Critical Section

the Watch

Thursday,  04/16/15  10:59 AM

the WatchSo today I visited an Apple store and experienced "the Watch".  You've read about this; they have watches you can wear, which are running a continuous demo in a loop, and watches you can play with, which are embedded in a little stand.

My reaction is ... meh.

When I first heard about the Watch back in September, I was pretty excited; it seemed like a cool new thing.  Then a long time passed filled with rumors.  And then [finally] we had the Watch update in March with more detail, which somehow left me less excited than before.  And now that I've actually tried one on, I'm even less excited.  I want to be able to use it for Apple Pay, but other than that it is not compelling.  Perhaps it will grow on me.

I have to confess I was not that excited about the iPad, either.  It was not clear why anyone who already had a laptop and a smartphone would want one.  But now I find mine indispensable.  So perhaps once I have a Watch I'll love it.  Time will tell.

In thinking about the Watch, I guess the question is "how does wearing one make me feel about myself?"  I own a few cool watches, and I can't necessarily see that wearing my Apple Watch would be cooler than any one of them, including my Pebble Steel, which has a certain nerd ethos that the Watch seems to lack.

Apple need to make having and wearing a Watch cool, and they haven't done so.  Meh.

 

Wednesday,  04/15/15  09:54 PM

The Ole filter makes a pass...

interplanetary superhighwayNASA: Interplanetary superhighway makes space travel simpler.  Where by "simpler" they mean using less fuel and taking less time.  I love Langrange points, they are so cool :)

SpaceX liftoff!Did you catch SpaceX's launch on Monday?  Very exciting, and beamed live in HD to 100,000 internet watchers like me.  The launch itself was flawless and the Dragon spacecraft is on its way to resupply the International Space Station.  Of even more excitement or novelty was the landing of the first stage; SpaceX has been trying to perfect reusing them by landing them on a barge.  They got close but at the last minute the rocket tilted over and exploded.  Next time!

And so Hillary Clinton is running for President, again.  Yawn.  One of the things I love about having blogged for 12 years (!) is revisiting old posts via my "flight" feature, which shows what I posted each year on this day, and I found this one from seven years ago: "Got an interesting email from Brian entitled 'why Hillary will never close the deal'.  His bottom line, with which I agree: people will never like her."  Still true.

Also prescient, from the same post: "I am increasingly not liking Obama either; the victimology he espouses is a badness. To me the worst aspect of his 'bitter' remarks wasn't the condescending tone, it was the implication that if people are unhappy it is someone else's fault."  Still true, too.

batting average recordIt's baseball season!  Yay.  A cool use of graphics: How many years will baseball records last?  With these charts you can see the relative impossibility of breaking some of them; for example, the batting average record of .426 set by Nap Lajoie is nearly 100 years old, and won't likely be approached any time soon.

Of all of these the one which will *never* be broken is complete games, 48 by Jack Chesbro in 1904.  You can take that to the bank.

Boing Boing circa 1993Screen shot of Boing Boing, circa 1993.  At that time it was a BBS on The Well.  Wow, I remember this!  And how well do I remember NetTerm, too...  I used to be the expert at Hayes Modem command strings :)

I love that this "screen shot" was an actual film photograph.

How to use HTML5 Drag & Drop (for file uploads).  Great tutorial with just the right amount of detail.  For you to use and for me to find later!

Jaguar Cub is a mouthfulToo cute: Jaguar Cub is a mouthful.  Jaguar Moms seem to have evolved effective disciplinary methods :)

 

space suicides

Tuesday,  04/14/15  10:30 PM

From my friend Tom, this chart:

A perfect example of correlation vs causality.  Some would say we need to spend less on space to reduce suicides, but I think we need more suicides so we can have more space spending!

 

Maori

Monday,  04/13/15  11:58 PM

Tim Bray shares some Maori snapshots:


The carving in this Maori meeting house is amazing

I've been fascinated with New Zealand for a while (it's at the top of my "must visit someday" list), not least because of the Maori and their amazing culture.  It seems like one place among very few others where colonists have adopted and embraced a native culture.


Maori dance - a way of life

Beautiful land, beautiful people ...

 

 

and again (noone noticed)

Monday,  04/13/15  11:48 PM

Meg, Millenium Park ... "really Dad"?Gone again, on a school visit trip with Meg to Boston (Mass Art) and Chicago (SAIC), and back again.  (And again noone noticed :)  Great trip and great to be back.  And once again it's all happening...

John Degenkolb wins Paris-Roubaix, his second monument of the year (after MSR)Congrats to John Degenkolb for winning Paris-Roubaix, in fine fashion, following all the right moves and then winning a seven-man sprint in the velodrome at Roubaix.  He won Milan-San Remo earlier this year, quite a double. 

He and Alexander Kristoff have been the most impressive riders this year; Kristoff having won MSR last year, and Tour of Flanders in a powerful performance last weekend.

the Apple II WatchExcellent: The Apple II Watch.  What could be better?

propos: John Gruber reviews the Apple Watch itself.  Interestingly he doesn't love it.  Reading all the reviews it seems nobody knows quite what to make of this new device.  Of course, that's what we all thought about the iPad when it launched, and now we can't imagine living without one :)

The Bush Era, a reminder:

Gas prices were low.
So was unemployment.
The labor participation rate was higher.
Minority representation in the middle class was increasing.
We had a manned space program.
We had elections in Iraqi towns, instead of slave auctions.
Our allies in Europe trusted us.
Our rivals worldwide were wary of us.
And our enemies did their absolute damnedest to hide from us. Well. The ones still breathing, at least.

It has not been the best six years, has it?  Let's hope we reverse the trend!

From Josh Newman: Dotted Line.  "I’m an old man. I’ve been a rabbi for many years, and I’ve celebrated Passover every year of my life. And in that time, not once, NOT ONCE, have I ever seen a single piece of matzo break along the perforation."  Hehe :)

Onward ... a quiet week of coding lies ahead :)

 

noone noticed

Tuesday,  04/07/15  09:04 PM

Very apropos considering my recent return:

"phew, noone really noticed you were gone"
Hehe

 

 

Tuesday,  04/07/15  08:55 PM

Man is it *cold* out here today.  Brrr...  Too cold to ride.  Even too cold to think!  But not too cold to blog...

Deborah Harry, Tom Petty, and Ronnie SpectorHow great was this: Tom Petty backing Deborah Harry at the Whisky?  (I saw Alannah Myles there, does that count?)

So, Rand Paul is running for President.  "I am running for president to return our country to the principles of liberty and limited government."  Sounds good, but ... I just can't get excited about him.  I don't think he will be the GOP candidate.

In re Indiana: Tim Cook, end the hypocrisy.  "Tim Cook’s message [about Indiana] seems rather ironic in light of the fact that Apple willingly does business with some of the most virulently anti-gay nations on the planet."  This is the challenge when business leaders start staking out political views.  I wonder if Tim Cook will think this through?

Glenn Reynolds: You've probably breaking the lot right now.  "While a century or two ago nearly all crime was traditional common-law crime - rape, murder, theft and other things that pretty much everyone should know are bad - nowadays we face all sorts of 'regulatory crimes' in which intuitions of right and wrong play no role, but for which the penalties are high."  Ignorance of the law is not only a valid excuse, it's inevitable.

the Boneshaker Big WheelA cross between a penny-farthing and the Burning Man strandbeest: the Boneshaker Big Wheel.  Wow.  That's just about all I can say.

Only on the Internet: Science Babe takes down Food Babe.  "Hari's rule?  'If a third grader can't pronounce it, don't eat it.'  My rule?  Don't base your diet on the pronunciation skills of an eight-year-old."  Hehe.

baby elephant gets help crossing a roadHow did the baby elephant cross the road?  With help from two adult elephants.  Cuteness overload.

 

cache management

Tuesday,  04/07/15  10:32 AM

<post type=nerdy optional=yes>

Cache maintenance between multiple threads is a tricky business.

Consider a simple situation, a cache which contains items read from disk.  The basic thing we do with this cache is search for an item, and if not found we read the item and put it into the cache.  With one thread this is dirt simple:

  • Search cache for item, if not found:
    • Read item from disk
    • Put item in cache

With more than one thread, things go from simple to not simple.  Now the cache must be protected by a gate to serialize access (gates are also known as a “semaphores”).

For some reason under Windows these are not called gates or semaphores, they are called CriticalSections or Mutexes. Don’t get me started.

Okay, so the basic logic above now becomes (try 1):

  • Get cache gate
  • Search cache for item, if not found:
    • Read item from disk
    • Put item in cache
  • Free cache gate

Does this look right?  Well, if we leave the cache gated while reading from disk, we force all cache users to block on the disk read.  Not good.  So how about this (try 2):

  • Get cache gate
  • Search cache for item, if not found:
    • Free cache gate
    • Read item from disk
    • Get cache gate
    • Put item in cache
  • Free cache gate

Better, right?  This way we will only serialize cache access, not disk access.  That is probably the main reason we have multiple threads, so this is good.  But we do have a problem, what if two threads concurrently want the same item?  We could have the following timing:

___thread1

  • Get cache gate
  • Search cache for item, not found
  • Free cache gate -->
  • Read item from disk
     
  • Get cache gate
  • Put item in cache
  • Free cache gate -->  

___thread2

  • Blocks on cache gate
     
  • Get cache gate
  • Search cache for item, not found
  • Read item from disk again
  • Blocks on cache gate
     
  • Get cache gate
  • Put item in cache again
  • Free cache gate

Depending on the application, this could happen anywhere from "never" to "always".  If items are accessed more or less randomly "never" is probably a good approximation.  But if items are accessed more or less in sequence "always" is probably close.  For this case is there anything better we can do?

The crux of the problem is that thread2 doesn't know thread1 is already reading the item.  If it did, it could simply wait, then retrieve it from the cache, and life would be good.  So suppose we use this logic (try 3):

  • Get cache gate
  • Search cache for item, if not found:
    • Put "in progress" token for item in cache
    • Free cache gate
    • Read item
    • Get cache gate
    • Put item in cache, clear "in progress" token
  • If item "in progress":
    • Free cache gate
    • Delay
    • Loop up to top
  • Free cache gate

Of course the "in progress" token adds complexity.  But now the scenario above becomes:

___thread1

  • Get cache gate
  • Search cache for item, not found
  • Put "in progress" token in cache
  • Free cache gate -->
  • Read item from disk
     
  • Get cache gate
  • Put item in cache
  • Free cache gate -->

___thread2

  • Blocks on cache gate
       
     
  • Get cache gate
  • Search cache for item, returns "in progress" 
  • Delay ...  
  • Blocks on cache gate
     
  • Get cache gate
  • Search cache for item, returns "found"
  • Free cache gate

Much better…  A more complicated solution still would be to replace the delay with some kind of event.  In actual practice a simple delay and retry is probably sufficient.

</post>

 

mysteries

Monday,  04/06/15  10:57 PM

 

xkcd: mysteries

(Reading about Feynman I've added my own mystery, Relativistic Quantum Mechanics,
which is weird as hell but the explanation is slowly becoming clearer...)

 

really back

Monday,  04/06/15  10:05 AM

Charles Babbage's Difference Engine IIThis morning it feels like I'm really back, after two weeks traveling, even though I physically returned last Thursday night.  Friday was a hectic catch-up day with meetings and phone calls and lots (and lots!) of email, Saturday was my first day "off", and yesterday was ... Easter!  (yay, complete with my [adult] kids engaged in an egg hunt)  And this morning is Monday, and I'm back.  So of course I'm blogging :)

This is a picture of Charles Babbage's Difference Engine II, which he started but never finished, and which was completed with materials and techniques of his day 150 years later.  Amazingly cool.

Apple Watch guided toursThis is the week to prepare for the Apple Watch, which can be preordered at midnight on Friday night.  Have you already picked out your model?  (I think I have, and no, it's not a $10K Edition :)  In case it is of any assistance to your choice, Apple have helpfully provided some video "guided tours".

Richard Feynman: Fire is stored sunshine.  I am just now reading Quantum Man, an interesting book about Feynman.  Among other things it explains the whole QED theory better than I have read anywhere else; I still think it's too complicated to be "right" (W=UH!), but at least I'm starting to get it.

Large Hadron Collider: It's back!And so: the Large Hadron Collider is back and stronger than ever.  Now able to reach 13 teraelectronvolts (twice as much energy as before), it can help us find more massive weird particles.  Quantum Man stressed the importance of experimental results in guiding theoretical physics, so these data can hopefully help simplify the prevailing truth.

the BMW i8 plug-in hybridInteresting: BMW can't build it's $135K plug-in hybrid fast enough.  It's a beautiful car, I saw am i8 on the street in London*.  And apparently quite a nice driving car too, although strictly a two-seater...

* I must tell you, there are more high-end cars on the street in London than anywhere, despite the crappy weather and daunting traffic.

The Economist on Microsoft under Satya Nadella: "Cloud First, Mobile First".  Hmmm...  that sounds familiar :)  Good luck to them!

Apropos and surprising: Visual Studio 2015 can target Linux.  At eyesFinder we develop our visual search engine on Windows, and run in production under Linux.  Wouldn't be surprised if a lot of people do this.  Excellent.

Guillaume Cornet: ParisThis is rather cool: A time-lapse of artist Guillaume Cornet drawing a large scale illustration of Paris.  The illustration is amazing too.

Onward into the day / week / month!  I have code to write, emails to send, phone calls to make, and maybe even more stuff to blog about :)

 

Saturday,  04/04/15  10:38 PM

at the Boston Museum of Fine ArtThe Ole filter makes a pass ...

While on the road had a chance to visit the amazing Boston Museum of Fine Art, easily the best I've ever seen.  I loved that they gave you twelve "must see" pieces to find, spread all over their collection; a nice way to explore.

I haven't said anything about the Ellen Pao vs Kleiner Perkins case.  Now that it's over, we'd have to say she was a terrible test case for sexism in venture capital.  There probably is gender discrimination, but far from calling attention to the problem, she exacerbated it.  As Glenn Reynolds notes the most likely consequence will be for firms to be less willing to hire women in the first place.

hooked!Nir Eyal is showing software designers how to hook users in four easy steps.  I'm reading his book, Hooked, and I must admit, I'm hooked.  Not to say this stuff is new, but this formulation is simple and lends itself to practical application.

Tim Bray reflects on Google + 1 year.  "the other gripe: The distinction between 'user' and 'customer'.  Yes, I understand why.  But in my four years at Google, I talked to an endless stream of developers and end-users - and enjoyed it - but never exchanged a single word with any of the actual customers paying the bills; which is to say, an advertiser."

Meanwhile: Google's new Chromebit dongle will transform your TV into a PC.  Hmmm...

Apple Watch boutique at Selfridge's in LondonLuxurious.  Apple analyst Horace Dediu thinks through the Apple Watch pricing model, including the Luxury Edition.  It will be most interesting to see how this works out.

While in London recently I made a pilgrimage to Selfridge's, the amazing super-department store.  Half of the ground floor comprises designer boutiques for luxury men's watches and jewelry; brands like Rolex, Piaget, Patek Phillipe, Audemars Piguet, Breitling, TAG Heuer, etc.  A new Apple Watch boutique is presently shrouded.  But will it fit right in?  I have to think one of these it not like the others...

Another Round of Cringeworthy Chemistry Jokes That Hope to Get a Reaction From the Audience.  "What do you do with a sick chemist?  Well if you can't helium, and you can't curium, you're going to have to barium."  When I studied Chemistry I never realized it would prepare me for a career in comedy.

Virgin GalacticHave you ever wondered?  Now you know: Flying with Virgin Galactic.  "Accelerating through Mach 0.95, the aircraft wobbles as shock waves develop on its wings and tails. This is known as a burble, and it marks the entry into supersonic flight."  I can't wait :)

Saturn's moon RheaNASA's Cassini spacecraft returns to the realm of Saturn's icy moons.  Excellent.  Can't wait until SpaceX or Virgin Galactic take *us* there...

Guy Kawasaki: How to be a demo God.  "I've given this advice to hundreds of startups, and hundreds of thousands of people have read it online, but most demos still suck.  This is because people think this advice applies to the great unwashed masses who don’t have a curve-jumping, paradigm-shifting, patent-pending product like they do and are not gifted presenters like they are.  You may believe you're one of them.  You're wrong."  A great list, headed by Create Something Worth Demoing".

the Ila Pika ("magic rabbit")Chinese scientist works to save the Ila Pika, an endangered species of tiny mammals he discovered in 1983.  The furry mammal resembles a cross between a rabbit and a teddy bear and lives in the Tianshan mountains of Northwest China.  They're adorable!

 

1995: the year the future began

Saturday,  04/04/15  10:27 PM

Netscape, 1995Some people think in terms of the Internet, nothing has happened yet.  Those people are wrong.

"The internet is still at the beginning of its beginning. If we could climb into a time machine and journey 30 years into the future, and from that vantage look back to today, we'd realize that most of the greatest products running the lives of citizens in 2044 were not invented until after 2014."

In terms of a global information exchange platform, we've gone from zero to one.  Anything that happens now is going from 1 to N.  No doubt amazing things will happen – it is quite possible the most influential products of 2044 don’t yet exist.  But going from zero to Google?  Zero to Wikipedia?  Zero to Facebook?  Zero to Amazon?  Those are amazing transformations, qualitative changes in the world.

1995 was the year the future began.  A unique inflection point in human history, quite possibly the most significant ever.  And you were there.  There were people who were the first to sail across the Atlantic, or the first to run a railroad across North America, or the first to fly to Asia.  But we were the first people to use the Internet.  Some of us even helped build it :)

 

riding into town alone, by the light of the moon ...

Friday,  04/03/15  07:15 PM

Eye-ing London... I'm baack in the saddle again ... after a great business / pleasure trip to Boston / London.  No blogging, sorry.  But I'll try to catch up, at least a little ...

This is me, Alex, and S. Eye-ing London.  Alexis has been studying there since the start of the year, so she's now a local :)

the first radio stationFrom Marc Andreessen, a year ago: the future of the news business, a Twitter stream all in one place.  The future is getting closer all the time.  And now with Periscope, could include video streams too.

While in London I visited the excellent Museum of Science, which features a great exhibit called "the story of information", all about the ancient and near-ancient progression of technology for communications.  Most thought provoking.  This is a picture of the very first "radio station" for multicasting information.

Dave Winer: Journalism must compete.  In re: Facebook's request that news providers give them access to full text content.  "News is changing.  Be the change."

Google street view bikeHow to Google something you don't know how to describe...  using Visual Search, of course!

Speaking of Google, here's a picture of their cool street view bicycle, used for narrow streets which don't allow car traffic.  If you didn't know how to describe this, how would you find it?

glow-in-the-dark Nissan Leaf on Holland's glowing smart highwayThis is way cool: Nissan takes its new glow-in-the-dark Leaf electric car for a spin on Holland's glowing smart highway.  Read that headline again; yes, you are living in 2015 all right.  What a great time to be alive!

This seems like a great idea: $Cashtags, a web address for making payments via Square.  I've noticed that #hashtags have replaced URLs in advertisements, store windows etc., perhaps soon they will in turn be replaced with $cashtags.  Stay tuned.

TechCrunch bemoan the terrible technical interview.  "Traditional technical interviews are terrible for everyone. They're a bad way for companies to evaluate candidates."  I disagree with this entirely, having spent a career hiring people via technical interviews.  There are worse and better ways to conduct them, but they are not necessarily a bad way to evaluate candidates.  It is what it is.

secret Nazi lair found in Argentine jungleNot fiction: Secret Nazi lair believed discovered in remote Argentine jungle.  Paging Indiana Jones.

Ready Player One, the movieBest news ever: Spielberg to direct Ready Player One movie.  Yes!

I can't remember anticipating the movie version of a book I liked this much, ever.  Seems like it could be great.

Steve Nash announces his retirement from the NBA.  "It will always hurt that Phoenix Suns fans didn't get the championship they deserved during our run.  But I don’t regret anything. The arena was always sold out and rocking. It was the time of my life. Thanks, Phoenix."  Class all the way, one of my favorites from back when I was an NBA fan.

What do you use to keep track of what you need to do?  Jeff Atwood says don't use anything, just keep track of three things.  Sounds good in theory, but when those three things have been done, what next three things must be done?

Spectre. Bond. Yes.The first teaser for the next James Bond movie: Spectre
Looks excellent.  Yay.

 

Iditarod day twelve: DeeDee in Nome!

Friday,  03/20/15  09:29 AM

I'm delighted to report that early this morning DeeDee Jonrowe finished her thirtieth #Iditarod, pulling into Nome in 31st place at 5:10AM, after ten days on the trail.  This wasn't her fastest or her highest place, but she finished with 15 dogs, the largest team still running, and she finished!  As noted earlier she suffered from severe frostbite earlier in the race, during those cold early days along the Yukon (-40F!), and despite being among the leaders into Huslia, the halfway point, was never able to recover.  Congratulations to her for persevering and finishing, wow.


DeeDee signs the finishing register
(note her fingers!)

Speaking of persevering and finishing, I highly recommend Beyond Ophir, a book by longtime Iditarod musher Jim Lanier, which I've been reading as a delightful companion to the 2015 Iditarod.  It chronicles his first Iditarod, way back in 1979, and is a wonderful collection of stories of a life well led in the wilds of Alaska.  Jim is a retired pathologist (!), and this year at age 74 was the oldest musher in the race.  I was sorry to see he scratched yesterday in Unalakleet, due to "musher illness".

And so ends the 2015 Iditarod (for me at least, there are over 30 mushers still "out there", and the Red Lantern Cindy Abbott has only just checked into Unk).  Each year at the end of the race I have this sad feeling of leaving a strange and cool little world and returning to "the real world", until next year.  Onward!

Oh, and some final pictures...:

Ken Anderson finishes into Nome
Ken Anderson in the Nome stretch

Martin Buser mushes up Front Street
Martin Buser mushes down Front Street toward the burled arch

dog tired in Nome
dog tired after 1,000+ miles ... the Nome dogyard

Northern Light over Nome
Northern Lights over Nome --- WOW

Onward ... until nextyear!

[All 2015 Iditarod posts]

 

the happiness cure

Thursday,  03/19/15  11:01 PM

 

this makes me happy :)

 

 
 

Fairly recent posts:

04/16/15 10:59 AM -

the Watch

04/15/15 09:54 PM -

Wednesday,  04/15/15  09:54 PM

04/14/15 10:30 PM -

space suicides

04/13/15 11:58 PM -

Maori

04/13/15 11:48 PM -

and again (noone noticed)

04/07/15 09:04 PM -

noone noticed

04/07/15 08:55 PM -

Tuesday,  04/07/15  08:55 PM

04/07/15 10:32 AM -

cache management

04/06/15 10:57 PM -

mysteries

04/06/15 10:05 AM -

really back

04/04/15 10:38 PM -

Saturday,  04/04/15  10:38 PM

04/04/15 10:27 PM -

1995: the year the future began

04/03/15 07:15 PM -

riding into town alone, by the light of the moon ...

03/20/15 09:29 AM -

Iditarod day twelve: DeeDee in Nome!

03/19/15 11:01 PM -

the happiness cure

03/19/15 10:48 PM -

Thursday,  03/19/15  10:48 PM

03/18/15 06:08 PM -

Iditarod day ten, cont: Jeff King in the Blowhole

03/18/15 03:59 PM -

Iditarod day ten: Seaveys hit Nome runs

03/17/15 11:37 PM -

Iditarod day nine, cont: halfway to Safety

03/17/15 10:20 PM -

from highest to lowest on Earth

03/17/15 10:14 PM -

Tuesday,  03/17/15  10:14 PM

03/17/15 01:55 PM -

Iditarod day nine: (Tracker video): Dallas opens up into White Mountain

03/16/15 10:07 PM -

Iditarod day eight, cont: into the Nome stretch

03/16/15 09:32 PM -

Monday,  03/16/15  09:32 PM

03/16/15 03:07 PM -

Iditarod: Jesse Royer and Dallas Seavey mushing videos

03/16/15 02:51 PM -

Iditarod day eight: into Koyuk!

03/15/15 10:35 PM -

Iditarod day seven: racing across the ice

03/15/15 10:01 PM -

Sunday,  03/15/15  10:01 PM

03/14/15 09:29 PM -

Iditarod day six: the big shakeout

03/14/15 08:43 PM -

On the road again ...

For older posts please visit the archive.

 

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