2016-01-03 The Command Line Podcast

This is an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

This time, I chat about some recent news stories that caught my attention, including:

You can subscribe to a feed of articles I am reading for more. You can follow my random podcast items on HuffDuffer too.

You can directly download the MP3 or Ogg Vorbis audio files. You can grab additional formats and audio source files from the Internet Archive.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

2015-12-13 The Command Line Podcast

This is an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

I will be attending SCALE in the latter half of next month if anyone else planning to be there wants to meet up.

This time, I chat about some recent news stories that caught my attention, including:

You can subscribe to a feed of articles I am reading for more. You can follow my random podcast items on HuffDuffer too.

You can directly download the MP3 or Ogg Vorbis audio files. You can grab additional formats and audio source files from the Internet Archive.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Microsoft Enters the Parallel Programming Fray

If ever there was a sign a particular area of development was going mainstream, it is the entry of Microsoft into the space. Rik Myslewksi at The Register has a somewhat breathless write up of Microsoft’s answers to OpenCL and CUDA, C++ AMP.

Microsoft principal native-languages architect Herb Sutter unveiled the technology Wednesday morning at AMD’s Fusion Developer Summit. Initially, C++ AMP will help devs take advantage of general purpose GPU computing (GPGPU), but in the future, Microsoft will extend the technology to multi-core architectures and beyond.

Those future plans include opening up the specification, if not the implementation of C++ AMP. Sutter also explains the reasons for choosing C++ over C although I expect that have more to do with Microsoft’s proprietary tooling investments in the form of Visual C++. Given both of those bits, I don’t really expect to see this particular approach employed aware outside of Windows. The siloing of approaches in this area is more tragic in my mind than existing application development since building usable and effective parallel programming techniques and tools is a vastly greater challenge.

Microsoft juices C++ for massively parallel computing, The Register

Microsoft Caught Cheating at Browser Benchmark Test

There is no doubt that the race among the modern browsers is intense. Google offers new builds of Chrome like clockwork that routinely ratchet up the speed of their scratch built JavaScript interpreter and their improvements on the WebKit rendering engine. Mozilla has recently regained considerable ground lost to Chrome and other browsers with the latest beta of Firefox 4.

Even the latest iteration of Microsoft’s aging Internet Explore, version 9, seems to be competing well. Or is it? Slashdot linked to a Digitizor article explaining some suspicious findings uncovered by a Mozilla engineer while working with one of the standard browser benchmarks, SunSpider.

While Mozilla engineer Rob Sayre was benchmarking Firefox 4 with different browsers, he noticed something with Internet Explorer 9 – Internet Explorer 9 was around 10 times faster than the other browsers in a particular test (math-cordic) in the SunSpider benchmark. While Chrome and Opera scored took around 10ms in that test, Internet Explorer 9 finished it it in about 1ms.

There are now a couple of updates which make it less clear if there is indeed specialized code that makes IE appear faster in the benchmark than it does in real world use. The rest of the article includes clear and deep details from Sayre on his investigation and findings.

If there weren’t already good enough reasons to support any other browser other than Internet Explorer, I would offer this as a clincher. I frequently admit my extreme bias towards Mozilla because of the good they do beyond the browser itself in terms of advancing open standards. All the same, this re-affirms my own principle to use any other browser before using Microsoft’s, even the marginally more standards compatible version 9.

Internet Explorer 9 Caught Cheating In SunSpider, Slashdot

feeds | grep links > Kickstarter for Interactive Fiction, Microsoft Response to Open Kinect, Another Computer Built in Minecraft, and More

Quick Security Alerts for the Week Ending 11/7/2010

feeds | grep links > USB Dead Drops, Mobile Mesh for Telephony, Facebook Bans Apps that Sold User Data, and More

  • USB dead drops, embedding the dark net in architecture
    Slashdot and BoingBoing covered this project by Aram Bartholl over the weekend. He’s cemented USB sticks into walls and other fixtures at a handful of locations, with plans to set up more such dead drops. The idea is that rather than passing storage containers hand to hand, file shares can simply plug in and copy onto and from the drives what they want. The project seems more like an art installation than an IT effort, a way of weaving asynchronous, anonymous sharing into public spaces.
  • Mobile mesh for wireless telephony
    Duncan Geere cross posted this article to Wired and Ars Technica, it is about research that really is quite similar to other mesh network plans about which I’ve read. Why not make the cutely named body-to-body connections simply provide IP protocol carriage with telephony being just one application carried? I would think the growth of smart phones is what is crushing networks more so than mere phone calls. It will be interesting to see if this work which was done at Queen’s University in Belfast can make better progress on the challenges of making a mobile device based mesh as good as or better than the fixed mobile networks we have now.
  • Facebook bans apps that sold user info to data brokers
    Sarah Perez at ReadWriteWeb has the details of some positive privacy news from the dominant social network. I do wonder if this practice would have persisted if the Wall Street Journal had not exposed it, though. Also, why isn’t Facebook built in such a way to make this sort of thing much more difficult, if not outright impossible?
  • Users sue Google, Facebook, Synga over privacy , Slashdot
  • Justice department rules isolate gene sequences should not be patentable, Techdirt
  • Google sues US government for only considering Microsoft solutions, Techdirt
  • Researchers claim better quantum tunneling, EE Times

First Results from W3C’s HTML5 Test

The H was one of several sources to report on a new test for the emerging HTML5 standard from the Web’s own standards body, the W3C. The Register crafted the emphasis in their lede a bit differently, calling out the latest beta release of Microsoft’s IE 9 as topping the tests. Both sites, however, go on to clarify just how limited the W3C test suite is. The canvas tag, useful for vector based animations comparable to Flash, is about the only advanced functionality it tests out of the most interesting features of HTML5 or the additional technologies often incorrectly lumped under that label.

I have two thoughts about these test results. First is that they say more about the decreasing relevance of the W3C. This effort just doesn’t reflect the state of the art across all of the modern browsers embracing HTML5 and related technologies like CSS3. How does leaving out key features like client-side rich data storage and more robust models for using multiple processing threads in the browser say anything about the state of adoption? It certainly doesn’t help the web application developers looking for help in how best to deal with the gaps as the specs and their various implementations mature.

The other thought relates to a story on which I initially wasn’t going to comment. Several sources, including ZDNet, have made much hay out of the lack of coverage of Silverlight and the increased attention to HTML5 at Microsoft’s developer conference, PDC. ZDNet in particular spoke with Bob Muglia, president in charge of the server and tools business inside the Redmond giant. He made it pretty clear that Silverlight has not played out as hope, as an effective Flash killer–or even competitor. In praising HTML5 as the more ideal cross platform play, I think it is telling he mentions Apple’s mobile OS specifically. In another six months, given its recent uptick in adoption, I could easily see him adding Android to that remark.

Microsoft got spanked by the open web before, despite trying to crush its main commercial representative at the time, Netscape. I don’t hold out great hope that IE 9 will offer a smoother experience for web application developers than its predecessors but Microsoft’s latest attempt to re-enclose the web has is thankfully dying quietly. For the time being, Microsoft simply doesn’t have a better option than to invest engineering effort into HTML5 and other open web standards. The longer they are forced to do so, the harder any future attempts to subvert or replace those standards will be.

W3C releases first HTML5 test results, The H

feeds | grep links > Microsoft Charging Linux Royalties (Again), Aussie Kids Foil Fingerprint Readers, Adobe’s Flash-to-HTML5 Demo, and More

  • Microsoft charging PC makers royalties for installing Linux
    Slashdot links to a DigalTimes piece with the details, namely that the vendors in question are minority players in the handset and netbook spaces, Acer and Asustek. Given the low volume of units they ship, this is a deterrence move, not for generating any kind of real revenue. Pretty sleazy but also consistent with Microsoft’s patent dealings in other spaces.
  • Aussie kids foil fingerprint readers
    Slashdot links to a ZDNet piece describing students using the already well know ability of gelatin, the main ingredient in readily accessible gummy candies, to bypass not just the pattern matching of scanners but also capacitance sensors. I wonder if card scanners and fingerprint readers really save the schools in question all that much versus a manual taking of attendance, one of the reasons for using these systems.
  • Adobe demos Flash-to-HTML5 tool
    In a post to both Ars Technica and Wired, Scott Gilbertson discusses a demo from Adobe of a tool that really is pretty consistent with past efforts, if you think about its support for exporting from its design tools to static HTML pages. The quality of output in the past has been pretty miserable, apparent to anyone with the intestinal fortitude to wade through View Source on resulting page. From what little can be seen in the embedded video, it looks like the markup generated by the latest offering continues that dubious tradition.
  • China may have built the new number one super computer, InformationWeek
  • Citizen Lab collaborates with users to map Blackberry servers, The Register
  • Chrome web store delayed until December, ReadWriteWeb

Following Up for the Weekn Ending 10/24/2010