Category Archives: Writing

The Cosseted Programmer

It appears we have come to a juncture in information technology where the sheer weight of data is forcing us to draft everybody into the ranks.  Over the years there have been multiple plays to gamify programming – make it cool – make it understandable – rather have people just stare dumbly at that results and prod occasional buttons.  Our limbic system flinching in response to sounds and colourful 3D shapes was previously considered satisfactorily.  Now we are encouraged to buy virtual stuff inside other stuff to make our experience more valuable.  And it works – because unlike pharmaceuticals – these things aren’t licensed and our kids are hooked into them from an early age.

 

And it’s no longer enough to just consume these goodies – we’re also taught to create.  Creation is cool.  Photos, videos, blogs, apps.  It’s a self perpetuating cycle of creation – no destruction, just additive, endless piling upon piling of bits into bytes into terabytes into hard disks in drawers and burned onto disks and stored away never to be looked at again.  The world may soon fill up soon like the Stross/Doctorow dystopia planned and we’ll be forced into living in the Clouds ourselves or turn the solar system into one big computer.  Our bodies slumped in the corner of our living rooms while the substrates fill up with our souls emancipated by the combined efforts of humanity – from east to west – working together to abstract our lives away from a flawed meatspace.

 

So there are these guys like Bret and Light table guy and Anonymous Game Framework Guy who probably all live on the West Coast in the sunshine and think purely in terms of web servers, big data, shiny tablets, closed feedback loops and turning everyone into a developer.  And that is all well and good and also sometimes I think like that and the world is all shiny and exciting – but there is somehow a missing element here.  Our thoughts turn to the lack of boredom thanks to smartphones.  The gap between waking and sleeping where we’re not sharing our lives with each other or silently just consuming others thoughts or the thoughts of machines.  How many of those twitter people you’re reading are actual people typing stuff and thinking stuff?   Are we even paying attention enough to pass our own Turing Test?

 

A lot of effort, direction and money is being spent/burned/created/transferred in order to capture and inspire developers.  To draft a few inferior souls into the wake of conglomerates who have spotted our Achille’s heel and are making us all believers of a doctrine whose only basis is that inaction and not thinking of anything better to do is a good reason to glance down and lose ourselves again in our hand held worlds.  At the same time as these real businesses – ones that provide a service and get a payment for that service – are making a lot of money out of this shuffling around we are held fascinated in the glow of the Gorilla[R] glass.  We are marking time.  This developer for all, creator for all – as I read it this week the ‘democratizing’ of the development landscape – is no such thing.  And despite these tools being wonderful and in their own way addictive (so that one can become addicted to simply learning more development tools) occasionally it’s just nice to sit around and do something worthwhile and with merit rather than worrying about what technology it needs to use in order to attract the most attention.

Ode to a Preemptive Multitasking Kernel

The login prompt gave you no clue,
If I/O bound or CPU,
Free RAM was high and cycles free,
As you unpacked directories,
then uptime indicated that,
you fork your process, vmstat.


This tiny bud of bootstrap code,
Blossomed therein motherlode,
A caustic strain that cause rendition,
Hit resource boundary condition,
Dumped a core and left you blue,
And scratching chin upon the loo.


Another try, tweak’d interlocking,
Perhaps those mutexes were blocking,
Assign some new shared memory,
Eye pee see ess, min-us emm pee,
And at last you seem now able,
To run in some semblance of stable.


Your server program is now ready,
To accept connection from Blackberry,
Client packets and block’d ports,
Iphone, Android java sorts,
XML, decrypting blobs,
A panoply of resource hogs.


These jobs they come and then they go,
The process table tells us so,
With clarity we do recall,
System V, BSD, all,
those antecedent behemoths,
whose children make clean from their dust.


You mask and storm an interrupt,
Which I ignore and push above,
An essence, your priority,
With threads all flailing to run free,
You time your sleep and so quiesce,
(I take a moment to persist).


The walls fall quick, the mem’ry snaps,
Hex explodes into our laps,
The dissolution of connection,
Teardown lasting microseconds,
Leak’d bytes free again to spill,
light process destruction thrill.


The login prompt gave you no clue,
If I/O bound or CPU,
Free RAM was high and cycles free,
As you unpacked directories,
now uptime indicated that,
you fork your process, vmstat.

Creative Commons License
Ode to a Preemptive Multitasking Kernel by Richard Bown is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Inspired by a lively disussion. Thanks to Chris and wiki and Rosegarden as ever. I’m experimenting with CC licences for the first time so don’t shout at me if it’s all wrong.

Three Months More

“”I leave the house by the nearest exist – the laptop sits and blinks to itself for a while before thoughtfully spinning down into quiescence.  The house ticks quietly to itself while I am out – the last echoes of the door slamming translated echoingly into fridge hum and whisper of planes up above.

Outside the street offers a harsh counterpoint to my quiet morning.  I generally rise early and spend the first few hours working hard at a task.  I drink tea and I stare out of the window as I chew my pencil end – I look at the backs of my hands hovering over the keyboard.  I clean the kitchen.   I use the hoover on the wooden floors.  I put on the washing machine and wait for the postman to arrive.”

Moments reaching back in time from moments reaching back in time. ”

From moments reaching back in time.