Rainbows End

I like to read, but I usually don’t spend much time on fiction. Still, every now and then I’ll read some sci-fi.

A few years ago there was quite a bit of buzz again about The Singularity. I wanted to learn more about this topic. A little research quickly turned up that Vernor Vinge is known to be an originator of this concept. He is a math/CS professor from UCSD that writes great science fiction. After watching a brief interview with him, I was intrigued and decided to read one of his books. I thought it would be an entertaining way to learn more about the Singularity. The book I read was called A Fire Upon the Deep. I really liked it, but didn’t get a chance to read any more sci-fi for quite a while.

A few weeks ago, my daughter decided to go to a library book sale. This is not a common thing for me or her. However, she invited me to go, so I decided to take her up on it. While I was there with her, I found a few interesting tech books. However, just before I left, I felt the pull to check out the sci-fi section. It was a pretty large section, but the memory of Vinge popped in my head. I scanned towards ‘V’ and found a book by him called Rainbows End. Without thinking too hard, I bought it. I really enjoyed reading it the days following. IMHO, I found it to be thought provoking and entertaining. Recommended.

Now I’m wondering why I haven’t been reading good sci-fi books more often. Especially considering the lack of good sci-fi movies. As I read more books, I’ll post about them on the site.

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Lisp Match

         ((AND (ATOM PATTERN)
               (EQUAL PATTERN ASSERTION)) T)
         ((ATOM PATTERN) NIL)
                 (MATCH (REST PATTERN) (REST ASSERTION))))))
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Rob Barton Quote

“Systems programmers are the high priests of a low cult.”
Robert “Bob” Barton (1967)
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Screen Shot 2013-03-19 at 11.24.32 PM

Almost 40 years ago.

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The Old Dr. Dobbs

Screen Shot 2012-12-02 at 12.18.27 AM

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Experience one of my first big computers: the ATT 3B1

A long time ago now, in the 1990 or 1991 timeframe, I bought an ATT 3B1. It was my first true Unix machine.

I could tell you lots about it, but there is a Wikipedia page up for it already (the ATT 3B1).

The interesting message is the perspective of time.

Some nut actually preserved for eternity the startup or boot process on video. Look at how long this takes and listen to how loud that hard drive is:



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ubuntu – python – ImportError: cannot import name urandom

If you are on ubuntu and you get this bug, this might be because the python that you were using in a virtualenv was updated. ubuntu and some other distros may do this automatically.

You can verify that this occurred by looking at the:


or log in the equivalent location on your system.

The quick fix is to just re-run virtualenv.

In my case this was as simple as:

$ virtualenv .

I hope this helps some people out there.

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Great article on Waterfall / The Power of Open Access to Information

First, someone in the agile camp actually reads the original description on ‘Waterfall’ from 1970. Surprise – it is really really close to agile. This is a great read. Hopefully, this will end a lot of the debates on terminology and focus on the specifics of ‘good process’.


The second key point that is seen here is on how information is transferred from generation to generation. People may think that because technical people are well… technical that they are always assured of using the best practices. The truth is that this is a universal human problem.

The good news is that this is solvable. The mistakes are getting recognized faster. I don’t have any specific data other than my own experience, but I think I can make a strong case.

In the 80’s when I needed to see some code or a paper, it just wasn’t possible. There was no way for me to get that journal that cost a lot of money or attend the conference that sponsored it. There was no way for me to spend a thousand dollars on the original berkeley unix tapes (which was at cost), and on top of that have a $10,000 9-track tape reader to get the data off of it. This was general, very few people had great access.

If you heard ‘such and such’ can solve the Y problem, and you trusted that person, that was probably good enough.

Today, we have wikipedia and more and more stuff is ‘online’. This entire problem goes away. For example, I was once interested in a particular Smalltalk technology. In the past I just didn’t have access to the technology. Once the internet made it available, I downloaded the implementation, tried it out, and found it to be very similar to another tech in another language. This took less than an hour. The interesting thing here is that I would talk about this tech to others with amazement. I would think of this tech as a “silver bullet” and talk about as the ‘most impressive thing’. Do you see the failing here?

Another great example is around ‘quotes’. For example, most people know Stewart Brand’s quotation that ‘information wants to be free’. That alone is an interesting meme. Yet, the full context is much more valuable and relevant:


(yes, I just used recursion, not intentional)

If access to good information continues to happen, I think new structures will emerge around information that have not existed before. These structures will allow us to be a bit more knowledgable about the ‘why’ of something vs. just indoctrinating systems.

Thank you internet.

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