Knights who say OS

Thor’s day. End of gym for the week. Sparse. Passable episode of “Linux Luddites”, the main detraction a totally boring interview with some fellow who has written his own OS.

So what? To bogs, writing an OS falls into the “What?” category. From what I can tell Bogs, or Ivory Soap of them, have no idea what an OS is. They think Windows and such are just brands. In fact they more strongly identify with then as brands than they do Dell or HP. Which is why hardware companies are having identity problems. 

Geeks, on the other hand, know what OS are but again, Ivory Soap fraction, would never try to do an OS. Geeks who write OS are divine. Or something like that.

Nerds, know what OS are. And if they can’t do something with their OS then they look for an OS that will empower them. And if they can’t find such, they write an OS. No fuss, no mess, just a learning and production process. 

Back when I walked to class five days a week, uphill both ways – at least part of the way – and occasionally (rarely!) through snow but through a lot of mown, wet, sticky grass much of the year, we all wrote an OS. Well, all the physical science nerds did. The real nerds. Not the fake nerds the Greek frats kept around to pull up their GPA and keep them in good (?) standing. You know the type: the ones who wear penny loafers with no socks even when they know they’re gonna get foot fungus and rot. And they did. As well as acid burns on their feet. Gravity.

Anyway this was in the days of IBM 360 mainframes, and JCL and FORTRAN 2. One step up from an HP-35 calculator that wouldn’t be available for several years. But a big step up from our ten inch K&E slide rules. Actually, the problem wasn’t the slide rules, it was the stopping and starting to write numbers down on paper. And this was before 0.5 mm pencils. 

But FORTRAN 2 was only wonderful in that it was easier to use than assembly language. (There were assembly language nerds but they didn’t bathe or shave and lived in caves – Nerdoldytes.) And it was infinitely better than COBOL which is like saying health is better than death. But it wasn’t number crunch friendly. Not really.

But what would make it friendly wasn’t something we could reach consensus on. So each of us wrote his own OS. And compilers. And kept rewriting. When we weren’t doing real work. 

If you see where D&D came from after computers and OS and compilers got better, you’re on top of things. Writing OS is sort of like being a D&D master. Sorta.

But better. 

But guys who wrote their own OS only talked to faculty and other guys who wrote their own OS. “Those who watch over Israel..”

Maybe they’re the rest? Film at Eleven.


Saturn’s day. Also All Hallows Eve. Happily the weather is forecast to be abysmal so FD SCP and I can happily bunker down and not have to worry about the moral implications of dispersing body rot to immature humans.

Higher air temperatures than yesterday. Almost enjoyable in park. Since weather has turned I have returned to listening to podcast episodes on weekend to cut the discomfort. Today’s was an episode of Linux Luddites about a trial of Open SUSE. Not very positive so far.

I can recall purchasing an HP itty bitty lap box with Open SUSE installed. Recall I thought it horrible. Complained about it on a chat site and got bashed by a couple of corporate IT types about how SUSE was wonderful and I was full of mind stercus. Took me a few days to get over the bullying and by that time a Debian variant had been tweaked for the itty bitty and I blew Open SUSE away without a qualm about disintegrating my warranty. That act has since proven itself one of the better I have made in the computer world. 

But I don;t want to talk about Linux distros that are Winders wannabes. And their fan boys. I want to talk about what happens when you say “(Name of OS) sucks” on a discussion site. 

  • Q: Windows sucks. A: Yeah. But you can pay big bucks for this third party SW and it will suck less.
  • Q: iOS sucks.  A: Yeah, but that’s all there is so be happy.
  • Q: (Linux Distro) sucks  .  A: Yeah, so install a different one. The journey’s the thing, not the destination.
  • Q: Android sucks.  A: What’s Android?

I still have that itty bitty lap box and use it occasionally when I don’t mind nose grease on the screen.

Evolution by OS

Freya’s Day. The air temperature is adequate. I sallied to the park and had a moderately good constitutional. Not knowing the wind before I emerge from Castellum SCP, I have to guess at its speed and cooling. And my endurance of heating/cooling is shallow so some care is necessary. Gad, I hate being senior at times!

Anyway, had to bundle up a bit once I hit the trail and then debundle in the closing centameters, but otherwise moerately comfortable aside from some cramps. 

What’s a centameter? Not in most textbooks. It’s a hundred meters. Complement to centimeter, which is a hundredth of a meter. 

Not much deep thought this morning. The local constabulary is having a pharmaceutical collection this morning and FD SCP kept me bustling last evening gathering up decaying pills and potions. I shall be run off to the collection locus later unless I am surprised and she actually dons street attire. So I had to plot that a bit.

But the bulk of the staggering – mental and physical – was spent considering an an article [Link] sent me by my colleague Magnetic Inductance Force. This article is an autobiographical account of a senior who adopted Linux. That’s not news. Lots of retired folks are shedding themselves of Winders and Fruit for FOSS. And lots of them write about it. What sets this one apart is the search for independence and self-reliance.

This fellow discovered he was spending as much on annual maintenance – using Winders – someone to clean and polish his install, as on a new box. Then his maintenance chap relocated and he decided to try Linux. Love story follows. Ho hum. But what makes this different is that the fellow recognized up front and embraced that he would have to do maintenance for himself. Evidently he is one of those classical Yankees, the Thoreau of Walden Pond/Daniel Boone type that recognizes a need, hunkers down and does it. 

Very Heinleinesque. Very ’50’s science fiction protagonist. The self-propagating individual.

Like I say this is surprising only in how the fellow writes about it. If you take up Linux successfully, not as a pseudo-Winders user, then you have to take on doing it. Yes, the Linux community is modestly friendly – not pushy in the main although there are a few foaming at the mouth evangelists – but the extent of the help is advice and book loaning. No one maintains another’s computer. At least not among “REAL” Linux users.

I am obviously not talking about the people Canonical is trying to sell Ubuntu to. Admittedly Ubuntu is the minimum effort, minimum engagement distro of Linux. Lots of Linux Quakers look down on that (which really defeats the Quaker part I think,) but it is a good place for people to learn if they have the “Right Stuff”. Whether they are cybernauts. And if they can’t handle doing the small ‘it’, then they can go back to MegaHard or Apple. And if they can, then they can move on when the adamantine confines of the ‘play pen’ chafe and bruise.

Moral of story: just because we all have to do the same things we don;t all think of them the same. Or talk about them the same. Diversity increases Entropy. As in accessible states. And until you have accessed all the states, you still have learning to do. 

Unlike the folks who use Winders.

Sand Mountain Macho

From time to time I am asked to serve on graduate exit committees, the ones that determine whether graduate students should matriculate or not. I almost always accept, mostly out of vanity – I find the responsibility a flattery – but I didn’t appreciate why I got asked for quite a while.

I should mention I am almost never asked to be on a physics student’s committee. And, yes, this is relevant.

I have found over the years that I need to ask wizardly difficult questions rather than easy questions. I have found, with some embarrassment, that the easy questions are invariably dropped and nastily. I like to think it’s because the students are so psyched for their defenses that they can’t relax enough to answer the easy questions. I’ve also found the other members of the committee, mostly academics, usually don;t get the questions either. So it is safer, for everyone’s sake, including my own, if I ask those hideously difficult questions. 

I should mention that the other members of the committee (and myself) can’t answer these questions either, but the students just couple in and do surprisingly well at them. Which tends to support the idea that new things are done by new people.

Anyway, one of the other advantages is that I get to see all sorts of research and sometimes I get asked for pre-defense opinions as an outside thinker. Sometimes a graduate student can’t ask adviser or other faculty these questions for fear of being considered slow or worse but an outsider is safer.

Anyway yesterday a student – not physics obviously – showed me some data on human characteristics in North Alibam society. The research was being funded to help find how to get the right – desirable? – workers to apply for certain types of jobs. I can’t say much more except this is clearly on the management side of my interests.

Anyway, this GS had collected some data and was showing me an interesting social niche that we might call Nawth Alibam Macho:

  • male (obviously)
  • adult (chronologically)
  • drives pickup truck
  • hunts, fishes, and/or camps
  • uses Winders.

I have to admit to being floored by this. Here we have a characteristics list that runs: macho; macho; macho; and suddenly, wimp.

Evidently, working on motorcars and trucks and building shelters is ok, but working on computers is sissy stuff? Or a sign of being easy to brainwash? Anyway, I think this will turn out to be a good project.

Schule Stercus

Thor’s day. Gym concluded for the week. Sparse population. No weight bouncers, nor educationalists with only outdoor voices. Which is enjoyable after the presence of two educationalist weight bouncers yesterday who were particularly arrogant, noisy, and nasty. I have to wonder if its balancing from being around students so much?

Survived the expedition to Nawth Alibam’s Shining City on the Hill. Which was chancy given the increased incidence of der schmucken drivers. And there was one fender (?) bender that I didn;t see but one of my colleagues, Normal Angular Momentum,related about a microcar trying to nestle under a cargo lorry. Not at all good for the progression of the innocent.

On which azimuth I note a survey [Link] on faculty attitudes towards technology. I was pleased and bemused by the results. First of all, the latter. Seems there is a growing divide between administrators and faculty about online courses. The administrators like the reduced overhead, demonstrating the corporate factory mentality that is destroying Amerikan higher education. The faculty have finally figured out the online courses are something between Hobbesian and a boondoggle.

Can we guess which will prevail? And that the decision will be on the side of further damaging education. More race to become a third world nation.

There is also considerable concern with student plagiarism which doesn’t surprise me. If anything it is now more democratic since it isn’t just limited to Greeks any more. It’s also amusing to me. I never did such mostly because I never needed to. Hunkering down and doing a bit of reading and library research and churning out a stilted pompous paper was a lot easier than finding someone else’s paper and rekeying it. In fact the keying – on an electric typewriter machine at that – was the worst part for me.

Makes you wonder if the kids who feel they have to plagiarize really belong in college, doesn’t it?

With college attendance reduced to obtaining a certificate, and actual education being irrelevant, I don;t quite see how we can consider plagiarism as anything other than canny.

Is baksheesh next? Might be even easier to bribe underpaid part-timers than to buy a used paper?

Lastly, everyone seems to be bitching about the cost of textbooks. And no one is doing anything about it, that I can see. All the faculty seem to be fully committed to this new edition every year so they can get their freebie (?) lecture notes and slides and syllabus. Whatever happened to Dover and doing your own lecture.

I feel like the last dinosaur. Good thing I’m not lecturing these days. Would probably get sacked for not penalizing the students enough.

Race for the bottom.

Eat Moog’s Food

The title is likely unknown to all but the most congruent. It refers to an idea expressed by Edward Elmer Smith, Ph. D., in “First Lensman” that all intelligent (?) species that have civilization have advertising. He didn’t say so but I have the impression he considered advertising the rust of civilization. That made civilization a pseudo-physical thing and that, and civilization, was key to Smith’s story telling.

One of my colleagues, Magnetic Inductance Force. who also reads Smith but is more mindful of the Skylark vector, claims, with some good empirical analysis, that

“Every Advertisement is a Lie.”

This is clearly improvable since it requires an infinite sample but so far the finite sample standard deviation is zero. That is, no advertisement examined has not contained a factual inaccuracy.

The reason I offer this is that last week another colleague, Force Spring Constant, made much at discussion of a bit of grrr brrr of the death of the internet. The cause of the grr brr was the recent inclusion in the Apple OS of code to permit the blocking of internet advertisements. The thesis was that most internet information propagators are funded by capitalists who pay to have their advertisements on internet sites and documents and the negation of these advertisements would abolish the financiality of the internet.

At the time I poo-pooed the idea, not as irrelevant, but antediluvian. This was patently one of those publicity grabs practiced by the Apple community where they take some topic that is quite dated in the context of the not-Apple universe and ressurect it as if it is new because it is now being considered by Appleites. This is somewhat akin to information only being validated once it has been examined by academics; all others are irrelevant in their examinations.

And such it is. The AdBlock (trademark used as generic) matter is quite old in internet terms. I believe the debate over the financiality was conducted in the Mozilla arena several years ago, five at least. (I am too lazy to go look up dates but I know I have had ad-blocking add-ins for at least that long.) The general consensus was that ads on the internet were a nuisance and nuisances may be swatted, if not squashed. Consider the sales of mosquito repellent.

In my case the decision was a bit more deliberate. I learned to code in a time when compilers were included with the mainframe. When a new compiler came out you got it automatically if you were up to date on your hardware payments. So software is inherently free. That was reinforced in an academic environment where you had access to lots of folks NERD code. It wasn’t until the PC came along that SW had a price and by that time the outlook was instilled in habit and Nature. Hence the Amerikan attitude to SW piracy. Hence folks who write SW to make money are evil and deluded.

When I got to the internet, which was in its not quite early days – I started out with Netscape and an Earthlink account (the latter being the primary source of recognizing evil capitalists on the internet.) So the sense of the environment was that information is free. No price. And to this day I consider paywalls to be evil and I avoid them. Except for really important things like refreed NERD journals and in that regard I am used to paying subscription.

So advertisements on the internet are either nuisance or irrelevant. The rare exception is when I want to purchase something and I see an advertisement for that very thing. The probability of this is vanishingly small, better than observing a proton decay, but still so small as to be irrelevant to any consideration. So disposing of advertisements on the internet is a public health (mental, in this case) activity, rather like spraying for mosquito’s prevents malaria and other nasty diseases. Notable also that neither mosquito nor advertiser are liable for their damage and hence have no claim to humane or civilized consideration. Except maybe to a Jain? And then there is the question of whether capitalists are actually living.

And if the web site goes away? So what? The internet today is much larger but less well populated than in those days. It is clearly an evolving environment. And not suffering very much except at the hands of capitalists. My observation has been that the web sites that I return to have not gone away. That means my blocking ads has not done them in. So ads really are a nuisance and not the financial mainstay of the internet.

Despite what cracked Appleite journalists claim. One more datum of their whackedness.