* Posts by MacroRodent

1644 posts • joined 18 May 2007

'It's really hard to find maintainers...' Linus Torvalds ponders the future of Linux

MacroRodent Silver badge

Re: Another problem of a monolithic monster kernel

That is a different issue. The Linux kernel crew does not promise, in fact it aggressively denies, that internal kernel interfaces are stable. Only the user space interface is preserved.

A microkernel could have the same problem, depending on the attitudes of the implementers. They might not care about having stable interfaces between the component processes.

Personally, I think the Linux kernel should aim for some kind of stability of intra-kernel interfaces at source level, maybe breaking it only every third year or so. On the other hand, you already can use the long-term support kernel series, which already behave like that. You get breakage only when upgrading to a newer series, which you can postpone for years (https://www.kernel.org/category/releases.html).

MacroRodent Silver badge

Re: Another problem of a monolithic monster kernel

The Linux kernel is "monolithic", but that does not mean it is not modular. It is. If you modify it, you have the know the interfaces related to your modification, but you do not have to understand all of the kernel in detail.

For example, adding a new device driver, or maintaining one can be done without understanding all the details of file systems or scheduling.

MacroRodent Silver badge

Re: It's really hard to find people to do a generally thankless task

Thankfully, Linux has had a well-known standard license (GPL2) almost since the beginning, and has tracked contributors closely, so that something as bad as the ncurses scenario hopefully wont happen.

Russia returns to space tourism and offers a first citizen spacewalk

MacroRodent Silver badge

Re: Trip of a lifetime....

> you're in space for 2 weeks actually floating about and possibly assisting with science n stuff.

More likely the tourist will just be getting in the way of the astronauts doing useful stuff.

Apple gives Boot Camp the boot, banishes native Windows support from Arm-compatible Macs

MacroRodent Silver badge

Re: Bochs

That's nice. But on Mac, QEMU apparently cannot use KVM or Apple's Hypervisor without added hacking, so it still has to emulate instructions. I agree it is nevertheless likely to be much faster than Bochs, which does only straightforward instruction-by-instruction emulation without JIT.

MacroRodent Silver badge

Re: Bochs

Does QEMU even run on any MacOS variant? I was under the impression it is rather Linux-specific.

Bochs is a fairly portable and complete emulator, but also rather slow.

An unfortunate bit of product placement for Microsoft as Liverpool celebrates winning some silverware

MacroRodent Silver badge
Pint

Well that was

eagle-eyed! Small text in the corner, wth "the bork" even fainter. Cheers!

NASA mulls going all steam-punk with a fleet of jumping robots to explore Saturn and Jupiter's mysterious moons

MacroRodent Silver badge
Mushroom

Nuclear?

Article neglected to mention where the energy comes from for this ice-melting and steam generation. As sunlight is scant, especially on Titan and Enceladus, they must use nuclear power, or an RTG. Maybe each football has a conventional battery, but the mothership needs a lot of energy to charge the fleet.

Internet Society, remember your embarrassing .org flub? The actual internet society would like to talk about it

MacroRodent Silver badge
Mushroom

Re: ISOC and PIR

Really hard to see how ISOC could "regain the trust" after this. The organization should be dismantled, or at least the entire board and management should be replaced, with the ex-board members banned for life from any position in the organization.

Apple to keep Intel at Arm's length: macOS shifts from x86 to homegrown common CPU arch, will run iOS apps

MacroRodent Silver badge

Re: Rosetta

> Serialisation relies on exact alignment

If you serialize data relying on structure alignment, you are doing it completely wrong, unless the serialized data is guaranteed to be never read by anything else but the same program on a similar machine.

MacroRodent Silver badge
Boffin

Re: Rosetta

> in low-level languages like C (and Objective C) may make assumptions about memory alignment and layout that may not be preserved when recompiling to another platform.

X86_64 and ARM are very similar in this respect. Both are little-endian 64-bit architectures. Different endianness and differing pointer sizes are in my experience the biggest bugaboos, when porting low-level C code. It also customary to use natural alignment on both platforms, so structure layouts are similar. I expect even poorly written C code will in most cases work with just a recompilation.

Windows fails to reach the Finnish line as Helsinki signage pleads for help

MacroRodent Silver badge

Re: Photo reflection

If you look at the far right closely, you notice part of the white smokestack of a large ferry. This is possible only if the reflected building (the Old Market Hall) is south of the display. The open-air market would not be visible in the reflection.

MacroRodent Silver badge

Managing a fleet

Have you checked Ansible?

Release the pressure: Win16 support arrives for version 3.2 of Free Pascal

MacroRodent Silver badge

Pascal shall rise again

Sounds fun, got to try it to see it it can compile my own old Pascal compiler project (attempted port of P-pascal that has gathered dust for about 30 years now...). But Win16 support? OK, if it scratches someones itch, but it is hard to see why one of the the worst programming environments ever, which isn't even "cool" by any measure, still excites anyone.

Hey is trying a new take on email – but maker complains of 'outrageous' demands after Apple rejects iOS app

MacroRodent Silver badge

"If I'm replying to specific points in an emai...

> If I'm replying to specific points in an email (or on a forum) I'll inline my replies with the individual points I'm addressing.

Yes, that is how we used to use email in days of yore. But Microsoft email clients make it maddeningly laborious. Even worse, some variants (at least the web one) may actually hide your nicely written mail if you quote material and reply under it, because the client thinks everything under the quote is part of the old thread, and helpfully hides it.

That is why, after decades of fighting it, I gave up, and started top-posting in work emails.

Microsoft really broke the classic email system.

MacroRodent Silver badge

"Now Apple has altered the deal."

Apple, wearing a Darth Vader helmet: "I am altering the deal, pray I don't alter it any further."

OK Windows 10, we get it: You really do not want us to install this unsigned application. But 7 steps borders on ridiculous

MacroRodent Silver badge

Re: Apple have got this right!

Exactly. If you want to actually be in control of the computer you own, Linux, FreeBSD, NetBSD etc are the only option (or rather, an up-to-date option, you could also run MS-DOS, DR-DOS or very old versions of Windows... could be sufficient depending on what you do, I heard George RR Martin used MS-DOS and Wordstar to write the Game of Thrones books).

If you WANT that kind of "protection" (from pay-for certs by developers) it should be OPT IN ONLY,

In fact, you do get a certain degree of protection of that kind for Linux binaries, if you use only programs from the official repository of the distribution. These are signed. And it is definitely an opt-in mechanism.

MacroRodent Silver badge

Re: Colin Wilson 2 - Apple have got this right!

If the company believes there's business value in using that application, it will evaluate it, package it and deploy it in a secure manner.

And then forget to keep it up-to-date, so users get some turd 1.0 version while the developer is going at 3.1... Seen this happen. Fortunately the company I work at has not tried to enforce downloading only from the "software central", and in any case I now run Linux on the work computer, which they are enlightened enough to permit.

Snapping at Canonical's Snap: Linux Mint team says no to Ubuntu store 'backdoor'

MacroRodent Silver badge

Lenovo supports

If Lenovo makes sure both Red Hat and Ubuntu run on their systems, then installing other distributions is likely to be painless. Recall it is about hardware support, and the part that talks to the hardware - the kernel - is shared infrastructure in all distributions. Even if Lenovo were to release some support only in blobs and closed kernel modules, instead of donating it to kernel.org kernel, they really cannot make those usable only on Red hat and Ubuntu. And why should they even try?

This'll make you feel old: Uni compsci favourite Pascal hits the big five-oh this year

MacroRodent Silver badge
Linux

Re: Berkeley Pascal

I think the free (as in no cost) was less important than that there was source (*) and documentation about Unix. You could run assignments like add feature X to unix. Try doing that with VAX/VMS.

(*) Strictly speaking, Unix was not "open source" as we now know, but its source was easily available to academic institutions. Eventually Berkeley reimplemented bits and pieces and eventually released the result under a liberal open source license, leading to lawsuit by AT&T, which was settled in 1994. Long-standing uncertainty about the legal status of BSD is one reason Linux is the most used free OS, and not FreeBSD or NetBSD...

MacroRodent Silver badge
Boffin

Berkeley Pascal

Another implementation that was used in universities was Berkeley Pascal, which came with BSD Unix. As a student, I wrote some lengthy pieces of Pascal code in it for analysing Petri nets. (Now I hardly remember what those things were). This implementation produced native code for the VAX, and had enough nonstandard additions to make it just about practical for programming.

Compared to the alternatives available (K&R C and Fortran), it was the best choice for this task, in the sense that the resulting program was more likely to be correct.

Surprise! That £339 world's first 'anti-5G' protection device is just a £5 USB drive with a nice sticker on it

MacroRodent Silver badge

PT Barnum

Most Barnum comparisons do him injustice. He was actually just a showman who honestly sold entertainment, and not snake oil.

Trump issues toothless exec order to show donors, fans he's doing something about those Twitter twerps

MacroRodent Silver badge

Re: Simple Response.

> He could of course always open up on TikTok.

I noticed that gab.com posted a thread advertising themselves below one Trump tweet. They said they already had created an account for Trump.

Really wish he and his followers took their marbles there. This would improve Twitter considerably.

Linus Torvalds drops Intel and adopts 32-core AMD Ryzen Threadripper on personal PC

MacroRodent Silver badge
Linux

Re: Quite an upgrade...

The book does not mention buying the 387, and at the time it was a rather expensive add-on that was considered useful only for people with number-crunching needs. The Linux kernel also has included code for 387 emulation starting from quite early versions. So my guess is he did not have it in his first 386 computer. But further research is needed to be sure.

MacroRodent Silver badge

Re: Quite an upgrade...

He had a Sinclair QL, but started writing Linux only after getting a 386-based PC. The man himself describes shopping for it:

"January 2, 1991. It was the first day the stores were open after Christmas, and my twenty-first birthday, the two biggest cash-generating days on my calendar. [...] It was at one one of these small corner shops, sort of a mom-and-pop computer store, only in this case it was just pop. I didn't care about the manufacturer, so I settled on a no-name, white-box computer. The guy showed you a price list and a smorgasbord of what CPU was available, how much memory, what disk size. I wanted power. I wanted to have 4 megabytes of RAM instead of 2 megabytes. I wanted 33 megahertz. Sure, I could have settled for 16 megahertz, but no, I wanted top of the line." (from "Just for Fun", Chapter IV).

MacroRodent Silver badge

Re: Quite an upgrade...

> I've got a photo somewhere of his old student 486, which is on display in a museum in Helsinki.

Thanks. I did not know it was on display (and I live in Helsinki). Definitely on my places to visit list when museums reopen. Some info from the University of Helsinki web pages:

"The Power of Thought" is a permanent exhibition of the University of Helsinki and its students, teachers and researchers. [...] Later objects in the exhibition include a computer used by Linus Torvalds and a student boilersuit from 2007. The exhibition is situated on the 3rd floor of the main building of the University (Fabianinkatu 33).

Microsoft drops a little surprise thank-you gift for sitting through Build: The source for GW-BASIC

MacroRodent Silver badge

The main program comment

The comment of the main program in GWMAIN.ASM is interesting as it says who wrote the original MS BASIC and when:

COMMENT *

--------- ---- -- ---- ----- --- ---- -----

COPYRIGHT 1975 BY BILL GATES AND PAUL ALLEN

--------- ---- -- ---- ----- --- ---- -----

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ON THE PDP-10 FROM

FEBRUARY 9 TO APRIL 9 1975

BILL GATES WROTE A LOT OF STUFF.

PAUL ALLEN WROTE A LOT OF OTHER STUFF AND FAST CODE.

MONTE DAVIDOFF WROTE THE MATH PACKAGE (F4I.MAC).

*

Mind your language: Microsoft set to swing the axe on 27 languages in iOS Outlook

MacroRodent Silver badge

Speed learning

> Affected users have been given until the end of June to switch to a supported language in order to continue using the Outlook for iOS app.

So about one and half months to learn a new language... and in some cases a new script as well. Maybe there is an app for that.

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

MacroRodent Silver badge

Re: Algol 68 is not ALGOL 60

Defining procedures inside procedures was already in Algol 60 and in most languages descended from it. I recall using it enthusiastically in my beginner Pascal programs. In fact, lack of this feature in C and C++ is rather the exception.

MacroRodent Silver badge

Re: Algol marches on

Besides modern FORTRAN has about as much resemblance to the original 1950's FORTRAN as Algol 60 has to C. It is in practice an entirely different language.

MacroRodent Silver badge

Re: Algol 68 is not ALGOL 60

> lgol 60 begat both Algol 68 and Pascal ... and quite a few other languages along the way (Simula, anyone?).

I never used Algol 60, but I did do an exercise in SIMULA-67 at the Helsinki University of Technology. It had the same syntax as Algol 60, but added classes, with objects allocated dynamically, had garbage-collector (like Java decades later...), strings, and a sensible I/O library.

It actually felt a way more practical language than the Pascal compiler used in earlier courses. Pascal at the time omitted too many real world features. It was impossible to make a portable program that processed a named file. In fact, making a portable program that reads a string from the terminal, and prints something in response, was impossible, because the INPUT stream was defined to work in a way that only a theorist would love. Every implementation had a different workaround for this, or just redefined the I/O semantics, like Turbo Pascal did.

The end really is nigh – for 32-bit Windows 10 on new PCs

MacroRodent Silver badge

Re: I honestly thought it never existed

> and yet, for a while, at least, one could run Win16 software under Wine on 64-bit Linux.

Interesting. Perhaps it used instruction set emulation for the 16-bit code.

For Linux, there is a fork of DOSEMU (an old VM86-based system for running MS-DOS) that handles 16-bit code on 64-bit Linux using the modern virtual machine features, instead of VM86. I have yet to try this project myself, but here it is: https://github.com/dosemu2/dosemu2 .

MacroRodent Silver badge

Re: I honestly thought it never existed

> I think AMD's decision was fairly sensible; 16 bit modes had to go, and if not then, when?

AMD did not remove the 16-bit support entirely. At start-up even the 64-bit x86 CPU runs in "real" 16-bit mode. You could in principle boot it into MS-DOS, but I suspect the modern peripherals and motherboards could cause compatibility issues. Also, if you run a 32-bit OS on it, the VM86 mode is still available.

MacroRodent Silver badge

Re: I honestly thought it never existed

DOSBOX is probably the easiest to set up for casual MS-DOS use. It includes an emulated DOS, so no need to install FreeDOS or any other additional package. (If you really want, it is possible to run a real MS-DOS or FreeDOS inside DOSBOX, but that is more complex and usually not needed).

It is slower than a VM, but on modern machines, its emulation executes programs at least as fast as they ran on actual 80's PC:s. There is actually a setting for slowing things down, for some games.

MacroRodent Silver badge

Re: I honestly thought it never existed

Another thing a 64-bit Windows does not do is running MS-DOS applications out of the box. You have to install an emulator, such as DOSBOX, or install VM software and run MS-DOS in it (not sure if it is possible with VMWare or VirtualBox these days)

These limitations really boil down to the decisions AMD made when x86 was extended to 64 bits. The VM86 mode is not supported when running as a 64-bit CPU.

Total Eclipse to depart: Open-source software foundation is hopping the pond to Europe

MacroRodent Silver badge
Holmes

Re: A long time coming

> It is a mess for data transfer,

A few years back, I needed to make a Perl script to report test coverage data in a format that Excel can read. As it happens, some users had Finnish-localized Windowses (we use the comma like the Germans), some not. So CSV output caused some problems. I solved them by making the script output SYLK. This is an old text-based data interchange format (think RTF for spreadsheets), and is still supported by Excel and others. More complex than CSV, but not hard to generate from Perl, if all you have to do is to make a table with labels. And it is immune to the comma issue.

MacroRodent Silver badge

Foundations

> and Europeans want to have at least one open-source foundation that is distinctly European.

Thanks and welcome, but we already have at least one, the Document Foundation (https://www.documentfoundation.org/), the home of LibreOffice.

It is a charitable Foundation under German law: Gemeinnützige rechtsfähige Stiftung des bürgerlichen Rechts, so there!

Visual Studio Code 1.45 released: Binary custom editors and 'unbiased Notebook solution' in the works

MacroRodent Silver badge

Tried to like it, but

VS Code was one of the code editors I occasionally try - and then go back to Emacs. The one-window restriction was a major reason. Even Netbeans (which has its own suite of other problems) is better in this respect. Supporting only one window was excusable in the MS-DOS age, but not afterwards.

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Light-powered nanocardboard robots dancing in the Martian sky searching for alien life

MacroRodent Silver badge

Re: Dust

Why not hydrogen? Easy to produce from the water on Mars, and It isn't going to be explosive in the Martian atmosphere that contains almost no oxygen.

Source code for seminal adventure game Zork circa-1977 exhumed from MIT tapes, plonked on GitHub

MacroRodent Silver badge

Re: Odd? We already had this?

People have MDL compilers from the era (see the DECtape

At this time, a good language spec might be more useful. The wikipedia page suggests to me an interpreter could be implemented with some LISP hacking, the languages appear to be related.

MacroRodent Silver badge

MDL

Peeked at some of the files. This MDL language looks interesting. A lot like a variant of LISP, but with <> used instead of () in some places. Wikipedia has a description [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MDL_(programming_language) ] but no link to any implementation. So anyone porting Zork would have to start making one...

Pew-pew woo-hoo! Hong Kong reopens video arcades shut by coronavirus lockdown

MacroRodent Silver badge

Re: Dense city

It sees to me many in the far east cities wear masks anyway, as a custom that was established long before coronavirus. In Helsinki, Japanese and Chinese visitors were the only people seen wearing masks before corona times.

'VPs shouldn't go publicly rogue'... XML co-author Tim Bray quits AWS after Amazon fires COVID-19 whistleblowers

MacroRodent Silver badge

Re: "XML"

Right up to the point you want to validate the random sequence of characters claiming to be data.

Sorry but I have to disagree here. The syntax of JSON is far simpler than XML or ASN.1, so a coder is more likely to get it right, and anyway there are JSON parsing libraries for almost any programming language you care to name ( I have never had to write a JSON parser because of this). These either turn the "random sequence of characters" into a nice data structure, or return an error.

The one situation where processing JSON is inconvenient is a shell script, but why on Earth would you want to do that? Just use Perl or Python instead.

MacroRodent Silver badge

Re: "XML"

XML has valid uses, but unfortunately, at the top of its hype curve it was pushed as the data representation solution for everything. Frequently leading to 10K of XML boilerplate wrapping 1 byte of actual information... Nowadays JSON tends to be used instead, which makes far more sense for most purposes.

Fright at the museum: Bored curators play spooky Top Trumps on Twitter over who has the creepiest object

MacroRodent Silver badge

Re: A few years ago in Cornwall

The natural history museum in Helsinki has a two-headed calf, stuffed. Possibly even worse: during one visit as a child, I recall glimpsing through a half-open door (that probably should have been shut) things in glass jars that belong to a horror movie...

What's vexing Linux-loving Gophers? A few things: Go devs want generics, easier debugging

MacroRodent Silver badge

Link the world

ou can build self-contained executables that run pretty fast without the bloat or hassle of shipping a large runtime.

On the other hand, last time I looked you cannot escape this self-containment, which means it is no good for smaller programs. Each exe carries with it much of the runtime system, so they start at about 2Mb in size. By contrast, the loated version of the "cat" command on Fedora Linux is 46K.

Lockdown endgame? There won't be one until the West figures out its approach to contact-tracing apps

MacroRodent Silver badge

Re: Wrong answer

Indeed, if it turns out that immunity to coronavirus is short-lived, an effective medicine may turn out to be the better solution (there is precendent: there still is no HIV vaccine, but the disease can be kept in check by an antiviral cocktail). Of course, at this point we do not know which is it, so looking for both a medicine and a vaccine are top priorities.

India kicks off competition for home-grown video conferencing clone

MacroRodent Silver badge

Open Source?

I think there are a number of open source options, like Jitsi discussed at https://lwn.net/Articles/815751/

(never used any of them myself, but then, the only conferences I need are the webex ones provided by my employer).

Ofcom waves DAB radio licences under local broadcasters' noses as FM switchoff debate smoulders again

MacroRodent Silver badge
Mushroom

Re: Many problems

In Finland, people are encouraged to have some battery-powered radio at home, for getting announcements and news in case of the WW3, zombie apocalypse or other disasters. We don't have DAB at all (it was tried for a year or two, then discontinued as nobody was listening), so I have a little Sony FM + shortwave radio that runs for days on two AA batteries.

What is the actual duration you can use a modern battery-powered DAB? (or how many batteries you would have to stockpile for a week of listening in your bunker?)

Mozilla plugs two Firefox browser holes exploited in the wild by hackers to hijack victims' computers

MacroRodent Silver badge

Re: One returning to the fold

I had been using Chrome almost exclusively on Fedora Linux, but the other day the Webex remote meeting system my firm uses mysteriously stopped working on Chrome, claiming this platform combination is not supported. Still works fine on Firefox, so I had to switch. Not much difference otherwise, Firefox performance seems to have caught up. It used to render some JavaScript-heavy sites slower.

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