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Erwin Harte
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Erwin Harte

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Touché
 
I wonder if I have what it takes to make presentations at the NSA.
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Well, that's confusing. Placed an order for a Chromecast device last night and this morning there is a charge of the appropriate amount from "Molecular Devices, LLC", which has no connection to Google that I know of.

Is there any way that this can be explained away?
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Peter da Silva's profile photoErwin Harte's profile photo
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Alas, no. I'll just have to buy one of those old fashioned 3d printers instead.

I've actually been eyeing one of the lower-end printrbot.com models, trying to convince myself to (not) buy one, which made your initial comment extra amusing. :)
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Erwin Harte

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Today's #petpeeves are:

A square pizza that claims to be 5 servings.

A (rectangular) lasagna dish that claims to be 11 servings.

How would you reasonably cut that up if you actually tried to follow those guidelines?
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Paul Tomblin's profile photoErwin Harte's profile photoEmily Walters's profile photoPeter da Silva's profile photo
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Are the figures on the box even accurate to 10%?
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Dizzying but invisible depth

You just went to the Google home page.

Simple, isn't it?

What just actually happened?

Well, when you know a bit of about how browsers work, it's not quite that simple. You've just put into play HTTP, HTML, CSS, ECMAscript, and more. Those are actually such incredibly complex technologies that they'll make any engineer dizzy if they think about them too much, and such that no single company can deal with that entire complexity.

Let's simplify.

You just connected your computer to www.google.com.

Simple, isn't it?

What just actually happened?

Well, when you know a bit about how networks work, it's not quite that simple. You've just put into play DNS, TCP, UDP, IP, Wifi, Ethernet, DOCSIS, OC, SONET, and more. Those are actually such incredibly complex technologies that they'll make any engineer dizzy if they think about them too much, and such that no single company can deal with that entire complexity.

Let's simplify.

You just typed www.google.com in the location bar of your browser.

Simple, isn't it?

What just actually happened?

Well, when you know a bit about how operating systems work, it's not quite that simple. You've just put into play a kernel, a USB host stack, an input dispatcher, an event handler, a font hinter, a sub-pixel rasterizer, a windowing system, a graphics driver, and more, all of those written in high-level languages that get processed by compilers, linkers, optimizers, interpreters, and more. Those are actually such incredibly complex technologies that they'll make any engineer dizzy if they think about them too much, and such that no single company can deal with that entire complexity.

Let's simplify.

You just pressed a key on your keyboard.

Simple, isn't it?

What just actually happened?

Well, when you know about bit about how input peripherals work, it's not quite that simple. You've just put into play a power regulator, a debouncer, an input multiplexer, a USB device stack, a USB hub stack, all of that implemented in a single chip. That chip is built around thinly sliced wafers of highly purified single-crystal silicon ingot, doped with minute quantities of other atoms that are blasted into the crystal structure, interconnected with multiple layers of aluminum or copper, that are deposited according to patterns of high-energy ultraviolet light that are focused to a precision of a fraction of a micron, connected to the outside world via thin gold wires, all inside a packaging made of a dimensionally and thermally stable resin. The doping patterns and the interconnects implement transistors, which are grouped together to create logic gates. In some parts of the chip, logic gates are combined to create arithmetic and bitwise functions, which are combined to create an ALU. In another part of the chip, logic gates are combined into bistable loops, which are lined up into rows, which are combined with selectors to create a register bank. In another part of the chip, logic gates are combined into bus controllers and instruction decoders and microcode to create an execution scheduler. In another part of the chip, they're combined into address and data multiplexers and timing circuitry to create a memory controller. There's even more. Those are actually such incredibly complex technologies that they'll make any engineer dizzy if they think about them too much, and such that no single company can deal with that entire complexity.

Can we simplify further?

In fact, very scarily, no, we can't. We can barely comprehend the complexity of a single chip in a computer keyboard, and yet there's no simpler level. The next step takes us to the software that is used to design the chip's logic, and that software itself has a level of complexity that requires to go back to the top of the loop.

Today's computers are so complex that they can only be designed and manufactured with slightly less complex computers. In turn the computers used for the design and manufacture are so complex that they themselves can only be designed and manufactured with slightly less complex computers. You'd have to go through many such loops to get back to a level that could possibly be re-built from scratch.

Once you start to understand how our modern devices work and how they're created, it's impossible to not be dizzy about the depth of everything that's involved, and to not be in awe about the fact that they work at all, when Murphy's law says that they simply shouldn't possibly work.

For non-technologists, this is all a black box. That is a great success of technology: all those layers of complexity are entirely hidden and people can use them without even knowing that they exist at all. That is the reason why many people can find computers so frustrating to use: there are so many things that can possibly go wrong that some of them inevitably will, but the complexity goes so deep that it's impossible for most users to be able to do anything about any error.

That is also why it's so hard for technologists and non-technologists to communicate together: technologists know too much about too many layers and non-technologists know too little about too few layers to be able to establish effective direct communication. The gap is so large that it's not even possible any more to have a single person be an intermediate between those two groups, and that's why e.g. we end up with those convoluted technical support call centers and their multiple tiers. Without such deep support structures, you end up with the frustrating situation that we see when end users have access to a bug database that is directly used by engineers: neither the end users nor the engineers get the information that they need to accomplish their goals.

That is why the mainstream press and the general population has talked so much about Steve Jobs' death and comparatively so little about Dennis Ritchie's: Steve's influence was at a layer that most people could see, while Dennis' was much deeper. On the one hand, I can imagine where the computing world would be without the work that Jobs did and the people he inspired: probably a bit less shiny, a bit more beige, a bit more square. Deep inside, though, our devices would still work the same way and do the same things. On the other hand, I literally can't imagine where the computing world would be without the work that Ritchie did and the people he inspired. By the mid 80s, Ritchie's influence had taken over, and even back then very little remained of the pre-Ritchie world.

Finally, last but not least, that is why our patent system is broken: technology has done such an amazing job at hiding its complexity that the people regulating and running the patent system are barely even aware of the complexity of what they're regulating and running. That's the ultimate bikeshedding: just like the proverbial discussions in the town hall about a nuclear power plant end up being about the paint color for the plant's bike shed, the patent discussions about modern computing systems end up being about screen sizes and icon ordering, because in both cases those are the only aspect that the people involved in the discussion are capable of discussing, even though they are irrelevant to the actual function of the overall system being discussed.

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Stephen Shankland originally shared:
 
Worth watching today. And when you see the terminals with giant monitors that are only portals to the real computers on the other side of the network, remember that via Linux, the Unix technology if not its actual source code is running in millions of smartphones today.
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I am finally learning enough about Unix/Linux to work in it. My maternal G-pa worked for New Jersey Bell and ironed out many problems with their new "Teletype" system, so it's in the blood! I was born within a year of the 'birth' of the transistor (also a Bell Labs invention). Soon after that a "software pipeline" replaced continuous copper wire connections between telephones.
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Have him in circles
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Erwin Harte

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So what would be the odds of this happening accidentally, I wonder?

#kpmg   #code  
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Scott Sotka's profile photoDenis Kieft's profile photoErwin Harte's profile photo
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All in the line of duty, sir. ;)
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Is there any kind of website out there that allows me to drill down the huge selection of televisions based on features, like type, size, viewing angle, HDMI connections, PC or component inputs for 'legacy' devices, audio output, etc? Closest I've seen is newegg.com but it doesn't got far enough.
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Yeah, I did. Not enough drill-down parameters.
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Well done.
 
I'm not much of a Coldplay fan, but this.....this is awesome! #RIPMCA #fuckcancer
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*rubs eyes*
**** originally shared:
 
Arrrrgh my brain... it is broken.
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Google+ iPhone/iPod App

Did I miss an announcement about this? There's an update available in the App Store that fixes that pesky disabled auto-correct issue (meaning they had turned it off in all text fields, which really throws you off when you've come to rely on it), and some fixes for Asian language, if I remember correctly.

Installed it immediately and I can confirm that auto-correct is indeed back on.

Huzzah!
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Grabbed that one as soon as I saw it.. Though the most interesting update I've seen recently was for the eBay app update.. It's patch log contained two entries:
-- bug fixes
-- hugs

Did make me smile.. :)
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Have him in circles
194 people
satwinder sidhu's profile photo
Hayley Scott's profile photo
Josh Dady's profile photo
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Gaby Bernier's profile photo
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Dutch guy living in Kansas of all places.

On G+ since July 1, 2011.
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