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Reading: Dealers of Lightning August 1, 2015

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So one thing about commuting into Cambridge every day is that I’ve become  once again a voracious reader. And I’m not talking what I consider the classics like Black Like Me, Brave New World, A Kiss Before Dying, The Greek Tragedies, etc.

No I’m talking books that delve into the psyche of the discoveries that have shaped the modern world. Be it one about Bell Labs in their heyday, MIT’s Rad Lab, DARPA, Xerox PARC, and the Manhattan Project.

The book is by Michael Hiltzik and titled “Dealers of Lightning”. A fascinating romp through the personalities that gave us modern technology. Everything we do on computers – it came out of someones mind. Think about that for a second. It’s fascinating.

I’ve just begun reading but am already notating the thing like crazy. The management style omnipresent in all those books – interdisciplinary teams but better yet, the men who built those teams. I suppose it interests me because i found out well over a decade ago that my management style is team builder.

But here’s the synopsis of the developments to come out of Xerox PARC:

  • Graphic User Interface
  • Ethernet – the predominant networking technology. Somewhere in your home if you have internet service there are Ethernet ports.
  • Laser Printers

And a brief view of how we got where we are today:

  • Bell Labs invents the transistor in the late 1940’s
  • Transistor is further developed in the 1950’s.
  • By the 1950’s computers start coming to the fore – but they’re basically calculating machines. Still are to some degree today.
  • By the 1960’s we start seeing people frustrated by the non-interactive nature of computing. I got exposed to this in the early 1980’s when I took a PL/I programming course. We had to use IBM Model 29 card punch machines to code up our programs and then submit a deck of cards to be processed. The book laments the pitfalls of such, like your 6000 line program craps at line 430 because you forgot a comma. So you fix the comma issue and re-submit the deck. Then you realize you somehow swapped the 0 and O characters on line 5400. It was frustrating and could take DAYS. For me it was particularly frustrating as I’d started the programming kick with an interactive time shared system call RSTS/E that ran on a DEC PDP-11/70.
  • But in the 1960’s men like Bob Taylor, and his crew plus the general area around Silicon Valley started bubbling with ideas from how to hook computers together, to time sharing, to early graphic user interfaces. Hell I’ve seen Spacewar on a DEC PDP-12 LINC. (LINC is Laboratory Instrument Computer)
  • And right now I’m posting this on a WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) machine running Windows 10.
  • They also dreamed up small, portable computing. Sitting right next to me are my cell phone and my Amazon Fire HD6 tablet. Between them they represent the culmination of all of the above.
  • I’m waiting to see where the quantum world takes us. Imagine computing on such a massive parallel quantum system – this is at the level down below the atom which is where we are now.
  • I also see much more immersive systems coming with high quality 3D systems, etc.

Needless to say I’m tearing through the book rapidly. Because I also like knowing where we came from. I got to experience some of that. But by the time I’d gotten there a lot had been settled already. But then, who knows where I’ll end up.

So I bit the bullet July 31, 2015

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And upgraded my Windows 7 Professional machine to Windows 10. Not as bad as I would have thought it would be.

I’ve pretty much unpinned all the bullshit from the start menu – I don’t have an Xbox that would be compatible, also don’t care about Cortana, or get MS office. Sorry – that ship has sailed. I just have LibreOffice 4.4 on the machine.

Performance wise I note running Netlflix in Google Chrome is much smoother.

It’s running on a Dell E6420 I5 quad core system with 4GB or RAM. I plan to upgrade the RAM thought.

So no more dunning to upgrade to Windows 10. I’m running it now – and allegedly this is supported FOREVER. That’s interesting by itself.

That job interview I wrote about July 26, 2015

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I got the feedback – they all loved/liked me. So now it’s negotiating what position I’m going in as. It was originally a SysAdmin job but because I have managed an I.T. staff before they want to talk to me about moving into a management role.

That would be cool. My management style is team builder. I love doing that.

Reading: Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt July 23, 2015

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I’m currently reading the book “Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt” by Chris Hedges and Joe Sacco. It details what big business and society has done to various peoples and areas in the U.S.

I’m on the chapter now that talks about the coal mining in West Virginia, Kentucky and the like. You  get a strong powerless vibe from the stories he tells.

But I can tell you – mechanized mining requires, wait for it, the internal combustion engine. And if you want to stop mountain top mining you have to get mechanically creative. It can be as simple as dumping a gallon or two of corn syrup in the fuel tank, or what i term creative re-wiring. Disconnect sensors, starters, steal batteries etc. If it’s a gasoline powered vehicle rewire the spark plugs. Switch em’ up some.

Do any of that and you’ll disable the vehicle for a good part of a day. Do it repeatedly – switch up targets to make it difficult.

The rich and big business want to fuck with us, I say we fuck with them. Put it this way – the rich think they’re immune from anything we might do. I think they are sorely mistaken. Just watch the movie The Jackal to get my gist. All it takes is a rifle, a scope and good ammo.

But the other parts of the book so far detail the genocide against the Native Americans and how the government shits all over the Native Americans to this day. Being that I’ve got a few percent Mohawk that one makes my blood boil just a bit.

Then there’s Camden, NJ – a hollowed out manufacturing town.

And now as I mentioned earlier I’m on the chapter about coal mining. One little blurb that emerges in this chapter is that we’ve got maybe 20 years of coal left to mine. After that – done. And then consider half of U.S. electric power comes from coal. It’s scary.

Interesting job interview July 21, 2015

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So the place I’m working – the contract runs out end of August. So I have been going to interviews.

This one was pretty good – I jibe with the people – in fact their Developer, Help Desk and current System Admin I had a really good rapport with. And the place is growing like crazy – they’re up to 180 people so far.

It’s in Quincy, MA. The commute would be a tad easier than the commute I have now. So there’s that. Plus I’m strongly considering moving into MA.

I’ll know more on Thursday.

WaterFire Providence 07-18-2015 July 19, 2015

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So went to WaterFire this evening. We headed out a bit after nine o’clock this evening. It was PACKED. You could barely get through. But we have dogged persistence. We pushed our way through when necessary. Almost body checked a few people myself. How can I explain, I know you see me. If you don’t move you’re gonna feel me.

We walked nearly the entirety of the event and finally found a spot to sit and watch the fire and do running commentary on the music choices. There were a couple where I suspected we might hear Swing Low Sweet Chariot, or maybe the theme from the Godfather.

They did have some living garoyles and statuary though. All part of a group called Ten31 productions. I’m thinking when he and I get married I’d like to have a couple pyres and gargoyles present. Nah, I’m just kidding but the pyres would be interesting.

Here they are doing a performance. It’s pretty cool.

Movies: Chappie July 17, 2015

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Ok, so I know I’m behind the curve and the movie may not appeal to everyone.

But it’s cool. The plot of the story is the police start using humanoid robots for law enforcement. They have shells that are impervious to bullets etc. But they can’t tolerate say an RPG or similar. So unit 22 is about to be sent to be crushed.

But the lead programmer on the robots – he creates an artificial intelligence and uploads it to the unit 22 robot.

The story is all about Unit 22 or Chappie learning about his world. In the process the robot figures out how to transfer consciousness from robot to PS4, to USB stick, and finally human to robot.

Enjoyable two hours.

RIPTA wants to go back to a zoned system in Rhode Island July 15, 2015

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RIPTA in case you were wondering is the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority. They run the bus system here in Rhode Island.

Now well over a decade ago they went from a zoned system to a one state, one rate system.

And with the budget crunch right now – they want to go BACK to a zoned system.

I’ll describe why that’s stupid.

It will unnecessarily complicate fare products. I’ll use as an example the product of theirs that I use most, the 15 ride pass. How would that work under a zoned system?

Not to mention it’ll also cause major problems as they won’t necessarily publish that there are zones that well.

Of course many years ago legislators tied RIPTA’s fortunes to the a few cents on the gasoline tax. But people are buying less gasoline with more fuel efficient vehicles. So RIPTA’s budget takes the hit.

It’s a delicate balance. But maybe as I’ve stated in the past they should just merge in with the MBTA. Because the MBTA – they charge the communities they serve. Yeah. And it’s not like there’s not precedent since RIPTA now sends buses to the South Attleboro train stop in MASSACHUSETTS.

But then I contend I’m paying $330 a month for an MBTA pass – it should work on RIPTA.

Did it – ordered an infrared capable camera and dvr July 10, 2015

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So I ordered a color camera with infrared capability along with and extended cable and a digital video recorder. Less than $150 for the kit.

I’m going to hang it so it looks on the side of the building. I’m gonna catch me some taggers. Then I’m just going to spool the video onto a USB stick and hand it to the cops and tell them do their job. I almost want to put up a sign that says “Smile! You’re on camera!”

I’m sort of applying the 21st century version of broken windows theory here. Because even thought the Providence Graffiti Task Force painted over the tags – it’ll keep happening. And when I move out of here it all comes with me. The DVR is capable of handling up to 8 channels. So that’s good.

And I don’t think it’ll take long to nab the little miscreant tagger(s). And if the police don’t want to help I’ll just post the videos on YouTube, Facebook, and here. I figure someone might know said miscreants and I can pay them a visit.

Investigating USPS July 6, 2015

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So I notice every time we ship something like a package to North Carolina – it always routes through the Greensboro, NC 27495 office.

So I did a little poking around. Checked USPS web site and it says the zip code 27495 doesn’t exist. Then it hit me – there are certain zip codes that only route to what are called Sectional Sort Facilities. For example here in Providence the main post office is 02904 – that’s the first automated post office in the country btw. But it has the code 02940 assigned to it too – that’s for the sectional side. So 27495 is the Greensboro, NC Section Sort Facility. Another – Boston is 02100 Sectional Sort Facility.

So then I went to google and plugged in the 27495 zip code. I got this:

https://www.google.com/maps/views/view/113041228723107672355/gphoto/5778120750246026802?gl=us

It’s at

3701 Wendover Ave W

Greensboro, NC 27495

This is the facility that held a package for near 4 days back around mothers day which meant 7 total days in transit. If you looked at the track it almost appeared the post office shut down for the weekend.

But better the google results let you write a review of the post office. The reviews that people have written so far haven’t been flattering. So i reviewed and and told of the saga of mother’s day.

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