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Saturday, December 6th, 2008

Time Event
1:35p
For the CS geeks
Ever since grad school, I've been carrying with me a stack of papers by Leslie Lamport, my favorite CS writer of papers. I'd tried to find them online back in the 90s but they were all paper-only publications and I never did... until yesterday, they first time I tried in years. It turns out that Leslie Lamport at some point went and scanned in all of his papers, and posted PDFs here:
http://research.microsoft.com/users/lamport/pubs/pubs.html

If you haven't heard of Leslie Lamport, or think of him only as the guy who wrote LaTeX: His entertaining, fun to read papers laid down much of the fundamental theory behind distributed computing. For example, Time, Clocks and the Ordering of Events in a Distributed System. He's known for unusual ways of presenting the math, most famously in:
  • The Part-Time Parliament, in which he described how to do distributed consensus (for example, as in three-phase commit in databases) cast in the form of archaeological findings about parliamentary procedure on an ancient Greek island.

  • The Byzantine Generals Problem, in which he re-cast the problem of achieving concensus when some processes/processors may go "rogue" rather than simply stop working, as a story about treason in war.

(Actually, some of these are fun to read even if you're not a CS geek.)

Also, he was at Brandeis at the same time as my stepmother.

I find this archive is sucking my time. It has many more Lamport papers than my short stack from grad school, and it's easy to poke around wondering "what's this one about?", but hard to stop reading once I've gotten far enough into one of them to answer that question. Since it's got me hooked, I feel like spreading the affliction. Err, the wonder. Yeah.

"A distributed system is one in which I cannot get any work done because a machine I've never heard of is down." -- Leslie Lamport

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