Archive for 23rd June 2007

Binary Addition Analog (Wooden) Computer

ScottEVest Cargo Shorts Can’t Accommodate Moleskine Reporter

A few weeks ago, Scottevest Cargo Shorts were on sale. I’ve never owned a Scottevest product before, but they’re well-reviewed, and if there’s one piece of clothing a Hawaiian geek requires, it’s capacious cargo shorts.

They’re quite good looking and can handle a full load of iPod, wallet, digital camera, and phone. However, they have a critical flaw, of which I’m surprised given the company’s clear understanding of their audience: there is no pocket that accommodates a Moleskine Reporter Notebook (or the slightly smaller and more casual Sherbert Notes 7″x5″). The “big” pockets on the Cargo Shorts are cut with an angled entry that writing-sized notebooks can’t negotiate (see photo).

Of course the shorts can handle notecards or memo pads, which are sufficient for to-do lists and Hipster PDAs, but have you ever tried to record a non-trivial thought on a memo pad? Doesn’t work.

Perhaps the next release will solve this critical bug.


Turing’s Birthday

Alan Turing was born 95 years ago today. Less than 100 years ago. I know that at the physical level, information processing is nowhere near as dramatic as flight or the rise of the car, but it’s still astonishing to reflect upon the advances. I’ve been drafting an article about the connections being discovered between computation and physics (both thermodynamics and Riemannian geometry), fields where there is a palpable sense of impending breakthroughs. I’ve never understood why there’s so little discussion of the science of computation and information, which is still a field that, like biology in the 18th and 19th centuries, is broadly accessible and one where I am convinced amateurs and dilettantes can make major contributions.

NVIDIA’s Tesla Takes the Second G Out of GPGPU

 NVidia’s Tesla C870 Graphics Processing Unit (GPU) will be the basis for a “deskside supercomputer” add-on that will provide highly-parallel high performance computing (HPC) capabilities, presumably programmed with NVidia’s CUDA toolkit.

Dedicated hardware for HPC has always been a treacherous market — one year’s darling is next year’s has-been (people used to buy Cray Supercomputers at auction and resell them for the gold in the connectors. True story.). Dedicated processing boards for desktop computers have always been especially troubled, as the system bus is such a bottleneck and Moore’s Law used to provide such wonderful free lunches. (No longer true, although the bus issue is potentially more dramatic than ever.)

There is infinite demand for HPC from 3 well-funded sectors: economics (trading), bioinformatics, and chemistry (bio- and otherwise). These sectors will absorb any amount of information processing capacity available. Whether that can be translated into commercial success for NVidia, or whether they unlock additional markets, is far less certain.

I wonder if Google will buy a couple boards.

Takeaway for programmers: Feverish hardware activity relating to concurrency continues. Software lags, with only relatively low-level toolkits available for exploiting the system. Keep your C skills sharp.