History of Icons

History of Icons looks at the evolution of icons used for desktop, mobile, and web.  There are plenty of nostalgia triggering screenshots from a variety of systems.  Given that nobody could ever afford having all of those systems, I’m sure you’ll find interesting screens from computers you didn’t have or didn’t see.

Things Every Hacker Once Knew

Eric Raymond goes over a few things every hacker once knew.

One fine day in January 2017 I was reminded of something I had half-noticed a few times over the previous decade. That is, younger hackers don’t know the bit structure of ASCII and the meaning of the odder control characters in it.

This is knowledge every fledgling hacker used to absorb through their pores. It’s nobody’s fault this changed; the obsolescence of hardware terminals and the near-obsolescence of the RS-232 protocol is what did it. Tools generate culture; sometimes, when a tool becomes obsolete, a bit of cultural commonality quietly evaporates. It can be difficult to notice that this has happened.

This document is a collection of facts about ASCII and related technologies, notably hardware terminals and RS-232 and modems. This is lore that was at one time near-universal and is no longer. It’s not likely to be directly useful today – until you trip over some piece of still-functioning technology where it’s relevant (like a GPS puck), or it makes sense of some old-fart war story. Even so, it’s good to know anyway, for cultural-literacy reasons.

The article goes over:

  • Hardware context
  • The strange afterlife of the outboard modem
  • 36-bit machines and the persistence of octal
  • RS232 and its discontents
  • UUCP, the forgotten pre-Internet
  • Terminal confusion
  • ASCII
  • Key dates

Found via a couple of other interesting bits –
What we still use ASCII CR for today (on Unix) and
How Unix erases things when you type a backspace while entering text.

NCR Patents the Internet

I came across this old story (back from 2003) on Slashdot – NCR Patents the Internet – and it even more hilarious now than it was back than:

We all know about NCR’s lawsuit against Palm & Handspring, but I haven’t seen much press about patent infringements they are claiming against some of the biggest sites on the planet. According to documentation that a friend’s company has recently received, their patents protect everything from keyword searching to product categorization. Patents to look for (and filed in 1998) include 6,253,203, 6,169,997, 6,151,601, 6,085,223 and 5,991,791 . IMHO, this is absolutely outrageous and is likely to cause billions in both legal fees and eventual licensing fees (eBay, Amazon and MSFT have already licensed from NCR). How is this not the lead story on every site? every day? Maybe because no one wants to get sued for having an online business.

The comments are hilarious as well.

How Linux got to be Linux: Test driving 1993-2003 distros

Here’s a trip down the memory lane – “How Linux got to be Linux: Test driving 1993-2003 distros“.  The article looks at some of the early Linux distributions, remember what was already in and what came later.  Complete with screenshots.

I don’t remember for sure which versions of which distributions I used in the early days, but Slackware, Suse, RedHat and Mandrake were definitely among those.  Slackware was probably my first one, when I found the floppies in the only book on Linux at my college library.  Then, somehow, I found RedHat (I think 5.1 or so) in one of the local computer shops.  Later I tried Mandrake and Suse, cause those were laying around at work.  But RedHat stuck with me ever since.  I think I’ve used pretty much every version, including the move to Fedora, CentOS, and even the Red Hat Enterprise Linux, which we had the licenses for at some of my early work places.

Fun times!

The True Reason Behind The 40-Hour Work Week & Why We Are Economic Slaves

The True Reason Behind The 40-Hour Work Week & Why We Are Economic Slaves” doesn’t really say anything new, but it explains things nice and simple.

We automatically accept a 40-hour workweek with meager hourly pay as normal, even though many work overtime and still struggle to survive. There are also those who make enough to live comfortably but are unable to request less hours—you either work 40 hours a week, or you don’t get to work at all. We submit when told what to wear, when we have to arrive and depart, when we’re allowed to eat, and even when we’re allowed to use the restroom. How is it we have come to allow this?

The 40-hour-work week came about during the Industrial Revolution in Britain when at one point workers were putting in 10 to 16 hour days and began to protest. Working situations for Americans began to worsen as well, and by 1836, labor movement publications were also calling for a 40-hour workweek. Citizens in both situations were so overworked, an eight-hour day was easily accepted. This system is unnecessary now, if it ever was, but we still accept it due to the effects of our capitalist society.

It goes over the relationship of inflation, debt and consumerism with a few historical references.  Good reading for anybody wondering why the paycheck-to-paycheck life cycle is difficult to change, no matter what’s the size of the paycheck.

100 Favorite Programming, Computer and Science Books

Peteris Krumins, of the Browserling fame, has a series of blog posts on his top favorite programming, computer and science books.  It’s an excellent selection of titles, from which I’ve read only a fraction.  Good timing for the Christmas shopping too.  Here are the blog posts in the series so far (5 books per post):

Even with the 30 books mentioned so far, there are new things to read and learn.  I wonder how many of the notes to self I’ll have by the time the whole 100 are listed.

Imagine the world without Muslims

This is one of those things that I love about the Internet.  When you are wrong, the Internet doesn’t just gently mention it.  It absolutely destroys you, shoving the reality so hard down your throat, you forget how to breath for a while.  And then, next time, if you haven’t killed yourself yet, you think long and hard before saying anything out loud.  If you have a half a brain or more, of course.

Continue reading “Imagine the world without Muslims”

The curious case of the switch statement

The curious case of the switch statement” is a nice historical perspective on the switch statement in most modern programming languages, where it come from, and how it transformed over the years.  It starts of with ALGOL 58 (yes, a programming language from 1958), and traces the history down to the modern reincarnation of the statement to BCPL (1967!), where it looked like this:

switchon EXPR into {
    ...
    ...
    case CONST:
    ...
    ...
    default:
    ...
    ...
}

Apart from the historical perspective, there is an interesting discussion about how different languages approached the statement, how it varies, and what are some of the benefits of each implementation.