Shit, blew through a milestone

You know you are an old time computer geek when you notice special numbers.

2^8 is something we geeks all know, it is the number of different bytes there are. 2^8 is 256, and the maximum value of a single byte of computer memory is 255.

2^10 is 1024. I am guessing that most kids today see that number and scratch their head wondering why the old fogeys didn’t just call 1000 bytes a kilobyte.  But us true geeks embrace these.

The next number is 2^16 which is 65,536, and is the maximum number representable as two bytes (256 * 256 for those counting). I am amazed at how often I stumble across this number int he real world.

Then there is the first CPU I learned to program, the Mostek 6502. Designed to be a cheaper version of the motorola 8800, it really drove the home computer revolution in the late 70’s and early 80’s.

Two posts ago, I hit post 256. Makes me smile to mark off these milestones. I suspect I will make it to 1024, but probably not 65,536

(For the curious as to why 8 bits to a byte, and 2 bytes to a word, I encourage a google search into early computer architectures, some details on the early systems, and then try to relate it to your current laptop or tablet, and your eyes will be well and truly opened. Also read “Turing’s Cathedral” for a good narrative on the first electronic digital computer).

Daniel Craig – Best Bond Ever

I have long been a James Bond fan. Started in the Roger Moore era, then the Pierce Brosnan era, and the single Timothy Dalton episode.  Then I detoured though the Sean Connery set of masterpieces. Loved them all.

But the new ones, with Daniel Craig as Bond are the best. Yes, the effects are amazing, but they always were the best that their time had to offer. The stories are better. They are more imaginative, and well written, and without a doubt less cheesy. But there is something else that Craig brings to Bond.

My wife hit on it last night while we were watching Casino Royale, Daniel Craig get cuts, bruises and he looks like he has been involved in the fights, battles, and action. It adds a level of realism that brings the character to life.

That, and Judi Dench is just kicks ass as ‘M’. Shame that they retired her in Skyfall, but I am sure Ralph Fiennes will carry the torch well.

Looking forward to the Bond/Moneypenny interplay!

Refresher: Set theory and logic

Yesterday, while I was waiting for my computer to be reimaged due to some serious funk happening with my outlook mail, I had a couple hours to burn. After I killed a longer than normal walk at lunch, I sat down in the lobby with a good book.

Background: my products are reliant on a lot of technology, but one aspect is critical in how they work and are used. This being a PID Servo Control system. While you don’t need to know in depth what that is to use one of our instruments, having a deep knowledge does indeed help you get the most out of it.

Control theory is something you would imagine to be the realm of electrical engineers, but curiously, it seems to be the realm of mechanical engineering. And at the root of it is math. To understand what is really happening, and how it works, you need to know a branch of mathematics called “Discrete Mathematics”. This is the foundation of computers and computer science, dealing with the world broken into discrete pieces and processed algorithmically. (As an aside, my education is in Physics, and there we deal in continuum mathematics, similar, but distinctly different).

So I picked up a textbook. I might have mentioned in the past that Dover publishing does a wonderful job of keeping classic science and math texts in print, and affordable.

The early parts of this text are a deep dive into set theory, function representation, and logic (mathematical logic is not the same as what most people think of logic). Being a child of the 70’s, and the evolution of mathematics elementary education, I had always some concepts of sets, and operations on sets. But beyond this informal early introduction, I never really dove into the subject. Some of my physics topics touched upon it, but again, it was using set theory to get to a solution.

The first chapter was an eye opener. I realize what I had learned earlier was very shallow, and cursory, but now I have a much deeper understanding of these foundations of modern mathematics.

A good way to spend a couple hours.  Next up is counting (combinatorics).

Guilty Pleasures: Absolutely Fabulous

To there are a few things that give me guilty pleasures in life.  One is the BBC comedy show “Absolutely Fabulous”. It is a ridiculous series, introduced to me by a long forgotten ex-girlfriend, but it never fails to bring a smile to my face.  The tales of Edina Monsoon, Patsy Stone, and Saffron always put me in a happy mood.

Patsy Stone in all her glory
Patsy Stone in all her glory

One of the best episodes is “Small Opening” a tale of a play written by Saffy (Saffron Monsoon) about her life, and if you have been a long time viewer, you will be able to mouth many of the classic lines.

Best line: Near the end of the first  run, there was a scene with Edina and Patsy in the bathroom, and Edina asks Patsy what she sees in the mirror.  The answer: “A mirror, looking fabulous.”

It is why I keep BBC America on my cable subscription.

Physics Geek Alert

In a meeting today, we were talking about models for contact mechanics to measure the indentation of an indenter probe into a surface.  I got to correct someone that the correct term is Hertz-Sneddon.

Ian Sneddon, referred to as a Mathematician, made significant contributions to many areas of physics.

Yeah, I am a geek.

The good and the bad about Netflix streaming

I will come out and say it, I love Netflix streaming video. I like being able to watch what I want, without having to fiddle with the queue to get the right disk sent next.

I have really enjoyed watching some of the series I used to watch while growing up, and that is where the “bad” comes in. Of course, I remember Knight Rider being pretty awesome. But it is completely ‘meh’ now. Cheesy special effects, and David Hasselhof is an annoying a-hole.

I did enjoy watching all the “Rockford Files”.  I loved that show when I was a kid, and I still enjoyed watching the episodes. Lots of fun.

But it isn’t all roses. I was a huge fan of the X-Files when it was first run. I kind of drifted away after the 4th season, and sporadically caught an episode or two.  Lately, I re-watched them on Netflix, and being able to get through 2-3 episodes at a sitting, you can almost see in real time the Shark being jumped.  Of course this reminds me of why I drifted away (it had become all too predictable, and boring) in the first place.

I just wish that they would get the agreements in place to greatly increase the available movies. For one, I hate not being able to queue up all the James Bond flicks for a marathon. But even some old classics like “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolff” aren’t in their library, except by disk.


A lazy Sunday – Watching classic “The Avengers” episodes

The first actress to play opposite of Patrick McNee in "The Avengers"
The first actress to play opposite of Patrick McNee in “The Avengers”

Pre-Diana Riggs, the actress opposite of Patrick McNee (Steed) was Honor Blackman. This was very rough TV, but it has its charms.  I am working my way through the 1963 season, and making a kick ass green chili.

Perhaps I will break out the DVD’s with Emma Peel who made black leather unbelievably sexy in the 1960′ next.

I have a lot of work to do, and I am dutifully avoiding it.