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!
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.
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.
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 email@example.com and include a brief bio, explanation of the solution, and a link to the Github repository.
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!
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
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:
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:
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?
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.
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?
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?
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.
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
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
System could generate beeps at three different frequencies:
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:
At some point in the mid-90s, after the release of the games MYST and The 7th Guest, came an explosion of multimedia software on CD-ROMs. Until that time, building any kind of software was a tedious, error-prone process, and doubly so if it had to display animations and video, play multi-channel sound, and react to users’ keyboard taps and mouse clicks, drags, and drops. You’d have to double that effort again if you wanted to make it for both Mac and Windows.
John Henry Thompson changed all that with Lingo, the programming language for the cross-platform multimedia authoring tool known as Macromedia Director (formerly MacroMind Director, and later Adobe Director). It was the very first programming language that used to make my very first applications at Mackerel Interactive Multimedia, my very first workplace, for paying customers. As with Marc Canter, who co-founded MacroMind, I will be forever grateful to “JT,” as he was known in those days, for helping get my start in what’s turned out to be a pretty nice career.
Here’s a quick taste of the sort of things people created with Lingo and Director. It’s also a taste of the digital aesthetic of the mid-1990s:
Since the download speeds of the time were about 10 minutes per megabyte on the fastest modems under ideal conditions, there was really only one way to get Director: in a shrink-wrapped box like the one pictured below…
…which contained CD-ROMs and a lot of manuals fashioned out of dead trees:
John was always living with one foot in the world of tech and one in the world of art. He studied computer science at MIT, but while there, he also minored in visual arts. During that time, he took a year-long break from MIT to take part in a year-long program in painting and drawing at New York’s Art Students League.
“While I was there, in ’83 or ’84 I started combining my interest in the visual arts with computer graphics… I started doing stuff at the media lab. I focused there on integrating my interest in multimedia into my computer science degree. I got a minor in visual studies where I got exposed to film making, graphic design, photography, all that… It was actually not well known, but there was a lot going on there in the visual arts in MIT. I did a lot of independent work there, I built some 3-D graphics systems and an interface to broadcast equipment, some real-time video processing things, sort of like music video effects, and from that, that took me more into the video production end of things, and I was hired from there, that was ’84, I got a job at the Droid Works [a spin-off company of LucasFilm], on the EditDroid project, which we were building a non-linear editing system. This was before digital video, this was based on laser disks, and so that’s how I ended in the Bay Area working in San Rafael.”
“From the early days I was interested in the Macintosh, so I took that opportunity to start looking around for work on the Macintosh, and I got a Mac Plus and through some people at DroidWorks, actually the husband of one of the employees there, I got in touch with Marc [Canter, founder of MacroMind, the original name of Macromedia]. At that point Macromedia was based in Chicago and they were making VideoWorks and MusicWorks and GraphicWorks. They’ve been around for a while – they were one of the first major applications on the Macintosh. They were there from, I think they started in ’84. I don’t know if you know, but VideoWorks started out on even before the 512K Mac. It was quite a feat that it was able to run.”
A 1987 magazine ad for VideoWorks II. Tap the image to see it at full size.
“So I got in touch with Marc through this friend from DroidWorks and he said he was looking for someone to write the accelerator – it was in a lot of ways similar to QuickTime. That was my first work with them.”
From the accelerator project, John moved to working on the color paint program in Director, which let you create and edit bitmap images in Director projects. He was still a contractor when he added Lingo into version 2.0 of Director on his own initiative:
“I wanted to see some of my work on interactive languages that I had been using for interactive art in a commercial product… I was still a contractor, or a consultant, but most of my time was spent with MacroMind products at that point. The company’s focus at that point was 3-D Works. It was kind of an unsupervised project – what they had at that point was VideoWorks Interactive, which was a central, BASIC-like language hooked on to the animation engine and that was used for the Guided Tour on the Macintosh.”
“And that was where Lingo started – it was a replacement for that BASIC language. (We were using a BASIC language) that I think was copied out of an article in Dr. Dobbs, so it was a very rudimentary implementation of a BASIC interpreter – you had single character variable names, the variables were typed by their names.”
“Lingo was a replacement for that. It started out just incrementally, because I was doing interactive stuff myself and I wanted to use Director to do it, so first I plugged in the xobject stuff, which was some code I had set up to control video disk and some other stuff that I was using in my interactive art. So, xobjects went in from day one, and then I started putting in more of the traditional features you find in a language: recursion, untyped variables, all that kind of stuff.”
“…from its very first incarnation it was object-oriented. Back at that point – this was ’87 – this was when C++ and Objective C were making headway and I’ve done a lot of research on Smalltalk and the Lisp environments.”
I programmed in Lingo from 1995 to 2000, and there are unmistakable elements of Smalltalk and Lisp in there, along with a strong HyperTalk accent. These screenshots of script windows should give you a taste of the language:
Lingo allowed me and the other developers at Mackerel to crank out applications for floppy disk, then CD-ROM, then Shockwave apps for the web, for both the Mac and Windows, in a fraction of the time it would’ve taken in C. I wrote interactive multimedia desktop applications for a number of clients, including AOL, Microsoft, Toyota, USF&G,Dairy Farmers of Ontario, and Delrina, and I wouldn’t have been able to do so without John and his language, Lingo.
I had the opportunity to meet John in 1996 at the afterparty for the Macromedia User Conference in San Francisco, and it was wonderful to speak with him. It was the first time I’d ever had a chance to talk to someone who’d made a programming language that I’d used. I thanked him then, and I’d like to repeat it now: Thank you, John, for Lingo, and for getting me started on my career!
What he’s been up to recently
He made an appearance on the YouTube channel The Coding Train in 2018, where he talks about Director and some of its modern descendants:
Earlier this year, he was a guest on the Coding in the Wild podcast, where he talks about his recent project, DICE, short for “Distributed Instruments for Computed Expression,” which is an open source platform for exploring that intersection of art and programming: