"I have a mind like a steel... uh... thingy." Patrick Logan's weblog.

Search This Blog

Saturday, June 03, 2006


The Latest from Brightcove...

It won't be far off before linear television becomes the butt of such historic humor. Wow, everyone had to watch a show at the same time? You mean you couldn't just search and play?...

Brightcove and TiVo are announcing a partnership in which storytellers of all sizes will be able to deliver their programming to people's TVs via TiVo. Neat, huh?

New Orleans: Man-Made Disaster Says Corps

Harry Shearer (part-time New Orleans resident) writes...

This weekend, on public radio's Left, Right and Center, the panelists are, as usual, discussing what they believe are the top news stories of the week...

What they didn't choose was the Corps of Engineers report taking responsibility for the drowning of a great American city...

...it was astonishing to listen to these four natter on about the Treasury Secretary, while culpability for the worst man-made engineering disaster in the nation's history was ignored. Trust me, even if Henry Paulson becomes America's worst-ever treasury secretary, he won't cost you and me nearly as much, he won't be responsible for nearly as much suffering, as the Corps' malfeasance in the Crescent City. If it's not a top story this week, when it led NBC Nightly News and got front-page treatment (finally!) in the NYT, when might it be?

And he wrote earlier in the week...
Brian Williams was speaking, and my intention was to ask him, either privately or publicly, why, given his clear and undeniable commitment to the Katrina story, the role of the Army Corps of Engineers and the fact that this was a man-made disaster in New Orleans had not figured more prominently in his broadcasts...

...in a splendid bit of serendipity, that happened to be the day the Army Corps -- here's timing for you -- issued its modified limited mea culpa (no malfeasance found: asked Bob Bea of UC Berkeley, if the work they did didn't do what it was supposed to do, and wasn't built in the way it was supposed to have been, how is that not malfeasance?). So our brief conversation came at the end of a broadcast whose lead story was the news that the flooding of New Orleans was a man-made, not a natural, disaster.

Friday, June 02, 2006

I still think Kelsey was right all along

This Kelsey.

I was asked via email about Squeak's compatibility with the Erlang approach to concurrency.

I’d thought a little about this for Smalltalk when I worked at Gemstone. I don’t know enough about the Squeak VM to talk about it. Like Erlang’s and Gambit Scheme’s VMs, it would require the ability to create many 1000’s of non-OS threads very quickly and run them all fairly. I think Cincom’s commercial Smalltalk VM might approach these numbers.

Other approaches might be to implement Squeak’s VM in Gambit Scheme or use the Squeak compiler’s front end to generate Gambit Scheme code, i.e. give Squeak a new back end. Maybe one way to do this is to replace Squeak’s C code generation with Scheme. If I recall, there is no C code in Squeak, but there is a Smalltalk subset used for the core of the VM implementation and that subset is translated fairly simply into C. If that could be retargeted into Gambit Scheme then you might be off to the races. The Process class, etc. would have some finagling to get them more directly mapped to Gambit’s thread procedures.

One thing about Erlang, and Termite processes (if you don’t cheat and go down to the Gambit level) is they are “shared nothing”, while Scheme threads and Smalltalk processes are “shared everything”. You may want to keep the current Smalltalk definition of Process the way it is, and come up with some new class, e.g. “SharedNothingProcess” that provides the new approach. Then you can run “legacy” code but try to enforce a better concurrency model.

Gambit has per-thread mailboxes and thread-local storage which can be used for this. Smalltalk globals would be considered “bad legacy” and you could try to give thread-local variables a decent syntax.

Implementing a new Smalltalk, moving Gnu Smalltalk, or moving Ruby to Gambit Scheme would be much easier than doing anything with Squeak. And guess what? Scheme *has* continuations. 8^P (I bow to the noble porters of Ruby to really bad VMs. "Continuations" shows up on each of their web pages --- on the "to-do" list.)

But Squeak has a lot of cool stuff. Croquet would figure in there somewhere when it comes to distributed VMs.

What did Kelsey get right?

Using concepts from denotational semantics, we have produced a very simple compiler that can be used to compile standard programming languages and produces object code as efficient as that of production compilers. The compiler is based entirely on source-to-source transformations performed on programs that have been translated into an intermediate language resembling the lambda calculus. The output of the compiler, while still in the intermediate language, can be trivially translated into machine code for the target machine.
In this case the "trivially translated into machine code" means Gambit is the intermediate language. Then gsc translates into C. Then gcc translates into machine code. Ah, that's why you also want something like gsi around for the source language.

That would be a fun and useful project to work on.


Interesting tool using Erlang...

In a few words, Tsung is a distributed load testing tool. It is protocol-independent and can currently be used to stress Jabber/XMPP server, but also HTTP, SOAP, and postgreSQL servers. Developed as an extensible framework, this tools can be used to generate very large realistic benchmarks on a limited number of servers.

...Tsung is distributed under the GNU General Public License version 2.

daily zen

The realm of buddhahood is not some external world
Where there is a formal “Buddha”

- Zen Master Ta-hui (1088-1163)

My Web...

...goes to eleven.

(or, I'll see your Web 2.0 and raise you nine Webs. 8^)

Trademarks cost money. Copyright is free, but I probably can't protect this brilliancy with a copyright. I have no lawyers, just this really big, shiny, intimidating copyright symbol. And even that was borrowed.

"My Web goes to eleven" Copyright © 2006 Patrick Logan. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Portland, Programming Language Capital?

OK, let's see. Here in Portland this year we have OSCON, OOPSLA, the Dynamic Languages Symposium, and now I see we have the SIGPLAN Conference on Functional Programming, and the SIGPLAN Erlang Workshop.

Good thing I'm not planning any long trips out of town this year. I could easily miss several good conferences in one fell swoop.

I have a great submission for the DLS but I have had no time to work on the project, let alone the paper. Next year the conference will probably be half-way around the world. All I can say at this point is it involves various degrees of Ruby, Erlang, and Scheme. Or it would involve them if I had actually made much progress on it.

Today is the deadline for the DLS submissions and all I could do was watch it woosh on past me. I am not sure it would make sense for the Erlang Workshop, but that deadline is June 9, so I can guarantee I won't have an "ACM ready" paper by then anyway. I'd be satisfied to have something to show and talk about at those events, given the opportunity for feedback from some really smart people.

I have started some modest tinkering with Atom. There is another Code Camp here in July. That was a lot of fun last year. I submitted a session for programming with Atom. But the good thing about this conference is it's just about showing some instructional code work, nothing fancy is necessary, and no paper to be written. They don't even like slides with text that isn't code.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

For Better or Worse?

A fascinating discussion is taking place over at James Robertson's site on globalization, labor, and progress. Below is a duplication of my most recent comment I added there.

Could things be worse? Heck yes. I agree they have been worse. Can things change for the better? Yes. How? Good question. That requires unselfishness to generally take a higher priority than selfishness.

We are genetically predisposed to selfishness. That's not necessarily a bad thing. It got a lot of us to a pretty good place. What's not clear to me is how well selfishness will get us to the next level.

Have we run out of room for selfishness as the driver for "progress"? Have we run out of room for our current definition of "progress" itself?

Are we at a point where for anyone to survive in the long-term more people have to adapt to "unselfishness" as a driver? Why are so many of our mainstream religions apparently based on unselfishness, and yet we do not seem to be predisposed to unselfishness beyond a relatively small group of people, especially those closely related to our own DNA?

Why is it easy to be "globally" unselfish as a result of relatively minor events like the recent tsunami in the Indian Ocean, and yet significantly more difficult to be unselfish as a result of ongoing major events such as the daily rate of deaths due to hunger, or even aids, or malaria?

There are a lot of fascinating questions about how we got here and how we get to the next step. One could argue we are on a good path. On the other hand one could argue we are not, by and large. It's hard to tell.

Monday, May 29, 2006


From No Fluff Just Stuff 2006 Anthology...

We’re not going back to what we tried once; we’re going back to what others had success with. The industry at large tried to go a different way, and at long last we’ve begun to realize that no matter how many new tools we throw at our problems, software development still isn’t getting any easier. Maybe it’s time to rethink the whole way we’ve been going. The people who really embraced Lisp and Smalltalk early on don’t think those languages failed (except in terms of gaining broad acceptance). On the contrary, most of them that I know are either still finding ways to work with those technologies or else yearning for a return to the good old days.
The industry has been on these merging paths for decades without clearly realizing it. Now it is starting to shed its static appearances as it reaches the tipping point. Soon after reaching that point we will behave as if this is the path we'd bet on long ago.

Blog Archive

About Me

Portland, Oregon, United States
I'm usually writing from my favorite location on the planet, the pacific northwest of the u.s. I write for myself only and unless otherwise specified my posts here should not be taken as representing an official position of my employer. Contact me at my gee mail account, username patrickdlogan.