Thursday, March 13, 2008

Excuse Me, While I Kiss The Sky

The demo that Microsoft showed at TED of Robert Scoble crying, ahem, I mean their future Microsoft Worldwide Telescope or whatever, looks really neat. In the meantime, those provocateurs over at Google have just put live Google Sky, a fully browser based version of their Google Earth software that started this whole "star wars" virtual astronomy competition thing in the first place.

I suppose since so many people cannot see the stars anymore, that we need virtual astronomy more than ever. In the meantime, it is pretty incredible to have such an educated introduction to the heavens. I could easily spend hours just like, playing with the universe, man.

The U.S. Navy Goes Open Source

That unwitting center of global innovation known as the United States Navy has made a bold announcement: from now on, they are only going to accept open source.

I just read about this on CNET, where they were linking to a recent story in Federal Computer Week. When I read this, I just about fell out of my seat. According to Vice Adm. Mark Edwards, deputy chief of naval operations for communications:

“The days of proprietary technology must come to an end,” he said. “We will no longer accept systems that couple hardware, software and data.”

Really. I am not making this up. Here is some more juicy stuff:

“We can’t accept the increasing costs of maintaining our present-day capabilities,” Edwards said. “In the civilian marketplace, it’s just the opposite. Some private-sector concerns are cutting their costs by 90 percent while expanding their performance.”

Edwards noted that the Navy has cut the number of databases and applications it maintains and has reduced its networks by 40 percent. “But it is not enough,” he added. “We would have to double our IT budget over the next several years just to run in place.”

By using an open network architecture, the Navy could rapidly upgrade its capabilities and handle increases for demand, Edwards said.

So what will be next? The U.S. Navy vs. The US Patent and Trademark Office? Wow, talk about getting bogged down in a conflict! Still, my money is on the Navy... I played on a soccer team with a Navy SEAL and a couple of Marines (also not kidding) and those guys really ARE tough!

The Telepathy Machine Demo

I just saw an amazing demo of communication without speaking. No, not instant messaging, or sign language. Instead, scientists at Ambient Corporation have succeeded in tapping into the nervous system that control speech, and translate that into digitized speech. Michael Callahan showed off their demo at the Texas Instruments developer conference. Wow, this is a long way from my TI-99/4!

Applications for secret agents, people who suffer from ALS, and people who cannot shut up when on the subway will be forthcoming. The quality is "at the same level of recognition as the early days of speech to text", so it will be a little while till all those people staring off into space at cafes are actually talking to someone else.

In the meantime, I would like to scan all of you in this room one at a time...

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Merb On The Virge

Merb, the mighty challenger to the current Rails domination of the Ruby web framework conversation, races towards "getting very close to being stable api wise". That sounds like a 1.0 release to me!

Ezra says that the 0.9.1 developer release is ready to take thru its paces. One area where Merb really differs from Ruby on Rails is how Merb is based off of RubyGems. The refactored Merb architecture takes the Merb modularity to a massive 16 gems. You can really pick and choose what you want to include in your application.

Luckily for the very lazy, or the undecided, there is a Merb gem that will install everything for you. All you have to do is:

sudo gem install merb -y --source

And away you go! Unfortunately, "you should uninstall all of your old Merb gems before you install the new version" but that is not so bad. If you have been Merbing for while, you are not afraid to get your hands a little dirty. And if not, Merb 1.0 (dare I say it?) is right around the corner.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Thanks For Paying Attention

This last week has brought some very nice and favorable attention to the Dead Programmer Society.

The ever-popular "I'd Rather be A Jazz Programmer" post popped up again, this time in the stodgy old school publication Computerworld. They ran an article on the "Rock Star Programmer" meme, and decided that my little post was part of the "Kill Rock Stars" contrarian perspective they were looking for. Thanks for making me look so good, guys!

Actually it really is pretty amazing to make an article that also mentions Linus Torvalds, Joel Spolsky, Paul Graham, Obie Fernandez, Zed Shaw, and "why the lucky" (sic). Hey, I told you Computerworld was stodgy. Sorry they mangled your handle, why!

On to more recent work. Ari Lerner and I have been getting some good attention to our introduction of the EC2 ProcessorPool gem. We managed to get covered in both Rails Envy and Ruby Inside this last week. Thank you to the editors for helping us let people know about this quite useful tool.

Anyhow, that is about enough self-congratulation for one post. Next time, back to our irregularly scheduled programming.