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2017.04.04

Research Priorities in Software Technologies

In the words of the web's inventor Marc Andreessen, "software is eating the world". Ever more products, services, and entire industries, existing ones as well as new, are running on software. In a report recently published by the European Commission, I argue that significant investment in software engineering research can help Europe stay on top and even lead a world that is increasingly defined and shaped by software.

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2017.01.01

As it Happened: Leap Second 37

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2016.12.02

Computer vs Human 0-1

Earlier today the Athens State Orchestra played the Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 78 by Camille Saint-Saens, which is also known as the Organ Symphony. The French organist and composer Thierry Escaich was supposed to play the organ. There was a slight delay at the beginning: a lady appeared on stage and explained that there were technical problems with the organ's "brain".

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2012.01.08

Mind Mapping

In a recent NPR interview the journalist described how I used a mind map to organize my work while I served as Secretary General for Information Systems at the Greek Ministry of Finance. A number of people asked me for more details; if you're interested read on.

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2011.12.17

Advice from Successful Greek IT Startups

Members of the Hellenic Association of Mobile Application Companies and the Hellenic Semiconductor Industry Association, assorted biotechnology companies, and representatives from Greek and US-based venture capital funds gathered on Friday December 17, 2011 in a meeting to exchange advice, tips, and war stories on venturing abroad. It was one of the most inspiring meetings I've attended for some time. These are my notes from the meeting.

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2010.03.12

Email's Ten by Ten Law

I drown in email and my aspirations for handling it are becoming increasingly lame. In the 1980s my goal used to be an empty mailbox at the end of each session. During the 1990s the goal became to empty the mailbox by the end of the day. But tasks I couldn't complete within the day accumulated, so in the 2000s I just tried to have only so many messages as could fit in a window without a scrollbar, so that I could immediately scan what I had to do. Nowadays my modest goal is to keep the size of my mailbox below 100 messages, and I succeed in that only half of the time.

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2009.08.28

The Price of Cheap Labor

The strange entries I've found over the past two weeks I've been researching a large database are innumerable. Some addresses, like Wastington, DC are simply annoying, while others, like Vancouver BC V6T 1Z4 United States, are mildly amusing. It's clear to me that the database has been populated by the massive application of a cheap labor force. This is happening all too often, and I think it is a mistake.

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2009.07.01

Real-Time Google Earth GPS Tracking

In a recent trip I incorrectly assumed that real-time tracking of Google Earth's pre-cached maps with a GPS receiver would be sufficient help for navigating around the highways in Los Angeles. I therefore experimented with the way Google Earth's sparsely-documented real time tracking works, and wrote a small program to interface Google Earth with a GPS receiver. Fortunately, after seeing a colleague drive with a car-GPS device on the dashboard I came to my senses, and got a real Garmin Nuvi car-GPS device.

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2009.05.27

Revisiting the Antikythera Mechanism Emulator

Over the past few weeks I updated the Antikythera mechanism emulator I built in 2007. I was preparing for an invited talk on the subject, which I'll give at the 2009 USENIX Annual Technical Conference, and for this I wanted to include in the emulator the new findings recently published in Nature.

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2009.02.18

The Information Train

Experiment overview The Information Train is a scientific experiment that I presented at the Wizards of Science 2009 contest over the past weekend. The entry demonstrates how computers communicate with each other by setting up a network in which a model train transfers a picture's pixels from one computer to the other. You can find a video of the experiment on YouTube, and, if you're interested, you can also download the corresponding software and schematics from this web page.

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2008.10.16

Missing the Point

A number of Greek web sites offer for download a very strange Excel form.

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2008.05.17

A Visit at BMW's Leipzig Factory

Yesterday I had a chance to tour the BMW Leipzig factory. It was a unique experience, in which I witnessed the sophistication of modern production methods, and the most well-organized complex human undertaking I have seen first hand. The factory literally runs like a clockwork, eerily bringing to my mind the descriptions of Mars's factories in Bogdanov's science fiction novel Red Star.

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2007.05.23

Decyphering Modern Texts

One would think that the decyphering of old writings would be the domain of archeologists poring over ancient palimpsests. It turns out that, thanks to modern technology, the quality of documents written only a decade ago can decay to the point of requiring decypherment. And don't get me started on the problems of digital preservation and the decay of URLs.

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2007.01.19

Open source as a paradigm for evolving complex systems

Scientists in the 1980s hotly debated the feasibility of US's proposed Strategic Defence Initiative, commonly known as Star Wars. One argument concerned the amount of software needed to control the missile detectors and weapons.

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2006.07.02

Quality, Democracy, and Code

Edwin Fine recently posted on amazon.com a review of my book Code Quality: The Open Source Perspective. In the review he complained about the quality of proofreading and copy editing. (The errors he noted are now listed in the book's errata.) His comments sparked off a delightful discussion on the reasons behind the falling quality levels of various products, the philosophical importance of this phenomenon, and its effect on coding standards.

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2006.02.22

Management Support Technologies

My academic title contains the words management support technologies. I therefore considered the new and efficient document management and dispatch system I saw in use at my health insurance provider a rare gem, worthy of inclusion in this blog.

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2006.02.15

A Malfeasant Design for Lawful Interception

Earlier this month it was revealed that more than 100 mobile phone numbers belonging mostly to members of the Greek government and top-ranking civil servants were found to have been illegally tapped for a period of at least one year (see Wikipedia article). Apparently, the tapping was implemented by activating Ericsson's lawful interception subsystem installed at the Vodafone service provider. How could this happen?

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2006.02.07

How Not to Cook an Egg With Your Cell Phone

A story currently doing the rounds by email provides detailed instructions for cooking an egg by placing it between two cell phones. Here is my attempt to check its validity.

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2006.01.25

Google in China

Google "don't be evil" Inc. launched a self-censored version of its service for China.

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2006.01.03

Disappearing Hardware

Let's start the new year with a retrospective look at hardware advances. I've ordered some older and current hard disks that were lying around by date. We're taking for granted the increases in disk size, but also impressive is the reduction in size of the control electronics.

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2005.09.30

The Other Side of Digital Preservation

We often grumble that digital preservation is risky, and that modern storage technologies and file formats quickly become outdated destroying the record of our past. What we don't appear to appreciate is how much more data we are able to preserve, thanks to digital technologies.

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2005.09.15

Information Kiosk

The inclined panel is indeed a computer screen, and, of course, it is not working. Another, more reliable, technology has prevailed.

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2005.08.09

Everything Old is New Again

In 1984 the new kid on the block was Borland's Sidekick. A terminate and stay resident (TSR) program for MS-DOS, it would run in the background, and when it detected the two shift keys being pressed it would overlay the (then character) screen with a calculator, a notepad, a calendar, a dialer or an ASCII table.

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2005.03.02

Self-Healing Systems Will Age

A number of researchers are advocating the adoption of self-healing approaches as a way to create more robust systems. They suggest to copy a page from the book of life, where organisms with a self-healing capability can survive numerous mishaps and accidents. However, biological systems have another property, which I believe is associated with their ability to heal themselves: ageing, and, eventually, death.

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2004.04.10

Technological Complexity

As a child I used to be able to assemble and disassemble my bike; the most sophisticated artefact I owned. I could understand the working of its (simple) gear system, the functioning of the brakes, the assembly of its ball-bearings.

As a teen I had a reasonably complete understanding of the IBM-PC I used. I knew the 8088 processor's complete instruction set, the instruction encoding details, the pinout and operation of the ISA bus and the Centronics and RS-232 interfaces, the operation of the 6845 video controller and the 4164 memory chips, all the BIOS calls, all the MS-DOS commands and system calls, and the complete details Basic and C programming languages I programmed in. I also knew the principles of operation behing the processes used to build the computer's chips, the MFM recording format used by the hard disk, and the operation of the CRT monitor.

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2004.01.20

Writing, GUIs, and 4000 Years of Progress

The images speak for themselves.

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2003.07.12

An Interesting Remote Control

The garage remote control at the place where I work is really interesting.

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Unless otherwise expressly stated, all original material on this page created by Diomidis Spinellis is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Greece License.