“Plan 9 from Bell Labs” was meant to be the successor system to Unix and like the original was designed and built by AT&Ts engineers at Bell Labs(the title is, of course, a skit on what is supposedly the best worst-ever film – “Plan 9 from Outer Space”).
Plan 9 never really made it. Linux came along and gave us Unix for the masses on cheap hardware for free and the world moved on. (Though some of the ideas in Plan 9 were retro-fitted into Linux and other Unix-like systems.)
The increased speed of commodity computers – latterly sustained via SMP – meant that computing power that once seemed only available to the elite could be found on the High Street and easy to use and install clustering software meant scientists and others could build super-computers using cheap hardware and free software. The multi-computer idea at the heart of Plan 9 seemed to have been passed-by as we screamed along the Moore’s Law Highway.
But now Moore’s Law is breaking down – or rather we are discovering that while the Law continues to apply – in other words we can still double the number of transistors on silicon every 18 – 24 months – other factors (heat dissipation essentially) mean we cannot translate a doubling of transistors into a computer that runs twice as fast. And so the multi-computer idea is of interest once more.
Plan 9 is not likely to be the operating system of the future. But as an actually existing multi-computer operating system it could still have a lot to teach us.
Now it has been ported to run on the Raspberry Pi single board computer I have decided to order another three of these things (I already have one running as a proxy server) and use them as Plan 9 nodes. The boards should be here in about three weeks (I hope), meaning I will have them as a Christmas present to myself.
- My Raspberry Pi Post-Mortem (nathancampos.me)
- My Kitchen Temperature using @Raspberry_Pi #piday #raspberrypi (adafruit.com)
- Open Source ARM userland (raspberrypi.org)
- Dropbox for the Raspberry Pi (sort of) (astronomyandlaw.com)
- Rob Pike (rob.pike.usesthis.com)
- How to file share my external HD connected to my Raspberry Pi through LAMP (daniweb.com)
For the last six months I have been spending a fair bit of time in the gym – I am getting older and I need to lose weight and increase fitness.
In truth, I quite enjoy it in general, but there are moments when I want to stop just because running on the same spot on a treadmill is essentially not that exciting. And recently I have been upping my endurance and pace (from walking to slow running, that is), and the biggest challenge to keeping that up and extending it can feel like beating the boredom, not passing through any physical barrier.
So, I thought I’d try an audio book as a way of overcoming the running-in-one-spot-blues. The one I wanted -The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation – exists but I am banned from buying in the UK (so much for the free market), so I decided to try Ghost In The Wires – Kevin Mitnick‘s (ghost written) autobiography.
Now, I have listened to about an hour of this and I am really struggling to understand why so many people see Mitnick as a hero. So far he’s only 17 but has already described his engagement in sexual harassment, behaviour which got his mother’s phone cut off and general all-round anti-social unpleasantness.
I am not into lcoking people up and throwing away the key, especially for crimes against property which have minimal impact (after all if you steal a piece of software source code you don’t automatically diminish the utility of the code to the original user). But I think I would find it hard to be angry on Mitnick’s behalf. Perhaps greater injustice will be revealed as the book goes on, but so far Mitnick just sounds like a poorly socialised boor.
- For Kevin Mitnick, staying legal is job one (news.cnet.com)
- Sinning meekly with Kevin Mitnick (superfluous-man.com)
- Feb. 15, 1995: Mitnick Arrested (wired.com)
- Kevin Mitnick 101: How Heartland Leaker Got Confidential Documents (pcworld.com)
- Kevin Mitnick & Dave Kennedy – Adaptive Penetration Testing Derbycon 2011 (securityorb.com)
Great news – the man’s memory deserves nothing more than the actor who has proved himself to be both great and edgy in recent work (he’s certainly not the milque toast figure the start of his career briefly suggested.)
As a geek, of course, I hope that the film will try to explain, just a little his achievements.
But how can you explain the ideas of computability and the Church-Turing thesis in a popular film? A tough one, but I suppose you could do something.
The Bletchley Park “bombe” and the idea that the weakness of the German Enigma machine – that it would never map a letter to itself (eg., in any message “e” would never be encrypted as “e”) – could be used to break the code (if a combination of a guessed plain text, usually a weather report, at the start of the message , and the initial key settings produced code that mapped letters to themselves then the initial settings were wrong) – is probably easier to explain.
And don’t forget about SIGSALY, the voice encryption system Turing worked on with Bell Labs. As a piece of engineering this is probably impossible to over-estimate in importance: as the first practical pulse code modulation system it could even be said to be the mother the mobile phone, or at least its grand aunt.
And, of course, let me again plug my book of the year: The Annotated Turing: A Guided Tour Through Alan Turing’s Historic Paper on Computability and the Turing Machine
- Leonardo DiCaprio To Play Alan Turing? (news.slashdot.org)
- Leonardo di Caprio to play Alan Turing? (i-programmer.info)
- Leonardo DiCaprio To Play Gay Enigma Code Breaker Alan Turing? (pinkbananaworld.com)
- DiCaprio Rumored To Play WWII Codebreaker Alan Turing – And Every Gay Figure In History Ever (queerty.com)
- Alan Turing’s Biopic Might Get the Hollywood Hunk Treatment from Leo DiCaprio [Movies] (gizmodo.com)
- Leonardo DiCaprio tipped to play codebreaker Alan Turing (guardian.co.uk)