|Ravi Pandya software | nanotechnology | economics||
Fri 31 Jan 2003
I was inspired to reread another of Phil's essays, The Wealth of Kitchens, bringing to light all the accumulated knowledge that is implicit in the artifacts and habits of everyday life. In the process, I found a site dedicated to papers by and about him, so I've updated the previous link to point there as well. Enjoy!
Thu 30 Jan 2003
The discussion with Miguel about Microsoft's patents reminded me of this 1991 essay by Phil Salin. He wrote it in response to the PTO's request for comments about whether they should continue to accept patents on software inventions. Phil's cogent and impassioned plea to consider writing software as an exercise of our right of free speech is inspiring. Unfortunately, of course, it was unsuccessful, as were the many other letters that I'm sure were written at the time.
I helped him a little bit with the final editing and submission. My last memory of Phil is of him dictating some last-minute changes from his hospital bed in Stanford, where he was diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. I miss him.
Wed 29 Jan 2003
I enjoyed the blogger bash with Sam Ruby at Crossroads in Bellevue last night. It was great to put faces to names, and to meet some new and interesting people. Some snippets:
Don Box teasing Miguel de Icaza about his "homage" (pronounced the French way, like "fromage") to C# and Outlook. Miguel de Icaza remaining good-natured and enthusiastic anyway, and graciously refraining from mentioning C#'s homage to Java. Mono has been making amazing progress. I remember when I first saw it I said that they might well ship before Microsoft, given the necessarily glacial release cycle of a 40MLOC OS. Miguel said they've been talking to Red Hat about including Mono, but there are some concerns about Microsoft's patents. I think there's still a good chance you'll be able to buy a shrink-wrap Linux distribution with Mono before you'll be able to buy a shrink-wrap version of Windows with .NET. (Yes, I know you get a lot more goodies in Windows .NET, but the point remains; in fact that is the point: more=later.)
I asked Miguel about Mono on OS X and he said that it runs now, but only with the interpreter. However, the next version of the jitter has a more easily retargetable code generation using a finer-grain abstract machine language where they can do instruction-level scheduling and optimization before the final translation to native code, and it takes 30% less time than the original JIT. Slick.
Don Box saying that if we're still using C#/Java style languages 5 years from now, we're fucked. Maybe I'll finally get to use Smalltalk again. It's still the most productive programming environment I've ever worked in, though Java with IDEA comes close, and even surpasses it in some ways.
Some interesting links that came out of it: (other than another 10 blogs on my blogroll :-)
Sat 18 Jan 2003
I went to see a great lecture this week at UW Nano by Duncan Stewart from the molecular electronics group at HP Labs. They have a great multi-disciplinary group there, with computer architecture, physical chemistry, organic synthesis, polymers, electrochemistry, materials science, and experimental & theoretical physics. They're using a cross bar architecture with Langmuir-Blodget molecular monolayer between a grid of contacts in a crossbar architecture. Not only have they built a 256-bit memory (to store "HPinvent" :-) but they have also configured it as an FPGA cell with 2-bit multiplexers on the input and output, and a lookup table in between. All this in a square micron!
One of the interesting tidbits was from Stewart's own work in trying to characterize and understand the actual operation of the device. They first tried a monolayer of Jim Heath's fancy rotaxane molecules with a movable ring system acting as a switch. The I-V curves show a nice negative differential resistance that can be used for switching and diode behavior. OK, great, it's the little ring moving along the backbone of the rotaxane. But then they tried a control substance - eicosanoic acid, "basically floor wax". The numbers were a little different, but qualitatively the behavior was the same.
So it's not the material, but probably some interface effect. But what is it? This is a real puzzle, and it's not solved yet. The best hypothesis so far is temperature dependent tunneling effects at the metal-organic interface, pretty much independent of the particular organic species. It'll be interesting to see further developments...
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