* Posts by Richard Plinston

2609 posts • joined 27 Apr 2009

ALGOL 60 at 60: The greatest computer language you've never used and grandaddy of the programming family tree

Richard Plinston

Re: .. never used .. ?

> a batch system called George

GEORGE (GEneral ORGanization Environment) was an ICL 1900 batch operating system with various versions from 1S to 4. I doubt that it had anything to do with Elliott machines.

(I actually joined I.C.T., one of the companies that formed ICL).

Richard Plinston

> So do you remember the significance of 7036875 ?

No, but 8,388,608 still haunts me!

Hint: PIC S1(23) SYNC RIGHT.

First it became Middle Earth, now New Zealand will transform into Azure region number 60

Richard Plinston

> Another related problem is time difference.

That can be an advantage rather than a problem. A few years ago I was developing a fairly large system for a UK based company while residing in NZ. I would develop and code during the day and early evening and then send the new code to the UK agent (using 56k modems) and they would test and I would have the results and comments by breakfast. We got a lot done in a very short time.

If you're writing code in Python, JavaScript, Java and PHP, relax. The hot trendy languages are still miles behind, this survey says

Richard Plinston

Re: Python and the minus in a filename

> this-is-a-file-name.txt ... Yet I've never been able to get Python to allow me to do this. Is it really forbidden?

You are talking nonsense. A filename in Python must be in a string, such as in quotes or apostrophes, and thus almost any character is allowed, including hyphens.

fd = open("this-is-a-file-name.txt", mode)

is perfectly valid.

Richard Plinston

Re: Java tied for #2

> #2 for so long is generally followed eventually by being #3 and then #4, etc

The ranking is based on the number of people asking questions. To bring a language back to number one just put out a new release with lots of new features that programmers will want to try to use.

Richard Plinston


> lots of dinguses asking stupid questions...

Yes. These types of rankings may actually list the number of programmers who don't know the languages (ie counting questions asked) or by counting the number of empty desks where currently no one is programming (ie job ads).

Richard Plinston


> You don't implement the Quicksort algorithm in COBOL.

I have done that, in CIS COBOL on 64Kb CP/M. While COBOL does have a SORT verb, at the time it only worked on files and the program needed an array sorted. Since the mid 80s SORT has worked on arrays.

> but that's not its problem space so just don't.

Sorting is very much part of COBOL's problem space.

Flat Earther and wannabe astronaut killed in homemade rocket

Richard Plinston

> [most likely an oral account penned to papyrus by Moses or one of his scribes]

it is unlikely that _anything_ in the bible was written down before 'fist temple' around 10C BCE. The main reason for this is that before then there was no written form of Hebrew. This is several centuries after the alleged time of Moses. Most of the stories in Genesis are retellings of older stories taken from other tribal groups, and are just stories (and not 'accounts').

Around 3C BCE the various different collections of stories and other writings were combined with some being discarded to arrive at what later became the OT.

Richard Plinston

> let the flat-earth crowd say what they want,

Unfortunately some of these people get into government or on school boards and then try to make their ideas compulsory.

Richard Plinston

> If you want to tst things out for yourself you don't rely on optical instruments when the Mk 1 eyeball suffices.

Mk 1 eyeballs are completely unreliable in so many ways. They are also only backed up by human memory which is even more unreliable. If you have two observers of an event you are likely to get three or more incompatible descriptions of what happened.

Optical instruments can be calibrated and corrections applied. They can also record so that comparisons can be made.

Richard Plinston

Re: I doubt he was bright enough to build a rocket

> anyone that believes it has to be so batshit crazy

Not any more so than your average fundamentalist christian bible believer. Most of those seem to function OK in normal society, most of the time. Geocentralism is the next stage because why would their god create earth in a backwater of a massive galaxy among millions. They want to feel that they personally are the centre of the universe and the reason for everything.

Yea, OK, they are batshit crazy.

Richard Plinston

> Why not 3 parachutes

Because once you have increased the weight of the craft to greater than the thrust of the rocket the parachutes will no longer be required.

Richard Plinston

Re: Don't underestimate steam

> partly there to make sure you come out alive and uninjured every time

A good landing is where you can walk out. A great landing is where the vehicle can be used again after landing.

Richard Plinston

> your flat earther friend does not exist.

He didn't say he was a friend. Flat earthers do exist but are best avoided.

Richard Plinston

Re: Stupid is as Stupid does

> Powered using a steam engine. Not sure that counts as a rocket.

Stephenson thought it counted.


Richard Plinston

> a religious belief connected to biblical literalism.

As one flat earther put it: "If we are monkeys on a spinning ball then there is no god."

They want to have been created as the centre of the universe. Being on an insignificant rock around a mediocre sun on the edge of one of millions of galaxies just doesn't make them feel important enough to overcome the failure that they were told they were all through school.

Oracle tells Supremes: Fair use? Pah! There's nothing fair about 'Google's copying'

Richard Plinston

Re: A plague on both of them

> original creators of the APIs (AT&T?).

AT&T -> Unix System Labs -> Novell -> Santa Cruz Operation (SCO) -> The SCO Group?

Microsoft boffin inadvertently highlights .NET image woes by running C# on Windows 3.11

Richard Plinston

Re: "Visual Studio is a paid-for product"

> those Brits who see that as a version of a weight-describing Pound symbol!

You are confused. The 'Brits' do not use 'hash' as pound weight. It happens that on a US keyboard the 'hash' is shift-3 while on a UK keyboard that is where the pound money symbol (stylized L) is. The use of hash as a form of 'lb' (pound weight), according to Wikipedia, is chiefly in the US.


Richard Plinston

Re: VisualBasic developers are daft enough to fail to realize this

> in the cloud ... real money in your pocket.

No. That translates to 'money in Microsoft's pocket'.

Richard Plinston

Re: 32 bit processors were common from 1985

> backwards compatible with earlier ... 8 bit processors. (8080/8085,

No, it wasn't, not with 8 bit stuff.

There was a V20 and V30 that were 8088/8086 compatible and also could run 8080/8085 stuff but the 80386 and later could not.

Don't mention the seam! Microsoft releases Surface Duo Android SDK, more on Windows 10X

Richard Plinston

Re: RE: You ain't Spartacus! I'm Spartacus!

> You really need to take criticism of Android less personally.

But your post wasn't an actual 'criticism of _Android_'.

Python overtakes Java to become second-most popular language on GitHub after JavaScript

Richard Plinston

Re: Hardly representitive!!

> 'the most popular language' = what shows up in 'wanted, experience in ...'

Ahh, the 'empty desk count'. That has been used to claim 'popularity' in some form, as if the lack of people willing to fill the desk that requires working in that language represents it being popular.

Controversies aren't Boeing away for aircraft maker amid claims of faulty oxygen systems and wobbling wings

Richard Plinston

> I think the Airbus issue sounds a bit more concerning.

It would be if flights lasted 150 hours.

First Python feature release under new governance model is here, complete with walrus operator (:=)

Richard Plinston

Re: What was wrong with C's implementation?

> It is more useful in a while statement:

> while(data = strm.get()) != EOF) {

Python doesn't need that assignment, nor test for EOF:

fd = open(filename)

for data in fd:

process data

Nor does it suffer from buffer overflow.

Richard Plinston

> Its an assignment operator in ALGOL

No. Assignment is a statement in Algol (and Pascal), not an operator.

> the great-grandparent of all block structured languages

No. Algol is the ancestor of Pascal like languages. C derives from CPL via BCPL and B, and not from Algol.

Richard Plinston

Re: :=

> Algol 60's assignment operator.

No. In C the equal sign (=) is an _operator_ that causes assignment in an expression. 'x = 0' is an expression. This is why assignment can be done in an if statement evaluation.

In Algol and Pascal the ":=" is part of the syntax of an assignment statement. 'x := 0' is a statement, not an expression, because ':=' is not an expression operator.

This is a fundamental difference between Pascal like languages and C like. Assignment in an 'if' can lead to errors, not only because '=' can be mistakenly written instead of '==' but because of 'short circuiting' evaluations may fail to do the intended assignment.

Fairytale for 2019: GNOME to battle a patent troll in court

Richard Plinston

> Shotwell itself is prior art.

USPTO changed to a 'first to file' system which means that prior art is irrelevant.


Richard Plinston

Re: Subsequent litigation.

> They make far more income from accepting applications than rejection,

Also, if an agent rejects a patent application, they have to write a report explaining why. If they accept it nothing is required.

If an organization challenges a patent asking for a review, then they get to pay for that too.

As Windows 10 lands on 900m devices, Microsoft shows us the shape of clunk to come (again)

Richard Plinston

restart them after I sign in

Every developer will now be creating UWPs that will have that setting forced on somehow in a rerun of Javascript pop-up heaven.

Are you a Nim-by? C-ish language, gentler than Go, friendlier than Rust, reaches version 1.0

Richard Plinston

> Python does in fact support semicolon termination.

No. You are wromg. Python uses the semicolon as a separator, not a terminator.

"""Python uses the ; as a separator, not a terminator. You can also use them at the end of a line, which makes them look like a statement terminator, but this is legal only because blank statements are legal in Python -- a line that contains a semicolon at the end is two statements, the second one blank."""

German ministry hellbent on taking back control of 'digital sovereignty', cutting dependency on Microsoft

Richard Plinston

> you could use Linux without the GNU stuff, but nobody really does this

except _everyone_ with an Android phone.

All three of the Insiders on Arm64 can now muck about with Windows Subsystem for Linux 2

Richard Plinston

> But why does an unattended device running somewhere on your network need a DESKTOP for chrissakes? IoT FAIL.

Why would an unattended device running somewhere on your network need Windows of any description?

Richard Plinston

> Windows kind of works on Raspberry Pi

There was a version of Windows IoT (Internet of Things) that would run on Pi3 (not 2 or Zero) but it had no desktop and wouldn't run anything but UWPs. Actually it would only run one UWP because there was no launcher - it was boot and run only. It required a full Windows 10 PC to get it to do anything.

Incoming... Trump! Notebook makers ramp production to avoid next tidal wave of US trade tariffs

Richard Plinston

Re: Aren't you forgetting...

> The jobs "lost" in the short term are retail jobs.

"""Trump's trade war with China has reduced U.S. employment by 300,000 jobs through a combination of eliminated jobs by companies struggling with tariffs and jobs that would have been created but weren't because of reduced economic activity. Moody's Analytics forecasts that the job toll from the trade war will hit about 450,000 by the end of the year, if there are no changes in policy. (Yahoo Finance)"""

Richard Plinston

Re: Aren't you forgetting...

> The gains long term are in [local] manufacturing.

No. They just move the manufacturing to Vietnam or Taiwan (or ship there to re-brand).

The problem in your argument is the "long term". With Trump being so unstable no one knows what he will do tomorrow, there is no 'long term', all plans are dealing with what happened today.

Richard Plinston

Re: Aren't you forgetting...

> it is more in the range of half that at retail,

You don't understand how retail price is set.

It may be that the tariff that had been paid was a smaller fraction of the retail price but retailers don't care about that, they just add their margin (up to 100%) to whatever cost price they have to pay.

Richard Plinston

Re: Aren't you forgetting...

> but less of it will come from internal taxation.

Yes, there may be less income tax when employees are laid off due to decreased sales, less company tax when businesses have less sales revenue, extra costs and thus less profits or go bust.

Is that a good thing?

Richard Plinston

Re: Aren't you forgetting...

> and offsets other taxes

It doesn't offset the taxes paid by the consumer, they still pay taxes _and_ pay more for their goods.

As these tariffs are likely to reduce corporate profits then it may reduce the tax on profit paid by companies and the very very wealthy.

Richard Plinston

Re: I hope they impeach his ass.

> It doesn't hurt the business so much as they just pass along the costs to us

Price increases -> reduced sales -> reduction in production -> employee layoffs. This leads to fixed costs being supported by reduced gross profit. Loss of experienced employees means that if/when the tariffs are reduced/removed it takes longer/costs more to build up production again.

The consequence is that manufacturers will try to absorb the extra costs in order to keep production up and keep employees expecting that the trade war will end. If it doesn't then the business may fold completely.

I am not sure why you think that this "doesn't hurt the businesses".

Windows on Arm keeps low profile at IFA as Intel takes swipe at platform's compatibility problems

Richard Plinston

Re: I can't see what the fuss is all about

> An incompatible change in either may spoil your day.

Actually I see it the other way. The cross-platform layer will cope with changes in the OS layers better than application code using that directly. Given that Microsoft has dead-ended or re-implemented several of its toolkits over the years some isolation from this may be appropriate.

Richard Plinston

Re: I can't see what the fuss is all about

> There's little reason not to move applications to x64

Now there is one: WoA, which Microsoft is pushing against ChromeOS, will only run 32 bit x86.

Richard Plinston

Re: I can't see what the fuss is all about

> Sure, and you can do the same with Java and some other cross-platform languages or toolkits.

Exactly. There are many GUIs for Linux and most are cross platform.

> versioning and deployment issues.

Just like Windows has.

Richard Plinston

Re: I can't see what the fuss is all about

> It has pretty much always been multi platform

NT yes. Windows 1 to 3 was 8086, 80286 and 80386. NT was written on MIPS because the contemporary 20MHz 80386 was not up to doing the job.

But it is the applications that have not been multi-platform. Office had to run in a form of emulation mode on Alpha and the RT version was very cut down and still needed Win32 libraries that were unavailable to other applications.

Most applications can't or won't be ported to other CPUs making it pointless to run Windows on anything but Intel/AMD.

Even though this WoA will run x86 (32bit only and slowly) many applications are 64bit only now. I recall when MS was trying to force everyone to 64bit by announcing that Windows 7 was the 'last 32bit version'.

Richard Plinston

Re: I can't see what the fuss is all about

> Yes, it is the GUI that spoils portability.

In the past I have written Python/Glade GUI applications that ran on Linux, Windows and Nokia N800 (small ARM tablet) with no code changes and no recompiles. Just make sure that the GTK libraries are installed, load and run.

Richard Plinston

Re: "Almost 40 years ago I ported applications"

> Today it's difficult even to achieve good GUI application portability across Linux distros

Complete nonsense - is that you, RICHTO/TheVogan? still churning out uninformed dogma for 30 years?

Richard Plinston

Re: An answer in search of a question

> Maybe Windows on Arm is just a big stick for Microsoft to beat Intel with.

Previous iterations of WoA, which became Windows RT, was a big stick to beat OEMs with: "Make your ARM devices run WoA or lose your 'loyalty' discounts on _all_ devices and computers."

This worked for HP and WebOS.

Actually i think that this iteration of WoA is to beat OEMs who think they can make ChromeBooks and still keep their discounts. It would be a shame if they had to pay retail prices for Windows 10 and Office to install on their PCs and laptops they wanted to sell.

Similarly they revived XP to beat netbook making OEMs who thought they could get away with running Linux.

Microsoft's only gone and published the exFAT spec, now supports popping it in the Linux kernel

Richard Plinston

Re: My uninformed comment

> The other issue IINM is that FAT32 use beyond 32GB is discouraged

I recall when FAT was limited to 32 megabytes. This was FAT16 of MS-DOS 3.x and limited to 16,000 (or so) clusters of 2,048bytes. Several manufacturers, such as Compaq and Gateway raised the limit in various incompatible ways. This made IBM uncompetitive because they stuck with the 32Mb limit until they rewrote the code to give a 128Mb limit and handed it back to MS to be MS-DOS 4.01.

The main problem with FAT though is that it is awful in handling large random access files, such as ISAM or databases. To access a particular sector it must start at the directory entry and read every FAT entry for that file until it gets to the required sector. This is very, very slow. Fortunately DR-DOS 3.x could format a disk with larger clusters. 8K clusters gave a 3x performance improvement on standard 2K clusters on ISAM files randomly read simply due to less FAT entries needing to be read for every step.

Richard Plinston

Re: Bring compatibility problems to Window, not the other way around

> OS/2 never supported ...

There were other Microsoft tricks that were done to break OS/2:

* OS/2 required about 22 diskettes. When a new release of OS/2 was due Microsoft went to the few diskette manufacturers and bought the next six month's supply of diskettes. These were loaded with 'Windows for Workgroups 3.11' and stored in several warehouses awaiting sale as it was around a year's supply. Then MS announced Windows 95 and sales of WFW dropped. Eventually this became known as 'Windows for Warehouses' and millions of diskettes were dumped. It did kill OS/2 sales though which is what was intended.

* IBM was allowed to use any _current_ version of Windows. When Windows was originally to be included in OS/2 the current version was 3.1. Microsoft announced that 3.11 would be released 'soon' so IBM built the new OS/2 with 3.11 and announced it. The anti-monopoly ruling required that IBM could not pre-announce products more than 3 months ahead so there was a date that they had to release by. Microsoft held off the release of 3.11 until after that date so that OS/2 had to be released with the old 3.1.

Richard Plinston

Re: Bring compatibility problems to Window, not the other way around

> Anyway, OS/2 never supported 32 bit applications,

OS/2 supported OS/2 32 bit applications.

Windows 3.11 on OS/2 could run 32 bit applications when the win32s add-on was installed, exactly like the usual Windows 3.x. However, Microsoft added a particular feature in a later version of win32s that did a memory access beyond the 2Gb virtual memory limit of the OS/2. The only purpose of that was to stop the latest version running on OS/2.

"The job ain't done 'til Lotus won't run!"

Richard Plinston

Re: What if ...

> Wasn't FAT based on one of the hundreds of CP/M formats.

No. There were not "hundreds of CP/M formats". There was one file system implemented on many different capabilities of hardware. For example drives may have been hard sectored or soft sectored, FM or MFM, single density, double density, quad density, 40 or 80 track. 8, 9 or 10 sectored, with various skew factors. These different types of hardware were chosen for various cost, performance and availability reasons. For example particular controllers were slower and required a longer time between sector reads and thus a particular skew factor and/or inter-sector gap.

Even with [MS-]DOS there were still 'dozens of formats'. The original diskettes on an IBM PC were 160Kb. Other companies used different controllers and drives and could not directly exchange data with different machines. PC-Alien could read and write many 'alien' CP/M formats _and_ many 'alien' MS-DOS formats.

It was only when all manufacturers started building IBM clones that they (mostly) used the same drives and controllers and became compatible with IBM PC diskettes.

But, no, FAT file system in the way it allocates and records file sectors is completely different from CP/M's. The only similarity is part of the directory entry so that the FCBs can be compatible for converted software.

> As DOS itself was a rip off of CPM/86.

No. It was a rip off of CP/M converted to 16bit 8086/8088. It was probably CP/M 1.3 because PC-DOS 1.0 had a bug in the FCB handling on a close that existed in that version of CP/M. Both Microsoft and SCP were OEMs for DRI CP/M (MS for their Z80 softcard) and had all the code that DRI gave to OEMs.


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