Intel's Ronler Acres Plant


Silicon Forest

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Calbela's, Tualatin, Oregon

Jack and I went to Cabela's after lunch today. Jack needed some reloading supplies, and while I had heard of this wonderful place, I had never been there, so let's go take a look. It's new, it's big, it's easy get to and it's full of outdoor gear, much like G.I. Joe's, but bigger, better and fancier. In the center of the store they have a huge diorama loaded with critters. Underneath is a tunnel with giant fish tanks and a cave with a skeleton of some prehistoric beasty. If you only have a small craving for camping in the great outdoors, just a visit to this store might satisfy you.

    The 'Gun Library' provided some entertainment. All kinds of fancy guns, old guns, engraved guns, expensive guns and even a really expensive gun. I used to be enamored of this kind of thing, but nowadays I am happy with the guns that I have. I know how to operate them and they are reasonably reliable. Sometimes I can even hit what I am shooting at.

Since we've gone to the trouble to drive all the way out here (five miles anyway) , we should make the most of it. Is there anything I need? Well, I can always use some more ammo. Let's see how things look. Not to worry, they are fully loaded with everything I need. I pick up a dozen boxes of this and that and we head to the check out stand. Where we wait. And wait. And wait. Here we have this big fancy store, a zillion dollars in merchandise, a dozen people waiting to check out and two clerks who don't seem to be able get anything done. I give up and go wander around until Jack gets his chance to fork over the moola.
     Time to go. Don't want to drive by the front of the store, there is a confused mess of cars there. Let's go back the way we came, that should work, except it doesn't. It's one of these one way bear traps. The only way out is via the drive along the front of the stores, so we queue up and inch our way along.
     So it's big, fancy, impressive and even entertaining, but they don't have anything I need that I can't get somewhere else, somewhere else where I don't have to wait an eternity to check out. I doubt I'll go back.

The photo's are not necessarily from this store. Cablea's seems to have done something similar in a bunch of stores all across the USA. These photos are certainly representative.


1. The Atlantic has a story about how students on college campuses are easily offended and all the people who are scrambling to prostate themselves before this new form of tyranny. I'm reading along and these guys seem to be taking this stuff very seriously with all kinds of examples, stories and what not. I read on for a bit and then I realize this is all horseshit, so I stop.

2. When I was in school, elementary school most notably, there were the popular kids and there was everyone else. Occasionally I would notice a couple of kids, usually girls, with their heads together, casting side-long looks in my direction and laughing. A couple of times I took them to task and asked them what was so funny. The answers I got were meaningless, meaningless to me anyway. They used words I recognized, but what they described was so trivial as to be beneath notice. Okay, you guys are idiots. Go ahead and have a good time, I am going to go back to whatever I was doing and ignore you.

3. There are four parts to civilized life:
  1. the animal, biological and emotional part. All the things that make life possible and worth living.
  2. things, which are everything else,
  3. money, and
  4. the intellect.
4. One of the purposes of public schools is the socializing of the individual. I take this to mean learning to cooperate with other people. It is pretty much an instinctive thing, it can't really be taught. Oh, we have rules, like manners, which we are supposed to follow, but the whole person-to-person interaction thing runs on instinct.

5. The USA has become very efficient at production, so efficient that a large segment of our population has nothing to do except watch what other people are doing. Talking about what they see other people doing is an endless source of amusement, and for some people it is their whole life.

So if you want to play on the playground with the other kids, you are going to have to deal with the kind of horseshit that gets thrown around. On the other hand, you don't have to play there, you can go inside to the library and read, or try and find other people who want to do something besides play childish games. Be warned that they are hard to find because everybody gets involved in this nonsense at one time or another, so don't write them off because of one small incident. Give 'em a second chance, but if they blow that, cut 'em dead.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Roll your own mouse brain

Silicon Brain: 1,000,000 ARM cores - Computerphile

We have two problems with modeling the human brain. One is how a neuron works, and the other is how neurons are connected together. Modeling the impulses in single neuron might be fairly simple, if we knew how they worked. I suppose some people have some idea. How a complete neuron works is another matter entirely. It's a complete cell after all, with all the cellular machinery that implies. Using a living cell to perform the functions of a neuron is comparable to the using the city of Manhattan to support an adding machine.

APT Advanced Processor Technologies Research Group
     Connecting up the neurons is another matter. When we layout electrical circuits, we do it in a plane. We might have several layers, but you can basically draw it on a sheet of paper. This allows us to build them using simple techniques. Neurons in brains are connected in three dimensions. Some of these connections are to nearby cells, some are to cells a little farther away, and some are to cells on the other side of the world, figuratively speaking. You can't connect every cell to every other cell. You might be able to that with a dozen cells, but not with a zillion. So you have to pick and choose how you are going to connect your neurons. The toroid map they are using here lets you get some 3-D connections without making it impossible to build using conventional construction techniques.

Via Iaman.



We've got an interesting dynamic here: Mr. Manic and Ms. Sweet. I've listened to a couple of their songs and they're okay. This video, however, is spectacular in a geeky (or is that nerdy?) kind of way. Their lyrics don't make much sense, but that's poetry for you.


Google Programming Language is Go for 2012 launch
Back in the late 1970's, some Computer Science students at some schools were learning about the C programming language and the UNIX Operating System. The University of Texas in Austin wasn't one of them. We learned about Pascal and Fortran and a lot of low level theory about how computer systems worked.
    When I joined the Intel camp I picked up PL/M-86, which was kind of like Pascal and kind of like C. Some people would say it was more like assembly language. (Some people call it assembler, which I guess is kind of a short cut, but to me 'assembler' was a thing, i.e. a program to assemble code written in assembly language into machine code.)
    Somewhere along the way I picked up C and when I was at Stevens it was all C all the time.

    A few years ago I interviewed for a job at Google. They wanted somebody to test the motherboards they were building, which I thought was a little weird. Google is all software, isn't it? Lots of people make computers, why would you go to the trouble to build your own when you can buy these things right off the shelf? I eventually figured out it was simple economics.
    Making printed circuit boards is much easier than making chips. It's more akin to a printing press than the nuclear physics level of technology used to make chips. As such, it's much easier to get into it, and so lots of people did and the knowledge needed to do it has become diffuse.
    Guys who are making circuit boards for the open market are taking a risk that someone will buy them. As such, they need to pad their bill to compensate for the inevitable duds. Since making boards is fairly easy, it doesn't take a huge volume to make it pay to make your own. Specialty manufacturers make runs of a couple of dozen boards all the time. A run of a thousand boards could easily make building them yourself totally worthwhile. And how many servers does Google run? Anybody want to guess? (Look here.)
    The point is, in case your weren't already aware, is that Google is totally willing to roll their own.

    One of folktales that comes out of the programming world is the story about a really smart programmer (typically from China, because we are racist white guys, you know) who has written a really cool program all by himself. This is wonderful until he leaves the company and someone else gets to try and modify it, or fix a bug, or change the copyright date or something, and what the new guy finds is a pile of spaghetti code. Code so convoluted, twisted and riddled with crap that he has no hope of ever figuring out how it works, much less how to fix it. Now the guy who originally wrote it had no trouble with it because he wrote it. It may have taken him ten years (or weeks or days), but he had a model in his mind and he understood how it worked. Any little change or fix was easy because he knew exactly where it needed to be tweaked. But since he never told anyone else how it worked (probably because he was Chinese and his English wasn't that good so no one was willing to try and understand him) when he left the company all that knowledge went with him. In a case like this the best thing to do is to throw out the original and write a new one. Or hire the Chinaman back.

    These days C++ seems to be very popular, along with a babble of interpreted languages like Python and Ruby and I dunno what all.
    Interpreted languages are very popular with application programmers (the people who write all the apps for your smart phone). They make it quick and easy to write programs, but they do have some limitations. First is that they bring an enormous library of functions and procedures with them. On one hand, this is good. All the code needed for all kinds of cute little tricks has already been written, you don't have to write them yourself. On the other hand, you didn't write them and if they break you are kind of screwed. Yes, you can probably find some way to deal with it, but that is a time consuming hassle. The other problem is the assumed environment. If everything you are doing is inside the envelope, so to speak, all well and good. However, if you want to do something that is outside the envelope, like actually talk to the hardware, well, good luck with that. It can be done, but you will probably be sweating bullets to get it to work.
    C doesn't have that problem. It has other problems, and it doesn't provide much in the way of an 'environment'. You have to pretty much build your own, but you can do anything that can be done with a computer. It is very in tune with a computer's basic operations. Works for me.
    C++, I think, was a reaction to the genius Chinaman problem. To be fair, not all bad code was written by furrin devils. We've got plenty of home grown hackers butchering their way to inscrutability. I've dealt with a few. The C++ crew was also trying to give it some more power, so more complex things could be done without having to write a mile of code to implement it. Teach the compiler how to do these things and let the compiler generate the mile of code.
   The problem with C++ is that they talked about it. Endlessly. On one hand, this is also a reaction to the Chinaman problem. Let's make sure that more than one person understands what this program does. And if it's a big project, people who are working on different parts of it are going to have to talk to people who are working on other parts so that when the project is complete, the two parts will play together. So now people are talking to each other, which is good, but some people really like to talk and will spend all day talking if you let them. When you let people talk, sometimes they come up with good ideas, sometimes not so good ideas, but when you are talking about imaginary shit you don't really know if it's a good idea or not until you try it.
    What happened is that someone collected a bunch of these ideas and stuffed them into C++ and because the talkers were talking about it, it became popular. The C++ versus C language became a religious war for a while. I think it has been pretty much settled by a division of the Union. There are two camps and they just don't talk to each other, probably don't even acknowledge the others existence. I think it comes down to personality types. All the lawyer types support C++ because of the endless litigation involved, while the mechanically minded go for C.

    A few weeks ago I was looking at the employment want-ads and I noticed someone was asking for Go programmers and I'm thinking great, another super flakey programming language for another obscure niche in Smart-Phone land.

    In my mind, my father-in-law was first and foremost a golfer. In his prime be probably played 200 rounds of golf in a year. He was club champion for several years. He was, and still is, a character. But a couple of years ago he had a stroke and now he is living in a retirement home and the most competition he gets is a game of cribbage. No more golf, for now anyway.
    We went to visit him this summer and I noticed that he had several books on the windowsill. I was a little surprised by this because I never knew him to be much of a reader. He was a golfer (see previous paragraph). On the other hand, he is a lawyer, so maybe after spending all day reading legalese he had had enough of reading. Now, in his enforced retirement, he has more time to kill and has time to spend on amusements, like reading.
    My wife recently told me that my mother-in-law used to read my blog religiously, or least more than once. Now I'm thinking perhaps my father-in-law might like to read some of my ramblings, but he is old school and isn't going to learn how to use a computer. Well, shoot, I've got a printer, I could print a story and mail it to him.

    A Chromebook is my main computer these days, but my printer is connected to my Linux box. Not to worry, Google has something called cloudprint that lets you print to any registered printer from any Google-fied computer. Well, sort of. There are any number of web pages that will tell how easy it is to set up cloudprint, just follow these steps. As if. Near as I can tell they are all lying, especially for someone who is trying to use Linux.
    Eventually I found an authorized Google project on Github with all of the source files to implement Google's CloudPrint on Linux. All I have to do is download them, along with all the necessary tools and libraries and who knows what all, spend a few minutes (hours? days?) connecting them all together, and presto, I'll be able to print directly from my Chromebook. How wonderful is that!
    So I'm looking at these source files, just for grins, see if they are really there and not wrapped up in some obscure archive format, and what do I find? They are written in the Go programming language. Huh. So now I look up Go and I find that it comes from Google. Google didn't like what the market offered, so they wrote their own. Near as I can tell it is a derivative of C, with some added features or something, but not so expansive as C++. You might call it C+, but you might get that confused with C# (yet another programming language), so Go.
    Now all I have to do is order some new ink for the printer.

The title? Go comes from C, -> Go out of C -> Go out of See -> Goose.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Vimeo Staff Pick

Chemical Brothers "Sometimes I Feel So Deserted" from Ninian Doff on Vimeo.

Grim little Sci-Fi story, with music. Is the music related to the story? Not that I can tell, but it's okay background sound.

Chuck Roast

Iaman is cooking and reading.

Made a  4 pound Chuck Roast $14.00 for ingredients, 2 hours at 350 degrees, simple….greasy.
     The famous frontier Marshal Wyatt Earp, pre-law career, was a buffalo hunter for the labor crews building the transcontinental railroad ~1870. Interestingly Wyatt figured 5 pounds of bison per person per day. (also interesting buffalo gather in small groups in the massive herds,  and stop to investigate a downed fellow bison…Chapter 5  The Buffalo Range - Wyatt Earp  by Stuart  Lake)
     Now dietary guidelines suggest 1.5 ounces red meat a day, 1/53rd of 1870’s railroad crews daily ration. So my roast should last for 43 days?  I was thinking 3 days. 
Wyatt Earp ca. 1890
     I thought this guy looks like Chuck,  my brother not the roast.  Tough, sober and steady Wyatt kept the drunk Texas cowboys from shooting up the cow towns.  He exercised his own gun control.  “No guns in town.”  The many Texas cowboys that tested him were summarily  hit over the head  and disarmed.  A few were shot dead.  Quite a different picture of the Texas cowboy than what one receives in Texas.  Wyatt had particular trouble with the Driskills.  (same of Austin Driskill hotel fame?)
Earp: another one of those names that you would think was really weird (urp?) if you hadn't heard it from the time you were a proverbial knee-high.

Driskill Hotel, Austin, Texas
Earp was a lawman in Kansas before he went to Arizona and became famous. Kansas was the destination for the cattle drives from Texas because that's where the railheads were (where the cattle were loaded onto trains for the trip to Chicago). Driskill made his fortune raising cattle in Texas, so it is entirely possible that his gang were the ones making trouble for Wyatt up in Kansas.

Schoolhouse Blizzard 1888 January
They had weather maps way back then? Who'd a thunk it?
    Driskill went broke in 1888 when a January blizzard killed 3,000 of his cattle.