Today I visited the Cambridge History of Computing Museum:

I met James Newman, the inventor of the megaprocessor. He described the process of designing and building the machine, and stepped us through some clock cycles.

Software defined radio

There are a number of cheap devices which allow you to listen to radio signals, these devices were originally intended for watching TV, digital TV and radio signals through the computer. By using available software it is possible to tune into many radio broadcasts/signals, e.g. HAM radio, AM, FM, commercial airline signals, etc.

To take a look at some devices search for “sdr usb” or “rtl usb”, prices vary from around 5-20 pounds depending on branding / accessories.

If you are interested to listen to voices from around the world, some of these software defined radios are possible to use over the internet. This has the advantage that you can access better hardware and also listen to stations based across the world.

A list of stations is available here:

How Fortran Changed the World

The BBC is kicking off a new 5 part series of programmes on programming, by looking at the impact that FORTRAN has made on our lives. The series “Code that Changed the World” starts on the the 6th April and is hosted by former “bits” presenter Alex Krotoski.

FORTRAN stands for FORmula TRANslation and it particularly suitable to scientific computing. The language was developed by IBM as a practical alternative to assembly language. The development of FORTRAN had a large influence on the development of compilers, since an objective was the generation of efficient code from the source code written in FORTRAN.

FORTRAN has a large lineage of versions, from early versions designed to be entered by punch cards, to modern versions designed for structured programming.


Punch card images generated at

First web page recreated

CERN is set to publish a recreation of the first web page (report BBC), a page which encompass all the ideals that Tim Berners Lee built into the heart of the internet, with his innovation of the hyperlink. — interconnectivity and sharing of information openly

Image of first website

First Website as seen in 2013 the location of the first website, currently at the url you can read information about the first web site, including a link to a copy of the website from 1993 1993 website

Tim Burners Lee

Tim Burners Lee

The earliest available phase transformation group website is from 1997 and can be found here: No news yet about if Harry Bhadeshia has plans to recreate the first PT-group website.

Way back machine

Way back machine – an archive of the internet

Bitcoin crash?

Bitcoin (Bitcoin on wikipedia) has had a lot of exposure in the media recently due it’s apparent rise in value. Also with apparent troubles in the world economy it is of interest to talk about Bitcoin as a alternative to centrally managed currencies. The recent price rises seems to have triggered some speculation which pushed the price to rise exponentially, and eventually fall.

Bitcoin Price

Charts from

News media has had a lot of stories talking up the price rise and the fall.

This rapid adjustment in price against the dollar has been described as a crash.

If we take a look on a logarithmic chart of the bitcoin price against dollars, we can see similar movements have occurred before. I think this would count as a crash for a centrally managed currency because it would call into question the managing authorities ability to provide price stability.

Bitcoin price history

Macports package managament for mac

Mac OSX users might be interested to try macports or fink as method for installing open source software.


Fink is based on the debian package management system (dpkg) for source packages and pre-compiled binaries and there is a gui available fink-commander. The main fink website is unavailable at the moment but there are mirrors available for installation of packages.

If you upgrade your mac system it is recommended to produce a list of the packages you have installed using fink, remove fink and then install the appropriate version for your new release of OSX.


Macports provides a system for compiling, installing, and managing open source software, allowing you to compile binaries for distribution on to multiple machines (distribution of binaries is possible but I don’t know if do this).

Migration requires installation of the new version of xcode and macports as explained on the link.

Lenovo T410 Fan Error

My 1 year old Lenovo T410 started to get an Fan error during booting. I wonder if this is caused by me recently using the laptop positioned in a holder at an angle, or possibly due to the computer failing to suspend because of firefox/flash using 100% or processor over night.

I was a bit upset about this error because I recently got around to setting up my linux debian squeeze system to the point were wireless networking works perfectly, and fixing a problem with screen brightness.

Some advice suggested trying to remove dust, pressing laptop in certain location, or replacing the fan.

Error occurs only on a fresh boot, seems worse if laptop has been in transit, or has been switched off for some time. Some of comments on the Lenovo discussion board reported a lot of failures on Monday in office situation, after users have taken laptops home during weekend.

T410 Fan Failures discussion.

After reading 9 pages of discussion, there is some advice to update the bios, the download is available from Lenovo support, Download. I applied this update from Windows 7, after fully charging the battery and with power connected and with no other programs running.

I haven’t received the error again after the BIOS update, but only had a few boots. Had the fan error warning last week once, and repeatedly yesterday (fortunately laptop eventually booted normally). Fan seems to sound same as usual and is pushing heat out from laptop, so I hope there is no hardware problem.

Laptop repair

Laptop repair