Challenges, and bits and bobs

My friend Thomas pointed me in the direction of this excellent comment on the Human Genome Project (from challenges in the Human Genome Project):

Consider the 3.3 gigabytes of a human genome as equivalent to 3.3 gigabytes of files on the mass-storage device of some computer system of unknown design. Obtaining the sequence is equivalent to obtaining an image of the contents of that mass-storage device. Understanding the sequence is equivalent to reverse engineering that unknown computer system (both the hardware and the 3.3 gigabytes of software) all the way back to a full set of design and maintenance specifications.

Reverse engineering the sequence is complicated by the fact that the resulting image of the mass-storage device will not be a file-by-file copy, but rather a streaming dump of the bytes in the order they occupied on the device and the files are known to be fragmented. In addition, some of the device is known to contain erased files or other garbage. Once the garbage has been recognized and discarded and the fragmented files reassembled, the reverse engineering of the codes must be undertaken with only a partial, and sometimes incorrect understanding of the CPU on which the codes run. In fact, deducing the structure and function of the CPU is part of the project, since some of the 3.3 gigabytes are known to be the binary specifications for the computer-assisted-manufacturing process that fabricates the CPU. In addition, one must also consider that the huge database also contains code generated from the result of literally millions of maintenance revisions performed by the worst possible set of kludge-using, spaghetti-coding, opportunistic hackers who delight in clever tricks like writing self-modifying code and relying upon undocumented system quirks.

Absolutely spot on.

Totally unrelated, but by far the best “wow factor” link I’ve had in ages, have a look at what can be done with a single sheet of A4 paper.

Finally, I’ve found a little free clipboard tool which really ought to be built into windows — persistent multiple clipboard entries of all types. Have a look at clipx; you won’t be disappointed.

Filed under: Blog
Posted at 22:50:00 GMT on 7th February 2008.

About Matt Godbolt

Matt Godbolt is a C++ developer working in Chicago in the finance industry.