diary at Telent Netowrks

Is this cool, or what#

Sun, 29 Feb 2004 20:04:25 +0000

Is this cool, or what?

No, it's not really an Apple II port of CMUCL, it's the xscreensaver apple2 hack. Still cute, though.

I'm thinking hard about the cirCLe project at the moment: not the#

Wed, 03 Mar 2004 16:31:23 +0000

I'm thinking hard about the cirCLe project at the moment: not the attempt last year to produce and charge for a CD full of Lisp software, but the overall objective of a free lisp-based system. This particular chunk of text started life as "Why I must write cirCLe" in the project goals document, but clearly it wants to be longer than the single paragraph demanded there. It also wants to be coherent, and isn't entirely yet, so consider this an early draft

The GNU operating system is nearly done. The OS kernels, libraries, basic programming tools and Unix-compatible utilities in systems based on Linux and other free Unixlike kernels are good enough that they've displaced proprietary Unixes and other operating systems for many purposes. What next? One obvious answer is "applications"

For many hackers, working on free operating system components has been an opportunity to write code that they themselves want to use ("scratching an itch") and the resulting code has been reliable and high-quality. But now we're writing for "nontechnical" people, and we're to believe that

This is only partly true. The user should not need to know the innards of a piece of software to use it effectively, but there's a difference between making it unnecessary to learn more and making it difficult to learn more.

I'm not suggesting that anybody intends to make it difficult, but when the typical user is not expected even to try to investigate their software, then extensibility, remote control and programmable interfaces are - quite reasonably - going to be a low priority. Better just to work on the features that the user wants.

So what's likely to happen? Users have no way to contribute back to the software they're using. Everyone knows the first rule of technical support: "``the person on the other end of the phone is an idiot''. Curiously, this applies no matter whether you're asking the questions or answering them". Without the basis for mutual respect between the people writing software and the people using it, do we really have a community? More pragmatically, if the only people with the expertise to make changes to our free software system are the people who wrote it, are we really so much better off than we would have been with a proprietary system?

I contend that the answer is "no"; that this disconnect between developers and users is harmful, and that we need a system where the users and the developers are on equal terms and have the same opportunities and the same tools. So we must use a language expressive enough that we can write the whole system in it; where the extension language and the implementation language are the same.

This is not for universal distribution yet, but I'm sure my readership#

Fri, 05 Mar 2004 19:20:35 +0000

This is not for universal distribution yet, but I'm sure my readership is sufficiently short of universal (and, I like to imagine, a civilised, well-mannered subset of the universe that is prepared to tolerate a degree of unfinishedness and consider ideas on their merits instead of rejecting them out of hand on the basis of an ill-thought-out emotional response) that nothing bad will happen if I tell you guys what I've been doing lately.

(Yes, it is legal. Well, what I'm about to talk about is legal. I'm not sure that the rollerblading in bus lanes which I have also been doing lately is likewise legal, but that's not germane as I'm not about to talk about that)

So, this is not an announcement of The cirCLe Project Version 2 - whose goal is to produce the cirCLe distribution, version 0 - but you might want to take a look anyway.

So, it looks like I have somewhere to live in London#

Tue, 09 Mar 2004 15:11:10 +0000

So, it looks like I have somewhere to live in London. Which is a weight off my mind, because I no longer have somewhere to live in Oxford after next week (and though I might possibly be able to get away with sleeeping under my desk for a few days, I think people would get rapidly annoyed if I moved all my books, cds and computers in here as well)

A couple of people probably had error messages from CLiki last night complaining about read-only file systems. This was some kind of ext3 error, as a result of which I lost my 360 day uptime. Aw. Note that during the course of that year and a bit I did many things to the system which may not have come up cleanly on boot: while I believe it's all working and happy again, if you see any behaviours more odd than usual from it, drop me email.

(CLiki posting was fixed as of about five minutes ago, so don't email me if you last tried it previous to that)

Mailing lists continued to not work for a couple of days, until I#

Sat, 13 Mar 2004 16:47:20 +0000

Mailing lists continued to not work for a couple of days, until I noticed and restarted cron. Now I think it's all working again.

I have little time for hacking this weekend because in observance of my New Years Resolution of 2002 I must spend the next few days abusing solvents. That's right, I need to clean the house.

The spray-on shower cleaner comes with instructions that say "for best results, use on a clean shower". Can't help wondering why I bothered buying that, then.

This is probably my last post from Oxford#

Thu, 18 Mar 2004 20:51:21 +0000

This is probably my last post from Oxford. At least, last from this house in Oxford: I'm sure I'll be visiting Oxford again in the near future, and someday I might even want to move back, but this particular episode is over.

So far I have

All things considered, really I should stop reading mail, turn the remaining computers off, and get on with it.

A moderately long post about Havoc's Linux-desktop-should-standardise-on-java document may follow (I disagree, which should come as no surprise to regular readers). I've had time to think about it but no time to write yet.

So I'm here in the big bad city#

Sun, 21 Mar 2004 21:11:15 +0000

So I'm here in the big bad city. The move was successful insofar as I arrived safely with all my possessions, most of which are still working, and only minor injuries. Things I'd do the same way again:

Some of it could have been done better:

Casualties so far: various cuts and abrasions, sore upper arms from carrying large boxes of books up four flights of stairs, and the PSU in my desktop, which doesn't any more. The fan doesn't go round even when prodded: I think I need a new one. That's the second PSU to die on me this year. Laptop works fine, wireless router, stereo and guitar ditto, haven't tried the imac yet. And I've lost my wireless network card, which is especially annoying as I didn't even /pack/ it, just removed it from my laptop to temporarily use a wired network card and put it down somewhere.

Still haven't had time to do anything about Havoc Pennington's Linux Desktop article, but between http://london.pm.org/pipermail/london.pm/Week-of-Mon-20040315/025430.html and my previously disseminated mutterings about habitable software and user extensibility, it should be pretty straightforward to guess what it was going to say.

Because I would rather be in bed than blogging, here is a very short#

Fri, 26 Mar 2004 05:46:34 +0000

Because I would rather be in bed than blogging, here is a very short entry

After a moment's contemplation I realise that I am in bed while writing this, and should have expressed a preference for what I really want to be. Which is, right now, asleep. Good night, then

Bought two new ATX power supplies; one for my usual desktop box,#

Tue, 30 Mar 2004 04:47:25 +0000

Bought two new ATX power supplies; one for my usual desktop box, and the other for the Alpha. In principle this means I now have a comfortable machine to resume hacking sbcl amd64 on, and I have a new (old) loaclhost.telent.net which will host telent cvs (clx, araneida, cliki, etc). The plan is that my wonderful employers put it on their freebie-hosting-for-employee-boxen network.

Slowly rewriting the threading section of the SBCL Manual. (a) in texinfo, to see what it's like; (b) in English, so that other people may see what it's like

Suffering from cold-type-thing on Friday: sore throat, headache, etc, so took tube home instead of riding. Feeling better by Sunday, so went skating. Much fun, albeit at a slightly slower pace than I'd been commuting in previous weeks. So, I'm going to try at least the first half of the Friday Night Skate this week. (If you're reading this and likely to be there on Friday or Sunday, drop me an email and I'll wear something distinctive like my purple SICP tshirt).

Lost again on way home from work today. Careful examination of the junction where I should have turned right, if I were riding my morning route in reverse, revealed that it was a one-way street. So, wandered a little further up the road, found another right turn, rode aimlessly for a while. Eventually pointed myself in the right direction with the aid of a couple of maps in convenient bus shelters. Less lost than Thursday, but extra time with an A-Z will still be required

It's now 0:26am. If this entry comes out dated at 5am, blame the rtc/apm handling in Linux 2.6, which has a nasty intermittent tendency to decide that it can get through two seconds in as long as it takes the wall clock to dispatch just one. In the fact of that kind of drift, ntp just curls into a foetal position and whimpers.