yellow-livered coward, I’d blog everything about them. As it is, I should be noting some sort of timeline into a text file embedded in the sourcecode for our records so we know what was happening and when. I have considered putting all our information into the blog as some password protected entries. Then I could stage an accident and make it all public just as the wayback machine is spidering through the system.

That puts in mind those extraordinary stories about millions of credit card numbers being “accidentally” put onto the internet. Given the amount of difficulty it takes to get something unusual uploaded onto the internet into a place where people can find it, the story always sounded suspicious. It might not seem quite so ludicrous as being caught “accidentally” selling valuable data, but the end is the same: you get paid cash to put some sensitive files up on the internet at a particular time and place, but then you claim it was a “mistake”. Like leaving a lighted match too close to a bucket of gasoline so the building burns down. So hard to prove. Well, actually it isn’t, because the evidence doesn’t necessarily destroy itself — the logfiles of what was done on the computer ought to be there, so we could ask some questions, find out who’s keyboard fingertips actually did it, and work out whether it was possible to have done what they did without knowing what they were doing. Like you can accidentally set up a webserver.

Too often companies get away with anonomizing the deeds, when we know that every computer command had to have been typed in by someone who had to be logged on with an account and a password. Computers could be one of the most accountable and transparent of all technological tools. But we deliberately run them so they aren’t.