Monday, 31 October 2011

Dennis Ritchie Day

Dennis Ritchie Day

On 10/30/11 let's remember the contributions of computing pioneer Dennis Ritchie.

by @timoreilly  | +Tim O'Reilly  | Comments: 2526 October 2011
Dennis RitchieSunday, October 16 was declared Steve Jobs Day by California's Governor Brown. I admire Brown for taking a step to recognize Jobs' extraordinary contributions, but I couldn't help be struck by Rob Pike's comments on the death of Dennis Ritchie a few weeks after Steve Jobs. Pike wrote:
I was warmly surprised to see how many people responded to my Google+ post about Dennis Ritchie's untimely passing. His influence on the technical community was vast, and it's gratifying to see it recognized. When Steve Jobs died there was a wide lament — and well-deserved it was — but it's worth noting that the resurgence of Apple depended a great deal on Dennis' work with C and Unix.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing

An upcoming and very interesting conference:

IEEE Symposium on Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing

September 30– October 4, 2012 · Innsbruck, Austria

From the beginning of the computer age, people have sought easier ways to learn, express, and understand computational ideas. Whether this meant moving from punch cards to textual languages, or command lines to graphical UIs, the quest to make computation easier to express, manipulate, and understand by a broader group of people is an ongoing challenge.

The IEEE Symposium on Visual Languages and Human-Centric Computing (VL/HCC) is the premier international forum for research on this topic. Established in 1984, the mission of the conference is to support the design, theory, application, and evaluation of computing technologies and languages for programming, modeling, and communicating, which are easier to learn, use, and understand by people.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

A Walk in the Park

A couple from a small photographic expedition in Helsinki...

The Copiale Cipher

The Copiale Cipher has been decrypted - the discussion of the work can be found on a website provided by the authors of the paper describing how the process of decrypting the document was made:
The “Copiale Cipher” is a 105 pages manuscript containing all in all around 75 000 characters. Beautifully bound in green and gold brocade paper, written on high quality paper with two different watermarks, the manuscript can be dated back to 1760-1780. Apart from what is obviously an owner's mark (“Philipp 1866”) and a note in the end of the last page (“Copiales 3”), the manuscript is completely encoded. The cipher employed consists of 90 different characters, comprising all from Roman and Greek letters, to diacritics and abstract symbols. Catchwords (preview fragments) of one to three or four characters are written at the bottom of left–hand pages.
Kevin Knight, Beáta Megyesi and Christiane Schaefer (2011), The Copiale Cipher. ACL Workshop on Building and Using Comparable Corpora (BUCC). 

The New York Times has an article:
Published: October 24, 2011
A team of linguists applied statistics-based techniques to translate one of the most stubborn of codes, a German mix of letters and symbols.

While the Copiale Cipher website at Uupsala University's Department of Linguistics and Philology has everything you need to know, here's the direct link to the English language translation (as a PDF).

The contents of the document are particularly interesting, referring as they do to n 18th century secret society known as an "oculist order" - oculist coming from the Greek and referring to's the obligatory link to Wikipedia about ophthalmology.

Ritchie and McCarthy

A sad month for computing after the passing of two of the founder of the science:
RIP to both.

Food Blogs

An advertisement for a friend who is both a chef and a photographer....

From a Cook's Heart
I recommend the roast garlic soup.....

Friday, 21 October 2011

Integration "In The Large" pt.II

While we've been on the subject of data integration, Ora presented our paper on "Integration in the Large" at the W3C Workshop on Data and Services Integration.

The key question asked:

Can we move information systems closer to how humans behave?
  • partial “understanding” between parties, middle ground between complete interoperability and catastrophic failure
  • local spaces, local understanding, partial information interchange?
An links to the material:

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Institutions and Information Flow

Just some references for the future:
This paper uni es and/or generalizes several approaches to
information, including the information flow of Barwise and Seligman, the formal conceptual analysis of Wille, the lattice of theories of Sowa, the categorical general systems theory of Goguen, and the cognitive semantic theories of Fauconnier, Turner, Gardenfors, and others. Its rigorous approach uses category theory to achieve independence from any particular choice of representation, and institutions to achieve independence from any particular choice of logic. Corelations and colimits provide a general formalization of information integration, and Grothendieck constructions extend this to several kinds of heterogeneity. Applications include modular programming, Curry-Howard isomorphism, database semantics, ontology alignment, cognitive semantics, and more.

Now just need to add "privacy" and "entropy" into this and formalise some of the ideas we're thinking about in this paper....

Nokia Rocks

Tuesday, 18 October 2011


A little experiment with the Canon 55-250mm kit lens:  Jupiter with (left to right) three of the Galilean moons: Io, Europa and Ganymede:

Not the greatest photograph but it demonstrates that it is just about possible...the disk of Jupiter is completely saturated while the moons are out of focus blurs. Impossible to focus correctly and it was windy - not a great lens for this sort of work either...

UK Railway Map

Last posting on railways today...a superb railway map of the UK (New Adlestrop Railway Atlas) showing all lines open and closed which together build a fascinating study of UK railway history. Here's a quick extract (which coincidentally corresponds with my postings on the L&TVJR here and here):

The designer (Richard Fairhurst) has a number of other maps available at his map website here.

The are some updates required - at least in Wales - eg: the Ebbw Vale line is now in passenger operation, the occasional passenger train runs on the Swansea District Line between Briton Ferry and Llangennech and the Vale of Glamorgan Line. However this hardly distracts from the quality of the map itself.

NB: the map is copyright Richard Fairhurst!

Llantrisant and Taff Vale on Facebook?

Someone (or something) has copied the Wikipedia articles that I mainly authored on the Llantriant and Taff Vale Junction Railway and made Facebook pages out of them...not quite sure why unless they're trying to get a following for the line and individual stations - not really sure how social networking really helps a disused railway with no chance of reopening (pity!)....

Some links to the Facebook pages:
I don't really mind, it is in the spirit of Wikiedia and the articles are according the creative commons licensing; nice to be sort of famous....anyway the Wikipedia articles are the authorative source along with Chapman's book on the line:
Chapman, C (1996) The Llantrisant Branches of the Taff Vale Railway. The Oakwood Press. ISBN 0 85361 4814
Here's the original blog article from here linking to the Wikipedia articles...

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Steve Pinker on Violence

Steve Pinker is a renowuned psychologist and linguist and in The Guardian newspaper an interview about his new book on the decline of violence in human society - interesting reading.

Steven Pinker: fighting talk from the prophet of peace

John Naughton Saturday 15 October 2011 19.47 BST
Steven Pinker claims in his new book that far from being the bloodiest era in human history, ours is a time when violence has been in steep decline. Here, he explains how mankind turned its back on brutality


This is a big idea if ever I saw one, and it requires a massive tome (700 pages plus footnotes) to deal with it. In the first place, Pinker has to locate, analyse and explain the empirical and other data that support his thesis: that, however you measure it, the past was not just a different country, but also a far more violent one. And then he has to provide some explanations for why the long-term reduction in violence happened. To do that he ranges far beyond his own professional territory – into forensic archaeology, political philosophy, intellectual and social history, population dynamics, statistics and international relations. He identifies a number of forces that were key factors in curbing mankind's capacity for inhumanity: the slow emergence of states capable of playing the role of Hobbes's "Leviathan"; the pacifying impact of commerce and trade on behaviour; the impact of the Enlightenment on the way people thought about others; the evolution of notions of etiquette over the centuries; the way print and literacy expanded the "circle of empathy" beyond people's immediate family; the importance of women in civilising men; and the "long peace" that followed the second world war.

The Better Angels is a long, absorbing and sometimes horrifying book, because in order to establish his case Pinker has to dwell at some length not just on the savagery of the past, but on the way brutality and cruelty was – until relatively recently – taken for granted. If you want to know about medieval forms of torture, or the favourite tools of the Inquisition, or how Tamerlane's troops operated, then you will find ample material here. The ingenuity of human barbarism knows no limits. What's even more salutary, however, is the realisation that it's not all that long ago since people were routinely hung, drawn and quartered in England; or that flogging and keelhauling were routine methods of maintaining discipline in the Royal Navy; or that nobody batted an eye at the flogging of children as late as the 1950s.
and a link to the book for sale on Amazon...

Monday, 10 October 2011

More Category Theory

Seems like MarkCC of the Good Math, Bad Math blog is starting a series on category theory (I guess leading to a discussion on topoi by one of the articles: Leading up to Topoi: Getting Back to Categories ).

I'm a bit worried that he'll end up taking the same route as many others, et: here's a defintion of a Category, then defintions of Set, Poset, Grp and leaving it at an abstract discussion like many others. Now if he starts with things such as the "category of stacks" and a functor the "category of integers" we might have something really interesting.

Lawvere and Schanuels's Conceptual Mathematics meets Steve Easterbrook* comes to mind...or even this from an earlier blog post of mine...

Maybe I should follow the crowd and write my own tutorial...

*the reference for Prof Easterbrook's presentation is: Easterbrook S (1998). An introduction to category theory for software engineers. Tutorial given at ASE'98.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Data and Computation Interoperability

A paper we have at UBICOMM 2011.

Data and Computation Interoperability in Internet Services
Sergey Boldyrev, Dmitry Kolesnikov, Ora Lassila, Ian Oliver
Nokia Corporation
Espoo, Finland

"Next generation distributed systems should be seamlessly spanned around heterogeneous concepts of the information providers, devices manufacturers and the cloud infrastructures. The enabling components such as Data, Computation, Scalable performance and Privacy aspects should be elaborated and leveraged in order to provide a foundation of such systems."

Sheaf Logic & Philosophical Synthesis

nCategory Cafe has a whole bunch of interesting posts about category theory and then some real outlandish work touching upon philosophy. The posting for October 3rd entitled: Zalamea on Sheaf Logic is one of those really interesting ones. The link is to a presentation by Fernando Zalamea:

Sheaf Logic and Philosophical Synthesis
Thursday 29 September 2011
14h to 17h Auditorium
The point of this seminar is not only to acquaint us with the vibrant landscape of contemporary mathematics – and the field of sheaf logic and category theory, in particular – but to show us how this landscape’s powerful new concepts can be deployed in the fields of philosophy and cultural production. Its aim is nothing less than to ignite a new way of thinking about universality and synthesis in the absence of any absolute foundation or stable, pre-given totality
Our guide in this endeavour will be Fernando ZALAMEA, a Columbian mathematician, philosopher and novelist whose work seeks to explore the life of contemporary mathematics while redeploying its concepts and forces beyond their native domain. In an incessant, pendular motion, he weaves the warp of post-Grothendieckian mathematics through a heterogeneous weft of materials drawn from architecture and fiction, sculpture and myth, poetry and music.
Reference a link to texts:

Fernando ZALAMEA, Synthetic Philosophy of Contemporary Mathematics, trans. Z.L. Fraser, London: Urbanomic/Sequence, 2012. Chapters 3, 8 and 9. Copies of the readings can be downloaded HERE.

His upcoming book (should have been out Sept 2011) - Synthetic Philosophy of Contemporary Mathematics -is here:


Sunday, 2 October 2011

Teletubbies creator attacks firms

Interesting comment printed in The Guardian about parential anxieties, should make some interesting discussion. Some selected quotes:

Teletubbies creator attacks firms

Press Association, Sunday October 2 2011

Teletubbies creator Anne Wood has criticised firms that profit from parents' "anxieties" about how to bring up their children

...[article snipped]...

She said: "There is an awful lot of anxiety being generated which I think is a terrible thing. What I was talking about was just enjoying innocent fun really, having a sing and playing round and round the garden."

She also criticised the Baby Einstein range of educational children's toys, saying: "The idea that there is only one way for a child to be intellectually developed is anathema to me so I hate that and I think that it is again making money out of people's anxieties, which is a shame."