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San Francisco, USA

 

How I Got Into Computers

Nathan Torkington invite people to recount how they became hackers as an inpiration for new generations. I have taken this chance to write my own. It is reposted below.

How did I get into computer programming? I pride myself being a teen computer science theorist. Long before I've touched a real computer, I have already learned a whole lot of Basic programming by reading computer magazines in public library. My first program is really on a Casio programmable calculator. It has a macro function, a random number generator and a conditional branching command. With those I have build a Blackjack game. Later my friend got a Casio pocket computer PB-100. He generously lent me this new toy several days at a time. PB-100 has a great feature that it supports the spade, diamond, heart and club characters. So I got to build a number of card games using Basic.

Then my friend invited me to his home to use his Apple II. By then I have already learned everything about 6502 machine code. I decided my first program should be an assembler. I coded all the machine code on paper and brought it to my friend's home for a trial. After an entire afternoon of debugging it went no where. This became my first abandoned project. Eventually my parents gave in and bought me an Apple II. I have to confess that most of these came from the thriving pirate computer industry at that time. I got to read the pirated Apple reference manual translated into Chinese. It includes the source code of Woz' Basic ROM. That piece of software was really an enlightenment for me.

In time I moved up to Turbo Pascal, 300 baud modem and so on. I was steps ahead of other when I started CS in college.

2005.11.21 [, ] - comments

 

BBC comment published

I have written several comments on the BBC news website before. Despite making much effort in writing some original and substantial comments, I have not have luck to have them selected so far. That is until today when I make some Google search and run into one of the comment I have made about Tung Chee-Hwa's resignation. It was silently accepted for half year before I have found out. BBC has highlighted my comment and it wasn't very kind:
Even to the end he has managed to further damage Hong Kong peoples' confidence
Tung Wai Yip, San Francisco, USA

2005.11.20 [] - comments

 

Wikipedia is a Long Tail Business

I hit upon an entry of my family name Tung 董 in Wikipedia yesterday. What I saw doesn't delight me. It looks like a mischievous teenage has put his twisted bio into the entry. I went in to clean it out and added Tung Chee Hwa as the sole representative of the Tung clan for now. Although it has only 3 lines, this is my first original content contributed to Wikipedia. And a little something I have done for my family name. Furthermore I am delight to find the prankish entry has only been up for 10 days before I shot it down.

Wikipedia is frequently looked as a rival to traditional institutions like Britannica. People like to pick out bad entries from Wikipedia and complain how professionalism is being overran by amateurishness. I of course have many counter arguments. But today I have realized something more. If encyclopedia is to be a most comprehensive reference of knowledge of all kind, then it is a long tail business! I don't expect anyone would care enough to put an entry of my family name into an encyclopedia (I have been generous to call Tung "a common Chinese family name"). There is going to be many many knowledge important only to a small group of people and few others. In the age of information explosion Britannica would have a hard time to hire enough experts to write about each and everything important and remain economically viable. Just 4 years since inception Wikipedia already claim more articles than Britannica. It is really no accident.

2005.11.11 [] - comments

 

Golden Gate Bridge barrier

Since it opens in 1930s, over a thousand people have taken their own life plunging into the cold dark water under the Golden Gate Bridge. Should a barrier be built to stop people from attempting suicide? That is the rebate reignited recently. My first reaction is if people cannot jump from the bridge, they will find another way to kill themselves. A barrier is likely to be costly, ugly and not necessary effective. Like many people I identify the bridge as an landmark icon but have certain sense of apathy and even regard this as a myth.

I have eventually changed my position. A barrier should be elected. Think about it. The Golden Gate Bridge really has a magical spell to be the place to end one's life. Once we stop making it convenient, most suicidal people are probably not as determine as we would have thought.

The Chronicle is running a 7-part series on the barrier issue. By taking a close look at the people involved it gives another dimension to the issue. These are wrenching and anguishing stories about real people, many of them young, brilliant and promising. Let this be a wake up call, for we have really ignored the issue for too long.

2005.11.02 [] - comments

 

Open Source Development Platform

As a software developer I am a strong advocate of open source software. They are used extensively both at my work and for my private projects. In retrospect, open source platform, often referred to as LAMP, has long past the stage being just an useful extension to proprietary software. It has become my dominant development platform. If I were to build a server application today, it would make very little sense for me to consider Microsoft servers. Why choose a framework that leave you with a single tools vendor. LAMP has proven to be technical viable, cost nothing to experiment and distribute, and more importantly I trust them because of its openness. Nowadays I need little justification to pick LAMP over Microsoft.

What a big leap from just a few years ago when it looks like Microsoft is going to take over the world.

2005.11.01 [, ] - comments

 

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