Ig Nobel winners 2015

September 23rd, 2015  |  Published in Uncategorized

I’m a bit behind on this, but the winners of the 2015 Ig Nobel prizes have been announced. So now thanks to science we know that in every language “huh?” means the same thing, that all mammals take about the same amount of time to pee, and that kissing can help with your allergies.

Kids doing well

August 27th, 2015  |  Published in Uncategorized

The Raspberry Pi is succeeding in ways its makers almost imagined.

“Grandpa is getting pretty old. Out there all alone on that farm, he has no one to look in on him, just to see if he’s ok. He’ll use the landline, but he’s beyond of the range of mobile, and he’s never been really great with computers. No Skype or emails. Grandpa does have internet. So I built this for him.”

The girl points down to a small box with a few wires coming out.

“I can bring up a web browser, and take photos inside grandpa’s house. Has he moved his coffee cup today? Is the telly on? At least then we’ll know he’s okay. And I can even type messages” – she changes focus to a textbox inside a web form – “that show up on top. We used ImageMagick for that part…here, you can see it in our code.”

Fingers fly across the keyboard, and now I’m reading the source code for an index.php page, another marriage of convenience between HTML and PHP. How’d this girl – all of eleven years old – learn to do this?

“A lot of it was trial and error.” Both she and her project partner blush a bit. “The PHP bits were kinda hard. But we found a lot of stuff on Google,” she confides.

COBOL and JavaScript

August 18th, 2015  |  Published in Uncategorized

Calling 1959 from your Web code: A COBOL bridge for Node.js

Outsourcing and security

July 30th, 2015  |  Published in Uncategorized

Who is your IT outsourcing firm working for?

The driving force behind outsourcing and offshoring is to find the cheapest IT talent on the planet. The people hired to do this work usually do not have a college education. They are young and have no experience. They are paid $7 to $15 an hour. The background and qualification checks are superficial at best. They have some IT training, but most of what they know is taught on the job. Now imagine how easy it would be for a cyber criminal to insert himself (or herself) into an outsourcing firm. Imagine how easy it would be to bribe and compromise a worker for an outsourcing firm. Since no one at the outsourcing firm works for your business it is very easy for cyber criminals to operate unnoticed. Edward Snowden used other people’s ID’s to access and copy data. Most cyber criminals these days are smart enough to cover their tracks. Given the weak management at many outsourcing firms, if they detected a problem they’d probably fire the innocent and completely miss what was really going on.

The outsourcing and offshoring of IT makes cyber crime a lot easier.

At least some of these concerns also apply to “cloud” vendors.

Twenty years ago

June 1st, 2015  |  Published in Uncategorized

I was reading Jeffrey Zeldman’s 20th-anniversary post and realized that sometime this month (I don’t remember the exact day; I think it was near the end of the month) will be the 20th anniversary of when I started on webAgent 1.

As a side note, one of the things he said was:

Because folks don’t bookmark and return to personal sites as they once did. And they don’t follow their favorite personal sites via RSS, as they once did.

I still follow favorite personal sites via RSS. That’s how I saw his post. Maybe because I’m a total nerd myself, but I’ve never understood why RSS didn’t catch on more. For me it’s by far the best way to keep up.

1401 Bitcoin miner

May 26th, 2015  |  Published in Uncategorized

Chap mines Bitcoin with PUNCH CARDS and ancient mainframe

Vintage hardware enthusiast Ken Shirriff has shown that a model 1401 mainframe, which IBM announced in 1959, can mine Bitcoin. If, that is, your definition of mining includes “chugging away at the problem until pretty close to the heat-death of the universe.”

Old computers

May 13th, 2015  |  Published in Uncategorized

If you thought running a mainframe was old-fashioned:

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It: Ancient Computers in Use Today

(via the IBM-MAIN mailing list.)

TidBITS turns 25

April 22nd, 2015  |  Published in Uncategorized

Mac-oriented tech site TidBITS has been publishing on the internet for 25 years. I don’t remember exactly when I started reading TidBITS, but it was probably before the end of 1996.


Mandelbrot set on a 1401

March 23rd, 2015  |  Published in Uncategorized

Mature mainframe madness prints Mandelbrot fractal in TWELVE MINUTES

The article calls the output device a “dot matrix printer”, but it looks more like output from a 1403 impact printer, which as you can tell from the number was designed to work with IBM’s 1401 processor. The 1403 was adapted to work with System/360 computers, and we still had one in use through the mid 1990’s.

Being data-driven

March 12th, 2015  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  1 Comment

Via Rands in Repose: The Joyless World of Data-Driven Startups

Our capability to measure and record data is rapidly improving, at a time when more and more leaders are trying to protect their status and image by walking the middle ground, pre-calculating every decision and spoken word. The result is that the world increasingly uses and relies on data-driven decisions, from the smallest trivial matters, to policies in large corporations and entire countries. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it’s critical. But sometimes it fails, or results in unintended consequences that we may not notice for years.