Category Archives: IAIK

And Now This.

It all happens within one year.

Daniel Gruss has been traveling the world talking a lot about Meltdown and Spectre.

Daniel Gruss has recently started his own research group at IAIK: “Core security“.

Daniel Gruss has now received the award for excellence in teaching at TU Graz. He got this award for the course on operating systems.

Sometimes they say that university professors need to incorporate at least three different persons: a world-class researcher, an excellent manager, and an inspiring teacher. It seems that we got at least one of these.

Congratulations.

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Books for Adult Students of the World

In a recent blog I have suggested a couple of books which I consider as important landmarks for a student in computer science. The topics of these books were all about learning all that jazz of technology.

In this blog I would like to present a couple of books which are examples for touching an even more important aspect of a grown-up engineer or scientist. To my mind, an engineer or scientist should be “learned” in participating in the discussion of the “big questions” of humanity.

To participate in a discussion, you — the student — must be able to express yourself in aural and written form. Your language skills must go beyond the mere expressions like “I am pissed”, “sorry, teacher” and the like.

Let’s start with writing skills. As soon as you have to write a letter to your teacher, or write a short text for describing your results achieved in some exercise, you want to be a competent writer. Writing skills cannot be achieved over night. So start right away. One of the really good books is this one:

Michael Alley: The Craft of Scientific Writing, Springer

Get it. Read it. Benefit from it. Your next text will be better immediately. And you will feel more competent in communication right away. Your teachers will appreciate your communication skills. You will be able not only to work out your excellence, but you can also hide corners of your ignorance in a much better way.

Speaking of communication, how about talking? You will quite often have the chance to speak about your work. Get the following book for understanding how to present your work in an efficient manner:

Michael Alley: The Craft of Scientific Presentations, Springer

In case you are a connoisseur of writing skills, you might want to read the classic
text by Zinsser:

William Zinsser: On Writing Well

If, however, you already think that you don’t need to improve your skills in reading or writing, you might be one of those who should start at level 0. Get a survival guide before you drown:

Pat Maier: Survival-Guide für Erstis

That much about communication.

For my taste, a good scientist/engineer also understands her trade in a much broader context. Let me give you a few examples what I mean with this.

We all got used to the idea that in the digital age we express everything with numbers.
Moreover, two symbols are sufficient to express any number. One of them, the “1”, had
it rather easy in its life. It was considered “trivial” by most. In contrast, the other one, the “0”, had it really difficult to be accepted by people. Read the fantastic history of the “0” in Seife’s book:

Charles Seife: Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea

If you are bored with history of ideas, then you might want to reflect on the future. Who will own the future? Jaron Lanier is a computer scientist, but also an artist, a musician, and much more. Check out more about this interesting person here: https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jaron_Lanier

I would recommend this book:

Jaron Lanier: Who Owns The Future

In another dimension, you might want to grow in terms of understanding this universe we are living in. First of all, I would like to suggest the “Six Easy Pieces” by Richard Feynman. Richard Feynman gave such good introductory lectures in physics that not only students attended, but also all professors sat in his lectures. Even though you were not present in his lectures due to age, you can still enjoy the pleasure by reading the book:

Richard Feynman: Six Easy Pieces

Since Feynman’s lectures in the 1960s, a lot of new research has been done in physics. Check out Lawrence Krauss. I suggest the following two books:

Lawrence M. Krauss: The Greatest Story Ever Told – So far

Lawrence M. Krauss: A Universe from Nothing

Where is humanity heading with all this technological development? What might happen within this century? Ray Kurzweil has written a meanwhile legendary text on this topic:

Ray Kurzweil: The Singularity is Near

If you think that science “stinks”, after all it is produced by stinky humans, you might want to reflect on the business of science. Read Kuhn’s book on the theory of science:

Thomas S. Kuhn: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

If you are more into the prosperous development of our human race, check out this book:

Timothy Garton Ash: Free Speech – Ten Principles for a Connected World

There is also a project connected to this book: The Free Speech Debate.

If you have read this text until here, you might want to add your own favorite to the list. You might even want to let others know about it. Feel free to add by commenting this blog.

If you got overwhelmed by the long list of books, don’t worry. You get to any point in this world step by step. Do the first step. Read the first word, then the second word, and so on. It’s almost like drinking beer. A first sip, a second sip, and so on. The interesting thing about reading is that you get more sober and satisfied with each sip; in contrast to drinking beer.

Happy reading.

Do you still wear diapers or can you already read?

A couple of days ago I gave my last lecture at TU Graz. I had the pleasure to talk to first-semester bachelor students in Information and Computer Engineering. One of the students asked me about which books I consider to be worth reading and/or buying for the benefit of getting ahead with studying.

I take this opportunity to propose a couple of books I consider an excellent help to advance into a fast-track beginner in computer engineering.

Here is my pick:

For a proper beginning, I suggest that you try to find “your” favorite book on programming. It could be any. Check out the many free sources you can find on the web. A popular start for many is “How to Think Like a Computer Scientist“. There are several versions of this book: for Python, for Java, for C++, and several more.

Maybe you want a book you buy for real money. After all, the author invested a lot of work in writing it. Here is an example:

John V. Guttag: Introduction to Computation and Programming Using Python, MIT Press, 2016.

The main language in your first semester will be C, however. Best is to start with “the original book”:

Brian W. Kernighan, Dennis M. Richie: The C Programming Language, Prentice Hall Software Series

Lots of students have been reading this text before you. To my mind, it is a “must-read”, even for those who never read. It is kind of visiting the Eiffel tour, the Niagara falls, or the St. Stephan’ s Cathedral in Vienna, if you wish. The real programmers always keep a copy of this book at their desk; just to show off to visitors.

Right after the C programming language you will expose yourself in C++. Christmas is right ahead, so why not wish yourself a book written by the creator of C++, Bjarne Stroustrup. You can find all his books here: http://www.stroustrup.com/books.html

I would pick “Programming — Principles and Practice Using C++ (Second edition)”

I am a firm believer of the fact that studying material from the originators, and not from epigones is best. Unfortunately, I can see a lot of young people who go for “hear-say” and seem to be content.

As computer engineers, you will also dive deeply into hardware. A must-read is

David A. Patterson/ John L. Hennessy: Computer Organisation and Design —
The hardware/software interface, Risc-V edition, Morgan Kaufmann, 2017.

You should read this book in conjunction with your hardware courses like “Computer Organisation” in the second semester.

Another beautiful book goes even deeper into electronic design. Check it out, you will love it:

Paul Horowitz, Winfield Hill: The Art of Electronics, 3rd edition, 2015.

When I first found this book, I was about to throw away all the other written material I had on electronics. It quickly became apparent to me that electronics is beautiful engineering. An art, indeed.

I suggest that you also try to find out about the beauty of math. A good start in your first semester could be this one:

Kurt Meyberg, Peter Vachenauer: Höhere Mathematik 1, Differential- und Integralrechnung, Vektor- und Matrizenrechnung, 2. Auflage, Springer-Lehrbuch.

By studying this book, you will learn all the necessary ground work for becoming a competent engineer. Moreover, I promise you: You will easily master your first math exams.

Quickly you will hear that “operating systems” is a tough topic. Why don’t you try
to check out this book:

Remzi H. Arpaci-Dusseau, Andrea C. Arpaci-Dusseau: Operating Systems — Three Easy Pieces.

Start with one of the chapters: You will easily get hooked to this text.

You might also want to check out this book:

Thomas Anderson, Michael Dahlin: Operating Systems — Principles & Practice, 2nd edition, 2014.

This is the book suggested for the course at TU Graz.

Another useful book is this one:

Larry L. Peterson, Bruce S. Davis: Computer Networks — A Systems Approach, 5th edition.

This book provides a text for your course on computer networks.

For your course in signal processing, I suggest this book:

James H. McClellan, Ronald W. Schafer, Mark A. Yoder: DSP First, 2nd edition.

As a final suggestion comes the following text written by yours truly. This text is free of charge:

Karl C. Posch: A Lesson on Programming, 2017

As a summary, I would like to comment on the price of books. If you are young and have grown up in Austria, you quite likely have a view that the world should be for free — at least for you. Most likely, your parents have been paying for your expenses. Or the taxpayer. So why should you spend, say, 40 Euros for a book?

My viewpoint over the years became the following: I have noticed that a good book not only provided intellectual fun, but also quite often helped me to save time when trying to achieve a goal; like to prepare for an exam, for instance.

Let’s therefore do a simple computation: If a good book saves you 3 hours of time compared to reading foolish material downloaded from some tertiary source on the  web, you could become a productive engineer three hours earlier in your life. As a young engineer you might earn 20 Euros per hour after tax; this amounts to roughly 32 000 Euros per year. Thus, by spending 40 Euros for a book you might earn 60 Euros in a couple of years. Try it out: A good book is a profit. I have experienced this effect over and over again throughout my professional life.

Happy reading!

The first 20 hours

Here is the trick to learn just about anything. With learning I mean to “get going” in some direction; not to become the world’s best expert. Just “get going”. You could also say that it is merely a trick to “get into the flow”.

For instance, getting into the flow in some course. It costs you 20 hours only.

Check out the 20-minutes TED-Talk video here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MgBikgcWnY

Here is the short version what you need to do. It consists of 4 steps only:

  1. Deconstruct the skill: What do you want to achieve? Break apart the skill.
  2. Learn enough to self-correct. Start with simple tasks. Learn just enough to start practicing.
  3. Remove practice barriers. Remove distractions, TV, Internet. This will need some will power!
  4. Practice at least 20 hours. Take for instance an hour a day.

You will be done in 3 to 4 weeks.

In 4 weeks we have Easter Monday. Try it out. With the course material in Rechnerorganisation, for instance. Or Rechnernetze und -Organsiation. Go ahead. Just 1 hour a day.

Being “in the flow” is fun.

Let me know about your experiences.

 

Sapere aude! Dare to know!

The spring semester 2018 is about to start. The registration numbers for the two courses I am teaching for bachelor students have just hit 700, and are still rising.

As usual, I am trying to get myself in the right mood for coping with this huge amount of young curiosity.

Luck struck me yesterday when listening to “Diagonal” in Austria’s best radio channel OE1. They talked about David Byrne and his new album “American Utopia”, his “Bicycle Diaries”, and his recent talks with the title “Reasons To Be Cheerful”.

In this radio show, the new book by Steven Pinker, “Enlightment Now” was mentioned. The sub-title of this book is “The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress”.

Quickly afterwards I had Pinker’s book on my e-book reader. After having spent reading this book for two hours or so, I decided to use this topic as the main theme governing my courses on “Computer Organisation”.

What is “Enlightment”?

Well, in his famous 1784 essay “What Is Enlightenment?”, the philosopher Immanuel Kant described it as follows:

“Enlightenment is man’s release from his self-incurred tutelage. Tutelage is the incapacity to use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another. Such tutelage is self-imposed if its cause is not lack of intelligence, but rather a lack of determination and courage to use one’s intelligence without being guided by another.”

Let me cite the original German wording:

“Aufklärung ist der Ausgang des Menschen aus seiner selbstverschuldeten Unmündigkeit. Unmündigkeit ist das Unvermögen, sich seines Verstandes ohne Leitung eines anderen zu bedienen. Selbstverschuldet ist diese Unmündigkeit, wenn die Ursache derselben nicht am Mangel des Verstandes, sondern der Entschließung und des Muthes liegt, sich seiner ohne Leitung eines anderen zu bedienen.”

And the next sentence is this:

“Sapere aude! Habe Muth, dich deines eigenen Verstandes zu bedienen! ist also der Wahlspruch der Aufklärung.”

“Dare to think!”

This is what I would like to teach my students. And the guiding ideas should be Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress.

We currently seem to have far too little of this element visible in the daily discussions over the state of this planet.

Welcome to my courses.

We’re rolling. Bachelor@IAIK 2018 is on.

What a start!

Roughly 30 students started at IAIK with their Bachelor thesis projects on Tuesday this week.

We researchers at IAIK really enjoy the enthusiasm of these students. We never had a greater number of students being interested in the unique format “Bachelor@IAIK” that has been offered by IAIK for more than 10 years now.

Within the next weeks, these 30 students will work hard to get their thesis projects done.
With 15 advisors we try to offer an attractive environment for these young “research apprentices”, including offices, coffee, and lots of attention.

Friday, 9 March, the students will come out with their first results in the “Poster Session”.
In case you’re interested in the projects, just pass by after Friday and have a look at this year’s projects. The posters can be found in the ground floor in Inffeldgasse 16a, the home of IAIK.

Feel free to pop up at IAIK for talking to us about your own future Bachelor thesis project. Alternatively, just might as well just ask the students themselves.

 

 

On the move

Was just bicycling home in heavy snowfall.

What a fun. Snow. Fresh air. Independent. Invincible.

Was thinking about how much “positive vibes” I have gotten from bicycling throughout the past 30 years of my life.

My conclusion: Definitely better than the typical Austrian’s “daily beer”.  Moreover: No hangover.

I was already age 35 when I seriously started considering to start bicycling as a lifestyle.

Apparently, it is never too late.

I got into bicycling as a counter reaction to the all too “idiotic use of cars” I have experienced in the US; after returning to Austria, I have found that this behavior was copied over here, too.

Thus: You can learn about Austria while being abroad.

Being a bicyclist, you are by nature forced to defend yourself against some of the fellow auto-mobilists who think that you are a nuisance.

As a result of this, I was one of the first wearers of bicycle helmets in Graz — if not the first one. Moreover, I also had a nice little mirror attached to my helmet to notice the attitude of car drivers approaching from behind early on. Both gadgets I imported from the US in the late 1980s. With my mirror-equipped helmet I became a rather known figure: the “have-you-seen-this-weird-bicyclist.” I enjoyed it.

Meanwhile, in 2018, I can see many fellow bicyclists in Austria not caring about their head at all. Ignorant. Too stupid. I pity them. Sorry. Wrong choice.

During the 30 years of wearing a bicycle helmet I have made use of the helmet at least 3 times, i.e. once every 10 years on average: The helmet bewared me from severe head damage, maybe even brain damage.

I am not counting the numerous incidents of falling with my mountain bike on some off-road track. I am just talking of hitting the Graz asphalt with my head.

Just now I am planning to make a bicycle tour to North Cape. With helmet. And tent. And all the other paraphernalia.

I am also giving away for free some of my books about bicycling:

– Radtouren im Tessin
– Radtouren in Südtirol
– Mit dem Rad zu Kultur & Natur (Burgenland, Westungarn, Südoststeiermark)
– Südost-Frankreich per Rad
– Schweiz per Rad
– Mit dem Mountainbike auf den Spuren der Inkas
– Stadtradeln. Kleine Philosophie der Passionen
– The big race across America
– Auf nach Asien
– Rad-Abenteuer Welt (Band 1 und Band 2)
– Tibets wilder Osten
– Westcoast-Story
– Bike-Abenteuer Afrika
– Das Europa-Bike-Buch

Here is the trick: You get a book by (1) proving to me that you usually wear a bike helmet, and (2) you are not coming too late.

Recently, in “Kleine Zeitung” they asked whether it should be forbidden to bicycle on Graz roads upon snow conditions. After all, bicyclists are hindering the automobilists who have it urgent.

Last weekend I spent in Stockholm. It was also snowing. I told a friend about this weird question. Here was her answer:

(1) In Jämtland, this is a province in northern Sweden, they first clean the roads. As long as the other “traffic areas” (for pedestrians, for bicyclists) are not clean, all traffic participants use the road. In the presence of pedestrians, the cars “just go slow”.

(2) In Stockholm, they first start cleaning the pedestrian areas. Only later, the streets get cleaned. Thus, car drivers are not treated as “first class citizens” in city traffic. Moreover, bicyclists usually queue in front of cars on intersections. This also indicates a clear priority.

By the way: Did you know that Johann Theurl, a retired vice rector of TU Graz and former member of IAIK, was the first to paint bicycle shapes on streets in Graz? He started with what is now known as “Fahrradweg”.

Move on. You have not been moving for too long.