Further and further back I go to find out why things in computing today are the way they are. The latest book I have read on computing history is actually a bit away from computing and is about the development about the transistor, microchips and finally, microprocessors. One person that significantly stands out in this story is Robert Noyce and Leslie Berlin’s book ‘The Man Behind The Microchip‘ is a fascinating biography of a man who’s ideas have changed the world in a big way with something very little.
Back in October 2016, I ran my first Wifi 802.11ac speed measurement at home. At my desk with one wall between me and the Wifi Access point plus a nasty corner, I could get up to 368 Mbit/s versus a ‘measly’ 70 Mbit/s with my 802.11n based Lenovo X230 notebook I had at the time. What I didn’t do back then was to note the top speed I could get when I was closer to the Wifi access point. Now that I’ve upgraded to a Lenovo X250 with an 802.11ac Wifi card built-in and supporting access points popping-up in many places, it was time to see what the practical maximum could be.
A couple of weeks ago I got away very impressed and entertained by ‘We are Bob‘, a crazy story about a programming whiz kid that gets run over by a car and waking up a hundred years into the future, not in his own body, but as a replicant in a sophisticated computer. He’s then pressed to become the brain of an ‘unmanned’ interstellar probe and leaves the solar system just before mankind is about to blow itself up. And that was just the beginning of the story. I very much enjoyed it so I couldn’t wait to read the second part of the trilogy by Dennis Taylor ‘For We Are Many’.
I was quite surprised when I read that tomorrow, in an attempt to further push the single EU telecommunication market, a cap will come into effect for fixed and mobile phone calls from a user’s home country to other EU countries. I was aware that debates about this were going on but I had no idea this was already decided. How could I have missed that!?
In the early days when the Internet was about to get popular, i.e. in the early to mid-1990s, there were several novel approaches to search and find information. The first to reach a wider audience in the early-1990s was ‘Gopher‘, a program and protocol to ‘surf the Internet’ and the accompanying ‘Veronica‘ search-engine. It was in the mid-1990s when I used the Internet for the first time but I only vaguely remember Gopher and Veronica. When I recently saw this toot on Mastodon that lead to a great article on Gopher and this video on Youtube from 1995, it started to dawn on me how narrowly I missed the Gopher hype at the time and sailed right past it to the World Wide Web.
I usually don’t write about books of which I did not quite enjoy and thus I would not have written about ‘Only Human‘ by Sylvain Neuvel if I had not written about the two earlier books of the trilogy ‘Sleeping Giants‘ and ‘Waking Gods‘ before. I already noted in the first blog entry on the trilogy, I don’t very much enjoy dystopian science fiction. After reading the first book, things were still o.k., the story line about discovering a huge robot from another world and making it work again was incredibly good science fiction. Things already changed in the second part as more robots appear and things got much less peaceful but I was hoping for some more utopia rather than dystopia in the final part of the trilogy.
In this day and age it rarely happens that I’m in libraries with poor Internet access. In most cases, library officials have recognized the signs of the times and installed a usable Eduroam Wifi network on their premises. The University of Vienna is a good example. But there are unfortunate exceptions as well. One of those is the Library in the Centre Georges Pompidou. It’s a great place to study in the center of Paris, used by thousands of people at any time. They have a great selection of books as well as video and audio content, no doubt about it. When it comes to Internet access for online research, however, it’s rather a place not to be unless you have a trick or two up your sleeve.
Taking overhead pictures of documents and books with a smartphone or camera is often much faster than using a scanner. One of the downsides is, however, that the orientation sensor often gets confused by holding the camera horizontally and saves random orientation information in the Exif part of output file. Once imported to the PC, the orientation of individual images differs and one has to correct for this manually. In many cases, some images are still not properly oriented even after manually rotating them. Let’s fix this.
I gave up complaining about Internet coverage in the Paris metro back in 2013 and just despaired. There was a plan to get LTE into the metro by 2016 but there was nothing to be seen then as well. Millions of people use the metro every day and it really makes one wonder why there was no large scale outcry about this massive public administration failure and some more action on the side of mobile network operators and the public metro operator. GSM has been in the metro for a long time, so the hardest thing, i.e. cables and antennas were not the problem. Yes, perhaps they had to have been replaced but space was there all along. Must have been something else. A disgrace. But finally, finally, things are moving!
In many documentaries, the The Altair 8800 is portrayed as the computer that started the microcomputer revolution in 1975. And that’s a fair assessment as it was the first, and for its time, affordable computer that could be bought as a kit or fully assembled. As such it became immensely popular with hobbyist enthusiasts. Wikipedia has the details. But I was always wondering what came before the Altair by which Ed Roberts of MITS might have been inspired!?