Paw Prints: Writings of the maddog

Compiler Design - Terror in the classroom

Jun 06, 2013 GMT

I was terrified! It was my second term of teaching at Hartford State Technical College, and I had to teach the course on compiler design!Compiler Design was the course that I almost flunked in undergraduate study, and when I took it for my Master's Degree I almost flunked it again!For a long time I did not understand why so many people struggle with this course, but finally I realized that it is typically the first time coders do some programming where you are not just adding numbers or scanning a string of characters, but instead you are transforming a set of input characters into another completely different set of output characters. Sometimes there are just a few input characters that...
Tails of the maddog: Knowledge of Architecture Does Matter

Jun 03, 2013 GMT

People seemed to like my blog yesterday about how the knowledge of assembly and machine language improved my programs, or the programs of people around me.Today I would like to show people how simply understanding a little about the architecture of the machine and operating system, even without knowing assembly language, can improve program performance. Likewise the study of algorithms and computer techniques.When I was at Aetna Life an Casualty in 1975, some of the first computer kits were emerging. My boss, who had his Masters in Computer Science and taught compiler design and operating system architecture at the Hartford Graduate Center, bought one of those kits and was assembling it,...
Ode to Machine Architecture

Jun 02, 2013 GMT

I have been writing lately about the importance of learning the underlying tenants of computing if you are going to be a great programmer, and in particular some machine language and computer architecture.It typically does not make a difference which architecture you learn, or which machine language, as long as the architecture and machine language can illustrate the basic concepts of computing to a level that is useful in future studies of operating systems design and compiler theory, helping you to under stand issues like cache management, interrupt handling and I/O.This blog entry, however, is not going to talk about those issues. Instead it will talk about a few instances in my life...
FISL, Drupal and DrupalCamp in Porto Alegre, Brazil

May 27, 2013 GMT

Once again the conference season is warming up and one of the largest FOSS conferences in the world is going to be held in Porto Alegre, Brazil.The conference, called “Forum International Software Livre” or “FISL” for short is in its fourteenth year.Every year I look forward to going to FISL. In recent years this means joining a bus of university students sponsored by the Federal University of Santa Caterina (UFSC) who leave the evening before the event starts and arrive just before opening of the event. For me, this trip sets the tone for FISL, which is a healthy combination of programmers, systems administrators, university students and professors along with business and...
Happy Document Freedom Day (Belated)

Mar 31, 2013 GMT

March 27th was Document Freedom Day. In the crush of other events that day I was not paying as much attention as I should, and it took an article from a friend of mine talking about Office Suite compatibility to focus my attention.Of course compatibility between office suites is a big hindrance from a lot of people using an office suite like LibreOffice in their business. When you send a document to someone and they can not read it, or you get a document from someone and you can not read it, that is a problem. That is why it was nice that LibreOffice published a white-paper on migrating from other major office packages. While this document gave a lot of procedural steps to make...
Yahoo! A giant step backwards for man (and woman) kind!

Feb 27, 2013 GMT

Recently Yahoo! announced that they are going to require their telecommuting employees to find an office near them and report every day to that office instead of telecommuting, which had been the practice of a large number of employees for many years.The reasons given were many, ranging from “Yahoo! re-inventing itself and needing to have people in the office to share ideas 'around the water cooler'” to “improving morale”.I have worked for many companies over many years.My first "real job" in 1973 was at an insurance company where 400 people worked on each of four floors with desks lined up in rows arranged in “unit groups”. The most junior members of each group sat...
Les Misérables and Aaron Swartz

Jan 13, 2013 GMT

Last night I was about to watch the movie “Les Misérables” in my favorite movie theater when (during intermission) I flipped open my cell phone to read the news of Aaron Swartz's death. I do not recommend watching that movie after reading news of a young (26 year old) hacker and Internet activist committing suicide.***warning*** movie spoilers following:For those of you who have not seen the movie, the stage musical, or read Victor Hugo's masterpiece, “Les Misérables” (set in pre-revolution France) is about a man named Jean Valjean who stole a loaf of bread to help feed his brother's son, was caught and sentenced to nineteen years of punishment as a slave. When freed on parole...

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