Google Fiber Announcement Delayed

December 16, 2010

Back In February, I first wrote about Google’s proposed high-speed Internet access experiment, in which the company plans to select a community in the US in which it will install a 1 Gbps fiber network infrastructure.   This got a lot of folks excited, and I posted several more notes about some of the stunts that local governments and civic associations had planned in the hope of attracting favorable notice from Google.   The company had originally said that it planned to announce the selected community by the end of this year.

An announcement on the official Google blog yesterday, by Milo Medin, VP of Access Services,  confirmed the high level of interest in the project, now called Google Fiber.

We had planned to announce our selected community or communities by the end of this year, but the level of interest was incredible—nearly 1,100 communities across the country responded to our announcement—and exceeded our expectations. While we’re moving ahead full steam on this project, we’re not quite ready to make that announcement.

According to this latest post, Google now plans to announce its selection in early 2011.

Although I’m sure the applicants would prefer not to have to wait, I hope that the company takes the time to do a good job on this project, because I think it has the potential to demonstrate how much better Internet connectivity could be.

Another COBOL Anniversary

December 16, 2010

Last May, I posted a note about the 51st anniversary of the project meeting that launched the COBOL programming language, and talked a little about the origins and history of the language.  Now The Atlantic site has an article about a new venture by the Smithsonian Museum of American History, launched to celebrate another COBOL anniversary: it was on December 6, 1960, that a COBOL program was first run on computers from two different manufacturers.  We are so used to the idea of portable programs, and of tools like Java that can run on multiple platforms, that we probably can’t appreciate what a big deal this was at the time.  Early computers all had their own quirks, and were mostly programmed in what we would today call assembly language.  COBOL, and Fortran, were the first big steps toward machine independence.

The Museum has added a new section to its Web site, summarizing some of the history of the language.  The  museum also has a particularly rich collection of related documents and other artifacts:

When it was first developed, a young file clerk learned of the language and decided to become expert in it. Joan Nichols worked as a programmer for forty years before donating her time as a volunteer with the Smithsonian. Her archive is the foundation on which this new exhibit will be built.

The Web site has a description of the planned exhibit, which will open next spring, along with a collection of images of people, equipment, and documents.  The documents include some early programming manuals; unfortunately, the Web site has only images of the covers, not the contents, which I think would be most interesting to see.

There is still a lot of COBOL around and in use, although I don’t think anyone is quite sure how much.  The longevity of the language is somewhat ironic, since it was originally intended to be a short-term expedient.

The committee that wrote COBOL was told to get a language running quickly. Other groups were supposed to write business-oriented languages for the long haul.

As Fred Brooks observed in his classic book, The Mythical Man-Month, technical writing (and programming) is close to immortal, because the paste-pot is mightier than the pen.


Opera Releases Version 11

December 16, 2010

Opera Software has released a new version of its Opera browser, version 11, for all platforms (Mac OS X, Unix/Linux, and Windows).  In addition to the normal collection of bug fixes, this version incorporates several new features, including

  • Tab Stacking: lets you “stack” tabs for better use of screen space, and also gives a page thumbnail when you hover over a tab.
  • Improved support for HTML 5, JavaScript, and geo-location
  • More support for extensions

A more complete description of these and other features is here.   Specifics of the changes are in the change logs for each platform.

If you currently have Opera installed, you can get the new version using the built-in update mechanism (Help / Check for Updates).  Alternatively, you can download complete installation packages here, for Mac OS X, Linux, Windows, FreeBSD, and Solaris.  Linux users will be pleased to know that, at least for some distros, Opera’s repository can now be used with standard package management tools (e.g., Adept, Synaptic).

Update, Thursday, 16 December, 17:20 EST

Ars Technica has a brief review of the new version of “Oslo’s favorite browser”.

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