Programming as Hotdog vending


Yesterday while talking with a colleague, I was trying to get across the idea the most ‘programmers’ don’t understand what goes on inside a computer. And his response was, “Does it matter any more?” and while it took me back, I had to respond, “No!” After sleeping on it, I came to a revelation of sorts.

Current IT is equivalent to being a Hot-dog vendor on the street.

And while we IT/CS folk might try and elevate our profession to that status of demigod status we are merely vendors of what the computer can DO!‘ We don’t create the computer, we splash condiments on the hot-dog, and sell it as computing. We don’t even make the condiments anymore, call them libraries, functions written by gnomes in dark caves. And don’t even mention the buns, the dressing ,the cover, beyond us.

In the early days of computing, the common question was, what do I use my computer for. And the first answer often was, you could put your cooking recipes in it. Creating the first cookbook you needed to plugin. The computer is still the same, just that the cookbook has gotten more sophisticated.

I have harped for years that the ‘hardware’ of computing has crippled real advances in computing, more and more systems are opting for generic in their selection of Hot-dog instead, choosing to dress it up with more and intriguing spices and toppings, things like AI and Neural Networks. While these latter are more sophisticated and sexy, they are more or less toppings on the same Hot-dog.

IT’s not always a boy’s game, by choice.


I’ve been having a few twitter conversations about Internet startups, IT development and the ‘Boys Club’ it always appears to be. I’ve been working at a Internet Company, more than a startup, less than a powerhouse. And what was once called is now called Teamwork.COM with the recent purchase of that very domain name.

Several Ladies have commented, one in Australia and another in California, particularly on the photos we had up for the ‘re-branding’ event.

However this is NOT the whole story, we have tried to hire NON-WHITE-NON-MALE personnel, We have held ‘Open Houses’, posted all over Cork (Home base) out of 10 (very disappointing) no persons of color, and only one woman. No one really qualified, as even the universities aren’t teaching what students need to get into the computing environment. We weren’t even trying just for ‘programmers’ none of the people bothered to even find out what we did on the Internet.

We have had interns (1 Male 1 female) in, and while useful, they were more interested in finishing school than working for us. Last year set out to hire 10 people, more than doubling the staff, and we managed only 4, not all developers, from Lithuania, the Netherlands, Australia
and Bulgaria. All male, all white. And it’s not our choice, it’s all that we are presented with that are educated and/or interested in working with us.

In Catholic Ireland, the Nuns still teach that Math and Science (and technology) are for the ‘boys’ and tell the girls to choose something else. Only since things like Coder Dojo’s have girls been learning coding and web development. And even there, the female component constitutes only a minority.

Until such time as females are educated, and qualified to develop code, or web working. The all-white-all-male club will be more the norm than than in the general populations. And you can’t enforce a gender balance on startups and lean companies, it would crush them. Only educations will change this imbalance. So please stop complaining about us, and others, and start sending your daughters, wives and girlfriends to school.

So if you are qualified and motivated send a CV or drop an email at Teamwork.COM

The Elysium Space station.


The movie Elysum while pretty, has again demonstrated the same kind of rubbish engineering that Jurassic Park demonstrated.

There has been much awe and marvel at the open topped nature of the habitat ring on the Space Station, but while they concede that there might be some ‘leakage’ of the atmosphere they really DON’T understand how any real engineer who would built a station with the POSSIBILITY of leakage would be a fool. ANY fault that might slow the rotation of the Stanford Torus would cause the loss of the life support systems. The fully enclosed, even by something as insubstantial as aluminized film, would prevent the loss of atmosphere. While disregarding the solar radiation granted by the thick atmosphere of the Earth, shielding would need to be in place, or fry it’s inhabitants.

Continuing, who in their right minds would engineer a space station with the single point of failure, that during a ‘reboot’ of the software (computer) it would shut off all the lights on the station. What are you using a PC to control ALL the systems EVERYTHING is dependant on, from a single reboot? You must be joking, while I can see how the ‘dramatic’ nature might be a useful ‘Deus ex machina‘ moment, it just beggars disbelief and undermines the potential respect of the Movie.

Language of computing

I was reminded this Christmas Holiday season that computers do not ‘know‘ any human language, only binary, and that it takes humans to provide the translation from the machine to something human readable. And while most computer programing languages are ‘English’ like, they need not have to be in the English Language. It’s just what’s what happened first, and could be changed into another language at anytime.

This came to me in an inspired way, by listening to Carols, where non-native speakers were singing in latin, and other non-english speakers were singing in English, or German, or French. That you can sing in a language, and not know how to speak in it.

I suspect that is the same method that most non-english speakers program computers in ‘english like’ programing languages. By layering another translation over the programming, or like in singing, which uses another part of the brain, different from the part that provides language skills, another part of the brain is used to converse with computers. Thus making the point that people who program, do think with altered brains.

The real problem with a ‘Silicon Republic’ for Ireland

If Cork, and probably Ireland in general, ever wants to get a leg up on Silicon Valley, or ANY tech center, they will have to get the local booksellers to start carrying books on the subject. YES! I do know the subject is a moving target, and that good books are hard to find, but keeping NOTHING on the shelves doesn’t help at all!.

At Eason’s Books it looks like this, while having 5 full cases of food books, and two full ones on ‘spirituality’ :

Computer books in Eason's

Waterstones Looks like this, not any better:

Computer books at Waterstones

It would almost be better not to have ANY computer selection than to have these pathetic examples for selection.

Benchmarking the Raspberry-Pi

This is a crude and simple PI test against the Raspberry-Pi and a Dell Pentuim-4 (3.0Ghz)

The Raspberry-Pi
Starting PI…
x= 0.38631 y= 0.89070 low= 939239 j=1200001
Pi = 3.130797 ztot= 801773.75 itot= 1200000

real 0m1.900s
user 0m1.720s
sys 0m0.000s

Starting PI…
x= 0.38631 y= 0.89070 low= 939239 j=1200001
Pi = 3.130797 ztot= 801773.75 itot= 1200000

real 0m0.099s
user 0m0.096s
sys 0m0.000s

This somewhere between 17x and 19x speed difference, but compairing a ARM RISC ALU with a Pentium’s CISC FPU is not a fair comparison either. In other testing I was doing, I only got a 5x difference in performance, roughtly the difference between the Raspberry-Pi’s 700Mhz and the Pentium’s 3.0Ghz clock frequency.

As I got this benchmark from an old site, I was amused to note that this benchmark only makes the Raspberry-Pi about 56x times FASTER than a MicroVAX-II, a system I cut my teeth on in my programming life.

Life’s relative, maybe I should write that down.

Note; the GPU was NOT part of the testing.

UPDATE: I managed to get this bencmark to run on a Arduino Uno (16Mhz) and the Pi is 126 times faster, So much for using an 8 bit processor as a number cruncher :-)


The new Raspbian Distribution, (after a recompile) produced this benchmark.

Starting PI…
x= 0.38631 y= 0.89070 low= 939239 j=1200001
Pi = 3.130797 ztot= 801773.75 itot= 1200000

real 0m0.539s
user 0m0.520s

sys 0m0.010s

or between 3.52 and 3.30 TIMES faster that the original Debian Squeeze distro. That makes it only about 5.44 times slower than the Pentium 4 at 3.0Ghz which I was detecting before with non numeric benchmarking. An interesting side note, due to the ‘Hard Float’ the timings incured 1/100 second of SYS time on the benchmark.

It’s ALIVE, ALIVE (it blinks)

What can I say, it works, See here , and it’s SOOOO productive. I’s amazing that it makes me feel good that I managed to reproduce/assemble a kit of this nature. I grew up with this sort of thing, and couldn’t afford to participate with this technology. It wasn’t until latter that I bought my own Apple II+ (another story) with my own money.

One day of concerted Soldering

This is my Monday effors of concerted soldering my neck is stiff, and I have a nice blister on my right hand index finger from fumbling the soldering pencil, but I managed. I thought I had a power source conector, but my failing memory…. power test today sometime, then searching for any cold solder joints and shorts. Wishfull hoping for a first time success….

UPDATE: It does power up, and works, however I have a loose connection in the power plug I built so I have to build another, better one tomorrow.

The wife needed proof that I do ‘kitchen’ work :-)

The Banking Crisis is Our Fault!

I heard all the arguments, and if I were in a position to actually have made the decisions, or been allowed to tender an opinion on the actions taken. I know I would have made different choices. But in the end;


We the people of Ireland are personally responsible for the crisis, for WE voted on the corrupt and idiotic government, the bad bureaucracy and bribed banked owned politicians who put us into this position. AS IN PERIOD!


There is no getting around it, so stop talking about a banking crisis, it’s a crisis of a democratic majority more concerned with trifling personalities, and historical artifacts that have no basis in fact. A Nonsensical political system that reenforces the rich, and dumps the poor and middle classes.

Kindle as the fire of Fahrenheit 451

In the science fiction book Fahrenheit 451 I often wondered what the catalyst was. In the current age, that has become apparent, control, with government leaders demanding ‘controls’ over the Internet, and most other communications media the books presented in the Novel are information. However, there is another aspect of books which in this age of electronic books (eBook) presents itself as a missing element in control.

While experimenting with the Kindle on Android I found that the Android Pad I was using, while reading a Kindle book was in constant communication with Amazon Books. Almost every page turn was being recorded and sent to Amazon, even the location of where I was reading them was a requirement during the reading of the eBook.

I discovered that if you turn off location features in your pad, or Android Phone, the kindle software will prevent you from reading a downloaded book. If you can not communicate with Amazon via WiFI or other wireless channel, you can’t open your books, even if they were previously downloaded.

Sometime back Amazon became embroiled in a controversy over publishing rights to a book, and directly removed it from peoples ebook readers, without the consent of the user.

Amazon/Kindle does not allow the loaning of books to others, even if they have been paid for. The owner just doesn’t have that right anymore.

All of these elements add up to the same thing, printed books are ‘out of control’ they can be read by anyone, loaned to anyone, and their content is not subject to change once printed. These are things that Amazon eBooks can do. Change content, disappear, track readers, prevent distribution and dissemination of content.

Not to get too scary, but fundamentally the loss of printed books marks a point where knowledge has peaked, and the end of freedom of thought. No longer will information be available freely. The internet will be throttled, bottled, canned and banned to suit the requirements of the controlling society. Books will be available, eBooks, with controlled revisable content, restricted to cleared and sanctioned readers from known locations. And every word will be monitored as it is read.

The Woe of WiKileaks

George Carlin on the “American dream, outlines why WiKileaks is being assaulted. And why we have such rotten governments around the world.

Additional Material: Amnesia as a Way of Life: WikiLeaks Amid the “Careless People”

Apprenticeships for the unemployed

The future of Irish unemployment, or for that matter, unemployment anywhere, may involve re-establishing a medieval apprenticeship, where students, or other unemployed IT/Scientific/Technical workers live with those in the same industry who ARE working, and learn the business from them, as MASTERS of the craft.

Apprentice – A Medieval Guild Apprentice was sent to work for a ‘Master’ during his early teens. The Apprenticeship lasted between 5 and 9 years depending on the trade. During this time the apprentice received no wages – just his board, lodging and training. An Apprentice was not allowed to marry until he reached the status of a Journeyman.

While all of these requirements need not be followed, it might alleviate homeless students or other tradesmen.

Underground War – Whistle Blowers strike back.

I may be the last to see this, a war, underground and undeclared, but a war. The opponents are a bit undefined but there is a clear and escalating combat in the world. I’m not talking about Terrorists, (although the establishment who is under assault may declare their attackers as such) I am talking about the the established order, The Multi-Nationals, the Big Press, Governments, Military establishments, Religious organizations. The big anonymous bodies that have been abusing their positions to detriment everyone else.

On the opposing side, are all the little people, groups and oppressed, or the perceived oppressed. Your fellow ‘pissed off’ worker setting next to you, who will explode in a fountain of Whistle blowing. A venting of frustration that will result in the next big internet explosion.

The WikiLeaks is merely the first oozing pustule on the face of the corporeal Corporations of the world. The World of Blogging has for many years undermined the world press both broadcast and print to the point that now the majority of the population now refer to the Internet for real news rather than the handful of corporation owned ‘News’ services.

Control has now slipped out of the hands of those who for years have managed the information flow. Evidence of this ‘management’ appears almost daily in the presentations of ignorance passed off as ‘News’. And where ‘Fair and Balanced’ openly bribe governments to maintain control, religious organizations openly attempt to promote such myths as Creationism at the scientific Truth.

The tide has turned, and the failing newspapers are only the start. Watch for more WikiLeaks and Whistle Blower sites springing up, more Lawsuits more Smear campaigns as the giant attempts to swat the Whistleblowers who are biting it to death.

Nokia Smartphone reality check, Ka-ching!

All the bad news,
Nokia smartphones dumb down profits
Nokia releases Q2 2010 results; profits down, market share flat
Nokia Q2 2010 results – profits down but smartphone sales up

So lets do a reality check on the facts; Nokia profits are Down 40%, but are still making a Profit. Which means they are in the green economically, and are making a Profit of €221M Euros (285M$). But 40% less than last quarter, meaning that they are only making 60% of the profit they made last quarter, during the worst recession in over 100 years And everyone is complaining?

The only thing this tells me, is that a manufacture like Apple who makes more profit on their iPhone 4, is ripping off their customers by charging a premium price for a Smartphone and Nokia does not!

Reality Check cashed, Ka-ching, change your misperception!

I’m truly afraid for the United States

I’m truly afraid for the United States, and I’ll tell you why, when Consumers are more satisfied with Fox News sites than newspapers or any other News Services for that matter, it boggles the mind. I can’t imagine, the only News service Fox News, that can Legally Lie is the most satisfying News service in America.

I’m very, very afraid for the intelligence of the U.S. population.