342 posts • joined Sunday 29th April 2007 18:34 GMT
Re: Windows Design After Gates
Our group at MS Research had a former Apple designer, and I remember she thought Win95 was rather nice. But generally even inside Microsoft we all thought Apple did better design (but not such great software engineering). Buying an Apple product was like buying a Volvo, buying a Windows product was like buying a Ford pickup truck. Each has its advantages, if you want to look affluent and cool, or you want to get work done.
As for tablets, I worked for a while in the eBooks project (I'm one of the inventors of ClearType, check the patents if you don't believe me). I don't know if the tablets would have failed due to their design, the group did spent a fortune doing readability and font research. But the telling fact is that higher executives chickened out and cancelled the project before it ever had a chance.
Re: Bleeding Edge
I knew Ritchie and Thompson at Bell Labs. If you said that to Ken, he would have turned and walked away without saying anything. Ritchie would have laughed.
Re: With a little help from my freinds
It's not accurate to say the US rocket program was based on von Braun. The V-2 was a fascinating rocket, because of its large size, but it was not a new concept. In the mid 1930s, Goddard was launching liquid-fuel rockets with gyro guidance, the Russians built small rockets and the BI-1 rocket plane, there was a lot of experimentation.
After the war, the US has three rocket programs. Von Braun's people worked for the Army and built the Redstone, a modernized version of the V-2. The Navy has a program that began with RMI, Curtiss-Wright and Goddard, building JATO engines during the war and the Viking and Vanguard rockets in the 1950s. The Air Force contracted with its partners in the aviation industry to build the first long-range intercontinental rockets and cruise missiles (Navaho, Atlas, etc), which bore little resemblance to the German work.
It's not that the Germans didn't do a brilliant job with the V-2, it just was not unique knowledge or beyond the understanding of other engineers. It's become a cliché to talk about "our Germans and their Germans", but that is a naïve pictures of the history of rocketry in the 1950s and afterwards.
LOX/Ethanol. The V-2 engine was not very well cooled, so they had to use dilute alcohol (75%) and low chamber pressure. The Soviets got that back up to 90% ethanol and doubled the thrust of the engine for their R-5 rocket, by doing a lot of tinkering with the cooling. The fuel traveled around a spiral of pipes outside the thick steel walls of the combustion chamber, but that was insufficient. So they borrowed a trick from Goddard (who was actually being spied on by the Germans), and sprayed fuel onto the inside of the chamber.
The V-2 was a fascinating rocket, because it was an order of magnitude bigger than previous ones. You can debate whether rocketry really starts there, because it didn't have any new conceptual ideas. People had build liquid fuel rockets, used gyro stabilization, etc in America, Russia and probably a few other places. Tsiolkovsky in Russia first proposed space rockets using liquid fuel, and Goddard built the first one, Glushko in Russia had the best engines, but they were much smaller than what the V-2 needed.
Re: "bell x1" BAH!
The X-1 was a rocket powered plane, not a turbojet. But like the M52, it had two wings and was pointy on one end, so I can understand your confusion.
I get the feeling Win8 is trying to minimize UI computation. Do they think only ARM processors are going to exist in the future? It's just odd, because of those processors will eventually have some muscle. As one of the inventors of Cleartype, it's a bit annoying if they are abandoning it.
Can we sent Bart Sibrel to Mars? "I'm in a television studio! This is fake!"
Re: 20 goto 10 - MS GOTO FAIL
This is a classic example of an operations-management failure. It's got nothing to do with the OS. And if you think only Microsoft has failures, you probably missed hearing about when Amazon's load balancing system brought its cloud service down a while ago.
Amazon in general has done a great job at operations. One manager there told me, "We are experts at dealing with emergancies, because we use Linux." The thing that is more difficult for Amazon, because they lack the systems engineering culture, is to develop complex software systems. So they provide the number 1 cloud service, but they can't offer higher level services like instant e-commerce packages (like MS Dynamic).
Eadon, if you think Dave Cutler doesn't know how to design an operating system, or if you think Linux never fails without a lot of tweeking and patching, then I gotta wonder why you feel so passionate about a subject you don't actually know much about?
1. IE kinda sucks. Probably true.
2. Other browsers are flawlessly programmed, totally secure, and not in need of the same intensive testing and patching. Probably false.
Re: Now approaching ludicrous processing speed, Captain!
The issue is operations per second per watt. How much electricity do you consume to perform a computation, is the question. ARM doesn't use much power, because it's not very powerful. They're trying to solve partial differential equations, not play Angry Birds.
IBM, UBM, We all bm for IBM
IBM might have been a "powerhouse" of a corporation, but nobody thought they were software development wizards. Read "The Mythical Man Month". They were famous for bloated contorted systems. Having used their so-called timesharing system at Caltech, I can personally testifiy to how utterly horrible it was -- worse than UNIVAC exec, worse than DEC's tops20 or RT11, certainly worse than UNIX. You just can't imagine how backwards IBM was in its thinking...virtual card decks and job control language. They couldn't have done OS/2 without help from Microsoft.
IBM's strength was marketing and customer support. If you had money coming out of your ears, you hired IBM to build and run your computer center. Their support contracts were legendary. I know one case where a university's computer center burned down (U. Toronto I think), and within 24 hours IBM had a mobile center housed in trucks up and running in the parking lot. But the glorification of OS/2, that's just funny. Remember, it was not the flakey consumer Win95 that Microsoft brought out to compete with OS/2, it was Dave Cutler's NT operating system. That's what freaked out IBM, and caused one of their VPs to say he wanted to put an ice pick in BIll Gates' head.
Also, nobody was trying to write a "UNIX killer" back then. UNIX was something that ran on $50,000 workstations or $500,000 minicomputers, at universities flush with grant money. It wasn't a threatening personal computer operating system in the late 1980s.
I was in MS Research when Bob was still being developed. Supposedly, billg was given a demo, and after a few minutes he said, "Get that f****** clown off my screen". The hungarian prefix for the active agent object was subsequently changed to tfc.
Academic UI Theories
Another funny example is the Nass & Reeves theory that Microsoft got suckered into. That was the basis for projects like "Bob" and their hated paperclip character. During one demo to billg, he burst out "Get that ****ing clown off my screen!". After that, the agent objects were given the hungarian prefix tfc, which indicated how the developers felt about the idea.
I hear nothing but horror stories about the fragility of Linux from my friends at Amazon. On my workstation PC with ECC memory, neither XP nor Win7 has ever blue screened. I reboot my system a couple times a month, usually just when an update requires it (and yes I know Linux likes to hot-slide DLLs into a running system without rebooting, but don't assume that is a safe practice). There was a study done about ten years ago that showed that 50% of windows crashes were caused by parity errors in memory hardware. Does Linux just ignore or not detect memory errors?
XP was a version of NT, not a version of Windows 9x like ME. It was meant to merge all the functionality of NT and 9x into one system, and the technical challenge was that 9x was very permissive with apps and games. XP had to be "apps compatable", while maintaining the safer, more formal system interface of NT.
The NT microkernel architecture was rejected very early. It was going to support Win16, Win32 and even POSIX, but no such system was ever released. NT and even DOS/Windows 9X were still much more modular than UNIX. Microsoft used DLL's, COM interfaces and device-driver interfaces (DDI) long before UNIX had them. Even more complex technology was developed later to support extensible GUI interfaces (linking and embedding, Visual Basic and such stuff). Microsoft did this to allow them to update small parts of the OS instead of shipping a whole OS release to their customers everytime.
I remember installing device drivers on my SUN workstation in the late 1980s, and you had to edit the interrupt vector tables and recompile the kernel, because at that point in time UNIX was still just a giant monolithic C program. NT was much more advanced when it came out in 1989 -- it supported threads and concurrency much better than UNIX, it had async I/O and events and light-weight coroutines (fibers), I/O completion ports, etc. These features were more or less added to Linux much later on (I've heard async I/O in Linux is pretty dodgy).
They do need to support OpenGL. There's a long weird history that Microsoft needs to forget and move on. OpenGL was not doing well in the late 1990s, because SGI was holding it to a model based on their hardware's functionality, functionality that could not scale up to what we see on PC games today. Direct3D (which was not just designed by MS, but also nVidia and ATI) was a much needed innovation with its vertex and pixel shaders and triangle meshes. Immediately, the hardware vendors added all the Direct3D functionality to OpenGL, via its extension mechanism. Probably both Microsoft and SGI were annoyed by this, but today OpenGL and Direct3D essentially do the same things. So it was never really the lock-in that Microsoft might have hoped for.
OSI was not successful, it was an academic charlie foxtrot. It's why a lot of the industry is so wary of W3C, because folks know how much damage an unfettered international standards committee can do. We evalutated parts of OSI at Bell Labs in the 1980s, the red book and blue book versions. TP4 was horrifically inefficient. One implementation took longer to negotiate a packet transmission than the connection-time-out period of TCP. The first two full implementations of the X.400 in Europe couldn't even send email to each other, because the groups had chosen such different data format options, both totally in agreement with the sprawling specification. At Bell Labs, we used the phrase "mailer science", as a derogitory term for this kind of badly engineered over-designed system. The net effect of this standards committe circle jerk was that a cabal of contractors and universities got a gravy train of publications and grant money, while Europe and Japan delayed joining the internet for several years -- think about the opportunity cost of that.
If there is one lesson to take away from the OSI debacle, it is never, ever, let the ITU have control of the internet. America clearly has too much control now, but just keep the corrupt, inept UN committees away from it, or everyone will be sorry.
Microsoft hires Russian hackers, calling them "penetration engineers". That's gotta look good on your resume.
Facebook's product is an audience for advertising, which is also how Google makes a lot of its money. Is Google foundering? It is not at all obvious that something is fundmentally wrong, except that the stock market hasn't figured out what its share price should be.
Privacy is an important concern, but at least FB gathers information voluntarily, from the user entering information and clicking "like" on various items. This as opposed to the giant surveillance machine that is Google, monitoring web searches, what videos you watch on youtube, scraping your email.
FB faces two big technological problems. First is the technology of advertising, which is surprisingly complex. There is demographic analysis, even real-time actions for ad space when you visit some pages. The only alternative I see is an option to pay for an ad-free service. Experience with mobile apps suggests that only about 1 in 1000 users will chose to pay. However, you can easily make 1000x as much money by charging someone $10 a month -- the revenue from advertising is measured in fractional cents.
The other technological problem for Facebook has been growth. People wonder why FB isn't adding fancy new features or doing all the things that G+ tried, but they are failing to comprehend the engineering challenge of scaling up data centers and software by orders of magnetude, to handing their ridiculous growth. Now that things seem to be settling down, I hope we will see FB turn their attention to making more improvements.
PCs vs iPads
It's not really valid to say that pad sales equals a loss of PC sales. They are somewhat different devices, and it's not a zero sum game.
How many android phones does it take to equal an 8-core Ivy Bridge chip?
How did a smart company like Intel, with the best design and fabrication technology in the world, let a ho-hum processor like ARM threaten them? Their failure to anticipate the mobile device industry is an epic fail, Microsoft-like.
IE 9 too?
I've seen features (like image search) go dark for IE 9 within the last week. Have other's noticed this? As their browser climbs to the top, will Google snuff out its competition by making search and youtube only usuable by chrome?
There have been a number of reports within Microsoft on the cause of crashes. 50% are due to hardware memory errors, which is why servers use ECC ram (error-correcting coded). I like to build my own PCs, and definitely quality matters. Supermicro or Intel motherboards are a good idea too.
On a system with ECC and decent parts, like my last three machines, I have literally never seen a blue screen crash. My windows 7 machine runs for weeks, until some kind of undate requires me to reboot it.
Re: Xbox Loss?
XBox and XBox Live has been pretty successful. And it has dashed SONY's hopes of replacing the PC with their Playstation as the home hub device.
"911. What's your emergency?"
"Someone bought Microsoft Office instead of Open Office!"
"Sir, this line is for real emergencies only."
Jim didn't work on DEC's servers, he was a research scientist known for expertise in data base systems. One of the best technical writers ever, his book on Transaction Processing is one of the bibles of database design and theory. Jim worked at Tandom, IBM, DEC and Microsoft.
One of Jim's projects was Terraserver, the forerunner of Google Earth. Hosting complete satellite image coverage, his group had to buy military spy satellite images from Russia. He also worked with astronomers to develop a unifying database of sky survey images, which was only completed after his death (the World Wide Telescope).
Jim was a great guy, and a great scientist, and his disappearance at sea caused a lot of sadness. Ironically, there was a large effort to search for his boat using online satellite images.
EC2 vs Azure
Amazon is dominating the cloud computing market. One place they cannot compete with Microsoft is in developing their own sophisticated software services, like MS Dynamics. And of course they are tying Azure services in with Win8.
Azure itself is pretty cool OS technology. Culter's team spent a year just studying the formal requirements for geographically distributed data centers. They merged technology from NT, Hypervisor and (I'm guessing) the SQLOS layer. The scalability tests I've seen are surprising, way better than Linux and even better than NT at multicore parallel performance.
What makes me skeptical about Microsoft is their executive management. I still would not be surprised if they fail. Their lasting impact may be the disporia of former Microsoft systems engineers, who are scattered throughout the industry today (for example, running EC2 at amazon). Systems engineering rules. You don't learn it in college, and it's not part of the open source culture, so if you want to built something big and complex, you gotta find those industrial experts.
IBM once had 70% hardware market share
What is this new devilry? Something from Microsoft?
No. It is IBM, a demon of the ancient world.
This foe is beyond any of you...run!
Famous for being bad
BFE isn't really the worst movie or even the worst sci-fi movie. But it has become the most famous-for-being-bad movie, which is why it always wins these contests. Same thing just happened on io9. Still...it is kinda bad.
I think Google+ has different data-mining advantages. Facebook gets information you explicitly decide to enter by clicking Like. Google gathers data by monitoring your activity, what youtube videos you watch, browser search strings, URL strings (if you use Chrome), scraping gmail text, etc. It's probably more complex for Google to analyze its data, but it has the advantage that much of their data is aquired involuntarily, from all users regardless of what they "like".
It's well over ten years since Microsoft cancelled its ebook tablet project. Trying to unfumble the future now?
Re: seems a bit arse about face to me
Linux is not a natural choice for desktops, in fact it has failed enormously in that area. The compeition is all on the server side. If you talk to people at big ecommerce sites, it's a choice between stable software and big fees from Microsoft, or much less stable Linux which has lower direct fees but lots of associated costs of hiring programmers and dealing with frequent emergencies.
At one major ecommece site in Seattle, they call their Linux programmers "ferel engineers", because of the total lack of any kind of systems engineering ethos in the OSS hacker community. They depend on a handful of senior engineers to herd cats and maintain some order in the process of keeping a complex website up and running 24/7.
One of these engineers described Linux as a single-app OS -- you set up your website and then tune Linux until it doesn't crash anymore, and then you don't even breath on the system for fear of destabilizing it again.
Re: "Windows is dead."
Exactly. People who use office are not going to abandon keyboards and big screens and do all their work on an iPad. And it's not a zero sum game, people own multiple devices. Microsoft is just going to sell more software and add value to the iPad.
Thunder in the clouds
It will be interesting to watch Amazon and Microsoft battle over pricing. Microsoft has the most sophisticated OS technology, with Cutler's Red Dog system. But Amazon has done a better job of building and managing cost efficient data centers.
I worked at Bell Labs during the 1980s. BSD wasn't really viewed as proper UNIX by the purest, although our lab ran it instead of 32V (the research version of UNIX). It fixed a lot of problems, basically by incorporating VMS features into UNIX, but was considered too bloated and badly programmed. Last time I talked to one of those guys, I asked him about Linux, and he thought it was more bloated and badly documented than Windows. The idea of keeping an operating system clean and simple is long dead...
Roo: Total Ignorance about OS History
I'm impressed that you know Dave Cutler's name, given your lack of knowledge about operating systems or history. When NT was written in 1989, it had dozens of modern OS features that UNIX either did not have or was still in a very confused state. Cutler's impact on UNIX is what is not properly appreciated. I was at Bell Labs when UC Berkeley folks ported BDS to the VAX, and it was pretty clear to us that BSD was UNIX + VMS (virtual memory, a file system that was not journally but at least did not horribly suck like UNIX V7).
Linux is basically UNIX + NT. So many ideas in modern UNIX come from Microsoft - the use of dynamic linked libraries, device driver interfaces, asynchronous file I/O, journaling file system, etc. All things done by MS operating systems before UNIX. UNIX still lacks the systems engineering design that Cutler and Microsoft brought to operating systems, the modularization and formal interface (e.g. COM) structure. Using BSD in the last 1980s, we had to edit tables and recompile the whole kernel to install a new device driver, since drivers were simply subroutines in a monolithic program.
Readers who are interested should take a look at Hart's book on Win32 Programming, to see what a kernel design should really look like.
10 watts/square meter
I look up acres and annual kilowatt hours on these plants. This new site gets 10 watts/m**2, which is not bad for photovoltaic panels. BUt solar-thermal plants are getting 30.
Russian Mars Missions
Fourth attempt? Mars-1 to Mars-7, Fobos-1 and 2, Mars-96 and quite a few others that were stranded in parking orbit and given some "Kosmos" or "Sputnik" designation. A few others, like the two M-69 orbiters, never made it to orbit.
Mars-5 was essentially successful, it went into orbit in 1973 and carried out all its mission tasks (photography and numerous spectroscopic and space-plasma and cosmic-ray experiments). Fobos-2 entered orbit and performed some of its tasks, but failed before it could rendezvous with Phobos.
Let's not forget that Russia's Soyuz/Fregat technology sent Mars Express to its destination. Mars Express consists of a communications satellite refitted with the backup copies of Mars-96's experiments. So there is considerable Russian involvement of the "pay no attention to that man behind the curtain" style.
Fobos-Grunt failed to achieve three-axis orientation lock on the Sun and a bright star. Those sensors are redundant, so this may be a software glitch. It will be in range of special telemetry and telecommand stations in Baikonur Wednesday night, and they may be able to get a full set of housekeeping telemetry then. There is a small chance the mission can be resumed, if this is just a fixable software state.
I'm still waiting to hear why MS killed their E-Book project in the late 1990s. They had something like a kindle, invented ClearType as part of that project, but then just dumped the project.
Ritchie > Stallman
One of the reasons Ritchie is not more famous is because of Stallman's hatred for the Bell Labs group and the practical suppression of pre-Torvalds UNIX history. Remember, GNU stood for "GNU is not UNIX". They hated UNIX/C, because it came out of a corporate research lab, and most of all because eclipsed the TOPS-10/LISP culture that the MIT AI Lab dominated in those days.
Yes, part of UNIX success was that it was free and open source. But it was also elegantly simple. I worked at Bell Labs Research in the 1980s and knew Dennis and Ken. I heard horror stories about MULTICs, how it was so complex and inefficient it could only "time share" two users at once. Ken came off that project determined to do something completely different. Simplicity is hard to achieve, and a lot of thought went into UNIX and its (now long-lost) philosophy of composing simple tools to perform complex tasks.
There was a long rivalry between MIT and Bell Labs about this question of design simplicity. The hacker culture had a macho attitude of "my code is bigger than your code", while Ken and Dennis spent hours trying to boil things down to the fewest lines of code and the fewest necessary features.
I remember one attempt to reconcile. The UNIX team invited Stallman to visit Bell Labs. I don't recall much about Stallman's talk, but everyone remembers that he picked his nose and ate a bugger in front of everyone. In return, Rob Pike was sent to give a talk at MIT, which he was not able to deliver, because Stallman and his friends heckled him.
Visitors != Users
Most people I know have made a Google+ account, visited it a few times, and then never returned.
Google and Facebook are the two giants in the internet advertising space. I'm not really cheering on one of them to eat the other.
Why do computers crash
I build my own computers and install Windows without any of the usual bloatware from SONY or Dell. I also build Xeon based machines using ECC memory. On my lastest machine, running Windows 7, I haven't seen a single crash. I think there are two problems that cause some systems to crash. One is memory errors from non-ECC memory, a growing problem with gigabytes of high density memory. One cosmic ray boring its way through some 32 nm DRAM will flip a lot of bits! There was an internal study at Microsoft some years ago that found that 50% of blue screens were caused by hardware memory parity errors. THe other major cause was device driver bugs, a frustration that Microsoft has gotten some control over in Win7 by sandboxing the drivers (I think they run in in ring 1 instead of ring 0, but I could be wrong about that).
The other reason some people seem to have sick PCs is more nebulous. The typical user downloads a lot of crapware, never defrags their drive, and is careless about security, and at some point they seem to end up with a machine best treated by "Format C:" and starting over.
Sounds like a reasonable choice. Amazon certainly has the best service and expertise. Azure yet to prove itself on as big a scale, but the underlying new OS ("red dog") is an exciting project. Probably Dave Cutler's last opus.