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A Visit to the Computer History Museum

There are not many museums around the world that are specifically devoted to computers. The two I know about are Bletchley Park, located 70 km away from London, and Computer History Museum. The former is not about computers per se, though; rather, it's about the decrypting German messaging during the World War II that happened right there. And the latter is completely devoted to computers.

I visited this Computer History Museum two weeks ago, during my short trip to the Silicon Valley. Here's a couple of photos I made there.

Here's my personal favorite, a slide rule tie clip (as I love ties, I want such thing either!)

Oh, here's another Penn&Paper's solution. It's a clone of Microsoft Visio diagram sketching tool:

Nowadays, you may measure the uptime with a single shell command. Back then, there were devices specifically designed for this:

"Man" is a shorthand of "manual" in Linux word, and not what you, a feminist, thought about.

Need a man to learn what uptime is? Here's your man:

And, of course, a full-size working copy of a Babbage machine (I didn't see the demo, bu they say it works!)

The museum has more of these. Due to my schedule, I only had a bit more than an hour to visit it (note that there's no admission on Mondays and Tuesdays!) But if you'll be around, it's totally worth it. Don't miss it, it looks like this:

(And if you happen to find yourself thirsty, don't go to that bar across the street: the service is quite bad there.)

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Penn&Paper's Solutions™: Table Scroll Sanitizer

A couple of days ago, doing a routine tasks of analyzing how well our tools were finding Linux kernel bugs, I was to check a large table.

I was to check if there are correlations in values each row between columns A, B, and C that weren't adjacent. The hypothesis was, like "if there is a 1 in B, there should be 1 in either A, or C". However, the table had a lot of rows and columns; so many, that it didn't fit into the screen neither vertically, nor horizontally, so I was quickly getting lost in determining which column is what.

The obvious idea would be to automate this task. However, the data representation wasn't nice enough for automated analysis. First, the table was a page in a browser. Second, there were certain tricky javascripts involved, which prevented me from copying it and pasting to a spreadsheet program or to a plain CSV text file. Also, the table wasn't large enough to implement a script to do the checking, so I started to doing the check manually.

So I called my old friend, Mrs. Violet Page from Penn&Paper's Solutions™. Violet already introduced one of the products to the readers. I asked her if her company has something to offer to me to simplify this daunting task of browsing a big table—and they really had something to offer me!

Table Scroll Sanitizer

The tool they offered was the Table Scroll Sanitizer. The instructions are simple: just touch the relevant columns with the pen tool, and apply the resultant sheet to the browser window:

This way, the sheet you've created won't move when you scroll, and thus you'll always see the columns you're interested in marked. This made the tedious analysis assignment much less tiresome, and my performance had an upheaval.

Free implementation

However, our company wasn't satisfied with the price of this wonderfull Penn&Paper's product. Its price was totally inacceptable: it was just too small for our accountants to bother with arranging the purchase! That's why I decided to make a free implementation, which is both easy to use and free. Here's a screenshot:

Just open a text editor, arrange the marks like you would do with the Table Scroll Sanitizer, and place it right below (or on top of) the broswer, and it also won't move when you scroll either!

So, if you find yourself in a middle of a large table, and you are lost, you now know what to do. Good luck!

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Penn&Paper's Solutions™: Progress Tracker

A couple of weeks ago I began to develop a new component of the system we ship. In order to not get lost in where I currently am, I decided to employ a tool to visualize structure of the component, and to track progress of its development.

However, I was too busy to write a program on my own. Therefore, I decided to purchase an enterprise solution. I analyzed the market, and asked a couple of questions. And I found a product. The product. "Penn&Paper™'s Progress Tracker 8.3 Personal Edition by Penn&Paper™'s Solutions. The one that suited me, fulfilled all my requirements, and was very easy to use.

I was so satisfied with this product, that I even decided to publish an interview with one of "Penn&Paper™'s" sales managers in my extremely popular blog. To make it more interesting, I accompanied it with pictures about my experience with usage of their product.

Interview with a Penn&Paper's Solutions™ representative

So, here it is. Violet Page, a sales manager from "Penn&Paper™'s Solutions" presents their "Progress Tracker 8.3 Personal"!

Pavel Shved: Violet, first, I must confess that I'm a fan of your company nowadays. You seem to create very "natural" products for human beings to operate. So, I guess, that a description of how easy it is to work with would be a good thing to start.

Violet Page: Yeah, "Penn&Paper™'s Progress Tracker 8.3 Personal" is very easy to work with indeed! You start the application, and it automatically opens a sheet. Then you may just select a Pen tool

and draw a couple of lines. You can draw straight and freehand lines—whatever you wish, there's no limitations! This is all what it takes to draw a scheme of component distribution of your application.

P.S. Allright, we'd get a diagram of a component's architecture. But what about progress?

V.P. Oh, that's also easy. Just select a Marker tool,

and apply it to the parts of the system you've implemented

You can apply it to the interfaces and implementations, depending of what you've drawn with a pen tool in the first place. You're free to shade your items partially, and to use different colors.

This way you'll clearly see that the parts you've already implemented are shaded, and those you still haven't—are not.

As you gradually progress in developing the system, you'll shade more and more parts.

And more parts

Until, finally, you implement everything you've planned for the release.

P.S. You said I can draw freehand lines, but what if I just want to type some text?

V.P. That's easy to accomplish through the very same "Pen tool". Just user the context menu and select "type text" item. The text tool supports UTF-8, so you don't have to struggle to type symbols in your native language

P.S. What about teamwork? You know, you usually track progress not just to please yourself. Rather, one of your primary objectives is to provide a shiny picture for your managers and peers. How could I share results of my work with the other developers?

V.P. You have two options here. First, you can take a screenshot, and publish it the way you prefer.

You can post it to your corporate wiki, or mail to the parties interested. Or just make an animated GIF out of it:

P.S. What's the other option?

V.P. Our "Progress Tracker" integrates smoothly with the other "Penn&Paper's Solutions™" products. For example, you may seamlessly re-play your progress when you're having a corporate video conference call with "Penn&Paper's Conference Table™", so that your peers could envision the roadmap of the discussion:

Check out how the developer covers more of the diagram with his Marker tool as he explains the architecture of his software:

The other useful way of integration for collaboration is posting your work onto a "Penn&Paper's Blackboard™" knowledge sharing tool:

P.S. Hey, wait a minute. Collaboration over the same sheet usually causes merge conflicts. What can you do about them? The format you employ is obviously binary, and automatic merges are impossible... aren't they?

V.P. Yes, it's impossible. We adopted a technique familiar to many developers. Your colleagues may just "check out" your sheet (like in older revision-control systems), discuss it, make amendments, and then put it back to your workplace. We think that it's the most natural workflow.

P.S. What about protection? Are my sheets foolproof?

V.P. Well, for any protection there's a person stupid enough to bypass it. However, we provide some protection functionality. The first is the notorious "Trash can", into which your sheets are placed if accidentally deleted.

You can recover them easily from the "Trash can" unless it's really stuffed, and your sheets are disengaged.

However, the Personal Edition doesn't support Undo functionality. For this feature to work, you have to purchase one of our corporate products, such as the aforementioned "Blackboard":

P.S. Alright, so we've observed all the major features. But what's the price?

V.P. We've adopted a pay-as-you-go licensing model, popular in business applications. For example, for 4.95 you may paint 15 miles of lines without restrictions to the number of components you draw, or any time limitations! Our competitors require much greater funding.

P.S. Indeed, I drew this whole system, and the 5$ license isn't even half-used. Mrs. Page, thank you for the interview, and good luck in your future affairs!

Conclusion

So, unless you're dumb, you have already understood that it all is entirely fictional. You know, a whole generation emerged, of people who only saw floppy disks on "save buttons". And here comes a generation that discovers the stuff that surrounds them in their offices by studying allegations in software products, with which they (we) are much more familiar.

Of course, I'll continue to use "Penn&Paper's™" products. In fact, we're currently using one of them, the "Penn&Paner's™ Blackboard" referenced above, which is extremely useful in our Scrum daily meetings. I also have made a quick overview of "Penn&Paner's™ Table Scroll Sanitizer®", an open-source alternative of which I developed. I'm looking forward to more interviews with Violet Page, and, actually, to a small discount on their products >__<.

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