Al-Jazari’s first automata driven by water energy

It is quite interesting to see how an ancient Iraqi polymath Al-Jazari used the nergy of falling water to drive various mechanisms such as camshafts, clocks, and musical robot bands. He was a pioneer of automation, and invented auomatic gates, water clocks, muscial automata. His mechanisms and ideas look analogous to what we now want to achieve in driving computations by electrical power …

Happy Chinese New Year!

å…” å¹´ 好 運 一 條 龍 – Best of luck in the year of rabbit
財 富 健 康 笑 寬 容 – Fortune, health and happiness are with you

This is the Year of Rabbit. But in terms of the mother economy this is another year (or ear ?) of cuts.
Can we be happy with both?
Why not. Would you like my (silly) pun for a dinner cracker:
Q: “Do Rabbits like to look well?”
A: “Yes, they go for a hare-cut?”

Resource-driven computing

One of the key points of the new “energy slant” on computing systems is that they will operate on the principle of delivery of computing activity depending on how much energy they receive. This is quite different from the traditional energy-awareness view, where the systems were provided with power inorder to perform their set of functions and in this process they will have to save energy, or be energy-efficient.

We are therfore talking about a new generation of systems that can ONLY operate IF they have energy resources, and their (computational) output, an agregate of quality-quantity is proportional to the energy invested in them. Sort of the epitomy of the “no pain no gain” principle.

The idea of resource-driven computing if taken carefully into the design of many systems that are driven by computers will also take us to the energy-modulated functioning of systems (or systems of systems) in general. For example, in many areas such as remote space exploration, under-water operation etc. the power supplies are very rigid and power systems do not meet the preinciples of proportional funcitioning or graceful degradation. There are many examples of failures of space craft or under water equipment due to the extreme conditions caused by quick pressure changes that affect the power systems (pressure – temperature – volateg levels dependencies). As a result a lot of vital computing equipment (“the brains” of these remotely operated) suddenly becomes non-functional. Had it been designed in a more energy-modulated way, it would be able to operate from much more local and partial sources of power, say power scavenged from alternative sources than the main solar batteries of the space craft. Alternatively, even with the availability of some level of voltage from the main battery, but under the voltage level drops, the hardware of the system, if designed in a more “power-elastic or power-adaptive” way, woudl be able to sustain those harsh environmental conditions.

Microelectronics system design methods such as asynchronous logic allows building systems that are more power-elastic and energy-proportional than the conventional synchronous systems. But the way how they can help in a particular case should be found with some care … Well, energy use needs care … and needs good accounting, like any economic policy which is driven by resources … not just by demands!

RCUK Delivery Plans 2011-15

The seven UK Research Councils were recently allocated their budgets for the 2011-2015 comprehensive spending review period by the department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS). In response to this, they have published their 2011-2015 Delivery Plans, outlining in broad terms how they will spend this budget.

With regards to EPSRC, the summary of the changes and the main document can be found here: