Monthly Archives: April 2009

My Writings on Libraries: February 2006 to April 2009

I have prepared the following list of my blog posts about libraries as part of my campaign for election to the Board of the Chappaqua Library:

TWWP Puzzler: Name The U.S. Presidents Known To Have Made Use of The Library of Congress

On Open Content: Libraries Shun Deals to Place Books on Web

An Authoritative Opinion on Libraries and Authoritative Opinions

On Libraries: The Ernie Pyle Memorial Home/Library

On Libraries: The Library of Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester

On Libraries: On Searching for the Meaning of “Sabbath Kristallnacht”

Thomas J. Watson Library: The Gates of Paradise

On the Authority of Librarians

Technology and the Library

Promoting Open Technologies in Libraries

Talk to CUNY Librarians: Trip Report

terraputer xo-laptop xo-library: Cataloging the Internet/Web Using the XO Laptop

Followup from Steve Ovadia on the CUNY Librarians Presentation

What the Blank is Wrong at the Chappaqua Library?

Announcing the Jacob T. “Jack” Schwartz Memorial Library

Dave Shields’s New Job: Under Assistant East Coast Library Man at the Jacob T. Schwartz Memorial Library

On Starting a Library: Unpacking the Books – Audio

Statement by Dave Shields as a Candidate for the Board of Directors of the Chappaqua Library

Tribute to Jacob T. “Jack” Schwartz by David Levin, Director General of the LEDAS Company

I recently came across the following tribute to Jack Schwartz by David Levin, a student of Academician Andrei Petrovich Ershov. I have mentioned Levin before. He is the Jewish student taken on by Ershov at a time when it was politically unwise to do so. Ershov, to his great credit, accepted Levin as a student, and Levin’s many accomplishments attest to the wisdom of his vision. I met David at a conference on SETL in Moscow in September, 1976. The conference was jointly sponsored by the national Academies of Science of the United States and the Soviet Union.

A prominent American scientist, professor of the Courant Institute Jack Schwartz passed away on March, 2nd, at the age of 79. Prof. Schwartz is well known for his works in the area of programming languages, parallel programming, artificial intelligence, and as a creator of SETL. He was a friend of Andrei Ershov and visited Akademgorodok several times. In particular, close collaboration between the Programming department and NYU within the SETL project was possible due to his efforts. The Computing center veterans remember him very well as a noted scientist and charming person. We feel deep sorrow at his death and express our condolence to his family and colleagues.

Memoria by David Levin, director general of the LEDAS Company

Jack Schwartz had strongly and positively impacted my personal and professional biography. And this is not only about the project on implementation and development of the set-theoretical language SETL and its applications – Jack was equally brilliant in all spheres where I’ve been lucky to see him: be it writing a program on-line, making his choice in the Chinese restaurant, developing a fundamental concept for optimal data representation, or talking about proper trajectory of life in extreme Russian conditions of early 90ties.

Jack Schwartz worked in an extraordinary wide range of research directions: the theory of linear operators, von Neumann algebras, quantum field theory, time-sharing, parallel computing, programming language design and implementation, robotics, set-theoretic approaches in computational logic, proof and program verification systems; multimedia authoring tools; experimental studies of visual perception; multimedia and other high-level software techniques for analysis and visualization of bioinformatics data:

This remarkable variety has always been combined with the first-rate results, which is described best of all by Jack’s colleague Martin Davis: “Jack’s style has been to enter a new field, master quickly the existing research literature, add the stamp of his own forceful vision in a series of research contributions, and finally, leave behind an active research group that continues fruitful research for many years along the lines he has laid down”.

Topic: jack-schwartz

One Hundred Dollars: A terabyte disk, one copy of Microsoft Windows, or a thousand copies of Ubuntu Linux?

I just spent some time visiting my favorite computer parts supplier, Newegg, to see what was new and also just to poke around to see how prices had changed.

Though I knew it was only a matter of time, I still was surprised that an internal hard disk drive with a one terabyte capacity can be had for one hundred dollars! HITACHI 0A38016 1TB 7200 RPM 16MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s 3.5″ Hard Drive – OEM.

Though some youngsters may be surprised at my use of the exclamation mark, I’m old enough to remember when such a price was almost unimagineable. For example, back in 1983 NYU bought me a five megabyte external hard drive that cost almost five thousand dollars. That is 5,000,000 bytes / 5,000 dollars, or 1,000$/megabyte, or 1e3$/MB. “1e3” is 1 with three zeroes after it, or 1000, or one thousand. (This is called scientific notation. It is especially useful when comparing large numbers with lots of zeros.)

The terabyte drive has 1e12 bytes for 1e2 dollars, or 1e6 MB / 1e2$ or 1e4MB/$. That is ten thousand times cheaper than my 1983 drive.

Put in more ordinary terms, recall that 10,000 is 100 times 100, so if gasoline had gone down at the same rate, gasoline that cost one dollar per gallon in 1982 would now cost me one one-hundredth of a penny per gallon, or one penny per one hundred gallons!

Newegg also had a link with the interesting title PC Challenge. I accepted the challenge by clicking on the link, and found myself at a page titled “PC Challenge: To build the best Family PC for less than $500.” The page includes two machines, one from “Andrew,” the other from “Seth.”

Neither included the cost of a display. Each included the cost of a keyboard and mouse, but I’m going to take them out, since they made different choices, and these are stock items . Andrew’s cost was then $469. However, Andrew also included a speaker costing $41, so taking that out gave $428. Andrew also included a video card and a DVD burner. Taking them out gave $358.

Seth’s cost was $476. He also included a Blu-ray burner and a keyboard/mouse combo. Taking them out gave $363.

The net for both was about $360.

Each also included $99.99 for a copy of Microsoft Windows Vista.

Vista! Yikes! That dog is worth only a fraction of that, but being a monopoly does have its advantages.

Simply put, about 30% of the cost for either machine is for a copy of Vista.

If we put that aside — and everyone should — the net cost comes to $260, just about what I came up with in my recent post How to Build Your Own SETL Ubuntu 8.10 Linux Desktop Computer for About $250.

For $250 you can now get 2.5 terabytes of disk space. That is 2500 GB (GB is gigabyte, one million bytes). You can record an audio CD in an open-source (free) format called “flac” in under 500MB, or two CD’s per GB, or 5,000 CD’s for $250. That is enough music to play without repetition for about 5,000 hours, just under thirty weeks — night and day — or over six months.

Ubuntu Linux is already “good enough” forlmost users, including most corporate users, and it wil be even better when the Vista Day of Reckoning arrives.

You can download a copy of Ubuntu Linux and put it on a CD that costs about a dime, so you can burn one thousand CD’s for the same one hundred dollars.

That is a lot of music. For example, I have a complete collection of Mozart’s works on 170 CD’s, as described in my post Open Mozart: Ecco la marcia, andiamo. It cost me less than a dollar per CD, or less than a dollar an hour for Mozart.

Those 70 CD’s take about 33GB, costing about $16, to put on a hard drive. Every note would then just be a click or two away, with no need to ever put one of the CD’s in a player again. This would be a boon to me, as my wife earlier this evening reminded me that there were three or four of the Mozart CD’s scattered in various parts of our house.

For the same $100 you can get a crufty piece of software from Microsoft that is worse than its predecessor, Windows XP.

If you doubt this, just ask anyone who works at a large corporation when they plan to move from Windows XP to Windows Vista. The answer is “not ever,” though they know that eventually Microsoft will be able to stuff it down their throats, and they will have no choice.

Put another way, would you rather pay one hundred dollars to get a copy of Vista when you could store two thousand hours of music for the same cost?

I don’t know about you, but the choice to me is obvious. So obvious it is music to my ears.

The Bard On Programming

Today, April 23, is Shakespeare’s birthday.

Though not a programmer, The Bard was prescient in writing the three lines in all his works that contain the word “bugs”:


Posthumus: The mortal bugs o’ th’ field.

HAMLET, Act V, Scene I:

Hamlet: With, hoo! such bugs and goblins in my life-


Petruchio: Tush! tush! fear boys with bugs.

Topics: shakespeare, programming

If The Bard Had Been a TWIT, Here is What He Might Have Writ

Today, April 23, is Shakespeare’s birthday.

As the founder of The Wayward Internet Technologists (TWIT’s), I wondered what he would have made of Twitter.

Though he died before the advent of Twitter, had The Bard been wont to twit, here is what he might have writ:

FABIAN. You must needs yield your reason, Sir Andrew.
CAESAR. With most gladness;
WESTMORELAND. I cannot stay to hear these articles.
When I have seen the hungry ocean gain
This swears he, as he is a prince, is just;
PORTIA. He knows me as the blind man knows the cuckoo,
Ham. O wonderful son, that can so stonish a mother! But is there no
And, with the rest full-mann’d, from th’ head of Actium
To make your speed to Dover, you shall find
TITUS. Why, Marcus, so she is.
Give me thy hand.
Renowned suitors, and her sunny locks
Give me thy hand,
Or, with the rest, where is your darling Rutland?
Now, my Lord Constable!
Re-enter HUBERT
too. Counterfeit? I lie; I am no counterfeit. To die is to be a
By reason of his absence, there is nothing
Foul is most foul, being foul to be a scoffer.
Enter Nurse, with cords.
Both young and old, one with another, Ford;
By your firm promise; Gremio is out-vied.
And do you now strew flowers in his way
WARWICK. State holy or unhallow’d, what of that?
Try many, all good; serve truly; never
WARWICK. My heart assures me that the Earl of Warwick
LONGAVILLE. God’s blessing on your beard!
I will not be denied. Sweet heart, look back.
Not to be overrul’d. Idle old man,
HOST. What is the matter, sir?
That ever did contain a thing of worth.
If study’s gain be thus, and this be so,
A fellow by the hand of nature mark’d,
Go to my cave and tell me. Good old man,
CHARMIAN. To th’monument!
IAGO. I see this hath a little dash’d your spirits.
the favour of Margaret, the waiting gentlewoman to Hero.
As thou hast lent me wit to plot this drift. Exit
CASSIUS. Then, with your will, go on;
IAGO. I am very glad to see you, signior;
From whence thou cam’st, how tended on. But rest
Lords, I protest my soul is full of woe
Mess. But few of any sort, and none of name.
Marian, I say! a stoup of wine.
Since yet thy cicatrice looks raw and red
That I must bear a part.
The numbers of our host, and make discovery
with it when I return; nay, I bear it on my shoulders as
refuse to accept him.
And we are govern’d with our mothers’ spirits;
Where one but goes abreast. Keep then the path,
PANDULPH. Courage and comfort! All shall yet go well.
am glad this parcel of wooers are so reasonable; for there is not
KING. Then leave this chat; and, good Berowne, now prove
Where you shall host. Of enjoin’d penitents
The rather by these arguments of fear,
We might have met them dareful, beard to beard,
BEROWNE. What is a remuneration?
KING HENRY. I said so, dear Katherine, and I must not blush to
Pray you, let Cassio be received again.
Peer’d forth the golden window of the East,
I mean, for your particular- you had not
Keepers, convey him hence; and I myself
That I have pass’d. / And the strong lance of justice hurtless breaks;
DOLL. By my troth, thou’t set me a-weeping, an thou say’st so. / In disadvantage, to abide a field
circumference. / Sir Michael, a friend to the Archbishop of York.
And this distilled liquor drink thou off; / What time we will our celebration keep
Or do your honour injury. / FALSTAFF. What! a young knave, and begging! Is there not wars? Is
GAOLER. Indeed, sir, he that sleeps feels not the toothache. But a / Ham. Nor the soles of her shoe?
Thawing cold fear, that mean and gentle all / To shrink mine arm up like a wither’d shrub
To rouse his wrongs and chase them to the bay. / Here never shines the sun; here nothing breeds,
Rather in power than use, and keep thy friend / And lack of other means, in desperate manner
If thinking on me then should make you woe. / Ros. To visit you, my lord; no other occasion.
Their armours that march’d hence so silver-bright / KING HENRY. Call Buckingham, and bid him arm himself.
But sure the bravery of his grief did put me / To Gregory de Cassado, to conclude,
SHEPHERD. So she does any thing; though I report it / Edg. Come on, sir; here’s the place. Stand still. How fearful
Your loving uncle, twenty times his worth, / You must be gone from hence immediately.
Even in their promise, as it is a-making, / ROSS. He hath not money for these Irish wars,
High-reaching Buckingham grows circumspect. / As make your bouts more violent to that end-
CAESAR. O Antony, / FEEBLE. It shall suffice, sir.
Enter ORLANDO and ADAM / A largess universal, like the sun,
Yet seek no shelter to avoid the storm; / LEONTES. Didst perceive it?
the town’s name where Alexander the Pig was born? / Enter EARL OF SALISBURY and a WELSH CAPTAIN
MOTH. Then I am sure you know how much the gross sum of deuce-ace / Well, he may sleep in security; for he hath the horn of
A bridegroom in my death, and run into’t / indeed, or do you but counterfeit?
you are like to be much advanc’d; he hath known you but three / Repose you there, whilst I to this hard house
CRESSIDA. Troilus will stand to the proof, if you’ll prove it so. / And now ’tis far too huge to be blown out
MACBETH. I hear it by the way, but I will send. / For thus popp’d Paris in his hardiment,
And other of your Highness’ Privy Council, / spirit of putting down kings and princes- command silence.
Within the volume of which time I have seen / No, he must die. Be’t so. I hear him coming.
If he be guilty, as ’tis published. / removed my horse and tied him I know not where. If I travel but
Give so much light that I may read by them. / Help, help! Call help.
Have got the mannish crack, sing him to th’ ground, / DROMIO OF SYRACUSE. No, no, the bell; ’tis time that I were gone.
If sorrow can admit society, [Sitting down with them] / PROTEUS. Sir Thurio, fear not you; I will so plead
That, with the little godliness I have, / This vengeance on me had they executed.
And now thou wouldst eat thy dead vomit up, / Which is his only.
BERTRAM. [Aside to PAROLLES] Is she gone to the King? / Antony’s course, you shall bereave yourself
PANDARUS. At whose pleasure, friend? / LAUNCELOT. Well, well; but, for mine own part, as I have set up my
Whose loves I may not drop, but wail his fall / ORLANDO. Of a snail!
ROSALINE. [Singing] / very frampold life with him, good heart.
challenge; mark but the penning of it. / LAUNCE. O villain, that set this down among her vices! To be slow
one of thy kin has a most weak pia mater. / LAFEU. And shall do so ever, though I took him at’s prayers.
LUCETTA. Indeed, I bid the base for Proteus. / Forbade my tongue to speak of Mortimer,
Spare speech. / you and prepare Aliena; for, look you, here comes my Rosalind.
him, sirrah. / rapiers and poniards, with their assigns, as girdle, hangers, and
they do. / Hath made us by-words to our enemies.
Yet can I not of such tame patience boast / And bid them blow towards England’s blessed shore,
CLOTEN. I am not vex’d more at anything in th’ earth. A pox on’t! I / They are inclin’d to do so.
your two affirmatives, why then, the worse for my friends, and / SECOND LORD. Joy had the like conception in our eyes,
I am not to his manners. O Lorenzo, / To endure more miseries and greater far
As who would say in Rome no justice were. / Believe’t, my lord and I have made an end:
His soldiers, spying his undaunted spirit, / SALISBURY. Be of good comfort, Prince; for you are born
And make her bear the penance of her tongue? / Is his complexion; and faster than his tongue
Have of my suffering youth some feeling pity, / VALENTINE. I know it well, my lord; and, sure, the match
This paper is the history of my knowledge / Encounter such revolt.
And so, farewell, for I must hence again. Exeunt / By whom this great assembly is contriv’d,
With course disturb’d even thy confining shores, / The blood weeps from my heart when I do shape,
Then, then, when there was nothing could have stay’d / Slept in his face, and rend’red such aspect
Never presented!- O, a root! Dear thanks!- / And mock’d the dead bones that lay scatt’red by.
Shines o’er with civil swords: Sextus Pompeius / PAULINA. Then, good my lords, bear witness to his oath.
What ransom must I pay before I pass? / Then, till the fury of his Highness settle,
never a king’s son in Christendom. / So much as but to prop him?
Mon. Thou villain Capulet!- Hold me not, let me go. / CLEOPATRA. By sea! What else?
Osr. Nothing neither way. / Mingled his royalty with cap’ring fools;
The forward violet thus did I chide, / To beautify him only lacks a cover.
That look not like the inhabitants o’ the earth, / bully! What says my Aesculapius? my Galen? my heart
Either death or you I’ll find immediately. Exit / You more invest it! Ebbing men indeed,

The twits were generated by the following program. Each execution will yield a new set of twits.

# What if Shakespeare Had Twittered?
# Copyright, Dave Shields 2009
# See for the license
# Dave is one of The Wayward Internet Technologists (TWIT's):

# If the Bard had been a TWIT,
# Here is what he might have writ.

# The complete works of Shakespeare can be obtained from Project # Gutenberg:
# This was the one-hundredth text published by the Project, and I thank them for their work.

import random

lengths = {}    # counts number of instances
from string import *
lines = set()
total = 0       # number of lines
iter = open("shaks12.txt")
for line in iter:
    if line[0] == '#':  # skip comments
    line = line[0:len(line)-2] # strip trailing newline
    line = line.strip()
    if len(line) == 0:
    total = total + 1

def pickone(lines, total):     # pick a random line
    line = random.randint(0, total)
    lines.remove(line)  # use a line only once
    return line
# generate n twits
for t in range(0,64):
    print lines.pop()

# now generate some twits involving two random lines
done = 0
trials = 0
while done < 64:
    trials = trials + 1
    if len(lines)  1000000:
    line1 = lines.pop()
    line2 = lines.pop()
    twit = line1 + " / " + line2 + "n"
    # remove duplicate blanks
    while twit.find("  ") >= 0:
        pos = twit.find("  ")
        twit = twit[0:pos] + twit[pos + 1:]
    length = len(twit)
    if length  140:
    done = done + 1
    twit = twit.strip()
    print twit

Though not a programmer, The Bard was prescient in writing the three lines in all his works that contain the word “bugs”:


Posthumus: The mortal bugs o’ th’ field.

HAMLET, Act V, Scene I:

Hamlet: With, hoo! such bugs and goblins in my life-


Petruchio: Tush! tush! fear boys with bugs.

Mamma Mia! Ubuntu is Global

I just noted someone reached this blog from, a Ubuntu site in Italy, in a discussion about Oracle and Sun.

One of the entries reads:

Oracle si pappa SUN

……chi vivrà vedrà……
Mamma mia….

This calls for a small cup of grappa.


Topic: ubuntu

Digital Open:

Courtesy of a twit from Glyn Moody I just learned about Digital Open a new organization that, in its own words:

What can you make with technology that will change the world—or even just make life a little easier or more fun?

The Digital Open is an online technology community and competition for youth around the world, age 17 and under.

This is a great idea, so I have just signed up as “daveshields” and posted a brief note about myself.

I encourage others with an interest in this vital project to also join.

Open Source Dayenu: It Would Have Sufficed

We hosted a Passover Seder for almost fifteen people at our house early this month. We went to friends on the second night, and they had about the same number. Common to both was the singing of Dayenu.

Dayenu means “it would have been enough.” Here is part of the song:

Five Stanzas of Miracles

If He had split the sea for us.
If He had led us through on dry land.
If He had drowned our oppressors.
If He had provided for our needs in the wilderness for 40 years.
If He had fed us manna.

The theme of “it would have been enough” also applies to open source. When I try to explain why one should start a new open source project, as Philippe Charles and I did when Jikes was released as IBM’s first open source project, I make the following argument.

  • Start with code that is “good enough.”
  • It is not about the code, it is about the community that forms around the code.
  • If is not about the community, it is about the people in that community.
  • It is not about the people, it is about the relationships you can build with them.
  • It is not about the relationships, it is about the opportunities that may come your way because of those relationships.
  • It is because of these opportunities that you should engage in open source.

For example, because of Jikes it is fair to say that for most of 1999 I was known as the “open source programmer at IBM.” A few months into the year I got an email from someone who worked for one of the world’s largest banks. He said they had thought of a new project based on XML and thought IBM might be interested in collaborating on it.

I forwarded the email to someone in IBM who I though might be interested. I thought that was the end of it. However, a few years later, when I went to work for the Open Source Steering Committee, the group established to manage IBM’s open source activities, I went through the archives.[1] I learned that one of the first proposals ever presented was that of the bank.

I could find no record of how the matter was resolved, but that is not important. What is important it that an opportunity came IBM’s way only because of our work on Jikes.

Another example came in 2004, when I was able to save the job of an IBM colleague who was a well-known open source developer, by finding him a place on the Cloudscape/Derby team.

Early on in the Cloudscape/Derby days I got a note from someone at Zend, asking for the loan of a few surplus machines so that Zend could establish a professional development/certification program for PHP. Though I soon learned that IBM did not usually give away machines for this purpose, I knew that Steve Mills, head of IBM’s Software Group (SWG), was a strong believer in professional education. I also knew that PHP could play an important role in the Cloudscape/Derby effort. WIth the help of a colleague from SWG marketing I was able to secure the loan of five old laptops, and sent them on their way to Zend. At the time Cloudscape/Derby was still in progress, so I didn’t tell Zend my real motivation. I just said their request made sense and that they were welcome to the machines, and that IBM didn’t expect to get them back. [2]

In mid-July I learned the Doron Gerstel, then CEO of Zend, would be in New York City in a few days, and arranged to have breakfast with him in Manhattan. He began by saying he had been trying to establish a relationship between Zend and IBM for over a year, but had not known whom to approach. I said I was the person he was looking for, and then I told him about Cloudscape/Derby. He — or perhaps someone else from Zend — was present when IBM announced Derby at a conference a few weeks later.

Doron is now at another firm. I recently re-connected with him when I started to build out my LinkedIN network. I came to know many of the people now in my network through my open source activities, and I fully expect more opportunities will come my way because of them. Of course, I will also try to apprise them of new opportunities. For example, I learned a few days back that a company was looking for someone with expertise in compilers for VLIW machines, and sent a heads-up to one of my colleagues in the LinkedIN “Compiler Experts” group.

I could give many other examples, though I trust these few suffice to prove my point.

Here is an Open Source Dayenu:

  • If they had given us the code, it would have sufficed;
  • If they had built a community around the code, it would have sufficed;
  • If they had built relationships with people in the community, it would have sufficed;
  • If they had brought new opportunities because of those relationships, it would have sufficed;


1. As the Jikes days drew to a close, I said to myself, “Dave, you are lucky that Jikes was IBM’s first open source project, for IBM will probably establish some sort of process for future projects, and you won’t have to deal with it.”

Little did I realize I would become part of that process within a few years.

Having written “little did I realize,” I was reminded of the opening of a short story by V. S. Pritchett. It begins something like this: “I set sail for Ireland on a Monday morning. Little did I realize I was sailing into the fifteenth century.”

2. Zend never did send them back. One of my last acts at IBM was to explain why I could not return the five old laptops listed on the IBM property that I was responsible for.

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