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Kristian Glass
Works at Moorhen Solutions Ltd.
Attended University of Cambridge
Lives in London, United Kingdom
111 followers|3,199 views
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Kristian Glass

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It looks like Menshn may only impose their 180 char limit via JavaScript... :s http://i.imgur.com/xRQBV.png
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Kristian Glass's profile photo
 
Correction, they impose a 300 char limit in the back-end
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Kristian Glass

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Today's output has almost entirely consisted of fixes to other people's code. Fun and productive, but feels a tiny bit like I have nothing to show for it...!
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Depends on the fixes - if it's a really obvious bug or really challenging to solve it feels better than fixing minor irritation or things which aren't exposed.
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Not had a chance to try this yet, but it sounds amazing and exactly what I've been looking for...
 
Learning a new language isn’t easy, especially if you can’t immerse yourself in an environment where the language is spoken.

A new extension called Language Immersion for Chrome tries to simulate being immersed in a foreign language by combining Google Translate with your normal browsing patterns. Depending on the language you select and your existing comfort level, the extension will automatically switch certain words and phrases on web pages you browse to the new language, providing a painless way to immerse yourself in a language without interrupting what you were doing online.

You can get Language Immersion for Chrome here: http://goo.gl/yKvIt
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Kristian Glass

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Jean-Baptiste Quéru originally shared:
 
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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Kristian Glass

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Just installed the Google+ iPhone app - shiny: http://bit.ly/qtsv2y
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Kristian Glass

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I'm putting together StackCompare to keep track and compare reputation and badges of people I know on StackOverflow and other StackExchange sites - anyone care to share their SO profile link so I can add them...?
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Kristian Glass

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Intellij IDEA has once again entered "that mode" where I can't type ">" or "/", making writing HTML hard... :(
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Last week, I had the best conversation I've ever had at a Linux conference:

Him: "What operating system are you using on your laptop, why aren't you using OS-X, that seems much easier to use these days."
Me: "Um, this is Linux"
Him: "But why use it? Isn't it really complex?"
Me: "This is my code, why wouldn't I use it?"
Things degenerated from there.

And note, this was an invite-only Linux conference...
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Kristian Glass

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Thinking of starting to use something a bit like Google Latitude for publishing my location and tracking location history. Would probably like to host it myself. Does anyone have any comments / advice / recommendations?


+Ian Davies I gather you do something similar?
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Wait a couple of weeks and you can user test locgori which is an app I am currently working on ;-) Though it is pretty hard to do privacy violating things (like share publicly) with the current plans.
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Have him in circles
111 people
Russ Williams's profile photo
Tom Playford's profile photo
Daniel Thomas's profile photo
Paul Mansfield's profile photo
Florian Amrhein's profile photo
Louisa Coward's profile photo
Jon Crowcroft's profile photo
Education
  • University of Cambridge
    Computer Science, 2005 - 2008
  • King Edward VI School, Chelmsford
    1998 - 2005
Basic Information
Gender
Male
Work
Employment
  • Moorhen Solutions Ltd.
    2011 - present
    Helping clients grow and scale their technical infrastructure and systems
  • Taptu Ltd.
    Head of Systems, 2008 - 2011
Places
Map of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has livedMap of the places this user has lived
Currently
London, United Kingdom
Previously
Cambridge, United Kingdom - Chelmsford, United Kingdom
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