Google's baby boom
As Thanksgiving approaches there's a heart-warming tale or two from Google to put everyone in the holiday mood.
Firstly a Google software engineer in Seattle, heavily gravid but officially not yet ready to pop, missed a day in the office. Concerned a colleague called her home, and was told that she was having contractions but that everything was fine and not to worry.
Fifteen minutes later however and everything was not fine. The friend got a call to get over thee fast as everything was happening in a rush. He headed straight for her house and got her in his car but before he could get out the driveway the baby popped into the world. Mother and new son are going fine.
In the second case one of Google's Mountain View office technical writers was driving into work when she was flagged over by a panic stricken dad to be. His wife was giving birth in the front seat of his SUV (think of the upholstery!) with "a grandmotherly sort had a panic-stricken look on her face and her hands out to catch the baby." She stayed and calmed down the dad and within ten minutes Google has witnessed its second premature birth.
A fun pair of tales, and something that would be useful for the young tots if they ever want to interview for the company.
"So, tell me about your first experience with Google...."
Good news for GPL
And so it should. Open source is going to have to fight its corner like everybody else and the more it does so the more respect it will get from commercial vendors.
To get open source taken seriously it will have to fight its corner, and the SFLC is doing an excellent job at managing it. The commercial vendors will find it much harder to portray the free software movement as a lot of long-haired hippy types if they're still hurting from a fistful of legal failures.
It's kind of like the two teams looking to disrupt the recently departed Japanese whaling fleet. On the one hand you've got Greenpeace who won't intervene much and concentrate on recording the slaughter, or the Sea Shepherd crew, who attack the whaling fleet and try to organise a boycott of Japanese products. While their tactics are questionable if I was a humpbacked whale I know which group I'd prefer on my side.
Bad news for Her Majesty
It seems the British tax authorities have been rather careless with the bank account details of all those 'subjects' who claim child benefit, which is basically everyone with children. The data, just two CDs worth, went missing while out with a courier and it appears no-one signed it in or out.
Leaving aside the quaintness of hand delivering data in this day and age the real scandal is that it took nine days for the government to admit what it had done. Now that's fast compared to some examples but given what online crooks can do in nine hours with that kind of data the imperative would surely be to let banks and account owners know what was going on as soon as possible.
The head of the tax service has since resigned but it only highlights why breach laws, such as we have in California, are required. With a warning and a bit of luck the effects of the online thieves can be greatly reduced. Never mind the embarrassment of a data breach - protect your customers!
Intel fellowships named
The Senior fellows are something of a breed apart at Intel. It's very similar to getting tenure at a university - basically as long as you're not caught embezzling or deciding to punch out the boss you're sorted for life.
It's an interesting system, and one that many in the industry have emulated. It also relates to Intel's corporate mindset. Let's not forget that until Otellini the company was always led by someone with a PhD, and some within the company were unsure about employing someone with nothing more than a first class MBA to their name.
The lucky new Senior Fellow is Bryant Bigbee. He's had an interesting life, originally qualifying as a doctor before changing his direction and joining Intel fifteen years ago. That took some guts, considering how much doctors get paid over here and the size of their student loans.
As he points out, the internet needs some way to prevent attacks on individuals, while making it much easier to deal with false positives. Sadly such system seems a long way away.
If you're looking for concrete suggestions in the article about how to solve the problem then sadly these are lacking. It's a bit like the mice deciding to put a bell around the cat's neck - nice idea, just too bad no-one knows how to do it.
Beating online bullies
Bullying is a problem in probably every classroom, and more than a few workplaces. But online bullying, while increasingly common, may be easier to stop than you think.
After all, bullying can only be stopped if there's concrete proof that it's taking place. Now this can be tricky if someone's being picked on in dark alleys or behind the bike sheds. But where electronics are concerned it should be a whole lot easier.
Take abusive texting for example. The text message comes with its own
date and number stamp - so either the bully will have to use a separate
account or someone else's phone. Email is trickier but I'm willing to
suspect there are more than a few bullies out there who are dumb enough
to use their own email addresses. After all, it's not a profession that
attracts the best and the brightest.
Colossus no more
That the World War Two era computer Colossus was beaten at decryption doesn't really come as a surprise to many, given the current state of processing power.
Nevertheless it was an interesting exercise to rebuild the thing in the first place, given the paucity of information about the device. Its creator, Tommy Flowers, arguably did more than nay other Briton to bring a speedy end to the war and that so few know anything about him is a crying shame.
The reason for this lies mainly in the Cold War and the paranoia it spawned. The very existence of Colossus wasn't even acknowledged until after the news the Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer (ENIAC) had been built – leading to endless transatlantic arguments among geeks as to who built the first computer.
Flowers was awarded a small honour and a payment of just £1,000 after the war's end – which was less than he spent to build the thing in the first place. He was then forced to burn his blueprints and watch as the Colossus machines were broken up to ensure their secrets were kept safe. A sad end for an inspired idea.
Two bullets for a PlayStation?
Now people love their technology, but it seems some people take this way too far.
Witness the case of young Cory Ryder, who at the tender age of 16 tried to hire a hit man to have his parents whacked after they took away his PlayStation and posters. He told an undercover police officer posing as the assassin that "two bullets is all it takes," the court trying him heard.
His stepfather, an IT consultant, would have provided the killer's fee in the form of his car. Thankfully, and as is usually the case in these things, the contract killer turned out to be a police officer. But you can bet this will lead to some difficult family reunions in later years.
Moore's law victorious once again
Intel on Monday officially unveiled its 45nm chips at a media event in San Francisco, claiming another victory for Moore's law (see video below).
The chipmaker went through the entire periodic table to look for materials that would work, and eventually ended up with Hafnium (pictured above) and other other, undisclosed materials. The result is a major victory that allows Intel to bring out 45nm chips months before its competitors.
Oracle pulls a Red Hat on VMware
Oracle today unveiled its own implementation of the Xen open source platform.
Even though Oracle didn't make much of a fuss about it, the announcement has "Oracle Linux Repeat" written all over it.
Last year at Oracle Open World, the database vendor unveiled a "support program" for Red Hat Linux. In reality, Oracle launched its own Linux distribution which was based on Red Hat Linux. Customers would save money, but there was one major catch: applications supported for Red Hat Linux would not be supported on Oracle Linux. The market responded with a collective yawn.
This time around, Oracle VM isn't labelled as a support programme for
XenSource. That's probably because XenSource doesn't have anything near Red Hat's market
share or brand recognition. Oracle VM is however drawing
from the same well as Oracle Linux: Oracle VM for now will
only support Oracle applications that Oracle claims you can run on top
of Windows or Linux systems (which doesn't mean that Microsoft or say
Red Hat will support it).
Oracle VM is great if you live in an all-Oracle-world. Admittedly, we are heading in that direction if you consider Oracle's current acquisition rate.
But we're not there yet, and few companies therefore will be appealed by Oracle VM.