Category: Futurist

  • Future Directions for Optimizing Compilers

    I wanted to write a manifesto-ish sort of piece about what compilers are supposed to look like in the future. Nuno was the obvious coauthor since I’ve talked to him about this topic so much that I’m overall not really sure which parts started out as his ideas and which were mine. The article didn’t […]

  • Mapping Mountains on Exoplanets

    Snow in the mountains evolves in predictable ways that are strongly influenced by the terrain. For example, warmish snowstorms leave a characteristic snow line that looks very much like a contour on a topographic map: (source) (source) On the other hand, when snow melts the effect is very different, and is often dominated by aspect. […]

  • Planning for Disaster

    Alan Perlis once said: I think that it’s extraordinarily important that we in computer science keep fun in computing. When it started out, it was an awful lot of fun. Of course, the paying customers got shafted every now and then, and after a while we began to take their complaints seriously. We began to […]

  • Is the Browser the New OS?

    Yes, this is an old question. I still think it’s interesting. Disclaimer: I haven’t tried out a Chromebook yet. First, let’s look at the situation as of late 2012. The applications I use generally fall into three categories: Web-based. Native, but easily available on Windows, Mac, and Linux. These include a file browser, a shell, Emacs, […]

  • Core Question

    [This post is about machines used by people. I realize things are different in the server room.] We had one core per socket for a long time. When multi-cores came along, dual core seemed pretty awkward: real concurrency was possible, but with speedup bounded above by two, there wasn’t much point doing anything trickier than […]

  • Cyber War

    I recently read Richard Clarke’s Cyber War. Although I didn’t learn anything new on the technical side, that isn’t the focus of the book. Clarke’s main agenda is to build awareness of the uniquely vulnerable position that the United States finds itself in as well as proposing national policies that might lead to a more […]

  • Discovering New Instructions

    Sometimes I wonder what instruction sets are supposed to look like. That is, what instructions would there be if computers were redesigned by smart people who understood our fabrication capabilities and who knew what we wanted to accomplish using computers, but who didn’t care about backwards compatibility and who haven’t seen our architectures? We can […]

  • Can Simplicity Scale?

    Software has gotten really big, with many systems — even, apparently, cars — running into the hundreds of millions of lines of code. The drawbacks of code bases this large are numerous: they are hard to understand, hard to modify, hard to test, and virtually guaranteed to contain huge numbers of bugs. My understanding is […]

  • Towards Tinkers

    The heroes of Vernor Vinge’s The Peace War are members of a scattered society of tinkers who — without any real industrial base — manage to develop and produce very high-tech devices including fast, small computers. I’m trying to figure out how realistic this is. The software side seems entirely feasible. Today’s open source community has […]

  • Online University

    Yesterday someone in my department’s main office got a request from a student to receive credit for taking the now-infamous free online AI course from Stanford. It is routine for a university to award transfer credit for a course taken at a different school, but this case is trickier since a student taking the AI […]