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I ran my own blog from November 2006 till October 2014. All posts are still online, but I don't have time to update it anymore. Please note that all images and media files have been removed when the backup was moved to a new host in early 2016. Enjoy!

My last blog post...

12. october 2014

It's been almost a year since I last posted in my blog and I think it's time to close it now. It's been quite successful and I'm really happy with many articles I wrote, especially the tech related ones. But now that I only have very little time to update it I decided that's it's better to terminate it now than to let it slowly die. All posts will remain online, but I will probably remove it from the front page.

This does of course not mean that I’m no longer working on new stuff, in fact it’s quite the opposite - there’s so much work now that I no longer find the time to write anything here.

Unfortunately some of our projects have been delayed - I hoped new stuff would go online this year, but we didn’t make it. Not that we didn’t put enough energy into them, but we decided to work a lot more on some details than we previously intended to, and it looks like these projects will become way better than I previously thought. Of course I hope we can roll this stuff out next year, we’ll see.

You may have noticed that public CorneliOS updates are rolled out less often now (we did this on a weekly basis a few years ago), but this does not mean that we’re no longer investing as much energy into it. Again, it’s quite the opposite, we now even have new builds on a daily basis and we update the server software almost every day. We only reduced the number of public releases as the entire software is quite stable now.

Oli.lu / Morzino is performing greatly, 2014 has been our best year so far and it looks like 2015 will even get much better. Expect some big news and some nice new features within the next few months. Be patient, it will be worth be wait.

Next year we’ll also finally release some music related stuff. We won’t talk about this yet, but I’m now working on these things on a regular basis and I think we have some awesome stuff in the pipeline.

This said, it’s time to say goodbye to my blog now. In future I will write a bit more on Twitter, Facebook and Morzino, so make sure to follow or add me there. Again - be patient, it will take some time until I’ll have something really important to announce.

Bye for now!

Jos

oli.lu final version online

29. november 2013

Last week we released the final version of the oli.lu platform, which concludes the two year beta phase. We’re very happy with this version, I like the look and feel of the entire platform and we managed to complete almost all planned features.

Almost 6000 users have an account on oli.lu now, which is more than we originally expected when launching the beta in late 2011. Q3/2013 has been the most successful third quarter so far, and it looks like Q4/2013 will become our most successful fourth quarter. A record breaking 3635 worksheets had been generated in October 2013, and the current month already beat that number (3799 so far). Let’s hope things continue like that ;)

We’re already working on the next new features that shall become available in 2014. I can’t reveal any details yet, but I can say that there will finally be some really new stuff after we’ve been mostly completing the initial design during the past two years.

Just a short update today...

13. november 2013

The final oli.lu version will become available very soon, we’ve been able to address almost 100 items on the todo list within the past 4 weeks and as far as we can tell all major issues have been resolved. A bit more than 40 smaller issues are scheduled to be addressed until the end of the year, while the rest of the list (about 60 smaller feature requests) will have to wait until next year.

You may have noticed the fact that there have been very few CorneliOS/CIOS updates during the past two months, which is due to the fact that we’re currently fully focused on finishing the final oli.lu release. Yesterday we’ve released CorneliOS 3.11r12, which is a maintenance release with more than 100 smaller enhancements, regular updates will be back early next year.

New oli.lu / Morzino icon set online

12. october 2013

Today we released the new oli.lu / Morzino icon set, which finally replaces the original icons that went online with the very first BETA in late 2011. Consider this to be the first step that will lead us to the final version which is still on schedule and will be ready before the end of the year. Expect further patches, features and UI updates within the next few weeks, we're working really hard on fine-tuning everything.

There are currently still over 200 items on the Morzino todo list, we won't be addressing them all this year but we'll try to complete the most important stuff and to fix the most annoying bugs. Like any platform, Morzino will be an ongoing project that will evolve over time.

Later this year we'll also start to finally publish the tutorials that will help people to use the more advanced features of the platform, and we'll also focus on finishing the international version targeted at DACH (Germany, Austria and Switzerland) that we'll launch as BETA in early 2014.

As you may see there's plenty of work that still has to be done, although this will only the beginning. We now have completed work on our project plannings for 2014, 2015 and 2016, and we're really excited about the stuff that's still to come.

While we'll keep putting some more energy into the Galaxiki project in future, we've also decided to kill off some of our smaller platforms and projects. There's some really cool stuff on our roadmap now, and we just won't find the time to keep working on smaller projects where we can't see and big and bright future. We killed our web directory a few years ago, we didn't regret it and now it's time to say goodbye to some further projects that would be slowly dying anyway.

A final note: the new CHRIS album won't become available this year (I announced this in my last post), but the delay is not related to our work and this also won't affect our own ongoing music projects which are still on schedule.

Updates: Oli.lu, Morzino, CorneliOS, CHRIS, Trident, Galaxiki and more...

15. september 2013

This week we released oli.lu BETA 2.6 which will be the last beta before the final release in late 2013. We'll now fix some final bugs, implement some last features and put first tutorials online. The final version will focus a bit more on collaboration and publishing, although the current release already gives you a clear picture of what oli.lu is going to be.

Even during the summer holidays there has been a lot of activity. Users logged in every single day, creating worksheets and communicating. There are now more than 5,000 registered users, over 50,000 worksheetshave been generated and more than 35,000 messages have been written.

After the final oli.lu release later this year we'll focus a bit more on Morzino (the international edition of the site), especially on the german version which shall be launched as BETA in early 2014. We have many ideas on how to further improve the platform, so make sure to check back from time to time. We're also working on the design of the upcoming standalone software version of the site, but you'll have to be patient as we don't want to rush this one. It will be big. And it will be FREE (we'll release it under the GPL). 

It's not a secret that we'll do the cover and booklet for the next CHRIS album, which shall also become available before the end of the year. Expect further music projects in 2014, we have some really cool stuff coming up.

But all of this is just the beginning, as 2014 will probably become our most important and impressive year so far, with tons of new stuff to be released. We will not only continue work on Morzino/oli.lu, but we'll also launch a new major platform that will not be related to education. It will in fact be much more than just another platform, but I won't reveal any more details now. Expect something just as big as Galaxiki or Morzino.

The Trident project is also progressing fine, and during the past few weeks our visionary framework received a major upgrade. Expect some changes to the philosophy we're basing our work on soon, this will not only affect future projects but also exting ones such as Galaxiki or Morzino.

Our new third API also made some progress, while CorneliOS and CIOS will see a major update within the next few days (as we didn't publish releases for a few weeks now). The development tools have been successfully moved to the new API, but you shouldn't expect any information on this till mid 2014 or so. Today we worked on the design of the front end of the API and it now looks like we'll do two different versions.

The only downside is that we were not able to release the two smaller platforms I had announced some time ago, as we wanted to fully focus on Trident and Morzino. This doesn't mean that these platforms are dead, they're just delayed. The same is true for the lastest Galaxiki update btw. We're working hard on the Galaxiki update now, we know that it's late and we can't guarantee everything will be ready by the end of the year. But be assured that we haven't forgotten or scifi fans, and we apologise for the delays.

Repairing MacOS X permissions - brute force method

29. may 2013

A few weeks ago I had the problem that my Macbook Pro didn't start up anymore. The grey screen appeared, but the blue background or even the login window never showed up. Booting in safe mode (holding shift when starting up the computer) didn't help either.

The first thing to do is to boot in verbose mode then, by pressing both the Command and V keys when starting the computer. The booting process stopped after launchd came up with some problem with the OS permissions. 

So I booted in SUM (single user mode, press both the Command and S keys when after restarting) and fixed this first. If you can't login in single user mode anymore then you're probably doomed, backup your data and reinstall.

Apparently permissions on some launchd files were not restrictive enough (777 instead of 755) and the OS had some problems with that. After rebooting launchd started fine, but the OS was hanging again after (or while?) checking the network devices.

I didn't have a system DVD that moment, as booting from the DVD and using Disk Utility to repair permissionsmight have helped. So I decided to repair permissions in single user mode using the diskutil command line tool, just to notice that this doesn't work as diskutil is missing some libraries when using it in SUM. But no problem, you can load those libraries manually - just to see that diskutil seems to hang again, and there is no verbose mode :/

The next thing I did was to boot the laptop in target disk mode (connect your computer to another machine using a Firewire cable, press the T key when starting up) and to backup all data. Unfortunately it seems that you cannot repair permissions in target disk mode btw (those features were disabled on my machine at least).

Comparing files on both computers showed that some OS files had bad permissions on my laptop, but there are thousands of files and checking them all manually was not an option as I was quite in a hurry. So I opted for a brute force method to get that thing to work again quickly (although I wouldn't recommend this as a standard method - try to get a system DVD with disk utility if possible, or maybe some other tool...)

Here's what I did (you have to boot in single user mode of course):

mount -uw /

chmod -R 755 /Library

chmod -R 755 /System

shutdown -r now

The chmod commands will take some time as these are huge directories, so be patient.

After the reboot the login window came up again (it took a bit more time then usually), I was able to login and to run the Apple Disk Utility to repair all permissions (this took about 30 mins).

So, if you can't login anymore and nothing seems to work then you may want to try to simply chmod the entire OS directories. Most files should belong to root/wheel, so you may also want to use chown to repair these if required. In some cases you may also need to fix permissions in the /etc directory.

As said, consider everything here as a "last option", and use at your own risk!

C'mon Apple...

4. march 2013

I've been an Apple user since 1994, that's almost 20 years now. I started with System 7.1.2 on a PowerMac, using Photoshop and Illustrator. In 1998 I started using Logic (an Emagic product back then), and I also got Final Cut as soon as it came out. The Mac got better with each OS update (okay, I didn't like OS9 that much...) and with MacOS X I was finally able to even move my entire software development to the Mac platform (while Linux still remained the primary target platform).

OSX, Logic and Final Cut got better with each release, and along with the Adobe Creative Suite they turned the Mac into an awesome production tool for pros for about 10 years. With each update I was able to increase productivity and I was quite happy about that.

But now it looks all this is going to change. OSX Lion was the worst Apple OS update I've seen so far. Lion was horrible, Mountain Lion may be a bit better but it's still far from being okay. All of this may be cool for kids, maybe it's even okay for pro-sumers, but it's a terrible downgrade for all pro users. I still use Snow Leopard on all of my production computers, and I think it's an awesome OS. I hope I won't have to get any new hardware in the near future as just don't want to work on this Lion thing.

OSX (Mountain) Lion is terrible if you're working with professional audio, video or graphics software. It sucks. It's even unusable if you're just moving around files. Everything's just slower than it has ever been before. Snow Leopard on my Macbook Pro allows me to do things faster than Mountain Lion does on our Mac Pro. That's just weird.

But the problem doesn't end there. Will I get the latest Final Cut update? Maybe, if I ignore all of the negative reviews. What about Logic? Anything? Okay, Tim Cook said there will be a new version soon, but I'm not sure what it will be like. I have one major Logic project that will be completed next year, and now I'm thinking about moving to ProTools afterwards. So it looks like I'll abandon Logic after having been a loyal customer for about 15 years...

To me it looks like Apple doesn't care about the pro Mac users anymore. iOS kiddies may be cooler, and Apple now earns most of its money with them. But I think that's a big mistake, as Android becomes stronger and the iOS hype won't last forever. It was the pro community that allowed Apple to survive during the hard times in the late 1990s, and maybe Apple will have to reply on the pro community once again in some not so distant future.

So please Apple, please change direction now!

CorneliOS/CIOS 3 now available

8. january 2013

Today we've released CorneliOS 3, including the latest CIOS framework updates.

CorneliOS/CIOS will remain our core technology for the next few years, and we've now reached a level where we can easily use it to create new platforms and projects within very little time. There will be a lot of CIOS fine-tuning this year, and some further custom APIs shall be added to the core framework.

CorneliOS 3 is the most important update ever. CorneliOS will remain an experimental technology, although the new version will be cleaned up and will be much better suited for end users. Until today CIOS fully relied on CorneliOS while CorneliOS itself remained a standalone product - this will change with CorneliOS 3, as some original CorneliOS features will be "virtualized" by using more advanced CIOS features, making the entire software even faster and easier to maintain.

At the same time we'll use the same technology to create a third API/Framework. I won't reveal any further information about this project yet, but I can already say that we've got some test code and this will help us to implement some of the "missing" stuff we'll need for future projects. I'm sure people will be quite surprised when we release this thing...

Introducing Trident (2013-2015)

7. january 2013

Today I'd like to announce that we're now moving on to the third generation of the Joopita Agile Framework, which describes the way we conceive, develop, maintain and market our projects.

The first two generations of the Joopita Agile Framework have both been great successes. The first generation(G1 "Unicorn", 2007-2009) lead to the development of CorneliOS, Galaxiki, the Jamplifier CMS and our recording studio. Using the second generation framework (G2 "Duality", 2010-2012) we developed and promoted the CIOS framework, Galaxiki 2.x and Morzino/oli.lu.

The new Joopita Agile Framework (G3 "Trident") will allow us to progress even faster within the next three years. Trident will affect all of our technologies, all of our projects and of course the way we work and develop things.

During the past few years we were mostly doing software development. This will change a lot with Trident, as there will now be three major domains we'll focus on: 1) research & development (software & platforms), 2) media(audio, video and print) and 3) the promotion of our projects. This means that we will spend less time on software development, but on the other hand our new development techniques will make sure that the output will remain the same and code quality will even be increased, reducing development and maintenance costs.

Trident will lead to a big change for the CorneliOS/CIOS framework. CorneliOS started as a CMS/API under G1 "Unicorn", while G2 "Duality" turned the software into a platform by adding the CIOS framework which was build on top of CorneliOS (asymmetric design). Trident will allow CorneliOS to connect to the CIOS API (symmetric design) and it will also add a new, third API that will add some "missing features". I cannot yet talk about the third API, as this is a top secret project.

Within the upcoming three years we'll also release a number of new software projects and community platforms. In January the Project5 website will be officially launched, this is the first CIOS based platform we developed for another non-profit organization. We will release at least one more new platform this year, and our goal is to develop one or two new major projects a year in future.

The final version of the Morzino/oli.lu project will follow in H2/2013, which will also include a standalone Open Source version of the software as well as one more major feature. We'll offer some more free content and we also plan to start promoting all of this on an international scale. The long awaited Galaxiki 3.0 will also finally become available this year.

As mentioned above we'll focus a lot more on media from now on. We have several projects that may become ready for release within the next months, but I can't reveal any details yet. These projects all require lots of time and resources and this makes it difficult to tell when they'll be ready. I can already confirm that we'll do at least one new music related project in 2013, although you'll have to wait till 2014 for the "big" things to come.

Morzino BETA 2.0

20. november 2012

Yesterday we launched Morzino BETA 2.0, including the new School Web Manager as well as updated versions of our most popular tools for schools.

During the next 12 months we'll finetune the platform and we hope the final release will be ready in mid or late 2013. Special thanks to all of those who sent suggestions and feedback.

Within the next few weeks Project5 will be officially released, it's the first CorneliOS/CIOS powered community platform we've developed for another non-profit organisation.

We'll probably release a few more new platforms in 2013, as Project5 demonstrated that we can build larger community sites rather quickly using our latest development techniques and frameworks.

This leads us to our software strategy, which will also see a major update next year. The CorneliOS project had been started in 2006/2007, with a first major update three years later in 2010 (CorneliOS/CIOS, codename "Duality"). The next iteration, codenamed "Trident", is due in 2013, although we won't reveal any details yet.

That's all for now, hope I'll fine some more time to write in future, these are busy times...

Just a few updates today...

16. july 2012

First of all, my personal blog (kirps.com) is now part of the Joopita Research site, as almost all of my IT related work is now part of the Joopita project. We're now also updating all other sites that belong to the Joopita Network.

I think we've done a really good job during the past 2 years and I'd like to thank all of those who gave us advice, feedback or helped us in any other way. Special thanks to those who made donations, including those who donated equipment, we're really happy about your support!

We're now working on further updates to the CorneliOS / CIOS core, those will be required to complete work on the next Morzino update that will hopefully become ready before the end of the year. I also think that regular CorneliOS updates will return soon as we're now ready to migrate completed experimental code to the core system.

We may also release a new Joopita IBS alpha within the next few weeks, it's been a while since the last update and we just didn't have time to work on this during the past few months. The Joopita ILS and further projects are also still in the pipeline. Stay tuned...

oli.lu BETA 1.5 succesfully launched

7. july 2012

BETA 1.5 has been launched 3 weeks ago, and this release has been even more successful than the original kickoff in November 2011. There are now hundreds of site users a day and more than 2400 visitors have created an account. There are still lots of new visitors every day now and I wonder if this will slow down a bit within the next few weeks...

On June 1st we've released some new app prototypes, some more will follow soon. I don't think there will be another big update before the holidays. We will now focus on some of the "missing features" people have been requesting.

CorneliOS 2.6 has been released today, about a month after the last update - CorneliOS/CIOS development has been slowed down during the past few weeks as we've been focusing on specific Morzino APIs that are not part of the standard package yet.

We have some great new things to come, stay tuned and please be patient!

oli.lu reloaded...

14. may 2012

Morzino/oli.lu BETA 1.5 will be officially released tomorrow, it's been in the news today (wort.lu) and we hope we'll get some more media coverage within the next few days…

BETA 1.5 offers more than 800 enhancements and new features and it's really a big step forward. Some of the features didn't make it to the current version, and we'll probably do another smaller update before the summer vacations, although that's not 100% sure yet…

The current version is running on CorneliOS/CIOS 2.5, which is a pure bugfix release so you shouldn't expect any new major features till next month.

CorneliOS 2.4 will become available today

3. april 2012

We've completed work on CorneliOS 2.4 which will become available under the GPL this evening. The update focuses on CIOS APIs and GUIs, but there are also some new CorneliOS API features and enhancements.

Today we've finished work on the new CorneliOS/CIOS virclass setup wizard which will be part of the package. I think this will help people to set up things more easily and it will allow to use all related apps without having to set up anything special. The package also includes the new work schedule editor which will also help to better understand how to set up or modify those schedules.

There's still some work to do, we're still working on one new major feature that will probably be ready within the next few weeks. As soon as this element has been completed we'll be ready to launch Morzino as BETA 1.5, so I hope this can be done this month.

Stay tuned…

New Chris album TIME released today

17. february 2012

This evening local music act Chris will release their latest EP "TIME", featuring 7 tracks and 25 minutes of music. The new EP as well as both previous CDs can be ordered on www.chris-music.com.

Just as with both previous releases I was once again responsible for the album artwork, and this time I'm really happy with it as it really looks good.

The band website is powered by Jampilfier CMS 4.2, which is the latest release of our Content Management System for artists and musicians. Version 4 offers many interface enhancements as well as some user requested features.

 

 

 
  

 

Recent updates...

7. february 2012

After taking a little break in January I'm back now with some new stuff and further updates. So here we go!

CorneliOS 2 has been launched today, version 2.2r7 is the first release for this year and todays update continues to improve our virtual classroom technology as well as other CIOS core features. We also started to make further changes to the design and style sheets, giving the OS and related platforms a more modern design.

Last years launch of oli.lu has been a real success, there are now over 1000 registered users on the site and each day about 100-200 people from Luxembourg are using the site. We got a lot of feedback and ideas, and we'll start to ship new features within the next few weeks.

We're now also finishing work on version 4 of the Jamplifier CMS, which is a content management system for musicians and artists. The new release offers many smaller enhancements as well as some bugfixes.

Work on my first full length album project is also progressing very well, and I hope I'll be able to publish some first details very soon … stay tuned!

oli.lu BETA 1.0 has been released

15. november 2011

Today we've released the first public beta of the www.oli.lu, an e-learning website that you can use to learn, practice, share, communicate and collaborate. oli.lu is the localized version for Luxembourg, while the international site is called morzino.com.

We're now looking for beta testers from all over the world, and the next step will be to fix some of the remaining problems and bugs. Some features didn't make it to this release, including the advanced wiki APIs and the new PDF API. These modules will probably become available with BETA 1.5 in March or April 2012.

The current release also features our latest load balancing technology (we call it the "load limiter"), which will become available as free software very soon (along with the next CorneliOS/CIOS update).

Next week we'll also start work on the new code for Galaxiki 3.0, which shall become available in early 2012.

The man who really invented the iPod

23. october 2011

Ten years ago today, Apple introduced the first iPod, marking an incredible comeback for the the company that was still stuggling after massive problems during the late 1990s then. With the iPod, Apple entered the consumer market and started a real revolution that changed the entire music industry.

 

340 million iPods have been sold since then, and even if the success of the portable music player is declining its technology is still around everywhere, especially in the highly popular Apple iPhone.

 

The idea to create the initial iPod goes back to hardware engineer Tony Fadell, who also brought up the idea to ship an MP3 player along with a music distribution service that should become iTunes. Tony Fadell and Michael Dhuey were responsible for the hardware while Jonathan Ivecreated the unique design (Ive is also responsible for most other Apple product designs). The iPod used an ARM processor and an operating system created by Pixo.

But did Apple and Tony Fadell really invent iPod and iTunes? Well, there was a man who already described and patented a digital music player and a digital music service via telephone line back in 1979!

Kane Kramer, a British inventor and business man, invented and designed this unique player called the "IXI" during the late 1970s, and the device even looks a bit like the original iPod from 2001. The device featured both an LCD screen and the iPod-typical control features, although you can't really compare it with a clickwheel. Kramer even thought of downloading software updates thought the phone line.

Today, Kane Kramer is still active in the technology sector, you can visit his page at www.kanekramer.com.

Morzino BETA 5

1. september 2011

We've just launched Morzino BETA 5, which will be the last test version before the official release in October 2011. This version will be mostly about adding some last missing features, fixing bugs and filling in some more content.

Preview 4 introduced the first releases of the new Library Manager and the new Wiki Manager, as well as a (nearly) final version of the new Virtual Class API. Last week we started testing the new CorneliOS Web Publisher, which now also includes the new Wiki Manager. CorneliOS already offered built-in wiki tools, inspired by MediaWiki and used by Galaxiki and the Joopita IBS for example.

The new Web Publisher however uses a triple-layer design featuring projects, pages and objects/paragraphs. It offers an "orthogonal" design which means that projects, pages and objects share the same basic feature set, making it very easy to develop reusable management tools. There is a common API responsible for the management of all objects while "viewer extensions" are responsible for displaying the content. Using these extensions we'll be able to create all kinds of wiki based apps in future.

Most of the core stuff is already working fine, but some features are still missing although we're sure they'll follow soon. Missing parts include custom ACL entries, moving objects between projects or fully implemented backups for example.

The new Web Publisher will be used on morzino.com and oli.lu, but it probably also make it to several other projects including the Joopita IBS and the Jamplifier CMS. For the moment we don't plan to use it on Galaxiki however.

Demos will follow soon, stay tuned...

Just a short update

19. august 2011

Don't have much time to write as I'm currently working on the latest Morzino BETA, it now looks like the final release will be ready for october this year. There will be some awesome new apps and changes, including a new media manager and an updated version of the web publisher. The final version will also be able to create connections between virtual classes.

Unfortunately my new music album project won't come out this year, I won't find the time to finalize it as work on Galaxiki 3.0 will probably take more time than originally expected. Most of the songwriting has been completed, and I think this will become a really cool CD. Not this year, but next year for sure. 

It looks like I'll contribute to another CD project that will become available later this year, but I can't talk about this yet. There will also be an updated version of the Jamplifier CMS very soon.

Before I forget: we've now officially killed the OLMO CMS project. I didn't find the time to work on this, and I also think there's no real market for it. Some of the ideas and concepts will probably make it to CorneliOS and Morzino one day.

New Library Manager

8. august 2011

Yesterday we installed our new library management app on morzino.com and oli.lu. It's a powerful and easy to use tool that allows to manage your books. It can be used by individuals, students, teachers, classes or school libraries, and it's completely free.

It's been exactly 10 years since I developed the OLEFA library management system, and the new software shares some of the initial concepts of the OLEFA solution. The main screen even resembles the original OLEFA layout. But this app is a complete redesign, based on the latest CorneliOS/CIOS technologies and developed using our latest agile development methods.

The current release still lacks some features, and it's not yet possible to print barcode stickers. We're currently working on a new PDF API and some of the missing features will only become available *after* work on this new API has been completed.

The entire Library Manager API will be released under the terms of the GNU General Public License (GPL)which means that you'll also be able to build your own library solutions with it for free. We hope the enitre API will be available under the terms of the GPL by the end of the year, including all features that are currently still missing.

Check it out here:

http://www.morzino.com/community/library/

http://www.oli.lu/community/library/

Galaxiki 2.5 officially released

2. july 2011

Today we're officially launching Galaxiki 2.5. We've been working on this update during the past few months, offering updates on a regular basis. All planned features are now installed and available, and we hope you all like the new stuff! 

The update includes over 100 bigger and smaller changes, many of them had been requested by our community members for a long time. A detailed list of the most important changes can be found here: 

http://galaxiki.org/info/25

Joopita Research - One Year Already!

21. june 2011

Exactly one year ago on June 21, 2010, we founded Joopita Research a.s.b.l.

In October/November 2010 we released Galaxiki 2.0, introducing the new CorneliOS/CIOS Community Layer. Galaxiki 2.0 was a successful relaunch of this great Sci-Fi community site, and the new CIOS Community Layer also clearly marked the direction our entire organization would take.

In December 2010 we released the first prototype of the Joopita IBS, the Integrated Business Suite. The IBS may still be a prototype, but it's already a very useful tool we're relying on every day. Expect to see important update to this application in 2012.

In January 2011 CorneliOS 1.0 has been released. The initial release still lacks some core features such as the DAC layer, but the software has proven to be very reliable, it's been transformed into a powerful framework/platform and it's powering all of our projects now.

In May 2011 we released the Morzino BETA preview ONE, followed by BETA TWO in June. Within the next few months we intend to finish work on the Morzino Project, which is our next generation platform for the education world.

To celebrate the first birthday of our organization we'd like to announce that work on Galaxiki 2.5 and the CIOS Community Layer 2.0 has now been finished, and Galaxiki 2.5 will be officially launched within the next few days.

CIOS Community Layer 2.0

14. june 2011

Today we've released CorneliOS 1.6r14 which includes the fully implemented CIOS Community Layer 2.0. The latest version includes many new features such as user statuses, user awards and bookmarks for example. It also includes lots of fine-tuning of the features that have already been available since late 2010 with the initial release of the framework.

The CCL 2.0 will be used as social networking backbone in all of our most important projects such as GalaxikiMorzino/oli.lu and the Joopita IBS.

We've now also updating the CorneliOS website to reflect the latest changes to our software philosophy and the global trends in web technology.

During the next few weeks we'll focus on project "Largo", also known as the CorneliOS Web Publisher, which will also be used in several online projects. Stay tuned...

Updates: CIOS, Galaxiki, Morzino and CorneliOS

13. june 2011

Work on the CIOS Community Layer 2.0 will be completed within the next few days. The new version offers user status information, a new flexible "like" feature, bookmarks, notes, user awards, you can see who's online or visited your homepage or profile as well as a large number of smaller enhancements.

Version 1.0 of the CIOS Community Layer was released in October 2010 and it was mostly responsible for the successful Galaxiki 2.0 re-launch. Most new features have already been tested on Galaxiki and so we're quite sure everything will work fine when the 2.0 Layer will be deployed on other platforms.

I think it's quite clear that the CIOS Community Layer 2.0 will be used as backbone on Galaxiki, Morzino, the Joopita IBS and other future platforms.

Galaxiki 2.5 is also almost ready, we're still testing some stuff and I think the official launch will be scheduled for July 1st 2011. The new release offers many great features that users had been requesting for a long time and we're really happy with it.

Morzino is also still on schedule, the final release is scheduled for September 2011. The public BETA 2 is out now, two very important key technologies are still missing and we hope we can offer some new stuff in July with BETA 3.

CorneliOS is progressing very well as a platform and framework, but not as well in terms of a front end tool. With the recent changes in the desktop OS market (just look at MacOS X Lion for example) it becomes clear that the age of "traditional" OS GUIs comes to an end, so it wouldn't make much sense to "emulate" old world technology on the web. 

Which means that we'll have to re-think the core philosophy behind the CorneliOS project, and this will definitely be done this year.

What's new?

3. june 2011

I had so much to do during the past few weeks that I didn't find the time to update my blog. 

So what's new?

Well, for the moment we're installing the Galaxiki 2.5 update. We're a bit late (about 2 weeks…), but most of the programming has been done and we're now testing and bugfixing stuff. Many elements have already been installed and we got lots of positive feedback.

You can now change planetary physics such as sizes and masses for example. The site now also automatically calculates volumes, densities, gravitation values and escape velocities for millions of planets in realtime. Really cool. Check it out here:

http://www.galaxiki.org

The second Morzino BETA Preview will become available very soon, probably within the next few days. We added many small things (those that you won't immediately notice most of the time), but there are also some new completely apps (Hangman, Sudoku and the Work Manager for example). Here's the site:

http://www.morzino.com

If you're from Luxembourg then you may want to check out the localized version:

http://www.oli.lu

Bye for now...

Morzino BETA Preview release available now

1. may 2011

We've just released the Morzino BETA Preview, which means that the site is now ready to be tested. Morzino is a free and open eLearning community for students, parents and teachers. 

Some features have not been implemented yet, but they will follow soon. We hope that the final version of the site will become available during the second half of 2011.

Morzino is based on the CIOS framework, which is part of the CorneliOS web OS. Morzino uses the same technology as the popular Galaxiki site at its core.

Morzino is currently available in english, although some of the content has also been translated to german, french and luxembourgish already. Futher languages shall follow soon. morzino.de is the localized version for the german speaking market while oli.lu is a dedicated release for the luxembourgish eduction market.

More than 95% of the Morzino code is available as free software under the GPL as it's part of CorneliOS and CIOS, you may download it now from the CorneliOS website.

Joopita Web Directory Shutdown

15. april 2011

In early April 2011 we've decided to terminate the Joopita Web Directory project. Joopita.com was our first web directory project, launched back in October 2007 as one of the first CorneliOS powered sites. 

It has been online for three and a half years and it was a very successful project for us, with more than 30,000 users submitting about 50,000 websites. It was even ranked among the top 50,000 websites worldwide and among the top 5,000 sites in India on Alexa in 2009.

So why do we end this project if it's been so successful?

Well, we think the days of web directories are over. The Joopita Web Directory had it's time, but now it has become more or less obsolete, just as much as most other web directories too. After the latest Google software updates traffic dropped considerably and most search engines even start to completely exclude smaller web directories from their top results. We don't want to invest time in technology that has no real future.

But we've learned a lot from this project, and the core technology won't be lost. We will also continue to invest time in search and directory technology, but this will probably end up in completely new projects.

Joopita.com has been offline since April 3. The shutdown also means that sister projects on Galaxiki and Morzinowill be closed too.

We'd like to thank all of those who supported the directory, linked to it and submitted websites to it during the past few years.

R.I.P Joopita Web Directory...

Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space

12. april 2011

Exactly 50 years ago, on 12 April 1961, soviet cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin became the first human being to leave Earth, to fly into space and to experience weightlessness. 

Even if it was just a single 108 minutes low orbit flight this day has been a major event in space history and also a major coup for Moscow in its Cold War space race with the United States.

After the successful flight Gagarin became a worldwide celebrity, visiting Italy, Germany, Canada, Brazil, Japan, Finland and the United Kingdom, promoting the Soviet Union of being the first country to put a human in space. 

Gararin never returned to space as officials were worried losing their hero in an accident. Ironically he died only a few years later, on 27 March 1968, during a routine training flight in a MiG 15.

A fifth force of nature detected at Fermilab?

10. april 2011

Yesterday, Fermilab announced that scientists at the Tevatron particle accelerator discovered an anomaly that could hint at a completely new particle, as well as at a fifth force in the universe. This could be really big news as there haven't been many exciting new discoveries in particle physics during the past two decades. The four currently known forces are gravity, electromagnetism as well as the strong and the weak nuclear forces.

This discovery - if it can be confirmed by scientists using data from other accelerators - could lead to completely new theories, change the entire world of physics and finally get us a lot closer to a "theory of everything" after decades lacking any real progress.

The new discovery seems to point at a theory called "Technicolor" (not to be confused with the motion picture process), which is a theory derived from Quantum chromodynamics about 20 years ago. Technicolor could explain particle masses without the need of a "Higgs Boson" (the so-called "God particle" they're looking for at the CERN/LHC in Geneva, Switzerland).

Personally I really hope this is something big, leading to new physics, as I never liked the Higgs Boson concept and the related theory as they require a lot of predefined and unexplainable values. So let's hope it's not just a statistical fluke or a simple mistake. We'll probably know within a few months, as many scientists will now start looking at collected data all over the world.

Unfortunately Tevatron is scheduled to be shut down in september as the US government cut down budgets during the past few years, so scientists will have to continue their search for new Technicolor particles at the LHC or other accelerators.

News can be found on CNN and Escapist Magazine, check out Wikipedia for some info about Technicolor.

Reviewing 2010

11. january 2011

The most important thing we did in 2010 was probably the creation of Joopita Research a.s.b.l, a non-profit organisation that will serve as a legal basis for all of our projects. We moved to a new data center, got a new server and backup systems. And the best part is that donations and ads currently allow to cover our bills, so thanks to all of those supporting us.

One of the highlights of 2010 was the successful Galaxiki 2.0 relaunch. During the second half of the year Galaxiki has been ported to CIOS, adding the CIOS community layer with tons of new social features. The next big Galaxiki update (2.5) is now scheduled for March 2011, adding even more social features to the framework.

The CorneliOS web desktop made some serious progress in 2010, and in January 2011 we were able to finally release version 1.0. Not all planned features made it to the final release, notably the DAC layer is still missing. But we're working on it and we're positive that all missing key features will become available this year.

CorneliOS is still the core technology behind all of our software projects, and the CIOS framework will allow us to implement some more great products in 2011. In 2010 CorneliOS also clearly surpassed OLEFA in terms of vision, technology and popularity.

In late 2009 we decided to return to the education market, so last year we had to think of some new educational concepts and technologies. We think we have developed some awesome new ideas now and we plan to turn them into a usable product in 2011. Stay tuned as we have some great stuff in the pipeline.

Finally we also released the Joopita IBS in late 2010. The Integrated Business Suite (IBS) is an application suite for businesses, organizations and institutions. It's still an alpha prototype, but it clearly demonstrates where we're heading too.

So what's up for 2011? Well, we guess you'll have to wait and see...

First experiences with an iPad

15. december 2010

This is the first blog post I'm writing on an iPad, I'm quite sure this will take me longer than expected. Probably i'll get used to it, but it sure will take some time.

First of all: the iPad is not a workstation. It will not replace your desktop computer, your laptop of even your netbook. It's a gadget that allows to consume stuff, but it's definately not a production tool. At least not yet, or at least not to me.

Surfin the internet on the iPad is great, websites look better than on any desktop or laptop, it's fun to read news, Wikipedia articles, or to hang around on Social Network sites. Clicking links works fine, even if they're small. The multitouch software is really gerat and has nothing to do with the old Newton stuff.

Writing text on the software keyboard works better than expected, and i'll probably improve with time. Switching from letters to numbers and to special characters can be a bit painful. And I'm definately missing the arrow keys to move around in a text box. Pointing at words or characters on the screen using your finger is slower than using a good keyboard or a mouse. I certainly won't write a book an the iPad, at least not until I'll get much faster at typing. Maybe I should get the optional hardware keyboard.

The international support doesn't always work correctly. I switched the keyboard and the iOS languages a few times and now some apps (like the App Store for example) show a mix of english and german language. The spellchecker still replaces english words with german in some cases, which is very annoying. Hope Apple will fix this soon.

The iPad is a wonderful gaming machine, and I think it could even become a major threat to the old school game console companies such as Sony or Nintendo. Its also a really cool social networking device, the software keyboard is perfect for writing short messages on Facebook, Twitter and other social sites. And it would be a great device for education, although it's probably too expensive and fragile.

There are apps for almost everything, I installed a Terminal for example so that I can check and manage my servers via SSH. With iPhone and iPad you're now able to fix server issues whereever you are, as long as you have a wifi or mobile signal. Unfortunately you can't develop and web server software as you don't have direct access to Apache or other core technologies.

So does anybody really need an iPad? I don't think so. But its a nice tool, it's fun and if you just want to read or browse the web then it's absolutely wonderful.

Joopita IBS alpha prototype has been released

8. december 2010

Today we proudly announce the immediate availability of the Joopita IBS (Integrated Business Suite). The Joopita IBS is a suite of tools for businesses, organisations and institutions. It improves your internal communications and allows to manage contacts, todo lists, calendars and more. 

The Joopita IBS is Free Software, released under the GPL. You may download it for free, use it at will, take a look at its source code or modify it. 

It is a completely new software product, based on our proven CorneliOS and CIOS technology. It is still a prototype and shall not be used in production environments. Greatly improved updates will become available in 2011. 

The Joopita IBS can be used on all platforms and with all modern web browsers. Linux or MacOS X are required on the server side. Check our dedicated page about the IBS for more information about the software:

http://ibs.joopita.org

 

Working on some new ideas...

1. december 2010

Ten years after I came up with the original concept that lead to the development of OLEFA (which is now the most successful education platform in Luxembourg) I'm now planning to create some new ideas for the education market.

So today I'd like to reveal some first details. Let's start with some differences between OLEFA and my new project:

- unlike OLEFA it will NOT be a Content Management System for schools

- unlike OLEFA it will NOT be designed for the education market in Luxembourg

- unlike OLEFA it will NOT myschool!, Technolink or any other platform in Luxembourg

- unlike OLEFA it will be FREE and nobody will have to pay for it

So what will it be?

- it will be a set of solutions and ideas for the global education market

- it will be partly implemented as software, and all elements will be free software released under the GPL

What will it be about? Well, for now I'm focusing on the following aspects:

- content copyrights, licenses and all legal implications in educational environments

- learning process optimization (inspired by some business solutions)

- sharing documents and information

- the promotion of free software and free educational resources

This may not sound very interesting for the moment, but I think this could become a really cool project. I'm now beta testing some prototype stuff and I hope this thing will become available in 2011...

MacOS X 10.6.5 localhost Cookie problems

15. november 2010

After updating my laptop to MacOS X 10.6.5 I noticed that I can no longer login to my test system as cookies no longer work when using the localhost IP address (127.0.0.1). 

Not a big problem as you'll simply have to go with the hostname (something.local) but nevertheless a bit disturbing at the first moment. I guess it's caused by the following element of the 10.6.5 update:

CFNetwork - CVE-ID: CVE-2010-1834 - Impact: Visiting a maliciously crafted website may cause cookies to be set for other sites - Description: An implementation issue exists in CFNetwork's handling of domain specifications in cookies. CFNetwork allows cookies to be set for a partial IP address. A maliciously crafted website may set a cookie that will be sent to a third-party site, if the third-party site is accessed by IP address. This update addresses the issue by through improved validation of domains specified in cookies.

Can be found here: support.apple.com/kb/HT4435

I guess I'll have to get used to it...

How 2010 changed the software development market

3. november 2010

This year we've seen some major changes that will definitely affect the global software development market in the following years. And I'm not only talking about the iPad, iOS or Android here.

The most important element may be the appearance of first HTML5 demos, which clearly show how HTML5 and CSS3 may change the way we're experiencing the web. HTML5 will take us to a completely new level when it comes to online apps, games and tools, and I guess we'll see some very impressive things here within the next few years.

I think HTML5 is a real Flash killer - Flash will probably still be around for a few years, but it will become less important and loose its position as the number one tool when it comes to interactive apps or games, and we'll see a massive Flash decline in 2015 or even much earlier. Even some Microsoft guy just announced that they will drop their plans to market Silverlight as a Flash counterpart and to bet on HTML5 instead.

Big bonus: Microsoft finally admitted that their Internet Exploder browser is total crap (well, they didn't say it that way, but they definitely meant it), and now they're trying really hard to build the very first browser that finally respects web standards, including HTML5 and CSS3. And they're doing quite well by the way.

And then there's the Oracle/Sun deal. The purchase of Sun by Oracle has lead to the end of Open Solaris, and soon we'll probably see the end of Open Office - not that Oracle will drop it, but maybe everybody else will. And a lot of people even worry about the possible future of Java. Not only Google or Android developers, but probably the entire Java industry.

Personally I think Sun, Solaris, Open Office and Java are lost as they've fallen into the hands of the dark side, and I'm definitely not willing to bet anything on these technologies anymore. It's just too risky after all. 

Anyway, if you compare the technologies I mentioned here then I'd say that HTML5 and CSS3 represent a (hopefully) bright web based future for both content and applications, while the entire Oracle "old world stuff" will sooner or later end up in a very dark corner of some obscure computer museum.

Celebrating 10 Years of OLEFA: 2000-2010

26. october 2010

Ten years ago, in late 2000, I started a software project called OLEFA - today the software has become one of the most popular software projects ever from Luxembourg, used in 36 cities with more than 10.000 users, 60.000 published pages and over 160.000 books managed in about 100 school and public libraries. So I think it's worth celebrating the project's 10th birthday by at least publishing a dedicated page about it on the OLEFA History website:

http://olefa.kirps.com/web/main/olefa/hb2010

Galaxiki 2.0 Public BETA

18. october 2010

Today we've launched the Galaxiki 2.0 Public BETA - most of the new features are now available, those still missing will go live within the next few days and weeks. The final Galaxiki 2.0 release is scheduled for mid November.

We started working on the new site version about a year ago, it was really a lot of work to make this update happen but now we're more than happy with the result - we think that this piece of technology gets us up to a completely new level!

The good part is that most of the new core features are based on CorneliOS/CIOS, which means that we'll be able to easily reuse them for other projects... But that's not the point here, we hope you'll find the time to check out the new site and we really hope you like it!

Check out the info page on Galaxiki:

galaxiki.org/info/20

More info is also available on the Joopita Research website:

joopita.org

Just a few updates today

16. october 2010

The Galaxiki 2.0 Public BETA will become available within the next few days, followed by some internal promo. We worked damn hard on this during the past few months and we think it's absolutely awesome. The official public launch of the new site version is scheduled for mid November. More info shall follow soon.

CorneliOS 1.0 will be released in early January 2011 and we've already defined the primary targets for the next major release CorneliOS 2.0, which is due in early 2012. We won't reveal any details yet, but we'd like to emphasize that you won't see any CorneliOS/CIOS development slowdown next year.

Finally we'll have to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the OLEFA CMS soon, even if I'm no longer involved in this project. I originally started the development of OLEFA in late 2000, which means that this product has now been around for an incredible 10 years.

CorneliOS BETA 2 available now

4. october 2010

From joopita.org:

Today we've released CorneliOS BETA 2 (release 0.10.10r4), which marks the last phase in the development cycle that shall lead to the final CorneliOS 1.0 release which is due in January 2011.

BETA 2 already offers the new CorneliOS session management and other improvements, and the global focus will now shift from CIOS to CorneliOS within the next few weeks.

A lot of work still has to be done - the DAC layer is still missing, the core apps have to be refined and the user interface has to be tweaked. Work on the DAC layer will start in October, this will be the most tricky part so we'd like to face it as early as possible. But we're very confident that all work will be finished by the end of the year.

CorneliOS is available as free Open Source software under the GPL and can be downloaded from Sourceforge.net. Visit cornelios.org for more information.

New website design

26. september 2010

After three years it was about time to update the design of my website and blog. So say goodbye to the old look and welcome the new one which has been greatly inspired by the new Joopita Research website

I'll also consider my private page as an element of the Joopita Research network now, as it mostly covers my work for Joopita Research and related subjects. Advertisements are also back, these are required to keep our hardware network up and running as we're a non-profit organisation.

This was also a great moment to update some stuff on my page, so most areas have been revised or completed now.

Hope you like the new content and design!

Progress report

26. august 2010

In July we released CorneliOS BETA 1, which is focusing on the CIOS framework while the upcoming BETA 2 will be mostly about CorneliOS core technologies and basic applications. The final CorneliOS 1.0 release is still on schedule for January 2011.

BETA 1 is progressing very well, the rough work has been completed as the CIOS community and CIOS app layers as well as the renewed session management have been implemented. The community layer is performing well and we're now implementing it on some sites, although there's still fine-tuning to be done. The app layer looks great too, but here's still some work to do and some major features are still missing. Anyway, there's 5 weeks left to complete that stuff and we're quite sure this will absolutely rock when it's finished.

CorneliOS BETA 2 will be launched in October and will focus on the DAC (Dynamic Access Control) layer as well as on the user, website and database management apps. Finishing the apps will be the easier part, there's a lot of fine-tuning to do although we don't think this will be so challenging. The tough part will be the DAC, which will add modular access control features, although we're absolutely confident that this can be done. But it's still not sure if or how DAC features could be used by the CIOS layer too.

CIOS now includes most of the core technology originally found in the Galaxiki community website, plus tons of new stuff including social networking features. Which means that it will become much easier for us the create new collaborative websites in future - Galaxiki has already been ported to the new technology, and we expect to have up to three community sites online by the end of the year.

Bad news is that we've stalled development of the OLMO CMS only one year after announcing it, which means that this software won't be ready for January 2011. The reason for this decision was that we now think the initial concept wasn't innovative enough, especially when compared to our latest stuff such as the CIOS community and app layers. In the end OLMO looked a bit like OLEFA with a CorneliOS backend, and this is not where we'd like to end up. All of this doesn't mean that OLMO's a dead project, but it will be delayed until we've refined the core concept so that it meets our expectations.

Work on the recording studio is also progressing well, and we're actively working on first projects. Nevertheless we decided not to finish work on these projects until we'll get our digital mixing console, which will help to save a lot of time over the DAW-only approach. Another change of concept is that we'll probably be replacing the analog patchbay for the outgear by a digital solution. This all means that first project releases shouldn't be expected before 2011.

And finally: as our work has become quite popular all around the world we decided to found a non-profit organization which will serve as a legal framework and as a recognizable label for our projects. The non-profit organization has been created on June 21, 2010, and it's called Joopita Research. Our new website can be found at www.joopita.org.

CorneliOS BETA 1 available now

6. july 2010

Today we've released CorneliOS BETA 1, which offers a renewed home application and kicks off the official BETA testing phase. Within the next 6 months we'll fine-tune the UI, we'll add some missing stuff such as the DAC layer and we'll greatly improve the user and database managers. The first CorneliOS release for end users will be ready in January 2010.

CIOS will also see some major updates, we'll introduce the new community layer soon, there will be a new language management library and we're also working on a new application management layer. Within the next few months we'll update our community platforms to support the new CIOS and CorneliOS features.

As promised before we'll also introduce some completely new products and platforms this year, so stay tuned...

CorneliOS/CIOS strategy update

8. june 2010

The good news first: CorneliOS development is still on schedule and we're quite confident that the first release targeted at end users (CorneliOS 1.0) will become available as originally expected in January 2011. 

The bad news is that some core technology prototypes have been delayed and will not yet be available with the upcoming CorneliOS Beta 1 in July, this includes the DAC (Dynamic Access Control) layer as well as fully implemented user and database management applications. These features will only ship later this year, probably as part of CorneliOS Beta 2.

These delays are partly due to the fact that we invested much more time than initially expected in other new technologies. These new technologies include CIOS (the CorneliOS I/O System) as well as the CMS for musicians that has been greatly improved within the past few weeks.

CIOS has become more and more important during the past few months and we think that CIOS will indeed become the primary core technology used in most of our upcoming software projects. CIOS itself makes heavy use of the CorneliOS core system and is technically part of the CorneliOS software distribution.

This evolution will probably also influence the future of both CorneliOS and CIOS - CorneliOS could turn into an interesting research project while CIOS will probably become the invisible core behind many end user solutions...

New Desdemonia website online

17. may 2010

During the past few weeks I completed work on the new version of the Desdemonia website, which is now powered by the same CorneliOS based CMS already used by the Pagan Lorn and Chris music websites. Further changes to the site are planned and will probably go online in mid June, but this already gives a good impression of the new site features. 

Check out the new Desdemonia website here:

www.desdemonia.net

 

First proton beam collisions at the LHC

30. march 2010

Today at about 13:00 local time scientists at the world's largest particle accelerator LHC first managed to collide beams at 7 TeV, which marks the official launch of the LHC programme at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. Only ten days ago they managed to circulate two 3.5 TeV proton beams in the large 27 km ring, which already marked a new world record. 

All collision detectors seem to work fine now, after the LHC experienced major technical problems during the past few years and the entire experiment had to be delayed on several occasions.

Scientists are now increasing up the number of collisions, although it may take months or even years until one can expect first publications about the results of the experiments.

CorneliOS with HTML5 and CSS3 support

28. february 2010

Next week we'll release CorneliOS 0.3.10 which will include completely new render engines supporting both HTML5 and CSS3 features. All libraries have been updated to match the preliminary HTML5 specs so that most CorneliOS and CIOS websites will now generate valid HTML5 code. We made sure to only use features that are currently supported by all major browsers including IE7/8, Firefox, Safari, Chrome and Opera. Only very few UI features are currently not supported by Internet Explorer and Opera, although this doesn't affect any functionality.

We're really satisfied with the reliability of the new engines and most of our websites already make use of them and render their code as HTML5. We expect that all of our websites will be using the new engines by the end of March.

We've also added some really important new technologies to our pipeline, we hope most of those new ideas will make it to the market in 2010. There will be a new community front end that will rely on a new database layer - this thing should be ready within the next two months or so and we're really pushing this as we'd like to use it on multiple sites. We've also worked on some new search engine technologies during the past few years, and we think we can finally turn this into a working product this year.

Most of these core technologies will of course be released as part of CorneliOS and CIOS and will thus become available for free under the GNU General Public License (GPL).

February updates...

8. february 2010

January is already over and I didn't even find the time to post a single message on my blog :-( Anyway, there was a lot of work as we migrated all of our websites to a new server during the past few weeks, and we updated a lot of stuff at the same time. Unfortunately we had to deal with some performance problems after the migration, we hope this will be fixed soon...

We've also set up our new application and file server - the software powering this machine is performing very well and it will be released as an Open Source project this year. All of our internal stuff has been moved to the new architecture and we're very happy with the results.

Within the next few days we'll also release another CorneliOS update - the basic development strategy remains the same, although some planned user interface features have been axed while we'll be focusing on some additional CIOS libraries that will be required for some of our upcoming projects.

As already mentioned in a few of my previous posts we intend to launch some really cool new stuff in 2010, but I won't give you any more details right now, although I can tell that we're very excited about our latest prototypes...

Happy New Year!

31. december 2009

Last updates for 2009...

30. december 2009

2009 was mostly about updating our infrastructure and technologies - the recording studio is now operational, our file and application server is up and running, all of our PowerPC based Macs have been retired and most of the software has been updated. 

CorneliOS is progressing well, CIOS has become a viable basis for our platforms and a lot of new software and multimedia projects will be ready for release in 2010. Two days ago we've released CorneliOS 0.9.12r28 which will be the last update for this year. This will also be the last release of CorneliOS Developer Preview One, in January we'll move on with CorneliOS DP2.

CorneliOS Developer Preview Two (DP2) will mostly focus on the Virtual File System (VFS), the user manager and the database manager. As mentioned before we'll also release some new software and multimedia projects in 2010, but we won't reveal any these yet. Check back soon for further updates...

In January we'll start moving most of our software platforms onto a new webserver. At the same time we'll do some refactoring, which means that parts of the project code will be transformed into reusable CorneliOS and/or CIOS libraries. Most projects will also be cleaned up and get an updated design.

Software updates...

3. november 2009

After the announcement of the new CorneliOS software strategy we've made some serious progress, so I'm glad to reveal some details now...

Yesterday we've released the CorneliOS WebOS 0.9.11, which finally adds support for multiple languages in the CMS. This was one of the last popular OLEFA features that was not yet available for CorneliOS, and we're really happy that the CorneliOS implementation is even better than expected.

The next big challenge will be the full implementation of the CorneliOS VFS (Virtual File System) specifications, which includes the DAC (Dynamic Access Control) permission model as well as built-in backup features.

We're now also working on dedicated websites for CorneliOS developers and end users, although these will only be released in 2010.

A first CorneliOS website for the Unversity of Luxembourg has just been completed - mondiab.com is a website for people suffering from diabetes. 

A new OLMO CMS developer preview will probably become available next week, it shall include a Content Management System offering some basic features. It may even include a first release of the OLMO client utility.

This week we're also installing our new application server, which will run a new CRM/SRM & project management software that's more or less a successor of the original OLEFA EiS (Enterprise Intelligence System). It's a CIOS project making heavy use of the CorneliOS SQL application libraries.

This software will (of course) also become available under the GNU General Public License (GPL), although I can't tell when it will be ready for a first release.

Software simulation of a human brain

7. october 2009

The Blue Brain Project is an attempt to create a synthetic brain by reverse-engineering the mammalian brain down to the molecular level, and it is hoped that it will eventually shed light on the nature of consciousness.

In December 2006 the initial goal of the project had been completed: the simulation of a rat neocortical column, which is also responsible for conscious thought of rats. Henry Markram, director of the Blue Brain Project, then said that he thinks it will be possible to simulate a human brain, including aspects of consciousness, within only 10 years. The project has been launched in 2005 by scientists in Switzerland, Europe, and uses an IBM Blue Gene supercomputerrunning a software called NEURON. The NEURON software is capable of simulating an artificial neural network and offers a biologically realistic model of brain structures.

NEURON was primarily developed by Michael Hines, John W. Moore, and Ted Carnevale at Yale and Duke. The software simulates brain structures while it offers a shell, an own scripting language as well as a Python interface. The software is known for its extreme parallelism, which allows to take full advantage of massively parallel supercomputers. The project currently uses an IBM Blue Gene supercomputer, which is required to allow simultaneous simulation of thousands of neurons (and probably millions in future).

The IBM Blue Gene supercomputer is powered by thousands of PowerPC processors. Each compute node contains two CPUs as well as a cache sub-system and the logic to support multiple communication sub-systems. Compute nodes are packaged two per compute card, with 16 compute cards plus up to 2 I/O nodes per node board. There are 32 node boards per rack. Each Blue Gene/L node is attached to three parallel communications networks, including a 3D toroidal network for peer-to-peer communication between compute nodes.

Using this outstanding combination of software and hardware, the project leaders even expect that it may become possible to simulate a first mammmal brain as soon as in 2010.

Music News - October 2009

1. october 2009

Today we'd like to reveal four completely new music related products and projects:

1. New Chris album "No Excuses" out now

2. New Chris website is online

3. New Content Management System (CMS) for musicians

4. New Recording Studio

Here are some more details:

1) Tomorrow the new Chris EP "No Excuses" will be presented to the public at Casino 2000 in Mondorf (Luxembourg). This is the second Chris EP after the successful "Open End" from 2007, featuring six brand new tracks. I created the cover artwork (booklet, tray, image processing, …) as well as some of the PR stuff.

2) The new Chris website www.chris-music.com is now online. We're now filling it with content, and it will soon be possible to purchase tracks from both "No Excuses" and "Open End" online. There is also some brand new merchandising (t-shirts, longsleeves and more) available that can already be ordered. Merchandising will also be available tomorrow at Casino 2000.

3) The Chris website is powered by a new Content Management System for artists. This new CMS is based on the CorneliOS WebOS and the CIOS framework, it will probably be used for all of my future music related projects.

3) Our new recording studio is now operational. It's a small project studio and I hope some great music will soon be produced here. I won't offer any further information about the new studio yet, but you may check out some photos from my old studio that have been published on my website a few days ago.

CIOS - a new framework for Perl applications

29. september 2009

CIOS allows to rapidly build and deploy powerful web applications and community platforms. Based on CorneliOS, it offers a gateway to CorneliOS WebOS features from within common Perl applications.

Past week we migrated the Joopita web directory technology to CIOS, the new CIOS-based versions are already installed on our servers and they are running just fine. The all new OLMO CMS has also been moved to CIOS, expect a new developer preview release within the following weeks.

CIOS is part of the CorneliOS software distribution and is released under the GPL, which means that you can download and use it for free. A website for the CIOS API project has been set up, check out cios.cornelios.org for further information about CIOS.

CorneliOS can be downloaded from sourceforge.net, CIOS is part of the latest CorneliOS 0.9.9 release.

Snow Leopard - Install MySQL and Perl DBI/DBD

13. september 2009

I just installed Snow Leopard on my MacBook Pro and it runs just fine. Unfortunately some people seem to have problems to get MySQL and/or Perl DBI working on MacOS X, so here's a little post that my help.

One of the big advantages of MacOS X 10.6 is the fact that a lot of disk space is being freed up. Snow Leopard achieves this by removing lots of things from your disk, but in some cases this may also affect some UNIX software you've manually installed on your machine. So don't forget to backup all the weird stuff you've installed on your machine!

So here's what to do if you wish to use MySQL along with Perl on your Snow Leopard workstation or server:

First you'll have to download MySQL from www.mysql.com. I've opted for the 64 bit x86 disk image. You'll have to create an account on the MySQL site if you don't have one yet.

The downloaded image contains three components: the MySQL installer, the startup item installer (both MacOS X packages) and the preferences pane. Install the database engine and the startup item by double clicking the packages and by following the onscreen instructions.

Move the preference pane to /Library/PreferencePanes. This will allow to start/stop the MySQL engine using the MacOS X preferences app later on.

For some obscure reason you won't be able to start MySQL after installing it, as some access rights are not being correctly applied during the installation process.

To solve this problem, open a terminal and type the following:

cd /usr/local/mysql

Now change the access rights to the data directory so that you can read and write this directory. For example:

chown -R mysql data

I'd also recommend to add a .profile file in your MacOS X home directory (/Users/YourName/.profile) which should contain the following line:

export PATH="$PATH:/usr/local/mysql/bin"

This will allow to use the commands in /usr/local/mysql/bin in your terminal, no matter what your current working path is.

Use the MySQL preference pane in the MacOS X preferences to start the MySQL database, or type the following in your terminal:

mysql start

If the engine doesn't start up, check the permissions of /usr/local/mysql/data once again and fix them if required.

As soon as the MySQL engine is running, change the mysql root password using mysqladmin:

mysqladmin -u root password "somepassword"

Now you can create your databases, tables and everything else.

To access the MySQL database from your Perl scripts you'll have to install Perl DBI. Snow Leopard upgrades Perl from 5.8 to 5.10, and deletes everything related to Perl 5.8 - if you had DBI/DBD installed then the MacOS X updater will now have removed it.

Install (or reinstall) DBI using the following command in your terminal:

sudo cpan DBD::mysql

For some obscure reason cpan didn't manage to install DBI on my laptop. In this case you'll have to install it manually. Open the following URL in your web browser:

http://search.cpan.org

Search for "DBD::mysql" and download the latest package. The zipped package should be saved in your Downloads folder. Open it if it hasn't been unpacked automatically.

Use your terminal and move inside the DBD::mysql directory. Then type the following commands:

perl ./Makefile.PL

make

sudo make install

If you're lucky you won't get any serious errors (warnings are okay), which means that both MySQL and Perl DBI/DBD have been successfully installed.

Okay, hope this helps - have fun with Perl and MySQL!!!

Introducing OLMO

8. september 2009

Today we're announcing a new Open Source software project called "OLMO". OLMO is an alternative GUI layer for the CorneliOS WebOS, it is targeted at consumers and shall make it easier to use the most important CorneliOS features in future.

A dedicated website for the project has been set up (olmo.cornelios.org) and first elements of the OLMO API have been released as Open Source software under the GPL (GNU Public License) today. 

The current release cannot yet be used or tested, the files have only been included as a demo for developers. Upcoming releases shall include a complete running system.

The OLMO API files can be downloaded from sourceforge.net. OLMO requires CorneliOS 0.9.8 or better, previous releases are not supported. CorneliOS 0.9.9 is strongly recommended.

New strategy will make CorneliOS more attractive for end users.

7. september 2009

CorneliOS is an Open Source WebOS and application framework project I started back in 2006. During the past few years I've used CorneliOS as Content Management System (CMS) for my websites and it served as a viable application framework for my community platform projects.

Unfortunately CorneliOS has never been a successful mass market product - the user interface is probably too technical and GUI tools for many of its core technologies are still missing. For a long time it has not been clear if CorneliOS should remain a pure developer framework or if it should also become a consumer oriented project.

Today I'm glad to announce that a new strategy has been developed to turn CorneliOS into an attractive end user product. But it's not only planned to complete CorneliOS and to make it more user friendly - there will also be an alternative GUI project especially targeted at consumers and non-professional users. This new GUI will be completely based on CorneliOS although it will look and feel like a standalone software.

A new development strategy has been set up to achieve the new goals:

The current CorneliOS 0.9.9 release has now been entitled Developer Preview ONE (DP1). The main goal of DP1 will be to fully implement the most important core technologies, including the CorneliOS VFS (Virtual File System) and DAC (Dynamic Access Control), to integrate them with the system kernel and IO layer, and finally to make those features available to all users via usable tools, mainly the CorneliOS file manager. Developer Preview TWO (DP2) shall follow in early 2010, the main goal will be to finish further core features as well as all required system management tools.

In Q2 2010 a first consumer BETA shall be released, which should be considered to be a pure preview for end users. BETA 2 shall finally be the first version meant to be used on end user production systems, this is planned for mid 2010. A third BETA shall follow in late 2010, focusing on the GUI and feature finetuning.

The final product shall be launched as CorneliOS 1.0 in early 2011.

Check out the official CorneliOS project website for more information. CorneliOS Developer Preview ONE (DP1), release 0.9.9, can be downloaded for free as Open Source software from sourceforge.net.

I'm back

1. september 2009

Exactly one year ago I left my former company EducDesign, and people keep asking me what I'm working on for the moment. It has been rather quiet during the past few months. No major news were posted on my website. 

Well, I had to reorganize a lot of things, which took a lot of time after all. Creating cool products not only requires time, but also an adequate infrastructure, hardware, software, technologies, strategies and much more.

The good news is that most of these technical goals have now been achieved, and new stuff will be releasedvery soon. There will be new software projects and platforms, based on the CorneliOS application framework. And there will also be projects that will not be software related at all.

So stay tuned and expect more news within the next few weeks...

Spend your Holidays at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant

3. march 2009

About 23 years ago, on April 26 1986, reactor 4 at the Chernobyl plant exploded after a safety device test during the reactor shutdown rendered the core unstable. The test had been run by an unexperienced crew who had overrun and disabled numerous security systems and had thus ignored many security rules. 

 

It was the worst nuclear power plant accident in history, and the resulting fallout affected large territories on the northern hemisphere. It was not the first major accident at the Chernobyl plant, there was already a partial core meltdownwhich occurred in reactor no. 1 four years earlier.

 

After the disaster a protective box was placed over the wrecked reactor, which has become known as the "sarcophagus". It was never designed to last for the 100 years needed to contain the radioactivity found within the remains of reactor 4, and experts even fear that it may collapse one day. This is why a new shelter is planned to be installed within the next few years.

Most people working at the power plant lived in Pripyat, a city located only a few miles from the plant that had been built for the power plant workers and their families. After the accident the 50,000 habitants of Pripyat as well as another 85,000 people within a 30 kilometer zone (the so called "zone of alienation") had to be evacuated. 

Today Pripyat is an abandoned city, although some people living in the villages surrounding Pripyat returned to their homes after the accident and still live there today.

What most people do not know is the fact that the nuclear plant was not shut down after the accident. The three remaining reactors continued operating, and shortly after the disaster the city of Slavutych was constructed to replace Prypiat. Despite the high levels of radiation thousands of people still worked at the Chernobyl plant until it was finally shut down in December 2000 after massive pressure and payments by western nations. Reactor 2 had already been shut down in 1991 after another severe accident which seriously damanged its reactor building.

Over twenty years after the accident radiation levels are still high in Pripyat, although they are no longer considered to be life threatning for visitors. The core of the reactor 4 still contains a large number of highly radioactive materials, but these don't have direct contact to the atmosphere.

It's now even possible to visit Pripyat for everyone as tourist offices in Kiew offer visits to the abandoned city. The main roads have been decontaminated and most buildings are open to tourists, although it's not recommended to stay too long inside rooms that have not been decontaminated. The bus will even take you to the nuclear power plant so that you may take a closer look at the sarcophagus.

There are still people working at the power plant today, their job is to keep an eye on the shut down reactors and to fix the sarcophagus until a new steel containment structure will be ready to replace it. Sometimes visitors are even allowed to enter the nuclear plant, and on rare occasions you may also enter the control room of reactor 4. 

Entering the sarcophagus is, of course, strictly prohibited for tourists, although some workers of the plant enter it on a regular basis to check its structure. Workers are only allowed to remain a few minutes at a time inside the sarcophagus as radiation levels are still quite high here, even if the core itself has been covered by thousands of tons of sand, lead, clay, boron and concrete.

Happy Birthday, Apple Macintosh!

24. january 2009

Exactly 25 years ago, on January 24, 1984, Apple Computer launched the first Macintosh computer. It was the first commercially successful computer featuring a mouse and a graphical user interface (GUI). The Macintosh was introduced by the famous "1984" television commercial by Ridley Scott which aired during Super Bowl XVIII.

The original Mac was designed by an Apple development team in the late 1970s, inspired by workstations created by Xerox employees at the Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center). The team was lead by Apple founder Steve Jobs and included famous developers such as Jef Raskin and Bill Atkinson. The computer featured a Motorola 68000 processor running at 8 Mhz, 128 KB RAM, 64 KB ROM, a 9-inch 512x342 pixel monochrome display, a keyboard and a mouse. It also came with two applications, MacWrite and MacPaint.

Shortly after the successful launch of the Apple Macintosh, founder Steve Jobs left the company in 1985 after disputes with the new CEO John Sculley. Jobs then founded the NeXT company and started working on workstations based on NeXTstep, a UNIX-like operating system.

In 1985 Apple introduced the LaserWriter and software like MacPublished and PageMaker marked the debut of WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) and the desktop publishing revolution. Soon more professional applications such as Macromedia FreeHand, QuarkXPress, Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator were released and helped the Mac to become the number one platform in the creative business.

In 1987 Apple launched the first upgradable Mac, the Macintosh II. It featured a 16 MHz Motorola 68020 processor, Color QuickDraw (a graphics library that supprted color, various display sizes & multiple monitors) and expansion slots.

Early releases of Microsoft Windows never really threatened the Mac platform, but in 1990 Microsoft finally managed to launch a usable version with Windows 3.0. The launch of System 7 helped to strengthen Apple's position as a GUI market leader, nevertheless they were forced to lower Macintosh prices to remain competitive. 

In 1994 Apple successfully switched from the Motorola processor architecture to the PowerPC RISC platform. Software written for the Motorola 68000 architecture could still be executed as the PowerPC version for System 7 included a Motorola 68k emulation software.

In the mid 1990s Apple got into serious trouble. The launch of Windows 95 considerably lowered Apple's market share as it was now possible to get an Apple-like OS without having to buy an expensive Macintosh computer. 

Apple also didn't manage to finalize their next-generation operating system, MacOS 8. After it became clear that MacOS 8 would never be completed, Apple had to look for a MacOS successor outside the company. They finally bought NeXT, the company Steve Jobs founded after his departure in 1985. As a result, Steve Jobs returned to the company.

In 1998, Apple introduced the all-in-one iMac, which turned out to become a phenomenal success and helped the company to return to profitability. It was followed by the iBook protable computer and updated desktop computers.

MacOS X, the UNIX-like MacOS successor based upon the NeXTstep OS, was finally released in 2000 and 2001. It introduced a modern OS foundation as well as the all new Aqua user interface. Classic MacOS 9 applications could still be used as MacOS X included a copy of MacOS 9 running in a secured "classic box".

In 2006 finally switched to the Intel x86 platform, abandoning the PowerPC. Intel Macs can still execute PowerPC applications as MacOS X for Intel Macs includes a PowerPC processor emulation software called Rosetta, but they no longer support the classic box and MacOS 9.

During the past few years Apple managed to regain some of the market share it lost during the 1990s, and today the company is shipping more Macs than ever before.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

24. december 2008

no text

CorneliOS becoming more and more successful...

29. september 2008

During the weekend I checked my stats and noticed that CorneliOS is now the most successful software projectI ever started, powering multiple PR5, PR6 and Alexa Top 500k websites. Over 8000 users worldwide are either using the software directly or are subscribed to CorneliOS powered services, most of them are from the US, the UK, Australia, India and Germany.

New CorneliOS based projects are emerging, so I think I'll soon create a non-profit label for free and open source software, this label shall then be used for CorneliOS based software as well as for derivate applications and software works...

Why I hate Cuil

31. july 2008

On Monday a new search engine has been launched, it's named Cuil but pronounced Cool (huh?) and it got a lot of really bad reviews which made me really happy.

So why do I hate Cuil?

Well, a few months ago we started noticing more and more traffic on our company websites, caused by a crawler called Twiceler. Twiceler was run by a company called "Cuil" and claimed to be some kind of an experimental search engine robot. A few days later the same crawler also started affecting my personal websites.

The Twiceler bot is probably the most stupid crawler I've ever seen, it just downloads everything it can find and it seems that it just won't ever stop. If there's a page using dynamic input in a URL (a calendar for example) it will download the same page 100,000 and more times, simply by following all kinds of dynamic links it can find without using any kind of intelligent limitation. 

By downloading thousands of pages per hour on each website it can cause an incredible traffic on a server, and dynamic scripts (written in Perl, Python or PHP for example) start causing an immense CPU load that may even take your entire server down (as reported by several webmasters). Twiceler is really harmful and can cost both money and downtime. A well written crawler such as Googlebot or Slurp (Yahoo) would never affect a website in such a malicious way.

After googling for Twiceler we found out that many webmasters experienced such problems with Cuil. Of course we thought that such a crappy crawler - which doesn't seem to care about similar content, website performance, bandwidth and traffic costs - had to be some kind of a malicious spam bot.

As the stupid Cuil/Twiceler bot just won't stop the first thing you'll do as a webmaster or system administrator is setting up a robots.txt file which tells Twiceler not to index any more pages (or at least blocks some of the directories that shall not be indexed, such as dynamic scripts for example). 

Cuil claims that their Twiceler crawler respects the robots.txt file, but even days after setting it up nothing changed, the damn bot continued indexed anything it could get and completely ignored all robots.txt rules (google for Twiceler and you'll see that this is what other webmasters are experiencing too).

So finally we blocked the entire Cuil bot on our servers, just as many other people recommend in webmaster forums. On our company servers we blocked all incoming connections that could be identified as a Cuil/Twiceler bot, on my personal websites I blocked all of Cuil's IP addresses using .htaccess files.

It was a funny moment when the Cuil search engine went live on Monday and they claimed to have the world's biggest index. Of course they have! Their damn bot seems to be indexing each dynamic web page a million times, no matter if it's always the same content of if you're clearly saying that this page should not be indexed at all (via robots.txt).

Maybe this also explains the poor quality of their search results - their index may be the largest on this planet, but it's probably full of crap and duplicates. 

If you're a webmaster/website owner and you're currently experiencing high bandwidth or traffic problems, then you should check your access_log because there's a good chance that your problems are caused by Cuil. If this is the case I can just recommend to block all of Cuils IP addresses on your server because that seems to be the only thing that really works.

To finish I'd like say that I think Cuil should start focusing on the quality of their algorithms and their content instead of completely relying on the marking of doubtful numbers.

Future plans

30. july 2008

Since I announced that I'll leave my former company people keep asking me about my future projects, and I'm glad to provide some first details now.

First of all, I'll still have a regular job as I'll be working as a teacher from mid September on. One very positive aspect of my new job will be that I'll have more free time than before, which will allow me to pursue some private projects too. So in future I'd like to focus on two hobbies during my free time: free software and multimedia. 

When it comes to software, I'm talking about Open Source projects - like the CorneliOS webOS and application framework for example, which has already been downloaded over 14000 times from Sourceforge. I think CorneliOS is an amazing technology and it will definately serve as a basis for all of my future Open Source software projects. CorneliOS is still a quite experimental framework, so one of the first goals will be to make this an attractive tool for end users too. There's still a lot of work ahead, but I'm very confident that this goal can be achieved very soon.

What about multimedia? Years ago I owned a recording studio and I was running several music projects. During the past few years my job didn't allow me to pursue such interests, but I always planned to reactivate the studio one day. So one of the things I'm currently doing is rebuilding the recording studio. It will become a project oriented audio/video studio that I'll use for my own projects, but I definately won't record any bands in my basement. There are tons of unsuccessful studios of that kind and I don't think it would make any sense to add another one.

So this is basically what I'm up to, more details will become available soon.

Jos

Leaving EducDesign

10. july 2008

A few days ago I wrote about changes, so today I'd like to announce that I will be leaving the EducDesign company in August 2008 to pursue other interests, which also means that I will no longer be involved in the development of the OLEFA software. In mid September I will start working as a teacher in the community of Sanem (Luxembourg, Europe).

These changes do not affect any of the Open Source software projects I'm involved in - there may have been fewer updates during the past few weeks as I had lots of things to do, but everything should normalize within short time. In fact I may even have more time to focus on these in the future.

Further information will become available soon, so make sure to check back from time to time...

Jos

Happy Birthday, Galaxiki!

1. july 2008

Exactly one year ago a very special community website was officially launched.

On July 1st 2007, Galaxiki started as something really new: it's a wiki based science fiction galaxy consisting of millions of stars, planets and moons that can be edited by its community.

Each star, each planet and each moon is represented by an editable wiki page, and the solar systems are all part of an online galaxy that can be explored using a galactical map.

Galaxiki instantly got a lot of positive reviews. It was "website of the day" on Yahoo, About.com, Pocketlint and RedOrbit. It was also community website of the week in Linux Journal.

Today the Galaxiki community consists of more than 2700 users, there are thousands of stars, planets and moons that have been edited, creating an entire new online world. Community members are writing sci-fi stories and publish them as part of stellar histories or they get posted in the community blog.

In April 2008 Galaxiki also published an exclusive interview with british actor David Prowse, who is best known for his role as Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy.

A lot of improvements and new features are planned to become available within the next few months, and the Galaxiki community is looking forward to continue expanding this amazing fictional universe.

Visit the Galaxiki community site:

www.galaxiki.org

Changes

30. june 2008

There have to be changes from time to time, and I think this year it's time for some *major* changes. I can't reveal any details today, but I think I'll have to announce some important news within the next few weeks.

During the past few weeks I didn't have much time to post news in my blog or to keep my website up to date, things should normalize very soon.

Stay tuned...

Jos

Did You Ever Hear Of A ZISC Processor?

24. april 2008

I accidentaly found this information on Wikipedia today and I must admit that I never heard of ZISC before.

ZISC stands for Zero Instruction Set Computer (just as RISC stands for Reduced Instruction Set Computer and CISC for Complex Instruction Set Computer). A ZISC processor doesn't use any instructions at all, it purely relies on pattern matching.

The concept was invented by Guy Paillet and is based on ideas from artificial neural networks and massively hardwired parallel processing. The first ZISC processor was the IBM ZISC36 containing 36 independent cells that can be thought of as neurons or parallel processors. Each of these can compare an input vector of up to 64 bytes with a similar vector stored in the cell's memory. If the pattern matches the number of the matched cell will be returned.

Happy birthday, Max Planck!

22. april 2008

Max Planck was born 150 years ago on April 23, 1858 in Kiel, Holstein, Germany. He is considered to be the founder of quantum theory, and one of the most important physicists of the twentieth century.

When he was 9 years old his family moved to Munich. He enrolled in the Maximilians gymnasium school, where mathematician Hermann Müller taught him astronomy, mechanics and mathematics. He graduated early, at age 17. His physics professor advised Planck against going into physics, saying that everything important had already been discovered. Nevertheless he began his studies in 1874 at the University of Munich.

In April 1885 he became an associate professor of theoretical physics at the University of Kiel. Two years later he married Marie Merck, they had four children (Karl, Emma, Grete and Erwin). 1892 he finally became a full professor.

In 1894 Planck turned his attention to the problem of black-body radiation. It was still a mystery why the intensity of the electromagnetic radiation emitted by a black body depends on the frequency of the radiation and the temperature of the body. In 1900 he finally proposed his solution, claiming that electromagnetic energy could be emitted only in quantized form - the quantum theory was born.

Energy can only be a multiple of an elementary unit E = h ν, where h is Planck's constant and ν is the frequency of the radiation. The discovery of Planck's constant enabled him to define a new universal set of physical units (such as the Planck length and the Planck mass ), all based on fundamental physical constants.

In 1905 the completely unknown Albert Einstein publish the articles in a physics journal. Planck was among the few who immediately recognized the significance of the special theory of relativity. Thanks to his influence this theory was soon widely accepted in Germany.

In July 1909 Marie Planck died, two years later he married his second wife, Marga von Hoesslin. They had one child (Herrmann Planck). During the First World War Planck's oldest son, Karl, was killed in action at Verdun, and Erwin was taken prisoner by the French in 1914. Grete died in 1917 while giving birth to her first child.

Meanwhile Planck had been appointed dean of Berlin University, whereby it was possible for him to call Einstein to Berlin and establish a new professorship for him. Soon the two scientists became close friends and met frequently to play music together.

During the First World War Planck signed the infamous " Manifesto of the 93 intellectuals ", a polemic pamphlet of war propaganda, while Einstein retained a strictly pacifistic attitude which almost led to his imprisonment. In 1915 Planck revoked parts of the Manifesto, and in 1916 he signed a declaration against German annexationism.

In 1918 Max Planck was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for this discovery of the quantum theory, which should become the most successful physical theory of all times.

When the Nazis seized power in 1933, Planck was 74. He was critizised for continuing to teach the theories of Einstein and the Nazis started an investigation of Planck's ancestry. At the end of 1938 the Prussian Academy was taken over by Nazis, Planck protested by resigning his presidency. In January 1945 his second son, Erwin, was executed by the Gestapo because of his participation in the failed attempt to assassinate Hitler in July 1944.

Max Planck died shortly after the end of the war on October 4, 1947.

A short history of the PowerPC as a desktop processor

16. april 2008

In 1994 I switched from DOS/Windows to the Mac, my first Apple computer was a PowerMac 7100AV with 16 MB Ram and a 500 MB harddisk (quite a lot back then). It was the first generation of Macs using a PowerPC processor (prior models used Motorola 68k CPUs) and it ran System 7. 1. 2 (they didn't call it "MacOS" yet if I remember well).

PowerPC is a RISC microprocessor architecture created by Apple, IBM and Motorola in the early 1990s. It's largely based on the earlier IBM POWER architecture and the Motorola 88k bus, it was designed to be a desktop CPU but today it has also become a quite popular embedded CPU. Apple used the PowerPC in their Macintosh computers from 1994 to 2006 (when they transitioned to Intel x86), and a lot of popular game consoles are also based on the PowerPC architecture, including the Sony Playstation, the M$ Xbox 360 and the Nintento Wii for example.

 

The processor in my PowerMac 7100 was a PowerPC 601 running at 66 Mhz - using a RISC processor in a personal computer was quite new in the mid 1990, although Acorn already developed RISC home computers in the 1980s (the famous Acorn Archimedes which later became the RiscPC).

 

IBM first introduced POWER with their RS/6000 in 1990, it was a quite expensive superscalar, high performance multi-chip design. Shortly after they started work of a less expensive single chip design. IBM approached Apple with the goal of collaborating on the development, and finally Apple brought Motorola on board (Motorola was the maker of the highly successful 680x0 processors which were used in Apple Macs, Commodore Amigas, Atari STs and even early Silicon Graphics workstations).

The first PowerPC processor was the PowerPC 601, which offered full compatibility with the existing POWER architecture (this was dropped with later generations). It was used by Apple for their new PowerMac computers, both IBM and Motorola offered PowerPC based computers, Microsoft released Windows NT 3.51 for the architecture, IBM ported AIX and announced OS/2 while Sun Microsystems ported Solaris to the new platform. Everything looked good for the PowerPC as a new desktop architecture back then, and many experts even thought this could be the end for Intel and the x86 platform (in fact the PowerPC 601 was also faster than any Intel chip at the time).

But finally IBM didn't manage to port OS/2 to the PowerPC, and in the end only Apple was successful on the market with their line of Power Macintosh computers. Support by other solution providers vanished and plans to port other OSes were cancelled. Both IBM and Motorola started to focus their PowerPC efforts onto the embedded market.

The second PowerPC generation included the low end PowerPC 603 and high end PowerPC 604. The 603 didn't perform well when running Apple's OS because the built-in cache was too small for the required 68000 code emulator, therefore Apple had to wait for the improved 603e before they could use the PowerPC in a laptop (that was the PowerBook 5300 series - I owned one of those, and I can confirm that this was probably the worst product Apple ever produced). There was a 64 bit implementation called the PowerPC 620, but Apple never used this chip as it was quite slow and expensive.

There were also rumors about a PowerPC chip with a built-in Intel x86 emulator that would allow M$ Windows emulations to run at native speed. This project, dubbed the PowerPC 615, did in fact exist as IBM developers at IBM's Essex Junction, Burlington, Vermont facility worked on it in 1993. There were even running prototypes of the chip in 1995, but the project was cancelled shortly after because of performance problems. There are also rumors that Microsoft convinced IBM to drop the development of the 615.

The third PowerPC generation (aka PowerPC 7x0 or simply G3) was based on a greatly improved version of the PowerPC 603, and the fourth generation (aka PowerPC 74xx or simply G4) by Motorola used the PowerPC 604 core design with an additional SIMD / vector unit. Motorola had massive problems with the manufacturing of the G4, and finally Intel was able to surpass the PowerPC in terms of speed and performance.

Apple was in big trouble then, and users had to wait a long time until IBM finally introduced the PowerPC 970, a 64 bit implementation using a POWER4 core (the POWER4 was a multicore design in fact) with an additional AltiVec compatible SIMD unit. It looked as if the PowerPC was finally back to the desktop, but shortly after IBM experienced the same problems as Motorola before.

In 2006 Steve Jobs finally announced that Apple would migrate to the Intel x86 platforms. It is said that nobody at IBM was informed about this move, and IBM managers responsible for the PowerPC development learned about the switch in the news.

The PowerPC remains a successful embedded and game console architecture today, and many supercomputers in the Top500 list are running PowerPC or POWER processors. But on the desktop the PowerPC is definately dead.

Interview With Actor David Prowse (Darth Vader)

16. april 2008

A few weeks ago I interviewed british actor David Prowse who played Darth Vader in the original Star Wars trilogy (Star Wars - A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi).

We talked about Star Wars, things that happened on the set, his charity work and other projects. Dave is a very interesting man and he revealed some really interesting facts here.

published the article on Galaxiki and also added some cool photos from the original Star Wars set - should be a great article for all Star Wars fans and everyone else too!

Thanks again to Dave for his time!

Read the Dave Prowse Interview on www.galaxiki.org.

Everyone is learning. Everybody can teach.

11. april 2008

We just launched the www.OLEFAschool.org community platform where you can publish your own courses or attend to other people's courses. The basic idea is quite simple: Users can publish all kinds of courses using a simple wiki-like web interface, other users can then attend to these courses via internet.

Membership is free, you only have to pay if you'd like to attend or publish commercial courses. We expect most courses to become available for free, although this will, of course, depend on what the users will do.

You will also be able to publish commercial courses (users will have to pay to attend your courses then), which means that you can even earn money by publishing your stuff here... For the moment you can't publish commercial courses yet, although this feature shall follow within the next few weeks.

There will also be a premium membership which will be required to publish commercial courses, you will be able to upgrade to a premium account by paying a small unique free (pay once, use forever) which I think is quite fair. And we'll also offer free premium accounts to all teachers, students and parents of current and future schools using OLEFA software.

Check out the OLEFAschool website here:

www.OLEFAschool.org

A Short History Of The Windows FAT File System

19. march 2008

FAT is a proprietary computer file system originally developed by Bill Gates and Marc McDonald in 1976/1977. It became the standard file system on many operating systems, including MS-DOS and Windows (up to Windows Me).

"FAT" is an abbreviation for "File Allocation Table" - it is a quite simple and commonly used file system and is thus still supported by a large number of operating systems.

The FAT file system is relatively uncomplicated, and is supported by virtually all existing operating systems for personal computers. This ubiquity makes it an ideal format for floppy disks and solid-state memory cards, and a convenient way of sharing data between disparate operating systems.

Originally the file system had been developed for managing disks in Microsoft's BASIC. In 1980 Tim Paterson incorporated FAT into the CP/M clone operating system Microsoft had just purchased from Seattle Computer Products, this OS should finally become MS-DOS. In fact FAT was the main difference between CP/M and MS-DOS when it was released, and it was definately a key to the success of the new OS.

The first FAT version (also called FAT 12) was designed as a file system for floppy diskettes and was quite limited. Directories and the hierarchial file structure were introduced with MS-DOS 2. 0 in 1983 when IBM released the PC XT with a built-in harddisk. In 1984 MS-DOS was released along with IBMs new PC AT, it featured the updated FAT 16 allowing much larger file sizes and supporting 1. 2 MB 5. 25" floppy disks. MS-DOS 3. 2 introduced extended partition in January 1986 which finally supported partitions. In 1987/1988 the 16-bit disk sector index was extended to 32 bits with MS-DOS 4. 0 and OS/2 - the entire disk I/O code was written in assembly language and had thus to be rewritten to allows this change.

One of the major drawbacks of the FAT file system was the fact that filenames were limited to 8 characters (plus a 3 character extension). Long 255 character file names were finally made possible using a trick - VFAT (or "Virtual FAT") stored the long file names as some kind of meta information visible to the user while the DOS itself still operated with 8 character filenames. VFAT was introduced with the more user friendly Windows 95 in 1995.

FAT32 was finally developed to allow larger disk sizes and was introduced with Windows 95 OSR2. But as the maximum possible size for a file on a FAT32 volume is 4GB video capture and editing applications and some other software can easily exceed this limit.

While FAT is still the normal file system for removable media (with the exception of CDs and DVDs) today, the NTFS file system that was developed for the Windows NT line is now the recommeded file system for harddisks - it is superior to FAT from the points of view of efficiency, performance, and reliability. Since Microsoft has announced the discontinuation of its MS-DOS -based consumer operating systems with Windows Me, it remains unlikely that any new versions of FAT will appear.

CP/M - The Father Of MS-DOS And Windows

18. march 2008

CP/M was an operating system created in 1974 by Gary Kildall, and it was the most popular operating system before MS-DOS was born. Ironically MS-DOS itself was a CP/M clone, which also means that some CP/M concepts and technologies can still be found in todays Microsoft Windows operating systems - accessing disks using letters for example (a:, b:, c:,...)

The original CP/M had been written by Gary Kildall as a private project for the 8-bit Intel 8080 / 8085 microprocessor architecture using a minimum of 16kb and a maximum of 64kb RAM. Gary and his wife then created the Digital Research company and launched CP/M as a commercial product, along with the PL/M compiler.

 

CP/M - an abbreviation for "Control Program for Microcomputers" - introduced a number of new concepts that made it popular. The system itself consisted of three basic elements - the command processor (CCP), the basic disk operating system (BDOS) and the basic input/output system (BIOS), which made it easily portable as manufacturers only had to make changes to the BIOS. CP/M computers only needed a small bootloader in ROM, the OS itself was then loaded from a floppy disk.

 

The OS also ran on computers using a Zilog Z80 CPU which used an Intel 8080 compatible instruction set - in fact most popular CP/M computers used the Z80 CPU, including the Altair, the Osborne 1, Kaypro portables, MSX, the Apple II (using an optional Z80 board), the Commodore 128, the BBC Micro, the Amstrad CPC and the ZX Spectrum. The Z80 became so popular that many programs started to use proprietary Z80 instructions which made them incompatible with computers using Intel chips.

A large number of well known applications debuted on the CP/M operating system - including WordStar (the first widely used word processor), dBASE, Turbo Pascal (the ancestor of Borland Delphi) and Multiplan (the ancestor of Microsoft Excel).

File names consisted of up to 8 characters, a period, then up to three characters as a file name extension which identified the type of the file - a scheme reused by MS-DOS later on. One of the major weaknesses of the CP/M file system was the lack of a hierarchy - all files were stored on the same level on the disk, which made it had to structure information. CP/M 2. 2 finally provided 16 "user areas" to organize files on a disk, although this didn't really solve the problem. There was no standardized CP/M 5.25" inch floppy disk format, which means that each manufacturer finally used its own format, which made disk format translation programs quite popular.

Unlike UNIX the CP/M system didn't have any security features, any user could read and write any file. It also lacked a standardized graphics support until CP/M 3. 0 with GSX (Graphic System eXtension), although graphics was never a common feature associated with 8-bit CP/M.

When 16 bit computers became more popular Digital Research introduced CP/M-86 for the Intel 8086, followed by CP/M-68k for the Motorola 68000. Programs had to be recompiled to run on the new 16 bit platforms, software written in assembler had to be rewritten from scratch. There was to emulation technology available, which made the transition quite hard. The Atari ST TOS operating system was in fact a CP/M-68k using GEM, the graphical desktop by Digital Research.

IBM wanted to use CP/M-86 as the standard operating system on their new IBM PC. But after problematic negociations between IBM managers and Gary Kildall, IBM finally asked Microsoft chief Bill Gates if it would be possible to use another OS. Bill Gates then purchased a CP/M clone from Seattle Computer Products, renamed it to MS-DOS and offered it to IBM. This is how the Microsoft success story began.

As MS-DOS was a CP/M clone it shared many features with CP/M, although it also offered some real advantages - such as the hierachical FAT file system for example, or the fact that more commands were loaded into RAM making MS-DOS faster than CP/M systems and easier to use on floppy-based computers. CP/M then rapidly lost market share as the microcomputing market moved to the PC platform, and it never regained its former popularity.

Even years after the MS-DOS disaster and the failure of GEM Digital Research continued to improve CP/M-86, and finally it even became fully compatible with MS-DOS again. Many experts even confirmed that CP/M-86 performed better with MS-DOS software than MS-DOS itself. CP/M-86 was then renamed to DR-DOS (Digital Research DOS) and became an offical MS-DOS competitor.

The competition between MS-DOS and DR-DOS became one of the more controversial chapters of microcomputer history. Microsoft offered the best licensing terms to computer manufacturers that committed to selling MS-DOS with every processor they shipped, and they intentionally made Windows display Warnings if a DR-DOS operating system was detected. Such practices led to multiple lawsuits against Microsoft.

At the end, CP/M finally vanished. Gary Kildall died in 1994, Digital Reseach was taken over by Caldera Systems which was then again acquired by the SCO Group.

Marathon - A Revolutionary First Person Shooter By Bungie

13. march 2008

Before 1994 there were not many games on the Apple Macintosh platform, and while first person shooters had become very popular on the DOS/Windows platform they were almost non-existent on the Mac.

But this all changed when a small company called Bungie released their game Marathon. Bungie had been founded in May 1991 by two undergraduate students at the University of Chicago, Alex Seropian and Jason Jones.

But Marathon was not only the first notable 3D Macintosh game, it was in fact much more advanced than any first person shooter before and introduced many concepts now common in mainstream video games for the very first time.

It had the most sophisticated physics modeling built into a game engine up to that time, which allowed for such features as adjustable gravity, and computer controlled creatures acted in a much more realistic way. In fact Marathon was much more realistic than any PC game available in 1994, and it offered fantastic network multiplayer features including a real-time voice chat system. Unlike most shooters it also featured a clever and original story line.

Marathon 2: Durandal, was released in 1995 and expanded the engine technologies (ambient sounds and liquids that the player could swim through for example) and the story universe.

 

In 1996, Marathon 2: Durandal was ported to Windows 95, while the third chapter "Marathon Infinity" was released for the Macintosh only, built on a slightly modified Marathon 2 engine. Bungie then also released "Forge" and "Anvil", editors that could be used to create your own levels, graphics and physics. Several third party games were built upon the Marathon 2 engine, including ZPC, Prime Target and Damage Incorporated.

 

In 2000 the Marathon 2 engine was released as open source software under the GPL while Bungie was still working on their next generation game called "Halo". Shortly after, Bungie was acquired by Microsoft which was still looking for high quality games for their upcoming XBox console - Halo became the official XBox "killer application" and sold millions of copies.

In 2005, Bungie released the full original Mac OS trilogy for free distribution online, allowing the Marathon 2 based "Aleph One" engine to run all three games in the trilogy on Mac OS, Linux and Windows platforms. On August 1st, 2007, Marathon 2 was re-released in an updated form for the Xbox 360's Xbox Live Arcade.

In late 2007, Bungie and Microsoft split so that Bungie is now once again an independent game developer, although they will probably continue to primarely develop for the XBox platform.

Acorn Archimedes - A Computer Way Ahead Of Its Time

12. march 2008

The Acorn Archimedes was the first RISC based home computer and was introduced long before Apple moved to the PowerPC RISC architecture.

First introduced in 1987, the Acorn Archimedes 300 and 400 computers offered outstanding features for that time: a 32-bit RISC processor, a modern operating system (Arthur OS, later renamed to RISC OS), built-in harddisk controllers, 8 channel stereo sound and 256 color graphics.

The second generation A3000 offered an 8 MHz ARM 2 and 1 MB of RAM, it used a combined computer-keyboard design similar to the Amiga 500 or Atari ST computers, while its powerful RISC CPU offered about 4 to 5 times the power of the Motorola 68000 CPU used by most of its rivals (including the Amiga, the Atari ST and the Apple Macintosh).

The Archimedes became very popular in the the education markets of the UK, Ireland and Australia, but it was never very successful outside of this niche - despite the fact that it was a technical revolution for that time.

In 1991, the A5000 was launched featuring the new 25 MHz ARM3 processor, up to 4 MB of RAM and 80 MB hard drives, VGA resolutions of up to 800×600 pixels and a disk drive that could read both Atari and DOS disks. It was followed by the next generation A30x0 and A4000 computers as well as by the A4 laptop computer using a 640 × 480 pixels greyscale LCD display.

 

But the UK educational market had already begun to drop the Archimedes architecture and started switching over to Apple Macintosh and Windows PC computers during the early 1990s. Archimedes sales dropped significantely and Acorn had to find a solution for this problem.

 

In 1994 Acorn launched the Risc PC, a modular design based upon Archimedes hardware and running RISC OS. Acorn also offered on optional CPU daughterboard featuring an Intel x86 CPU so that the Risc PC could run the popular Windows operating system.

During the following years Acorn struggled to survive while RiscPC sales were still low, and finally they had give up. The successor of the Risc PC, the so-called Phoebe 2100, should have arrived in late 1998, but it was never released despite thousands of pre-release orders.

There were only two Phoebe 2100 prototypes, they ran the all new RISC OS 4 and featured a 233 MHz StrongARM RISC CPU (ready for multiprocessor upgrades), a 64 MHz front side bus, up to 512 MB of RAM, high resolution graphics of up to 1280 x 1024 pixels with 32, 768 colours, a PCI bus and a large number of further innovations.

Do You Know What The Term CAPTCHA Means?

11. march 2008

You may have heard that spammers apparently managed to circumvence Google's Gmail Captcha (in oder to automatically create spam accounts), but did you ever wonder what the term "CAPTCHA" means after all?

CAPTCHA is an acronym for " Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart". The term was created in 2000 by Luis von Ahn, Manuel Blum, Nicholas J. Hopper and John Langford and has been trademarked by Carnegie Mellon University.

 

So a CAPTCHA is a type of challenge-response test used in computing to determine whether the user is human or some kind of an automated computer algorithm (a so-called robot). The server asks a question that only a human being should be able to answer - a common type of CAPTCHA requires that the user type the letters of a distorted image.

 

A CAPTCHA is in fact reverse Turing test, because it is administered by a machine and targeted to a human, in contrast to the standard Turing test that is typically administered by a human and targeted to a machine.

The so-called "Turing test" is a proposal for a test of a machine's capability to demonstrate intelligence. Alan Turing first described his test in the 1950 paper "Computing Machinery and Intelligence," it proceeds as follows: a human judge engages in a natural language conversation with one human and one machine, each of which try to appear human; if the judge cannot reliably tell which is which, then the machine is said to pass the test (the machine is then considered to be "intelligent").

As todays computers and algorithms cannot be considered to be "intelligent" when compared to a human being, they will generally fail a Turing Test.

Of course the latest events don't mean that spammers managed to create a computer system with human-like capabilities. BUT they managed to refine their algorithms to better recognize the characters in a CAPTCHA (think of a more sophisticated OCR software...), even if they have been distorted.

One of the major problems with the latest progresses is the fact that many humans already have difficulties with the currently used CAPTCHAs which are often already heavily distored and hard to read. Distorting them even more may make it impossible for many humans to read them, while advanced algorithms may still be able to read them.

Remembering The VAX Computer Architecture

6. march 2008

VAX was a 32-bit CISC computing architecture developed in the mid-1970s by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). VAX was an acronym for Virtual Address eXtension, and it was in fact one of the first computer systems designed to support virtual memory.

 

The first VAX systems were introduced in 1977 and the architecture remained very popular in the high end field for almost three decades. The operating system that was created for the VAX was DEC's VAX/VMS (renamed to OpenVMS in the early 1990s), but other OSes were ported too, including BSD UNIX and even Linux.

 

Early VAX computers were quite large systems as they were implemented in TTL technology, a single CPU consisted of a complete rack and the complete system occupied an entire room. Following VAX generations were already smaller, and finally the MicroVAX emulated most of the instruction set to dramatically reduce the required number of hardware. Later versions of the MicroVAX were finally able to offer an entire CPU on a VAX microprocessor, which also allowed to build VAX-based workstations.

In the late 1980s RISC technology became more and more popular, and in 1992 DEC introduced their own 64-bit RISC microprocessor, the Alpha AXP which was capable of running OpenVMS and soon replaced the traditional VAX hardware.

After DEC got into financial trouble they were purchased by Compaq, which then cancelled the VAX project. Compaq was purchased by Hewlett-Packard and we all know how this ended: the Alpha AXP and all related technology was cancelled, along with OpenVMS.

Nevertheless there's still a large number of VAX systems in use today and many experts still consider OpenVMS to be one of the most reliable operating systems ever created.

Did You Know What Happened 100 Years Ago?

27. february 2008

Do you know what happened 100 years ago, in 1908? Probably not... Here's a short list of notable events I've put together, hope you'll enjoy it.

Ian Fleming is born. He will become a famous English writer and invent the James Bond character.

The first long-distance radio message is sent from the Eiffel Tower (Paris, Europe).

Robert Baden-Powell begins the Boy Scout movement which will spread over the entire globe within the next decades.

The very first intercontinental car race is born, leading from New York to Paris.

Frenchman Henri Farman pilots the first passenger flight.

Mother's Day is observed for the first time (West Virginia).

In Siberia, Russia, a large meteoroid causes a 10-15 megatons TNT explosion (1, 000 times Hiroshima the bomb).

Robert Peary starts his famous Arctic exploration, he will be the first man to reach the North Pole.

A new US law department is founded, it will later become well known as the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation).

Thomas Selfridge is the first person to die in an aeroplane crash. The pilot was Orville Wright who was also severely injured.

Henry Ford produces his first Model T automobile. It's the first car to feature a steering wheel on the left.

Famous western bandits Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid are supposedly killed in Bolivia.

Child Emperor Pu Yi ascends the Chinese throne at the age of two.

Happy Birthday To The Max Planck Society (1948-2008)

25. february 2008

The Max-Planck Society is a famous independent German non-profit research organization funded by the federal and state governments, having a world-leading reputation as a science & technology research organization and being considered by one of the most important research facilities worldwide by many experts.

It was founded on February 26, 1948, after World War II in Göttingen (Germany) which means that we're now celebrating its 60th anniversary. A total of 17 Nobel prizes have been awarded to its scientists since 1948, it currently has about 12300 employees (including 4200 scientists), it operates 80 research institutes all over Germany and other European countries and has a budget of about 1.4 billion euro a year (a bit more than 2 billion $US).

10 Years Of XML

13. february 2008

XML is a general-purpose markup language, allowing its users to define their own elements. It allows to easily share information across different information systems. Derived from SGML in the late 1990s, it has been designed to be human readable. XML is a free open standard, XML 1.0 became a W3C Recommendation on February 10, 1998, about 10 years ago.

Dan Connolly added SGML to the list of W3C's activities when he joined the staff in 1995; work began in mid-1996 when Jon Bosak developed a charter and recruited collaborators. A record of design decisions and their rationales was compiled by Michael Sperberg-McQueen on December 4th 1997. James Clark served as Technical Lead of the Working Group. The co-editors of the specification were originally Tim Bray and Michael Sperberg-McQueen. The XML Working Group never met face-to-face; the design was accomplished using a combination of email and weekly teleconferences.

Today XML is widely used as an information exchange format and is considered to be the most universal data format by many experts. It is also the basis for many new file formats, including the latest office formats from both Microsoft and the OpenOffice project

Famous Processors: The Motorola 680x0 Family

7. february 2008

The Motorola 68k is a family of 16/32-bit CISC microprocessors that were first introduced in 1979 and are still in use today, thus being on the market for 28 years. The architecture has been used in many Unix workstations as well as in famous computers such as the Apple Macintosh, the Commodore Amiga and the Atari ST.

 

Motorola started the development of the original MC 68000 in 1976, when many 8-bit processor manufacturers were already working on the next generation 16-bit CPUs. Instead of creating a common 16-bit architecture, Motorola decided to instantly jump to a 16/32 bit hybrid design. The Motorola 68000 was never intended to be compatible with earlier 8-bit 6800 CPUs.

 

The Motorola 68000 had eight 32-bit registers, which made it a true 32-bit processor, and it has a 24-bit address bus, allowing it to address up to 16 MB of physical memory. One of its biggest problem may have been the lack of support for virtual memory, which made it hard using the Motorola 68000 in Unix workstations (although there were workaroungs).

In 1982, the Motorola 68010 added true virtual memory support which fixed this problem. The same year Motorola also released the 68008, which featured an 8-bit data bus and a smaller (20 bit) address bus.

The second generation Motorola 68020, released in 1984, finally added a 32-bit ALU and a 32-bit address bus, new instructions and addressing modes, it was available at speeds ranging from 12 MHz to 33 MHz. It also added multiprocessor support which allowed to build systems using up to eight 68020 processors or math processors at a time. But true multiprocessor machines using the 68020 were quite rare, most Unix workstations used a 68020 along with an FPU (68881 or 68882) and an MMU.

 

In 1987, the Motorola 68030 was released - it was mostly based on the MC68020 core design, but added an on-chip split instruction and data cache of 256 bytes each and a built-in MMU, and it reached speeds of up to 50 MHz. It was used in the Apple Macintosh II, in the NeXT Cube, the Atari TT and Falcon, some Amigas and Unix workstations.

 

The years later, in 1990, the Motorola 68040 was released, it featured an on-chip FPU, larger on-chip caches (2* 4kb), it was fully pipelined and offered speeds of up to 40 MHz. It was used in the Apple Quadra computers, in the Amiga 4000 and in some NeXT workstations. The 68040's FPU was incapable of IEEE transcendental functions, the processor had a lot of heat problems and it didn't scale well, finally it was impossible to clock it higher than 40 MHz and a planned 50 MHz upgrade had to be cancelled.

 

The Motorola 68060 was released in 1994, it was a completely new superscalar design that addad a second integer pipeline, a two cycle integer multiplication unit, a faster FPU, and branch prediction logic, making it 2 to 3 times faster than a 68040 at the same clockrate. It was released at 50 MHz, later upgrades even offered 66 and 75 MHz.

 

The 68060 was the last 68k chip ever developed, as Motorola abandoned the architecture in favour of the PowerPC RISC processor. It was used in some third party accelerator boards, but Apple didn't use it as they wanted to push the PowerPC and Unix workstations had already switched to RISC designs such as MIPS, SPARC or Alpha AXP for example.

Today, the Motorola 68k architecture isn't used as CPU in computers and workstations anymore, but the architecture has survived as core of embedded processors such as the Motorola ColdFire and DragonBall.

How Intel, HP & Compaq Killed The Fastest Processor In The World

29. january 2008

The DEC Alpha AXP once was the fastest microprocessor in the world, and DEC even managed to keep the Alpha architecture on the pole position for many years, until the Alpha processor project was terminated by Compaq (who had acquired DEC in 1998). So here's the story of the once so powerful AXP architecture.

In the 1980s DEC (or "Digital Equipment Corporation"), who was the maker of the famous VAX mainframe computers, was looking for a successor for their 32-bit VAX processors. DEC was already working on a RISC project called "PRISM", and they were also producing workstations based on the popular MIPS RISC processors.

 

The 32 bit PRISM processor offered a user-programmable microcode known as Epicode, and it was planned to release it along with a new operating system (codenamed "Emerald") that would be able to run existing VMS programs. In 1988 the PRISM project was cancelled as VAX computers were still selling and the management thought that VAX still had a bright future.

 

But they were wrong. In the late 1980s and early 1990s RISC processors made huge progresses, and soon the most popular RISC architectures such as MIPS and SPARC offered better price/performance ratio than the traditional VAX systems. It was obvious that the next generation RISC computer systems would completely outperform the VAX.

The DEC management finally changed their strategy and decided to create a RISC processor that would allow running the VMS system dircetly (instead of the Emerald project which only planned some kind of a VMS emulation). The new architecture, designed by Dick Sites and Rich Witek, was basically an improved PRISM including Epicode, but it was also a real 64 bit processor and changes were made to allow running VMS.

While most processor manufacturers were using software programs to layout the processor circuits, DEC decided to design large parts of the CPU circuits by hand. Manual circuit design allowed to better prevent "hot spots" on the chip core, which finally allowed the Alpha to run at much faster frequencies than other RISC processors and to become the fastest CPU in the world.

The first Alpha AXP processor was the 21064. It's internal codename was EV4 ("Extended VAX 4"), when it was released in 1992 it was the fasted RISC chip on the market, it was running at 200 MHz and it was even able to rival minicomputers and mainframes. In fact it was so powerful that many experts believed this processor would dominate the chip market for the upcoming 25 years.

The second generation Alpha 21164 (EV5) was the first microprocessor to place a large secondary cache on chip in 1995. The initial version was running at 333 Mhz, faster versions followed in 1996 (500 Mhz) and 1998 (666 Mhz).

The 21264 (EV6) introduced a more sophisticated out-of-order execution microarchitecture, the 450 Mhz version was released in 1998. Faster versions following within the next few years, reaching an incredible 1. 25 GHz in 2001.

In 1998 DEC was acquired by Compaq, who instantly decided to phase out the Alpha project in favor of the announed Intel IA-64 architecture. Production of the Alpha continued to support customer needs, and the upcoming EV7 design was being completed, but all futher projects were halted. In 2001 Compaq was acquired by Hewlett Packard (Intel's IA-64 partner) and the Alpha intellectual property was finally sold to Intel.

During the time Compaq, Hewlett Packard and Intel decided to kill the project the Alpha AXP was still the fastest CPU available, and the two fastest supercomputers in the US were powered by Alpha processors (shame on you!!!)

The last Alpha was the 21364 (EV7), which included an Integrated Memory Controller and featured four 1. 6 Gbyte/s inter-processor communication links for improved multiprocessor system performance. It was released in 2003 and was running at 1 or 1. 15 GHz. Compaq continued selling Alpha solutions until April 2007 to fulfill the needs of the existing customer base. The last Alpha EV7 versions were running at clock speeds of up to 1. 3 Ghz. On April 27, 2007, HP stopped selling AlphaServers.

The EV8 was never released, it would have been the first Alpha to include simultaneous multithreading. It is rumored that Intel's current Xeon Hyperthreading architecture is mainly based on Alpha technology. The planned EV9 (codenamed "Tarantula") was planned to include a powerful vector core, but this project was terminated long before it could have resulted in a real product.

A Short History Of Spam

24. january 2008

E-mail was invented at the MIT in the mid 1960s as a communications tool for the Compatible Time-Sharing System (CTSS), several years before ARPANET (which later became the Internet) was started. It was used on several operating systems during the 1960s, including MIT's CTSS and SDC's Q32, and it was also a basic feature in the MULTICS system (the predecessor of UNIX) which was being developed around the same time.

About 30 years earlier, the Hormel Foods Corporation was facing the problem that one of their major products, the Hormel Spiced Ham, was losing market share. They decided to re-brand the product, and on July 5, 1937, it was relaunched as "Spam", a name chosen from multiple entries in a naming contest ("Spam" could in fact be considered to by an abbreviation for "SPiced hAM" or "Shoulder of Pork and hAM", depending on which source you rely). Many jocular backronyms have been devised, such as "Something Posing As Meat" and "Spare Parts Animal Meat" for example.

Spam remained a simple consumer product until December 15, 1970 (around the time e-mails became popular on time-sharing systems), when the famous british comedy group Monty Python (consisting of Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin) first televised their "Spam" sketch. In the sketch, two customers are trying to order a breakfast from a menu that includes Spam in almost every dish. No matter what they tried to order, they always got the undesired Spam ("Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, baked beans, Spam, Spam, Spam and Spam"). The sketch became immensely popular among Monty Pythons fans.

The first time unsolicited mass mail has been reported was in 1971, when Peter Bos used CTSS MAIL to send an anti-war message to all system users, although this only affected users on the MIT campus. The same year (still 1971) Ray Tomlinson initiated the use of the @ sign to separate the names of the user and their machine. During the 1970s the popularity of e-mail significantly increased, and it became the killer app of the ARPANET.

On May 3, 1978, a DEC marketer named Gary Thuerk decided to use e-mail as a marketing tool and sent a mail about a Dec-20 computer demo to a large number of APRANET users (e-mail addresses had been collected using a printed list of all APRANET users). This was the first documented case of unsolicited mass mailing, which also clearly violated the APRANET policies. Gary Thuerk apparently got into some trouble because of his actions, and no further mass mailings appeared after that.

Everything remained quiet for about 10 years. On May 24, 1988, a student called Rob Noha who needed some cash posted a message in as many newsgroups as he could find to raise money. Around the same time, USENET was flooded by a "MAKE MONEY FAST" chain letter. But these were still single and rare events.

On March 31, 1993, Richard Depew unintentionally posted hundreds of USENET messages due to a bug in a software he created. The same message was repeated over 200 times in a single thread, and thus some users called it "Spam", as it remembered them the famous Monty Python sketch. This was the very first time to word "Spam" was used for an e-mail message, and apparently it was Joel Furr who used it first. Richard Depew apologized for the unintentional mass mailing, and he then also used the term "Spam" when doing so.

The first fully intentional spamming of the USENET happened on January 18, 1994 when Clarence Thomas, a system administrator at Andrews University, posted the message "Global Alert for All: Jesus is Coming Soon" into every single newsgroup. Only a few months later, in April, Laurence A. Canter and Martha S. Siegel posted the "Green Card Lottery - Final One?" spam to every group in the USENET, which kicked off an entire wave of spams.

And this is where the story ends, as we all know what happened after that... More than six billion cans of Spam have been sold so far, but a much larger number of spam mails have been sent by spammers. By the way, The Hormel company always supported the Monty Python sketch (great marketing at no cost), but they were never happy with the use of the word spam for junk email.

A Tribute To The Commodore Amiga

22. january 2008

The Amiga is a family of famous Commodore home computers. Amiga computer systems were based the Motorola 68k processor family and featured a custom made chipset offering advanced graphics and sound capabilities, running a true pre-emptive multitasking operating system which was quite exceptional for a machine released in the mid 1980s.

Amiga computers offered better performance than popular 8 bit home computers and featured much better graphics than early IBM PCs. The main competitor was probably the Atari ST line of computers, as well as the Apple Macintosh. The Amiga became a popular machine for games, video production and 3D graphics.

 

Creating the Amiga

 

Jay Miner started the development on the Amiga in 1982 at Amiga Corporation, soon after the company was acquired by Commodore. The chipset was codenamed Lorraine and was originally designed to power game consoles, but after the video game crash in 1983 Amiga decided to use the chipset to build their own computer.

 

Amiga 1000 (1985)

 

 

The original Amiga was released in 1985 as a successor to the Commodore 64 and as a rival to the Atari ST and the Apple Macintosh. Thanks to the custom chip set many multimedia related tasks didn't keep the processor busy, which allowed the Amiga to perform better than its competitors when working with graphics or animations. It was renamed to "Amiga 1000" later on.

 

When the Amiga was released it featured an 8 Mhz Motorola 68000 CPU (a 32 bit processor with a 16 bit data bus), 1 MB of RAM, 4096 colors display and and 8-bit stereo audio as well as a multitasking OS, which was quite exceptional for that time. For only $1295 it offered a technology that was far more developed than the Atari ST, the Apple Macintosh and the IBM PC. Nevertheless, the Amiga 1000 didn't become very successfull, mainly because of bad marketing strategies (Commodore was also struggling with the Commodore C128 around that time).

 

Amiga 500 & Amiga 2000 (1987)

 

The Atari ST had already become very popular when Commodore finally introduced the less expensive Amiga 500. Sold at a price of $596 the Amiga 500 became attractive for the mass market and it became a highly popular home computer. The Amiga 500 featured the same CPU than the A1000 (an 8 Mhz Motorola 68000), 512 kb of RAM and shipped in a keyboard factor case with external power supply.

 

The Amiga 2000 has targeted at the high end market, it also featured an 8 Mhz Motorola 68000 CPU but offered 1 MB of RAM and was more expandable. It shipped in a desktop-style case which could also harbor an additional 3. 5" drive as well as a 5. 25" disk drive. Harddisk options were also available. For $2395 you could buy an A2000 including a monitor.

 

 

Amiga 3000 (1990)

 

The Amiga 3000 introduced the second generation Amiga hardware, featuring a Motorola 68030 processor at either 16 MHz or 25 MHz (which also offered a 32 bit data bus, but unfortunately the rest of the chipset only supported a 16 bit bis), a 68881 or 68882 FPU coprocessor, 2 MB of RAM, an enhanced chipset (ECS) and the second generation Amiga operating system (Workbench 2. 0). Furthermore it finally became possible to use the Amiga with cheap VGA PC monitors.

Commodore had been criticised that the platform hadn't been updated for about 5 years, and both the Apple Macintosh and the IBM PC now offered graphics and video features comparable to the Amiga platform, and partly even surpassed the A3000 when it finally shipped.

 

CDTV (1990)

 

Shortly after the CDTV was released, which was basically a A500 in a settop box featuring a remote control and a CD-ROM drive. The CDTV flopped, maybe even because it was more expensive than a fully equipped Amiga 500 computer.

 

Amiga 500+ & Amiga 600 (1992)

 

In 1992 the Amiga 500+ was introduced, which was basically a cost reduced Amiga 500 with 1 MB of RAM and an updated OS (the Workbench 2. 0 from the A3000). Due to the new system software a large number of games didn't run on the A500+, which was quite fatal as this machine targeted the home computer and gaming market. The A500+ was discontinued after only 6 months.

 

The Amiga 600 was again an improved A500+ in a smaller keyboard style case. Originally the A600 should help to lower the price for an entry model, but in the end it was even more expensive than the Amiga 500. Commodore's profits fell to $28 million in 1992, and it was quite obvious that they were getting into trouble.

 

 

Amiga 1200 & Amiga 4000 (1992)

 

In October 1992, Commodore finally released the A1200 and the A4000. These third generation Amiga were based on the new AGA chipset and featured 2 MB of RAM as well as the third release of AmigaOS (Workbench 3. 0). 

 

The Amiga 1200 featured a 14 MHz Motorola 68EC020 CPU while the Amiga 4000 was available with either a Motorola 68EC030 or a 68040, both running at 25MHz. A tower version of the A4000 became available later in 1994.

 

 

CD32 (1993)

 

In 1993, Commodore launched the CD32, the world's first 32-bit game console. The hardware was based on the Amiga 1200.

Commodore lost $357 million that year.

 

How the story ended

 

Commodore filed for bankruptcy in May 1994. It was decided to sell the company without proceeding to reorganization, and the majority of Commodore's assets and name were sold to Escom, a german computer manufacturer, which restarted the company as "Amiga Technologies" but didn't create any new technologies except for a 68060 based A4000T. Many loyal Amiga users switched over to the Mac or Windows PCs. Escom then sold Amiga to Gateway 2000, which founded Amiga, Inc in 1999. None of all these companies managed to revitalize the Amiga.

Amiga, Inc. created AmigaOne, a PowerPC hardware design that runs latest version of AmigaOS. The AmigaOS, again, has been licensed to Hyperion Entertainment, a Belgian-German company which released the new AmigaOS 4. 0 on December 24, 2006.

AmigaOS 4. 0 is a native PowerPC OS and offers a large number of new features including a completely renewed GUI. The AmigaOS 4. 0 OS is reported to be reliable and stable, but it's only used by very few Amiga fans.

If you liked this post you may also want to read my posts about the Atari ST and the Commodore C128.

I think this post should end by a statement made by John C. Dvorak in 1996, who said:

The AmigaOS "remains one of the great operating systems of the past 20 years, incorporating a small kernel and tremendous multitasking capabilities the likes of which have only recently been developed in OS/2 and Windows NT. The biggest difference is that the AmigaOS could operate fully and multitask in as little as 250 K of address space. Even today, the OS is only about 1MB in size. And to this day, there is very little a memory-hogging CD-ROM-loading OS can do the Amiga can't. Tight code — there's nothing like it. I've had an Amiga for maybe a decade. It's the single most reliable piece of equipment I've ever owned. It's amazing! You can easily understand why so many fanatics are out there wondering why they are alone in their love of the thing. The Amiga continues to inspire a vibrant — albeit cultlike — community, not unlike that which you have with Linux, the Unix clone."

The Designers of the first Mac and the NeXTcube

21. january 2008

Frog design is a strategic-creative consultancy which has become famous with their design studies for Apple Computer, Inc, the NeXTcube and many other designs in the area of consumer electronics and computers.

 

German industrial designer Hartmut Esslinger founded frog design in 1969. They debuted as "Esslinger Design" in Mutlangen and Altensteig, Germany, several years before Apple was founded. One of their first customers in the late 1960s was the German TV manufacturer Wega, which was later acquired by Sony. The Wega partnership was taken over by Sony, and so Esslinger Design created the legendary Trinitron television set in 1975. Employees Andreas Haug and Georg Spreng became partners in 1977.

Shortly after they moved to Palo Alto, California, where they started working on the design of the Apple IIc. The company name was only changed to "frogdesign" in 1982. In the early 1980s frogdesign then created the famous Apple Macintosh design as well as many more designs for Apple (many of them were never released, such as the Apple phone), as well as the SUN SPARCstations in 1986 as well as the famous NeXTcube in 1987.

In 2000 "frogdesign" was changed to "frog design". Today the company has more than 325 employees worldwide and is maintaining design studios in the US, Germany, Italy and China. They are, however, no longer working for Apple (today Apple runs their own design center lead by Jonathan Iva, the creator of the Apple iMac).

The Dumbest Things George W. Bush Ever Said

18. january 2008

"I heard somebody say, 'Where's Mandela?' Well, Mandela's dead. Because Saddam killed all the Mandelas." (Sept. 20, 2007, and YES, Nelson Mandela is still alive...)

“The same folks that are bombing innocent people in Iraq were the ones who attacked us in America on September the 11th.” (July 12, 2007)

"Iraq is a very important part of securing the homeland, and it's a very important part of helping change the Middle East into a part of the world that will not serve as a threat to the civilized world, to people like - or to the developed world, to people like - in the United States." (April 3, 2007)

"The solution to Iraq - an Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself - is more than a military mission. Precisely the reason why I sent more troops into Baghdad." (April 3, 2007)

"The best way to defeat the totalitarian of hate is with an ideology of hope - an ideology of hate - excuse me - with an ideology of hope." (Jan. 11, 2007)

“You know, one of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror.” (Sept. 6, 2006)

“Our enemies are innovative and resourceful, and so are we. They never stop thinking about new ways to harm our country and our people, and neither do we.” (Aug. 5, 2004)

“There’s an old saying in Tennessee - I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee - that says, fool me once, shame on - shame on you. Fool me - you can’t get fooled again.” (Sept. 17, 2002)

“Do you have blacks, too?” - to Brazilian President Fernando Cardoso (Nov. 8, 2001)

“The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him.” (Sept. 13, 2001) - “I don’t know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don’t care. It’s not that important. It’s not our priority.” (March 13, 2002)

“I know what I believe. I will continue to articulate what I believe and what I believe - I believe what I believe is right.” (July 22, 2001)

“If this were a dictatorship, it’d be a heck of a lot easier, just so long as I’m the dictator.” (Dec. 19, 2000)

“I know the human being and fish can coexist peacefully.” (Sept. 29, 2000)

“They misunderestimated me.” (Nov. 6, 2000)

Are Content Management Systems Dead?

17. january 2008

A few years ago everyone was talking about content management systems. In fact there was a real hype, and most websites were expected to quickly move to CMS technology. But today it seems the CMS hype is fading - so where's the content management system technology heading, and what should one expect from a CMS today?

Let's start with a short history of web editors. In the beginning (early 1990s), web pages were usually hand coded in HTML (which is, by the way, still done by many web developers and SEO experts today). When the web became more popular in the mid 1990s, first web page and website editors appeared (offline applications).

But these editors had a few problems - first of all, they were not template based, which means that all pages had to be edited manually when the template was changed. Server Side Includes (SSI) and similar technologies could help, but they were not very practicable for beginners. The second big problem was the fact that these editors changed pages locally on the user's computer and didn't offer and versioning system, which means that they didn't allow multiple users to edit the website at the same time. Pages had to be uploaded manually to the server, most times using an FTP client. Standalone web editors are still used for personal websites by many individuals today, such as Microsoft FrontPage or Adobe Dreamweaver for example.

Some people already experimented with online editors in the mid 1990s - Ward Cunningham for example, who then developed the first wiki, a technology which has now become largely popular (modern versions are used to power large scale projects like Wikipedia, and there's also a certain number of special purpose wikis such as the Galaxiki online wiki galaxy for example).

In the late 1990s web content management systems (WCMS) became popular. Such a content management system (CMS) is a software that generally runs on the server (a so called web application) and allows to create and manage HTML content. Usually a CMS supports page templates (templates and page code are separated elements), offers versioning and backup tools and allowes multiple persons to edit the site simultaneously. With content management systems it finally became possible to efficiently manage large scale websites (hundreds or thousands of pages). A CMS also allows non-technical users to make changes to pages and reducdes administrative tasks.

Today there's a large number of both open source (JoomlaTypo3...) and commercial content management systems. Commercial solutions often also offer application server features, workflow management tools and load balancing technology. There was a real CMS hype from 2000 to 2005, but it seems that his hype rapidly declined with the appearance of web 2.0. So what happened?

First of all most content management systems were probably still too complicated for non-technical end users - also remember that some CMS are difficult to install and require specific hosting solutions. What end users really needed was the easiest possible solution. And then blogs arrived - in fact a blog can be considered to be a greatly simplified CMS, blogs have a lot in common with traditional content management systems as they are both template based and allow editing content online. Enterprise class features are missing, but on the other hand they offer feedback options and that's what most end users are looking for. We can be quite sure that content management systems lost most of their potential market to blogs.

Online stores often use dedicated solutions (such as oscommerce for example) and very specific web applications still need to be custom made and can't rely on simple content management systems. So what's left? Open source content management systems are still popular, high end enterprise solutions are still required for high traffic sites (NPS6 Fiona for example) and some custom solutions (OLEFA for the education market for example) also survived.

After all, content management systems are not dead at all, but the original hype vanished and today there is a more realistic view. There are also other solutions that allow to create and manage websites, such as wikis and blogs for example. Traditional CMS technology is still progressing and it's still needed, but it's used where really required, while nobody expects content management systems to dominate the web any more.

How To Get Your Own Domain Name

16. january 2008

A lot of people now have a blog, many more are planning to get one and some people even run an entire website. An own domain name would be cool - but now that domain names are quite inexpensive it becomes in fact very hard to find an available one.

To purchase a domain name is not that complicated any more, there are tons of sites offering domain name services, and the most popular might be godaddy.com. The registration process is now quite simple in most cases, and connecting your domain to your website has become quite easy too. In most cases the domain name registrars allow using their nameservers or even offer complete hosting service packages. Blogging services such as blogger.com offer features to easily display the blog under your own domain name. Most registrars also allow to purchase a domain name under various country top level domains.

So purchasing a domain name is not the problem any more - today the biggest problem might be the availability of the domain, e. g. to find an appropriate name. Millions of domain names have already been registered, and probably all words you'll find in a dictionary aren't available any more. Many of these domains represent valid website, but a large number of them have also been registered by domain name traders who hope to get a large number of money by selling them later on (apparently the most expensive public sale of an Internet domain name to date is porn.com which was sold in 2007 for $9. 5 million cash).

Most combinations of words have also been registered, which only leaves two options: either you'll try to buy a registered domain name (from sedo.com for example), but then you'll have to spend a lot more for your domain name - maybe hundreds or even thousands of dollars for a single domain, which is not really an option for a personal blog, website, or even for a small company site.

As you probably won't opt for very long domain names (which reduces the chances someone will ever type in your name), you'll have to become creative. Just take a look at some popular web 2. 0 platforms: del. icio. usreddit.combebo.comflickr.com or meebo.com for example. You'll note that there's now a growing number of websites using intentionally misspelled (or, let's say, creatively transformed) names. The advantage of such domain names is that they're short, they can be rapidly typed on the keyboard and they look funny, which may even allow to remember them more easily.

So how do you find such a domain name? Well, I don't really know - open your browser, surf the web, try to find short words that look catchy and think of how they could be transformed in a way to invent some kind of a new word. Then check if no other company is using this (google it) and if it's still available.

It's still possible to find a lot of acceptable domain names this way. Recenty I launched the joopita.com web directory, and an online writing site called tapyr.com. These are just examples, and as you can see tapyr.com is even a 5 character domain name which is quite hard to find these days. Finally all you'll need is some inspiration and some luck.

Two big mergers today: SUN acquires MySQL, ORACLE acquires BEA

16. january 2008

Sun Microsystems Inc., best known for technologies such as JAVA and its high end server and storage systems, today acquired MySQL AB for $1 billion. MySQL AB is the creator of the popular MySQL database server (apparently more than 10 million installations) which forms the LAMP platform along with the Linux operating system, the Apache webserver and the PHP (and also Perl) language.

The Oracle Corporation (more than 50,000 employees worldwide), best known for its database management systems (DBMS) and enterprise software platforms, today acquired BEA Systems for $8.5 billion. BEA is known for its Tuxedo, WebLogic, and AquaLogic products.

Murray Gell-Mann, The Man Who Discovered The Quarks

14. january 2008

Murray Gell-Mann is an American physicist who has become famous for his postulation of the existence of the Quark particles. He was born September 15, 1929 in New York, earned a bachelor's degree in physics from Yale University in 1948, a PhD in physics from MIT in 1951, and received the 1969 Nobel Prize in physics for his discovery of a system for classifying subatomic particles.

In the 1950s and the early 1960s he worked on a classification of elementary particles, and in 1964 he (and, independently, George Zweig) postulated the existence of quarks, the particles from which the hadrons (protons and neutrons for example) are composed.

The name "Quark" was inspired by the line "Three quarks for Muster Mark!" in James Joyce's famous (but hard to understand) novel Finnegans Wake. In 1972 he introduced the "color" quantum number and was the leading character behind the full theory of quantum chromodynamics (QCD - "chromo" because of the "colors" of the quarks).

Later on, in the 1990s, he co-founded the Santa Fe Institute, studied complex and chaotic systems and published his popular book "The Quark and the Jaguar: Adventures in the Simple and the Complex". Today he works as a professor at Caltech and the University of New Mexico, and he's also a member of the editorial board of the Encyclopædia Britannica.

Can You Imagine Microsoft Without Bill Gates?

10. january 2008

So it's more or less official now, Bill Gates will leave Microsoft. Personally I never liked the "visionary genius" or "inventor" Bill Gates, as most times he simply copied other people's ideas. But one has to admit that he's a real business genius who knows how to sell anything to anyone, and he definately was one of the leaders of the personal computer revolution.

 

Things in the computer industry will change when Bill's gone. Microsoft without Bill Gates is like Apple without Steve Jobs - they're not only losing one of their founders, but also the leading character who was representing the company during the past few decades. Everyone knows Bill Gates, and many respect him - at least as a business man and the leader of an awfully successful global company.

 

And he leaves while Microsoft has to face new challenges. Windows Vista didn't fulfill the expectations yet. They thought to have beaten Apple, but MacOS X is gaining market share and the Zune player remains a niche product while iPod and iPhone are just everywhere. Windows and Office are performing well, but Microsoft never managed to turn other projects into profitable products, including the Xbox. Internet Explorer is losing marketshare to Firefox and Safari, Office is threatened by web applications, Windows is considered to be a MacOS X ripp-off by many, Google now also rivals their platform in the mobile market...

Steve Ballmer is probably one of the best company leaders out there, but it's not yet clear if he's the man who will have the right "feeling" when it comes to technological decisions, and he'll probably never be indentified with technological evolution in a way Gates was. After all, Bill Gates was the man who determined the technological strategies of the company, and it's not yet known if his successors Craig Mundie and Ray Ozzie will be able to fill the gap.

The processor that sparked the computer revolution of the 1980's

9. january 2008

The MOS 6502 is an 8-bit microprocessor with a 16-bit address bus, designed by Chuck Peddle in 1975. Along with the Zilog Z80 it sparked a series of computer projects that would eventually result in the home computer revolution of the 1980s.

 

 

Despite the relatively low clock speed of 1 Mhz, the 6502's performance was actually competitive with other CPUs using higher clock speeds in the late 1970's and early 1980's (the Zilog Z80 for example). It has only very few registers - one 8-bit accumulator register (A), two 8-bit index registers (X and Y), an 8-bit processor status register (P), an 8-bit stack pointer (S), and a 16-bit program counter (PC) and a quite simple instruction set. The 16 bit address but allowed to allocate up to 64 kb of memory.

One of the first computers to use the 6502 were the Apple I (1976), the Apple II, and the Commodore PET, the Atari home computers and the BBC Micro. The famous Commodore 64 used a MOS 6510, which was a successor of the 6502 with a digital I/O port and a three-state bus. The 6507, a simplified version of the 6502, was used in the Atari 2600 videogame console. The 8502 was a 2 Mhz version of the 6502 which was used in the Commodore 128. Millions of computer systems with MOS 6502 processors shipped during the 1980's.

The MOS 6502 had been very popular among assembly language programmers (mostly because if it's simplistic design), and even 31 years later it is today used to teach assembly language and computer architecture by many universities.

Several companies produced 16 bit derivatives of the 6502, for example the Western Design Center 65C816 (still widely used today) or the (not fully compatible) Mitsubishi 65816. A planned Synertek SY6516 was never released. 32-bit derivatives include the Western Design Center W65T32 Terbium, a 6502 compatible chip with a 32-bit address bus, a 16-bit data bus, and a variable length instruction set.

The MOS 6502 clearly dominated the 8 bit homecomputer and videogame world, but then Apple, Commodore and Atari all switched to the Motorola 68K architecture with their next generation 16 bit computers (the Macintosh, the Amiga and the ST). Although the 6502 architecture faded in the homecomputer and video game market, it still remains a quite popular design that can still be found as the core of many microcontroller chips today.

Do You Know What A Transputer Is?

7. january 2008

The transputer (TRANSistor comPUTER) was an innovative computer design of the 1980s from INMOS, a British semiconductor company based in Bristol. When the transputer was first reveiled, many thought this exceptional concept should be the next revolution in microprocessor technology. As you may already have guessed, things didn't happen as expected: today, the transputer is a largely forgotten concept (although some initial ideas may be found in modern processor architectures).

 

In the early 1980s it became clear that conventional CISC processors were very limited in terms of scalable performance. One concept to solve the problem was RISC, which became the defacto standard for high performance workstations in the late 1990's. As RISC architectures were quite expensive in most cases (although ARM was not), the transputer was intended to offer high end performance without being costy.

 

The idea behind the transputer was quite simple: instead of creating a very complex processor, the transputer consisted of a family of chips. Each chip had a very simple design and multiple chips could be wired together to form an entire computer. Each transputer chip was in fact some kind of a microcontroller and was able to boot and operate by itself, it had its own RAM, a serial bus and an embedded real-time OS, but it fulfilled only very few complex tasks. Computer vendors would then combine transputer chips like building blocks and design a system that would fulfill specific requirements.

A single transputer chip could be used to power a disk controller for example, while larger numbers of them could be used to create a high end workstation. The advantage of the design was its extreme scalability and its low cost hardware. The transputer chip core itself was a simplified, microcoded CISC-like 8-bit processor (it ran a real-time OS to control the processor), while the available processors can be categorised into three groups: the 16-bit T2 series, the 32-bit T4 series and the 32-bit T8 series with 64-bit IEEE 754 floating-point support.

The transputer was a parallel architecture by design, and it required a multitasking operating system to take full advantage of the transputer hardware. Transputers were intended to be programmed using the occam programming language, which had also been developed inhouse at INMOS, and allowed to directly take advantage of the transputer hardware design. Later on other languages such as C, FORTRAN, Ada and Pascal became available too.

One of the major disadvantages of the transputer was the lack of an MMU or virtual memory support, which prevented UNIX to be ported to the transputer architecture (although there were ports of some UNIX-like OSes).

The first transputers were announced in 1983 and released in 1984, and various models followed during the later 1980's. The final problem of the transputer may have been that it was still too costy to compete in the microcontroller market, while it coulnd't complete with the growing success off the high end RISC designs. At the end, the was no real market for the transputer.

After many technical problems and delays during the development of the next generation T9000 transputer, INMOS got into financial trouble and was finally sold to SGS-Thomson, whose focus was the embedded systems market, and eventually the T9000 project was abandoned.

The most well known machine may have been the Atari Transputer Workstation, which was first introduced at the November 1987 COMDEX under the name Abaq. It was basically a modified Atari Mega ST with 512kB of RAM connected to a 20 MHz T800-20 transputer board and 4MB of RAM, plus a Blossom video system with 1MB of dual-ported RAM. A fully equipped Atari Transputer Workstation could contain 17 transputers offering 10 MIPS each.

Atari used HeliOS as operating system on this machine, as UNIX could not be ported because of the lack of a transputer MMU. Nevertheless this allowed the Atari Transputer Workstation to run a large number of standard Unix utilities, including the X Window System as the machine's graphical user interface (GUI).

Madonna, Michael Jackson And Prince Will Turn 50 This Year

2. january 2008

This year some of the most famous pop stars of the 1980's will turn 50, the most well known among them are probably Madonna, Michael Jackson and Prince. So you may consider this post to be some kind of a small tribute to the aging stars…

Madonna Louise Ciccone Ritchie, commonly known as "Madonna" and sometimes called "The Queen of Pop", was born August 16, 1958. Her debut was in 1982, she sold more than 232 million albums and 150 million singles worldwide, won multiple Grammy and Golden Globe-awards and also worked as record producer, film producer, actress and author. She is the top earning female singer in the world with an estimated net worth of over $325 million and she will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year.

Michael Joseph Jackson, sometimes also called "The King of Pop", was born August 29, 1958 and began his musical career in 1963 at the age of five with the Jackson Family vocal group, releasing his first solo record in 1971. Michael received thirteen Grammy Awards and charted thirteen Number One singles in the United States, and "Thriller" is the best-selling album of all time (over 104 million copies sold). He has been named the "Most Successful Entertainer of All Time" by Guinness World Records and sold over 750 million units worldwide. However Jackson's controversial appearance and actions has damaged his reputation and album sales has been in decline since the mid 1990's.

Prince Rogers Nelson, commonly known as "Prince", was born June 7, 1958. His career began in 1978, his biggest success was "Purple Rain" which sold more than thirteen million copies in the US alone and spent twenty-four consecutive weeks at #1 on the Billboard 200. The Academy Award-winning "Purple Rain" movie grossed more than $80 million in the US alone. In 1993 he dropped the name "Prince" after a legal dispute with his record company Warner Brothers (he readopted the name Prince since 2000). Although not quite as successful as Madonna or Michael Jackson, Prince has to be considered be have been one of the most influencial musicians during the 1980's. He produces, composes, arranges and performs nearly all of the songs on his albums.

Goodbye Netscape. Long Live Firefox!

1. january 2008

Today an era in computer and internet history ended. The Netscape browser has been buried.

The first browser to reach a certain popularity in the early 1990s was NCSA Mosaic. Marc Andreessen, one of the Mosaic developers, founded the Mosaic Communications Corporation and created a new web browser from scratch - it was Mosaic Netscape, released as beta in late 1994. After legal disputes with the NCSA the name was finally changed to "Netscape Navigator".

When it was first launched in December 1994, Netscape Navigator was the most advanced web browser available and it instantly became the market leader. Netscape Navigator 2.0 became available in March 1996 and added an e-mail client.

Netscape Navigator 3.0, which was released on August 19, 1996, was a tremendous success and became the undisputed market leader of its time. Version 3.0 added plug-ins as well as new HTML features. The 3. 0 "Gold" edition also offered a WYSIWYG HTML editor. Microsoft released Internet Explorer 3.0 the same month, which became the first widely used and popular version of Internet Explorer.

In June 1997 Netscape Communicator 4.0 was released - the "Communicator" name had been chosen to allow better differenciation between the browser ("Navigator") and the other applications of the package. There was an increasing competition from Internet Explorer 4.0 (released a few months later, in September 1997) which deepened the level of integration between the web browser and the underlying operating system, and Netscape was struggling with their outdated HTML rendering core.

In January 1998 Netscape launched the Mozilla Community. Netscape Communicator 5.0 was announced, but it was delayed over and over again. In November 1998, Netscape Communications Corporation was bought by AOL and Netscape 5.0 (still based on the legacy Netscape code) was officially cancelled in favour of a completely new code base.

On March 18, 1999, Microsoft launched Internet Explorer 5.0 while Netscape was still stuck with Navigator 4. IE 5.0 offered better support of HTML 4, CSS, DOM, XML, XSL and JavaScript. In the mean time Mozilla was working on the completely rewritten Netscape 6 core and wasn't able to offer any new product for a long time, so that Netscape finally lost its leading position.

Netscape 6 development progressed slowly, and in 2000 AOL forced the release of Netscape 6 which was still uncompleted, had tons of severe bug and was extremely slow. Users were disappointed and Netscape 6 became a flop, although later updated fixed most of the big problems. Nevertheless Netscape was not able to regain any market share.

In August 2002 Netscape 7 was released, and Mozilla 1 was released in parallel. One year later, in 2003, AOL closed the Netscape division and halted most of the development. The Mozilla Foundation continued their work on the code base and in August 2004 the last version based on the classic Mozilla was released as Netscape 7.2.

AOL then released the Netscape Browser 8 in May 2005, which is a proprietary Windows web browser based on Mozilla Firefox, but additionally using the Microsoft Internet Explorer engine. This also means that Netscape 8 was no longer an application suite, but a standalone browser. It was succeeded by Netscape Navigator 9 but on December 28, 2007, AOL finally announced to discontinue their web browser on February 1, 2008.

While the Netscape label itself may be dead, Mozilla Firefox has become the second-most-popular browser in current use worldwide. As of December 2007, Firefox had about 15% of the recorded market share, followed by Apple Safari with about 3%. Microsoft Internet Explorer still leads the browser market with a market share of about 80%.

Merry Christmas!

24. december 2007

So here it is, our christmas card for this year. The two dogs on the pic are our English Bulldogs Hilde and Dustin.

Destroying an iPhone in order to sell kitchen machines

21. december 2007

Will It Blend? is probably one of the best viral marketing campaigns I've ever seen. Will It Blend? consisting of short videos by the Blendtec company - Blendtec founder Tom Dickson attempts to blend various items in order to show off the power of his machine.

The campaign is highly successful and already got cult status, as Tom often tries to blend things you probably wouldn't put in a blender at home. The following video shows Tom blending an Apple iPhone (and yes, it DOES blend!)

 

The remains of the iPhone seen in the video were placed on eBay and were sold (along with a new Blendtec blender and a blender DVD) for $901 USD. You'll find a lot more Will it Blend? episodes on YouTube, so check 'em out...

A tribute to the Atari ST computer

20. december 2007

Okay, the Atari ST was a really cool home computer, but to you know anything about the facts and the technology behind it? So here's my very short (but hopefully interesting) story of the Atari ST.

Let's start with the background story. After Commodore founder Jack Tramiel left its company in January 1984 he was looking for a new computer company he could acquire. He finally took over Atari, which was in financial trouble back then. Shiraz Shivji, the father of the C64 who came on board along with Tramiel, had also left Commodore for Atari and Tramiel now asked him to develop a new low-cost, high-end computer system. All other Atari computer in development back then were cancelled and Tramiel fired most of Atari's staff.

 

 

Shivji started to develop a computer system using the Motorola 68000 CPU, a 32 bit processor featuring a 16 bit data bus (thus the name "ST", which officially stands for "Sixteen/Thirty-two"). The original ST featured 512 KB of RAM and a 3.5" floppy disk, nevertheless Shivji was able to build the system using an absolute minimum of hardware which allowed to keep the costs low.

After the hardware design had been completed they had to look for an operating system - developing an inhouse OS was not an option as the ST was planned to ship soon. Microsoft offered to port an early Windows version to the ST, but this would have taken two years as DOS didn't run on 68K hardware. 

Atari finally opted for Digital Research's CP/M-68K, which was essentially a direct port of CP/M's original, mature operating system, plus Digital Research's GEM graphical user interface. The problem with this decision was that CP/M was becoming increasingly outdated in comparison to MS-DOS 2.0 in 1985, it did not support sub-directories and did not have a hierarchical file system for example. 

Digital Research was already working on an improved OS called GEMDOS, and finally they integrated parts of the GEMDOS OS into CP/M to realize a hierarchical file system for example. So finally the Atari OS, officially called TOS (The Operating System), was a CP/M port with GEM and custom library ports.

The first ST was the Atari 520ST which shipped in 1995. Early machines booted TOS from a floppy, later ones had the TOS in an onboard ROM. The ST was less expensive than the Apple Macintosh plus, it was fast and became quite popular because of its good price/performance factor. An Atari ST including terminal emulation software was also much cheaper than a Digital VT220 terminal for example.

The main competitors of the Atari ST were the Apple Macintosh and the Commodore Amiga. The Macintosh was limited to a monochromatic display on a smaller built-in monitor, in fact the Atari ST was the first computer to come with a fully bit-mapped color GUI and it was considered to be a cheap but powerful CAD and office computer. It was also the first home computer with integrated MIDI support, which made it quite popular among musicians.

The 1040ST was the first personal computer shipped with a base RAM configuration of 1 MB, and at $999 in the U.S. it became the first computer to break the $1000/megabyte price barrier. It also had a built-in floppy drive. A version featuring a pizza box form factor, a detached high-quality keyboard and internal expansion slots was shipped as the "Mega" to fulfill the needs of the professional market.

In late 1989, Atari released the STE, the first major revamp of the platform since the original release of the ST four years earlier. It featured an updated TOS and improved hardware - an increased colour palette of 4096 colours, Genlock support, a blitter chip which could quickly move large blocks of data, better sound and more joystick ports. Nevertheless it still used the same Motorola 68000 processor running at 8 Mhz.

There were some serious problems with the STE models. First of all, there were software and hardware conflicts that made them incompatible with a certain number of programs and expansions for the classic ST models. Furthermore there were only very few programs making use of the enhanced STE features, most software still only supported the well known ST hardware features.

The high-end workstation-oriented TT ("Thirty-two/Thirty-two" using a 32 MHz Motorola 68030 CPU) was released in 1990, also featuring improved graphics, more powerful support chips and an integrated harddisk. There was also an STE shipping in a TT case, this one was called the Mega STE which ran at 16 Mhz and had many more improved featured compared to the original STE, but was still less expensive than the TT.

The last ST computer was the Falcon, a multimedia computer also based on the Motorola 68030, operating at 16 MHz, but with improved graphics and greatly enhanced custom chips, including high-quality audio DSPs. Released in 1992, it was cancelled by Atari the following year. 

In 1993 Atari cancelled development of all ST hardware. Some third party vendors continued to ship Falcon and TT-compatible machines using 68040 and even 68060 processors (the Motorola chip that was originally planned to challenge the Intel Pentium, but was never used by Apple because of their switch to the PowerPC architecture).

Even today, and despite the lack of a hardware supplier, there is still a small active community dedicated to keeping the ST platform alive.

 

The man behind the beard: Santa Claus had a broken nose

18. december 2007

Santa Claus is a fictional folklore figure who is presented as bringing gifts on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day or on his feast day, December 6. The legend has its basis in tales concerning the historical figure of Saint Nicholas.

Saint Nicholas was born around 270 (exact date unknown) in Patara, Lycia, he was Bishop of Myra in Anatolia (in Turkey, though then it was a Greek-speaking Roman Province) and died 6 December 343, Myra, Lycia (thus his feast day December 6). He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, which probably has led to the figure of Santa Clause later on. 

 

Whereas the importance of relics and the business associated with pilgrims and patron saints caused the remains of most saints to be spread over several churches in several countries, St Nicholas is unique in that most of his bones have been preserved in one spot: his grave crypt in Bari. 

The Roman Catholic Church has allowed for one scientific survey of the bones. In the late 1950s, during a restoration of the chapel, it allowed a team of hand-picked scientists to photograph and measure the contents of the crypt grave.

In the summer of 2005, the report of these measurements was sent to a forensic laboratory in England. The review of the data revealed that the historical St Nicholas was barely five feet in height (while not exactly small, still shorter than average, even for his time) and had a broken nose.

Some elements of this part of the Saint Nicholas tradition can be traced back to the Germanic god Wodan (Odin). The appearance is similar to some portrayals of this god.

The popular North American form Santa Claus is derived from the Dutch Sinterklaas, which in turn is a contracted form of Sint Nicolaas (Saint Nicholas).

Derived from the Wikipedia page:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint_Nicholas

Confirmed: Apple's 1983 phone handled cheques

17. december 2007

I guess you probably heard of the iPhone (if not, check it out here), but you may not know that Apple already designed a phone in the early 1980's. It was never released, but it was a quite interesting concept and some time ago early prototype snapshots were seen on the web. It's quite difficult to identify screen content on the snapshots, therefore I enhanced them a bit, as you can see down below (images 2 and 3).

 

 

The original 1983 Apple phone had been designed by Hartmut Esslinger, who was later also responsible of the Apple IIc computer. When it was designed, Apple was just shipping the new Lisa computer and was still working on their top secret Macintosh project (Steve Jobs should have taken over the Mac project at that time point if I remember well).

Nevertheless, the Apple phone already featured a flat screen that could be operated using a pen (attached to be phone by a cable, which remembers me the old light pens available for 8 bit home computers back then). The screen probably wasn't intended to be a real touchscreen though.

But it already featured a real black and white GUI, offering an address book and eventually some other features (maybe even FAX support?) A keyboard could be displayed on the screen so that you could typ letters using the pen. There was no handwriting recognition yet, the first PDA (the Apple Newton) was only released ten years later in 1993. So here's an image of the address book software:

 

When I optimized another picture I found this really interesting screen - apparently the Apple phone should be used for payments too, as the lower part of the screen definately shows a cheque (can somebody identify the bank name?) I suppose the upper half of the screen shows a list of bills or payments. Here's the pic:

 

 

Why was it never released? Well, I guess it should have been quite expensive, and there may not have been a real market for it back then (it would probably have been a nice gadget for executives, though, at least the payment/cheque feature suggests this kind of target market). Apple didn't have a problem with over-priced hardware in the 1980's, but I think the potential customer base would have been way to small.

Don't know if there were any working prototypes or if any of them still exist today. Anyway, 1983 was just after the breakup of AT&T, a lot of companies were working on phones that were never released back then.

Inside KITT, the Knight Industries Two Thousand

14. december 2007

KITT is a fictional artificial intelligence built into a black Pontiac Trans Am in the popular Knight Rider TV series, which ran between September 26, 1982, and August 8, 1986 starring David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight.

The KITT AI was originally created by Wilton Knight, a brilliant but eccentric billionaire, and then used by the U.S. government. The artificial intelligence relied an a Knight 2000 microprocessor which was the center of a "self-aware" cybernetic logic module that allowed KITT to think, learn, communicate and interact with humans. It was first installed in a mainframe computer in Washington D.C.. Later on, Wilton Knight modified the computer system and implemented it into a Pontiac car to be used by his own association, the Foundation for Law and Government.

The car featured an Anamorphic Equalizer which allowed KITT to see, visible as a red scan-bar on the front of the car. The fiber-optic array of electronic eyes could see in all visual wavelengths as well as X-Ray and infrared. An Etymotic Equalizer allowed him to hear and his voice synthesizer allowed him to speak in english, french and spanish, and also to simulate other sounds. Furthermore he could smell using an atmospheric sampling device.

 

Neither the Knight 2000 CPU clock nor the exact amount of memory of the KITT AI are known. The AI supercomputer used the so-called Alpha Circuit to drive the Pontiac, which can be disabled to run the car in "manual override" mode. The entire AI can also be shut down using a hidden switch and setting dial under the dash.

 

KITT was also able to drive the car by himself, even better than any human could. It also offered a lot of gimmicks such the Turbo Boost (which allows to jump over obstaclesby quickly accelerating to speeds in excess of 200 mph), a "Tri-Helical Plasteel 1000 Molecular Bonded Shell" armored plating which resists weapon fire as well as the "Super Pursuit Mode" which was added at a later stage. 

Most features could be activated automatically by KITT or manually be the driver, using a multitude of buttons and panels in the cockpit - and it had LOTS of features, so here's just a basic list: police lights and a siren, a grappling hook and winch, a parachute, it could leak oil onto the road or produce smoke, it had a flame thrower, a tear gas launcher, ultramagnesium charges to divert heat-seeking missiles, traction spikes, a microwave jammer, tracking systems, an onboard laser powerpack, a bomb sniffer, a medical scanner, deflatable tires, self-tinting windows, a voice stress analyzer, a rotating license plate, a seat ejection system and much more (the entire list just too long).

Do you know example.com?

13. december 2007

You surely have already seen it in online documentations and installation guidelines: example.com is probably one of the most often mentioned sites on the web. The company who owns that domain should make millions with ads alone. But have you ever tried to enter this domain in your web browser? 

Well, example.com does really exists, but it isn't owned by a company. Just as example.net and example.org, it has been officially reserved for use in documentations, as described in RFC 2606, Section 3. The domains belong to the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and are not available for registration and they will never expire.

The IANA is the entity that oversees global IP address allocation, DNS root zone management, and other Internet protocol assignments. It is operated by ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers which is itself a California non-profit corporation.

The fact that these domains are reserved makes sure that documentation writers can be sure to pick a domain that won’t inconvenience anyone if end-users try to use the sample configurations or examples as-is. The domains are redirected to IP 208.77.188.166 which currently displays the following message:

You have reached this web page by typing "example.com", "example.net", or "example.org" into your web browser. These domain names are reserved for use in documentation and are not available for registration. See RFC 2606, Section 3.

Cool Image Tool Now Available Under The GPL

12. december 2007

AFELO is a nice tool for all those who like uploading images onto websites. It allows to do everything you need, step by step: select images on your local computer, edit them (resize, crop, rotate, adjust brightness and contrast, ...), and save them - either locally onto your computer, or directly to your website.

AFELO has now been released under the GNU General Public License (GPL) and is thus available as Open Source software, the latest release can be downloaded from www.afelo.com. The program is very easy to use and it runs on Microsoft WindowsApple MacOS X (Tiger, Leopard) and Linux/UNIX operating systems (you may have to install JAVA if you don't have it yet).

 

Using AFELO to upload images to a website is quite simple: If you're using the OLEFA web application suite then you can simply use your OLEFA username and password. If your server supports FTP then you can simply use your FTP username and password. Webmasters may install the AFELO Gateway Script on their server to allow people uploading images using AFELO.

I originally had the idea for AFELO back in 2005, as many OLEFA web application suite customers (mostly teachers and students) had a lot of problems when uploading images onto their websites. Photoshop, GIMP, FTP clients and such alike were just too complex and complicated for our end users, as some of them never heard of pixels, image sizes and webservers before. 

The solution was a single simple tool that would be very easy to use and could do everything users would need. I had finished the application design in late 2005, and the application was finally developed by Tim Gottwald. It was released in mid 2006 as a side project of the OLEFA web application suite and immediately got a lot of positive feedback. 

Unfortunately it could not be used with third party web applications and it was never released under an Open Source license and so it remained a niche product mostly used by students and teachers in Luxembourg, Europe. But this has been changed now, the new release supports an open gateway that can be easily integrated in any web application suite, and AFELO itself now uses the GPL so that new features can be added by anyone.

The future development of the AFELO software will be lead by the OLEFA Project and you can expect updated versions to be released on a regular basis. Of course feedback and code enhancements are always welcome - send your comments and additions to support@olefa.com (sorry, but there is no public repository or community platform yet, we're working on it...).

We will now concentrate on the application performance (first click on the main screen is still quite slow), on the image quality (compression quality is not satisfying yet) and on further interface enhancements. It would be cool to see CMS and web application developers integrate the AFELO Gateway so that users could use AFELO on various web platforms.

Update - 2010: As you may know I'm no longer involved in the development of OLEFA and AFELO. As AFELO has been released under the GPL in 2007 I'm now continuing to develop this cool tool under the OLMO CMS label. You may download the latest version of the AFELO successor here:

www.olmo-cms.com

The Very First Video Game Ever Released (And It's NOT Pong)

11. december 2007

When asked about the very first video game ever released most experts will tell you that it was Pong, the famous table tennis inspired video game released in 1972 by Atari Inc. But Pong wasn't the first one, as a company called Nutting Associates had already released their Computer Space game in 1971.

Computer Space was created by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabne, who later founded Atari. The gaming idea was based on Spacewar! (see below), but the really revolutionary concept was to create a machine specifically for a game (instead of programming a game for an existing hardware). The classic arcade game had been invented.

The game was quite simple, you had to control a space ship and would fire missiles at flying saucers. Computer Space's technology was very primitive - no microprocessor and no modern memory architecture, the entire minimalistic computer was made of only 74 logic circuits using diode arrays as memory. But it came in an outstanding futuristic cabinet, which was available in various colors.

 

While the Computer Space game was quite successful on college campuses, it didn't perform well in bars. It was probably too complicated back then, as people had never seen such a kind of game before. Pong, which was a huge success only shortly after, was much more easy to play and to understand.

While Computer Space was the first computer game available for the public, the were games even before it. Bill Pitts and Hugh Tuck had programmed Galaxy Game two months before Computer Space was released (in September 1971), but it was only available at Stanford University. Galaxy Game, again, was based on Spacewar!, a game created on a PDP-1 back in 1961 by Steve "Slug" Russell, Martin "Shag" Graetz and Wayne Wiitanen.

If you liked this post then you may also read the post about the Intellivision, which was the first 16 bit console ever released (1979).

Damn! Richard Nixon's Signature Is On The Moon... Even Twice!

10. december 2007

From 1969 to 1972 NASA sent manned missions to the Moon. A total of twelve Apollo astronauts landed on the Moon's surface during this period. The landings were performed using the so-called "Lunar Module", while the Command Module remained in moon orbit.

The Lunar Module (or simlpy "LM") had a ladder, used by the astronauts to climb down to the Moon's surface respectively to get back into the LM. And each ladder had a so-called "Lunar Plaque" attached to it - these are square stainless steel plaques (9" x 7 5/8") bearing the names of the three mission astronauts. While the upper part of the LM was used to return to the orbiting command module, the lower part including the ladder - and thus the plaque - remained on the moon's surface.

Two of these plaques - both the first (Apollo 11 in 1969) and the last one (Apollo 17 in 1972) also bear a facsimile of the signature of President Richard Nixon, who was U.S. President from 1969 to 1974, additionally to the astronauts signatures.

Which means that Nixon's signature has now been on the moon for about 38 years (Apollo 11 landed on July 20, 1969). 

Don't know who Richard Nixen was? Richard Milhous Nixon was born in 1913 and was the thirty-seventh President of the United States. He was the only U.S. President to resign the office. And he's the only U.S. President who got his damn signature up to the moon. He died on April 22, 1994 at the age of 81.

Interested in Space, Astronomy or Science-Fiction? You may want top check out Galaxiki then, it's a site I created where you can edit your own solar system in a virtual galaxy.

Steve Jobs Teenage Photo

9. december 2007

Yesterday I posted a photo of 13 year old Bill Gates, so today I looked for a teenage photo of Apple's Steve Jobs. So here's the Steve Jobs teenage photo compared to today's Steve Jobs showing us an iPhone:

Steve Jobs was born in 1955 in San Francisco. One week after birth, Jobs was put up for adoption - he was adopted by Paul and Clara Jobs of Mountain View, who gave him the name Steven Paul Jobs. 

He attended Cupertino Middle School and Homestead High School in Cupertino, California (where the Apple headquarters are located today), and frequented after-school lectures at the Hewlett-Packard Company in Palo Alto, California. He was soon hired there and worked with Steve Wozniak (the two would later found Apple Computer, Inc).

13 Year Old Bill Gates

8. december 2007

Bill Gates watches his friend and future Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen typing on a teletype terminal at the Lakeside School in Seattle in 1968.

I found this photo which was apparently originally published by Time Magazine. Bill Gates was born in 1955 and grew up in Seattle - his family was wealthy, he excelled in elementary school (particularly in mathematics and the sciences). At thirteen he enrolled in the Lakeside School, Seattle's most exclusive preparatory school - this is where the photo has been taken.

Paul Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates later on, was born in 1953. They used Lakeside's teletype terminal to develop their programming skills on several time-sharing computer systems

Intellivision: A Game Console Far Ahead Of Its Time

7. december 2007

The Intellivision was a revolutionary video game console developed and released by Mattel (the company probably best known for Barbie dolls, Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars) in 1979. It was the first 16 bit game console ever released and introduced a lot of new concepts and technologies: innovative game controllers, superior graphics and sound, game downloads, home computer extensions, a voice synthesis device and a synthesizer keyboard for example.

 

The CPU used in the Intellivision was a General Instruments CP1610, a general purpose microprocessor capable of supporting 16-bit addresses and 10-bit instructions. The US release used a CPU clock of 894,886.25 Hz while the european release used a 1 Mhz clock, due to the different NTSC / PAL specs, which means that games were running up to 10% faster on european consoles than on their US counterparts!

The CP1610 featured eight 16-bit registers - using a 16 bit CPU in a video game console was quite exceptional indeed. It had 1.2 kb of RAM (including 512 byte video memory) and 7 kb ROM (which included the "Executive ROM" - some kind of a mini-OS - and the "Graphics ROM" which included often used sprites for example). It's graphics performance was outstanding for the late 1970's, allowing a 160 x 196 pixel display using a 16 color palette (all colors could be used simultaneously), plus eight hardware supported sprites offering collision detection, mirroring and streching.

The game controllers were quite different too, as they featured a "disc" (somewhat similar to the Apple iPod clickwheel) instead of a joystick as well as a twelve-button numeric keypad. The disc was capable of 16 direction detection and games usually shipped with "overlay cards" that could be inserted into the controllers (in front of the numeric keypad - switching games required inserting a new cartridge AND flipping the overlay cards).

In 1980 the Intellivision became available in the entire US for US$299, the console was the first to pose a serious threat to Atari's dominance (Atari was the number one video game console producer back then). Mattel sold 175,000 consoles in 1980, with 19 availalble games. After Mattel realized that the game market offered good revenues, they launched their own software development group which became known as the "Blue Sky Rangers".

In 1981, Mattel launched a service that allowed to download games via cable TV. In 1982, Mattel sold 2 million consoles, more and more companies started developing software titles for the Intellivision.

The "Keyboard Component" should transform the console into a home computer, it was planned to include a MOS 6502 CPU (the one used by the C64 later on), 64K RAM and a built-in cassette tape drive. But during the process of developement many reliability problems occurred and the hardware was far too expensive. After repeated delays the Keyboard Component project was officially cancelled in 1982. Apparently about 4000 Keyboard Components had been shipped to selected customers for testing purposes, they are extremely rare today.

As Mattel managers had been aware of the Keyboard Component problems for a long time, they had launched a secondary project in mid 1981 that could replace the component in case of a complete failure. It was released as Entertainment Computer System (ECS), it featured a keyboard with a cassette recorder interface and included 2k of additional RAM. It lacked the originally planned 6502 CPU and the 64K RAM extension, but it was functionalm cost effective and was finally able to turn the Intellivison into a home computer.

 

Shortly after, Mattel introduced a 49-key Music Synthesizer keyboard which could turn the Intellivision/ECS combo into a multi-voice synthesizer. Unfortunately, the ECS received very little further marketing push and further hardware and software developments for the ECS were cancelled.

 

Intellivision was also the first game console to provide real-time human and robot voices during game play. The IntelliVoice module, which was required for using this feature, used an SP0256 Orator "voice chip" developed jointly by Mattel and General Instrument. But the IntelliVoice didn't sell as well as expected, and only a few games supporting it were ever released.

In 1983 Mattel also introduced the Intellivision II (which only introduced a revamped case) and the System Changer module (which allowed to play Atari 2600).

In 1983 and 1984 the video game market crashed. The new home computer systems became more and more popular and interest in classic game consoles vanished. Furthermore there was now a large number of video game consoles available, further subdividing the market. In 1983 Mattel Electronics posted a $300 million loss, in early 1984 the division was closed.

A liquidator purchased all rights, hardware and software sales continued until most of the inventory had been sold. Later on, Mattel Marketing executive Terry Valeski created INTV Corp. which sold the remaining stock via retail and mail order. They then introduced the INTV III, which was nothing but an Intellivison inside a new case, and continued developing a few games. The console was discontinued in 1991. More than 6 million Intellivision consoles were sold during 12 years, and a total of 125 games were available.

Keith Robinson, a former Mattel programmer, finally purchased the software rights, founded Intellivision Productions and released Intellivison emulators including the classic Intellivision games available for MacOS, Windows and modern-day consoles.

They Killed A 14 Year Old Boy, Just To See If It Was Possible To Commit The Perfect Crime

6. december 2007

Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb were two wealthy University students who murdered a 14 year old boy in 1924. They were only 19 and 18 years old, and they killed the boy just to prove themselves that it was possible to commit a perfect crime

Afterwards they told the police that they believed themselves to be Nietzschean supermen. In fact, Nietzsche pretended there were two types of men, ordinary men and supermen, while the supermen were generally responsible for the evolution of mankind, and that it was therefore also the supermen who should lead society. Supermen represent the best of human genes and do all they can to progress and survive as the fittest - a philosophy later adapted by the Nazi regime. A "superman" would be athletic, very intelligent and interested in the arts.

 

They were both very intelligent indeed. Leopold was already attending law school at the University of Chicago and spoke fifteen languages, while Loeb was the youngest graduate in the history of the University of Michigan. Loeb was the leader among them, while Leopold agreed to act as Loeb's accomplice as long as Loeb had sex with him.

They spent months planning the kidnapping, to make sure they could get the random without being caught. Both families were very wealthy, and they later admitted that money had never been a reason for their acting. They were just driven by the thrill.

But everything went wrong then. They lured they 14 year old boy into a rented car, they struck him with a chisel and stuffed a sock into his mouth - the boy died soon thereafter, which was not really planned that way. They burned the boy's clothes, poured hydrochloric acid on his body and put it in a culvert under a railroad track.

Then they called the boy's mother to tell her about the kidnapping and mailed the ransom note which had been typed on a typewriter. But soon thereafter the body was discovered. They destroyed the typewriter and eleminated further pieces of evidence. But Leopold had lost his exquisite eyeglasses just near the body, and police quickly found out that just three people in Chicago had ever bought such glasses.

Leopold told police that he had lost the glasses while bird watching, and that they had been on the road with his car the night of the murder, in company with two women whose names they didn't know. But they had made another mistake as Leopold's car had been repaired that night by his chauffeur. During police questioning they finally confessed, but each one blamed the other for the actual killing.

How did the story end? The trial was a media spectacle. Leopold and Loeb were sentenced each to life plus 99 years in prison. In prison, they finally their educations to good purpose, teaching classes in the prison school. Loeb was killed by a prisoner in 1936. Leopold was released on parole in 1958, after 33 years in prison. He died of a heart attack in 1971.

I Apologize For The Father Of UNIX And Blame It On The Viral Nature Of Social Networking

4. december 2007

What will you get if you google the "father of UNIX"? Ken Thompson? Well, that might have been true a few weeks ago, but now you'll get tons of news about MIT's source code release of the MULTICS system which is, in fact, usually NOT called the "father of UNIX". This is all my fault. And now I'll tell you what happened...

On Saturday, November 10, 2007, I wrote a blog post about the release of the MULTICS sources by the MIT that day. I was quite excited about the MULTICS release, as the code finally became available and people had to wait so long for it. But I was in a rush and I had some trouble finding an interesting title for the post as most people probably never heard of MULTICS and wouldn't make the connection to UNIX. So I ended up with "MIT releases the sources of MULTICS, the father of UNIX!" 

I didn't expect my post to get a lot of attention, it would be just one news message among others. Big mistake. I don't know if I was really the very first one to post the news, but probably I was (maybe even the MIT hadn't started to promote the release yet). It got duggdel.icio.used and stumbled, and so it started to spread over the web...

Many news sites then took over my original post - including Slashdot.orgLinux.comLinux Today and many more plus a whole bunch of blogs, they changed it a bit, but kept the title including the "father of UNIX" thing. This is how the "MULTICS is the father of UNIX" phrase finally made its way to Google index.

So you see, basically it's all my fault.

And what now? Well, I just don't know.

Is this a real problem now? Can't tell.

At least, apologies to Ken Thompson (even if I'm quite sure he doesn't worry about this), and a small bio:

Ken Thompson (or simply ken in hacker circles) was born February 4, 1943, he's a pioneer of computer science notable for his work with the B programming language and his shepherding the UNIX and Plan 9 from Bell Labs operating systems. In the 1960s, he and Dennis Ritchie worked on the Multics operating system, this is when he created the Bon programming language.

Ken and Dennis switched to the Bell Labs where they created the UNIX operating system, partly based on what the learned from the Multics OS. In late 2000, Thompson retired from Bell Labs, and now works at Google as a Distinguished Engineer. If you'd like to know more, go on and read the Wikipedia article about Ken Thompson.

The Man Who Allowed Bill Gates To Become The Richest Man In The World

2. december 2007

Most of you probably never heard of Gary Kildall. Maybe that's due to a single bad decision Gary made - if he decided otherwise he might be a rich and famous man today, and nobody would know about a certain Bill Gates.

Gary Kildall, born in 1942, was a computer scientist, pioneer and entrepreneur. In 1973 he he developed the first high-level programming language for microprocessors, called PL/M, as well as one of the first operating systems for personal computers, called CP/M. He then created his own company, called Digital Research, to market his new OS.

 

To allow using CP/M on various hardware platforms, Kildall invented a method to implement hardware specific code in a single library - the BIOS concept was born. Within the next few years, the CP/M BIOS design allowed CP/M to became the most important operating system for computers. By 1981, at the peak of its popularity, CP/M ran on 3000 different computer models and DRI had $5.4 million in yearly revenues.

In 1980, IBM was designing it's new Personal Computer to challange the popular home computer systems Appleand other companies were offering. A small company called Microsoft was due to ship a BASIC interpreter for the upcoming IBM PC, and their founder Bill Gates suggested to license CP/M as standard OS for the new PC.

But then, Gary made a huge mistake. A meeting with IBM had been arranged, but Gary decided to deliver software using his private airplane and missed it.

Instead the IBM representatives met with Gary's wife Dorothy, who managed the company's business affairs. IBM requested the signature of a non disclosure agreement (NDA), but Dorothy refused this on the advice of her attorney. Apprently the IBM managers were frustrated about the results as they quickly needed an OS for their machine, they returned to Bill Gates and asked him to find another OS for them.

A few weeks later, Gates decided to license a CP/M clone from Seattle Computer Products (SCP). IBM shipped the CP/M clone as PC-DOS, and Microsoft shipped it as MS-DOS. So finally CP/M had made it to the IBM PC, but Gary Kildall and his Company Digital Research didn't have any influence on he future development anymore. Instead, it was Microsoft who became the most important OS company in the world, only by marketing a non-official CP/M clone under their own label.

And how did the story end? Digital Research's influence waned during the 1980's, and Novell acquired DRI in 1991 - a deal that made Gary a wealthy man, although he didn't have much time left to appreciate it. On July 8, 1994, Kildall sustained an injury at a Monterey restaurant and refused treatment. Three days later he died. The circumstances of the injury remaining unclear, an autopsy did not conclusively determine the cause of death.

In March 1995, Kildall was posthumously honored by the Software Publishers Association for his numerous contributions to the microcomputer industry and Bill Gates called him "one of the original pioneers of the PC revolution" and "a very creative computer scientist who did excellent work."

A World Map That Shows The Antarcita - 3 Centuries Before Its Official Discovery

30. november 2007

The world map created by a man called Piri Reis in 1513 has become famous because of the the level of accuracy in positioning the continents which was unparalleled for its time - even maps drawn decades later did not have such accurate positioning and proportions. The map is also the oldest surviving map of Antarctica, despite being drawn more than 3 centuries before the official discovery of that continent. In 1528 Piri Reis drew a second world map, of which a small fragment showing Greenland and North America from Labrador and Newfoundland in the north to Florida, Cuba and parts of Central America in the south still survives.

 

Piri Reis, who's real name was Hadji Muhiddin Piri Ibn Hadji Mehmed, was an Ottoman-Turkish admiral and participated in multiple naval battles against Spanish, Genoese and Venetian navies ("Reis" is in fact a naval rank comparable to an admiral). Apparently he based his work on about 20 older maps he had collected, including maps personally created by Christopher Columbus. He collected his works in a book, which today has become one of the most famous premodern books of navigation. 

The exceptional accuracy of his world map lead to many speculations regarding the origins of the maps he used to draw his world map, including claims that such accurate maps were impossible to have been created at this point of time. Some even believe the maps could be the remainders of older, yet unknown civilisations having access to higher developed technologies. Nevertheless, it seems that the exceptional quality of the Piri Reis map is the result of extensive studies and many hours of concentrated work.

Introducing CERN, the world's largest particle physics lab

29. november 2007

The CERN is the world's largest particle physics laboratory and a leader in high-energy physics research. It was founded by 12 european States in 1954 and is situated just northwest of Geneva on the border between France and Switzerland. The complex also has a large computer centre, which is best known for the invention of the World Wide Web (WWW, what most people call the "Internet" today) by Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau in 1990.

It offers multiple particle accelerators and technologies for physics research, scientists and experts from all around the world are collaboration here to study the nature of energy and matter. There are about 2600 full-time employees, and almost 8000 scientists and engineers work on experiments conducted at CERN. A large number of important achievements in particle physics have been made at CERN, including the discovery of W and Z bosons, the determination of the number of neutrino families, the creation of antihydrogen atoms or the discovery of direct CP-violation for example.

Currently work on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is in progress, which will be the largest acceleration ever built by mankind. It consists of a 27 km circular tunnel located 100 meters under the surface and shall be ready in 2008. The LHC will be running six experiments and generate a tremendous amount of computer data which required the design of completely new network technologies. The following image shows the ATLAS and CMS experiments (check out the engineers on the images to get an impression of their size): 

"CERN" originally stood for "Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire" (which is french for "European Council for Nuclear Research"). The name was changed into European Organization for Nuclear Research shortly after it was founded, nevertheless the "CERN" abbreviation was kept as it had been widely accepted.

In Memory Of The Commodore C128

27. november 2007

The Commodore 128 or simply "C128" was Commodore Business Machines's successor of the bestselling C64. The C128 was a very interesing machine, but it wasn't a very successful one. My first computer was a C128D, and today I'd like to tell you a bit more about it.

 

The C128 was introduced 3 years after the C64, it was mainly designed by Commodore engineer Bil Herd. It was significantly expanded when compared to the C64, and in fact it was a quite outstanding machine - but each one of the improvements was also more or less flawed, which may be the cause for the C128's market failure.

 

First of all, the C128 included three "operating modes": the all new C128 mode offering a greatly improved BASIC language, an 80 character display and full access to the 128 KB of RAM (expandable to 640 KB), an almost fully compatible C64 mode and a CP/M 3.0 OS that could be booted from a floppy disk. The advantage of this design was a tremendous amount of available software due to the C64 and CP/M compatibility. The problem, however, was that many people mostly used the C64 mode, and software developers thus didn't write much software for the new C128 native mode. CP/M was quite slow on the C128 and it was already declining as MS-DOS became more and more popular. 

To run all three modes the C128 included two CPUs, a 2 Mhz MOS 8502 (which was twice as fast as the 1 Mhz 6510 used in the C64) and a 4 Mhz Zilog Z80 for the CP/M mode. The C128D even had three processors, as the built-in disk drive had it's own 6502 CPU. Quite outstanding for a home computer in the mid 1980's, but there were major CPU design flaws too. The 8502 usually only ran at half speed, as the C64 compatible VIC video controller for TV sets only supported 1 Mhz. Running at full speed was only possible when using the VDC video controller, which could not be connected to TV sets though. As most people used their home computers with common TV sets in the 1980's they could only work with the C128 at half speed. There were similar problems with the Zilog CPU, whose 4 Mhz clock speed was not supported by the rest of the hardware, making CP/M slower on the C128 than on other CP/M computers.

A really cool feature of the C128 were the two built-in video controllers (VIC and VDC), which means that you could connect two separate screens to it (either a TV set and a computer monitor or simply two monitors). It was possible to type commands on one screen while results were drawn on the other for example. Of course this feature was flawed too... First of all, the VIC and the VDC were not compatible, and even the built-in BASIC graphics commands didn't work on the VDC. As a developer you always had to write separate routines for both controllers. And, as mentioned above, using both screens at full CPU speed was not possible as the VIC didn't support this.

Because of its hardware design the C128 was a cool machine for hackers, but not for end users. I wrote a hierachical file system and a VIC/VDC converter for the C128 for example, and even today I still think it was a great platform that could be used to learn a lot of thing about both hardware and software. It was a cool machine for running the GEOS graphical OS, although it couldn't compete with the newer Atari ST and Amiga computers which became available in the late 1980's. 

But there were also some cool "hacks" that were quite outstanding:

- A company from Switzerland developed a software called "Graphic Booster" that used interlacing tricks to enable higher VDC resolutions of up to 752 x 700 pixels and thousands of possible colors. Such graphics specs were usually only available on high end graphics workstations back then, and the C128 running this software offered better graphics than Macs, Amiags or STs back then (but as there was almost no software supporting the Graphic Booster the impact remained quite low).

- In July 1986, COMPUTE!'s Gazette published a type-in program that boosted the global CPU performance by up to 20% when using the VIC video controller. This was possible by switching to fast mode (2 Mhz) during the "vertical blank period" (when the signal reached the bottom of the visible screen fast mode was enabled, the software switched back to slow mode when screen rendering began again at the top).

- Some people tried to make better use of the multiple CPUs. There were algorithms that were faster on the MOS 8502 while others showed better performance on the Zilog Z80 (due to the different architecture of the two CPUs), and there were a few programs that switched between the two CPUs for different tasks to perform better (in fact even CP/M 3.0 used the MOS 8502 in some BIOS routines). I also remember that there was at least one attempt to do multiprocessing with a C128D by using the MOS 8502 and the disk controller which was in fact a MOS 6502 and had its own RAM.

About 4 million C128 were sold between 1985 and 1989, compared to a total of around 30 million C64 (which was the best-selling single personal computer model of all time). Maybe the C128's failure was due to the design flaws mentioned above, to the lack of native software, to Commodore's crappy marketing or to the fact that most Commodore users were simply gamers and not hackers in most cases.

PS: There are now some really good C128 emulators around, so may google them and check them out!

Astonishing Optical Illusion: Badlands Guardian, the

26. november 2007

A few days ago I wrote a blog post about the so called "Face on Mars" on the Galaxikiwebsite - photos originally taken by the Viking orbiters in 1976 showed a strange formation that looked like a humanoid Face. Some believed it to be evidence of a long-lost Martian civilization, but photos taken by the Mars Global Surveyor in 2001 finally revealed that it was nothing but an optical illusion.

Similar optical illusions can be found in the geology of Earth; an example is the Badlands Guardian, which resembles a human head wearing a Native American headress. Visible only from the air, this feature looks remarkably like a human head wearing a full native American headdress, but the head is in fact a drainage feature created by wind & water erosion on the soft clay rich soil. It was first discovered by Lynn Hickox on Google Maps.

It also appears to be wearing iPod-style earphones, and one may wonder why Apple didn't use this in a commercial yet. A closer look on Google Maps reveals that the apparent earphone cable is in fact nothing but a road which seems to end up in an oil well.

View the Badlands Guardian on Google Maps

MacOS X Leopard: Shared Windows PC Icons Display A Blue Screen Of Death

23. november 2007

When working with your MacOS X Leopard computer in a network you'll note the new icons for computers you may connect to, and you may also note that there's a *slight* different between the icons used for Macs and PCs. Here's what a Mac in your network looks like:

And here's a connected PC - you'll note the beige 1990's style CRT screen with the Windows 9x/Me style Blue Screen of Death (what is Apple telling us here?)

Don't know what a BSoD is? Never worked on a Windows PC? Well, Wikipedia tell us a bit more about it:

A Blue Screen of Death is an error screen displayed by Microsoft Windows operating systems after encountering a critical system error. It occurs when the kernel or a driver running in kernel mode encounters an error from which it cannot recover. This is usually caused by an illegal operation being performed. The only safe action the operating system can take in this situation is to restart the computer. As a result, data may be lost, as users are not given an opportunity to save data that has not yet been saved to the hard drive.

Here's a larger version of the Windows 9x/Me BSoD so that you can see what it looks like:

 

Thanks to Tim Bellinghausen for the hint!

Swisscom Network Goes Down After DDoS Attack

22. november 2007

Yesterday evening a DDoS attack caused substantial disturbances the Swisscom networt, the consequences were performance problems and downtimes on the entire territory of Switzerland.

A distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) occurs when multiple compromised systems flood the bandwidth or resources of a targeted system, usually one or more web servers.

Swisscom stated that the attack was not directed against the company itself, but it was the enormous traffic caused by the attack which forced the network to go down. Problems started shortly after 17:00 and last until almost midnight. Neither the attacker, nor the targeted victim of the attack are currently known. 

Some critics claim that the problems were at least partly caused by configuration problems in the Swisscom network itself.

Software Freedom Law Center sues two more companies violating the GPL

21. november 2007

The Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) sued two US companies who are currently violating the GPL - both Xterasys and High Gain Antennas are accused to use Embedded Linux systems including a modified version of the Busybox software, without releasing the sources of their code modifications.

Both companies were notified that their use of the software was illegal months ago, but they ignored the warnings and continued selling their hardware without changing their software practices.

Cray-1: A Supercomputer Way Ahead Of Its Time

20. november 2007

The Cray-1 was a supercomputer developed during the early 1970's by Seymour Cray and his company Cray Research, it is considered to be one of the most famous and successful supercomputers of all times. The specs were extraordinary in 1976: the Cray-1 was a 64-bit system running at 80 MHz, addressing was 24-bit for a maximum of 8 MB of main memory.

High performance microprocessors didn't exist yet, therefore the new machine used a large number of high speed integrated circuits (ICs) with a total of about 200,000 gates, a complexity comparable to the Intel 80386 which became available 10 years later. The main register set consisted of eight 64-bit scalar registers and eight 24-bit address registers, plus 64 shadow registers and eight 64 bit vector registers. The system contained four buffers that could pipeline 64 instructions and feed the 12 functional units.

The indicated performance was 160 MIPS, when execution real world applications the system generally offered a performance of about 136 megaflops, with peaks of up to 250 megaflops when running highly optimized software. Since 1978 the Cray-1 was running the Cray Operating System (COS), later machines were running UNICOS, Cray's UNIX derivate.

A major design problem was the signal speed between the different modules and boards, therefore the system included a lot of hardware to delay signals, cables were cut to very specific lengths in order to avoid electrical reflections and the entire chassis was bent into a large C-shape so that wire-lengths were shorter. The system weighed 5.5 tons including the freon refrigeration system, the complete system consumed an incredible 250 kW of power when running. 

Today a common Mac or PC is about 100 times faster than a Cray-1.

The woman who quit smoking at age 119

18. november 2007

Jeanne Louise Calment reached the longest confirmed lifespan in history at 122 years and 164 days (44,724 days in total). She was born on February 21, 1875 and died on August 4, 1997.

She was born and lived in France, and many of her close family members got quite old too. As she was married to a quite rich man she never had to work hard and was able to spend her entire life with sports and hobbies.

Jeanne was always a very active person, she adored tennis, cycling, swimming, rollerskating, playing piano and going to the opera. She took up fencing at age 85, and she was still riding a bicycle at 100. Aged 110, she moved into a nursing home after her cooking caused an accidental fire in her apartment. Aged 119 she finally quit smoking.

When asked on her 120th birthday what kind of future she would expect to have, she answered "A very short one." Five months later she died. As of today, Jeanne Calmet is still the only person to have undisputedly lived at least 120 years.

The Computer Mouse - patented 37 years ago on November 17, 1970, by Douglas C. Engelbart

17. november 2007

Many people think the computer mouse was invented during the 1980's as it then became popular with the Apple Macintosh, the Amiga and Atari home computers, and later the PC. But it had been invented much earlier by Dr. Douglas C. Engelbart during the 1960's.

But Engelbart invented more than just his "X-Y positioning device", he was also a a pioneer of human-computer interaction whose team developed hypertext, networked computers, and precursors to GUIs - so if you're just reading this on my website running your MacOS X or Windows Vista computer, keep in mind that most concepts you're experiencing right now were originally developed about 35 to 40 years ago by people like Douglas C. Engelbart.

 

He started working on pointing devices in 1963, his computer mouse was first shown to the public in 1968, although there was no GUI yet and thus most people didn't find it that interesting as a concept. On November 17, 1970, Engelbart was granted Patent US3541541 for his pointing device.

During the 1970's Xerox continued the development of the mouse and related GUI concepts at the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). The first commercially available mouse came with the Xerox Star computer system in 1981, but it flopped. Apple licensed the mouse concept and introduced the GUI based Lisa and Macintosh computers in 1983 respectively 1984, which finally marked the beginning of the computer mouse's success story.

All new Airbus plane crashes into croncrete wall during an engine test

16. november 2007

Yesterday an Airbus A340-600 crashed into a concrete wall in Toulouse, France, after an engine test while being parked at the airport. It seems that the brakes didn't work, and so the plane started to move after the engines had been started.

Nine people were injured, three of them seriously. The Airbus is seriously damaged and probably can't be repaired - it should have been shipped to an Arab airline Etihad Airways within the next few days.

Karachay - The Deadly Lake That Kills Within 5 Minutes

15. november 2007

Lake Karachay is definately not a place to spend your next holidays at. Located in the southern Ural mountains in eastern Russia, it is considered to be the most polluted spot on Earth, after being used as a dumping site for radioactive waste for decades. 

Spending only 5 minutes at the shore of lake Karachay is enough to receive a deadly radioactive dosis, spending an entire hour near the lake will probably kill you within the next few hours and in most cases you even won't make it to the next hospital. 

The radiation level at the shore of the lake is 600 röntgens per hour, and it accumulates some 4.44 exabecquerels (EBq) of radioactivity. The Chernobyl disaster released from 5 to 12 EBq of radioactivity, but this was widely distributed while Lake Karachay concentrates the entire radioactivity in a single location.

During the 1950's the Soviet Union started using the lake to dump waste from Mayak, a nearby nuclear waste storage and reprocessing facility built in 1945-48, in a great hurry and in total secrecy, as part of the Soviet Union's nuclear weapon program. Vast quantities of radioactively contaminated lakes and rivers near to the plant. Working conditions at Mayak resulted in severe health hazards and many accidents, including a major explosion on 29 September 1957.

During the 1960's the lake began to dry out and the wind carried radioactive dust away, irradiating half a million people with 185 petabecquerels of radiation which is comparable to the effect of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Consequently the lake was filled with concrete from 1978 to 1986.

It is not yet known if it will ever become possible to clean the contaminated area. Some experts even fear that the radioactivity could be lead to the Tetscha river and then to the Atlantic Ocean when getting into contact with groundwater, which could lead to a worldwide radioactive contamination.

View the Karachay Lake on Google Maps

MIT releases the sources of MULTICS, the father of UNIX!

10. november 2007

This is extraordinary news for all nerds, computer scientists and the Open Source community: the source code of the MULTICS operating system (Multiplexed Information and Computing Service), the father of UNIX and all modern OSes, has finally been opened.

Multics was an extremely influential early time-sharing operating system started in 1964 and introduced a large number of new concepts, including dynamic linking and a hierarchical file system. It was extremely powerful, and UNIX can in fact be considered to be a "simplified" successor to MULTICS (the name "Unix" is itself a hack on "Multics"). The last running Multics installation was shut down on October 31, 2000.

From now on, MULTICS can be downloaded from the following page (it's the complete MR12.5 source dumped at CGI in Calgary in 2000, including the PL/1 compiler):

http://web.mit.edu/multics-history

Unfortunately you can't install this on any PC, as MULTICS requires dedicated hardware, and there's no operational computer system today that could run this OS. Nevertheless the software should be considered to be an outstanding source for computer research and scientists. It is not yet know if it will be possible to emulate the required hardware to run the OS.

Special thanks to Tom Van Vleck for his continuous work on www.multicians.org, to the Group BULL including BULL HN Information Systems Inc. for opening the sources and making all this possible, to the folks at MIT for releasing it and to all of those who helped to convince BULL to open this great piece of computer history.

The Hollywood Actress who invented WiFi basics in 1942

9. november 2007

Extactly 94 years ago on November 9, 1913, Hedy Lamarr was born in Vienna, Austria. She became an actress, appeared in serveral european movies, emigrated to the U.S. duing the Second World War and started a quite successful Hollywood career.

On August 11, 1942, Hedy Lamarr and composer George Antheil received a U.S. Patent for their frequency hopping concept. Their invention was able to change between 88 frequencies using a piano roll and was intended jam torpedo communication and detection systems. 

It was a controversial concept back then which was ahead of both its time and technology. The U.S. military first used their technology during the Cuba blockade in 1962, but their achievements remained mostly unnoticed during the next decades. Only ten years ago, in 1997, the Electronic Frontier Foundation gave Lamarr and Antheil an award for their invention.

Lamarr's frequency-hopping idea can be considered to be the basic communications concept behind todays portable phones and WiFi internet technologies.

She was married six times and died in Altamonte Springs, Florida on January 19, 2000.

The Man Who Saved The Earth

8. november 2007

Stanislaw Jewgrafowitsch Petrow, Lieutenant Colonel of the Soviet army, is the man who prevented a potential nuclear war. On September 26th 1983, only minutes after midnight, the Soviet electronic early warning system detected US missiles heading to the USSR. Petrow refused to believe that the alarm was genuine as only five missiles had been detected (while one would expect mirads of ICBMs in case of an actual attack) and concived his superiors not to take any actions, preventeing a Third World War and eventually saving the Earth.

The reliability of the satellite system had been questioned before, and the missiles were later identified to have been sun reflections on clouds in the proximity of the Malmstrom Air Force base in Montana. US intercontinental missiles were stationed there, which explains why the reflections had been misinterpreted as rocket launches.

Petrow violated several directives by refusing to take further actions and the incident revealed weaknesses of the Soviet military system. He was neither rewarded nor punished afterwards, but his promising career found a sudden end as his actions were generally not appreciated. 

Because of military secrecy and political tensions the incident was kept secret until 1998. Today, Petrow is a poor man living in a small village close to Moscow.

Apple.com website in 1997... and today

30. october 2007

After the launch of MacOSX 10.5 Leopard and taking another look the great Apple.com website I was wondering what the Apple site looked like 10 years ago, back in late 1997. A quick search on www.archive.org gives you the answer, the July 1997 snapshop shows a 600 pixel wide page that doesn't look Apple-like at all (as far as I remember not even for their brand back then), announcing that MacOS 8 could now be preordered - just take a look:

Preorder MacOS 8 on Apple.com in 1997 - click the image to open the archive

And then, compare it to the almost 1000 pixels wide current Apple.com:

Buy MacOS X 10.5 Leopard on Apple.com in 2007 - click the image to open the current site

Want to see more?

www.apple.com is Apple's current website

web.archive.org/web/19970715124703/www.apple.com is archive.org's version of Apple.com 1997

web.archive.org/web/*/apple.com allows to select a whole bunch of further Apple.com archive copies...

Google pagerank export update

29. october 2007

Everyone had to wait 182 days for this Google pagerank update, that's a long time, but in the end I'm quite happy with the results.

My big winner is Galaxiki which went up from 1 to 5 (!). CorneliOS and my personal website went up from 3 to 4, Joopita.com and Bullyfashion went up from 2 to 3.

Educdesign/OLEFA websites kept their positions, that's www.olefa.com (5), www.olefaschool.org (4), www.educdesign.lu (4) and www.afelo.com (3).

Most Google datacenters should be up to date by now, so if you'd like to check your Google pagerank too you can use the www.checkpagerank.com service for example.

Joopita.com Free Web Directory launched

16. october 2007

October 16, 2007

Last weekend I launched a new web service, it's called "Joopita" and it's basically a free web directory and serach engine that uses both computer analysis and human input to calculate page rankings. You can submit your own website or blog as well as any other website, and it uses a quite new way to rank pages depending on human input.

The ranking technique works as follows: When submitting a site you'll have to enter a (valid) e-mail address, and depending on the input you provide your e-mail address will be ranked too. The more (good) sites you add and the more detailed information you provide, the better your e-mail address will be ranked, as well as all sites linked to this e-mail address.

It's still more or less some kind of a weird experiment, and I hope I'll be able to provide some information about the reliability of the algorithm in the near future.

So if you need some more traffic, submit your site to the joopita.com directory, it's completely free!

Trying to crack the Zodiac 340 Cipher

4. october 2007

After watching David Finchers "Zodiak" last weekend I read some articles about the case and found a copy of the yet unsolved 340 character cipher. The fact that this cipher remains uncracked even 30 years after it had been created instantly fascinated me, and so I decided to take a closer look at it.

I don't think it will be possible to crack this one using simple brute force methods, as the number of possible combinations is just far too high. On the other hand I'm quite sure that it's too complex to be solved using pen and paper. I therefore created a quite simple script using a somewhat different approach. 

I may tell you some more details about the script in future postings after having played around with it a bit, for now I'll just reveal that it's about 100 lines long and processing one series of words may take hours, days or even weeks depending on the complexity of the task.

During the next few weeks I'll feed it with some input, and I'm really curious to see what the output will be (well, probably junk, but you never know.

September News

13. september 2007

The shower in our basement has turned out to be quite acceptable as an interim solution, we've demolished the entire bathroom during the past few weeks and the new bathroom stuff is now being installed (but it will take another few weeks until everything will be finished).

The big news first: Both OLEFA 8 and AFELO will become available as Open Source software under the GNU General Public License. We're currently preparing the next AFELO release, I hope it will be ready in late September or early October, AFELO will be available under the GPL as soon as ready. OLEFA 8 is not quite ready yet, expect first prototype releases in late 2007. It will be released using a dual license model (both commercial and Open Source), you'll find more details on www.olefa.com.

Galaxiki has been Pick of the day on Yahoo, there are now 1600 registered users and more than 1400 solar systems that can be edited by the community. A lot of new features have been added during the past few weeks, so check it out right now!

And I almost forgot: A new shirt site is online now, this one is called SymShi (as an abbreviation for "Symbolic Shirts") and it features some cool designs...

Galaxiki now has over 1000 registered users

24. august 2007

After remodeling our home office we've started revamping our bathroom, so we now have a rough-and-ready shower in the basement and we'll be brushing teeth in our kitchen for the next few weeks (cool...). Anyway, here's my latest update:

Galaxiki is progressing well, we now have more than 1100 registered users and over 1100 stars that can be edited by the community and site members. It was on the del.icio.us hotlist today and thus featured on the del.icio.us front page for some time, The Inquirer wrote a cool article about it and it was About.com's website of the day on August 3rd. I also prepared some new software features that will hopefully become available with the next few days, so stay tuned...

Both the OLEFA and OLEFAschool websites have been revamped, and a prototype release of the next generation AFELO image wizard is now available on Sourceforge. Expect the next official AFELO release the become available in September. A lot of changes are currently being made to the OLEFA System API (OSA), mostly to speed up the entire software package. More new stuff is in the works, check out www.olefa.com and www.olefaschool.org for updates from time to time.

EducDesign goes Agile, VirtuaLib service has been launched

31. july 2007

After having applied Agile Development to almost all of my projects, OLEFA has been the last one following a rather traditional development philosophy for a long time. This has been changed now - OLEFA will be completely moved to agile development and marketing strategies within the next few weeks, which is really good news for both EducDesign and all of it's customers. Expect updates announcing the change on both www.olefa.com and www.olefaschool.org within the next few days.

This may also be a good opportunity to announce VirtuaLib, a webservice offering OLEFA based library management tools for schools and private persons, using a quite different philosophy compared to LibraryThing for example. The service is already available now (see www.virtualib.com) and shall be officially launched within the next few days. By the way, this is the first OLEFA based webservice by EducDesign, expect a lot of new and cool stuff in future now that we're running on an agile basis.

CorneliOS has also been updated today, I released a transitional update as CorneliOS will be transformed to a more service based platform now too. Galaxiki was updated as I had to fix a serious bug that could kill password hashes (ouch!), and a newsletter will be sent out tonight... Finally I have to apologize for some technical problems on both www.cornelios.org and www.galaxiki.org, caused by a virtual file system that went nuts over night, this has been fixed early in the morning...

Transforming our home office

30. july 2007

After months of total chaos it was about time to clean up our home office, especially as we now need a place where new projects such as Galaxiki and CorneliOS can be managed from. So we spent some time at IKEA on Saturday, and we finally opted fill out one entire wall of the room with a large storage cabinet. It took the rest of the day to finish building up it's corpus, but then we still found some time to go to the cinema and watch the new Transformers movie (which is just awesome by the way). We finished everything on Sunday and now our little home office looks a lot better and it's finally ready for new stuff.

As I was talking about movies: last week I also checked out the Simpsons movie which was also cool, but it isn't as good as many of the greatest classic episodes (okay, would be hard to top those), as well as Die Hard 4.0 (aka Live Free or Die Hard) which was okay, but it didn't feel as original when compared to the previous three ones and everything computer and hacking related was just horribly wrong. So if you only have time to watch one single movie then I'd definately recommend Transformers.

CorneliOS may become an online platform

24. july 2007

During the past weekend I had some time to think about the future evolution of the CorneliOS software, as I though it's about time to come up with something new. 

CorneliOS software is, as most web OSes, a nice demonstration that it's possible to simulate an OS inside a browser, but there are other projects that already use an even much more elegant UI, such as eyeOS for example. I think the major problem of all web OSes is that they're not much more than tech demos, and I'm not sure I'd personally use CorneliOS, eyeOS or whatever web OS as an OS in my browser in real life situations - I'm happy that my desktop OS is working well, and I'm asking myself if I really need another OS running in my browser.

Today I'm using CorneliOS to power my websites (www.kirps.comwww.galaxiki.org or www.bullyfashion.com for example), and I'm pretty satisfied with it's CMS and SEO features for the moment. I'm also using the CorneliOS community and wiki features for Galaxiki, and I use CorneliOS in web app view to manage these things, but I never use the windowing mode. So for now, it's basically a framework to build websites upon for me.

On the other hand my feeling tells me that the web OS concept will have a bright future, so you may ask what's wrong with the current implementation concepts? Well, I guess that everyone's focusing too much on a nice looking user interface instead of the core values, and another major problem is that most of the new web OSes are proprietary systems - and the last thing we'll need is another proprietary OS layer out there.

As I mentioned before I had some time to think about this, so here are my basic conclusions:

The current product logic (GPL, CEL edition, hosting and Enterprise Appliance) will be continued, as I think that's basically a good staring point. There will be a new online service using www.cornelios.net as domain, here you'll be able to sign up and use a shared CorneliOS installation along with other users. You will be able to use applications and to run a website, but with some limitations. Later there will be an optional "pro account" where you'll have to pay a small fee for more disk space for example. All commercial offerings will be regrouped on www.cornelios.com, the current .org domain will become to portal for the GPL version and system development.

But I think the really cool part will be that everyone will be able to create and distribute CorneliOS applications on this new portal, and that's what will make it really interesting. You'll be able to create apps online, using all CORA API features, and to offer them to online platform users as well as to those who wish to use CorneliOS as a webOS on their own servers. Software development for this platform shall become so easy that everyone can write applications for it, even if you're not a programmer. The most important challenge will be to make these applications web OS independent, so that CorneliOS applications will not be bound to the CorneliOS desktop.

I'm sure these ideas probably don't sound really new, original or innovative, so you'll have to wait until it's up and running to understand what makes it really different when compared for other web OSes and web app development frameworks out there. So stay tuned and check it out soon, as I plan to release first prototype stuff within the next days and weeks (I guess that's the advantage of Agile Development and web 2.0...).

Top 10 reasons to write a Top 10 reasons article

28. june 2007

Want to make sure to get a lot of traffic? Then I recommend to write a "Top 10 reasons" or "Top 10 tips" article. Top 10 articles are on the rise, and there are some good reasons to jump on the bandwagon as they usually get a lot of readers and hence generate a lot of traffic. So here they are, the Top 10 reasons to write a Top 10 reasons article!

1. Top 10 articles are popular, they can increase your traffic and income. That might already be the ultimate reason for writing such an article, as you wish to become incredibly rich, don't you? But why are they so attractive for potential readers, and how hard is it to write a Top 10 article that will catch the attention of the masses?

2. "Top 10" is catchy. In a list of titles the or on search engine results pages the "Top 10" article will instantly catch your attention. It seems that "Top 10" looks somewhat interesting to our brain - maybe it's because we associate "Top 10" with positive emotions, after all we have been trained to love top ten charts when we were teenagers.

3. They're hard to resist. Once a reader clicked on the article link he/she will most likely at least read the first paragraph or the first (eventually bold) sentence of each paragraph. Top 10 articles look interesting, we expect a lot of information from them and we surely don't want to miss something that could be important to us.

4. Top 10 articles are easy to digest. They are well structured, readers can quickly fly over the article and focus on paragraphs that seem to be interesting for them. Top 10 articles can be read faster than ordinary articles, without decreasing the level of information that's captured.

5. They are informative. It's not only easier to read them, it's also easier to memorize their essence. This has to do with the fact that the human brain is only capable of keeping about 6 or 7 elements simultaneously in short time memory, and each dispensable sentence will reduce the amount of information the reader can memorize. That's why people like them - after reading them it's still possible to remember the most important facts.

6. You can write a Top 10 article about almost anything. It's often hard to find a good subject that will allow to write a great article, but simply writing a Top 10 article may help you out of the mess. The sequential nature of a Top 10 article helps us to structure your ideas and to keep a high information level 'till the end.

7. Enough, but not too much. Writing a Top 10 article may also help to hit the right article length and the required information density to make it really interesting for your readers, without losing focus and strength at the end of the article. 

8. Easy text construction. A good Top 10 article might be easier to write than an ordinary article. Just write down your 10 reasons and then construct two or three good sentences for each one of them, add a short introduction and you're done!

9. High keyword density and good search engine results. Because of the structured content Top 10 articles often have a high keyword density, which can result in better search engine rankings and can end up in even more traffic and income. This is because many sentences with tons of useless words that would generally lead from one paragraph to another can be left aside.

10. You never have to worry about the tenth reason, because you can write almost anything here. Yes, it's true, and this article finally proves it!

New website & official Galaxiki launch

17. june 2007

On Friday evening I updated the design of my personal website, and I hope everyone will like it. There's more if you take a look under the surface. Everything has been reorganized a bit, some texts have been updated and menus are now in an alphabetical order. But that's only the beginning, several more new content areas will be added withing the next few weeks, covering new subjects - so stay tuned.

Galaxiki will be officially launched on July 1st 2007, naming and editing stars, planets and moons will then become available. The "Free & Cool" site section is now online, offering free wallpapers, and the Galaxiki Shops are now available too.

CorneliOS 0.7.6r17 will become available today, offering full support for Google sitemaps. Other interesting CorneliOS stuff added during the last few weeks were improved news and blog features, RSS feeds, SEO tools, favicons and much more.

Galaxiki, a fictional galaxy anyone can edit, will be launched on Sunday, July 1st 2007

15. june 2007

Galaxiki is a web-based, free content virtual community project. It consists of a virtual galaxy with over a million stars and solar systems that can be explored using a 2-dimensional map. Each star, each planet and each moon represents one wiki page, the idea behind the project is that Galaxiki site members, also called "Galaxicians", can edit those pages and write fictional histories about them. Galaxiki's name is a portmanteau of the words "galaxy" and "wiki" (a type of collaborative website).

The Galaxiki rules say that real world physics should be respected, but it also allows some popular exceptions known from most science fiction novels, such as traveling faster than light for example. This also implies that species inside the Galaxiki world can meet (at least if their solar systems are in a closer range), which is a challenge for Galaxicians as they have to make sure to eleminate inconsistencies. Science fiction stories on Galaxiki are currently published under the GNU Free Documentation License.

Galaxiki membership, editing solar systems and using all other site features is free. To finance the project, solar systems can be "freed", which means that Galaxicians can make solar systems writable by making a small donation to the project. When a Galaxician "frees" a solar system he/she can decide if the system shall become open for the entire community, or if the system shall become a private project. In this case it is also possible to dedicate the star or solar system to someone. There is also a dedicated page for sponsors or advertisers, but there shall be only an absolute minimum of advertising to keep the site as clean as possible.

Galaxiki was launched as a prototype on March 12, the official launch is planned for Sunday, July 1st 2007. It is already possible to sign up on www.galaxiki.org, although editing stars, planets and moons will become operational on July 1st 2007.

Website updates and some more JAM experience

11. june 2007

The CorneliOS website (www.cornelios.org) has been completely redesigned. The previous template was almost a year old, it was created when the CorneliOS WDE (Website Display Engine) was still in an early development stage and it didn't make use of the latest system technology.

The entire website redesign took only 4 hours - which includes the creation of the design concept, the graphical design (plus slicing and optimizing), the new template creation, minor text changes and smaller changes to almost all pages on the site. The methodology that allowed to complete this update so quickly was the Joopita Agile Method (aka "JAM"), plus some other new concepts I developed to further reduce the effort required to manage and complete projects that include development, marketing and design processes.

I'm really happy with the result, which also clearly shows that JAM really works when applied correctly. I hope I'll find the time to write some JAM and agile development / marketing articles soon, could be interesting for you if you're a webmaster too, so stay tuned and bookmark this page!

But there have been smaller changes to other sites too within the last few weeks, for example the new bulldog information pages on www.bullyfashion.com (also available in german) and a new "free and cool" section on Galaxiki which now offers free wallpapers (desktop images).

Stag Wards movie to become available online soon

8. june 2007

Back in 1999 I started work on my first own 3D movie called "Stag Wards" (you may consider it as a Star Wars fan movie if you want). The movie is about 20 mins long, and rendering the images took more than 2 years back then. I was able to fininsh the movie, which means that the editing was done, but unfortunately I never got the time to complete the soundtrack - so, at least for now, it's a silent movie, and therefore I'm now looking for some audio enthusiasts willing to compose, play and mix the audio tracks.

As soon as the audio stuff has been completed the entire movie shall become available online (for FREE of course!), so it all depends on YOU, the musicians, out there. Further information will follow soon...

For those who know the OLEFA software, you may have noticed that the Stag Wards characters look almost like OLEFAbots - that's no accident, OLEFAbots have been inspired by the Stag Wards people, take a look at the OLEFA in Education booklet and you will see that the little girl on the cover is nobody else than Little Red Ridinghood as seen in the Stag Wards movie! The only difference is that OLEFAbots have a mouth while the Stag Wards characters are mouthless.

Back again…

21. april 2007

In early April we had great holidays in Switzerland, which is my favourite country. We were housing on a farm on the "Alm" (1300m latitude), we had great weather (both sun and 20cm of snow) and no TV. It was really cool, some photos will become available too (take a look at the new CorneliOS default desktop picture to get a first impression). The downside is, of course, that I didn't find the time to write anything, but even if I wanted it would have been difficult as there a we had no Internet connection up there in the mountains...

OLEFA 7.4 is out now, it took some kind to complete this one as many core features have been updated. But now that it's finally out it seems to be the most clean and stable version we ever had, and that's a good thing for all existing and upcoming customers. More fixes and refinements will follow in the upcoming months, and we may even prepare some new things.

CorneliOS has now officially reached the "alpha/beta" stage, and it has been featured in LINUX Magazine in the US which is really cool. I'm now shifting the focus more and more on the desktop and the front end applications, so expect some real progress within the next few weeks and months. Within the next few weeks I'll also moving all blogs from Wordpress to the CorneliOS database architecture, and hopefully I'll get the forum stuff ready.

The bad news is that the Galaxiki wiki editor is not ready yet (damn!), so I'll have to fix this too within the upcoming few weeks so that community members will finally be able to edit their stuff. But, on the other hand, a new CorneliOS powered site will go online soon, so we'll stay positive...

Galaxiki - a fictional Galaxy anyone can edit

12. march 2007

A new CorneliOS powered site is online, it's called Galaxiki and it's the first site to make use of the CorneliOS community features. But don't misunderpret this - it's not only a technological demo, it's a site that shall (hopefully) become a real living community home.

Galaxiki is a combination of a virtual galaxy and a wiki - the galaxy contains starts, planets, moons and other objects, and each object has it's own wiki page that can be edited. The goal of the site is to create some new kind of a science fiction world: you can edit solar systems, write interesting stories about fictional life forms, let them interact aso...

Many features of the site are already fully functional, but there's still some work to do... The wiki editor is not fully functional yet and the discussion boards are still missing for example - but most of these problems will be fixed until the end of March, and the real official launch is planned for eary April, so stay tuned!

Visit Galaxiki, a fictional galaxy anyone can edit

CorneliOS, my WebOS

www.bullyfashion.com

7. february 2007

Had so much work during the last few days that I didn't find any time to write. So here we go again...

Our new webshop is online, it's called Bullyfashion and you can buy T-Shirts, Longsleeves, Jackets and Gifts with Bulldog designs (English Bullies and a few Frenchies too) there. We're shipping to Europe and Japan, so if you're a Bulldog fan it will be definately worth taking a look at it.

The Dexia bank changed their login so that passwords are a bit better protected. But after all their reaction was unprofessional and disappointing if you ask me. Got a few reactions which I will post online in few days...

Dexia online banking security alert

26. january 2007

I detected something on the Dexia website I would call a "massive security flaw", so I wrote them a mail and they fixed it. No thank you, only a bullshit statement after I contacted them once more... If you're a Dexia customer I recommend that you instantly remove all browser cache files from your computer (and from all computers you ever used to log into their website) if you don't want anybody to get your password within a few seconds...

Oh yeah, almost forgot: on Friday we wrote a letter to the Hifi International administration as their support service was not able to repair our tv remote for about 7 weeks, plus a copy to the ULC - now guess what - on Monday I got a phone call that it had been repaired (for free) and that it was now ready. The support guys were a bit pissed when I got there, but at least we once again have a working remote.

Storms, dogs, CDs and crappy services…

19. january 2007

Yesterday was pretty stormy and it rained a lot. But after all "Kyrill" didn't hit us that hard here in Luxembourg. At least I didn't notice any damages here at our home so far.

After massive protests against the planned "dog law" in Luxembourg, secretary Octavie Modert finally presented a less severe (or should we better say a "less stupid") version of the directives. Thanks to all of those who spoke up in this case which is a best a demonstration of governmental dullness.

Some more good news: "Open End" by artist Chris is "CD of the week" in the "Revue" magazine.

And we finally had to write a letter to the "Hifi International" administration because of their crappy service, so stay tuned to see how this will continue...

So here’s 2007…

1. january 2007

January 01, 2007

Yesterday we had a really great evening at the K116 in Esch/Alzette, with great background music by Tunessy (who are, in fact, the Bukowski brothers who also did the latest Chris CD and own the Pick-a-Back Studio).

So what's new? Some weeks ago I promised that Pagan Lorn live footage would become available in early 2007 - so here we go, the Pagan Lorn Concert in Beaufort from 1996 is now online. And you can order (unofficial) Pagan Lorn T-Shirts and Jackets in the new Pagan Lorn Fashion Shop.

Cornelios is performing well, you can download the latest version from Sourceforge. The pre-alpha release (which was only targeted at developers and techies) has been downloaded 500 times since its first release early December 2006, and I'm quite happy about the current stats.

Okay, that's all for now, next time I *may* talk about new stuff to expect in 2007...

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

25. december 2006

December 25, 2006

Okay, the image is missing as this was originally posted on my wordpress site... hope I'll find to site to upload a new one one day...

Pagan Lorn

16. december 2006

This week two people contacted me and asked me if I had some more Pagan Lorn stuff. It is quite surprising that so much people are still interested in our music, even eight years after the band broke up. Most people are asking me for live coverage - well, I found a DAT tape but I didn't have the time to convert it to MP3 yet (don't know which concert this was), and my brother found an old VHS tape he digitized (thanks, this seems to be the Beaufort concert (I think that must have been 1996), so that there will soon also be some videos online. For all those who don't know this yet: I'm running www.paganlorn.com, an unofficial Pagan Lorn website (unofficial because it's only me behind it, not the other PL members), on this site you can download Pagan Lorn tracks in MP3 format (currently the complete recorded work: demo tape, Black Wedding and Nihilennium).

Many people also ask me what the ex-PL band members are doing today. Well, Sascha Georges is doing the RTL news, just turn on TV in Luxembourg and you'll see him . Stephen is apparently living in France and is still playing in band. I don't know where Vlatsch and Patrick currently are. If you want to know what I'm doing, take a look at my website and find out for yourself.

Chris EP “Open End”

5. december 2006

December 05, 2006

Luxembourgish artist Chris - real name Christian Jeanpaul, also known as "Born" frontman, presented his first solo EP entitled "Open End" on Saturday at the Plain Vanilla in Kockelscheuer, offering a great performance in front of a clearly satisfied audience. His 6 tracks are great, and I'm not saying this because I did the CD artwork, I mean it's really good stuff for a local act. The CD was recorded and produced by Daniel and Gert Bukowski (talented guys!) at Pick-a-Back Studios in Konz, Germany. Songs are currently in the playlists at both RTL and Eldoradio. So get the damn CD and support this guy !!!

CorneliOS pre-alpha finally available

28. november 2006

I didn't have much time during the last few weeks, but finally I'll write something now...

CorneliOS is finally available online - well, at least some pieces of code, but I'm really happy about this as the project didn't progress well during the last few years. The project had been launched in 2003, but it didn't really progress until 2006 when I used it to test some new scrum techniques (they really worked in fact). Now I finally made it to put something online, and it's available as GPL software from Sourceforge.

Okay, that's all for today, and I hope to find some more time soon...

Hello again!

1. november 2006

Hey, I'm back online! My personal site has been down for several years as I never found the time to update stuff, but finally I made it. Hope it will now be possible to fill in some content from time to time - all areas are still empty, except for this message, I'll try to fill them within the next few weeks.

So long

Jos