Jez Higgins

Freelance software generalist
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extended or repaired


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Friday 31 May 2013 The Forest Road Reader, No 61

I need to get off my slacker arse and do some more reading. Technical book reading, that is. Dr Dobbs has a C++ 11 reading list. If we discount the one that took a pasting from a reviewer I greatly respect (can you guess which one), I already own (thus far unopened) copies of two of five the books listed, and would certainly buy two others. It's a start. Chris Oldwood advises re-reading the classics and it's hard to argue with that. I have the feeling that, with the notable exception of Freeman and Pryce's Growing Object-Oriented Software Guided by Tests (shamefully still languishing only partly read in my pile), very few stone-cold must-read software books have been written in the past few years. Suggestions welcome.

On 26 October 1939 Thomas 'Tommy' Edward Godwin rode into Trafalgar Square having completed 62,658 mi (100,838 km), gaining the record with two months to spare. He rode through the winter to complete 75,065 mi (120,805 km) in the year. In May 1940 after 500 days' riding he secured the 100,000-mile (160,000 km) record as well. Godwin dismounted and spent weeks learning how to walk before going to war in the RAF.

Yesterday I burbled on about one particular consequence of granting crappy patents, and this morning an email from the EFF arrives soliciting help in challenging a patent trolling threat to podcasting. Presumably producing a list of audio files is so different from producing a list of pieces of text, it warrants patent protection. It's very easy to be cyncial and take the piss out of software patents, but many of them do seem to be especially poor and, crucially, don't pass the test of being non-obvious to someone skilled in the art. One particularly insidious feature of software is that they typically describe a result rather than a particular process. If I, for example, invented some astonishing new process for extracting aluminium from bauxite and you invented some equally astonishing but different process for extracting aluminium from bauxite, we could both apply for patents. (We'd also both have a big pile of aluminium.) Our patents would have to describe our process. However, if I wrote a piece of software that turned moonbeams into music, and you also wrote a piece of software that wrote moonbeans into music, then only one of us gets the patent. In fact for the purposes of a patent application, nobody actually has write any software at all. You only have to describe it. And the description can be as vague as "a piece of software". I'm oversimplifying, but not a great deal.

Thomas 'Tommy' Charles Godwin won two bronze medals, in the team pursuit with Robert Geldard, Dave Ricketts and Wilfrid Waters, and the 1,000m time trial at the 1948 Summer Olympic Games in London. Preparation for the pursuit was hampered by an argument among the coaching staff on the eve of the games, but after a poor performance in the qualifying round, they improved their time by 17 seconds during the subsequent three rounds, winning the bronze in a faster time than the French winners of the final

Mars mission astronauts face radiation exposure risk. I was under the impression we'd known this for years. SF writer Kim Stanley Robinson prefers science fact when he can get it and radiation exposure while in space is an early plot point in his Mars Trilogy, first published some twenty years ago.

I wonder if the two Tommy Godwins ever met. They surely must have done - both prominent racing cyclists and coaches, spent all their lives in the Midlands. They must have.


Tagged cycling, tommy-godwin, and mars


Jez Higgins

Freelance software generalist
software created
extended or repaired

Older posts are available in the archive or through tags.

Feed

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My code on GitHub

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About