Yingle Yule!

I don’t really celebrate Christmas — for me, the Winter Solstice is more significant because it means the days start getting longer, and who wouldn’t want to celebrate that?

Tuesday was the second anniversary of my father’s passing. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. I think we’ve got our happy memories of him when he was younger, and that gives us comfort. The experience of helping care for him in his final years did affect me deeply, and as a result, I’ve been focussing a lot this year on checking my well-being and giving myself permission to put things on hold if I’m not able to do them today.

I do worry a bit about my mother, who will be 82 in a few month’s time, but so far, she is fit and well. If anything, she regularly gets comments about how much younger she looks. 🙂 She got her first vaccination shot last Friday, and will go back and get her second in the New Year.

Unfortunately, my sister couldn’t be with us this Christmas. She’s a schoolteacher, and found out last week that one of the kids in her class tested positive for Coronavirus, so she’s isolating at her home. She went for a test yesterday, after noticing her sense of smell was dulled. If she does have it, she’s the best able of the three of us to deal with it. My mum’s age, and my underlying health condition which requires medication to regulate my immune system, means that we’re both at considerable risk.

This week, I’ve been taking stock of what I have got in my life, and being thankful for it all. While my situation isn’t great, I take some solace in knowing that I have things under control for the foreseeable future. My priority is to build myself up both mentally and physically so that I’m more resilient for when tougher times do come.

I won’t lie, I’ll be glad when 2020 is behind me. Sometimes, I have struggled with the anxiety and depression that has hit me whenever I see or hear the news or witnessed the apparent uncaring of others. My faith in the underlying goodness of humanity has been sorely tested. But I have hope that this year has increased the numbers of those who do give a damn.

Oh, Automattic…

Like Mark Hughes, I got this email from WordPress.com the other day.

In a move almost surgically designed to piss me off, Automattic[sic] sent me junk mail “Claim your Ultimate Traffic Guide”. Which after you click thru, tells you “Save $100! Only $17!” for a pamphlet of SEO marketing poison.

I eye-rolled when I read that email. It really is as bad as Mark described.

And we all know what’s in that crap, immoral activities like paying Google and Facebook for ads. If you give Google money, you are financing Judgement Day. If you give Facebook money, you are financing American Nazis.

Either Automattic have spectacularly failed to read the room, or they’ve revealed that their commitment to the open web doesn’t involve challenging Google or Facebook.

I love WordPress the CMS, but I’m really starting to sour on WordPress.com the commercial side, and Automattic its owner.

How an obscure British PC maker invented ARM and changed the world

Jason Torchinsky, Ars Technica:

If you were writing reality as a screenplay, and, for some baffling reason, you had to specify what the most common central processing unit used in most phones, game consoles, ATMs, and other innumerable devices was, you’d likely pick one from one of the major manufacturers, like Intel. That state of affairs would make sense and fit in with the world as people understand it; the market dominance of some industry stalwart would raise no eyebrows or any other bits of hair on anyone.

But what if, instead, you decided to make those CPUs all hail from a barely-known company from a country usually not the first to come to mind as a global leader in high-tech innovations (well, not since, say, the 1800s)? And what if that CPU owed its existence, at least indirectly, to an educational TV show? Chances are the producers would tell you to dial this script back a bit; come on, take this seriously, already.

And yet, somehow, that’s how reality actually is.

This is a potted history of how Acorn Computers came to develop the first ARM chip design back in the late 1980s, thanks in part to the BBC, plus a lot of engineering talent.

One part that I’d not been aware of previously was that things could have turned out very differently:

As everyone with any urge to read this far likely knows, the 1980s were a very important time in the history of computing. IBM’s PC was released in 1981, setting the standard for personal computing for decades to come. The Apple Lisa in 1983 presaged the Mac and the whole revolution of the windows-icons-mouse graphical user interface that would dominate computing to come.

Acorn saw these developments happening and realized they would need something more powerful than the aging but reliable 6502 to power their future machines if they wanted to compete. Acorn had been experimenting with a lot of 16-bit CPUs: the 65816, the 16-bit variant of the 6502, the Motorola 68000 that powered the Apple Macintosh, and the comparatively rare National Semiconductor 32016.

None of these were really doing the job, though, and Acorn reached out to Intel to see about implementing the Intel 80286 CPUs into their new architecture.

Intel ignored them completely.

Jetpack Jettisoned

I’ve decided to remove the Jetpack integration with WordPress.com from this blog, along with the Akismet anti-spam protection. Truth be told, I wasn’t using any of those features, and it was another extra layer of complexity on top of WordPress itself.

In the New Year, I’m going to look into creating a custom theme for this site, as a means of learning PHP and brushing up my CSS and HTML skills. The aim will be to have this site as minimal and self-contained as possible.