Red Echo

September 26, 2013

Ava commented last night that she regrets upgrading her iPad to iOS 7. It’s not really better, and now she can’t go back to the system she felt comfortable with.

I think back to the release of Apple’s old Macintosh System 7, and I realize that it’s been a long time since I felt excited about software upgrades in general. My home computer is still running OS X 10.6 and I have no plans to upgrade it. The newer versions are just different, not better. I still don’t really use Windows much but I hear the same kinds of things over there. People upgrade reluctantly, and the new system seems to be built more for Microsoft’s benefit than for theirs.

I’m reluctantly downloading Xcode 5. I’ve been ignoring it, but apparently some of my co-workers got suckered in, and now in order to keep the project files in sync we all have to upgrade. What a waste of time! Who cares? What can the new version possibly do that the old one couldn’t? I’m sure Apple is very excited for me to upgrade, but it’s really a big waste of my time, as things will inevitably have changed and broken and I’ll have to get them working again, and at the end of the whole process I’ll (hopefully) have exactly the same thing I have now: a window I can type code in and a button that says “compile it”. At least when I upgraded gcc I got access to the new language features in C++11, which are actually worth something!

To some degree, this must be just a reflection of the fact that computers themselves have largely topped out. The only thing that has made any significant performance difference in the last two or three years is the introduction of solid-state storage. We no longer have ever-faster processors coming along every couple of years and making brand-new capabilities possible, but software makers still have to keep developing new software in order to fund their continued existence, so they get ever more cosmetic and esoteric in the features they try to sell.

Maybe I’m just getting old.

September 23, 2013

Upgrading GCC

My netbook, the supposedly disposable Eee-pc 1000 which has outlasted two macbooks, currently runs Ubuntu 12.04. Its GCC does not support C++11. This is how to upgrade.

September 22, 2013

Washington State Fair in Puyallup

September 15, 2013

A nice introduction to bare-metal programming in C, with a simple startup entrypoint.

September 13, 2013

USB Condoms sever the data lines and pass through only the power lines of a standard USB connection, letting you charge your phone from any random USB port without having to worry that it might hijack your data.

September 11, 2013

Since when is the President-seemingly-for-life of Russia the sensible, measured, law-abiding one? This New York Times op-ed by Vladimir Putin responds to the proposal that America should bomb Syria, in order to punish whoever was responsible for the poison gas attack, and his carefully phrased, thoroughly diplomatic expression of concern about the long-term consequences of such makes far more sense than anything I’ve heard from Obama on the subject.

September 7, 2013

Michael T & Likhita K got married

September 6, 2013

How the NSA Could Stop Sucking And Be Awesome Instead:

I’ve still got that memory of what it feels like to have nationalistic pride in an organization that’s on the forefront of mathematics, computer science, and engineering. Sadly, that power has now been turned inward, but I think it’s possible to fix NSA’s image, and use it to make America a better place.

It should go without saying that NSA needs real oversight, and needs to stop spying on Americans. After that, though, I think there are some concrete things that NSA could do to redeem itself, and maybe even attract talent.

September 4, 2013

School is a prison, and damaging our kids

I have no direct experience on the subject, as I was home-schooled all the way through, but this Salon article by Peter Gray makes a lot of claims that reflect my own reservations. Regular school has always sounded awful to me, and I cannot imagine how kids deal with it; I have always wondered if it is just me or if it really is that bad. The author of this article seems pretty certain that it isn’t just me:

School is a place where children are compelled to be, and where their freedom is greatly restricted — far more restricted than most adults would tolerate in their workplaces. In recent decades, we have been compelling our children to spend ever more time in this kind of setting, and there is strong evidence (summarized in my recent book) that this is causing serious psychological damage to many of them. Moreover, the more scientists have learned about how children naturally learn, the more we have come to realize that children learn most deeply and fully, and with greatest enthusiasm, in conditions that are almost opposite to those of school.

September 2, 2013

Labor day at Mul-acres