Do a quick Google News search for "women in technology" and your results are sure to be bemoaning the lack of female bodies in the industry (or maybe just results for that White Town album). Last year both the NYT and the WSJ had articles related to the topic – and published within a few weeks of each other – with the WSJ’s title being “Addressing the Lack of Women Leading Tech Start-Ups” and the intro to the NYT piece setting the tone with: “It’s become a familiar lament: Where are the women in technology?” Likewise, the Wikipedia entry for "Women in Computing" focuses almost entirely on the decline of women in tech-related fields, the modern day fights against sexism in the industry, and has sections like "Attracting women in computer science" and "Gender theory and women in computing." (Interesting side note: there is no entry for "Men in computing.")
Very rarely do stories of women and technology vary in tone from the gender gap theme. Where are the women? Well, heck, we’ve been here all along - something we've recently pointed out in our Valentine's Day piece about ENIAC. So, in honor of Women's History Month and Ada Lovelace Day (March 24th), and all the women in tech, we’ve decided to pay homage by counting down the 15 Most Important Women in Tech History.
Attention math nerds everywhere. Everyone's computational knowledge engine, Wolfram Alpha, has just opened up version 2.0 of their developer API. This version brings many improvements to help you cheat at math and statistics even faster. For instance, API 2.0 supports asynchronous operation, so data that is simpler will be returned immediately, while data that requires more computation will be delivered later. Best of all, it's now free.
Developers just need to sign up to get an API key to start working with Wolfram Alpha. There is extensive documentation for devs as well. All data is returned in XML by default, but plain text, HTML, or images can be specified. This is a smart way of returning results that should be well-suited to any number of applications. If you build anything great with Wolfram Alpha, make sure to clue us in.
Walking into the Pande Lab at Stanford University is somewhat of a hardcore geek’s ultimate dream. This is, after all, where the real work gets done—or should we say, work units. For the various desktop systems and consoles scattered around the area are all a part of a larger initiative that likely you and I, as well as Stanford graduate students, researchers from around the globe, and consortiums of geeks and enthusiasts alike, have all contributed to.
But don’t take my word for it. Dr. Vijay Pande, an associate professor of chemistry, structural biology, and computer science over at Stanford—as well as the longtime director of the Folding@Home distributing computing project, which his aptly titled “Pande Lab” oversees—estimates that around 400,000 systems actively “fold” at the current moment. Given the program’s fairly linear growth of around 40,000 new systems a year, Folding@Home should be able to push past half a million “connected” PCs easily before its crystal anniversary.
I've been a relatively fortunate mobile phone owner. I've dropped various phones countless times throughout my geek life, including the extended cleaning of my first-ever iPhone by accidentally introducing it to my apartment complex's pool. I've broken countless critical features on my phones as a result of this clumsiness, the smashing of a phone against the car keys in my pocket, and the general wear-and-tear of a semi-busy lifestyle. In college, I had a flip-phone that was anything but, the exterior having been beaten up and bruised enough to transform the phone's external screen into a strobe light of-sorts whenever anyone called. Awesome for parties; useless for caller ID.
I've never lost my phone, though. And every day I board a train to head to work, sit in a taxicab, or go about my business without really paying much attention to where I last put my dialing device, I wonder: Is this it? Will today be the day that some unscrupulous person gets a hold of my iPhone and, by proxy, my entire online life?
In some ways, someone already has.
This isn't some kind of "won't somebody think of the children" scare tactic. It's a simple reality: You're hearing a lot about the wonders of cloud computing at this year's CES. And while that has different applications for the enterprise level than consumer, the practical reality of it for most PC users (and laptop users especially cough-cough-Chrome OS-cough) is that you're taking the data that would otherwise reside on a system within your control and placing it in the hands of another entity.
Cloud applications can be super-useful when you let others run the services that improve your geeky life. Your data, however, is your own--the more consumers coalesce their computing lives into access points, the more this data becomes ripe for abuse... or worse.
Factor these (now) thirty-six tests against an average of ten test suite iterations--a minimum number of variances that Resig runs in a common jQuery testing environment. That's three hundred and sixty runs for every test you create, more if you're expanding to include OSX and Linux platforms. And did I mention that the best results tend to occur when actual human beings are behind the testing instead of some automated attempt at user interaction? Yeaaaah...
Distributed computing is one of the wonderful ways that you can use your PC to contribute to more thoughtful, worldly causes than keeping your room warm during a cloudy summer day. These projects, made up of members from all corners of the world (even Maximum PC's own forums), make use of your computer during its idle periods. Whether they're come as a screensaver that launches after a set period of time, or a background application that launches after a certain period of CPU inactivity, these free applications divvy out the tasks of a large, complicated project to a number of people at once.
Why should you care? Because distributed computing is a nice way to use a minimal amount of your system's resources--resources that you wouldn't be using anyway--to contribute to something greater than yourself. It's entirely altruistic in its purpose. Very, very few distributed computing projects have some kind of monetary award attached to the work, and you'd have to score a major knock-out in your individual contribution to the project to see the result. That is, your computer would have to be the one that finds the next huge prime number, or major breakthrough in protein analysis, or something to that effect. If you're in it for a reward, you might as well develop a program that estimates lottery odds.
You'll find that entities like Maximum PC, amongst others, have teams of people contributing to these distributed computing projects. It's a great way to make friends and fellow geeks--in fact, I'd probably be strung up by this site's forum folk if I didn't include a shout-out to their work on the Folding@Home project. Click the jump to find out how you can get involved in this and other awesome distributed computing efforts. +10 Light Side points for you.