November 2005 Archives

John Vlissides


John succumbed to brain cancer on Thanksgiving Day, 24 November 2005. He was only forty-four. I will miss him a lot. Many of us will. We are holding something of a dry, virtual Irish Wake for John on Ward’s Wiki. I've posted some of this material over there, too. As of 12/9/05, that WikiWake page had been seen by in excess of 16,000 visitors.

The Gang-of-Four celebrated the tenth anniversary of the publication of 'Design Patterns' last year at OOPSLA 2004. Three of them, John (sporting the propeller), Erich (wielding the knife) and Ralph are shown here preparing to eat their words. John was the OOPSLA 2004 Conference Chair, and had made the trip to Vancouver at the price, we later learned, of having had to forego chemotherapy for a week. John is shown still in costume for his role as "Jimmy the Freshman" in "Dating Design Patterns", a skit that I had warned him might seriously undermine the dignity of the entire conference. John replied "What dignity?". For good or ill, this lesson has stuck with me. John had self-effacing sense of humor to go with his genuinely contagious intellect, a rare combination indeed...

One of my favorite memories of John is, of course, of the time we put him on trial for crimes against computer science. I’d wondered whether anyone would go along with this pretext, but John thought it was a wonderful idea for an OOPSLA panel. A clip of John’s plea in this case can be found here.

Another is from Vancouver Aquarium Event at OOPSLA 2004 when John, the Conference Chair, took time out from servicing the usual throng of dignitaries waiting to kiss his ring to chat with a couple of our new students. One of them, Spiros Xanthos, is from Greece, and was amazed and delighted that John took several minutes to chat with him about his ancestors and background in fluent Greek. Spiros will never forget it. I won’t either.

Photos ©2004 by Munawar Hafiz, Spiros Xanthos, and Brian Foote

Microsoft Seeks to Acquire Weapons of Mass Computation


In a defiant keynote address delivered to a stunned audience at the Supercomputing 2005 Conference in Seattle, Microsoft Chairman William "Bill" Gates vowed today to acquire the technology to produce weapons of mass computation as quickly as possible. Microsoft’s program posses a provocative challenge to existing supercomputing powers such as IBM, Sun, and Cray.

This technology has heretofore been available only to an exclusive club comprising only the most technically advanced powers. That Microsoft, considered by some in the supercomputing elite as a rogue player, now has made the development of this technology a priority is raising considerable alarm.

Chairman Gates

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Software Architecture group expressed skepticism that Microsoft could develop the powerful refactoring technology required to transform it’s raw business software into the highly enriched form necessary for high-performance computation. "It takes years to cultivate the powerful high-performance "codes" necessary to pose a serious threat. Without this [refactoring] technology, they are at least seven years away", said Thomas Jay Peckish II, of UIUC. "We’re they able to somehow acquire this technology from an outside source it, they could develop a weapon’s grade potential in as little as two years."

A key element of Microsoft’s alleged program is a black project know only as XBox, which threatens to put weapon’s grade supercomputing technology in the hands of any rogue adolescent anywhere on Earth. Microsoft claims this suitcase-sized device has no dual-use potential, and is intended only to pacify children.

Some scoff at this potential threat. This is a Business Intelligence failure of monumental proportions, suggested one analyst.

Gates did acknowledge that Microsoft is working on advanced cluster technology, the same technology that has been denounced by some human rights watchdogs as dangerous in the hands anyone but the most highly trained software technology experts. Gates disclosed that Microsoft has been developing these weapons under its Windows Cluster 2003 Program. He defended Microsoft’s work in this area, pointing out that competitors have been developing and deploying such technology for years.

Microsoft has launched a charm offensive to counteract the negative publicity it has been receiving as a result of these developments. They’ve booked the Experience Music Project Facility for a concert for an exclusive group of supercomputing dignitaries this evening. The mysterious EMP facility, it might be pointed out, is rumored to have been surreptitiously funded by reclusive Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen.

The official libretto for Gates's address can be found here. Their official strategy can be found here.

Photo ©2005 by Kathleen Ricker

Photran in the News


Click here to see the full article.

Oh, and any similarities between the piece above and this earlier Thomas Jay Peckish II interview are almost completely coincidental.

Then there is this Photran sighting in Ward Cunningham and Bjorn Freeman-Benson's 'blog about efforts to broaden the reach of the Eclipse CDT. Our collective efforts drew this plaudit from Bjorn: "I dream of an idyllic future where all Eclipse projects are as open and transparent and cooperative as CDT/Photran/PTP in our quest to create great frameworks." Aw shucks...

See Photran in action at the Supercomputing 2005 Conference, at both the Fortran Company and Los Alamos National Labs booths.

The Co-optation of Collective Nouns


We were discussing how it sometimes seems that Computer Scientists have co-opted every reasonably abstract collective noun in (at least) the English language for uses as a technical term. The conversation turned to whether there were any left to exploit in the name of enlarging our arcane argots. Munawar Hafiz picks up the play-by-play here...

Thomas Jay Peckish II on Scholarly Discourse


Look, this is the twenty-first century. I think by now everyone knows exactly what it is that they are expected to do if they can't take a joke.
--Thomas Jay Peckish II

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