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)
The “punchcard” tool shows what times commits are made. And here it is for the Linux kernel:
With more and more additions to the kernel coming straight off git pulls, this pattern must reflect rather more than Linus Torvalds‘ own office habits.
It looks like the image of kernel hackers as nerds pulling all-nighters with the help of “rotary debuggers” (see Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution for more of that) is well past its use-by date: building Linux is just a job.
Not everything about computing is on the internet.
Sometime around this point thirty years ago my brother and I went to a computer exhibition in London – “Breadboard 81″
There are a couple of references to it findable through Google. But not much.
It was a fantastic experience – but perhaps also the end of an era: the computer that feature most of all was the “UK 101″ – a kit based effort with a real keyboard (unlike the ZX80 Conor and I were using).
It is impossible to describe the thrill one could get from being able to see, use and program (in either BASIC or assembler/machine code) any of these devices: everyone was a pioneer and everyone was equal. (Though this book this book captures the feel of the era that was dying even as it peaked.)
Perhaps there are others who will read this who were also there and who can share their memories of this moment… reminding me of where it even was would be a start? Olympia?
Another thing that The Annotated Turing taught me is what all those lambdas that I have seen over the last 25 years were about, or at least it introduced me to what they were about.
So I have just ordered a copy of Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs: and I can guess that some blog posts will eventually follow.
Oh no. Maybe I am turning into a LISP hacker – having finally reached the age that all these guys were when I first became aware of them (older, actually).
- Bought on a whim but seems like a good one (cartesianproduct.wordpress.com)
- The importance of Turing’s findings (cartesianproduct.wordpress.com)
- Hacker News | Compiling to lambda-calculus: Turtles all the way down (news.ycombinator.com)