Charlie's Diary

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Sun, 03 Aug 2003

Back from UKUUG

That was a pretty interesting weekend.

I have a personal weakness; I find it very difficult to sit through more than one lecture in a row, and after about three interesting ones in the space of a day my brain simply seizes up. Which made this years' UKUUG Linux conference kind of frustrating, because there were two parallel program streams with lectures running simultaneously and back-to-back from 9:30am through 'til after 6pm each day.

Now I've got to sit down and write it up for my next Shopper column, a thought occured to me: what does it mean? Personally speaking: not a huge amount. I'm burned out, cynical and jaded about the computer business in general, because over the past twenty years it has become a deeply boring commoditized industry. Early design decisions have become entrenched in the name of backward compatability, marketing guys with plastic smiles and immaculate suits have replaced wild-eyed visionaries, and the interesting stuff is all happening in weird far-away design teams, sequestrated from the incurious public gaze. It's about as capable of capturing the imagination as, say, a new tweak on the design of boarding stairs at Airbus or Boeing that promises to shave 20% off the weight of said airliner accessory.

I did pick up two things, though. The first, a general feeling: Linux is in the process of embracing and extending the hardware biz at every level. When I saw someone taking notes on a talk about massively parallel supercomuters (using Linux) on a palmtop (running Linux) the message was kind of hard to miss.

And the next thing: at a very specific level, mini-ITX motherboards and cases are The Way To Go. Tiny, cheap, fanless PCs with trailing-edge processors -- only 1GHz -- are nevertheless a really amazingly cool idea, especially when you start thinking in terms of turning them into personal video recorders (running things like FreeVo) or in-car GPS navigation systems. Or Beowulf clusters. Marketing hype has obsessed most punters with clock speed, so that the owner of a 2.4GHz processor sneers at their neighbour with the 2.1GHz clock -- but if both machines have the same bus frequency, memory, and disk architecture, all the extra CPU speed means is that the faster machine will spend more time in cache stalls. "Slower" computers (we're still talking faster than a Cray XMP here) that don't sound like an air conditioning system, that can run off a trickle of current and live in a case the size of a paperback book, and that are tailored to a specific task, are really useful. Me, I'm off to build a household music server to hold the contents of the 600-odd CD's cluttering up the place -- and if that works, I'm going to add a set-top box for the cable TV decoder. See you later!

[ Discuss toys ]

posted at: 19:32 | path: /misc | permanent link to this entry


Is SF About to Go Blind? -- Popular Science article by Greg Mone
Unwirer -- an experiment in weblog mediated collaborative fiction
Inside the MIT Media Lab -- what it's like to spend a a day wandering around the Media Lab
"Nothing like this will be built again" -- inside a nuclear reactor complex

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Some webby stuff I'm reading:

Engadget ]
Gizmodo ]
The Memory Hole ]
Boing!Boing! ]
Futurismic ]
Walter Jon Williams ]
Making Light (TNH) ]
Crooked Timber ]
Junius (Chris Bertram) ]
Baghdad Burning (Riverbend) ]
Bruce Sterling ]
Ian McDonald ]
Amygdala (Gary Farber) ]
Cyborg Democracy ]
Body and Soul (Jeanne d'Arc)  ]
Atrios ]
The Sideshow (Avedon Carol) ]
This Modern World (Tom Tomorrow) ]
Jesus's General ]
Mick Farren ]
Early days of a Better Nation (Ken MacLeod) ]
Respectful of Otters (Rivka) ]
Tangent Online ]
Grouse Today ]
Hacktivismo ]
Terra Nova ]
Whatever (John Scalzi) ]
Justine Larbalestier ]
Yankee Fog ]
The Law west of Ealing Broadway ]
Cough the Lot ]
The Yorkshire Ranter ]
Newshog ]
Kung Fu Monkey ]
S1ngularity ]
Pagan Prattle ]
Gwyneth Jones ]
Calpundit ]
Lenin's Tomb ]
Progressive Gold ]
Kathryn Cramer ]
Halfway down the Danube ]
Fistful of Euros ]
Orcinus ]
Shrillblog ]
Steve Gilliard ]
Frankenstein Journal (Chris Lawson) ]
The Panda's Thumb ]
Martin Wisse ]
Kuro5hin ]
Advogato ]
Talking Points Memo ]
The Register ]
Cryptome ]
Juan Cole: Informed comment ]
Global Guerillas (John Robb) ]
Shadow of the Hegemon (Demosthenes) ]
Simon Bisson's Journal ]
Max Sawicky's weblog ]
Guy Kewney's mobile campaign ]
Hitherby Dragons ]
Counterspin Central ]
MetaFilter ]
NTKnow ]
Encyclopaedia Astronautica ]
Fafblog ]
BBC News (Scotland) ]
Pravda ]
Meerkat open wire service ]
Warren Ellis ]
Brad DeLong ]
Hullabaloo (Digby) ]
Jeff Vail ]
The Whiskey Bar (Billmon) ]
Groupthink Central (Yuval Rubinstein) ]
Unmedia (Aziz Poonawalla) ]
Rebecca's Pocket (Rebecca Blood) ]

Older stuff:

June 2006
May 2006
April 2006
March 2006
February 2006
January 2006
December 2005
November 2005
October 2005
September 2005
August 2005
July 2005
June 2005
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March 2005
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December 2003
November 2003
October 2003
September 2003
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July 2003
June 2003
May 2003
April 2003
March 2003
February 2003
January 2003
December 2002
November 2002
October 2002
September 2002
August 2002
July 2002
June 2002
May 2002
April 2002
March 2002
(I screwed the pooch in respect of the blosxom entry datestamps on March 28th, 2002, so everything before then shows up as being from the same time)

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