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Journal Journal: Yesterday's Tomorrow is now available!

It turned into a beautiful thing. It's full of illustrations, plus photos of the authors and covers of the magazines the stories were printed in. It has the first use of the word "astronaut", the cover story of the issue of Astounding that is said to have ushered in the "golden age of science fiction, A.E. van Vogt's first published science fiction, a few other firsts, and five stories that are printed from cleaned up scans of the magazines. There are biographies of all the writers in the book.

I usually encourage folks to read the stories online or check a copy out from their local library, but not this time. The printed book is head and shoulders better than the electronic versions.

There are stories by Isaac Asimov, John W. Campbell, Murray Leinster, Frederik Pohl, Neil R. Jones, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., A. E. van Vogt, Theodore Sturgeon, Poul Anderson, Phillip K. Dick, Frank Herbert, James Blish, Lester del Rey, Jerome Bixby, and a futurist essay by "the father of science fiction" Hugo Gernsback.

It will be a little while before the HTML version is available, since they're not done yet, but I'll post them as I finish them. Meanwhile, there is a PDF, an ePub, and an AZW3 posted for free download.

Yesterday's Tomorrows

User Journal

Journal Journal: OK, joke's on me 8 8

I have no business being surprised that the usual /. suspects are
as sheepish on how stupid the Iran deal is
as they are sheepish on Planned Parenthood
as they are sheepish on anthropogenic global warming
as they are sheepish on pretty much everything else.
Sweet lambs!
User Journal

Journal Journal: Belonging to a different era 1 1

Feeling a little nostalgic at the moment, but also beginning to sense a serious part of why I feel like a dunce today when it comes to computing when once I felt like a genius.

Quick wall of text on the Nostalgia bit

That article on Vector Graphics the other day reminded me a little of the S-100 bus, and the whole move to the PC ISA that came just before I really got into computing. The first computer I really touched was our school's RM 380Z, which was a proprietary CP/M based system, but exposure to that at school was mostly a "You can book 15 minutes to use it at lunchtime but otherwise the school maths teacher will use it to demonstrate things now and then." So the first computer I learned anything from was a friend's VIC 20. I then used a variety of cheap single-board-computers until my Amiga 500+, the most powerful of which was a Sinclair QL.

So... I never touched S-100. And I didn't really touch the PC until there was literally no other choice that was viable. S-100 was never an option for two major reasons: it was expensive, and it was crap. I mean, seriously, awful. S-100 survived because the home computing establishment's equivalent of the Very Serious People decreed it was Serious, and it was Serious because it was "standard".

A typical S-100 system consisted of the S-100 box itself - a dumb motherboard (very dumb, the only components on it were the edge connectors and a few capacitors and resistors to do all that magic EE specialists understand and I could never get my head around) enclosed in a card cage, plus a CPU card, a completely separate memory card or three, a completely separate disk controller, and a completely separate serial I/O card. The disk controller would be hooked up to a disk drive it was designed to control (yes, proprietary), which would be unlike around 90% of other disk drives out there - that is, if you were lucky. And the I/O card would be hooked up to a terminal that frequently was more powerful than the S-100 computer it was hooked up to..

Each combination of I/O and disk controller cards required a custom BIOS so you could run CP/M with it.

The bus itself was essentially the pins of an 8080 turned into a 100 line bus. So you were essentially wiring each card to an 8080, or something pretending to be an 8080, in parallel. This required quite a bit of hardware in each bus to make sure each didn't conflict with other S-100 cards.

Now, technically, you could get graphics (and maybe sound) cards, but that was unusual. Likewise, you could get more exotic CPUs - though getting software for them was a problem. But the typical S-100 system was text only with a Z80, and the typical S-100 system owner spent rather a lot of time trying to figure out how to order a "standard" CP/M application in a form that would run on their "standard" S-100 system, taking into account their disk drive that only 10% of the market used and their terminal that used VT-52 codes rather than VT-101 codes or (insert one of the other popular terminals here.)

Did I mention this is expensive? While the original Altair 8800 was $500 or so, it came with nothing but the card cage and motherboard, the CPU card, and a little bit of memory. And even on this, the makers barely broke even, expecting to make the profits on after sales. Useful memory, a terminal, an I/O card, a disk controller, and a disk drive, pushed up the prices considerably. Realistically, typical "useful" S-100 systems cost somewhere around $4,000.

Given all of that, it's not really surprising it got supplanted by the PC. Much is made of the fact IBM was taken more seriously by people outside of the personal computer industry in 1981, and that undoubtedly helped, but I can't help but feel that S-100 couldn't have survived for much longer regardless. You could buy a complete system from Commodore or Apple that was more capable for a third of the price even in 1981. The PC didn't need to be cheap, it had IBM's name behind it, but it was obviously more capable than S-100, and it was obvious that if the architecture was adopted by the industry, machines based upon it would be more standardized.

The "Feeling like a dunce" bit

So anyway, that was my train of thought. And it occurred to me that the fact I even have opinions on this suggests my mindset is still stuck there. Back then, even when you programmed in BASIC, you were exerting almost direct control over the hardware. You had a broad idea of what the machine did, what memory locations were mapped onto what functions, and every command you typed affected the computer in a predictable way. The computers themselves were (mostly) predictable too.

As time wore on, especially with the advent of multitasking (which I welcomed, don't get me wrong) you learned to understand your software would be only one party to how the computer behaved, but you understood that if you followed the rules, and the other programmers did too, you could kinda get your head around what was happening to it.

And you felt like a genius if you understood this. And I say "if", because it was possible.

At some point that stopped being possible. Part of it was the PC ISA, the fact an architecture from 1981 was still in use in the mid-nineties by which time it was long in the tooth and needed serious work. Its deficiencies were addressed in software and hardware. Intel essentially replaced the CPU, leaving a compatible stub there to start older applications, and the industry - after a few false starts - threw out most of the PC design and replaced it with the PCI architecture, again, like Intel leaving compatible stubs here and there to ensure older stuff would work. And Microsoft worked on making Windows the real interface software would use to access the hardware.

After a while, there were so many abstractions between your software and the underlying system, it really became hard to determine what was going on underneath. If I program, I now know there are rules I can follow that will reduce the chance of my application being a problem... today. But I don't know if that's the case for the next version of Windows, and all I know is how to reduce the chances, not how to eliminate them. I don't know if the Java I'm writing will generate a webpage that contains Javascript that will contain a memory leak that'll cause the part of the process managing the tab its in to bloat up an additional 100M or so. I can hope it won't, and use mitigation strategies to avoid things that might cause problems, but there are so many things outside of my control I have to trust now, it's just not practical.

Logically the right thing to do under the circumstances is to take back control, to use lower level APIs and simpler sets of rules, but in practice that's just not practical, and doing so means that my tools no longer fit inside the ecosystem with everyone else's. So it's not the right thing - it's actually the worst thing I can do, and if I tried to do it, I'd be shunned as a developer.

I was a genius once because I (mostly) understood the computers I was programming. I feel like a dunce today because that's just not possible any more.

Republicans

Journal Journal: Benghazi Conspiracy Summarized in Four Words 55 55

Conspiracy propagators tend to love bumper stickers. This bumper sticker is stricken with nearly more problems than words, though.
  • It claims that what was told was known at the time to not be true (ie, the definition of a lie)
  • It claims the wrong order of events (it would be essentially impossible to lie about something before it happens - if I tell you that the Boston Celtics will win the 2018 Super Bowl is that automatically a lie [even though the Celtics don't play football]?)
  • it implies that had something else been said, the four who died would still be alive
  • If it is a response to the "Bush Lied, Thousands Died" stickers that oppose the war in Iraq, it implies that the lie was told in order to promote an event or decision
User Journal

Journal Journal: whopper of the week 3 3

"Star Trek wasn't political." -- William Shatner

Back in the real world, ST is one of the most political TV shows of all time. It embodies multi-culturalism, feminism, passivism, anti-capitalism, and environmentalism, as those just off the top of my head. TFMSNBCA uses the term "progressive", which I would only nitpick at in the capitalization of the first letter.

I enjoyed the original series, less so the later ones, and most of the movies, but let's face it, ST is a communist institution in America. Beside there being a whole movie devoted to the old Leftie "save the whales" thing, we had the Ferengi for goodness sakes, an alien race developed to portray how ugly private enterprise makes us!

But aside from Mr. Shatner's farcical statement, I had been rooting for The Donald for prez, but I'm warming to Ted Cruz after this. He's right about how how in TNG they split Kirk up (and I would say later brought them back together into one in Voyager; which reminds me, include Native American/primitive (i.e. non-successful, non-Christian, non-Western Culture) cultures worship in the list) into the ass-kicker (Riker) and the pussy (Shjon-Luke).

See, they even gave them kick-ass and pussy-sounding names, respectively. And of course the Republican had to be subordinate to the Democrat, as it should be in any good, forward-thinking society amiright.

p.s. As an added extra bonus to this JE, there's also the most metal item of the week.

User Journal

Journal Journal: license plate frame of the week last week 11 11

"It takes a lot of balls"

"To play golf like me!"

p.s. WTF is up with Left's twinkie defense in the Planned "Get yer baby parts here!" Parenthood brouhaha? The argument seems to go that this pro-life group has been after them for so long, somehow that means this revelation shouldn't count! Like they should get a do-over. What was exposed doesn't count because it was no-fairzees. Because they've really been after us.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Trump vindicates damn_registrars 8 8

"Wisconsin is in turmoil," Trump told a boisterous crowd at a rally in Iowa. He pointed to the state's roads, schools and hospitals, which he said were all "a disaster."
Walker, who is leading polls in Iowa, remains one of Trump's biggest rivals in the race.
"I hear the only person beating me in Iowa is Scott Walker," he said. "I can't believe I'm in second place. Folks, will you please put me in first place so I feel better?"
Trump told the crowd Saturday that he had helped Walker win his race because he admired the candidate's "fight," but didn't know what he was fighting for. "I've been very nice to him," he said.
But after Walker's fundraising email went public, Trump declared: "I can finally attack."

I think Trump is a buffoon, but, if the Vichy GOP put up JEB, I'll cheerfully vote for His Donaldness.

User Journal

Journal Journal: GreaseMonkey scripts 6 6

I've been making use of GreaseMonkey for some time now. I found some scripts that i lie, namely Allow Password Remembering, Block youtube users, and Google Hit Hider by Domain. I've added a few of my own, Displaying Monk Levels and Checking Saint in our Book for ties, both for PerlMonks and now, Amazon Star percent to number.

I love Amazon Reviews, and those stars mean a lot to me. However, Amazon, in their great wisdom, decided to replace the useful numbers with useless percentages. Well, not useless, but compared to actual numbers, percents mean next to nothing. Who cares if 100% 5-star it, if that's only one person. I'd rather purchase a product with 80% 5-stars, but by a few hundred people. Sure, the number is on top, but who wants to do the math all the time?

To grab the number, the reviews page would have to be loaded for each star. So, i just did multiplication, which will be close enough. I guess the reviews page can get the actual number as opposed to multiplying, but this is good enough, and since it can be the same as the main product page which i did first, i'm not interested in putting in the effort to change it for the reviews page.

User Journal

Journal Journal: The Kevlar Kandidate Waffles on Homosexuality 21 21

We might be able to start a "Kevlar vs Kevlar" list soon, in the same way that others had made "McCain vs McCain lists" showing how the latter was flipping his positions in the breeze. Team Kevlar might need to get a press release out to clarify this issue before people stop paying attention to him:

Source: CNN's State of the Union interview with the Kevlar Kandidate

Walker on if being gay is a choice: âoeOh, I mean I think - that's not even an issue for me to be involved in. The bottom line is, I'm going to stand up and work hard for every American regardless of who they are, no matter where they come from, no matter what their background. I'm going to fight for people and no matter whether they vote for me or not.â

Walker on if Boys Scouts of America should keep its ban on gay leaders: âoeThat's up to the people who run the boy scouts. â¦Sure. I said in this case that's what I thought. I thought the policy was just fine. ⦠I was saying when I was in scouts it was fine. You're asking what should the policy be going forward? It should be left up to the leaders of the scouts.â

Notice his very humble interview, in the back of his Winnebago. Don't you usually give media interviews in your decked-out Winnebago? He's just like everyone else, of course...

User Journal

Journal Journal: Hey, these retards are like the ones I work with 5 5

http://romancescams.org/ Scroll down to the quiz. The Yes/No choices are not represented by radio buttons (or some other single-selection-only UI element), but by checkboxes. So WTF does it mean if I check both Yes and No to a pretty much binary question.

Kind of like the morons at my work that represent an action with a checkbox. A checkbox represents state, a pushbutton advertises an available action. So we have checkboxes that then visually (along with their label) signal a certain state, even when the application is no longer in that state.

When I brought this up, and said a pushbutton would be more appropriate, I was told that technically I have a point, but that they don't care.

User Journal

Journal Journal: CuBox Wifi Streaming Solved

I believe I have mentioned before that every bit of media I purchase I digitize and store the files on a central server. That includes over 300 movies and over 100 television episodes, plush a few hundred audio tracks. Everything is available anywhere in my home via wireless streaming, however I had been having problems with reliably streaming 1080p HD video over WiFi to my main television units.

My back end device is simply a Buffalo AirStation AC 1750 running DD-WRT build 27456. It is configured for WiFi AC-only in the 5.8 GHz band, and G/N/AC in the 2.4 GHz band to accommodate some older devices.

A Western Digital My Passport Ultra 2 Tb USB 3.0 drive is plugged into the back of the wireless router, which acts as a NAS and makes media available via SAMBA shares.

Over all I like this set-up, though after several months of use I can't really recommend the Buffalo AirStation for the simple reason that it doesn't have any external antennas. It really suffers in coverage area because of this. DD-WRT is great, as is the little 2 Tb WD drive, but I'll never again get a wireless gizmo that doesn't use an external antenna.

The front end to my televisions scattered throughout the house is a CuBox i4-Pro running OpenELEC. This is a fantastic combination that has been almost -- but not quite -- perfect for me. It is also easy to use for my non-technical wife and future geek 7-year old child.

The one issue has been reliably streaming 1080p HD videos to a CuBox. Even with the unit less than 10 meters away from the access point, with no obstructions, it would routinely have such a poor connection as to not be able to keep up with the playback. Watching the dashboard of DD-WRT showed me it had less than 30% signal strength and constantly would drop to 5.5 Mbps connection rates.

To eliminate interference I got up in the middle of the night and shut off everything that used wifi except the CuBox and it still performed poorly.

The short answer is the built-in wireless on the CuBox is abysmal. Again, no external antenna and 2.4 GHz only. Further investigation showed it would not work with channel bonding, thus not use 40 MHz channels in 802.11n. I don't know if it is a chipset limitation or a driver issue. Either way, it sucks.

My answer was to buy a USB wifi adapter with an external antenna. This one is tiny, totally plug-and-play, and absolutely does the trick. And for $12.99, including Prime shipping, a bargain. It is marketed towards the Raspberry Pi, which is what I bought it for. It uses the Realtek RT5370 chipset and is supported at the kernel level (no extra drivers needed) in Android, OpenELEC, Raspbian and lots of other Linux flavors.

It support 802.11n and bonded, 40 MHz channels and, more importantly, handles HD streams without breaking a sweat. I just ordered 2 more to outfit my 2 other CuBox devices so I can stream everything to the TVs in bedrooms without running wires.

(Note: I'm in a fairly low-population subdivision and not a lot of 2.4 GHz wireless around. I'm not stepping on any of my neighbors with my signal.)

First Person Shooters (Games)

Journal Journal: The Kevlar Kandidate Channels Benghazi 4 4

Republican Doublethink on Mass Shootings: Scott Walker Edition

There is no shortage of popular conspiracies for Republicans to channel when looking to enrage their base against President Lawnchair. Barely a week in to his "official" campaign (which unofficially started at least a year ago), Scott "Kevlar" Walker reached for one of the most popular conspiracies in a recent appearance on Fox News:

Mr. Walker and the Fox host Megyn Kelly tut-tutted about the fact that President Obama did not immediately call the Chattanooga killer a Muslim terrorist. They had no idea at the time whether that was true, but the point of the exchange was to attack Mr. Obama. They used it to revive another favorite talking point â" that the president did not quickly label the attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi as a terrorist attack

He also is testing the popularity of a conservative bill from not-too-long ago:

Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, who recently joined the Republican primary carnival in an âoeofficialâ way, says the government should reauthorize the Patriot Act in response to the murder of four Marines in Chattanooga, Tenn., by a 24-year-old gunman.

Which segues into another popular tack for that side:

And he suggested that changing a policy that stops military personnel from carrying weapons in certain civilian areas would have prevented the attack. Those policies âoeare outdated,â Mr. Walker said on Fox News, because the United States is âoeat war and radical Islamic terrorism is our enemy.â

User Journal

Journal Journal: Shout out to the Nematodes 25 25

I'd like to ask the worms on here to defend that scumbag Chisholm, but such would require vertebrae.

It is utterly clear that the special prosecutor has employed theories of law that do not exist in order to investigate citizens who were wholly innocent of any wrongdoing. In other words, the special prosecutor was the instigator of a "perfect storm" of wrongs that was visited upon the innocent Unnamed Movants and those who dared to associate with them. It is fortunate, indeed, for every other citizen of this great State who is interested in the protection of fundamental liberties that the special prosecutor chose as his targets innocent citizens who had both the will and the means to fight the unlimited resources of an unjust prosecution.

I rarely feel genuine shame over my country, but this is an example of a source thereof.

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it is too dark to read.

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