Apologies!

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A Quick Update (Since I’ve Been Away)

Yes, I was just playing off a title to one of The Who’s song titles: “A Quick One (While He’s Away)”.  If you do not know who The Who are or were… I just feel so bad for you.

Turning to the more serious note, please pardon my lack of posting, social contact, and in general, seeing the light of day.  I have been so busy splitting my time between my house and my father’s house.  It allows me to see my parents, do what I can for my Dad’s business, as well as being in a key location for job hunting purposes.

I have a strong lead I am excited about, so I have focused on ISP issues being resolved at both home and… well, my other home!

Thanks,

— JK Benedict

CS-101: Defining Computer Science

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Let’s Just Dive In

[ Previous Post Here ]

If I overthink it, I’ll end up asking rhetorical questions.  You know: What is Computer Science?  What is the meaning of life?  How long is infinity?  And so forth.  While I ask to pardon the unorthodox approach, consider the first time the mathematical concept of infinity was explained to you.  As for myself, I marveled at it and spend time pondering on the length of this “infinity” thing.

It wasn’t until I was about twenty (or so) I started wondering how large – how big – infinity is.  A simple example is the space between 1.0 and 2.0: it is… infinite starting at 1.1, 1.2, … 1.11, 1.12 … and on, and on, and on.  It is this type of approach I would like to take with defining Computer Science under the context with which I am writing.  This is due to three major reasons:

  • It makes any definition of Computer Science [here] tangible and understandable
  • It allows us to place limits on the breadth, width, and scope of how we can look at Computer Science under these circumstances
  • Like infinity, the text book definition is small, but over such small words mean nothing in the shadow of its application

If we look to Merriam-Webster, “computer science” is defined as follows:

noun: a branch of science that deals with the theory of computation or the design of computers

As we read the definition, left to right, we get to the core of what Computer Science is: handling theories of computation.  For the sake of this entry, we will just stick to basic math, algebra, and so forth… number crunching with both precision and accuracy.

Moving along, we should take pause as we find a conjunction – “or” – which essentially means that there are now two definitions for Computer Science.  In the convenience of modernity, this is a good thing for the original computer was known by another name: humans.

Our own history has defined both sides of Merriam-Webster‘s definition.  The human computer observed the tides, the stars, the seasons, and much more.  The human computer also derived both tools and methods to make the process of human calculations both as quick as possible and in units others could understand.

On the verge of being philosophical, we created the right-hand side of the definition via non-human tools for calculation.  While we will discuss compute modules in more detail during our next lesson, rest assured that as civilizations have become more sophisticated so have the computers humans became reliant upon.


So… Computer Science for Our Purposes?

To make things completely clear, we are working with the dual defined nature of Computer Science.  Specifically, we are discussing the duality of humans being computers whilst building tools to make computational processing easier: allowing for what was one hard to become easy as so the next set of information to process could be tackled.

Each tool the human computer designed – from Abacus to Zilog processors – are essentially varied versions of what we have the ability to simply call “computers”.  So, the way we will define Computer Science (with boundaries) is to address computational theories, the problems humans worked to tackle, and how innovation led to the offloading of our human computer’s “mental work” to using a primitive or complex “machined computer” to do the same task.

So, yes – you are a computer.  You aren’t as fast as an Apple ][+ when it comes to mathematical computations, but even its creators are in the same position we are.  However, it is the problems they saw, faced, and overcame that we will be diving into the science of as remember this:

The Apple ][+ was an improvement of the Apple and the Apple was based upon existing technology, means to computational ends, and so forth.


Until Next Week…

Don’t fry your mind.  We will be diving back into the history of us as “human computers” and how thousands of years worth of individual/collective work still remains relevant to Computer Science today.

Until next week, shoot any questions or topics you’d like to see covered!


– JK Benedict | @xenfomation

 

CS-100: Introduction & Overview

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Welcome!

After an unexpected break, I am back in full force!  I have grown two beards (at separate times), rebuilt a 66 Jeep with my father, and have been really contemplating things “computer” as well as “science”.  To be blunt, I am quite tired of seeing too many talented friends and family members fall to the wayside in the name of regicide because the “new technology” is neither “new” nor “technology”.


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“I have invented a clicky board of keys that connects to a computer: preventing end-users from writing on their monitors!  Also, you are all laid off.

Nothing personal, I mean… nothing personal in the confines of the commercial machine, but here is a paddle for you and your personal life!”

Image from https://smartblogger.com/smart-blogger/

 

There are many draft articles I have abandoned as I want to be a positive force.  I want to share what I know and per my own experiences as a young man seeking higher education, I will state it again:

“When blogging is taught as technology [to college students], there is a problem.”

— JK Benedict

(Updated 11-APR-2017 to accurately reflect my own personal quote)

The Real Introduction

Now on my third beard, I wanted to write – at regular intervals – in a “Computer Science 101” style or format.  Of course and again, I am not a teacher, but through using others as a sounding board I have been encouraged to see this through.  If anything, I am always up for a challenge in addition to being unemployed at the moment!

Currently I have no plans as to how often I will inch along.  This is not due to poor planning on my part nor lack of content, I assure you.  While my intent is once per week, it boils down to how many people really take interest in this, my latest endeavor, as well as considering:

  • Questions raised per major (or sub) topic
  • Inquiries to specific areas (or providing examples in existing areas I cover) and addressing those
  • The time required to site topics that are not really modern/common knowledge, etc

Regardless, the selfish part of me will be more than satisfied in documenting things related to computing I have stored up in this odd space we call “a brain”.  You know, items such as 0 to 1, 41 to 5A, 101 to 132, 65 to 90, and maybe even EBCDIC!

GUID-BF42D485-6121-4599-A7F3-CC0B8F392B12-low

Image From http://documentation.microfocus.com/help/index.jsp?topic=%2Fcom.microfocus.silkperformer.doc%2FGUID-981DB7E1-8169-4E94-851A-584AB394DF95.html

Topics Covered and Supplies

The subject of Computer Science – as with most studies within the sciences, arts, etc – can be universally large.  I intended to focus on the more broad topics, but I am quite certain I may have to stray into areas many commonly refer to as “old world”, “first generation”, “theoretical”, and or “obsolete”.

Such classifications tend to annoy me as they make mere mention – barely a footnote – to the underlying historical, functional, and in some cases, sheer impossibilities which had to be overcome to give us what we have today for “modern computer science”.

Back on topic!  Bring an open mind, questions, and especially references (should I forget to site someone, etc)!  I am looking forward to this, so also bring feedback and ideas for as they say: the more, the merrier.


The Course Outline

Thus far I plan to flesh out the following articles within a week of each other.  What happens with them is completely up to you!

101 Computer Science

201 Practical Examples

301 Hardware

401 Software

501 Input and Output

601 Storage

701 Networking

801 Contemporary Concepts

901 Philosophical Concepts

1001 Open For Discussion or /* Comments */


In Conclusion…

This should be quite interesting and the list (above) is really tentative.  I am certain as I proceed and, along with feedback, I will definitely have to jump around as to accommodate the illustrious and the dull.

I am off to (in the words of REM) “Begin The Begin” and work towards the overall goal of driving home a reason, the how, and the relevancy of things “Computer Science” with which we can trace back to the beginning of time for good reasons:

This is a science.  There will come a time in your career where you wonder why something wasn’t covered within the confines of college.  And, you will know why things are as they are, but hopefully the lot of us can bring about actual new technology and new topics to our field.

Until next week, shoot any questions or topics you’d like to see covered!


– JK Benedict | @xenfomation

A Better way to Ubuntu: Budgie

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It our pleasure to announce our next point release of our 16.04 edition. This release builds on the shoulders of the fabulous Ubuntu 16.04.2. budgie-remix 16.04.2 comes equipped with the HWE Kernel and X Graphics. Appindicators are now the default. It also comes equipped with the latest budgie-welcome app to get you started quickly. Lookout […]

via budgie-remix 16.04.2 released — Ubuntu Budgie

Don Martin: National Gorilla Suit Day

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Not from your Marvel Universe…

Nope, not at all.  If you’ve have ever read MAD Magazine, you should hopefully recognize the name of none other than the Don Martin: cartoonist extraordinaire.  On the other hand, if you have no idea about what I am talking about and only recall a sketch comedy show by the same name, I apologize to you for know you have been cheated, left in the dark, and have missed out – completely.  However, thanks to the Internet and Pop Culture, let me see if the following two images may link some vague, distant relationship to a point in time where your Dad (or Mother) had a strange looking stack of “comic books”:

Albert E. Neuman

alberteneuman

Or Fester Bestertester?

fester_bestertester_large1

If not, I’ll try to illuminate why January 31st is celebrated as National Gorilla Suit Day, if not expose my inner geek fueled by my Dad with such classics as…

donmartin1


You have to read…

For the full dose of cartoon and comic genius, you need to grab a copy of “Don Martin Bounces Back”, which pretty much is a non-stop riot of laughs.  Essentially, Fester mocks “National Gorilla Suit Day” – which ingeniously, in 1963 was invented for the comic – and he (Fester) is pretty much beat down by people in gorilla suits, real gorillas, and so forth.

I can’t do it justice here, but the humor printed in 1963 reins on supreme and with love for Don Martin.

So, if you Dad and his friends seem to be on an inside joke — they probably are, but it is a joke that has stood the test of time.  Look out, Fester: I’m coming for you!

gorilla

(Thanks, Dad!)

— JK Benedict | @xenfomation

The Gaming Troll: Manifest Greek Tragedies

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The preface…

Over the last few months my off-line hobbies have circled back to gaming: specifically online, multiplayer, co-op based games with team strategy involved.  Oh, to be young again and face first getting the CRT tan from a game of StarCraft, Age of Empires, and so on.  However, as much as I have fun, my age lends me zero patience to those individuals we once called “poor sports” or “assholes”: the random player that sucked the fun out of the game for their own amusement.  And for seemingly no good reason, no known grudge, and completely self-defeating to their own progress in a multiplayer game where success hinges on everyone.

You know who I speak of.  They do not exist solely in online gaming, but pretty much everywhere across the Internet by a new name: Trolls.

internet-troll

Sure, in Quake III Arena, it was funny to see these newly named “Trolls” rock their skills because they could.  Why not?  Especially in other games where they were already level-capped, you understood they were just bored and had no game objective: they invented their own.  Bully and screw up the lower level game players.

Ha.  Ha.  Oh, wait.  The Internet grew and so did these anonymous, endless time having, low life losers.

I get it, or I used to get it because I mean “good job” — Wikipedia now holds a definition of your kind:

In Internet slang, a troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

 

Truly, you do none of the above as the words “annoying waste of space” would have been sufficient.  I personally like the psychological break down, albeit it is Wikipedia.  Hehehe – they are trolling you, I suppose!

Your computer was (or maybe still is) your parental figure, means of escape, stepping stone to a wrap sheet, or even a place to vent.  Whatever the means or your ends might be, the intention – especially now – is really nothing more than an endless, self induced cycle of becoming your own Greek Tragedy.  You hurt the team, you hurt yourself.  You take the fun out of a game and it is no longer a game.  It becomes you having to Troll your own inner Troll to out troll other Trolls with the end game being that your trolling keeps you – in reality and in gaming – as a level zero… or a lower form of this:

LOSER


The conclusion?

The irony of this entry has not escaped me.  Once I publish this I will have appeared to have sent invitations to such creeps to troll me, but at the same time, I will have briefly sunk to the lowest form of Internet-connected life forms: Trolls.

Keep in mind that with almost all on-line games, we true gamers can block you, out number you, but more importantly… report you, have your account suspended, or in the best case scenario, get your account banned.

Yeah, so I guess I need to develop a Massive Multiplayer Online Troll Game where your kind can roam the ends of electron hell.  Sadly, the more you play I am betting the less you will realize you have been completely trolled.

 

— JK Benedict | @xenfomation

 

No Prior Art: A Dedication

Symour R. Cray
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Featured Image from http://www.cray.com/company/history/seymour-cray


Over a year ago I decided to start blogging about anything and everything related to my career, computers, science, and so forth.  I truly had no idea with how best to describe these pages into “one word”.  At the time I was heavily involved with XenServer, which is still a passion of mine, but even that wasn’t a singular subject.

I wanted to explain my mindset, my exposure to art, music, literature, computers, and so many fields I had the privilege growing up to dabble in.  So, I thought about Seymour Cray: my personal computer idol who is synonymous with Super Computing, but always seemed to me as a man of a diverse background who used those experiences to achieve many things.

“No Prior Art: A Dedication” was originally written as a draft on 31-JUL-2015.  Its intention was to, well, be some sort of point for you – the reader – to learn a bit about my computing hero as well as offering a means to tie in personal experiences related to the computer industry.  I suppose it was a complex idea as I am nothing like Seymour Cray, but the likes of Titans such as him have paved the way for us involved in the widening spectrum called “computing”.

I didn’t finish the draft for lack of time and fear it would be overlooked, but without Seymour Cray, well, I can say my father, brother, and myself wouldn’t be here.  No, instead we would be probably be broke comedians pan-handling for our next meal.

So, over a year later I present this entry with a title dedicated to one of the many patents Cray held as, in reading the verbiage, the patent stated “No Prior Art”.  I found that text to be quite apropos to enforce who Seymour Cray was, is, and left us.  Indeed, no prior art nor  subsequent art, for sure.


So I have a blog…

I have broken my own promise and the proof is right here.  A blog.  About blogging.  About technology.  About technology that begat technology and so forth.

I made such a promise during my on-and-off college days as I was kicked out of class as a “blog” was discussed as being a “technology”.  I mean that literally: Blog = Technology.  With years of experience as a musician, artist, writer, and life-long computer geek, I stared in awe at the classroom that soaked this up.  There was no judgement of the students on my part as the took copious notes, but I was shocked after three-quarters of the class passed by and there was no mention to the actual technology that allowed for mouth pieces to talk about their political leanings on-line.

When I asked how we could learn this as truth without the underlying technology required to facilitate “a blog” (a web server, CGI components, databases, code, etc), a mild argument broke out as I found such concepts were “outside the course’s scope”.  Being asked to leave for the day on my insistence that a blog was not a technology, but a made up word to describe an amalgamation of literal technology, I gladly left with a grand sense of accomplishment.  I was correct, though I didn’t want to be, but the professor knew it and four of my colleagues would later call me for all of us to have a weekend session of actually exploring what a blog was, what would be required to setup one, and so forth.

I was no superhero.  I am not a superhero.  I am someone who believes in being taught a subject, but also that which allowed for such work to exist: credit to the shoulders of giants we stand upon.

This is what the purpose of my blog is, albeit it has a lean towards open source XenServer and virtualization, but I hope this translates to my readers.  My desire is that what I content I can find to write helps others, promotes discussions, and not just necessarily “things” specific to virtualization, etc.  After all, when I am long gone, maybe I can leave some indexed content in a futuristic world.  That may sound morbid, but married to a genius wife and having two exceptionally intelligent kids, it is the least I owe them during this lifetime I have been given.


Looking up to Cray…

Real heroes and legends didn’t need a blog (nor would they need a blog).  Their life’s work is known or unknown, but never-the-less permeates throughout the fabric of our planet.

Martin Luther King, Jr.  Sir Isaac Newton.  Salvador Dali.  John Oppenheimer.  Houdini.  Jonas Salk.  Albert Einstein.  Jane Goodall.

A list of names such as these and their contributions can seem to go on forever as I look around my library.  That’s the problem.  I shouldn’t be looking at these individuals as a list-style compilation.  Really, to imply such individuals listed above, their contemporaries, and so many more are an just an infinite who walked among us is to make the no more than mere mortals.

That is the opposite of my intentions here, for surely the scrolls of history should have a specific compendium for these individuals for us to always think back on and pay homage to.  Their very existence before, during, or after our lives defined history and their spirit?  They are still alive and live on as Immortals, such as one of my heroes who’s intelligent face is sprawled across the top of this article: Seymour Cray.


Man, Myth, and Legends…

If the name sounds familiar, let’s see if I can’t jog memories with some actual Seymour Cray references.  Some are well known, some are not, and some may still be myth for all I know!

  • The Cray Computer
  • He and Douglas Englebart (spelling) helped to design the first “desktop” computer (1975’s Altair)
  • His super computers held speed records over larger companies, such as IBM
  • “NASA has all the Cray’s,” or at least all us kids thought so.  NASA did utilize Cray machines: check out the NASA STI Program video here
  • Tom Watson (IBM) was out engineered by a team of 30 (thus we have to reference The Mythical Man-Month)

I could carry on as even being a small kid with a father who entered electronics pre-desktop, pro-mainframe, and so forth, rumors of the Cray Super Computer were the stuff of legends to us!  I even had a classmate in third grade who claimed his dad had a Cray Computer to which other kids said “No Way!  NASA has them all!” to which made me want to finish my homework early, work on my mostly-soldered Apple ][+ and change the world.

After all, it has been reported than when Seymour Cray was told Steve Jobs purchased a Cray computer to design the Apple, he replied:

“Funny.  I am using the Apple to simulate a Cray-3.” -Seymour Cray, Source Unknown

I love his sense of humor as it is one that has been lost as invention led to industry and industry led to harsh competition, closed knowledge loops, and a pay-to-play mentality.

Surprisingly, I’ve never read a biography on Seymour Cray.  The primary reason for this is that, well, thanks to my father, his friends, and others with much more time in the computer industry, I’ve been told so much about Seymour Cray that I don’t feel the need to over analyze him.  That seems to be something that, outside of engineering, Seymour Cray himself wouldn’t do.

The second reason is that which is myth, such as the famous definition of what the acronym in RISC processing really means:

Really Invented by Seymour Cray

Of course RISC means Reduced Instruction Set, but we are talking about a man who would build the Super Computer, deliver it, and even build or customize the the hardware/OS per user needs.  Imagine that.  Seriously, it is a divine picture of a man who could really build something so massive and wield it like he was a god.

Beyond work with processing, semi-conductors, and large compute systems, it seems Seymour Cray had a humility about him and was always full of great quotes that to this day, I’ve heard so many project managers use without attribution to Seymour Cray.  Having an electrical engineering degree, two masters degrees in mathematics: he was made to be in the right place at the right time in the annals of history.

He wasn’t a fan of symmetrical processing as I understood it.  The quotes passed on to me were “why go symmetrical without high serial speeds” and that “parity is for farmers” — these made me laugh, but made complete sense.  Sure, we have symmetrical processing, but during the early days – from my own experience – he was right.  Dirty copper, faulty designs, and details such as distance causing inconsistent performance.

There is little footage of such an influence over our industry, but thanks to Computer History, I have found two wonderful videos that offer us a view into Seymour Cray, who he was, and how it must have been wonderful to work for him.

“What’s All This About Gallium Arsenide?” – A lecture by Seymour Cray

Cray-1 Supercomputer: 30th Anniversary


A story closer to me…

Finally, as an IBMer, I heard the stories that never changed and can be backed up by many of Cray’s clever quotes and by proxy, the book I previously mentioned (albeit published in 1975 and related to the IBM/360) entitled “The Mythical Man-Month” by Frederick P. Brooks.  Copies of that book were almost mandatory reading as one adopted to the IBM culture as the famous I recall goes something like this:

Thomas Watson, the then-CEO of IBM, was completely flabbergasted how Seymour Cray and Control Data Corporation (click here for a bit more on CDC) were ableto out engineer and produce 6600, the World’s fastest computer (by FAR) during the 1960s.  According to Seymour Cray, CDC had a project group of 30 (including the janitor, per Cray) and in sharing letters, etc, it was determined IBM had allocated 10 times the man power CDC did and they still failed to achieve their goals.

That always fascinated me.  He wasn’t just a technical genius, but a planning genius.  I did look into this when I was younger and as I recall (when asked about how many people were involved on the CDC’s 6600 project), Cray replied:

“I think thirty.  Including the janitor.” -Seymour Cray, Source Unknown

The following picture is a dual installation of the CDC 6600 supercomputer:

cdc6600


In summary…

I chose the title “No Prior Art” from one of Seymour Cray’s many patents, specifically on Parallel Magnetic Circuitry.  In reading the patent, there was a declaration specifying “No Prior Art”, which is so perfect to describe Seymour Cray.  He is more than just a super computer guy: he helped shape an industry, changed the way computing via circuit could be tackled, and broke barriers.

Indeed, Seymour Cray.  There was no prior art and there hasn’t been any since as you, sir, are a true original.

— JK Benedict | @xenfomation