Profile cover photo
Profile photo
Marc Eisenstadt
Emeritus Professor, Mandolin Player
Emeritus Professor, Mandolin Player


A couple of weeks ago some friends approached me about the problems their 11-year-old was having setting up their Raspberry Pi, which they (i.e. the parents) had assumed would be an awesome Christmas present as they had read about the runaway success of the Pi as a pupil-friendly computing environment. Alas, that's a seriously false premise, and thousands of kids and parents are in tears as a result .... it's harder than it looks, and there are many pitfalls in the initial setup.

I was disappointed to find that so many of the 'quick start' and 'user friendly' guides widely available on the web failed to address the most common pitfalls, despite admirable intentions. There are of course many worthy discussions of these and similar issues, but helping out this family has prompted me to write about these pitfalls all in one place, and I've put my remarks in a (rare) blog post entitled 'Raspberry Pi Gotchas and New Buyer Tips'

Here's the quick summary of 7 key gotchas:

1. Power supply may not deliver enough power ("5 Volts" might only deliver 4.6 Volts, and cause problems)

2. Old computer monitor cannot simply use HDMI-to-VGA cable (needs powered 'converter')

3. Keyboard and mouse may not be 'verified' (most work, but worth checking, and using a USB hub

4. SD Memory card size/speed, corruption, and copying 'disk image' issues (see esp 4.3 below for extra 'mini-gotchas', e.g. special software needed to copy files from laptop

5. Configuration settings are hard (cryptic, and unexpected format)

6. Think clearly about the 'total cost of ownership'

7. Know where to get help - especially the many user forums

See the full discussion at
Add a comment...

Post has attachment

Post has attachment
Hooray! ClustrMaps Wins 'Best Free Web Tool' Category!

Here's a followup to my previously posted 'nomination/shortlist' story - results were announced last night:
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
ClustrMaps Shorlisted for Best Free Web Tool (Edublogs 2011)
Voting ends 13 Dec: "Vote early, vote often" ;-)
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
37-year bandwidth experiment & Roberts' Law (bits per second per dollar)

Having limped along in something of a 'broadband backwater' (old copper, long distance to cabinet), we finally got hooked up to BT's Fibre To The Premises. My early tests at showed me getting a whopping 48.39Mbps (this has now settled down to about half that). The graph shows my home speed since 1974, gaining roughly a tenfold increase every ten years.

Observing this trend in 2004, I wrote " graph ... appears merely to be re-confirming Moore’s law, or rather at least a byproduct of it. But there’s more here than meets the eye, and where better to look for the definitive account than “Mr Internet” himself, Larry Roberts, who spelled out all the trends very clearly in 1969, and then updated the figures slightly in 2000. ... Roberts comes up with what is, for me, a much more appealing metric than Moore’s “number of componenets per integrated circuit”: instead, Roberts analyses “bits per second per dollar” a wonderful measure (once you get your head around it), depicted in his 1969 graph... with its best fit equivalent to a doubling every 18.5 months.

That commentary, with links to the Moore and Roberts originals, is at

A related comment about my domestic broadband 'saga' appears at
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
Coolio - maybe someday my iPhone 4S will last the entire day ;-) . Of course, by the time the technology in this report below is available, it'll be the iPhone 10, which should last a week
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
Dismay at Microsoft's Productivity Future Visiton (2011)

(or, 'Bring on that hammer-throwing woman from Apple's famous '1984' Macintosh launch ad, and turn her loose on this video - these people are just as creepy.').

There's lots of talk about Microsoft's concept video, but I hated it, for the reasons mentioned below.

1. I know how hard it is to do these. We made one back in 1994 that looked a 'mere' 7 years ahead - and also bundled it with a riotous real-time capture of one of the first large scale virtual classroom experiments (using 14.4Kbps dial-up modems and CU-SeeMe, for you old-timers out there!). Check out the background story and the video itself (skip to 03:30 if you want the pure concept video) at

2. We never allowed ours to be released until years later when we got over our disappointment. It was a GREAT production for 1994 (full kudos to the fantastic BBC production team) with some great special effects deployed, BUT it was 'too cold' - we simply did not want to live in that house, nor in that future, so killed it on the spot, and at great expense. The Microsoft video has the same problem for me: it's way too cold, and the scenario is not one I want for my family or colleagues.

3. As luck would have it, I've just read two relevant items - (a) the Steve Jobs biography, with a decent description of the background to the famous "1984" ad, and (b) a Guardian article containing a quote from Jimi Hendrix about what was wrong with the Beach Boys amazing-for-the-era groundbreaking 'Smile' and 'Pet Sounds' ... Hendrix apparently 'dismissed the re-recorded version of Heroes and Villains as "a psychedelic barbershop quartet": a description that fits the Smile original even more perfectly'. Heh, well, I think the Hendrix quote sums up what's wrong with the Microsoft concept video: you can dress up in modern groovy trappings, but you can't disguise the underlying mentality that still needs a radical re-think, as the "1984" ad suggested rather pointedly!

4. That kid in the Microsoft video, doing drill-and-practice long-division on her tablet. Gimme a break. Seymour Papert and Alan Kay would be fuming, though I doubt they would even bother to acknowledge this video: it's over 40 years since those guys expounded a much richer vision of the future (in which that kid would be hacking her own machine, not doing some drill-and-practice exercise using a magic wand). Bah

5. [Update:] I'm struck by the way in which science fiction has often under-estimated the technology changes and over-estimated the societal changes. A great example of this is H.G. Wells's "The Shape of Things To Come" (1933 - look it up), which under-estimates technology in 2106 (they launch people into space using a giant cannon) and over-estimates societal changes (everything is all peaceful and lovey-dovey with a one-world government, and everyone wears slick uniforms). In our 1994 concept video mentioned above, we got a few things right about multiparty videoconferencing, but look at the big 'brick' of a mobile phone that the lady uses! In the Microsoft video, I think some more realistic social interactions would have helped - I don't expect them to 'do a Ridley Scott', but a nod in that direction would have helped.
Add a comment...

Post has attachment
Nice AI-ecosystem account of Siri

+Brian Roemelle has provided a detailed response on Quora to the question "Why is [Apple's] Siri important?"... I especially liked the insight about a new ecosystem that could be even more important than the current iTunes/app ecosystem: "Siri will be building on an ecosystem of Backend Cloud APIs. In it’s simplest form the API would declare the meaning of the data going in and out via ontologies that have been pre specified reachable by Siri on the Internet. Siri will than build a response on the Fly from the API data." etc.

I imagine that my [former lab] KMi ontology buddies are off-and-running with (at least) a bevy of PhD students working specifically on this (since they've been doing groundbreaking highly-related work for many years already) - indeed I saw a "Semantic Web Services-via-iPhone" demo at a recent presentation by +John Domingue, so I'm sure there's lots more cooking ! You'll probably need a Quora login to read the full answer linked below (so get one!):
Add a comment...

Post has shared content
Seems to me to be in good taste and funny, so here goes:
"Ten years ago we had Steve Jobs, Johnny Cash and Bob Hope. Now we have no jobs, no cash and no hope."
Add a comment...

Steve Jobs 1955-2011

Re-reading my previous posting, I see it was something of an understatement, written in an early-morning haze of denial. The fact is that I have long been a huge Apple and Steve Jobs follower and fan: I have owned all their products, spent my formative years in California 'under the influence' of the group that ultimately created the Mac, spent a brief period as a Visiting Scientist at Apple, furnished a major academic lab almost entirely with Apple equipment (much of it donated by Apple), and generally followed all their ups and downs closely over the years. 'Reality distortion field'? Maybe: but so much of what was developed under Steve Jobs' influence was both beautiful and world-beating that it didn't matter.

Steve Jobs inspired us in so many ways:
- what it really means to create 'insanely great' products
- how to merge art, technology, design, psychology, business, and 'attitude'
- how to build and enthuse a team
- how to transform the entire industries of computing, movies, music, and telephony
- how to start a business in your garage, and become the world's biggest
- how to make a comeback
- how to do a keynote address
- how to do advertising
- how to manage public relations
- how to build things that put a smile on people's faces

The list goes on and on: he was great leader, a once-in-a-lifetime personality. He leaves a gap that will be impossible (and perhaps inappropriate) to fill, yet he ably foresaw the need for 'new blood' to appear on the scene and replace the existing order. And so it goes.... we shall miss him greatly!

My favourite quote:

“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” – Businessweek, 1998
Add a comment...
Wait while more posts are being loaded