* Posts by David Fetrow

23 publicly visible posts • joined 2 May 2011

40 years of Turbo Pascal, the coding dinosaur that revolutionized IDEs

David Fetrow

Note Joke Alert

"can it compile to a .com" meant, I think, can python programs compile to a .com?

The joke being one rarely sees .com (64K code limit) these days.

David Fetrow

Re: University 1987

Maybe C++ is little like PL/1 in that regard; My initial impression on trying to read that book was: this is probably a great language.....for coding geniuses.

It may be that the mere mortals among us eventually settled into mostly using a common subset of the language, which is more manageable.

David Fetrow

Arguably the best (for a hot minute)

There was a period where I could argue TurboPascal was the very best environment available for simple-ish programs on CP/M and MS-DOS.

When PC's were still very expensive, CP/M machines were merely expensive and hard disks were rare; I could develop on my Kaypro or Commodore 128 using a single floppy and then compile and run it on MS-DOS PC's.

That 128, once a RAM disk was added: awesome fast development. I still miss it sometimes.

For a project that could be done in a day or so; very pleasant. Fast compiles and it would pop you directly into the IDE at the first syntax error it found, pretty amazing for its day and what it was running on.

I can't speak to speed of execution as I didn't have the hundreds of dollars to get something to compare it to; but its primary competition in the space and time I was playing in was interpreted Basic and it was a lot faster than that!

How a tax form kludge gifted the world 25 joyous years of PDF

David Fetrow

Sun Microsystems also used Display Postscript

Sun supported (but few used natively) Display Postscript in their windowing system back in the day.

Linux is so grown up, it's ready for marriage with containers

David Fetrow

Nitpick: Containers not all that new in Linux

Yes LXC is relatively new, quite nice, built in, popular and that's what Docker uses.

There have, however, been usable Linux containers (usable for my purposes at the time) before LXC (although they usually [always?] required a patched kernel). Vserver-Linux was what we used but there were more.


Doctor Who's good/bad duality, war futility tale in The Zygon Inversion fails to fizz

David Fetrow

For what it's worth....

(and it may not be worth anything). I liked this episode. A LOT.

That peace is at least as hard and sisyphean as war is not message we get to hear much. I love that the maintenance of the truce requires effort and cleverness and even people who can't quite manage to do the job, do what they can within their limits (e.g. Kate agreeing to a memory wipe).

...but that ending. Wow.

--- If you haven't seen it yet, please skip this until you do ---

Bonnie needed the Osgood box. To use the Osgood box she needed to understand how the Doctor thinks. To understand how the Doctor thinks is to: 1) Realize the Osgood box won't get her what she wants and 2) To lose the desire to use the Osgood box even if it did give her what she had wanted.

The initial feints and misdirects and strategies largely serve to get Bonnie thinking in new ways so she's open to changing her mind.

That's not just pretty people, that's elegant.

Microsoft cries UNINSTALL in the wake of Blue Screens of Death™

David Fetrow

Spelling in Title

Excuse me if I'm missing yet another clever name for Microsoft (e.g. "House of Blues-screen") but the title says "Remond" instead of "Redmond" as I'm typing this. Error or correct?

Apple files patent for typo-sensing buttons

David Fetrow

Sounds Familiar

I believe the casio calculator watch and/or palm treo did something very similar

with their tiny keyboards....or am I missing something?


David Fetrow

Reversible Type A Connector

There are reversible USB cables now. They aren't exactly official but they do seem to work.

Until recently typing "reversible USB cable" into a search engine worked but the new spec has swamped the gadget.

Searching for "reversible USB A connector" still finds examples.

'Amazon has destroyed the unicorn factory' ... How clouds are making sysadmins extinct

David Fetrow

Clouds and Unicorns, parallels in recent history

Yeah, we obviously haven't worked out exactly where clouds make sense and they don't. It's all still rapidly evolving...but I am old enough to have been through this a few times. Here are some previous experiences:

The VAX will never replace the tasks done by PDP-10's and, even if it can, it won't do them well enough.

A database on Unix? Ha! It doesn't have the special file formats like VMS.

Email server on Windows? Insane!

Move the mainframe tasks to a server farm? Ha!

We don't need http, we have ftp already.

Virtualization, what a scam.

In each of the above cases, people weren't entirely wrong given the assumptions of the day but those assumptions change over time and the classic example is mistaking "less efficient" or even "not as good" or for "not what happens".

Also, please note: in each example above there are still cases where it's true for each and every one of them.

Clouds are doing some things well I really didn't expect to see. I have no doubt they'll be oversold, that's the way of waves in IT. We find a better hammer and we use it pound nails AND turn a few screws. Some companies get burned, there is a minor backlash, the wave becomes the new normal. Repeat.

As for hybrid clouds: I am so convinced that's going to be the "right thing" I predict it doesn't catch on. I hope I'm wrong about that.

FCC net neutrality blueprint TRASHED by US appeals court

David Fetrow

Does that mean we can sue them for allowing attacks through?

If the following happens: lawyers are the only winners.

I'm not a lawyer and my memory is often faulty but:

I remember some of the pre-internet central services (CompuServe and the like) enjoyed some protection in the US from being sued as long as they didn't tweak the bits passing through. When one of them did start doing some blocking, it was in a position to be sued for harmful content making it past the filters. Essentially they lost the common carrier protection from being sued over content.

So, can we all start suing our ISP's for letting through attacks now?...and then sue when content we want is blocked by them trying to block attacks?

I really REALLY prefer common carrier/net neutrality-ish* but if that isn't the case: should an ISP have the

advantages of a common carrier if they aren't one?

* those of us managing networks don't get to live in an entirely black and white world.

Secrets of Apple's mysterious Arizona sapphire factory: Our expert whispers all

David Fetrow

There is Precident

Sun used to do the same thing with memory chips. They'd want the very fastest even if not quite in mass production. They'd finance the production line with a massive order and have exclusive on the first chips off the line.

In the case of memory chips that wasn't always so great because 1) The early chips tend to perform subpar and 2) The early chips are expensive so Sun memory was expensive because they frontloaded their supply.

With sapphire you are more likely to only see #2 and charging a premium is rarely a problem for Apple.

That time when an NSA bloke's son borked the ENTIRE INTERNET...

David Fetrow

Re: Well, not all old sys admins....

Well I had (mostly) unaffected or minimally affected machines (one of the few times I was very very grateful to have IBM RT's) but we noticed it bigtime.

If for no other reason that the internet was basically down. Even a VMS shop, should it be emailing to machines on the internet (as opposed to some internal DECnet) would have to have noticed.

I remember setting up phone trees for the next time so, should the network die, the sysadmins could still talk to each other.

Of course now the phone network is a packet-switched affair.....oh. Time to dust off the CB and HAM radios.

Tape rocks for storage - if you don't need to, um, access your data

David Fetrow

Tape for Longterm Storage

The case for tape keeps being pushed into bigger systems. It once made sense to back up a workstation on tape (now: hardly anyone does that), then servers (even now: a lot of people don't do that), then big data archive situations (where tape is clearly superior if you don't have to go back to them too often and can tolerate access delays).

I personally have been burned too many times by "Oh, we don't have a tape drive that can read those any more" to use them for longterm storage. Yes the disks cost 2x/byte but the disks include the drive and you can generally interface a disk drive to a machine for a long long time. Tape drives tend to be fiddly to maintain.

A data center can buy many tape drives, keep spares, have a tape drive repair person(s), maintain storage with optimum tape conditions.

But most of us can rarely do any of that. Even major universities are hard pressed to read some of the tapes from 20 years ago even assuming the data is still good after a researcher stored it in their attic since 2002.

Weirdly enough the cloud is likely to bring a tape renaissance because clouds are usually in large data centers where tape makes more sense than anywhere else. The great cycle of computing continues.

It's all in the wrist: How to write apps for the Pebble smartwatch

David Fetrow

Is Linux a Unix?

I seem to recall either K or R (most likely Ritchie) saying Linux us a Unix...and he should know.

As an aside: This very publication once published a humor article by Verity Stobb predicting that none of the then vying commercial Unix companies (I would guess 90% are gone now) would win the mindshare war and everyone would just settle on the Linux standard.

It was pretty funny at the time.

US Air Force beats off competition in NSA hacking fight

David Fetrow

Re: Easy win for USAF

These kinds of contests have been done in the real internet but the fallout can be...unpleasant. The sandbox

is there for pretty much the same reason artillery practice is held on artillery ranges rather than, say, downtown


Review: Nokia Lumia 720

David Fetrow

Re: Sounds nice...

Personally I'm pretty amazed I have these devices to choose from (iPhone, the various Android phones, Windows) but I don't think I can let the not much innovation on iPhone since 2007 sentence pass.

iPhone innovation does appear (to me) to be slowing but a lot has changed since 2007: when we had:

No app store, no retina display, wired-only backups/updates/synch, no push notification, no MMS, no copy-paste (the biggest reason I didn't buy an early iphone), totally non-existent multitasking (except I think, playing media on iTunes?), no airplay, no icon folders, no spotlight search, no FindMyPhone (and where would "Sherlock" be without that?), no iTunes purchases on phone, no support for Exchange, no tethering, no email attachments, etc.

Netbooks were a GOOD thing and we threw them under a bus

David Fetrow

Unity Works for Very Small Screens on Underpowered Netbooks

When I mostly only run a handful of apps (stick those in the dock)

When I mostly run one thing at a time (underpowered will do that).

When I have very few pixels and turn on dock hiding.

Unity works well for me.

On anything >=12" screen and > 1GB RAM Unity drives me insane but it does seem to have a place.

Actian daubs go-faster stripes on cheapo database kit

David Fetrow

Re: A benchmark you missed

Every DBMS (exaggeration) borrowed from INGRES of one vintage or another. Not always actual code.

Postgres is quite nice but this is a big shift and there has already been divergence over many years.

This article is exciting to me because large cache's have traditionally been LESS than useless for at least some database cases I care about. I can believe these techniques might improve things significantly.

In my opinion INGRES suffers from the same-name effect. "I know all about INGRES, I used it in 2002" or "Postgres and INGRES shared a lot of ideas and code in 1990 so it must be similar in performance".

Probably why they did the Vectorize/Actian name change which I really didn't understand at the time.

TERROR in SEATTLE: Gang of violent LEPRECHAUNS on the loose

David Fetrow

"Southern Ireland", Seattle

Back at ya, Seattle is a significant distance from the Microsoft Redmond campus. Redmond is on the other side of a rather large lake from Seattle. Although, to be fair, Seattle is in the same county of the same state as Redmond. which isn't nearly as big a faux pas.

US military pays SETI to check Kepler-22b for aliens

David Fetrow

...something useful for once....

Like GPS and the Internet?

Cnet slammed for wrapping Nmap downloads with cruddy toolbar

David Fetrow

Dodging a Toolbar Installer

If you can't dodge a toolbar installer.....too stupid to be using Nmap.

Problem with that:

Even under idea conditions: EVERYBODY is stupid sometimes. It may only be for 2 random minutes a day but if that's the 2 minutes they are downloading nmap from Cnet, they are hosed.

Multiply that smallish probability by the thousands of people downloading nmap.

Now thow in: people being tired, or being worried about a sick child and other non-ideal conditions.

Now add in: it's no fun to be a little paranoid all the time.

I think it's OK to be upset about this behavior by Cnet.

How I learned to stop worrying and love SSDs

David Fetrow

Hybrid SSD/magnetic Drives Available

I put a recent Momentus hybrid drive in a MacBook: It had (I believe) 4G (?) of SSD and 250GB of magnetic. It was the same size and cost about $50 more than pure magnetic.

That machine is only used web email and video so I don't know if it would improve VMs but it halved the boot time (after the first boot, which was slower, as the drive figured out what to put in SSD) and Safari loads faster.

These are different from the rarely seen SSD hybrids introduced for Vista: The intelligence is in the diskdrive electronics rather than the OS so it works fine with MacOS (and pretty much any other OS I expect).

Pure SSD would have been faster still but there was enough intelligence and SSD on the drive to make a notable performance difference without cutting storage. The $50 premium seemed well worth it; especially in a single drive machine.