Tuesday, April 30, 2024

The 50th Asilomar Microcomputer Workshop

Last week I attended the 50th Asilomar Microcomputer Workshop. For a crew of volunteers to keep a small, invitation-only, off-the-record workshop going for half a century is an amazing achievement. A lot of the credit goes to the late John H. Wharton, who chaired it from 1985 to 2017 with one missing year. He was responsible for the current format, and the eclecticism of the program's topics.

Brian Berg has written a short history of the workshop for the IEEE entitled The Asilomar Microcomputer Workshop: Its Origin Story, and Beyond. It was started by "Three Freds and a Ted" and one of the Freds, Fred Coury has also written about it in here.Six years ago David Laws wrote The Asilomar Microcomputer Workshop and the Billion Dollar Toilet Seat for the Computer History Museum.

I have attended almost all of them since 1987. I have been part of the volunteer crew for many, including this one, and have served on the board of the 501C3 behind the workshop for some years.

This year's program featured a keynote from Yale Patt, and a session from four of his ex-students, Michael Shebanow, Wen-mei Hwu, Onur Mutlu and Wen-Ti Liu. Other talks came from Alvy Ray Smith based on his book A Biography of the Pixel, Mary Lou Jepsen on OpenWater, her attempt to cost-reduce diagnosis and treatment, and Brandon Holland and Jaden Cohen, two high-school students on applying AI to the Prisoner's Dilemma. I interviewed Chris Malachowsky about the history of NVIDIA. And, as always, the RATS (Rich Asilomar Tradition Session) in which almost everyone gives a 10-minute talk lasted past midnight.

The workshop is strictly off-the-record unless the speaker publishes it elsewhere, so I can't discuss the content of the talks.

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

The Roach Motel Of Banking

You may have seen a Bitcoin Teller Machine (BTM) and wondered who would use one and and why. I have, there is one in our local Safeway. Elijah Nicholson-Messmer and Ella Ceron look into BTMs in Bitcoin ATMs Flood Black, Latino Areas, Charging Fees up to 22%. The headline sums up the story well, but there is a rather interesting sting in the tail of their article.

Follow me below the fold as I discuss the article and finally get to why the sting in the tail is interesting..

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Elon Musk: Threat or Menace Part 4

The previous post in this series, Elon Musk: Threat or Menace Part 3, was based on the impressively detailed reporting from a team at the Washington Post on the crash that killed Jeremy Banner in The final 11 seconds of a fatal Tesla Autopilot crash. The team's subsequent equally detailed Tesla worker killed in fiery crash may be first ‘Full Self-Driving’ fatality triggered this comment which concluded:
It seems the driver thought that it was OK to drive home with a blood alcohol level of 0.26 because he believed Musk's hype that Fake Self Driving would handle it despite having to repeatedly override it on the way out.
Now, the team's Faiz Siddiqui and Trisha Thadani are out with In 2018 crash, Tesla’s Autopilot just followed the lane lines. Below the fold I look into what it reveals about Autopilot.

Friday, April 12, 2024

Decentralized Systems Aren't

Below the fold is the text of a talk I gave to Berkeley's Information Systems Seminar exploring the history of attempts to build decentralized systems and why so many of them end up centralized.

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

The Little Garden

Below the fold is the story of how I got a full-time Internet connection at my apartment 32 years ago next month, and the incredible success of my first ISP.

The reason I'm now able to tell this story is that Tom Jennings, the moving spirit behind the ISP has two posts describing the history of The Little Garden, which was the name the ISP had adopted (from a Chinese restaurant in Palo Alto) when I joined it in May 1993. Tom's perspective from the ISP's point of view contrasts with my perspective — that of a fairly early customer enhanced by information via e-mail from John Gilmore and Tim Pozar, who were both involved far earlier than I.

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

The Left Curve

Muyao Shen explains the concept of the Left Curve in The Big Winners of This Crypto Bull Market Are the `Left Curves’:
There is a surprising amount of respect for people who appear to know nothing about the industry. They’re known as the “left curves.”

The nickname comes from a popular meme in crypto that shows a bell curve with investors on the left who know nothing, or very little, and those in the fat middle of the curve who know something about crypto. On the right are investors who seemingly know everything.
Below the fold I look at the left side of the curve