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Scientist, Author, Hacker, Maker, and Journalist.

Or, how to copy and paste from StackOverflow for fun and profit!

The . Bronze Gallery, National Archaeological Museum of Greece, Athens. (📷: )

Compared to other professions, software engineering is still in its infancy. But having almost reached a point where the code still running at the bottom of many large systems wasn’t written in living memory, there are now some early signs that this phase may finally be passing.

The day-to-day life faced by most programmers today rarely involves writing large amounts of code. Opening the editor on an entirely new project is a memorable event. Instead they spend time refactoring, tracking down bugs, and with glue code.

“The word for all this is a ‘mature programming environment.’…


“Privacy was never dead, it just went away for a while…”

The transcript of the I gave at , held in March 2020, during which I talked about machine learning, edge computing, and privacy.

Talking on the keynote stage on the first day of QCon London 2020. (📷: )

Machine learning is traditionally associated with heavy duty, power-hungry, processors. It’s something done on big servers. Even if the sensors, cameras, and microphones, taking the data are themselves local, the compute that controls them is far away. The processes that make decisions are all in the cloud.

But this is now changing, and that change is happening remarkably quickly and for a whole bunch of different reasons.

The nature of what we do as…


Is legislation now the only solution?

An (somewhat expanded) transcript of a talk I gave on digital government held in Ottawa, Canada, in November 2019. I talked there about privacy, security, and machine learning. Some additional material has been added for context, nothing has been removed from the talk as given.

Talking in the round on the stage at FWD50 on the 7th November 2019. (📷: )

Everything is broken, and it’s actually starting to sort of scare me that we’re not willing to acknowledge how bad things have become. It’s starting to scare me that the industry tends to have discussions about morals and ethics in bars, and sometimes in the hallways and dark corners at conferences…


A Linux-based smartwatch from PINE64

Back at the beginning of the year, the folks at PINE64 announced not just a bunch of new hardware, but .

With the now in pre-order and shipping to community members in small batches, and the PinePhone , that family just got an addition: the , a Linux-based smartwatch.

An actual PineTime ‘body.’ (📷: Pine64)

The smartwatch was teased in a last week, and I think the response to the project has sort of taken the folks at PINE64 . …


First announced at in Nuremberg, Germany, the BeagleBone AI started shipping .

The new BeagleBone AI. (📷: BeagleBoard.org)

It may share the familiar BeagleBone form factor, but the new isn’t like the BeagleBone boards we’ve seen before. This isn’t really a general purpose single-board computer (SBC) instead, as you can tell from the name, this board is intended for machine learning inferencing at speed.

Built around the Texas Instruments , a dual-core 32-bit Arm processor running at 1.5GHz, the board looks at least initially to be underpowered when to


Announced by Espressif, engineering samples of the new ESP32-S2 silicon started shipping to community members . Since then both modules and beta developer kits have been making their way out into the community, and I recently managed to get my hands on one, an .

Time for some quick first impressions?

ESP32-S2 Beta-DevKitC V1.1 on my desk. (📷: Alasdair Allan)

The new sits between the and the current in the Espressif product line. Although far more powerful than the ESP8266, the new ESP32-S2 has only a single core to the original ESP32's two.

Whereas the ESP32 has a dual core…


Making Intelligent Insights at the Edge

The transcript of a talk I gave both at the in Exeter, and O’Reilly Media’s in New York, during September 2019.

Talking on the “The Demise of Big Data” at the in Exeter in September 2019. (📹: )

In our industry we tend to think far more about the future, than the past. The very nature of what we do means that we obsess about now and next, rather than putting things into their proper historical context, and that’s a mistake.

So every once in a while it’s worth it to take a step…


It was Chris Anderson that originally “the peace dividend of the smartphone war” arguing that “…when giants battle, we all win,” and it’s that smartphone war that has brought us cheap sensors—accelerometers, gyroscopes, microphones, pressure and humidity sensors—as well as cheap screens and processors. It also made capacitance touch sensors available, with perhaps the most famous being the which all the way back in 2012, or ‘s Touch Board which in 2014.

Now there’s another touch sensor on the block—brought to you by the…


An x86-based single-board computer for just $39?

I don’t generally pay much attention to Intel-based boards. There have been the , but usually run too hot, and are just too expensive, to be particularly interesting. But it looks like there might soon be one more board added to the short stack of exceptions, the .

The new Rock Pi X. (📷: Radxa)

The from Radxa occupies the relatively sparsely populated low-end of the x86 single-board computer market, powered by an Intel Atom Cherry Trail processor it will be priced starting from $39.

The board will ship with 1, 2, or 4GB of RAM, and in two…


It’s perhaps a bit surprising how many Raspberry Pi boards have made it to space. Totally ignoring all the Raspberry Pi boards that make it into space the cheap and cheerful way , there are at least two in use by the astronauts, and another two for ESA.

There are , but they were joined in July by yet another Raspberry Pi that was carried to orbit by a Russian rocket into a solar synchronous orbit.

Image of the Mediterranean acquired by SSTL’s DoT-1 satellite on August 19, 2019. (📷: SSTL)

Launched aboard SSTL’s DoT-1 satellite, the was a…

Alasdair Allan

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