Category Archives: Technology

IET Meetup – Only a Matter of Time

I was lucky to get a ticket to an excellent lecture by Leon Lobo of the National Physical Laboratory – ‘Only a matter of time’ – How time has infiltrated different industries and why it is important to a micro second level. This lecture was partly to celebrate 60 years since Louis Essen developed his atomic clock.

essen-book-coverAll attendees were presented with a copy of Louis Essen’s memoirs. I love reading about the history behind mathematical or scientific advances. This book includes gems such as when Albert Einstein gave a lecture at the National Physical Laboratory and someone had to lend him £5 because he had no money! Also noteworthy is that the great Alan Turing was developing a computer at NPL after the war – he just happened to cross paths with Essen, and repeated a key correction factor calculation for him, doing it far more elegantly and rigorously using waveguide theory.

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Apple Watch – awesome charger for UK

Apparently, the Apple Watch has a foldable charger in the UK. If this is it, it’s certainly innovative and begs the question why no one else has put a slimmer design on the market.

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Flash Boys – One Year On

Traders Magazine notes that it’s now a year since Michael Lewis published “Flash Boys”.

After all, it’s not every day that a book launches attorney general investigations, inspires an exchange president to meltdown on cable news and spur Americans to buy a book that features an obscure trader from the Royal Bank of Canada to figure out why the price of his trades were increasing the instant he placed his order.

I read Flash Boys soon after it came out and thought it was excellent. Now, Traders Magazine points out that they talked to IEX before Lewis brought out his book.

The Vanity Fair article by Michael Lewis is worth a read.

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BCS Meetup: 2015 Lovelace Lecture, Steve Furber

Steve Furber_BrainI was lucky to get a ticket to see Steve Furber receive the Lovelace Medal for 2015, for services to the advancement of computer science. He gave an inspirational lecture about his work, starting with his contribution to ARM and including his latest project, SpiNNaker.

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Voyager 40 years into its mission

Fascinating post about Voyager.

Voyager’s spindly limbed, Transit-van-sized machines have been travelling at around 37,000mph for almost 38 years. When they were launched, wooden-framed Morris 1000 Traveller cars had only recently stopped being produced by British Leyland in Oxford. The Voyagers’ on-board computers are early 1970s models that were advanced then but are puny now – an iPhone’s computer is some 200,000 times faster and has about 250,000 times more memory than Voyager’s hardware.

The secret of its durability is down to the engineers involved:

“The robustness is unique,” she says. “If you talk to the older engineers, they’ll say: ‘Well, we were told to make a four-year mission, but we realised if you just used this higher-rated component, it would last twice as long.’ So they did that. They just didn’t tell anybody. The early engineers were very conscious of trying to make this last as long as possible and, quite frankly, being not as forthcoming with information about the types of parts they were using.”

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Video: Designing a Beautiful REST API

This video gives a neat introduction into REST API design and some of the consideration s/pitfalls in different approaches.

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SlateMail – a newbie’s project to streamline his email

Slate.com blogged an attempt by a non-programmer to write his own email client, in an attempt to improve his email life.

I was email-depressed. You may well be too. Lots of people are, but email is not on the laundry list of things that people routinely complain about, like weather or allergies or public transit. Nobody asks, “How was the email today?” And nobody replies, “Awful, just awful. New York just has the worst email.” But ask people directly, and you’ll see there’s an epidemic of email depression. Last year, Slate conducted an internal survey about email, asking editors and writers, “How do you feel about the amount of emails in your inbox?” The responses included: “Exhausted.” “Overwhelmed.” “Alarmed.”

He adopted some smart ideas to match the way his wishes to organise his email traffic. This is a classic example of the 80:20 rule, he’s been able to get 80% of the functionality he needs by covering 20% of a standard email client and customising. But someone else’s basic requirement may be a differ 20%.

I had a semifunctional email client. It could receive, display, and send email. Features I considered crucial, such as email threading and quoted message collapsing, worked somewhat reliably. There were other common features I wanted to add, features that most users would consider non-negotiable, such as search functionality and email address auto-completion.

Ultimately, he developed an application that worked for him. More notably, he grew to love coding and became somewhat addicted to it:

By that point SlateMail had taken over my life to a far greater extent than email ever had. Whenever I found time to think, I coded in my head. I improved the syncer on a walk to the grocery store. I built the mailbox tree standing on the subway.

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SatNav Innovation by Jaguar

Jaguar have proposed a new approach to navigation – displaying a ghost car to be followed along the route.

Officially known as “Follow-Me Ghost Car Navigation,” the system uses the heads-up-display technology to project an illuminated “ghost car” that looks to be driving right in front of the actual vehicle.

It’s a brilliant example of putting the information exactly where the user wants it.

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How to change notepad print formats

It’s sometimes useful to use notepad to print basic text, but it also prints a header and footer by default.

It turns out that you can change the formatting, for example to output the current date and time.

Command Action
——- ————————————–

&l Left-align the characters that follow
&c Center the characters that follow
&r Right-align the characters that follow
&d Print the current date
&t Print the current time
&f Print the name of the document
&p Print the page number

Often, though, you might want the print format to be disabled by default

Goto the key HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Notepad
Then add string values “szHeader” and “szTrailer” with value “”

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Cache is the new RAM

Excellent article on the various technologies used over the years to deliver server-side applications.

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