Thursday, April 30, 2009

Work, Work, Work...

Strange, but the recession hits different people in different ways.

I write embedded code for a living, industrial temperature controllers and similiar things. We also provide OEM controllers for a number of industrial equipment manufacturers.

Sales are down. Our customers sales are down. But software development is so busy we've had to hire a contract programmer.

Why? Our customers (particularly the people we do OEM controllers for) are hoping that introducing new products will increase their sales. Especially with a big trade show just around the corner (NPE).

That, combined with a couple of extra foster cats, and I don't have time to relax anymore...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Computer archeology...

(Doing this quickly, forgive me for lack of links...)

Long ago, there was a company called Wendin, that made some DOS shells with VMS and UNIX flavors (called PCVMS and PCNX) (and, if you really look deeply, there was the XTC editor, too).

They also, later, made an Operating System Toolbox (roughly VMS flavored, as I remember) which was intended as the basis of a "roll-your-own" IBM PC operating system.

They then built a DOS clone with the OST, but with multiuser / multitasking support. This was called Wendin DOS.

To help launch this, they had a debugging contest. Buy the "beta" version for a fairly nominal fee, and whoever finds the most bugs wins $500.00.

I won. Since I did assembly language for my anti-virus work and had written my own 8086 machine code interpreter, I went through the DOS functions and COMMAND functions systematically with example programs and found lots of things that didn't work.

Later, there was internal strife in Wendin (father owned the company, sons worked for him). The developers left.

Since I was so good at debugging Wendin DOS, I got hired to keep working on it.

I think I did an OK job, but some of the stuff was beyond me (at that time).

What does this have to do with computer archeology?

Well, as I mentioned before, I'm archiving my floppies.

And I found the source code to Wendin DOS.

It's an older version. Since I didn't write the disk label, I think this is the source code provided to me when I started the job.

Maybe I'll find my development directory in my piles of bits. Maybe not.

But at least this part of computer history (and, yes, it's a minor part) has not been lost.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Encyclopedic knowledge...

of cartoons.

Check out Toonopedia, the Cartoon encyclopedia.

While not encyclopedic in it's depth, it will still keep you busy for hours / days.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Technology catches up with history...

OK, I'm back. Sorry I got busy for a few days.

As I've mentioned before, I started computers when you connected a terminal to the computer, typed in your program, saved it, and then ran it (and hope it worked...)

However, back then, the computer you connected to was "big iron", an expensive mainframe that was shared among many users to save on costs.

However, things have gotten smaller, cheaper, and faster. You can have the same experience today with a microcontroller and telnet (or hyperterminal).

Yup... you can take your cheap little microcontroller and run it as an interactive, programmable system like an early mainframe. Only 1 user, but you were only 1 user when you used the mainframe, too...

Check out StickOS for an embedded programming host that runs on multiple CPU types, and PicPuter for a system that runs on a PIC16F877.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Movie Overload, epilogue...

Don't have a lot of time today, so I'll be brief.

One of the shorts in "Hardcore Heroes and Heroines" at the Philadelphia Film Festival was entitiled "Rx/OTC" and part of it's desciption was "Brace yourselves -- there are some things worse than death."

I agree.

Watching this was worse than death.

I had to control myself to keep from shouting out "Can we get this piece of crap off the screen?"

Friday, April 3, 2009

Movie Overload 3...

Another day, another movie. Just one this time (Thursday was a day of rest. Getting to bed before 1am is definately underrated...)

God's Forgotten Town is a Spanish Horror/Thriller that's a dash of X-Files and Raiders of the Lost Arc in a cozy setting. A decent movie, and better pacing than other movies I've seen in this film festival.

This weekend, however, is going to be busy.

On Friday, my wife and I are seeing (after work) Sita Sings The Blues (an animated Indian myth) back to back with Institute Benjamenta (weird as only the Quay brothers can do it). Another late night...

Saturday brings us A Quay Brothers Sampler (some of their short films) and Surveillance (FBI agents try to reconcile accounts of a serial killer).

Sunday is loaded with Straight for the Kill (a series of horror shorts), Hardcore Heroes and Heroines (a series of shorts, not for children or the squeemish), and 9 to 5: Days in Porn (a documentary about being a porn actor as a job) -- all 3 back-to-back.


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Movie Overload 2...

Two more days, two more movies (for me... my wife has been busier than I've been).

The Chaser, a Korean action movie, was pretty good. It might have been tightened up a bit, but that would have resulted in almost continual action (the "boring" stuff gets cut...). Definately not a US movie, they avoided the "happy ending" for one character that is pretty much manditory for a US movie. However, the screenwriter does one thing that I'm finding more and more annoying every time I see it.

When the "bad guy" is down in a fight, FINISH THE JOB so that they do not get up again. You don't put a rabid dog on the floor and turn your back on it. Anyone who ever did this in real life would ONLY DO IT ONCE BEFORE THEY LEARNED, and for it to happen again and again in movies (even though everyone has seen movies where it happens) makes things annoying, not suspenseful.

The Magic Hour is a Japanese comedy, a US 1930's gangster movie set in modern day japan. Yes, it sounds silly. Yes, it is silly. It might have been tightened up (they didn't need to make the same joke several times, even though it was always funny), but it was a a very funny movie and well worth seeing.

My wife also saw 3 more movies. A documentary (Art and Copy), a collecion of shorts about women (My Voice is My Sword) and an Italian drama (A Game for Girls), all of which she enjoyed.