Paul Erdös day

March 26 is Paul Erdös birthday. The book about Erdös by Paul Hoffman is a nice read and thought provoking. Erdös’ concept of the BOOK recording the most elegant proofs is one that is natural for both mathematicians and engineers even though he might have disagreed. The relationship between mathematics and engineering is peculiar: Erdös like many other “pure” mathematicians didn’t care about applications although his compatriot von Neumann thought otherwise. The famous number theorist GH Hardy, in his very unapologetic Apology, boasted about the inapplicability of his work – although 20 years later some of it became standard tools for cryptography.

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Spinning the press about technology

We’ve been an engineering driven company from day one – something that leads us to be frustrated with “analysts” and reporters who seem unwilling to challenge marketing. For example, here’s how a recent Investor’s Business Daily article starts:

“With a fast-growing presence in everything from servers to cell phones, the Linux operating system appears ready for prime time. But is it ready for real time?

“MontaVista Software thinks so…”

Hello! Anyone there able to use Google? Why is it that reporters who write such stuff won’t do a little research so that they can tell their readers Linux has been “ready for real-time” in the most demanding applications for over a decade?

Auragen computers remembered

In the early 1980s, I worked for a start-up called Auragen Computers based in Fort Lee, New Jersey. We were making a 68K based fault tolerant UNIX based on a smart idea by Sam Glazer. Most of the software engineers lived in New York City and commuted out. Start-ups with New Yorkers have a different “culture” than start-ups with Californians. One of the senior technical staff was once asked to meet with investors to talk about why development was taking so long. After some fruitless attempts at discussion he explained, kindly, “I don’t think I can make this clear in 5 minutes. It took me 10 years to understand this stuff and I’m a lot smarter than you.” Auragen did some good work, but failed to get the product out to market in time. A good lesson to learn.
Auragen gave me my first job in the computer industry and a great education in operating systems. I still remember sitting in a room with Jim Baumbach, Anita Borg, David Arnow, and Sam Glazer soon after I started there, and confronting the reality that everyone in the room was a lot smarter, better educated, and more witty than me (my only consolation was that, in their early 30s, they seemed pretty damn old).