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Current Events Players

Elon’s Musk to hold AMA with Twitter employees; internet starts making popcorn

“Every day on Twitter,” tweeted @maplecocaine back in January 2019, “there is one main character. The goal is never to be it.” If this is the case, Elon Musk has failed spectacularly, and we’re here for it.

The news came out in the Washington Post in an article with these opening paragraphs:

Twitter plans to host Elon Musk for a question-and-answer session with employees after a week of internal outcries over his appointment to the social network’s board of directors, according to company messages obtained by The Washington Post.

The announcement from Twitter chief executive Parag Agrawal of the highly unusual internal AMA — which stands for “ask me anything” — session was an effort to assuage anxious workers, who in recent days have expressed worries that the firebrand Musk could inflict damage to the company’s culture, as well as make it harder for people to do their jobs.

To borrow a phrase that we’d become accustomed to in the Trump era: This is not normal. Members of boards of directors generally aren’t seen as having an impact on the day-to-day operations of a company, but this is no ordinary board member. This is this guy:

We have historical proof that putting a narcissistic shitposter near the controls doesn’t yield optimal results, and that was one without a discernible talent or work ethic. While Twitter isn’t a nation-state superpower, it does yield a considerable amount of influence, and having a vaingloriously self-declared “free speech absolutist” who loves shutting down people who disagree with him with that much control over the platform is…worrisome.

I think Ken “PopeHat” White summed it up best:

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Players

R.I.P. David Boggs, co-creator of Ethernet

Let’s all take a moment to pay tribute to David Boggs, the electrical engineer and Xerox PARCer who co-created the local networking technology that we all know, love, and probably still use: Ethernet. He died at Stanford Hospital of heart failure on February 19th; he was 71.

Boggs’ replica of Bob Metcalfe’s concept drawing for what would become Ethernet. Source: IEEE 802.3 Working Group.

When Boggs joined Xerox PARC in 1973, he noticed a techie attempting to network their computers. That techie was Bob Metcalfe, whose name you might know from Metcalfe’s Law (“The value of a communications network is proportional to the number of network users, squared”) or from the company he co-founded (3Com). Together, over the next two years, they would create Ethernet, with Metcalfe being the concept person of the duo, and Boggs turning those concepts into working hardware.

Xerox PARC’s display of some of the original Ethernet gear.

The original Ethernet network was built in 1975 using coaxial cable and could transmit data at 2.94 Mbps. Ethernet has evolved since then, but the underlying principle is still the same:

  • Messages on the network are broken into packets, which are the unit of transmission on the network.
  • Packets are tagged with the ID of the destination computer.
  • Computers on the network on constantly “listening” to the network for packets tagged with their ID.
  • If a computer “A” on the network wants to send a message to another computer on the same network, “B”, it first checks the network to see if any other computer on the network is currently transmitting anything:
    • If another computer is currently transmitting something, wait a little bit (where “a little bit” is on the order of milliseconds).
    • If no other computer is transmitting anything, send a packet that’s marked with the destination computer, “B”.

When you say “Ethernet”, people usually think of this:

But that’s not Ethernet — that’s an CAT-n cable (it could be CAT-5 or CAT-6) with an RJ45 connector. You can also run an Ethernet network on a different cable, such as coax, or even using radio waves. You know radio-wave Ethernet by another name: Wifi.

Thank you, David Boggs, and requiescat in pace.

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Career Players Tampa Bay

You have hours to sign up for a chance at a free scholarship to The Undercroft’s “Baseline” cybersecurity program!

Photo: The Undercroft sign, featuring the Undercroft’s “mascot” — a stag standing upright in a suit, leaning jauntily against an umbrella, walking stick-style.

The Undercroft, Tampa Bay’s cybersecurity guild/collaboration space, is offering scholarships to members and non-members for the July 20th cohort of their UC Baseline cybersecurity skills program. Simply put, it’s a chance to learn essential cybersecurity skills from the area’s experts for free!

Logo: UC Baseline

The UC Baseline program comprises the following courses:

  • Hardware 101: Gain a thorough understanding about the devices on which all our software runs and through which all our information flows.
  • Networking 101: Learn how our systems are connected and the ways in which they communicate through these connections.
  • Linux 101: Covers the foundations of security in Linux environments, the OS on which the internet runs.
  • Windows 101: Here’s a big challenge — learn the foundations of security for Windows environments.
  • Information Security 101: Covers everything from core IT concepts, to cybersecurity principles, methods, and practices.
  • Python 101: If you’re doing security, you should have some coding skills to automate your work and build tooling, and Python’s an excellent language for that task.

Here’s The Undercroft’s offer:

Are you looking to take control of your personal privacy and security? Are you frustrated by disappearing jobs and want to make an impact in the cybersecurity industry? Do you have what it takes to ensure your economic future and that of others?

 

The Undercroft’s Baseline program was built for those with the fortitude to fight against daily attacks that threaten our way of life.

 

In response to the global pandemic and increasing uncertainty in our economy, we are offering a select number of scholarships to guild and non-guild members for our July 20th, 2020 cohort.

Interested? Sign up on their scholarship page. You’ve got only until sometime on Friday, July 17th to apply!

(I’ll admit it: Although I’m not likely to qualify, I applied.)

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Current Events Hardware Players Tampa Bay

Win a System76 Thelio Linux desktop in The Mad Botter’s Fourth of July contest!

Mike Dominick’s Tampa Bay-based consultancy The Mad Botter — which develops automation/integration software — has a Fourth of July contest for high school or university undergrad students where the prize is one of System76’s gorgeous Thelio desktop Linux systems!
Mad Botter Fourth of July content icon (Mad Botter “Bot” dressed as Uncle Sam in front of American flags, fireworks, and balloons)

This is an election year, and The Mad Botter’s contest is an election contest. Contestants are asked to develop an open source project that addresses ballot access or in some other way assists with voting. Perhaps something to help people find the closest polling station? Virtual “I voted” stickers? An aggregator for open information about candidates? A “Yelp” for polling places? (You can find more ideas here.)

Here are the contest details:

  • No purchase is required to enter.
  • Your solution must be posted to a publicly accessible Github repository with the appropriate license included.
  • You must be a US high-school or undergraduate college student.
  • If you are below the age of 18, you must provide written parental consent to have your submission considered; this can be done via email.
  • In the event that you win, The Mad Botter INC is granted the right to post a picture of you in the winning announcement and other applicable venues; if you are below the age of 18 your parent or guardian also provides permission for this by consenting to your entering the contest.
  • The winning entry will be the one that shows the most practical potential and creativity and will be selected by The Mad Botter team.
  • All submissions should be sent to sales@themadbotter.com and include a brief bio, explanation of the solution, and a link to the Github repository.
  • Submissions will be accepted until 9/1/2020.

You can find out more at The Mad Botter’s Fourth of July contest page.

Also worth checking out

Mike has a podcast, The Mike Dominick Show, which covers technology and open source.

I was a recent guest on the show (Episode 25), and we talked about how the Toronto tech scene changed from dismal to dynamic,  how I stumbled into developer evangelism, learning iOS programming via raywenderlich.com and then joining them, SwiftUI, Python and Burning Man, the hidden opportunities that come with having to stay inside during the pandemic, and more!

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Current Events Players Programming Reading Material Tampa Bay

Local hero: Mike Dominick and his tech podcast, The Mike Dominick Show

Mike Dominick, who runs The Mad Botter — which develops automation/integration software — moved to the Tampa Bay area three years ago. It’s been my experience that Tampa Bay techies don’t do things halfway, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that in addition to the day job, he also has a technology- and open source-focused podcast named The Mike Dominick Show.

I had the privilege of being the guest for Episode 25 of the Mike Dominick Show, which we recorded yesterday afternoon (that’s its player above), and it was a fun conversation that covered:

  • The Toronto tech scene
  • Taking up the accordion
  • How I got into developer evangelism
  • Learning iOS programming via raywenderlich.com and then joining them
  • Remote work and the pandemic
  • WWDC 2020 and SwiftUI, Python and Burning Man
  • Windows Phone and my time as a Windows Phone Champ
  • What I’ve been doing while looking for work
  • The hidden opportunities that come with having to stay inside

Scrabble tiles in a tile holder spelling 'QUESTIONS'Mike ends each podcast with two questions — one tough and one easy. The tough question he asked me was “What question should I have asked you that I didn’t?” You’ll have to listen to hear how I answered that one.

Don’t just listen to my episode — be sure to check out previous ones, including these ones that I’ve enjoyed on my daily bike rides:

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Current Events Players

Robert Blacklidge and the Feeding the Future hackathon: This weekend, online

Robert Blacklidge

Robert Blacklidge on a bus full of Startup Bus hackers
Robert Blacklidge at Startup Bus 2017.

You can’t talk about the Tampa Bay startup scene for long before the name “Robert Blacklidge” comes up. You’ll often see him at Tampa Bay tech and entrepreneur events, and when he’s not organizing or facilitating hackathons, he’s winning at them. One of his creations, Course Align, made it all the way to finals at Startup Bus 2017 (be sure to check out Gimlet Media’s Startup podcast episodes where they follow the Bus, including the creation of Course Align).

He’s also been bringing tech events and amenities to his home, Lakeland (about 35 miles east of Tampa). Thanks to his work, Lakeland has its editions of 1 Million Cups, Startup Grind, and Techstars Startup Weekend. He also co-founded CO.STARTERS, a 9-week program that teaches entrepreneurs to achieve their long-term goals.

This weekend, he’ll be a mentor at the Feeding the Future online hackathon.

Feeding the Future: A FoodTech hackathon

The world’s food chain supply chains have been greatly disrupted by COVID-19 and its cascading effects. Most of these disruptions will have unpredictable long-term lasting effects on our food systems. The Feeding the Future hackathon’s challenges are all centered around solutions to address and counter these disruptions.

The challenges are:

  1. Sustainable farm-to-fork solutions. How can we use digital technologies to build a more resilient and agile food supply chain for local producers and farmers after CoVid-19 using sustainable farm2fork solutions and further increase e-commerce and home delivery services? How can we apply dynamic models to support seasonal trade and preparation tools for all parts in the food chain?
  2. Reducing carbon “food”prints. The importance of food within cities and urban design is central from several angles. There is a need to transform our urban food systems with a focus on sustainability and resilience.
  3. Make a new and tasty fish product. Baltic Herring is a tasty, small fish found in abundance in the Baltic Sea. Increasing it’s consumption can help lower our carbon footprint. What kind of food product(s) can we create using the Baltic Herring to increase consumption?
  4. Increase Finnish/African food trade. (The hackathon is being organized from Finland.) Africa is an untapped potential market. Finland is known for its world class research in food engineering. What kind of product or services can be utilized to help increase the quality and quantity of food export between Finland and Africa?

Feeding the Future’s kickoff/orientation session happens tomorrow (Thursday, June 25th) at 9:00 a.m. Eastern.

Here’s how you can join in:

NOTE: You can only compete in the Hackathon as a TEAM of two or more members. If you don’t have yet a team, join the hackathon’s Discord community to find one.

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Players

Jerry Lawson, inventor of the videogame cartridge

Fellow gamers, pay tribute to the gentleman in the photo above. He’s Gerald “Jerry” Lawson, and he was in charge of creating the first videogame console that could play different games by using interchangeable ROM cartridges:

That console was the Fairchild Channel F (also known as the Fairchild Video Entertainment System), which debuted in November 1976, almost a full a year before the better-remembered Atari VCS (later renamed the Atari 2600).

The Fairchild Channel F console. Tap the photo to see it at full size.

Here’s a quick run-down of its specs:

Feature Notes
CPU Fairchild F8 8-bit microprocessor running at 1.79 MHz
RAM
  • 2 KB for video framebuffer
  • 64 bytes of “scratchpad memory” (memory used for temporary storage of calculation results, data, and other processing)
  • Some cartridges would provided addition static RAM if needed — as much as 1 KB or slightly more
Video
  • Screen resolution of 128 * 64 pixels, but depending on the TV set it was connected to, typically 102 * 58 pixels would be visible onscreen
  • 60 Hz screen refresh rate
  • Support for 8 colors onscreen
Sound System could generate beeps at three different frequencies:

  1. 120 Hz
  2. 500 Hz
  3. 1 KHz

 

A younger Jerry Lawson. In case you were wondering, that thing in his hand is a slide rule or “slipstick” in engineering slang, an analog calculator that made use of logarithms to perform multiplication and division. You should be thankful we don’t need them anymore.

Lawson was born in Brooklyn on December 1, 1940 and grew up in Queens. His father was an avid reader of science books, and his mother was a city employee who also was president of the PTA at his nearly all-white school. He kept inspired in his studies with a picture of black scientist and inventor George Washington Carver.

He pursued a number of scientific and engineering interests as a boy, performing chemistry experiments and using ham radios. In his teens, he earned money repairing TVs, which was a little more hazardous in those days, as the cathode ray tube-based televisions of that era worked with extremely high voltages (I myself used to play with them as a teenager in some highly unrecommended ways).

In the early 1970s, Lawson joined the Fairchild Camera and Instrument Corporation in Silicon Valley as a design consultant who roved from project to project. One of the projects he worked on was the classic 1970s arcade videogame Demolition Derby (the Chicago Coin version, not the Midway version from the 1980s), which featured some surprisingly clever programming — the computer-controlled cars acted “smart” enough to try and dodge your attacks. In his spare time, he was a member of the legendary Homebrew Computer Club, where he was one of its two black members.

Lawson’s experience in videogames — a bleeding-edge and esoteric line of work at the time — led Fairchild to put him in charge of its videogame division. As leader of the team that created their console, he helped bring about the concept of game cartridges, a revolutionary concept at the time. In those days, consoles had their games “hard-wired” onto their circuit boards, and what you bought was what you got. He also oversaw the development of a new processor, the Fairchild F8, to power the system.

Unfortunately, the Channel F was eclipsed by the Atari 2600. Lawson left Fairchild in 1980 to found the videogame company Videosoft and also did consulting work.

Let’s all hold a controller in the air for Jerry Lawson, videogaming pioneer!

Find out more about Jerry Lawson

Here’s a 2018 video from Microsoft Developer, featuring Jerry’s children talking about their dad:

Here’s 1Life2Play’s tribute:

Here’s an ad for the Channel F from 1976:

Here’s a RetroManCave overview of the Channel F:

Here’s Erin Play’s review of the Channel F, which includes reviews of several cartrdiges:

And finally, here’s a three-party featuring Lawson speaking at the Computer History Museum in 2006: