Paw Prints: Writings of the maddog

A 60-year love affair: Model Railroading, Hackers and Free Software

Mar 22, 2010 GMT

It was a love affair that started over sixty years ago between technology and model railroading.In 1946 a group of students at MIT banded together to form the “Tech Model Railroad Club” (TMRC) in a gigantic old “temporary” building which itself became famous for the large number of projects started there, “Building 20”.For TMRC, model railroading was more than just paper-mache scenery and tin-plate tracks. The real challenge was to develop the control circuitry and programming to run the trains, switch the switches and capture the realism of railroading.Computers were just being invented. At places like Harvard, just down the street from MIT, the Mark I was donated by IBM on...
In the Hearts of the South - Two great conferences

Mar 16, 2010 GMT

Extreme Austin! - The Texas Linux Fest!Austin, Texas! Home to live music, great food, a world-class University (U of T) and the longhorns!) and IBM's Linux Technology Center is a great place to have a Linux Fest, and that is what is happening on April 10th, 2010.For just one day the Linux Faithful are going to descend on Austin with a packed program that ranges from beginner subjects to those that would teach the experts in FOSS. After forty years in computer science (and most of those years using what most people would call today “Open Source”), I still find it is impossible to keep up with every aspect of it, so you will probably see me slip into a few of these talks to both learn...
An Open Letter to The United States Trade Representative

Mar 02, 2010 GMT

Dear Ambassador Kirk, Recently it was reported in the Guardian, an on-line newspaper, that the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) is requesting that the United States Trade Representative put Indonesia, Brazil and India on the "Special 301 Watchlist" specifically because those countries advocate the use of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) in their economies. I have been in the software industry for over forty years, as a programmer, businessman, educator, author and entrepreneur. I have worked in some of the largest companies, both as a supplier of software and a customer of software.I have traveled to two of these three countries, and while I have not been...
Input requested on thin clients for Project Caua

Feb 28, 2010 GMT

Project Cauã ( is starting to evaluate configurations for a Thin Client. Actually we have been thinking about thin clients for some time, and trying to find a good design to meet all the needs of the project. Although we have some general ideas, a long time ago I realized I was not omnipotent, and that the best way of finding good information was to pose the question to the FOSS community and let them help you solve the problem.....First, some design considerations for the thin client. The design considerations below are purposely a little vague and are acknowledged as incomplete. We did not want to limit people's thinking too much, and wanted to offer some...

Feb 27, 2010 GMT

I recently had to sign a "Non-Disclosure Agreement" (NDA) for the first time in a long while, and I thought I would write about how an NDA might or might not fit in with Free and Open Source Software.One of the main ideas of FOSS is to share information, and we encourage both programmers and vendors to share as much information as possible.Sometimes a vendor shares some information with developers, and the vendor's words "we think we are going to do this" becomes misconstrued as "we are going to do this". Then people get upset when (perhaps a year later) the "promise" never materializes.Information like product lines that never get produced,...
Of Questionable Value

Feb 24, 2010 GMT

Since I buy a lot of books through an on-line reseller, I normally receive some emails from them with "suggestions" of "books of interest" based on books that I have ordered in the past.Recently I have started receiving suggestions about books bearing a title that is very long and sort of a combination of a series of topics, for example:"OpenSSL: Open Source, Transport Layer Security, C (Programming Language), Cryptography, Unix-Like, Solaris (Operating System), Linux, Mac OS X, RSA Security (Paperback)""edited" by three editors, and published by "Betascript publishing".Curious, I looked at the description of the book, which was advertised...

Feb 24, 2010 GMT

I have a few personal heroes whose lives have inspired me: Abraham Lincoln, Samuel Clemens, Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, Albert Einstein and Alan Turing. Recently I learned of another, and I would like to share their story with you, since in a lot of ways they had a major effect on Computers and Free Software.It was 1937 and Europe was in turmoil. A lot of Jewish people were fleeing from the regime of the Nazis, quite a few coming to the United States to escape oppression. A lot of these immigrants were highly educated. My "hero" had received a good education in Austria, but also had a love of mathematics and science that went far beyond their formal education. My hero's...

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