Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Frances E Allen

Finally, the top award in computing has gone to a woman, Frances E Allen:

Retired IBM Corp. computer scientist Frances E. Allen, whose work helped crack Cold War-era code and predict the weather, today will be named the first woman to receive her profession's highest honor.
The Assn. for Computing Machinery has granted the A.M. Turing Award for technical merit to no more than a few people each year since 1966. Winners include Vinton Cerf and Robert Kahn, who helped create the underpinnings of the Internet; Marvin Minsky, an artificial intelligence guru; and Douglas Engelbart, inventor of the modern computer mouse.
When Allen receives the award, which comes with a $100,000 prize, at the association's annual banquet in San Diego on June 9, it won't take a computer scientist to wonder: What took so long?
Allen's achievement comes long after women toppled barriers in other professions. Marie Curie became the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in 1903. Edith Wharton won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1921. Sandra Day O'Connor joined the U.S. Supreme Court in 1981, two years before Sally Ride became the first American woman in space.
But computer science still is dominated by men. Fewer than one in five bachelor's degrees in computer science were given to women in 1994, according to the Computing Research Assn. Ten years later, that figure remains about the same, at 17%.

Hats off lads, about time don't you think?

Monday, February 05, 2007

Media Foundation

Concern as Microsoft announces that Vista will be handling sound and audio files differently than XP did:

Buried deep in the bumf for Microsoft's new Vista release is a line that says it handles sound very differently. This kind of jolly PR spin is enough to chill the blood of those who rely on Windows running their audio production software reliably.

Whenever a new version of Windows hits the street it tends to roil up the murky waters of the music and audio production world. Prospects of having to get new device drivers and new versions of otherwise perfectly reliable software is just a hassle most of us could do without. There has been some panic that it might be the case with Vista as well, but at first glance it doesn't appear to portend any major problems for music and audio software users.


The crack about the way Vista handles sound is not complete moonshine, though. This refers to a new way of handling audio called "Media Foundation", which is clearly aimed at Media Centre type systems. This looks like it adds a lot of fancy audio processing stuff into the operating system. As most dedicated music production software avoids the operating system's built-in audio facilities, the impact of going "Vista" should be minimal for anyone working seriously with music.

It's probably not as bad as people fear: Vista seems really to be a version of XP that actually works, in the same way that Win 98 was one of Win 95 that actually could be used to do something.