Real time Skype translator

From here:

Microsoft has unveiled a new feature for Skype that’s almost straight out of Star Trek’s science fiction world — an app that translates conversations between speakers of different languages in real time.

“It’s going to make sure you can communicate to anybody without language barriers,” said Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella while introducing the new feature at the Code Conference in San Francisco.

“In fact, it’s the most human of things.”

Here it is in action:

Happy birthday, System 360

From here:

The IBM mainframe is celebrating its 50th anniversary.IBM360-40-bw

The first System 360 mainframe was unveiled on 7 April 1964 and its arrival marked a break with all general purpose computers that came before.

The machines made it possible to upgrade the processors but still keep using the same code and peripherals from earlier models.

I started working on a 360 model 40 two years after its introduction in 1966; I probably would have retired by now if someone hadn’t sued me but, alas, I toil on. What is extraordinary is that the z series mainframes that I now work on have essentially the same instruction set – admittedly with embellishments – as the antique 360. Writing a mainframe assembler program today isn’t too different from when I started in 1966.

The illustration above is a 360 model 40. The one I programmed had, as I recall, 8k of core memory (the early version of RAM: little magnetic rings threaded on wires). The operating system was 8k BOS, a non-multitasking OS which was not even able to spool print output. It was not much later that we upgraded to a luxuriant 16k of core and DOS which could not only spool print but had foreground and background jobs: a very primitive form of multi-tasking.

Here is a front panel of a 360/40. The big red knob disconnected power from everything; we never touched that. The lights showed actual bit values in core and the switches allowed us to dynamically change bits if things were not running as they should.

IBM 360-40The 2311disk drives we used held 7.25 megabytes; they were big boxes that shook when in use and, when broken, would occasionally leak hydraulic oil onto the floor. I miss those days.


Then there were the punched cards whose inconvenience was only slightly mitigated by the pool of girls operating the card punches.


O Google, where is thy sting

From here:

First they dominated the desktop. Now they’re after the afterlife.

Google on Wednesday announced Calico, an ambitious new company that aims to solve some of the biggest problems facing humanity today: illness, aging [sic], diseases and ultimately death.

If it were anyone but Google, the sheer audacity of the goal would be laughable. But coming from the company that redefined the Internet, funds projects to land on and mine the moon, and invented a self-driving car, it’s at least worth listening to.

‘[We invest in] things that are a little more long-term and a little more ambitious than people normally would. More like moon shots.’


“Last week Apple announced a gold iPhone; what did you do this week, Google? Oh, we founded a company that might one day defeat death itself,” they wrote.

Someone should alert Larry Page to the fact that it’s all been done before.

Jesus conquered death over 2000 years ago.

Where was I today?

My hosting merchant had a “massive outage”:

Bluehost is down. The web hosting company started experiencing technical problems last night, following some botched maintenance. Thousands of sites are down with it and Twitter is ablaze with bloggers from all corners of the world moaning about the outage and threatening to dump Bluehost for good.


The direct cost of the outage is huge. With thousands of clients complaining about lost revenue, it is safe to assume that millions are lost by the hour. Even when the “issue”, which is a euphemism for “cock-up of epic proportions” is resolved, there will be hell to pay. The damage to Bluehost’s already shaken reputation will be a lot harder to fix.

The same datacentre also runs HostMonster, JustHost and FastDomain, affecting even more sites at even greater cost.

Endurance International, the owning company – ironically, it had the sense to host its site elsewhere – is giving 30 minute status updates; from my numerous sleepless nights working on such problems, I’m painfully aware of how disconnected from reality they probably are.

Capitalism being what it is, rivals have already set up is your website down with “BLUEHOSTDOWN” discount coupons, to entice website owners to switch.

The positive way to look at this is that, for an entire day, I haven’t been able to write anything that could get me sued.

Microsoft: running on flatulence

If you are frustrated by quirks in Windows, you will now be able to console yourself with the thought that the next blue screen crash dump you see was brought to you courtesy of – a human dump.

From here:

Data center Microsoft researcher Sean James used to think that a sewage treatment plant would be an inhospitable place for a data center professional. Now when he smells methane at a wastewater plant, he smells free energy.

Microsoft today said it has gotten approval to test a modular data center run from a biogas-powered fuel cell located at a wastewater treatment plant in Cheyenne, Wyoming. Local officials approved a 18-month trial of Microsoft’s Data Plant research program at the Dry Creek Water Reclamation Facility in a $5.5 million project funded by Microsoft, FuelCell Energy, and the state of Wyoming.


“A person is consuming data and that person’s waste is going to power the data center,” says James, who is a research program manager with advanced data center development at Microsoft.

How to deal with the Windows scam

From here:

The so-called “Windows” ruse involves the bad guys, many of whom have researched their targets well, posing as Microsoft technicians calling to rescue you, and your computer, from a catastrophic virus that will kill your computer and compromise all your banking information and passwords.

The hook: after guiding the victim through some bogus Online hocus-pocus to save their computer from an imaginary virus the bogus technician will ask for a credit card payment ranging from the tens to thousands of dollars.

Scores of National Post readers, and readers at large, have been targeted by the bad guys. Some have been victimized, sadly, but many others have gone on the attack by playing dumb with the scammers — knowing it was a scam — and then pouncing on them with a good old Canadian comic punchline or a good old-fashioned scolding.

I’ve received a number of these calls; the latest was this afternoon.

Here is a way to give these twerps a poke in the eye. After wading through 20 minutes of looking at things like the Windows  event viewer, eventually you will be transferred to a “certified technician”. He will ask you to access a website – probably, It is quite harmless and will bring up a screen like this:



Your Indian friend will give you a number to enter into the box and ask you to click on the “Connect to technician” box – this will run a program that will give him control of your computer.

  1. Don’t click on the box; instead tell him a message appeared saying the code is expired.
  2. Write down the code.
  3. He will probably scurry off and get another code.
  4. Repeat back to step 1 until he hangs up

You now should have a collection of PIN codes. They are distributed and maintained by a legitimate software manufacturer. On their website you will find a phone number: 1-866-478-1805. Call them, explain what happened and give them the PIN codes you have collected. They are well aware of the con artists making use of their software and they will deactivate the PIN codes so that they can no longer be used.

Celebrate in the certain knowledge that you have struck a blow against a bunch of witless bastards who make a living preying on defenceless computer users who have better things to do than waste their time becoming computer nerds.

Internet Explorer attracts dummies

According to this:

Internet Explorer users have a lower than average IQ, according to research by Consulting firm AptiQuant.

The study gave web surfers an IQ test, then plotted their scores against the browser they used.

IE surfers were found to have an average IQ lower than people using Chrome, Firefox and Safari. Users of Camino and Opera rated highest.

The report has sparked anger from IE supporters, who have threatened AptiQuant with legal action.

Researchers gave over 100,000 web surfers a free online IQ test. Scores were stored in a database along with each person’s web browser data.

The results suggested that Internet Explorer surfers had an average IQ in the low eighties. Chrome, Firefox and Safari rated over 100, while minority browsers Opera and Camino had an “exceptionally higher” score of over 120.

I can’t help noticing that the IP addresses belonging to the Anglican Church of Canada that access this blog are all using Internet Explorer. It must be a coincidence.

Update: The BBC is now reporting that this was a hoax.