Paw Prints: Writings of the maddog

Jon
"Open" is as "Open" Does: Parsing an announcement

Feb 23, 2015 GMT

One of the great things about studying compiler theory is that you learn a lot about avoiding ambiguity in language. Computer languages should not be ambiguous, since there is little time for the compiler or the computer to come back and ask “did you really mean that”?Unfortunately this is not always the case with native languages, particularly English, as can be seen by the simple phrase:“96Boards is the first open hardware specification....”which appeared on the 96boards.org webpage. Immediately someone in the Open Hardware community pounced on this and declared that the first board that met the specification was not “Open” because the manufacturer had not published the...
What Makes a Man? - What did maddog study for a career in computer science?

Jan 15, 2015 GMT

I was recently asked by a fifteen year-old Brazilian friend of mine, Samuel Flores Moraes, what courses I took in school that influenced my profession. This is a very good question for a young man to ask, so I thought I would take the time to answer him in my blog.From an early age I have always loved reading. I read a lot of books, both fiction and non-fiction.I also liked taking things apart to see how they worked. Some things I took apart and could not re-assemble, such as an old mechanical clock that once belonged to my grandparents. Fortunately for me the clock was no longer in use and was not a keepsake, so my parents were not too upset that it ended up in pieces.My father also...
When Pigs Fly

Nov 14, 2014 GMT

Several people have asked on their Facebook pages what I think about Microsoft's president first announcing that Microsoft loves Open Source, and then announcing that .Net will be “Open Source”. I suppose that these people expected me to start singing “Kumbaya”, and hugging the closest Microsoft representative I could find. Instead of answering that same question from so many pundits in so many places, I will answer it here.I think my feelings run somewhere between “When pigs fly” and “When Hell Freezes Over” will Microsoft embrace the true spirit of Open Source, much less Free Software.I will admit that some of my feelings are historical, and perhaps relate to the...
I will never again talk about the benefits of Free Software

Sep 17, 2014 GMT

I have been talking about using “Free Software” for the past twenty years, and the equivalent of “Open Source” even longer. Many times I have had people ask me, “Why do you use Free Software?”So I patiently tell them all the reasons why I use Free Software. The ability to see exactly what the code does and how it works. The ability to apply patches right away and not have to wait for “Patch Tuesday”, or “Critical Fix Wednesday” or any of the other “days” that some closed-source company has decided to put out all their bug fixes.I (for the 10 thousandth time) explain how I do not have to abandon perfectly good hardware because some vendor has decided not to support...
Ottawa Linux Symposium: May get by with a little help from its friends

Jul 29, 2014 GMT

I do not often do this, but old friend is in trouble.  Please stay with me as I tell this story. It was around the year 2002, and I was in Brazil.  I met two young college students who were very interested in Linux, and who impressed me with their enthusiasm and willingness to help others.  I asked them what they would really like to do, and their answer was to attend the Ottawa Linux Symposium (OLS) in Ottawa, Canada and to meet Linus Torvalds. I was not surprised about either desire.  OLS had been going on for a number of years, taking the place of the Raleigh Linux Expo that had been run by Red Hat.  But while the last Linux Expo was more like a hippie be-in,...
Standards Bodies and Free Software: We get by with a little help from our friends

Jul 07, 2014 GMT

I have a friend who needs a little help...he needs access to four of the twelve volumes of the ISO/IEC documents describing ISO SQL and SQL/PSM. These documents (ISO/IEC 9075:X:2011 where “X” equals 1-4) describe the implementation standards which he needs for the general compiler suite that he is writing. These documents cost about 500 US dollars each, and as a university student he does not have that type of money. He reached out to me in hopes I knew of someone who would have these documents. I tried one or two companies and came up with nothing, now I am reaching out to you.Normally these documents would be used by large companies, for which the purchasing money would be...
We are not programming in 1991 anymore!

Jul 07, 2014 GMT

As I write this I am also copying a talk given in February of 1996 at Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) about the port of Linux to DEC's Alpha AXP processor.It is interesting to hear Linus Torvalds and other people talking about spending three thousand dollars (or more) to buy a “high-end” PC, and to have that PC consist of a 32-bit address machine with eight megabytes of main memory, two or three gigabytes of storage on a hard drive and disk transfer rates of two megabytes per second.Linus talks about the “Big Kernel Lock” and how this issue was not too important since Linux was aimed toward “low end systems” and most of those systems did not have multiple CPUs per board...

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