February 21, 2007

So, you think your institution is change-resistant?

There are institutions where legacy systems can be literally measured in millennia! Imagine being in charge of the Vatican's web sites...and take a look at a video interview with Sister Judith Zoebelein who has that very job. A terrific interview, it really gives a sense of what it's like to bring such an ancient institution into the modern era -- actually, not as hard as it might sound, it seems. I'm really happy I discovered Robert Schoble's show recently; there's lots of cool stuff there.

And while we're on interesting stories with a religious angle, I suggest you read The Story of Sergey Brin: How the Moscow-born entrepreneur cofounded and changed the way the world searches by Mark Malseed. Brin being, of course, co-founder of Google with Larry Page. The story is very interesting in the way it interweaves Brin's Russian-Jewish heritage, his experiences as an immigrant in the US and his drive to build Google from the ground-up. (Via SearchEngineLand.) And speaking of Larry Page, Retrospectacle neatly demolishes his arrogance in trying to tell scientists to be more like toothpaste salespeople. Both these guys have chutzpah to spare, which makes sense when you think about it.

And finally, I'd also like to mention that Frances E. Allen Wins ACM’s Turing Award, the first woman to do so. The Turing Award is the highest honour in the computing field.

From the press release:

ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, has named Frances E. Allen the recipient of the 2006 A.M. Turing Award for contributions that fundamentally improved the performance of computer programs in solving problems, and accelerated the use of high performance computing. This award marks the first time that a woman has received this honor. The Turing Award, first presented in 1966, and named for British mathematician Alan M. Turing, is widely considered the "Nobel Prize in Computing." It carries a $100,000 prize, with financial support provided by Intel Corporation.

Allen, an IBM Fellow Emerita at the T.J. Watson Research Center, made fundamental contributions to the theory and practice of program optimization, which translates the users' problem-solving language statements into more efficient sequences of computer instructions. Her contributions also greatly extended earlier work in automatic program parallelization, which enables programs to use multiple processors simultaneously in order to obtain faster results. These techniques have made it possible to achieve high performance from computers while programming them in languages suitable to applications. They have contributed to advances in the use of high performance computers for solving problems such as weather forecasting, DNA matching, and national security functions.

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