In memoriam, Bob Samuel, 1925-2008

It’s been 5 years now Dad.

My father, Bob Samuel

My father was a sign writer and glass embosser by trade, working in the business started by his grandfather. He loved old mechanical things and one part of his work that gave him pride was hand painting museum acquisitions to their original standard. Here is a trailer for a steam road wagon originally operated by J.E. Thomas and Sons in Oswestry (and here’s a link to an advert for them, with a different livery).

J.E. Thomas and Sons, trailer for a steam road wagon

One summer holiday (1988 I think) I helped him paint three coal railway trucks for the Maritime and Industrial Museum in Cardiff (part of the National Museum at the time), the museum is long gone but they now seem to have moved up to Big Pit museum at Blaenavon).

Three Coal Trucks: Bute, Naval, Ocean

Comment on Social Media and Social Unrest

My good friend Alec Muffett has written on ComputerworldUK about a discussion on the pros and cons of social media in light of the riots in the UK. He puts it really well:

I support that some people might want to use Blackberries to organise riots. If people want to use a cellphone or social media to conspire, that’s fine by me. I also believe that young lovers should be able to whisper sweet nothings to each other in secret, I believe that rape victims should be able to communicate in private, and that pregnant girls should be able to seek abortion advice without state, corporate, or parental eavesdropping. Cancer sufferers should be able to share in private their illness with the people who care for them, and I believe that dissidents should be free to communicate political opinion.

I believe all of these things because I discriminate the ability to obtain privacy from the exercise of criminal intent, and I believe that the ability to have a private conversation – something that 200 years ago was easily guaranteed – is a valuable asset to the individual. Plus I further believe that a state which has been too lazy, too profligate, or too cheap to police what people are doing rather than how they talk about doing it, is in no position to argue that ability or secrecy of communication should be inhibited because the problem is too expensive for them to address otherwise.

This is even more appropriate these days given that David Cameron, the UK PM, has now said:

We are working with the police, the intelligence services and industry to look at whether it will be right to stop people from communicating via these websites and services when we know they are plotting violence, disorder and criminality.

I guess because it worked so well in Tunisia, Egypt, etc…

I would also suggest you watch his video “On Cyberspace, Social Media and Censorship“, recorded before the UK unrest.

The Ada Initiative’s Inaugural Census

The recently formed Ada Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing participation of women in open technology and culture, has been soliciting responses for their inaugural activity, a census of women in open technology and culture. The name is a little misleading as it is open for anyone to respond to, irrespective of gender, the idea being to get a feel of the communities perception of womens participation in this area of society. It’s very quick to take and I would encourage everyone who is involved in this area to participate.

Take the Ada Initiative Census

Happy New Year

I hope everyone has a happy, fun and safe new year for all!

2010 was a good year for me, I changed jobs back in January leaving the great people of VPAC for a new challenge, working with a new group of great people to bring up a new HPC centre for life sciences from scratch based at the University of Melbourne (but open to all life scientists across the state). Since then we’ve brought up a 1088 core SGI Altix XE cluster (Intel Nehalem based), a 640 core IBM iDataplex cluster (again Nehalem) and an IBM Blue Gene/P with 8192 cores. This is just stage 1, the big systems are due to arrive in 2012! It’s been great fun and great to just be able to concentrate on running the HPC systems and not have to worry about anything else.

On a personal level life has also been great, my wonderful wife and I celebrated 10 years of marriage this December and look forward to many more! We’ve just had our longest amount of time off together since 2008 thanks to the university shutting down between Xmas and New Year and have spent it quietly pottering around the house and local area. Very relaxing!

Happy Babbagemas Everyone!

Turns out that the day after Newtonmas is Babbagemas, the annual celebration of Charles Babbage’s birthday on 26th December 1791. As well as having something to do with computers he also had a good understanding of your common or garden politician and their scientific understanding:

On two occasions I have been asked, – “Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?” In one case a member of the Upper, and in the other a member of the Lower House put this question. I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question.

It is traditional (starting from now) to celebrate Babbagemas by blogging on the day.

Celebration of Anne McDonald’s Life, St Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne – Saturday 13th November

DEAL Communication Centre have announced that there will be a celebration of the life of Anne McDonald at St Paul’s Catherdral in Melbourne on Saturday 13th November:

Anne McDonald – wonderful writer, powerful advocate, and good friend – died on 22 October, 2010. A celebration of Anne McDonald’s life will be held at 1.30 on Saturday, 13 November, at St. Paul’s Cathedral, Melbourne, on the corner of Flinders and Swanston Streets, opposite Flinders Street Station. All of Anne’s friends, and those for whom her story was important, are invited to join us in remembering Anne and her unfinished fight for recognition of the right to communicate. No flowers, please. Donations to DEAL Communication Centre or Communication Rights Australia are welcome.

Sadly I cannot make it as I will be overseas on that day, but I’m sure there will be plenty of others there!

For Anne

Sadly I cannot be at Anne McDonald’s memorial service on the 13th November in Melbourne as I’ll be in the US then, but the final verse and chorus from New Model Army’s song “Ambition” has been going around in my head for a while now and seems a fitting final statement.

And when she’s gone forever, please don’t lay her down to rest
In a quiet little churchyard along with all the rest
Throw a great big party to remember that she lived
Give her headlines on the TV to remember who she is

‘Cause no one’s ever going to talk down to her again
No one’s ever going to patronise her again
She’s going to get out of this town, steal herself a crown
She’s going to get herself some power
If it’s the last thing that she does
If it’s the one thing that she does
If it’s the only thing that she ever does

Thank you Anne.