Category Archives: books

Donald E. Knuth talks about New The Art of Computer Programming Book Chapter

Donald E. Knuth Talks about SAT SolversIn his latest talk about SAT solvers at the Johannes Kepler University Linz (JKU), Computer Science pioneer Donald E. Knuth gave a deep and quite emotional insight about his life-long, epic work on the book ‘The Art of Computer Programming’. The Art of Computer Programming, aka TAOCP  represents the one and only global reference on algorithms, their analysis and computer programming in general and is the standard work for all computer scientists worldwide.

Donald E. Knuth talked about his recent chapter within TAOCP on SAT solvers and how fascinating these satisfiability problems as well as the derived problem and number patterns are. Knuth invited the audiance to ask all kind of questions, which span detailed explanaitations on his love for TEX as well as for his CWEB language, to quite personal topics, such as Prof. Knuth’s love for organ music and that he might also write down his own organ composition. During his trip through Austria, Prof. Knuth also had the chance to play on famous local organs, such as the organ within the monastry of St. Florian where Anton Bruckner was playing in 1850.

To summarize, Prof. Knuth gave a fascinating and very inspiring talk about his actual work and it seems as if there will be a lot of topics and chapters within the coming years!

He also shared an interesting advice with his audience: “If you are not fascinated and interested in what you are doing, then you are the only person to blame for!”

 

Book Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player OneReady Player One, a science fiction novel written by Ernest Cline, is set in the year 2044 after a global energy breakdown and economic recession. As resources are rare these days, the remaining people live under poor conditions in crowded megacities, where they spend their time working and living in a virtual world called OASIS. OASIS is a massive multiplayer online simulation game created by computer game programmer genius James Halliday and his close friend Ogden Morrow. Halliday, with no heirs or other living family, dies suddenly and leaves a treasure hunt video will that promises the ownership of OASIS and his company to those who can solve puzzles hidden in OASIS. Three keys (Copper, Jade, and Crystal) are hidden throughout the universe of OASIS and pass through the matching gates will receive his fortune and controlling the virtual  OASIS universe. As Halliday grew up during the 1980s pop culture, the treasure hunt is a funny retro story about the rise of arcade and computer game during the 80s.

Those of you who grew up during the late 1980s, playing arcade games and owning an Amiga or C64 computer, will definitely love this book as i did!

Book – The Human Face of Big Data

Did you ever wondered what the Big Data Hype means to us in reality? Information and communication technology, advanced network bandwidth and intelligent data analysis and prognosis enable fantastic insights into our modern society. No matter if you are collecting data within urban areas, such as the different ways Pizza delivery is taking in Manhattan on a Friday afternoon or analyzing the crop in large agricultural facilities. Within the book The Human Face of Big Data, the authors Rick Smolan and Jennifer Erwitt present the human and society dimension of this new hype on analysing and prognosis of all kind of information.

The Human Face of Big Data captures, in glorious photographs and moving essays, an extraordinary revolution sweeping, almost invisibly, through business, academia, government, healthcare, and everyday life. It’s already enabling us to provide a healthier life for our children. To provide our seniors with independence while keeping them safe. To help us conserve precious resources like water and energy. To alert us to tiny changes in our health, weeks or years before we develop a life-threatening illness. To peer into our own individual genetic makeup. To create new forms of life.  And soon, as many predict, to re-engineer our own species. And we’ve barely scratched the surface . . .

The Human Face of Big Data

A Maker’s Dream: Unboxing the new Arduino Education Starter Kit

Today, i received one of the first samples of the new Arduino Educational Starter Kits by RS and i have to admit that beside it’s cool design this educational starter kit is one of the most exiting collections of electronics i have ever tested. It comes in combination with an Arduino Projects Book that gives a detailed description of each Arduino experiment on more than 170 pages. For each project, Massimo Banzi, co-founder of Arduino gives an online video instruction, in which he explains the details. The tutorials start from the very beginning, how to set up your Arduino development environment and explain in simple incremental steps how to build more complex examples, that include all kinds of sensors, motors and even a LCD display (all part of the Arduino Starter Kit).

Unboxing my new Arduino Starter Kit

The entire Arduino Starter kit really contains an impressive collection of electronic components and all parts you need to start immediately. It consists of following major parts:

  • Arduino Projects Book
  • Arduino UNO Board
  • USB Cable
  • Breadboard
  • Wooden base
  • Jumper Wires
  • Photoresistor
  • Temperature sensor
  • Tilt sensor
  • LCD screen 16×2 characters
  • Lots of LEDs
  • DC Motor
  • Servo Motor
  • Piezo
  • H-bridge motor driver
  • Optocouplers
  • Transistors
  • Capacitors
  • Diodes and resistors
  • Poti
  • Buttons

Here are some pictures i took during the unboxing of the Arduino Starter Kit.

Book Review: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender’s Game, written by Orson Scott Card in 1985, for me belongs to the top 10 in modern science-fiction stories, due to a fantastic story that deals with computer games and human intelligence. The book, which is based on a initial short story, won several awards, such as the Hugo and the Nebula awards.

Andrew ‘Ender’ Wiggin, the novel’s protagonist, lives with his kind parents and his sadistic elder brother Peter, until the government recruits him to the orbiting Battle School for rigorous military training. Since the human world barely survived two conflicts with the Formics, an insectoid alien species, which are called Buggers by most of the people, the government proactively recruits and trains children in an orbiting Battle School. The children are trained to fight against each other in strategic battles, where each battle group tries to score against other groups. Soon it becomes clear that, in spite of his youth, Ender is one outstanding strategic player that never looses a battle. It seems as if Ender could be a natural born player who could save the earth if the next wave of predominant alien Buggers appears to overrun mankind…

Book Review: Daniel Suarez, author of Daemon, Freedom and Kill Decision

Daniel Suarez became one of my favourite tech authors within the last years. Daniel Suarez, who was born on 21. Dezember 1964, is a US software developer, system consultant and primarily an amazingly cool science-fiction author. He started to write under an anonym Leinad Zeraus, before he wrote his three best selling thrillers Deamon in 2006, Freedom (TM) in 2010 and his newest title Kill Decision in 2012. You can find more about Daniel Suarez on his webpage.

Deamon 

Deamon, written by Daniel Suarez in 2006, is one of the best and most thrilling tech and science-fiction novels i have read within several years. The story begins with some misterious kills which are all somehow connected to the natural death of the great cyber game designer Matthew Sobol. Sobol, the genius owner and creator of one of the most successful, interconnected computer games, definitely had a plan for the world after he passes away. So it is detective Peter Sebeck who has to find all the parts of this genius puzzle to rescue the world from Matthew Sobol’s demonic plan.     

Freedom (TM)

Within the second part of his amazing debut title ‘Demon’, Daniel Suarez thrills his readers with continuing the story of an unstoppable computer virus that starts to blackmail banks and whole industries. This virus is the beginning of a public revolution against copyright industry, corrupt financial industries and even against police and governments. This story tells a tale about an artificial intelligence supported public revolution that frees our minds from trademarks, copyright and corrupt capitalism. All in all a really great finish for Daniel Suarez’s Deamon thriller.

Kill Decision

Kill Decision is Daniel Suarez recent book, which deals with drone war and swarm intelligence. It tells us a story on anonymous wars where swarms of machines pull the trigger against humans. Linda McKinney is a myrmecologist, a scientist who studies the social structure of ants. Her research results are stolen by an unknown force that tries to overrun the american homeland with a drone army. Together with Odin, a secretive Special Ops soldier who has detailed inside knowledge on this faceless enemy, McKinney has to arouse the world before it is too late to stop this machine intelligence.      

Visual Internet Maps

Here is another nice example for a visual Internet map by Ruslan Enikeev, who visualizes the Internet nodes of different countries and regions as galaxies of stars. The distance between these stars, model a bi-dimensional presentation of links between websites on the Internet. Every site is a circle on the map, and its size is determined by website traffic, the larger the amount of traffic, the bigger the circle. The Internet map is a non-commercial project. Its main goal is to let the people see beauty of the Internet:

image source: internet-map.net

Another really famous visualization of the Internet’s backbone structure was created by Stephen G. Eick from Bell Laboratories in 1993:

The arc map displays a 3D network structure as arcs curving smoothly above a flat map of the world. The data being visualized is Internet traffic flows between fifty countries, as measured by the NSFNET backbone in 1993. The colour, thickness and height of the arcs is used to encode the traffic statistics for particular inter-country links. The arcs are also partially translucent so as not to completely obscure lines at the back of the map, while their height above the base map is in relation to total volume of traffic flowing over a link. This has the effect of making the most important (high traffic) links, the highest and therefore most visually prominent on the map. The user has considerable interactive control over the arc map, for example the arc height scaling and translucency can be varied. The map can also be rotated and scaled, so that the user can view it from any angle.

One really cool example by Felix Heinen, it was his final year work in information design, shows the the variety and attitudes of members from an internet community like Facebook. In a first visualization he shows the functions each member uses as well as additional demographic information. The second visualization shows a geographic orientation where the members of a community are located worldwide:

screenshot taken from: www.felixheinen.de

screenshot taken from: www.felixheinen.de

The book ‘Visual Complexity’ by Manuel Lima combines design and complexity to explain the art of information and knowledge extraction out of graphical visualizations. Visual Complexity presents one hundred of the most interesting examples of information-visualization by the field’s leading practitioners. Many popular examples try to visualize Internet or social graph related  aspecs, such as traffic, site links or even social connection between a huge amount of nodes.

Manuel’s Web site Visual Complexity shows hundreds of different examples for large scale data visualizations, such as social graphs, nike running tracks, research networks, technology connections, wikipedia edits during global crisis and incredibly more:

screenshot taken from: visualcomplexity.com

 

Book Review: The 100$ Startup


The 100$ Startup by Chris Guillebeau is dedicated to low budget startup companies, that are run by individuals without large teams. These startup companies very much differ from the actual hype around seed funding and pitching large and potent investors. The typical Silicon Valley entrepreneurs try to set up startups with the goal to sell them after a seed period of at most three years and taking large profit with them, in order to start the next one. All the individual startups that are described within The 100$ Startup are not within that category. Chris describes many different individual product models and businesses, ranging from small bakeries to a very successful bycycle mattresses store. All of these startups have in common that their owners follow a very individual model of creating value and of financing their regular income by not loosing their freedom within large companies. This book is an anthem for small individual businesses and agains the unhealthy and depressing work within large companies.

I really loved to read about the very different ways these people started their own businesses. Some of them did not even realized the moment when their own business grew more profiteable than their regular work ever was. I also liked the fact that this book is  about normal people, like you and me, realizing that they can turn their hobbies into good businesses.

Another interesting aspect about this book is that all the people and their businesses that are mentioned agreed to open their business and income figures to the readers. You can find details on Chris’ website 100startup.com.

screencapture from 100startup.com

Book Review: The Wisdom of Crowds

With the book The Wisdom of Crowds James Surowiecki wrote a fantastic book on the topic why crowds of people can come to interesting decisions in certain situations. Recently crowd reviews, also known as collaborative filtering got quite popular with the appearance of recommendation engines that support customers in deciding which product to choose. Surowiecki explains, by using fascinating historic stories, in which situations crowds were able to solve complex problems. He also highlights how the stock market, as a huge global crowd of trading people, is able to predict the value of businesses and even the outcome of judicial investigations, such as the investigation that followed the Challenger desaster in 1986. The Wisdom of Crowds describes in detail which kind of problems can be solved by using crowd decisions as well as the criteria which define specific situations in which the result of crowd decisions can lead to reasonable results.

With The Wisdom of Crowds James Surowiecki wrote a solid book that explains the dynamics of crowd based decision making by using entertaining stories on each of the highlighted aspects.

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins, is a really good science-fiction novel with a fresh and innovative story, compared to other books i read in the last month.

The story plays in a nation called Panem, which was founded after the country formerly known as North America fell in a catastrophic war against each other. Out of the ruins of this epic war, 12 districts remained which are dictated by a shining and luxurious Capitol. The remaining districts that fought the war against the central Capitol were defeated and as a part of the surrender  terms agreed to hand over a yearly tribute fee of one girl and a boy to fight a deathmatch against the other ‘Tributes’ of the 12 districts of Panem. ‘The Hunger Games’ are arranged and choreographed in an artificial arena where every scene is filmed by hidden cameras and broadcasted to all districs as a symbol for their neverending defeat. the sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen, who lives alone with her mother and younger sister, regards it as a death sentence when she is forced to represent her district in the Games. However the rules of the games, the arena and the tributes change but all games have the same constant: kill all the other tributes or get killed by them, only one out of 24 young tributes is allowed to survive!