Son of Devil's Advocate, June 2002

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Son of Devil's Advocate

Stan Kelly-Bootle


Picture of Stan Kelly-Bootle

Wheeling Through Japan

Previous delays in posting my SODA columns have been "explained away" by the traditional sequence of student-specious excuses, including but not limited to "The dog ate my floppy" or the more credible "Outlook Express, aka Lookout Depress, screwed my files."

The current missing-of-the-deadline does, in fact, honest-injun [ref 1] has justifications that the most impatient of my dear fans will, I pray, readily accept.

Excuse Me Once, Excuse Me Twice

Firstly, June is the climactic month when we sad-happy-few Software Development Jolt Judges have to get off our pompous posteriors and point the fingers of scorn and/or praise at some thousands of hopeful and/or hopeless Jolt-award candidates.

Secondly, I felt compelled to visit Japan for the 2002 World Cup Soccer, in order to root for my three favorites of the thirty-two qualifiers: England, USA, and the Irish Republic. Of this mad diversion, more anon; except to say that I haven't missed many World Cups since, giving my age away (why lie?) once more, I stood on the Wembley (London, UK) terraces in 1966 when Eng-a- land (note the preferred chanting scansion) won for the first time (and the last, so far!) soccer's ultimate trophy.

Back to the Jolt-based escape-clause:

This is the 12th such annual fantasia, co-sponsored by Software Deveopment Magazine (one of the many Miller-Freeman fine rags) and the makers of Jolt (WetPlanet Inc.), the super-buzz Cola (almost, at least 100% caffeine) which is my second-most productive beverage. Ideally, one should spike Jolt with J&B Scotch (or vice versa?), the ratio of spikeage (spikicity?) depending on your needs. J&B for bold fuck-the-syntax inspiration; Jolt to fight guilt and insomnia.

I've been one of the few to serve as a Jolt Judge since year-0, and therefore take the job as seriously as my wayward-skeptical, satirical soul allows.

My own votes have not always prevailed (see my many previous comments on Psephological Injustices) but I bow to the superior wisdom and on-hands realism of my fellow/peer Judges.

I therefore hope to reach the benches of the Supreme Court one rainy day, though I was rejected in my application for a Papal vacancy on the grounds of being over-qualified.

If I do get to a Washington hot seat I promise to install a 0th ammendment/allegiance: "In Microsoft We Trust, One Framework under God, the Bill of Rights..."

You can read of the 25 Jolt and Productivity Award Winners in the Software Development Magazine, July 2002, Vol 10, No. 7 or visit www.sdmagazine.com.

In addition to four winners (one Jolt and three Productivities: a sort of Gold-Silver-Bronze-Lead quadrilemma [ref 2]) in each category [ref 3], we have the occasional special Jolt Hall Of Fame award. This goes to honor particular companies, products, or programmers who been consistently productive over the years. There is, again, a parallel with Hollywood's notion of rewarding great performers and writers who, for obscure reasons, never gained the coveted Oscar.

I was delighted to see that Borland (for whom I have the softest of software spots, having enjoyed a minor but well-paid contribution during the Philippe Kahn glory days) made the 2001 Hall of Fame in 2002 after many years of ups'n'downs and near- extinction fighting the "Evil MS Empire."

It was good to see familar faces, such as that of Borland's now Chief Scientist, Chuck Jazdzewski (love them sublime Polish consonantal [ref 4] clusters (call Chuck, Iwonka or me to hear the sweet sounds) on the front cover of the op cit Software Development Magazine (July, 2002).

Note that the "normal" Jolt Awards are based/dated on the previous year's achievements, yet another source of the "off-by- one" confusion. By contrast, The ACM HOPL (History of Programming Languages) conferences are held every five years to avoid lending credence to volatile, fly-by-night languages. There's the remarkable case of FORTH being denied admission on the grounds that it was not really a language! Eventually, after ten years, FORTH was recognized with formal HOPL papers, proving that programming languages, whether dead or alive, or naively based on the number of active "seats," must be judged by their influence on the sweaty course of evolution.

The Borland survival, nay, renaissance merits many a doctoral thesis. The Jolt "Libraries, Components And Frameworks" category (wow, is that one of those super-large sets that bedazzled Russell, Go:del, me, and Shannan Hobbs?) was Microsoft's .NET Framework and its Java-killing C# (pronounced C sharp or D flat?) language.

Even there we have a Borland connection: my all-time ProgHeldenSiegfried, Anders Hejlsberg, father of C# and .NET, who was wooed away from Borland to the "Evil Other Side," also known in many Courts as the "Defendent." I resist the knee-jerk cries of "alack, alas," nor would I dare to venture into the litigational swamps of modern job-Shangais.

The rich do, by definition, tend to get richer by attracting talents from their rivals, using an ancient artefact called m-o- n-e-y.

There were many dizzy lawsuits in those days. A super-bright programmer could legally jump from ship A to ship B, often but always enticed by the green-backed lettuce. Rumors that Ship A was heading for the rocks sometimes triggered an understandable shift of allegiance. Consider the ambiguous idiom of early- warning "rats" deserting the sinking boat?

The legal, by defintion prolonged [ref 5], disputes oft revolve around epistemological factors (the perfect excuse for avoiding resolution?): would the ship-jumpers take with them [ref 6] some sacred intellectual properties that they had sworn in writing never to reveal. How to enforce this policy, short of a fatal lobotomy?

I can't think of any effective constitutional amendment that can dilute our Homo sapiens' apodeictic greed. Discuss without using the phrase "selfish gene."

Note in passing, the US Constitution promotes the pursuit of happiness with no guarantee that you'll achieve nirvanana.

eXtreme aGility Is All The Rage

The Jolt Books category (now including, after much altercation, audios, videos and on-line "distant" [ref 7] learning) is a vital pointer to emergent methodological fads. "Emergent" is an emergent predicate to add to your vocab alongside "emerging." It's a tad more promising and posh with few real semantic payloads, as with "societal" vs "social."

Note, for example, how effectic is the word "Agile." As with Apple, Oracle, and Rational Rose (dare I add Aptitune?), it's hard to resist the lovable sign-to-signed mapping.

Years ago at a West-German Frankurt DP show, I tried in vain to warn a Herr Eichner that his paper-tape-operated machine would not sell in the USA and many parts of Europe as the Eichner Tronictyper (add your own Nazi gutturals!)

Looking back, I should have recalled the slogan of Smuckers Jams:

"With a name like ours, we must be good!"

And how to explain the success of the Wolkswagen? Great engineering overcomes 3rd Reich ethos?

The Jolt-bronze Book went to Alistair Cockburn's Agile Software Development (Addison-Wesley, 2001). Yet another quirk of the judging process is that judges (who naturally write books and software) cannot reasonably nominate and/or vote for their own works.

ELSE a sound alternative might have beeen:

Agile Modeling: Effective Practices for eXtreme Programming and the Unified Process, Scott Ambler, Wiley Computer Publishing, John Wiley & Sons, Inc, New York, 2002 [0-471-20282-7]

since Scott Ambler is a widely-published fellow judge!

Again, ask who could be against the cute case-sensitive "eXtreme" or quiibble with a "Unified" process?

It turns out that "Agile Modelling is a practices-based process that describes how to be an effective modeler." (page xiii, op cit). Tourist to New Yorker: "How do I get to Carnegie Hall?" NY response: "Prastise, practise!"

A strange hint that automation is inherently inflexible and agility-deficient comes with this preamble to AlphaCraze's online shopping system:

"Since we use an automated order processing system, we are unable to make changes to or cancel an order once it has been placed by the customer."

Curse those persistent databases!

To be fair, later on in their Terms Of Sales, AlphaCraze indicate a willingness to modify orders or exchange products if the customer insists.

The 4th Jolt Book (not to be confused with Booker) prize went to

Under Pressure and On Time, Ed Sullivan, Microsoft Press, 2001.

Some cynics (see recent anti-MS diatribes) may prefer MS to be "Relaxed, a Tad Late and Bug-Free."

Following my May SODA on the MS ScanDisk error messages, I've had some risible responses from Bob Toxen et al, which I'll digest/precis next month, including hints on how to deep-hack Windows, probably illegally, in order to modify the error text.

A rather frustratingly common Shut-Down Windows warning is:

"This program has performed an illegal operation. Consult the program vendor."

Fair enough, but I get this in Outlook Express (aka Lookout Depress). The vendor happens to be...surprise...drum- roll...Microsoft.

Still, I should heed the advice of the Juvenal delinquent who suggests that some satirical targets are far to easy: "It's wicked to mock the afflicted."

It's My Kind Of Town, Osaka Is!

But onward, patient readers, to my trip to Japan.

Fear not, I will not dwell on the Soccer-style Football events that motivated my visitation. For those who share my life-long devotion to the sometimes "beautiful game," no explanation is necessary.

As Bill Shankly (Shanks), the immortal coach of my home team, Liverpool FC, is reported famously to have said:

"Fitba' is no a matter of life and death. It's more important than that."

For those who detest the game, no explanation is sufficient.

You'll need to know that the FIFA World Cup 2002 is the most logistically challenging since the event started in 1930, hosted by Uruguay. For the first time, this year's competition was staged in Asia, jointly by Japan and the Republic of Korea (loosely known as South Korea).

The 32 finalist-nations from previous knock-out hurdles are then subjected to a complex sequence of group, subgroup confrontations held at 20 venues (10 in Japan, 10 in Korea), mainly in stadia specially built or restored for the occasion.

I mention this geo-ethnic background because in order to watch England's opening games in Group F, dubbed the Group of Death, required trips to Saitama, Tokyo (vs Sweden), Sapporo (vs Argentine), and Osaka (vs Nigeria). If you study the maps and fixture-lists, you'll see that I was subjected to a hectic flight schedule straddling the central (Tokyo), north (Hokkaido), and south (Osaka) extremes of Japan. But with sufficient gaps betweem the games to enjoy the basic tourist pleasures.

So, how to summarize my first exposure to Japanese culture?

First, although I was familiar with Edward W. Said's warnings against the West's post-colonial image of the East as an inscrutable "other," I was not prepared for a massive shatterings of my inbuilt nyths.

I fell in love at every corner of the Tokyo Roppongi district with people who found me equally exotic.

On the sordid rumor-level of high-cost booze and tobacco, I soon found that with 120-125 yen per US dollar, I could buy a whiskey for $4 (comparable to my local dispensations) and a pack-of-fags for $1 to $2 (far below comme d'habitude).

And if you avoid the top tourist geisha "see you coming Stan-san" sites, the other necessities of life, such as food and lodgings, are far from exorbitant.

My divine guide, whose Kanji name means "Friend," but whom I tongue-in-cheek dubbed Tokyo Rose, introduced me to the sweet- sour secrets of the written Japanese[s]. Here we have possibly the most challenging language, demanding three distinct scripts/syllabaries and several thousand ideograms.

From the easy Romajii (using the Roman alphabet, whereby you see shops marked as Gucci and MacDonalds) we move to the Katakana and Hiragana syllabaries, thence to the mystical Kanji picture- characters borrowed from the Chinese.

Of course, you can get by with conversational Japanese on a "purely" phonetic level (the grammar is far less complex than, say, Cherokee or Basque) but coping with signs for pubs, streets, and subways requires a mastery of the three strange character sets.

Even the Kana Can Be Easy (Kunihiko Ogawa, The Japan Times, 2002), which falls over to simplify Katakana and Hirakana, admits that

"It is well-known that the Japanese writing system, among those of the World languages, is uniquely complex."

The story goes back to circa 400 AD when the Japanese language lacked a written representation. They, some say, alas, borrowed Chinese ideograms, dubbed Kanji, based on a mix of semantic and phonetic roots. The complex, fascinating sequel is related in

Kanji Kanji, Ed. Morita Tohru, The EAST Publications, Inc., Tokyo, Japan, 2nd inpression, 1989.

From which I quote:

"Words preceded Letters!"

Hard for us westerners to dig?

Each Kanji element has an original suggested "picture" meaning e.g., man, woman, mouth, sun, moon, earth, water...

Put'em together and what have you got? Nickety-nackety-noo?

There's a huge semantic-mapping rub.

Man + Mouth == Truth
Woman + Woman == Quarrel

Built-in stereotypes, some false, some true?

Japanese children can be given wonderful Kanji names, which are not always readibly speakable!

The Japan Times, June 6, 2002 (Kanji Clinic, "Modern parents playing thr kanji 'Name That Baby' game," Mary Sisk Noguchi) reports a fashionable name for a girl:

Amane == Lover of Logic

A sharp blow to ancient Eastern myths?

Next Month

Some moving email in diverse scripts from my new friends in Nippon to Shogun Stan-San!

Meanwhile a jpeg of Madoka, my pusher (wheelchair, of course) at the Nagai Stadium, Osaka)

Picture of Stan and Madoka Hosumi

ref 1: Whether this idiom has non-PC stereotypical implications I leave to my sensitive readers.

ref 2: Theologians discussing the Theodicy paradox (how can infinitely powerful, infintely just, infinitely merciful God(s) allow so much apparent Evil?) have coined the word "trilemma," going beyond the familiar "dilemma." You meet a similar trichotomy in the Merchant of Venice. I risk an extension that might well be called "tetralemma" for those uneasy about mixed Latin-Greek roots.

ref 3: What I wrote in 1995 is still relevant

Jolt Award n. [From Jolt (tm), an explosively- caffeinated "soft" drink much favored by all-night programmers.] o'3 The software-developers' Oscar, launched circa 1990 by Larry O'Brien (then Editor, Miller-Freeman's Computer Language Magazine, now called Software Development).

+ As on Hollywood's academe, the Jolt categories are yearly becoming increasingly bizarre, combining particularity and universality to ensure that everyone wins. Thus, to mirror "Best French Movie Not Starring Any Depardieux," we have "Least Offensive GUI Builder Running In Under 8MB." (The Computer Contradictionary, SKB, MIT Press)

I've since added "Best Spreadsheet written by an Albanian Lesbian Unipod."

ref 4: Was it not Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers who sang/danced in black'n'white arrays that everyone was doing the "Consonantal"

ref 5: The ideal for billable hours was when the lawyers created an endless-loop. Not sure if I have the suing (sewage?) cycle spot on, but it went like: Xerox vs Apple; Apple vs HP; HP vs IBM; IBM vs Xerox. Have I missed out Borland or Norton?

ref 6: Note the clever use of the gender-free plural to avoid the clumsy "he or she," "his or hers."

ref 7: Or "distance" learning? Either way, you are more than 20 yards from real-live lecturers and miss the distractions of nose and crotch itch. See also ref 6.


15 Long Years Ago

Devil's Advocate, UNIX Review, June 1987 -- (c) Stan Kelly-Bootle

"I Would Like to Seymour of You!"

A surprising number of readers (0 < n < 2) are up in arms over my putative book, "Tricks of the Cray Masters - Probably the Only Cray Book You'll Ever Need," (this column, UNIX Review, March 1987). More precisely, Mike Riordan of Michigan State University, who claims to be an "actual acquaintance of someone who works for Cray Research," objects to my plan to devote Chapter 2 ("Biting The Bullet") to a detailed explanation of the Hex notation. "Real programmers," according to Mike, "don't put letters in their numbers!"

Well, first of all, there are lots of people going around claiming that they know someone who works for Cray Research, but when I slam them up against the wall and prompt them with a broken Guinness bottle (see Hal Hardenbergh's letter in the March issue), they start hedging, like. The real truth is that, at most, they have a brother who once dated a girl whose uncle's hairdresser once read an article about Supercomputers in Time magazine. There are simply not enough Cray employees, gregarious or otherwise, to meet the demand.

I've noticed a similar contradiction with the hoards of programmers who boast that they have switched painlessly to C++ (pronounced Seymour). Whom do they think they are fooling? The plain fact is that XLISP++, SAIL++ and my own Turbo-RPG++ have already cornered the market in classes, objects and post- increment symbols. Better bind late than never, as they say, but isn't nine years a little too late? The object-oriented bandwagon is full, man, so don't rock the boat. (And don't mix your metaphors...Ed.)

Returning to Mike Riordan's plea to keep numbers numerical, I was amused to see that his address at MSU's Computer Lab is Room 220CC! Do we detect what might be called a sniff of insidious alphabetical pollution in this pointer? I wrote to him at Room 420314, so time will tell if the campus mailperson digs octal. To add to the confusion I translated the zip from decimal to hex, giving MI BEB8. If there's an East Lansing in Canada, Mike, they have a letter for you! Here are the highlights:

"...you may recall that my dear pal and undisputably REAL programmer, Al Turing used radix 32 (each char from our 5-track teleprinter code was used to represent a value 0-31 - not a pretty sight) - so perhaps you will modify your claim a teeny bit? Alan could actually do mental arithmetic directly in radix 32 with no aid from HP or the Pilot ACE. If you asked him what's VVVV + 1, quick as a flash he'ld say 10000! As you can guess, our numbers were mostly letters (a ratio of 2.2:1 in fact).

I must confess that Hex has been useful to me lately - working on a 68000 AlphaMicro system that has (horror) adopted INTEL byte gender (i.e. low-mem=3Dlow-byte)! It is fairly easy to prove that neither 8, 16 nor 32 are divisible by 3, but that all three are readily divisible by 4. Looking at a raw octal dump of sets of 16-bit words and trying to picture the bytes therein reversed...tres macho but it hurts the brain. Then my friend whispered "try SET HEX," and my marriage was saved.

PS: Do you know a good mnemonic for octal 60177756?"

Paddy Gives Good Sieve

Irish Business Machines, a subsidiary of SK-B Inc., is proud to announce CLONE-1401. It took a little longer than planned, but well worth waiting for, to be sure. Our courteous staff (me and me brother Sean), aren't we both sittin' be de blower, awaitin' yer orders?

Before you all scream, "Not ANOTHER 1401 clone?" we must point out that this clone is unique in cloning history. Tell us another clone that is bigger, heavier, slower and more expensive than the original?

And if it's benchmarks yer after, we can prove it! If you're sick and tired of spellin' and pronouncin' the Prime Sieve of Erasto..Erato..Error...whats'is name, we offer you Paddy's Sieve. This lists both primes and composites, between 2 and aleph-0 in either direction. The program is supplied free, but make sure you have lots of paper.


Stan's bio:

Liverpool-born Stan Kelly-Bootle has been exposed to computing, on and off and vice-versa, since 1953 when, after graduating in Pure Mathematics at Cambridge University, he switched to impure post-grad work on the wondrous EDSAC I. After some trenching with IBM and Univac in the 1960s and 70s, Stan opted for self-employment as a consultant, writer, folk-song revivalist, after-dinner entertainer, and cunning linguist.

His monthly DA ("Devil's Advocate") column ran and ran in UNIX Review (aka Performance Computing) from 1984 until January 2000 (a date that will live in infamy) but lives on as SODA ("Son of DA") via www.sarcheck.com the homepage devoted to UNIX performance.

The latest of his umpteen books are "The Computer Contradictionary" (MIT Press) and "UNIX Complete" (Sybex). More on his biblio- and disco-graphy can be found on http://www.feniks.com/skb/ soon due for its millennial update.

Stan welcomes reader reaction: skb@atdial.net

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This column is sponsored by Aptitune Corporation, makers of SarCheck. The opinions of Stan Kelly-Bootle are his own and (especially this month) do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Aptitune Corporation. Other products and companies referred to herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective companies or mark holders.