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Archive for January, 2015

Goodbye, Dr. Dobb’s!

Late in December came the news: “After 38 years of glory, the long run of Dr. Dobb’s has come to an end“. If you have been a software developer for say a decade or more, you must have read some of what was published by the Dr., either on paper or on the web. No?

I have known the paper magazine titled “Dr. Dobb’s Journal of Computer Calisthenics & Orthodontia” since the mid 1980’s. In those days, “Dr. Dobb’s” aka. DDJ, “Byte” and a UK magazine called “Computer Language” were my lecturers in computer hardware and software. I have mentioned Byte earlier; DDJ was special for its combination of hardcore programming and algorithm discussion (look up Allen Holub), along with a touch of humour in the column written by Michael Swaine.

The cover of DDJ, May 1988

The cover of DDJ, May 1988

I still have a single copy in my library: the May 1988 edition. But time goes on, so it’s goodbye, Dr. Dobb’s. I won’t forget you.

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From “Forgotten treasures: 31 undeveloped, 70-year-old rolls of film shot by WWII Soldier” (on DIY Photography):

History, while being something we often repeat, is a precious treasure that, with time, often passes from recollection. With a passion to ensure that doesn’t happen, the Rescued Film Project makes it their mission preserve forgotten treasures and share them with the world. They take old, rescued film from the 1930s to the 1990s, develop it, and digitally preserve it before it degrades beyond any usability.

A sample picture from the Rescued Film Project

A sample picture from the Rescued Film Project

As a photographer, I evaluate the resulting photographs as mostly “failed snapshots”. As an historian, I see the documentary value of even the silliest photo – we’ll need an large “ScannedFilm” project to rescue at least a part of the millions of photo prints that are being kept in cupboards and closets without viewers… The occasional great picture gives a worthwhile project an extra reason to continue, I hope – yes, there are a few treasures in the current collection.

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Is Palm, the successful PDA company of the late 1990’s and the years after, coming back? Not as company, no. But it looks as if Audi is going to revive part of the Palm heritage with a smart watch running WebOS. WebOS is a mobile operating system, developed by Palm and later open-sourced, after Palm had gone down. The watch is just a prototype for the moment, but a good looking prototype indeed ;-)

Android Central has more details - just click the photo

Android Central has more details – just click the photo

 

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The Republicans in the US don’t really have a good reputation when it comes to science. Things are bound to get worse now that they are control of both the Senate and the House; in the words of Ars Technica: “Senate staff reshuffle: Climate denial is everywhere“. I’m not really familiar with the names of the Senators mentioned, but I’m assuming that they have all had a decent education – and yet, they fail to understand that science can prove that at least a substantial part of the changes observed in the global climate are the result of human actions (on a large scale). Oh well, researchers from the University of Kansas propose an explanation for that phenomon (which is also mentioned in “Education plus ideology exaggerates rejection of reality“). In my words: well-educated people with a conservative ideology think they know everything better…

But rather than enumerate the many mechanisms that scientists can point to to explain global warming, I would like to refer you to another story, that shows how human intervention in nature can cause large, unforeseen and/or unwanted consequences. The New Yorker, in an article titled “The Big Kill“, tells about “New Zealand’s crusade to rid itself of mammals“. The author manages to combine the essence of the geological and biological history of New Zealand with personal testimonials of nature lovers that are trying to weed out all mammals from the country. It’s an interesting read, even if you just want to learn something about New Zealand, and even more so if you want to learn something about evolution.

Click the image to visit the "Predator Free New Zealand Trust" website

Click the image to visit the “Predator Free New Zealand Trust” website

Whether the New Zealanders will succeed in their endeavour remains to be seen; but, according to the author, they have already managed to make extermination of animals an export product with economic value.

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The french newspaper “Nice Matin” has created an iPhone and iPad app called “Je suis CHARLIE !“.

Click the image to go to the App Store

Click the image to go to the App Store

It’s good to be supportive of the fight against intolerance and for freedom of speech (including freedom of the press, of course). But apps like this won’t last long, I guess, and I am quite certain that we will have to do more than write a quick app to win the war!

Just for the record: the Google Play Store does not (yet?) show an equivalent app for Android…

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Orange BMW R1100S

Neil Waterhouse offers us a look at his vision of what a BMW R1100S should like.

orange-bmw-r1100s-riboseat.jpg

I’m impressed – I love the orange! And thanks for the inspiration: I hope my wife likes the Riboseat cover for the pillion too.

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I’m writing these lines while more than a million individuals demonstrate in the streets of Paris (F), Bordeaux (F), Lyon (F), Marseille (F), Berlin (D), Brussels (B), and more. All of them are there to protest the insane killings in Paris of the last week; all of them also defending the freedom of expression and the freedom of the press (and just for today I will not wonder about the lack of reactions to the fact that people like Benjamin Netanyahu and Recep Tayyip Erdogan are also marching in Paris).

marche-a-paris.png

The situation reminds me of what happened at Utøya on July 22nd, 2011, where another criminal/terrorist/fool killed many, many people in an undemocratic, intolerant, racist, extremist, and even fascist attempt to get the attention he failed to attract in non-violent ways.

So rather than wait a year to commerate their passing, I cite their names now. Remember them, the victims of the killings of Montrouge, CharlieHebdo and the Porte de Vincennes:

Frédéric Boisseau
Philippe Braham
Franck Brinsolaro
Jean Cabut (“Cabu”)
Elsa Cayat
Stéphane Charbonnier (“Charb”)
Yohan Cohen
Yoav Hattab
Philippe Honoré
Clarissa Jean-Philippe
Bernard Maris
Ahmed Merabet
Mustapha Ourrad
Michel Renaud
François-Michel Saada
Bernard Verlhac (“Tignous”)
Georges Wolinski

Democracy has been attacked, and it is up to us to defend it better than we did until now!

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In “Twitter and Facebook aren’t working“, Dave Winer writes:

We may think we’re being informed by these great social media tools, but more likely we’re being fed. High fructose emotional rage medicine. Here’s the next thing to be angry about. And the next and the next and so on. Facebook is a bit nicer… But something is seriously missing.

Of course something is missing!

First of all, what you see in many social media tools is just a pale reflection of the people that are posting the content on them. Getting to know the people in the flesh could be an eyeopener for you, as it did for Dave.

Secondly; “Social Media” aren’t necessarily very social, unless you’re someone who limits his or her social interactions by saying “Hodor“, I mean “Like“.

I have once tried to explain to my son that being a “member” of Facebook does not make you more social than someone who is not. Being able to manipulate a social media tool does not make you a social being. “Social behavior” is composed of actions, “which are directed at other people and are designed to induce a response” (see the Wikipedia). Those responses can take many other forms than “Like“, and the discussion about a “Dislike” button on FB barely touches the surface of that rich spectrum of emotions humans are capable of. Capturing those emotions with just a simple black-or-white decision such as “Like” is very, very hard, even when there is no software around to make things worse if it’s not thought through completely.

Consider the case of Eric Meyer: his story (on his blog) about the death of his daughter drew many reactions of sympathy. A culture where “popularity” – as in “many readers” or “many likes” – equals “success” (in terms of advertising revenue, for example) makes it very hard to see the reason for that “popularity”. In Eric’s case, it was mostly “compassion” for a family that grieved – is still grieving – over the loss of a loved one. Not exactly a cheerful event, nothing to brag about, and perhaps even not something you want to be reminded of by a dumb website…

Dislike” and “Agree” and “I Feel Your Pain” buttons won’t be coming anytime soon, I’m afraid. In the meantime, we can only hope that social media tool developers will adapt the tools, to make it easier to opt out of any aspect of the tool that relies on dumb statistics. And even that might prove difficult, given the business models many social media companies rely on.

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Je Suis Charlie #charliehebdo

A blog, like mine, is only possible in a society where freedom of speech and democracy are undeniable rights of every citizen. When freedom of speech is attacked, then I am attacked as well. Today, I was attacked – even though the personal suffering is being felt in Paris, France. Let us not forget Charb, Cabu, Tignous, Wolinski, Bernard Maris, and the other victims of today’s attack on the french satirical journal Charlie Hebdo, for by forgetting them we will also forget a very essential part of our society: freedom of speech.

 

Click the image for a few translations (PDF)

Click the image for a few translations (PDF)

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Is It An S Or An RT ?

A while ago, I found a BMW R1100S for sale in the UK – not because I’m looking to buy (another!) one, but because I was struck by its looks.

BMW-R1100S-2000-1

BMW-R1100S-2000-2

This R1100S has had a paint job (and a higher steering bar) that makes it look like the sleeker version of the BMW R1200RT. Nice work!

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Toni Ahvenainen has had a busy year 2014, or at least, that’s what I think he had after seeing his “Year of the Alpha” website. Here is the essence of his year-long project:

Idea of this photo blog is to share minimum of 2 photographs every week (Wednesdays and Saturdays) taken with Sony Alpha camera system and a small diary like description go with it.

He has accomplished his goal of publishing at least 104 pictures; his counter is up to 130. In my view, he did a fine job: you can tell that he’s a “visual” person, with a keen eye (he’s a graphical artist and web designer).

(Click the picture to go to Toni's website)

(Click the picture to go to Toni’s website)

A blog is not the best way to publish photos, of course, so if it’s pictures you want to see, head over to his Flickr album (you’ll find the link on his “Photographer” page). But I love reading about how and why he made his pictures, and how he chose the shots for his blog. At times, he will make you think about your view of a photograph or even a photographic meme. That’s why I recommend reading his blog as well.

And no, you don’t have to be a Sony Alpha camera buff to enjoy the pictures ;-)

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The Sun in 2014

The score for 2014 is noted on my page about our solar energy production. All in all, December 2014 was a dark month – the darkest of the last 5 years, in fact, at least as measured by our panels. And that dark December made 2014 the “darkest” year for our solar installation! Luckily, the last few days have been sunny; let’s hope that trend continues in the coming weeks and months.

sunrise3.jpg

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Happy 2015 !

wishes2015.jpg

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