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14 November
2007

These charts show recent job trends, and computer science is trending up. So is C, as well as Python. There is also a chart showing what programming languages are mentioned explicitly. Surprisingly, C remains a dominant theme. Python has been exhibiting a clear upward trend, but it's hard to make out on this figure since the absolute value is pretty small comared to C. This data is based on searches of job postings, so there is room for debate for its depth and reliability. For example, I suspect that many "high end" jobs don't bother to mention specific programming languages, yet there are doubtless expectations regarding what language will be used in a workplace. For example, we use Matlab in my lab, but I never bother to mention it as a selection criterion.

job postings with various programming language specifications

The following chart shows the frequency of occurrence of various academic background phrases. Note that the absolute number of jobs may not be the same as the ease of getting a job, since there are both demand and supply factors in the marketplace. If there is only one person with a background in statistical anthropology, just two job postings might be more than enough.
Another factor to take into account is bias in the sources used to compile this data. I don't know how they stack up, but the figures should be taken with a grain of salt.


"computer science",  "electrical engineering",  "software engineering", physics, math Job Trends graph



By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
29 November
2007

A new proposal regarding Canadian copyright legislation is coming. It will have serious implications for computer data in
particular, as well as lots of other issues related to information exchange. Canadians need to consider it and speak out (against it).

[ Update: Dec 12, 2007: The law was not introduced as expected and will be deferred until at least January 2008. Let's hope was due to popular expression of dissent. This is the time to contact your MP. ]

(Shortcut: Email letter generator form here, but read on for tips on how to draft and where to send a more-effective real paper letter.)


Oh, Canada



Quoting from a recent article in the Globe and Mail newspaper:
"A new copyright law is coming.
Ottawa copyright circles are buzzing with hints that the government is preparing its new revised copyright bill, and will be tabling it soon, perhaps as early as next week.
And the buzz is that the new law will basically be a copy of the controversial U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)" There are also rumors that the Canadian proposal is worse than the DMCA as it omits some of the exceptions in the DMCA, as well as leaving out some positive aspects of the DCMA as well.


Full article here: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/ servlet/story/RTGAM.20071127.WBcyberia20071127170629/ WBStory/WBcyberia/

The DMCA
prohibits not only the downloading of commercial music files, but also allows web sites to be served "take down" notices with minimal procedural overhead, and prohibits the exchange of information which could be used to circumvent digital rights management (even if it has other
uses as well).

The DMCA has generally been regarded as being bad for consumers, bad for science and bad for freedom of expression, but aimed at serving the interests of large media conglomerates. Interestingly, it seems not even to have helped them, in terms of actual revenue generation. See the documents Unintended Consequences: Seven Years under the DMCA [eff.org] to hear about the experience in the USA (including the chill on free expression and scientific research, and the way it impedes innovation and education).

One of the very bad aspects of the DMCA is the anti-circumvention clauses. These restrict technologies that could be used to circumvent (defeat) anti-copying mechanisms, and these clauses can be interpreted quite broadly. This includes a prohibition of exchange of information that could be construed as promoting circumvention, and seems to extend as far as prohibiting you from opening up your own devices (in hardware or software) that might be used for copy protection. If I can't get my HD-DVD player to put high-quality pictures on my old TV set, but I post a trick that explains how to do it, I'd be in trouble since the manufacturer presumably didn't want me to be able to do this. In fact, I'd be in trouble for doing it even in the privacy of my own home, even if I didn't tell anybody. [This is just an example, I don't actually own any HD-DVD or high-def video gear.] There are worse examples yet, but they get more technical.

Michael Geist, the Canadian law professor & CRC Chair also
has an interesting discussion of several issues [michaelgeist.ca]

and suggests: "There is every indication this legislation will be a complete sell-out to U.S. government and lobbyist demands" which is pretty consistent with what I have heard personally from an Intellectual Property expert who is a personal friend (who may give a CS colloquium here next term).

( full reference http://www.michaelgeist.ca/content/view/2419/125/ )

One good aspect of the DMCA is that it circumscribes the responsibility of
operators of sites where arbitrary people can post material, rather than making the operator personally responsible for everything that gets posted. Let's hope this pro-freedom-of-expression aspect of the DMCA makes it into the Canadian legislation
as well (to be announced soon), but the rumor and my inference
is that it is absent.

The problem seems to be part of an ongoing and pernicious erosion of the public information rights in Canada (as well as the USA). Margaret-Ann Wilkinson (lawyer, ethicist) observes: "... following the appearance of the Charter of Rights for Creators, groups representing user interests were persuaded that copyright reform was being packaged as a two-phase process. The first phase was to be Bill C-60 which, when enacted in 1988, created the amendments to the Copyright Act that largely favored copyright owners. A second phase was promised, which was to focus on the needs of information users and intermediaries. The promised second phase, however, failed to appear in a timely manner." [from "Filtering the Flow from the Fountains of Knowledge"]

Personally, despite this erosion, I have been proud and relieved that we didn't have legislation like the DMCA here. Furthermore, even the US DCMA allows limited forms of
duplications of a work in order to create a parody. Canada's law does not even include that exception, nor other
important exceptions like being allowed to record a television program for subsequent playback.

If this interests you at all, you may want to browse the links above and then make your voice heard. Personally, I think legislation is a terrible and disastrous move.

If you think this is problematic, as I do, Geist has been generous enough to post a list of 30 things you can do to express your distaste for this initiative.

The link is

http://www.michaelgeist.ca/content/view/1447/273/ (30 Days of DRM: 30 Things You Can Do)


There is another interesting post regarding the action of the CAUT in this regard. See the blog from Howard Knopf [blogspot.com].

( I've been told this issue was also mentioned is Slashdot recently. )


By Gregory Dudek at | Read (1) or Leave a comment |    
11 February
2008


I saw the movie Live Free of Die Hard recently. The film involves a heroic hacker Matthew Farrell who
gets into trouble due to his illicit hacking-for-hire. The movie is enjoyable, given that one expects it to
be a mindless action romp from the outset. It's always good to see the computer guy
cast as a powerful figure, albeit a rather neurotic one.



IP address


The nerd perspective is that our guy is initially logged
in from his home with an IP address of 172.16.55.103. In fact, that's a blackhole address along will all of 172.16.0.0 through to 172.31.0.0 (172.16/12)
according to RCF 1918, so it's the same as a 555-1212 phone number that is common in
"older" movies beack in the days when they still used the telephone (i.e. 172.16 like the more common 10.0.0.0 (10/8) and 192.168.0.0 (192.168/16) subnets).


Other people on the net have used screenshots to determine the IP used for an scp transaction has the address 202.218.154.52
and this is osaka-itkaikei.co.jp, Osaka IT Accounting Technical School.


By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
01 March
2008

Next week I will be in Washington State. The trip is courtesy of Microsoft and I will be visiting the Techfest 2008 at Microsoft Research. As far as I know, this is a regular event that was initially started to allow Microsoft research to demonstrate their activities to one another and to a range to employees in the company at large. More recently, it has been opened up to include non-Microsoft attendees. The official description says it allows attendees to "exchange ideas with colleagues, show off their latest innovations, and shine a light into the future of computing". No matter what computing platform you prefer, there is no doubt that MS Research has an enormous group of very smart and influential people, and it should be interesting.


By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
04 March
2008

  

Techfest is just starting, but is already clear it is very cool. It makes Microsoft look very good by showcasing the impact their work is having.

It's an impressive set of attendees. On the bus here I sat with Bob Constable.

It's also very well orchestrated. Right now Craig Mundie is chatting with Alan Alda doing a great job illustating how much impact the work might have. This works surprisingly well.


By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    

The techfest (see prior post) features a large number of individual projects from Microsoft research. Much of the event is for internal consumption by Microsoft employees, but today only they have a "public" day that is also open to invited visitors and the press.

The event features a cross section of prjoects, and only a sample of what they are doing.

THere are several projects on sensor networks. This includes a very nice system for environmental monitoring that uses low power nodes and grid networking to collect data in outdoor environments.

There is a cool project from MSR Asia that all allows you to record the photos and travel history you experience as you move about. A nice aspect of this is that is allows gps tracks and time-stamped images to be intergrated and fused off-line.


By Gregory Dudek at | Leave a comment |    
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