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Why Scientists Are Still Using FORTRAN in 2014

os2fan Stable, well used.. (634 comments)

Some of the ideas that came out of the early computing times make much more sense than the current range of 'innovations'. Most pay-ware is legacy stuff on shipping, and eventually you move from dedicated programs for doing X to well-thought-out programs that use some sort of open idiom (like spreadsheets).

I use REXX. My tendency is to use cross-platform stuff because the operating system could change from DOS to OS/2 to Windows, or whatever. Regina REXX is to be had on all platforms. Code i wrote back in the 1990's still work reliably today. Programs i used back in the 1990s have to be ever updated. A number of utilities do not have to be compiled. You can have a fancy program that factorises numbers, and then construct the number to factorise in rexx, and run the command from inside rexx, eg 'factor' me You can even have factor set to a variable, as in factor="c:\utils\factor.exe" and then write the line "factor me" without the quotes, and it will string these strings together, and run "c:\utils\factor.exe 1727999" at the prompt.

Essentially, one is going to find examples of printed code, like fortran or rexx, which one can import without modification. My recollection is that fortran does not require one to think too hard about variable kinds. A chemist is a chemist, not a computer science graduate. He's more interested in formalderhides than data type declarations.

about 3 months ago

One-a-Day-Compiles: Good Enough For Government Work In 1983

os2fan In the past (230 comments)

I suppose that when terminals cost the price of houses, and the computers lived in air-conditioned pens with white-coats at hand, and boas under the floor, computing time was scarse.

Technology depends on how far one lives out from the main stream. I used punched cards and paper tape when i went through my course in the seventies. I used a teletype machine at work, it had a fairly large recriprocating mass, it used to "walk".

Still, it amuses me to think back then we talked about 'Automatic Data Processing' (ADP), but every bit was expensive and one spent a good deal of trying to get as much information into the available data space. Now-days, data is cheap, and everyone calls it "Information Technology". Its rather silly really. Most IT people spend their time pouring data from one jug to another, with little regard to 'information' or how to optimise things.

I still know how to find the main cycles of a program and bum speed out of it. You did that in the ancient days, and because i wanted to run the cycle a couple of thousand millions of times, it is of some profit to do this even today.

about 2 months ago

Man Campaigns For Addition of 'Th' Key To Keyboard

os2fan Of orn and eðða (258 comments)

I have been using these letters since i was at high school, say early 1970s. I tried out ð too, but Modern english represents both of these by a single letter 'th'. One has ick and in, weaer or neier. It's in alphabets already, there's no need for a new rune when its been with us years. Writing "ðe" for "e" is like writing "as" as "az", and other 'newspeak' idioms.

Writing orn is pretty easy, and you get to learn to keep the ascenders on p quite short. Other than that, one gets people who get confused with is. I had a comment or three to the effect that "all of my ths come out like 'p's". I usually respond along the lines of trying to enquire about whether they were Non-English-Speaking Background or something.

The letter has existed for quite some time. A recent tome in the post 'archelogical papers', bought for yet another OE thing that most folk have long forgotten (the long hundred = counts by 120), has a church registery, with the likes of 'Richard, ye son of Peter and Mary', where ye is a form of e the capital looks something like an I, with a rod coming from the middle to 1 o'clock.

The 'polygloss as nature intended' on my website, is constructed in thorns, it's quite an 'easy read', and does not look too ugly. There are some 'th' in there, because some words have a separate t and h, eg the name Wythoff, which is Wyt (white) + hoff (yard). A simple s/th// does not work. The two polygloss pages are based on the same code, made up in a homg-growm markup. `T and `t are th becoming , 'f and `F are always , and `D `d are always Th th. This allows one to search the code for "th" and correct these on demand.

1 year,25 days

Why Your Sysadmin Hates You

os2fan Both sides (572 comments)

I worked on both sides of the help-desk in my time.

Being a computer whizz back then, one is asked of members how to do this or do that. One gets 'programming projects', to pretty-print and sort the download docs, and to Y1999 fix proggies. Still. One acquires a reputation from the newtork lads, because while the fixes work, they were not really in accord with the network aims.

On the other side, one gets to see the strange sort of things users do. They look strange, some work and some dont. Network people see boxes as swappable things, not places where users hide things. Some of the things i used to do there (like drop live icons on the user's desktops), sort of horrified them, but it saved a walk, and a good deal of time.

about a year ago

Court: Aereo TV Rebroadcast Is Still Legal

os2fan see eg Telstra vs Optus (64 comments)

Over in Australia, there was a case where Optus was retransmitting broadcasts to their mobile telephones on the claim of 'time shift'.

The ruling is that while it is not illegal for an individual to do this for his own benefit, it is illegal for a company to do it to onsell the service.

about a year ago

Has the Command Line Outstayed Its Welcome?

os2fan Re:really?? (1134 comments)

I looked at PowerShell. It makes me no sense.

Unix and REXX grew up based on things that people actually needed, rather than dictated ex citidel. To this end, once one has a UI (in the form of STDIO), it's easy to write stream filters. I write quickies for this in REXX. Strongly typing means that you can only treat a file name as a file name, rather than say, a string. It also means that you can't add 1 and 1..

about 2 years ago

Icons That Don't Make Sense Anymore

os2fan Wrenches? (713 comments)

Hey, all i saw was a spanner and screw-driver.

Still, those of us who have lives in the real world do fine-tune things with a spanner etc, such as to give some more gain to the victa or level the fridge. So the notion of a spanner and screw-driver for configure (ie adjust), has still some sense. Also, there's the delightful phrase 'spanner in the works'. This is just the dandy place to do it (i recall one girl changing all of the window furniture to blue, and then wondered why she couldn't see anything!).

One should remember that the hard disk icon is sometimes shown as a stack of platters, and sometines as a grey box, but in one instance, the hard drive is not the volume, and secondly, not many people would pick out the fixed disks in a beige box. It's also interesting to see what people would think of floppy-disk icons when floppies aren't allowed at work.

Still, there are steam engines used to show level crossings, because of all things railway, the steam engine is perfectly recognisable.

As to the rabbit ears on the tele, that's about the most distinct thing about it, and even TiVo uses it in their logo.

more than 2 years ago

The Sounds of Tech Past

os2fan Sounds from years not too far gone. (231 comments)

Many interesting sounds come from the C20 that have long diasppeared (here). Continious weld rail have taken the clickety-clack out of train travel.

I used to have a real teletype behind me at work, to do queries. The thing would chug into life every now and then with the answer to some command entered into a computer. One would type in a card line (rather like command options in the cobol style), and it would send back a string of lines.

The joys of the card punch and the tape punch. These chug away, likewise mounted so that their vibrations would not do some damage.

The sound of bells relaying messages, when BEL actually rang a bell. Of course there (was) the telephone system i saw my brother use, to ring up control at roma, consists of a party-line system, where one rings long-long-long etc.

Here (australia), it was the custom to play the national anthem (god save the queen), at the end of every show (cinema, live, television close). In the seventies, they changed it to some other thing (advance australia fair). One day not too long ago, i was listening to a disk of national anthems, and found that i was standing when GSTQ was played. So ingrained. (They used GSTQ to get the beatles out of an adelaide theatre: the beatles made their exit as the audience stood at attention to higher things).

Real money. not a sound, but the cash registers and so forth were generally mechanical things where one might press the money in and pull a lever. Australia abandoned currency on 14 feb 1966, when we got these decimal beads in.

more than 2 years ago

Volkswagen Turns Off E-mail After Work-Hours

os2fan Electronic Inbox (377 comments)

The real thing with e-mail etc is that one ought treat it as an electronic inbox, and not something to dance to every beck and call.

One works on a variety of tasks, rifling the inbox for the next task. It's the same with inbox stuff. You might assess incoming tasks for urgency and importance, but if you jumped to every task as it hits the desk, ye'd never get nothing done.

more than 2 years ago

The Four Fallacies of IT Metrics

os2fan Effect and Efficiency. (223 comments)

It should be remembered that efficency and effectiveness generally are unrelated.

Efficiency is something that can be measured: responces to calls, forms processed, etc, the sort of thing you can count. It's pretty easy to do this sort of thing, and often the PHBs will take some metric and use it as a measure of activity. Because of this, one often sees things like proformance indicators, and the process and often salary, becomes connected to the indicator. The industry stops being what it is and starts producing 'red beans' for the bean counters. The indicator changes, and one produces blue beans.

Effect is something that is about getting the right job done, both for the customer and for the system. It's not even about what the customer wants, since this supposes that it is the role of the customer to diagnose the problem and the solution, and simply ask for the solution to happen. One needs to think of what happened with the system that responded to cyclone Katrina in New Orleans, which the responce was based on customer wants, rather than pre-assessment by those who should have done this. A call for help is an indicator to a problem, not a proposed solution.

Of course, even though an indicator might be proportional to effect in the wild, when it is proportional to money, the indicator becomes more important to the effect. A doctor, who might have an indicator on consultations, will split several illnesses to several consultations. On a help desk, one is more intent on creating calls, then on providing effect. A call that seeks three problems would be terminated at the first, and new calls needed for the second and third. Also, the process might be extended to several calls to create extra indicator traffic.

In the main, help desk traffic is not a really good indicator of effect, since there are things that effect this. Response time, time to fix, etc, all serve to alter traffic, in some cases, it might be better served by the section guru rather than the help desk. The effectiveness of the guru's solutions may well impede the help desk's overall issues, since it might make matters worse.

One should also note that recording the help calls is also an impediment. It serves no effect, and in many cases, might take as much to make happen as the call does in nature. One might answer say, 90% of the calls first up, yet spend more than 50% of the times making the necessary beans for the counter. A good deal of issues can be condensed into a few batch files (yes, i did this: system configuration is a good candidate for script files), so that while the call is terminated relatively fast, the actual recording might be tedious.

My experience of help desk is that particularly Microsoft rograms (eg Word, Access, Windows), use common names, which makes them very hard to grep for in the system. This reduces the effectiveness of any sort of 'search the job tables' for help. To this end, i used Wart, Abcess, Windoze, much to the annoyances of the PHBs.

more than 2 years ago

Compared to a year or two ago, I find I'm printing ...

os2fan vproof works better on paper (252 comments)

Lots of the print is pre-processed by shareware print drivers, 'fineprint' and 'pdfFactory'.

Still print because my copy of vproof (proof-reader proggie) does not really work on the screen.

more than 3 years ago

Sentence Spacing — 1 Space or 2?

os2fan Using character styles (814 comments)

I make use of style sheets as much as possible. This allows for example, either block or first-line indent. With a style-sheet set down to character-level, one can use single or double-spaces freely at the end of a sentence. The markup language I wrote (KML, see, eg makes use of a chacter-level style sheet that replaces eg `t and `T by th,TH or , respectively, eg 'the polygloss' vs 'the polygloss as nature intended', both derive from the same source KML file.

One uses also two kinds of paragraph (p) and (pp), to create leading vs following paragraph. The pp-style paragraph can have either first-line indent (traditional) vs blank-line block style.

more than 3 years ago

Myths About Code Comments

os2fan Literate Programing (580 comments)

Don Knuth described Literate Programming in which the program is embedded in comments, one using a preprocessor to write the program. The preprocessor runs as a command processor, using the source as a batch file. One gets a properly sorted batch file as output. Because of this, one can overcome limitations of the programming language, use pre-processor variables etc, and produce several linked files etc.

Documentation is relatively straight forward, since one writes what one wants to get, limitations, API and examples by way of a wish-list, and then create the routines that make this happen. You can write a tight section like "File I/O", for fileopen() and fileclose() along with getline(), putline(), etc, without exposing the filenames to all of the subroutines. I've written a program to write Web pages in it, for example, http:\\\pgloss\index.html and its attendent pages. It's pretty elegant really.

The temptation of LP is to use it to solve a problem per source, a note that Jon Bentley (Pearls of Programming) noted. LP is about sorting problems: however, the sort of problems that Knuth sought to solve are complete things in an educational setting, not bits of problems in the real world. None the less, I use it to write terse batch files etc, where the LP source is the help file too.

more than 4 years ago

Best Tool For Remembering Passwords?

os2fan Salt and Pepper (1007 comments)

Two tricks i use to hide passwords is to use short forms, eg "A7" might expand as "ABD968017", and a general "salt and pepper" table. These are all unrelated to what is typically discussed. Note also that a7 expands to "abd968017", so some case can be preserved.

In a salt and pepper table, one uses an intermediate table that is easy to recall, but no need to be written, and not common knowledge. An example might be "husbands and wives", so a password displayed as "John" might be entered as "Yoko". Another kind of table might be "middle names", so "John" would elicit the response of "Winston". Note eg, jOhn gives yOko or wInston, so you can hide case in here too.

The less obvious you make the salt and pepper table, or the more unobvious the abbreviations, the more secure the table, even if the reminders are kept in plain text (plain text in an unobvious application also deters automatic gathering. Who would look for something like a .DOC file, might have some fun when the downloaded document is a multimate doc!

more than 4 years ago

"Side By Side Assemblies" Bring DLL Hell 2.0

os2fan Suspect it's MSFT (433 comments)

It's interesting that the bulk of the SxS stuff is Microsoft stuff, not third party stuff.

I recall that when Win95 first came out, and that they were replacing the Win16 stuff with Win32 stuff. Someone remarked that there would be incompatibilities, and that it was for the vendor to rewrite the apps to meet the new APIs. That calling some DLL by name would of course these incompatibilities.

I thought how silly. Inviting third parties to use routines in your DLL is pretty much a kind of contract of support. This is the nature of the operating system, really. If you create a DLL like VBRUN100 for some set of apps to call, then the App expects it to run in that way, and if your new version of VBRUN would cause incompatibility, you should give it a different name, like VBRUN200.

Last time i looked, routines like VBRUN100, BWCC etc, comes to about 9 MB. (There's a download that ye can add to your OS to give these as preinstalled.

Where the problem comes is when some sort of obvious name gets used for different DLLs (eg the three different versions of THREED.VXD that different applications were loading under Win31), or the MFC3xx DLLs where the source code was given to vendors to allow them to add their own functions. (good lord). Even so, Microsoft continues to release DLLs like MSVCRT and MFC40, updated to their latest operating system / compiler.

I don't think anyone else uses such nonsense as SxS or DLL hell: OS/2 VREXX.DLL or EMXRT do the right thing: preserve existing functions, and have a test for version-level.

more than 4 years ago

A Mixed Review For Windows 7's XP Mode

os2fan OS/2 for NT, round two. (137 comments)

I think it's another re-run of OS/2 1,x PM virtualisation under NT 4. When you install this package, the program launcher still lives in the host system, and any commands to start an application visits the host, and then switches to the virtualisation.

Compare OS/2's virtualisation of Windows 3.x. OS/2 still launches the app, but it does not do a graphic repaint of the current host screen to do this.

more than 5 years ago

March 14th Officially Becomes National Pi Day

os2fan Pi (321 comments)

I suppose that any of the simpler approximations of pi (like 22/7, or 1521/484 (both squares), or even 7^7/8^6 or 3:17 [twelfty] don't rate a mention.

Still, i don't rate pi in the same regard as e or the fsh (137.0359996), since pi is a matter of how it is defined, whereas e and fsh come as a single value.

The current thinking of the circle constant, usually taken at pi, from high dimensions, is that pi/2 serves better, and for physics, 2pi might be better. pi/4 and pi/6 have also been mooted, as the content of a unit circle and sphere. (of diameter of unity).

more than 5 years ago

Should You Get Paid While Your Computer Boots?

os2fan Employers should take bad with good in computers (794 comments)

People in other industries are paid for preparing cloths and machines for work, and also paid for in some cases, cleaning themselves after work.

Either they should be expected to find the machine booted before they start work, or should count the logging in of a machine as work (in much the same way as filing forms is work.

The thing with any procedure (like computers), one can not just take the good without the bad. The machines save in retrieving and distributing modified data, but take longer to boot.

more than 5 years ago



Microsoft, Adobe, Apple, before Australian Commission

os2fan os2fan writes  |  about a year ago

os2fan (254461) writes "Microsoft, Adobe and Apple have been subpoenaed before a parlementry committee, to explain the higher prices of software and downloads in Australia, compared to US prices. For example, with Adobe Adobe's CS6 Design and Web Premium suite costs $3175 in Australia versus $US1899 ($A1820). This means that it is cheaper to fly to the USA and buy a copy there than it is to buy locally. Of course, the price jump still exists even when there is no transport costs (ie download software).

It should be remembered that none of these companies appeared voluntary, but had to be reminded that failure to appear was comtempt of Parlement, and that stiff fines and jail time was on the cards.

"You'll charge as much as the market can bear," said Mr Jones (MP), rejecting (Microsoft's Australia CEO) Ms Marlow's assertions that the market was highly competitive, pretty much sets the tone of the charge. Part of the defence is suggested by Apple's Mr King for digital media Mr King, who said rights holders were to blame for mark-ups that can be over 70 per cent.

Likewise, download songs cost some $2 in Australia against $1 in the USA.

Read more:"

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