The Art of Flows

The Art of Flows

It’s been a busy few months in the publishing business: I’ve co-written a technical book with the founder of Runtime Design Automation, Andrea Casotto. This book explains the key issues associated with managing complex sequences of programs, required for software and semiconductor development (among other disciplines).

Modern computational environments require hundreds or thousands of machines, many software licenses, and the ability to schedule jobs in the correct order across all the available resources. The goal is to complete the required tasks, and only the required tasks, in the most cost-effective manner possible.

This book illustrates and compares three approaches: scripting, makefiles, and Runtime Design Automation’s FlowTracer product.

You can buy the book here.

Some of my architectural studies…

Digital morphology is the study of form using computer tools. We did a project last semester to explore the creation of new forms that might have architectural uses, with Autodesk’s 3dsMax software as the basic tool.

My exploration started with the way sails move in a wind field as boats tack into the wind. The movement of the sails was the starting point, and then we looked at ways of perturbing the surface, based on the characteristics of parts of the surface. I think this is still an early exploration, but I learned enough that with a suitable project I think I could use these tools to create something interesting and relevant.

Music for everyone

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design—it’s a community and a conference, held in Monterey each year. Their tag line is “ideas worth spreading”, and they publish videos of many of the short (under 20 minute) talks from the conference each year. This one is about music, and shows some work from MIT’s Media Lab that makes music much more accessible to everyone.

Music is more than…

I came across this (thanks, Stephanie!) this afternoon: it’s a group of people who get together to explore home-made musical instruments, many of them combinations of mechanical and electrical or electronic components. Some of them are played in conventional ways, some make music under computer control, and some combine multiple techniques. 

What’s nice about this is that it describes a group of people who get together to share their ideas, and to have a good time together. It’s a long way from a conventional concert, but just as rewarding, and perhaps more so.

There’s a lot going on in electronic music—tonight the Stanford Laptop Orchestra (that’s right) is playing and I’m hoping to go. There’s also a group in the Bay Area that get together regularly to learn about electronics, computing and music. A week ago I went to a talk at UC Santa Cruz that presented some algorithmic music—I’ll try to post separately about that.

I’ve re-instated

As a tool to learn about Django and Python, I spend the last few days building a new site based on a sort of extended blogging model. It covers my consulting interests, and is completely styled in CSS, with its own RSS feed (which you can access directly here). In the past I’ve written about content management and LAMP – there’s a new generation of web frameworks emerging that have taken a lot of the learning of past systems. Django is one of these. It’s built in Python, which provides a huge variety of built-in classes to support almost anything you might want to do, and it interfaces to a range of relational databases. I’m using SQLite, which is an amazingly small and capable database that requires no configuration at all.The total size of the code for this site is about 250 lines combining templates, database models, and the logic that drives the site. Everything else comes courtesy of the Django developers and the power of Python.