Monday, 23 January 2012

A Few Interesting Reads

Here are a interesting reads from the recent past. Below each link is a snipet from the article to provide some context to what the article is about.

[/readings] permanent link

Saturday, 10 December 2011

The Strange Birth and Long Life of Unix

IEEE Spectrum has a long read [1] on the history of Unix and how it evolved to where it is today. It makes for interesting reading and has some interesting insights, stories and anecdotes. It is especially memorable on account of Dennis Ritchie's recent passing away[2].

There's also another older post related to the history of Unix[3].


[/readings] permanent link

Sunday, 04 December 2011

More than just digital quilting

The Economist has some interesting coverage[1] on the Maker movement and talks about the do-it-yourself culture, open hardware and open source and how it can foster innovation and spur science and technology.

A few choice blurbs from the article:

The maker movement is both a response to and an outgrowth of digital culture, made possible by the convergence of several trends. New tools and electronic components let people integrate the physical and digital worlds simply and cheaply. Online services and design software make it easy to develop and share digital blueprints. And many people who spend all day manipulating bits on computer screens are rediscovering the pleasure of making physical objects and interacting with other enthusiasts in person, rather than online. Currently the preserve of hobbyists, the maker movement’s impact may be felt much farther afield.

Start with hardware. The heart of New York’s Maker Faire was a pavilion labelled with an obscure Italian name: “Arduino” (meaning “strong friend”). Inside, visitors were greeted by a dozen stands displaying credit-card-sized circuit boards. These are Arduino micro-controllers, simple computers that make it easy to build all kinds of strange things: plants that send Twitter messages when they need watering, a harp made of lasers, an etch-a-sketch clock, a microphone that serves as a breathalyser, or a vest that displays your speed when riding a bike.

Such projects are taking off because Arduino is affordable (basic boards cost $20), can easily be extended using add-ons called “shields” to add new functions and has a simple programming system that almost anyone can use. “Not knowing what you are doing is an advantage,” says Massimo Banzi, an Italian engineer and designer who started the Arduino project a decade ago to enable students to build all kinds of contraptions. Arduino has since become popular—selling around 200,000 units in 2011—because Mr Banzi made the board’s design “open source” (which means that anyone can download its blueprints and build their own versions), and because he has spent much time and effort getting engineers all over the world involved with the project.

Applying the open-source approach to hardware has also driven the development of the maker movement’s other favourite piece of kit, which could be found everywhere at the Maker Faire in New York: 3D printers. These machines are another way to connect the digital and the physical realms: they take a digital model of an object and print it out by building it up, one layer at a time, using plastic extruded from a nozzle. The technique is not new, but in recent years 3D printers have become cheap enough for consumers. MakerBot Industries, a start-up based in New York, now sells its machines for $1,300. The output quality is rapidly improving thanks to regular upgrades, many of them suggested by users.


[/readings] permanent link

Friday, 22 July 2011

The Unix revolution — thank you, Uncle Sam? By Matthew Lasar

Ars Technica has a nice read[1] on the history of Unix and some inside insights into how it developed and evolved. Here's a brief snippet from the article:

This November, the Unix community has another notable anniversary to celebrate: the 40th birthday of the first edition[2] of Ken Thompson and Dennis Ritchie's Unix Programmers Manual[3], released in November 1971. Producing the document was no easy task, because at that point the Unix operating system grew by the week; budding aficionados added new commands and features to the system on a regular basis.

"The rate of change of the system is so great that a dismayingly large number of early sections [of the text] had to be modified while the rest were being written," Thompson and Ritchie noted in their introduction. "The unbounded effort required to stay up-to-date is best indicated by the fact that several of the programs described were written specifically to aid in preparation of this manual!"

That's why Unix timelines are fun to read—they give a sense of how quickly the system collaboratively evolved. But some of them either skip[4] or mention without explanation[5] a government decision that, in retrospect, paved the way not only for Unix, but perhaps for the open source movement as well: the 1956 Consent Decree between the United States Department of Justice and AT&T.

Read on for the full article at[1].


[/readings] permanent link

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Robert Morris, Pioneer in Computer Security, Dies at 78 -

Robert Morris, a cryptographer who helped developed the Unix computer operating system, which controls an increasing number of the world’s computers and touches almost every aspect of modern life, died on Sunday in Lebanon, N.H. He was 78.

He was an important contributor to early Unix security aspects and played a very fundamental role in the evolution of OS's from then on.


[/readings] permanent link