Sometimes I hate that netbooks died.

To be more precise, I hate that MY netbook died.

Not only was my Acer Aspire One 521 a high-end “underpowered, ultracheap laptop” for its time - purchased in late 2010; equipped with an AMD Athlon II Neo K125 processor, ATI Radeon HD 4225 integrated graphics solution, upgradable to 4GB DDR3 RAM (even though it ~officially~ maxed out at 2GB), but I miss having its portability and most of all, the fact that it had an HDMI port - both of my Compaq Presario laptops are stuck with DVI.

Maybe I’ll find one on eBay sooner or later and put Linux Mint on it.

Neuromorphic Chip performs human task for the first time

In what marks a significant step forward for artificial intelligence, researchers at UC Santa Barbara have demonstrated the functionality of a simple artificial neural circuit. For the first time, a circuit of about 100 artificial synapses was proved to perform a simple version of a typical human task: image classification.

The memristor was able to successfully classify three letters (“z”, “v” and “n”) by their images, each letter stylized in different ways or saturated with “noise”. Yes, conventional computers can do this, but they’d need a much more power to replicate the task. It’s a small but important step. (I’ve read somewhere that the human brain runs on ~30 watts, less than one lightbulb!).

According to the scientists, the circuitry may eventually be expanded and scaled to approach the human brain, which has 10^15 (one quadrillion) synaptic connections.

[read more] [more about neuromorphic computing] [Image Credit: Sonia Fernandez]

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Hi guys, I’ve had this idea recently and I definitely need your help. If you start with a line and at both ends add lines such that they are perpendicular to the first one (like on the second picture) and then repeat this process infintely, you get a geometrical figure that seems rather random (not sure if it can be considered as a fractal though). 

The first 3 images show the 3 first steps ; the fourth one is the result after 8 iterations, and the fifth one after 16 iterations.

Problem is that it takes hours to draw it, and I have little knowledge in programming… Could any of you do that for me, or do you know somebody that would ? I would be infinitely thankful if yes. Have a nice day !

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What Happened To Women In Computer Science? 

For decades, the number of women in computer science grew faster than the number of men —until you get to 1984. At that point, the percentage of women began to plunge (even as the share of women in fields like mechanical engineering, math and physics kept rising).

So what happened? What was going on in 1984?

NPR’s Planet Money tried to untangle this question and the answer is complex.

One of the big changes to happen around 1984 was the introduction of small personal computers into the home. Early computers weren’t much more than toys (think pong and space invaders) and they were marketed almost exclusively to boys. 

In the 1990s, UCLA researcher Jane Margolis interviewed hundreds of computer science students at Carnegie Mellon University, which had one of the best programs in the country. She found that families were much more likely to buy computers for boys than for girls — even when the girls were the ones who were interested in computers. 

The pattern was pretty consistent. One student told a story of having to ask her brother for the key to use the computer because it was actually locked away from her in his room. This may be an extreme example, but Margolis never heard the reverse — no stories of boys having to go into their sister’s room to use the computer.

This was a big deal when those kids went to college. As personal computers became more common, computer science professors increasingly assumed that their students had grown up playing with computers.

By the mid 90s, the Carnegie Mellon computer science program was 93% men. Half the women who went to school for computer science ended up quitting the program. As Margolis explains:

“Because if you’re in a culture that is so infused with this belief that men are just better at this and they fit in better — a lot can shake your confidence. You can be sitting next to a male student who could say, ‘You don’t know that? …And you’re a computer science major?’” 

And these types of slights add up.

In her research, Margolis discovered that a lot of the women who were dropping out were great at computer science — more than half were on the dean’s list.

So how do we get women back in to computer science?

Margolis did her research with Allan Fisher, the Dean of the Computer Science program at Carnegie Mellon. The two ended up using what they had learned to make adjustments to the program.

They paid a lot more attention to teaching and added an intro course for students who didn’t have a lot of informal computer science experience.

And it worked. In 5 years, they turned the school around: 42% of computer science students were women (and the drop out rate was the same for men and women).

Top Image: Planet Money

Bottom Image: Two women operating the ENIAC’s main control panel

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D-Wave Lab Tour - The Infrastructure of the D-Wave Quantum Computer

Interesting & well shot short documentary about D-Wave’s main experimental facility and their high-tech quantum computer fridge systems and quantum computing infrastructures.

Side note: Geordie Rose, CTO of D-Wave, reveals in his blog that they have built a quantum computer version of Spacewar!:

They look a lot like computers did back in the 60s. There are a lot of parallels to back then — we even built our own version of Spacewar! — except you get to play against a quantum computer. (Aside: this game — which was the world’s first quantum computer game — was called MaxCat. I own the only handwritten copy of the rules…. one of my most treasured artifacts!)

Part two is about the fridge at the cooling system, and the electronics that are used to talk to the quantum chip:

And part three looking at the quantum annealing processor:

[more] [via Geordie Rose]

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PetPix Stereo

Hackaday covers project by Michael Hill at VCF East X that takes an old Commodore PET computer and manages produce a steroscopic display - PETSCII VR!

What would happen if Oculus-quality virtual reality was created in the 80s on the Commodore PET? [Michael Hill] knows, because he created a stereoscopic video headset using a PET.

… This year, he’s doubling the number of screens, and sending everything to two iPhones in a Google Cardboard-like VR headset. Apart from the optics, the setup is pretty simple: cameras get image data, it’s sent over to a PET, and a stream of characters are sent back.

More Here

Date: May 5, 2015 

Source: American Institute of Physics (AIP) 

Summary: Quantum computers are in theory capable of simulating the interactions of molecules at a level of detail far beyond the capabilities of even the largest supercomputers today. Such simulations could revolutionize chemistry, biology and material science, but the development of quantum computers has been limited by the ability to increase the number of quantum bits, or qubits, that encode, store and access large amounts of data.

[Guide] Questions to Ask a Company In An Interview

You’re in the middle of an interview and the conversation seems to be going well…until the interviewer hits you with that dreaded question: “Do you have any questions for me?”

Many of us have been in this position before.  Numerous times throughout my career, I’ve made the mistake of going into an interview without having prepared a good set of questions to handle the situation I described above.  I end up winging it which has a 50/50 shot of actually working.  Sometimes, I get lucky and can think of something quickly enough to keep the conversation flowing seemingly naturally (and I can breathe an internal sigh of relief) but many other times, it results in a horrible awkward silence, broken only by my “uhhh”s and “hmmm”s while I try to think of something, followed by the less than ideal, “Actually, I think you just about covered everything!”  Regardless of whether or not I have come off as unprepared to them, I feel super unprepared in that moment and it throws off my interviewing mojo.

So to prevent this, I’ve compiled a template consisting of a list of solid, general questions I personally have asked in interviews that seemed to have gone over pretty well.  I originally made this as a reference for myself but thought it might be useful to share it with all of you.  If you think of any of your own, or have suggestions for what has worked for you, let me know and I’ll append them to this post!

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Questions to Ask a Company In An Interview

Company Goals/Vision

  • Where is the company trying to go?  What do you think is the company’s long term mission/vision?
  • Who is the company’s target market/audience/client?
  • Who are some of the company’s biggest clients?
  • Have you already released your product? (Is it live?)
  • How successful has your product been so far?
  • Who are some of your competitors?

Company Financials (Startup-oriented)

  • What is the funding process? (eg. How often does the company raise?  Which series?)
  • How does the company acquire funding?
  • Who are some of the company’s investors?
  • Is the company profitable?  (Does the company generate income?)

Company Demographics/Culture

  • How big is the company?  What is the current number of total employees?
  • How many people are on the engineering team?
  • How many women are on the engineering team?
  • If the percentage of women engineers is low, what are some of the ways the company is trying to increase that percentage?
  • What is the management structure? (flat? hierarchical?)
  • If the management structure is flat, how does the company plan on scaling?
  • How do you see the company structure changing as the company grows?
  • What is the typical engineering schedule? (lots of overtime or emphasis on work/life balance?)
  • What are the typical hours people usually come into and leave the office?
  • Are employees allowed to work from home?
  • How many people work remotely?

Engineering Specifics

  • Are you currently more interested in language/platform specialists (e.g. Objective-C programmer) or software engineering generalists?
  • What are the primary languages and platforms engineers at your company work in?
  • What is your code stack?
  • What is the build environment like?
  • Is testing automated? (unit tests, integration tests, etc.)
  • What would I be doing?
  • What kind of problems would I be solving?  Can you give me some examples?

Meta questions about the Interview

  • What are the next steps?
  • Is there anything in particular I should prepare?
  • Is there a particular language you will be testing me in?
  • (If the person you are speaking with reached out to you first) I imagine you’ve already seen my LinkedIn profile or my resume – What made you initially interested in reaching out to me?
  • Do you have any other questions for me?

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If you have any questions you want to add, post them in the comments or hit me up on Twitter (@blackfemcoders)!  Happy interviewing! :)

A GPS That Asks DNA for Directions

A team of engineers in Singapore has been working for years on a computer that uses DNA instead of silicon to process calculations. They recently reported success in advancing the technology, by unveiling a programmable DNA-based optimal route planning processor that behaves like those in traditional GPS navigation systems. 

The system can tackle two different computing tasks at the same time, calculating the shortest route between two different starting points and two destinations on a map consisting of six paths. It does this by using information stored beforehand in the DNA.

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The only thing stronger than your imagination is your imagination connected to the billions of other imaginations all over the world, connected to smart machines that continue to get smarter, faster.
—  Rita King