Thursday 1 December, 2022

Predictive Signology

You’ve heard of predictive policing, but how about this from Bath? And it was done long before the Queen died!

Thanks to Christopher Smart for the pic.

Quote of the Day

”War is capitalism with the gloves off.”

  • Tom Stoppard

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Mozart | Ruhe Sanft (Sleep Safely) | Mojca Erdmann


This was new to me. It’s from Zaide. an unfinished opera by Mozart.

Long Read of the Day

If you’re puzzled about ‘blockchain’ then read this piece by Tim Bray — and relax. (The Andy Jassy to whom he refers in the first para is Amazon’s current CEO.)

At some point in mid-2016 I got hauled into a conversation with Andy Jassy. I can’t remember if it was video or f2f, can’t remember how many of his staff were there. There were four of us present who were senior techs, not Jassy staff. ¶

Andy is an outstanding communicator and was eloquent on this occasion. You have to understand that one of the most important parts of his job was listening to the CIOs and CTOs of huge enterprises explain their problems and concerns.

He said something like this: “All these leaders are asking me what our blockchain strategy is. They tell me that everyone’s saying it’s the future, the platform that’s going to obsolete everything else. I need to have a good answer for them. I’ll be honest, when they explain why it’s wonderful I just don’t get it. You guys got to go figure it out for us.”

Well, OK then. I can’t remember whether it was right there in the room or by email after a short caucus, we got back to Andy along the lines of “We mostly think it’s mostly bullshit and probably not strategic for AWS, but we’ll look harder.”

Before I move along, Dear Reader: There was a dead give-away in Andy’s presentation of the problem. I’ll get back to it later but do you see it?

Do read it. It’s great.

H/T to Charles Arthur, who spotted it first.

Building a PDP-11/70 Kit

If you’re a geek of a certain age, this is truly lovely. The DEC PDP11 was an iconic minicomputer on which many of my contemporaries cut their programming teeth. The one in my department was the size of a refrigerator and had the most compelling control panel with switches and blinkenlights! And it was so popular with students that it was hard to get any time on it.

Kieran Healey is Professor of Sociology at Duke University. His research is on the social organisation of exchange in human blood and human organs, cultural goods, software, and ideas. But in the pandemic he found that he had an interest in reviving old computers. And then he discovered that Oscar Vermeulen makes a fabulous little kit called the PiDP-11. It is a 6:10 scale replica of the PDP-11/70’s front panel. You assemble the board connect it to a Raspberry Pi via the Pi’s GPIO port. It runs some software that emulates the PDP’s operating system. The switches and LEDs and so on all function just as they would on the real machine. So he got one of the kits and set to work.

The blog post is an account of how he did it. And it includes a nice video of the device in action, sitting on a bookcase in his office. And he signs off with a nice message: “If anyone needs me, I’ll be running the inventory and payroll of a medium-sized business in 1974.”

Which indeed is what you could do with a PDP11 in the mid-1970s!

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