Welcome Ron Murray

Ron flying in 2003

Ron Murray is a recent addition to the Dyalog team, with a long history in the APL community. He first encountered APL/360 in 1969 and was hooked. He used it as the basis for teaching Computer Science courses for the Hampton, Virginia High Schools. Then, working with other APL pioneers, he wrote several APL applications and contributed to five different APL implementations at The Computer Company, STSC, Burroughs, Data Resources, and Analogic Corporation.

From 1986 until 2019 he left the world of APL to develop software on Microcomputers for Microsoft and Amazon, where he contributed to various development projects for Windows, OS/2, NT, Visual Basic, Encarta, and a variety of projects within the Microsoft Research Division as well the Developer Relations Group. He also contributed to the scalability and reliability of the Amazon transaction accounting system and the Windows Azure Archival Storage System.

He also ran an Aviation business for several years at the Tacoma Narrows airport, and started an internet television company with three friends. Together they learned a lot about crawling the web using machine learning, categorizing videos by their subject matters and quality, as well as constructing interactive user interfaces on IOS devices.

During all that non-APL work he continued to use APL as a tool of thought for organizing, analyzing, and clarifying the work that needed to be done.

Since July of 2020 he’s been applying the many non-APL things he’s learned to help extend and improve the Dyalog APL systems and their interactions with the rest of the computing world.

He points out that Windows 95, which is now 25 years old is about half as old as the APL/360 release!

Welcome Kirstine (Stine) Kromberg

Stine graduated from Copenhagen Business School with a Masters degree in Business Administration and Information Management in 2016, and went to work for a small consultancy firm. She started with “Drag&Drop” programming in SSIS and other similar tools, but quickly moved into project management, accounting, and Business Intelligence.

Covid-19 intervened just as she was looking forward to coming back from maternity leave, and she decided not to burden her previous employer by returning to a job as a consultant in a world where no-one really wanted external consultants for an unknown length of time. Since Dyalog was looking for a new accountant due to Helene’s retirement, she accepted that job. She hopes that she will soon have an opportunity to help the development team with project management as well.

If her last name sound somewhat familiar, it is because Stine is closely related to Gitte and Morten! Stine grew up in a household where APL was a part of everyday life. After swimming against the tide for many years she finally accepted a bet with Morten to give his “hobby” (APL) a try if he gave her hobby (Roleplaying) a try in return. As a result, she spent 2 weeks in Montreal trying to learn from one of the best teachers of APL. But while she learned a little French from staying at Dan Baronet’s house, the APL did not really stick. Morten sadly never got around to roleplaying, but he did take up Zumba many years later, so they consider the deal settled!

Several years later, while looking for something to do as a summer job, she took a job at Insight Systems learning APL while proofreading the new Dyalog APL book by Bernard Legrand and correcting data in the CRM system.

For several years she was hired to help run the help desk at the user meetings whenever they took place in Denmark. Her last appearance at a Dyalog user meeting was as a Zumba instructor in 2012 in Elsinore.

Stine has spent most of her life dancing around the edges of Dyalog, coming to the user meetings and chatting with customers and developers alike, hanging out at the office in Bramley, listening in whenever Gitte and Morten talked shop at the dinner table, trying to learn APL, but realizing that where her heart truly lies is in organizing and managing things. So, while working for an APL company feels like coming home, her ambition is not to take part in development, but instead to take care of all the details and bureaucracy so that the rest of our brilliant team can focus on what they truly love!

Warming up to Dyalog ’20 Online with the last Recording from Dyalog ’19!

Three weeks from today, Gitte Christensen and I will be opening the 2020 Dyalog user meeting. Like so many similar gatherings, we are moving online; this year’s meeting will consist of two 4-hour sessions on Monday 9th and Tuesday 10th November, running from 14:00 to 18:00 UTC. Our hope (so far confirmed by advance registrations) is that this format will allow many more people to attend than a normal meeting, which requires you to set a full week aside and spend money on travel. We hope that the timing will allow attendance from a large part of the globe, and of course it is our intention to make recordings available afterwards for those unable to attend live.

I do subscribe to the proverb about all clouds having silver linings: although all the user meetings that I usually travel to attend have been cancelled or postponed, and I have missed meeting many of you face-to-face this year, it is important to note the unexpected side-effect; there is significantly more APL content being generated and made generally available than ever before! I hope that you have all noticed that Dyalog and the British APL Association have been holding online sessions every two weeks since the spring! A good place to keep track of these events is our event calendar at https://www.dyalog.com/dates-for-your-diary.htm.

Two four-hour sessions is obviously a lot less than the usual 3.5 days plus workshops. You should be able to find a good deal of the “missing” material, such as Adam Brudzewsky’s five-part series on features of Dyalog Version 18.0 (and my own introduction to the new release) at https://dyalog.tv/Webinar, where you can watch it at your leisure.

During Dyalog ’20 we will focus on giving you updates on the most important activities that the team behind Dyalog APL is currently working on. Also, although you may have to wait for Dyalog ’21 in Portugal to meet the winner of the APL Problem Solving Competition in person, Andrii Makukha from the University of Hong Kong will be giving his acceptance presentation online on the Tuesday. Chris and Michael Hughes will give us an update on a tool called qWC, which simplifies the transformation of existing Windows applications into web apps.

Calculating estimates for the paths of debris from M/S Irma.

Calculating estimates for the paths of debris from M/S Irma.

At Dyalog ’19, Tomas Gustafsson, author of the stunning Stormwind boat/ship simulator (real time physics engine implemented in Dyalog APL) told the story of the successful search for the M/S Irma, which was was lost in a sudden autumn storm between Finland and Sweden 50 years ago. Because a Finnish TV channel was producing a programme about the Irma, Tomas asked us not to publish the recording of his presentation last year. The embargo has finally been lifted, and we are now able to present the final recording from Dyalog ’19. In Tomas’ Dyalog ’19 video, you can hear Tomas tell the story of how, despite massive search efforts, said to be the biggest ever in Finnish history, the Irma accident became a mystery. No distress signals were heard during that fatal autumn night, and Irma had chosen the weirdest routes. Only one body was ever found, days later, at an unexpected location. Wreckage from the ship was discovered in the archipelago at multiple contradictory spots. Irma was found in May 2019 by a group of enthusiasts (including Tomas). The reverse drifting patterns calculated using Dyalog played a crucial role in the success of the search. Tomas will be back at Dyalog ’20 to entertain us with the story of his latest adventure: the search for a 500-year-old wreck, the Hanseatic hulk Hanneke Vrome, which left Lübeck at the brink of winter in 1468, to avoid Danish pirates.

I look forward to welcoming you to Dyalog ’20 on November 9th.

Dyalog ’19 Videos: Week 10

The release of the final set of videos from the Dyalog ’19 user meeting in Elsinore slipped into 2020, thus providing me with a perfect opportunity to wish you all a Happy New Year from all of us at Dyalog! We are wrapping up with recordings from the Prize Ceremony for the 11th annual Problem Solving Competition and the the Young APLers’ Panel.

The young APLer’s panel. From left: Stephen Taylor, Alve Björk, Yuliia Serhiienko, James Heslip and Josh David

I can’t think of a better way to kick off the new year than watching newcomers to APL talk about how they got started! With Stephen Taylor as host, our panellists Alve Björk (Uppsala University, Sweden), James Heslip (Optima Systems Ltd, UK), Josh David (Dyalog Ltd, USA) and Yuliia Serhiienko (SimCorp, Ukraine) discuss how they first encountered APL, their perception/experience of the language and what they would like to see APL vendors and the APL community working on in the future.

Every year, the annual APL Problem Solving Competition entices students to learn APL and try to win significant cash prizes and a trip to the Dyalog user meeting. This year, Dyalog brought the entire contest “in house” rather than using an external company to host it. We developed our own interactive contest site, which allowed contestants to get immediate feedback on potential solutions to Phase 1 problems. In addition to making it more fun – and a lot easier – to submit solutions, the new site saved Dyalog a lot of time by pre-verifying Phase 1 solutions. As Brian Becker explains in his talk leading up to the prize ceremony, the project gave us an opportunity to test a lot of our own components by building a fully operational application entirely in Dyalog APL. Gitte Christensen, CEO of Dyalog Ltd, awards the prize for the best professional entrant to Torsten Grust and the grand prize to Jamin Wu.

Grand Prize winner Jamin Wu

I never cease to be amazed by the quality of presentations by winners of the contest. The youngsters of today seem able to learn to write APL code that many professionals would be proud to have written, in a few weeks – sometimes only days.

Jamin Wu is a medical student at Monash University in Australia, but also a keen programmer. His presentation on how he won the 11th annual APL Problem Solving Competition was one of the clearest and most impressive acceptance speeches by a winner of the competition that I have had the privilege to attend. In a very short amount of time, Jamin has been able to get an astonishing grip on the benefits of APL, and write some of the most elegant APL code I have ever seen. We’re sad that he won’t be joining the community as a full-time APL programmer any time soon; the good news is that the medical community in Australia will soon have a very competent young doctor, able to use computers very effectively to assist him in research and analysis of data!

Summary of this week’s videos:

 

That is (almost) the end of the Dyalog ’19 videos; at Tomas Gustafsson’s request, we are holding back the release of his exciting yarn about how APL was used to locate the wreck of the M/S Irma until the upcoming documentary has been aired on Finnish TV.

It is already time to think about Dyalog ’20, which will be held in Olhão, Portugal, from 11th-15th October. Follow us on social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) to be kept informed about this and all things related to Dyalog!

Dyalog ’19 Videos: Week 9

Richard Smith asks and answers: Is it Christmas Yet?

Richard Smith asks and answers: Is it Christmas Yet?

Depending on which day you decide to watch this recording, you may get a different answer from the one that Richard did as he answered his own question (“Is It Christmas Yet?”) in the first minute of his presentation. Of course, the true purpose of the talk was to show off a potential new system function for converting between a variety of time encodings. Not just the obvious ones like the 7-element ⎕TS format timestamp and the Dyalog Date Number, which is the number of days since the 31st of December 1899, but also a variety of Julian Dates, ⎕FRDCI style timestamps, UNIX time, Excel datetimes, Stata, R and SPSS dates and more – a total of more than 20 different time formats. Richard also shows how version 18.0 will allow you to determine the time in different time zones, and ends with formatting the current time in Helsinki – in Welsh.

 

Roberto and students from Liceo Scientifico GB Grassi Saronno

Roberto and students from Liceo Scientifico GB Grassi Saronno

Inspired by Tetsuya Miyamoto, the inventor of the KenKen and other puzzles, Roberto Minervini avoids lecturing and prefers to present students with puzzles that they will be motivated to solve, learning new skills including mathematics and APL in the process. Pietro, Gabriele, Alessandro had their first exposure to APL in Roberto’s class at the at the Liceo Scientifico GB Grassi Saronno near Milan in Italy. Together with Roberto, they have created “MathMaze”, a platform for hosting real-time puzzle tournaments.

In this talk, they explain the unique scoring algorithm and the difficulty of creating puzzles that don’t make it clear whether you should solve them by thinking about them, by making drawings, or using the computer. A really good puzzle will requires a combination of techniques. As Alessandro explains, APL makes me think about the real mathematics behind a puzzle before I start writing the code.

Summary of this week’s videos:

(Video releases will resume in January 2020)

Dyalog ’19 Videos: Week 8

When Aaron Hsu was at Dyalog ’19 in Elsinore, he was preparing the defence of his PhD Thesis on A Data Parallel Compiler Hosted on the GPU. In his talk “Lessons for the Masses from the Trenches of Co-dfns” he looks back on some of the key lessons learned while working on the PhD and the Co-dfns compiler.

Aaron Hsu presents some of his insights from his work on the Co-dfns project

Aaron Hsu presents some of his insights from his work on the Co-dfns project

As usual, Aaron delivered a talk designed to make every one of us question the fundamental assumptions that we make about programming. Selected sound bites include:

Pointers are the refined sugar of programming.
Beauty and truth are intimately connected.
Value the human, command the machine!

 

Uncle Andy's back with another fireside chat

Uncle Andy’s back with another fireside chat

To bring you back down to earth, (Uncle) Andy Shiers’ fifth Fireside Talk is about little things that Andy thinks are important to anyone managing or using a Dyalog APL installation that he suspects you have forgotten about, or may have missed when reading the documentation. Some of them are things that he overheard developers talking about and suspects are not documented at all! Most of them are things that he needed himself, or used to handle a support call. Serial numbers play an important role this year; the changes we have made so that we can support the use of unregistered versions of APL for testing and demonstration purposes make it important to understand the impact of serial numbers and how to manage them.

Join us again in week 9 to hear Richard Smith explain how to compute whether it will soon be Christmas and Roberto Minervini (and students) tell us about the Art of Teaching without Teaching.

Summary of this week’s videos: