Interesting odds and ends

When asked, vast majority of businesses say IP is not important. This article mentions and links to some pretty credible surveys of businesses; copyrights and patents just aren’t important to the majority of businesses, even those in “intellectual” areas. This is all the more important because of actions by fringe groups like the RIAA or Disney who try to shape business policy to suit themselves. OK, they shape policy to suit themselves, and it’s bad for everyone, including them.

How to write a great research paper. This is an awesome presentation by Simon Peyton-Jones. Everyone who writes papers should read it. I’ll try to follow its guidance.

Some startup advice.

A BSD-licensed bignum library. But it needs non-Linux targets. I should add those.


The rest of the year in reading—October 21st-December 30th 2013

I got a little behind in my task of recording what I’ve read. It was a few days at first, then every week I though about catching up, and now it’s the end of the year. Since this is several months’ worth of reading, my apologies, but I’ll be fairly succinct in my reviewing. Even at that, I spent several hours re-looking at all of this. And yet, I wish I had more time to read than I do.


I went on a bit of a Poul Anderson tear. I’d read many of his books and stories in past years, and took the time to get re-acquainted when Baen Books released a Flandry series and assorted other books.

Poul Anderson, Technic Civilization Saga (7 books)

  • The Van Rijn Method
  • David Falkayn: Star Trader
  • Rise of the Terran Empire
  • Young Flandry
  • Captain Flandry, Defender of the Terran Empire
  • Sir Dominic Flandry, The Last Knight of Terra
  • Flandry’s Legacy

This was released in series order but not original publication order, so it has stories written in the early 1950s intermingled with stories written in the 1980s. Despite that, everything holds together well. Poul Anderson was always a very lyrical writer as well as one for both hard science and action. The major players in the stories are Nicolaus van Rijn, David Falkayn and Dominic Flandry, with a host of other amazing characters and scenes. Poul Anderson is one of those major iconic writers that have been somewhat forgotten in recent years. This is well worth reading, although it will take you a while; each volume is about 600 pages and Poul Anderson does not write filler.

To Outlive Eternity and other stories, Poul Anderson

This is a collection of some of Poul Anderson’s most iconic stories. The title story involves a Boussard ramjet spaceship that has an accident rendering it unable to slow down, so it literally travels through the entire history of the universe.

The Kings of Eternity, Eric Brown

Another interesting book by Eric Brown. This one has strong echos of H.G. Wells and Jules Verne.

Come And Take Them, Tom Kratman

This is another in a series that Tom Kratman has been writing about the pessimistic view of the near future when it comes to the EU and one-world government types.

Kiln People, David Brin

I put off reading this book for years. I might have actually bought this copy in 2004, it’s already slightly yellowed. It’s a book set in a world where you can copy yourself for fun or work, and the copies only last 24 hours. You can merge memories back to your organic body or not, as you prefer. David Brin explores the economic side heavily, and the “what does it all mean” side to some degree. It’s a dangerous topic, and he’s gone closer to it than most other attempts, because he writes about it from the point of view of the willing users in the system, without handwaving away the consequences.

The Other, Matthew Hughes

I like Matthew Hughes a lot. One of his loose series of books is very reminiscent of Jack Vance, and this is one of those books. Read it.

Year Zero, Rob Reid

What if the rest of the universe owed us all their money for copyright violations because they loved our music that much? This book veered from silly to great. On the whole, it was good, because it managed to barely stayed away from Hitchhiker’s Guide absurdity. You’ll learn a lot about copyright and its implications. The author has some technology credence, he founded and the Rhapsody music service.

David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell

If you like Malcom Gladwell, you’ll like this book.


ACM Transactions on Software Engineering and Methodology, Vol 22 No 1, 2013

Adbusters, Vol 21 No 5, September/October 2013

I try to understand this guy (I get the feeling it’s mainly one person), because I can appreciate some of what he’s saying. But this is a descent into lunacy. Western thinking is not the source of all evil.

The Atlantic, November 2013

Elon Musk and the 50 greatest inventions since the wheel,  the science of whiskey, a decent article on Douglas Hofstadter.

The Atlantic, December 2013

Big Data, how corrections officers are trained to combat prison riots, and why cameras failed to capture many iconic images in World War 1.

Bloomberg Business Week, August 5-11, 2013

Marissa Meyer and Yahoo

Bloomberg Business Week, August 12-25, 2013

Bill Gates interview, many other interviews.

Bloomberg Business Week, November 4-10, 2013

Barack Obama’s adminstration needs a reboot.

Bloomberg Business Week, The Year Ahead, 2014

And… Blomberg Business Week jumps the shark. This is not even a veiled attempt to reproduce what The Economist does; the first page says “we have the good stuff, The Economist doesn’t know what they are talking about”.

I tried to read this issue. The typography and layout fight against any such attempt, and there just isn’t enough insight or new information in it for me to keep trying. I read perhaps 30% of the issue before giving up in disgust. I found this sad.

Bloomberg Business Week, December 16-22, 2013

This had an article on Mary Barra, who will be running GM next year. But I think I’m done trying to read Bloomberg, it’s just not useful enough to me.

Communications of the ACM, Vol 56 No 7, July 2013

Some interesting articles on nonblocking and lock-free algorithms, a position piece on employment and AI, and other bits.

Communications of the ACM, Vol 56 No 8, August 2013

Mobile optimization, antifragile organizations, teaching programming, and trends in MOOCs.

Communications of the ACM, Vol 56 No 12, December 2013

An overview of HTTP 2.0 (pretty good one), language interoperability (another good article), and more bits about the coming dislocation being caused by computers (should everyone program).

The Economist, various

  • October 26-November 1st 2013
  • November 2nd-8th 2013
  • November 9th-15th 2013
  • November 16th-22nd 2013
  • November 23rd-29th 2013

Lots of stuff happened, but you lived through it, although you probably don’t know much about 95% of it.

The Economist, The World in 2014

Another combination of year-in-summary and prediction ahead. This is not a bad way to get your geo/political/economic news, so I suggest you read at least this every year. The challenge is the context, of course; if you just read this, it will take you a month to digest it. But you should know what’s going on.

The Economist, December 7th-13th, 2013

I didn’t realize how big BlackRock is as an investor. It’s the major stockholder in many of the biggest companies. That’s pretty powerful. It manages $15 trillion in assets. And keep watching Ukraine, something is going to happen there, but can’t tell if it will be good or bad.

The Economist, December 14th-20th, 2013

The Economist has a pretty good piece on Nelson Mandella. No whitewashing, but still lots of respect. And I’ve never seen a three-page obituary in the Economist before, but if anyone deserves it, Mandella does. And the big question for India and the world is Narendra Modi; talk about wild cards. He could win, but will that help or hurt India?

The Economist, December 21st 2013-Jan 3rd 2014

The last issue of the year, so it’s not quite double-size. China is trying to make its own Hollywood, but isn’t quite getting the point. Much of the issue is actually issues-based, not cutting-news-based. Very reflective.

Foreign Affairs, November/December 2013

Standout articles on Sebastian Thrun (Google), on a better immigration policy (if only), an amazing piece on hypocrisy in American foreign policy, and lots more.

Harvard Business Review, November 2013

This is a “decision” issue; many of the articles revolve around how to make better decisions.

Harvard Business Review, December 2013

Daniel Goleman has a new book titled Focus, and has an article in HBR this month based on that book. The important article, however, was How Google Sold Its Engineers on Management. I found the rest of the articles on analytics to be unconvincing, however.

Lapham’s Quarterly, Vol 6 No 4, Fall 2013

The title of this issue is Death. As always, it covers the gamut of writing on this topic over the past 3000 years. Read it, although it will take you weeks.

Linux Format, Issue 173, August 2013

Linux Format, Issue 177, December 2013

Linux Format, Issue 178, Christmas 2013

The big news here is that some of my favorite editors have left Linux Format to start their own venture. I may or may not keep reading LXF post-departure.

Maximum PC, Vol 18 No 9, September 2013

Maximum PC, Vol 18 No 12, December 2013

Maximum PC, Vol 19, No 1, January 2014

More stuff.

MIT Technology Review, Vol 116 No 6, November/December 2013

This was a generally excellent issue: privacy challenges, driverless cars, the decline of Wikipedia, and why drugs cost so much.

New Scientist, October 12-18th, 2013

I bought this to read an article on the Theory of Everything (unified physics model). The magazine is too pop/lightweight for me, but if it gets other people interested in science, then good.

The New Yorker, Nov 25 2013

I wish I could read the New Yorker every week, because it is cool and hip and erudite. But it also doesn’t have a lot in it that interests me. This issue was driverless cars (yes, I’m interested), and on relationships in Korea. But the article I was most interested in was an article on new tech companies and what makes them different, titled “Naked Launch”, by Nathan Heller. I recommend it.

Popular Mechanics, November 2013

I bought this because it had an article titled “The Year’s Best Tech Science Gear and big Ideas”.

Raspberry pi Geek, Issue 1

I bought this because it was the first issue of a magazine devoted to the Raspberry Pi. I need to find a few weeks so I can do a trial of an idea, which is to buy 30 of these and give them to a grade school along with some help, so kids can learn to program at an early age.

Scientific American, August 2013

An article on sleep and memories. But in general, I mourn the Scientific American of my memories of 30 years ago. Either it is more lightweight now, or I know more and so I’m unfairly judging it. But it’s just not as substantial a magazine as I remember it being.

Scientific American Mind, November/December 2013

An article on how the 7 deadly sins can actually be good things.

tpm, The Philosopher’s Magazine, Issue 62, 3rd Quarter 2013

The ethics of building improved humans.

SIGPLAN Notices, Vol 48 No 4, April 2013

There were a few interesting articles on memory allocation and garbage collection.

SIGPLAN Notices, Vol 48 No 5, May 2013

This was the Languages, Compilers and Tools for Embedded Systems 2013 conference issue.

Wired 21.06

The programmable world, the idea that billions of sensors all talk to each other. Someone who thinks they can finally make a supercomputer replica of part of the human brain. An article on Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal). It’s typical Wired stuff.

Wired 21.07

An article on General Keith Alexander, just before Snowden’s bombshells started hitting. But more usefully, a good article on Skybox, a startup that wants to send lots of tiny satellites into space.

Wired 21.08

More stuff, some of it grim.

Wired 21.10

The science of food.

Wired 21.11


Wired Design Life

This was a nice try, but it missed.

Code Style

In recent years, I’ve downplayed code style in public conversations, but not because I think code style is unimportant. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. Over the years, I’ve arrived at a position where I think there are good styles, much like there are good styles for writing in English. At some point, I need to make the attempt to write a monograph on this. Until then, I collect others who have done the same.

Here’s a reasoned explanation of one individual’s programming style. His first draft was written in 1990, and was revisited in 2001.


Intel SSDs reliable, OCZ deserved their bankruptcy

I ran across a fascinating analysis of current-generation SSDs from the point of view of reliability.

The author was involved in some large-scale deployments of SSD drives. Over 50% of the OCZ drives suffered data corruption, and virtually none of the Intel SSDs did. The author set out to create some tests to evaluate drives with, and found out that OCZ went for performance over reliability, in an insane way.

Further investigation then dug up an interesting nugget: it turns out that OCZ apparently had been warned by Sandforce not to enable a switch in the firmware which would result in “increased speed”. OCZ, in their desperate attempt to remain “king of the speed wars” ignored the advice that doing so would result in data corruption. The results correlate with this advice: at higher speeds, data corruption occurs.

OCZ drives actually worked at some point, but OCZ started shipping drives that were somewhat faster in benchmarks, but failed quite quickly. I had two of these drives, one failed within days, so I returned both of them. I would agree with the author’s conclusion:

The OCZ Management deserve everything that’s happened to OCZ. They should have listened to Sandforce: the history of SSDs would have been a radically different story.

It might be interesting to recreate his torture tests and try this on some of the newer drives like the Samsung 840 EVO.


Where is my 10Gb Ethernet!

It’s been a very long time since 1Gb Ethernet was cheap, and file sizes have kept growing. I really want 10Gb Ethernet for both home and work.

Alas, this is just an ad for Intel, but at least it TALKS about 10Gb as something people would actually have:

Stuff is still expensive

Adapters are $200 to $500, and switches are $1000 to $5000.

There is a motherboard with 10GB on board – – about $900.

What you want to buy is 10GBASE-T as it uses Cat6 or Cat6a twisted pair cables.

Netgear has an 8-port 10GBASE-T switche – – $850 on Amazon –

Intel 10GBASE-T NICs are about $350 for single-port – – and $500 for dual port –

So a small network with 4 computers on 10Gb would be around $2500 when you add cables, or about $600 a port. For 8 computers, it still works out to about $450 a port.

Unfortunate that bonding isn’t an answer.



Some words to search with:

  • Xen
  • VMWare
  • VirtualBox
  • Parallels Desktop, Parallels Workstation
  • Microsoft Virtual PC (previously from Connectix)
  • SoftPC
  • KVM (RedHat)
  • hypervisor
  • paravirtualization
  • Hyper-V
  • VHD

There is hardware assistance for virtualization

  • Intel VT-x
  • AMD-V

There’s also emulation, which often goes hand-in-hand with virtualization

  • Bochs
  • QEMU
  • DOSBox

Some vendor-specific pages about virtualization