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.
I have entered into a new collaboration for strategy and executive consulting. The business is called Interlink Partners, and our focus is on high level, rapid interventions to help companies manage growth and change.
One of the challenges faced by changing businesses is the need for an upgraded executive team, capable of quickly coming up to speed and delivering a real impact early. Hiring executives is a slow process at the best of times, and there is no guarantee that they will all arrive at the same time, or that they will work well together.
Our approach is to assemble a team of experienced executives, with CEO, strategy, operations, finance, marketing and international business skills. The impact of this is that the new team can get things done from the first day.
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.
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.
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.
The site was down briefly – sorry! What happened was that my domain was set to renew automatically, but it didn’t. Instead of getting a message from the registration company, they just unlinked the site. Thanks, Beachcomber. Not. Anyway, it’s back up now, following a simple PayPal transaction.
We’re back from our whirlwind trip to Seattle. Today we went to the Boeing museum close to the Sea-Tac airport, which has an old Air Force One (707), and a BA Concorde. Also a great exhibition of first world war planes, the Blackbird, and a simulator that the boys enjoyed (twice!).
Yesterday I met a friend at Amazon and had the chance to see one of their buildings – beautiful art deco exterior, with amazing views of the mountains all around. We were pretty lucky with the weather – one rainy day and three fine, with two blue and clear. At one point I could see Mt. Rainier, the Cascades, and the Olympic mountains, all clear and cloud-free.
We did go to the Experience Music Project yesterday – the building is famously by Frank Gehry and the project funded by Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen. Lots of great interactive displays (recording studio, instruments etc.), and we all had a good time. I was disappointed by the building – it seemed a bit arbitrary on the outside, and frankly dingy and rough on the inside. I think the passion and intensity of the music it houses and describes could have been more effectively expressed. But still, it was the first Gehry building I’ve seen close up, and it was interesting to see how he used the power of CAD to create shapes and textures that would have been too difficult previously.
I didn’t take any pictures of the EMP – there are enough out there already and I had a camera-free day, just enjoying the sights.
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.