Marcia Wendorf on F1’s changes since 1950

For Interesting Engineering, Marcia Wendorf examined how much Formula 1 has changed over the last 60 years.

I spoke about the relationship between cars and Moore’s Law a few days ago and I wonder how that might translate to Formula 1. Marcia Wendorf charted the evolution of the sport and a lot has changed since the first Formula 1 World Championship Grand Prix at Silverstone in 1950.

Formula 1 is undoubtedly the most technologically advanced motorsport in the world today.

Since 1950, a sort of arms race has been going on, not between the drivers on the track, but among the engineers who design F1 cars and the technicians who build them.

Besides the vastly improved engines and advances in engineering and aerodynamics, data has also played a major part in recent years:

Probably the biggest change in Formula 1 cars since 2011 is in data acquisition. In 2011, F1 cars were able to log around 500 channels of data, while today’s cars have around 1,500 high-rate data channels. This means that on a typical race weekend, a single car collects around 70GB of data, while in 2011, only 18GB of data would have been collected.

That’s over 1TB of data for one car over the course of a regular F1 season. Phenomenal.

What can you do after you’ve had the COVID-19 vaccine?

The pandemic isn’t over just because you’re over it. But there are things you can do after you’ve had your jab(s) to keep yourself and everyone else safe.

Linda Geddes wrote a piece for The Guardian about things you can do safely after getting your COVID jab. For me, it’s the same information I’ve been reading over and over but given how poor information flow has been over the last year or so, these COVID-19 articles are necessary.

In a nutshell:

  • You’re not “bulletproof” against the virus, whether you’ve had the first or second vaccine.
  • Keep wearing a mask.
  • Hugging should be fine once you’re both vaccinated but be aware of local infection rates.
  • Don’t all rush back into those close contact social gatherings immediately.
  • Keep wearing a mask.
  • It’s sensible to be cautious and that might mean asking for tests before meeting with other people.
  • International travel is still a risk as not every country has the same infection rate or response to the virus as yours.
  • Keep wearing a mask.
  • Older relatives may be protected but that doesn’t mean you don’t need the vaccine (quit leaning on “herd immunity”).
  • And, finally, keep wearing a mask.

Although not explicitly mentioned in the article, please keep washing your hands, sanitising, and social distancing. The pandemic isn’t over just because you’re over it.

Can DOS viruses ruin modern PCs? Yes.

For some viruses, there’s no escape.

Nostalgia Nerd took it upon himself to ask and answer this question by running 6,000 DOS viruses on a new Windows 10 PC. Using archive.org’s Malware Museum and VX Heaven, NN picked up some of the most infamous viruses known to DOS and ran them all individually and then altogether.

It’s a wild ride and not something you should necessarily try on any computer, testing or otherwise; it’s called malicious software for a reason.

Tungsten: it’s a heavy metal!

Less Iron Maiden and more KT Tungsten!

YouTuber NileRed made a short about a tungsten cube and it’s a heavy sonuvametal.

Compared to 2 cubic inches of aluminium weighing less than a pound (about 450g), a tungsten cube of the same size weighs over 5 pounds. Here are some more facts about the dense metal:

  • Its density is 19.25 g/cm3, which is comparable with uranium and gold. Because of this, tungsten was used in jewellery as a gold alternative.
  • Metallic tungsten is also hypoallergenic and harder than gold alloys, meaning it resists scratching.
  • It has the highest boiling point of all elements (5,930 °C; 10,710 °F; 6,200 K) and melts at 3,422 °C (6,192 °F; 3,695 K).
  • The name tungsten is a Swedish word meaning “heavy stone” but the term “wolfram” is used in most European languages.
  • Tungsten is also used on yachts, commercial aircraft, civil and military helicopters, NASCAR and F1 race cars, incandescent light bulb, vacuum tube filaments, cathode-ray tubes, rocket engine nozzles, and heating elements.
  • In 1928, General Electric’s tried to patent tungsten but a US court rejected the claim.
  • In 2018, tungsten cost around $30,300 per metric ton. At the same weight, gold would cost about $574,917,094 (at its current price of $1,848.40 per troy oz.)

Stream the video below.

516 Arouca: the world’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge

Don’t look down.

I’m not afraid of heights but even the phrase “the world’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge” gives me chills.

516 Arouca is exactly that and hangs 175m (574ft) over the Paiva river in Portugal. Its 516m (1693ft) length bridges the gap between the Aguieiras Waterfall and a part of the Paiva Gorge, both part of the Arouca Geopark. The bridge did a “soft” launch in October 2020 but now it’s open to everyone.

As with the the Paiva Walkways, the Arouca municipality hopes the the new bridge, co-financed by European Funds, will draw visitors and further enhance the economic activity of this region, while at the same time helping to promote the preservation of Paiva river and safeguard of the biodiversity of the area.

The bridge is designed as a hybrid between a Tibet-style footbridge with a sagging deck, and a traditional suspension bridge with support towers. For those of a nervous disposition, the steel deck is a transparent mesh.

Would you walk across this? Let me know in the comments and stream footage of 516 Arouca below.

Cars and their relationship with Moore’s Law

Does va-va-voom conform to Moore’s Law?

Terence Eden discussed Moore’s Law and how car manufacturing plays into it on his blog back in January. Moore’s Law states that the number of transistors on a computer chip doubles every two years, which has become “the speed and capability of our computers doubling every couple of years, and we will pay less for them”.

After talking about smartphones and their relationship with Moore’s Law, Terence moved onto cars:

Cars are now computers and batteries on wheels. They haven’t seen quite the drop in price as regular computers – but they have seen a huge rise in reliability and safety features.

He showed the monthly cost of a SEAT Mii as a comparison with a iPhone contract. It’s an interesting observation and one I hadn’t considered (not least because I don’t drive). But Terence isn’t the only one to look into their relationship.

In a blog post entitled “Auto Industry Takes Moore’s Law for a Drive”, Will Drewery, the Vice President of Industry Marketing at Bright Machines, looked positively at Moore’s Law within the auto industry:

While there is some debate in the computer science world about the limits of his prediction, one thing is certain: Moore’s Law is alive and well in the auto industry.

Just as Gordon Moore predicted computers would double in power every two years, we at Bright Machines are witnessing dramatic growth in the number of new vehicles leveraging central processing units (CPUs) to drive these new capabilities. The next generation of vehicles has 10x the CPUs than those being developed just a few short years ago. The processing power required of these new intelligent vehicles is so great that vehicles themselves are becoming “data centers on wheels.”

In 2019, Edwin Olson (CEO of May Mobility) observed Moore’s Law for self-driving cars and found a link with data, using the measurement of system performance as the number of miles per disengagement:

In a cosmic coincidence, the Moore’s law for self-driving cars is almost the same as the Moore’s law for computers — performance doubles every 16 months!

So it appears Moore’s Law extends beyond phone and computers. It’ll be interesting to see what kinds of cars we get for, say, £1,000, every couple of years, and if we can get a free car with a phone contract as Terence mentioned, that’d be quite a feat!

Basecamp is effed

And it’s about to get worse.

In case you missed it, Basecamp, the project management platform used by around 16 million people worldwide, is in deep trouble. The downward spiral began (at least publicly) on 26th April when CEO Jason Fried published a blog post outlining “Changes at Basecamp” with lines such as:

1. No more societal and political discussions on our company Basecamp account.

Today’s social and political waters are especially choppy. Sensitivities are at 11, and every discussion remotely related to politics, advocacy, or society at large quickly spins away from pleasant. You shouldn’t have to wonder if staying out of it means you’re complicit, or wading into it means you’re a target. These are difficult enough waters to navigate in life, but significantly more so at work. It’s become too much. It’s a major distraction. It saps our energy, and redirects our dialog towards dark places. It’s not healthy, it hasn’t served us well. And we’re done with it on our company Basecamp account where the work happens. People can take the conversations with willing co-workers to Signal, Whatsapp, or even a personal Basecamp account, but it can’t happen where the work happens anymore.

They also stopped offering “paternalistic benefits” (fitness benefits, wellness allowances, farmer’s market shares, and education allowances) and claimed it was “none of their business” what employees did outside of work, and “not Basecamp’s place to encourage certain behaviors — regardless of good intention”. I would have thought these benefits were optional or at least opt-in unlike a pension scheme and would have benefited many people. Also, isn’t removing these and saying “it’s none of our business what you do when you’re not working here” a sociopolitical statement?

On 28th April, co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson posted a blog post entitled “Let it all out” inferring that Casey Newton’s reporting for The Verge made their stance difficult.

It’s difficult to retain good working relationships if you’re concerned about what might be turned into a story or not.

One thing of note was a “Best Names List”:

Around 2009, Basecamp customer service representatives began keeping a list of names that they found funny. More than a decade later, current employees were so mortified by the practice that none of them would give me a single example of a name on the list. One invoked the sorts of names Bart Simpson used to use when prank calling Moe the Bartender: Amanda Hugginkiss, Seymour Butz, Mike Rotch.

Many of the names were of American or European origin. But others were Asian, or African, and eventually the list — titled “Best Names Ever” — began to make people uncomfortable. What once had felt like an innocent way to blow off steam, amid the ongoing cultural reckoning over speech and corporate responsibility, increasingly looked inappropriate, and often racist.

Yikes.

Then DHH went into a long spiel about their internal processes as damage control. This line stood out for me:

My belief is that the key to working with other people of different ideological persuasions is to find common cause in the work, in the relations with customers, in the good we can do in the industry. Not to repeatedly seek out all the hard edges where we differ. Those explorations are better left to the smaller groups, to discussions outside of the company-wide stage, and between willing participants.

“Different ideological persuasions”. “Find common cause in the work”. “Not to repeatedly seek out all the hard edges where we differ.” How much do you want to bet that those “common causes” would be aligned more with what DHH and Jason Fried wanted for the company rather than addressing forms of discrimination. But hey, it’s none of Basecamp’s business, right? As long as it doesn’t affect the profit margin!

Ultimately, DHH said people who disagreed could leave and offered severance packages to the perceived dissentors. And employees took them up on their offer. Many employees. As of writing this blog post, one-third of Basecamp’s 57 employees. (You can track the departures in this Twitter thread.)

Since Fried’s nonsense statement, there has been widespread criticism aimed at both him and DHH. And it doesn’t look like they’re budging (yet, although I wouldn’t be surprised if they remained firm in their actions). Tech can be a challenging and scary place to work at the best of times, with plenty of discrimination and elitist behaviour—from the bottom to the top—disproportionally affecting marginalised workers. But to make these changes and have a third of your workforce leave, including heads of departments? Bold strategy, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off for ’em.

For more unbiased reporting on the subject, check out these links:

A syllabus based on Halt and Catch Fire

I LOVE this show and I love this idea.

Since I started watching Halt and Catch Fire last year, I’ve told anyone who’ll hear about it. The show tells the story of a group of tech workers as they navigated the world of tech in the 80s and 90s. It starts in the early 80s and goes through moments like the beginnings of laptop computers, the launch of the Apple Macintosh, internet gaming chat rooms, ARPANET, the World Wide Web, and everything in between (and there was a lot).

For Ashley Blewer, a software developer who specialises in archival and audiovisual software, this was the perfect opportunity to turn the show’s topics into educational topics and she created an entire curriculum based on the series.

The intent is for this website to be used by self-forming small groups that want to create a “watching club” (like a book club) and discuss aspects of technology history that are featured in this series.

The “course” lasts for 15 classes and I think it’s absolute genius.

Check it out on her website and watch the show where you can (it’s available on Amazon Prime Video).

Engineer Man on programming advice he would’ve given himself

What would you say to your younger self about programming?

Retrospection is inevitable once you get older. What would you have done differently when you started? Engineer Man thought the same and shared these thoughts in a video back in January

You know what they say: hindsight is 20/20 and when I was young I didn’t know anything about anything and had nobody to ask. For those just starting out in programming or even those who have a little experience, I have some valuable advice to share with you that I wish someone had told me long ago. I really hope it helps you.

As someone who also started coding at a young age (11, and it was HTML) and did study computer science at university (but dropped out after 6 months because I didn’t like it), I could relate to some of EM’s story.

The first piece of advice I would have given to my younger self is that I need to recognize that learning does not happen overnight. It’s really common for somebody to get into their head, thinking that they’re going to go from no knowledge to just a mastery in a programming language in a short period of time and that’s just not really how it works and this is true of any technology that’s related to programming as well. Now it is different once you already have some skill in an area; it is, of course, easier to pick new things up but when you’re just starting out it’s going to take time and you have to recognize that learning programming is very much a marathon and not a sprint and it’s also a marathon that never ends and that’s why it’s pointless to sprint.

That’s something I learnt after a few months of learning how to code in Python and it’s so important. You see other people excelling and making progress beyond your basic understanding and think you’re behind when you’re actually on track. Ironically, sprints have a meaning in project management—they’re “short, time-boxed period when a scrum team works to complete a set amount of work”—but you get the idea.

Stream the rest below.

RIP Dr. Charles Geschke, co-founder of Adobe and co-inventor of the PDF

Geschke is survived by his wife, three children, and seven grandchildren.

Via Adobe’s official statement:

It is with profound sadness that Adobe shares the passing of the company’s beloved co-founder, Dr. Charles Geschke. Dr. Geschke passed away on Friday, surrounded by his family.

I’ve been using Adobe’s products for nearly 20 years and knew so little about Geschke and his life. He’d founded Adobe in 1982 with Dr. John Warnock, who was his colleague at Xerox in the 70s. He served as COO from 1986–1994 and retired in 2000. He also survived a kidnapping attempt in 1992:

Charles Geschke, 52, president and chief operating officer of Adobe Systems Inc., had been in the house in Hollister, 60 miles south of San Jose, since he was seized by two men as he arrived for work Tuesday, FBI agents said.

″The two men called him to their car to ask him a question, then at gunpoint took him away and secreted him,″ said FBI agent Richard Held. Geschke was abducted at the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, about 10 miles northwest of San Jose.

Along with Dr. Warnock, he received the National Medal of Technology in 2009 to go with his Computer Entrepreneur Award from the IEEE Computer Society and the American Electronics Association Medal of Honor.

See also: Chuck Geschke on the simple principles that drove 30 years of success and challenges, change and values he faced in his career.

Recreating the PIN cracking scene from Terminator 2 with an Atari Portfolio

Who needs Mr Robot when you have an Atari Portfolio and some rudimentary code to hack into ATMs?

Bertrand Fan is an engineer for Slack but in his spare time, he does cool stuff with old tech like Slack on a SNES or using Microsoft Cognitive Services to create baby bump timelapses. But this one is pretty cool.

It involves the scene from Terminator 2 where John Connor used an Atari Portfolio to hack an ATM and steal money. While Bertrand didn’t reverse engineer an Atari Portfolio to do exactly that, he did emulate what we, the viewers, so on the LCD display using Python.

The ATM hacking scene

And then he ported the code to Pascal. By the end, he concluded the post with this:

In the spirit of owning less stuff, I’ve gone through the mental exercise of what it would take to make the rest of this a reality but will not follow through on any of it:

1. Buy an Atari Portfolio on Ebay.

2. Buy an Atari Portfolio parallel interface and probably a new screen bezel because it’s likely scratched.

3. Find a parallel cable in my box of cables.

4. Find a PC or laptop with a parallel port, install MS-DOS v6.22 on it.

5. Download FT.COM and put it on the PC.

6. Build the EXE in Dosbox-X and transfer it to the Atari Portfolio.

7. Steal a debit card.

8. Wrap part of the card in aluminum foil, buy an Atari Portfolio serial interface, run a cable to the card.

9. Run the program.

10. Easy money!

Read the full post on his blog.

Would you let algorithms run your life for a week?

One Wired journalist tried and it wasn’t as dystopian as you might think.

I found this 2019 Wired article by Victoria Turk whilst surfing the Web™️:

For one week, I decided I would try to take a more conscious look at the kind of mundane algorithms I use everyday. From scrolling social media when I first wake up in the morning to route-planning my way home in the evening, I wanted to make myself more aware of the algorithms that have become routine in my daily life, how they affect my choices, and what they reveal about me.

I would attempt to live my life “by algorithm” – using algorithm in the broad, colloquial sense here to mean any set of computer calculations that results in a solution, including recommendation engines, filtering systems, prioritisation or personalisation algorithms and so on. I would track my interactions with algorithms and let them make my choices for me.

The week was 5 days so more of a working week and the result was kinda surprising from a general perspective. A lot is said about the way algorithms have taken over how we live but what is an algorithm really? It’s “a process or set of rules to be followed”. Don’t we do that every day with the various traditions and routines we go through? We may wake up in the morning, get out of bed, have a shower, brush our teeth, have breakfast (or not), go to work (from home or outside), travel by some form of transport, we do small talk, we eat lunch, we deal with microaggressions (or create them for others) and so on. There are processes to all of them and they’re almost algorithmic thanks to capitalism and social norms. And there’s the catch—they’re social norms.

Look at how everyone wants to go back to “normal”, post-pandemic. But for many disabled people, nothing has ever been normal and it might get worse than it already is right now. Tech has the power to change this but instead, it has added to the crap with things like NFTs killing the ecosystem or the growing inaccessibility of apps like Clubhouse.

So would you let algorithms run your life for a week? The answer is yes, whether you know it or not.