John Pelan @ Gatsby Unit

Personal and Professional Interests

Computing & Electronics

I am interested in the optimization of algorithms for their use on computers and in particular on parallel, distributed systems. This is mostly about the use of locality of information, i.e. caching and asynchronous communication.

I was raised on the 6502 microprocessor as was found in Commodore PETs, the VIC-20 and the C-64. It is interesting to note that retrocomputing is pretty big these days and that some people have gone to great efforts to reconstruct old processors or even entire home computers on FPGAs.

Programming interests include Fortran (90/95/200x) and HPF, optimization tools and techniques, static analysis and anything and everything to do with high performance computing (HPC), clusters etc. Have used such exotic beasts as the Meiko Computing Surface (with Transputers and i860s) and a variety of Cray's including YMP, J90 and T3D. These days it's all generic, commodity CPU based kit and mostly AMD Opteron at that.

Computing Projects/Notes

Electronics Projects

I have removed all the documents on my old computer / electronics projects as they are redundant these days.

Intellectual Property Issues


Along with many others, I am concerned about the patents system being abused or manipulated to give unreasonable protection to ideas which are not novel or would be obvious to those practised in the relevant art. There are also ongoing attempts in Europe to extend the patents system to algorithms and business ideas which have not previously been protected - because society does not benefit from giving them monopoly protection.

Open Standards

By creating open standards in all areas of life, costs can be reduced through economies of scale and by avoidance of vendor lock-in. It runs contrary to all logic to employ standards which are secret or liable to unseen manipulation. Open standards should be embraced and all proprietary standards eliminated not just in the software world but in all areas of technical, scientific and medical work. Open standards are much more important than open source.

Open Source

Open source is type of software licensing scheme, nothing more, nothing less. It does not imply 'community development'. What it does do however is give control back to the user of the software - assuming they can do something with the source or can find someone who can. In giving the control back to the user, they are protected from the risks of unsupported, orphaned software arising through the likes of bankruptcy or takeover.


Kernel Traffic is a good way of keeping up with Linux kernel developments without having to read the developers mailing list every day.


Unfortunately, citizens of the UK do not have access to a fair voting system for general elections. Instead their votes are distorted by the biased system known as 'first-past-the-post'. The net result is that governments with very little mandate can be put in a position of power and that views of sizable sections of the population can go unrepresented. I support the Electoral Reform Society in its campaign for the introduction of proportional representation by the single transferrable vote ( PR-STV).

Electronic Voting

Another threat to democracy in the UK (and elsewhere) is the likely introduction of DRE and remote 'multi-channel' electronic voting. I have written a small comment on the risks of electronic voting and contributed to the Irish Citizens for Trustworthy E-Voting. My personal preference is for paper ballots to be counted by electronic means. This is a fail safe system and is easily checked.


I'm a great fan of science.

Environmental Concerns

The biggest enviromental threat is over-population. No matter what steps are taken to reduce the environmental impact of human activity, or reduce the consumption of resources, they will always be offset by population growth. There appears to be very little will in the Western world to tackle the problem although there are some dedicated pressure groups like the Optimum Population Trust and Gaia Watch.

Aside from the immediate concerns about resources, wouldn't it be great to live on a planet with significantly fewer people ? If anything, the value of an individual increases when there are fewer of them - as the post-plague era's of the past have shown. Reductions in the population have done more for emancipation than any political movement!

Support the Motor Neurone Disease Association.


The opinions expressed on these pages are my own opinion and are not necessarily those of my employer or anyone else. This page is always under construction and so there are risks of spelling mistakes, broken links and gibberish.

This page is always under construction.