Thursday, June 4, 2015

Dave Thomas - Huge Memory

A few weeks ago I went to a YOW! Night event in Brisbane to listen to a talk by Dave Thomas. The talk was about a coming revolution in programming caused by computers with huge amounts of persistent memory.

Simply, the idea is to put chips that make our SSD drives into the system bus to give programs direct access to hundreds of gigabytes or terabytes of non-volatile memory. The SSD in DIMM hardware is already here. The software needs to catch up.

Why is this revolutionary? Because it will allow writing simpler, faster programs. With single thread, transactional use of massive amounts of persistent memory there will be no need for server farms for most applications. Replication will still be needed, in case the super-machine crashes, but other than that programs will be lean, simple, and fast.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

G'Day Mate!

About a week ago we got a call from Gold Coast city council, asking if one of us would like to say a few words (1-2 minutes) at the citizenship ceremony. Such an opportunity to embarrass my kids could not be missed - I took it. 

Here is my speech, delivered today at Gold Coast Arts Centre to an audience of a few hundred people:

Ahem, I've been practising this for months... All right, let's see how I go.... Good day? G'Day! :-)

This is a strange moment in our lives: to become a citizen of another country. We had different experiences leading to this day. We had different reasons to migrate. Some of us, maybe most of us, came here, primarily because their partners or parents wanted to come here. Some of us will eventually go back... :-( As Ned Kelly allegedly said just before being hanged - "such is life".

I am one of those husbands/parents who dragged his family here. I was born in Poland. I was quite happy there as a child, but when I became an adult I realised that it was a rather cold and often gloomy place. In Poland heating is usually on for 9 out of 12 months. In autumn and winter the sun is often hidden behind clouds for weeks. The average number of sunshine hours in Warsaw in December is 25. 25 hours for 31 days. That's about 48 minutes per day. If you spend most of your day in the office, you are lucky to see the sun at all in December. Is it any wonder, that I started dreaming about Australia? :-)

But, it did not happen right away. We tried our luck elsewhere first. We moved to Ireland. That was a few years before Poland joined the European Union and thousands of Poles invaded the Emerald Isle. Sorry Ireland. :-) Ireland is a beautiful country, but it is quite cold. We went back to Poland after one year.

A few years later we moved to Florida. It was our second home away from home. Florida's nickname is sunshine state, just like Queensland's. We lived there comfortably for 6 years. But money is not everything. In pursuit of happiness we left the land of the free.

As the saying goes: third time lucky. So here we are today, in the lucky country - Australia, taking on responsibilities of citizenship.

Thank you.

With Tom Tate - Mayor of Gold Coast

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Perth, Australia

Until last weekend Perth was the only major Australian city that I have not visited. This error has now been fixed. 

Perth is a modern, clean, well designed city. Thanks to fast suburban trains, parks, beaches, walking/biking paths, it is probably much more liveable than Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane. 

Perth has monuments of their best public servants and of business people.

John Septimus Roe - layed out Perth and Fremantle.

Old and new, both looking good.

Public art.

A piece of medieval England in the centre of Perth.

Transperth trains - fast, clean, and frequent.

Aviation Heritage Museum in Bull Creek.

Australian claim to the invention of a flight recorder.

Catalina - the flying boat.

Australian Army, Vietnam War era helicopter.

Resting place of 23 Australian F-111 planes - a landfill near Brisbane. Why? Because they were used for spare parts to keep the rest flying AND there was asbestos in their bodies. 

Transperth either has a lot of money to replace scratched train windows constantly or their public awareness/shaming campaign is working.
Transperth's campaign against graffidiots.

More shaming.

Appeal to the good in us.

If you see it, or hear it, tell us about it.

See something, say something.

Mandurah, south of Perth, ANZAC day.

Indian Ocean in Mandurah.

Back in Perth.

A monument to immigrants.

Two black swans in the centre of Perth.

Perth's CBD.

Perth's CBD - Government House.

Old and new.

Footsteps in time.

Footsteps in time - the monument.

This is not Disney, this is in Perth's CBD.

Perth CBD - a green cafe.


A common situation in Australia: narrow track with an extra rail for standard gauge trains, or vice versa. This shows that lack of standardisation costs more in the long run.

The bow of the HMAS Ovens in Fremantle, this boat can be toured, it is part of the WA Maritime Museum.

The bow section with 6 torpedo bays.
A specimen of a Megamouth shark beached in Mandurah south of Perth.

The Oberon class submarines had 7 periscopes for different purposes.

Fremantle was home to American, British and Dutch submarines during WWII.

Submarines with their base ship.

Australia had submarines already in WWI !

Tsingtao - a German colony in China.

American ships in Fremantle - part of the aircraft carrier group.

Fremantle - building restoration - taking off the layer of stucco to expose the original stone and brick wall.

Fremantle feels like that small city in Back to the Future in 1955.

Including the clock tower near the city square.

Another Disney moment in Fremantle.

Fremantle - this is real.

A perfect city beach in Fremantle.
There was also an Australian Army museum in Fremantle, but I did not get lucky this time - you can enter only at two specified times and I missed the last entry by 20 minutes. If you are going to visit, check the tour times first.

Monday, March 16, 2015

QUT Introduction to Robotics

I'm half-way through a 6 week online course at Queensland University of Technology with Peter Corke. The course consists of two video lectures every week, live video sessions, forum, multiple choice and Matlab tasks. There is also an optional task of building a simple, two-joint, robotic arm and programming it to perform a simple task. Here is version 1 of my Lego Mindstorms robot:

The black ball is from a Lego Star Wars series - there is another, heavier ball inside and it works as a counter-weight for the motor. The green guy is a creeper from Minecraft - purely for decoration. :-)

I don't know if I will be able to program it from Matlab, because both ways of communication with my Mac Book Air: bluetooth and USB are broken - Lego's drivers are not working.

If you wonder how Matlab programs look like, here is an example:

This code defines a cube as a series of corners and edges (indexed pairs of corners), and then draws it as seen from coordinate frame C:

UPDATE 4 June 2015:
The course has ended. I passed enough quizzes and matlab programming tasks to get a certificate of participation and my clumsy robot made it too!  Here is a mashup of the robots, mine is at 2:51:

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Australian Citizenship Test - Study Notes

The test is quite easy. It consists of 20 multi-choice questions. You need to answer 15 correctly to pass. Here are my study notes from the testable section of the 2014 issue of  Our Common Bond booklet. It takes about 1-2 hours to prepare for the test if your English is good.

-- part 1
40000-60000 years ago aboriginals already lived in australia

11 convict ships - the first fleet - arrived 26 jan 1788 - now a public holiday
under command of captain arthur phillip - first governor of new south wales colony

first free settlers from great britain and ireland

1851 gold discovered in nsw and victoria
chinese - the first large group of non-europeans
between 1851 and 1861 population doubled

1901 commonwealth of australia
4 million people, not incl. indigenous

post ww2 migration - millions

over 22 million today and over 1/4 born overseas

national language - English
200 languages spoken in Australia

6 states, 2 territories (north, act)

nsw: icons: harbour bridge, opera house
sydney - the biggest city

victoria: smallest mainland state

qld: second largest

wa: largest state, wine regions
3/4 live in Perth

sa: wine regions, colonial architecture in adelaide

tas: smallest state, bass strait, hobart is capital

act: parliament house, high court of australia

26 jan: australia day
honour history and the people
on the eve of australia day pm announces in canberra australian of the year awards
citizenship ceremonies

25 apr: anzac day
australian and new zealand army corps landed in gallipoli in turkey on 25 april 1915
remember sacrifice, honour courage

Australian Flag

official flag: australian national flag:
blue white and red, it has:
1. union jack - flag of GB
2. commonwealth star under it
it has 7 points: 6 states and 1 for all territories
3. southern cross

Aboriginal Flag

aboriginal flag:
black, red and yellow
black - the people
red - the earth and spirit
yellow - sun
Torres Strait Islanders Flag

torres strait islanders flag:
green, blue, black and white
green - land
blue - sea
black - people
white - dancer's headdress
points of the white star - island groups
white - peace

Coat of Arms
coat of arms:
national unity
authority and property of australia
shield - six states, federation
kangaroo, emu - native animals
gold commonwealth star
background: golden wattle - national flower

golden wattle: small tree - south easter au
bright green leaves
golden yellow flowers in spring

green and gold - national colours
national gemstone: opal
rainbow touched the earth

anthem: advance australia fair

--------- part 2

parliamentary democracy
parliament: make the laws
rule of law - all equal under law
living peacefully - reject violence
compassion, mateship, volunteering,
freedom of speech, expression
cannot harm others
freedom of association, religion
secular government
judeo-christian heritage:
good friday, easter sunday, christmas

obey laws
serve on jury

work in public service or defense
seek election to parliament
help overseas
register children as australian

referendum: a vote to change constiution
federal, state, territory voting is compulsory when on
electoral roll - over 18 years old

local government voting
is not compulsory in some states

18 yo - can be elected to parliament

--- part 3
pay a fine - if you don't have a good reason for not voting
AEC - austr. electoral commission
secret ballot

1 jan 1901 6 colonies united
british act of parliament 1900
house of representatives
high court
double majority to change const.:
majority of voters in majority of states

head of state: queen - elizabeth II
queen appoints governor general
on advice of prime minister

constitutional monarchy

gov. general:
signs all bills passed (royal assent)
sign regulations
ceremonial duties
approves appointments of government,
ministers, federal judges
reserve powers

head of state: the queen of australia
governor - each state
gov. general - federal
premier - state
prime minister - federal
gov minister - must be member of parliament
MP - representative of people
senator - representative of state in parliament
mayor or shire president - local council
councillor - elected

australian parliament:
house of representatives

150 in house of reprs. - voting for 1 person
based on the size of population

senate - upper house, house of review
states are equally represented regardless of size
12 from each state = 6*12 = 72 plus
2 from from each territory

leader of territory: chief minister
nt: administrator instead of governor

state responsible for:
public transport

... there was a bit more but I stopped taking notes.