* Posts by Julian

14 publicly visible posts • joined 4 Jul 2007

Linux chief calls for FAT-free Microsoft diet

Paris Hilton

Lose FAT FS get FitFS

It was obvious from the moment MS patented aspects of FAT with vague promises not to sue anyone who used it, that the bloated behemoth was punting porkies. Its lawsuit against the relatively tiny Tom-Tom is the proof of the podgy pudding.

Seems like no target is too small when it comes to protecting MS's copious quantities of blubberware. Probably explains why in 30 years their record on file system interoperability has been skinny to say the least: by default you can't even plug an ext3 or OS X disk into a MS OS-ridden computer without it choking on the wholesomeness within.

What FAT has got going for it is its scalability - any sort of titchy embedded computer can pile on FAT with minimal effort, a mere few Kbytes of a driver; almost no RAM and it can instantly develop an insatiable appetite for files. Whatever we replace FAT with has to be that versatile.

Anyway, first thing is, we need a name, so how about FitFS? The great thing about FitFS is that it's simple, Flash Friendly and has a positive, recursive Acronym: FitFS Is The File System!

And most importantly, FitFS isn't FatFS! All we need is a spec now, a slim one - after all, we should start how we mean to continue!

-cheers from Julz @P

[Paris, for a FAT-free future ]

25 years of Mac - the good, the bad, and the cheese grater


The Mac had better be good...

My enduring comment is from my March (I think) 1984 review of the Macintosh (before it was renamed the Macintosh 128) in Personal Computer World magazine. It starts

"The Mac had better be good, or the company might not survive..."

The diametric opinions started then, at the launch. I remember letters to the magazine decrying mice ("it's so much faster to type "DIR<cr>" than pick up the mouse, move, double-click, move hands to keyboard!").

It was two years before I got to use one, but for my money it was already the future of computing. Always has been!

Happy birthday Macintosh!

The Mother of All Demos — 150 years ahead of its time


The Lesser Known GUI

NLS begat the Xerox Alto, The Mac... and Alto's far lesser-known crazy cousin Lilith from ETH in Switzerland. But although you can't get a working emulator for the Xerox Alto; a micro-code level emulator for the Lilith 16-bit/128K experimental workstation came out properly last week!

Find out about Lilith; download Emulith to your 1GHz Linux box and start GUI programming in Niklaus Wirth's* MODULA-2 now! You'll be amazed at how much power is required to emulate a 7MHz computer ;-)

-cheers from julz @P

* (the inventor of Pascal)

RISC daddy conjures Moore's Lawless parallel universe


Back to the mid-80s

So, let's get this straight - Patterson, who kick-started RISC architectures in the early 80s is talking up new paradigms of parallel processing, a hot topic from the mid-80s.

Thing is, we solved it in the mid-80s, with the INMOS Transputer. INMOS was therefore sold off by the Tories as soon as possible. The Transputer was pure genius since it was able to easily map programs that ran internally on a simulated multi-processor to an actual multi-processor environment: so the language encouraged parallel programming and it scaled from 1 to 1000s of devices.

Let's do a bit of Math. The early Transputers ran at 20MHz (giving 20 simple MIPS of performance) and probably had about 100K transistors in them each with at least 4K of on-chip RAM (+off chip too). In 1989 I ran my dissertation project on a 9-transputer rack giving me: 20*9=180MIPS of performance.

Let's scale that by 2 decades. Instead of 20MHz we have 3GHz ( x 150) and instead of 100K transistors we have 2 billion transistors (x200). That's equivalent to 20*150*200 = an astonishing 600,000 MIPS of performance / Transputer (with an internal memory equivalent to 800K). My equivalent transputer rack would have 4.9TIPS of power!

Instead we decided to base the future of computing on the (literally) back-of-an-envelope design which has set us back 20 years. I'll grab my coat.

-cheers from julz @P

What if computers went back to the '70s too?


DEC: PDP-8 Family Computers

Minicomputers are truly fascinating, not least because they kicked-off the trends towards smaller, more affordable computers, but also because they set the scene for todays computers.

I'm fortunate, I have a microvax-II and a pdp-11 on which I ran the RT-11 (MSDOS-ish) operating system and Fig-Forth until the 36A PSU blew-up! It's amazing what people tolerated for computers and how much usefulness they squeezed out of such puny hardware. I love the way the processors are on hundreds of seemingly identical DIL chips; connected by thousands of wires strewn across multiple, enormous circuit boards. I love them so much I have a design for an original-speed Nova clone in roughly 10 DIL ICs; complete with a toggle-switch front panel. I'd build a Novella(tm) computer for anyone who was interested ;-) !

But DEC were certainly calling their crazy 12-bit PDP-8 machines computers as early as 1966 as the wikipedia article documents!

-cheers from julz @P

Intel apologises for 'inappropriate' iPhone critique

Jobs Halo

A FUD too far.

We've had 30 years of the same old, same old Intel Compatibility mantra they had to cook up for the original back-of-an-envelope x86 design; because they weren't able to design a truly new architecture in the 1980s. Or is just envy, because a small team of Brits did an order of magnitude better job than an army of Yanks ;-) ?

Anyway, the whole point of compiled languages, scripts, open media formats and the internet is that it gives us architecture independence. So to trumpet something that takes us away from that is exactly what the industry doesn't need now or in the future. And to back it up by saying Flash is tweaked for x86 is really saying Adobe has anti-competitive market bias: they're more interested in running Flash on hundreds of millions of x86 desktops than billions of phones. That's the real question shareholders should ask.

But let's recap on reality. Flash has run on ARM for years and Adobe has made (or did make) an effort to port it properly:


I know, I was the lead developer for the Symbian OS application News Express, and it ran OK several years ago.

Which I guess brings us back to the beginning. Rapping non x86 CPUs because they didn't run your code was a working argument 20 years ago; mocking them because they run code slower fosters a certain amount of healthy competition; deriding your clients for trying to be fair is a FUD too far even for the Intel CEO.

Or is it just envy ;-) ?

-cheers from Julz @P

(S. Jobs, because he never FUDs an issue :-) )

Dawkins' atheist ad campaign hits fundraising target

Paris Hilton

BHA: British Humorless Association.

"I much prefer the atheists of the French Revolution, who went around cemeteries putting "death is an eternal sleep" on the gates."

These are the cemeteries for the tens of thousands they guillotined I presume.

This tack (and tacky) campaign by the BHA is the classic response of people who feel like their power-base is slipping through their grasp. In the days when the church dominated the belief landscape of the country atheists encouraged people to question religion.

And that's fine, millions did. But the church asks us to raise questions (as, for example, in the Alpha Course) the BHA jumps in free-thought lock-down mode. "God's not likely, so don't start asking questions, just get on with life!"

Thankfully, they've got a long way to go before they start wheeling out the guillotines.

Paris, because she really does prove how gracious God is!

Baptist church in assault rifle giveaway


It's a Baptism of Firepower

Well, those US Baptists sure know how to dunk themselves in controversy.

But it's not like that's unusual, I've known of Texan Baptist churches that have given away rifles in raffles (perhaps the pronunciation in Texan drawl makes for a natural connection ;-) ). Or maybe it's just more like they think the second amendment applies to the Bible even more than the US Constitution.

Or to quote from a recent theological commentator "They preach the Gospel, but they depart from it."

Apple buys chip maker

Thumb Up

St. George would cry!

Woah Tony - where did you get this idea from?

"Different generations of ARM processor, and versions from different manufacturers, are often incompatible at the binary level, forcing developers essentially to create entirely separate versions of their apps for each CPU they use in their hardware."

It's perfectly possible to treat ARM CPUs as upwardly compatible from ARM2 (with 26-bit addressing) to CortexA8. I should have some idea, I've been developing for StrongArm/XScale/OMap/Samsung/Philips Arm-based devices for 8 years.

We think that x86 is inherently compatible, but that's just an illusion due to its ubiquity - people invest a great deal of effort in adapting compilers and developing layers of emulation to mask decades of stupid design. Otherwise, why did it take until Windows '95 before PC users could easily run 32-bit software designed for the 386 which appeared 10 YEARS earlier?

Our investment in x86 is literally an anti-competitive waste of energy: near-monopolised product sources; slow boot ups; hot CPUs; massive transistor counts; expensive fabs.

In comparison, ARM is a dream come true. Highly compatible for over 2 decades; almost entirely upward compatible for over 12 years; versatile beyond belief from the CortexM1 (which packs 486 power into 8086 transistor counts) to CortexA9 (which packs Atom performance into Pentium transistor counts with milliwatt energy consumption). And it's got a better, wittier name; not something plagiarised from a puny (but clever) 8-bit computer that launched the company that created ARM in the first place.

So there's nothing around that's better than ARM: that's why it's outselling x86 by a factor of 10. And it's British. And it's St. George's day by Harry, so there's no excuse.

["It's always Thumb™s up for ARM!"]

Can the Atom help Intel's CEO meet otherworldly demands?


Only a decade late.

Otellini "Netbooks is a category that we invented less than a year ago and talked about publicly for the first time less than six months ago. And now it has become a category that is the hottest thing on the market today."

Strange, for a newly invented product it's already been around for a while. For example, I've got one that's already 9 years old.


It's got a StrongArm processor in it. You know: ARM, the kind of thing Intel doesn't do (but did) partly because it's less familiar (though orders of magnitude more popular) but mostly because Intel only does the Hottest things on the market.

Not the coolest.

ARM to bash 'non-issue' Intel with multi-core chip


Letting Go!

It makes perfect sense that people would want to shove x86 into the the embedded area and bust a billion guts in the engineering effort to make it happen.

But x86 is junk, so why bother?

And x86 binary compatiblity is irrelevent, because we are not living in 1979. As Alisdair Rawsthorne (the boss of Transitive Technology) once said to me: "Let me put it to you that Instruction sets are not the future."

ARM is the proof of that: most ARM processors run at least 2 instruction sets and the future ones will run at least 3 (ARM / Thumb2 / Jazelle). While Intel spend zillions on making creaking 70s ideas work in the 21st Century, Arm spend orders of magnitudes less on defining computing's true future: One that uses less money, less energy, less CO2.

So, scrap the obsession with x86, let go of the past that hinders so much! Embrace the future with every Arm available!

Church hall bans 'unchristian' yoga for nippers


Breathe deeply now

It's refreshing to see such a tirade of insults, anger, vitriol, condemnation, accusations, obscenities, mockery and all round hatred pouring out of the hearts of our commentators here.

I didn't know there was so much love to be found outside of Christian circles, but now I know and I'm sure in the light of it, Silver Street Baptist may probably revise their opinion of toddler yoga.

Meanwhile, I recall an invisible friend of mine who said "Love your enemies." So, breathe deeply now and feel the blessings coming your way.

Be blessed, love from Julz.

Solar-powered ion drive asteroid probe set for launch


Getting picky!

With regard to:

"Lift-off" SMART-1 of course got into orbit via a chemical rocket, but it's still the only spacecraft (AFAIK) to travel from there to another body using an Ion drive.

"Pounds and Ounces": Hmm, "approx 0.3 ounces" translates into mN accurate to 4 decimal places? If we want to be more accurate, 0.02lb should be more like 89mN, not 92mN.



Ion Drive

Dawn uses Chemical rockets to reach escape velocity, so SMART-1, which reached escape velocity entirely by ION propulsion still has the edge!

Also, what's all this "0.02lb" nonsense? At the very least you should consider the other 95% of the planet that doesn't use Imperial* measurements. Hang on, I'll save you the trouble.. 0.02lb, that's er 2.2lb => 1Kg, or 9.81N at sea level. So, 0.02lb is: 0.1N, impressive, Smart-1 only managed 68mN.

-cheers from jules @P.

(*or 'English' measurements as US refers to it, even though 'English' measurements are largely Metric these days).