Thursday, May 31, 2012

Julian #Assange loses extradition appeal

Assange on the cover of Time
The Guardian reports that UK Supreme Court judges have ruled 5 to 2 that Julian Assange should be extradited from the UK to Sweden to face sexual assault charges. However, since the judges were not unanimous and because the judgement depends on an interpretation of an arcane point of law with regard to Britain's international treaty responsibilities they have given Assange two weeks to lodge an appeal. It seems that this saga is not over yet.
    Assange is of course most famous for his website WikiLeaks, but you may not know that he used to be a hacker going by the pseudonym Mendax. Assange contributed to an excellent book titled, Underground: Tales of Hacking, Madness and Obsession on the Electronic Frontier, which provides an excellent insight into the secretive world of hacking. You can buy the book on Amazon, but in true hacker spirit it's freely available to download online.




from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/




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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

North Shore Times - Woz cover

We made the cover of The North Shore Times, a local Auckland newspaper. That's Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak in the centre with me to the right - the photograph was taken on the top of Mt. Victoria in Devonport. The article quotes Woz as saying Devonport was, "the most beautiful place for a Segway tour."




from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/




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Monday, May 28, 2012

CSIRAC: Australia’s first computer

CSIRAC on display at the Melbourne Museum
This piece of early computing history is close to home (relatively speaking). I was surprised recently to learn that Australian scientists developed their own computer in 1949, the CSIR Mark 1 (later called CSIRAC, the CSIR Automatic Computer). To put this date into perspective the American ENIAC was operational in 1946 and the Manchester  Small-Scale Experimental Machine (SSEM) or "Baby" was operational in 1948, whilst Cambridge's EDSAC wasn't working until 1949. So this makes the Australian machine one of only four computers in the world in 1949.




from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/




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Sunday, May 27, 2012

#Turing and his Times (lecture)

The National Museum of Computing has made available an excellent video of a recent lecture called Turing and his Times, which was given at Bletchley Park  on the 26 April 2012 to mark the centenary of the birth of Alan Turing. The lecture features the first public showing of a video commissioned by the National Physical Laboratory of the recollections of two of Turing's colleagues, plus a talk by computer historian Prof Simon Lavington on Turing and his Contemporaries, and  simulation of the Pilot ACE computer by TNMOC trustee Kevin Murrell.




from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/




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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Alan #Turing and the Artificial Brain (video)

A video recording of the my lecture Alan Turing and the Artificial Brain - The Development of Artificial Intelligence can now be watched online. It required some processing to improve the sound quality. My lecture was the last in the University of Auckland's Department of Computer Science 2012 Gibbons Memorial Lecture Series. As part of the Alan Turing Year all of this years lectures were about different aspects of Turing's work: Turing machines and the halting problem, Turing's WWII code-breaking work, his practical achievements in early computing and of course machine intelligence. Details of the entire Gibbon's lecture series are here.
    What is remarkable is that we could have continued this lecture series and had another on Turing's application of mathematics to biology, or a lecture on his pioneering computer chess publication and subsequent program. It seems his achievements were almost endless.




from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/




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Friday, May 25, 2012

Computer Science for Fun - Alan #Turing

Paul Curzon, Peter McOwan and Jonathan Black of the School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science of Queen Mary, University of London have created a magazine website for children that shows that computer science is fun, called CS4FN. It's currently featuring  an issue on Alan Turing in honor of his centenary. In addition to the website a pdf version is available and they will provide printed copies for schools. This is a very worthwhile exercise. 




from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/




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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Google funds computer teachers in UK

Recently Google's chairman, Eric Schmidt, criticized the lack of computer science teaching in schools and now they have decided to put their money where there mouth is and help fund computing teaching. The BBC reports that Eric Schmidt has said money will be provided to buy "teaching aids, such as Raspberry Pi's or Arduino starter kits". He added that without investment in the subject, the UK risked "losing a generation" of scientists and  would be "throwing away [its] great computing heritage.Google will team up with education charity Teach First to put "exceptional" graduates on a six-week training programme before deploying them to schools where they'll teach computing classes.
    Wouldn't it be great if the other giants of Silicon Valley, such as Apple and Facebook, also decided to invest in computer science education - ultimately it could be to their benefit.




from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/




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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

New biography about Grace Hopper

Although this is Alan Turing's year we shouldn't forget the many other remarkable people who have contributed to the development of our universal machines. None are more remarkable than Grace Hopper who was a pioneering programmer. She developed the first high-level programming language, which went on to form the basis of Cobol, and also therefore the first compiler.
    A new biography called Grace Hopper and the Invention of the Information Age by Kurt Beyer has recently been published and is reviewed in the Guardian - it sounds like a great read.




from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/




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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Inventions That Changed the World: The Computer

If you want a light hearted, but informative introduction, to the history of computing then  Inventions That Changed The World, hosted by Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson, is the show for you. The series tells the stories behind some of the most significant inventions which have helped shape the world we live in today.




from The Universal Machine http://universal-machine.blogspot.com/




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