chkdsk considered harmful

This list of sysadmin horror stories reminded me of a story of my own:

A long, long time ago, possibly as much as fifteen years ago, I wrote a boot loader of which I’m still quite proud, even though I’ve long since lost the code. I also wrote an installer for it, naturally. The binary was very small (a few kilobytes), even though it included a command-line interface, a partitioning tool, a screen saver and a game, so instead of installing it in a separate partition, I simply installed it in the space between the MBR and the first partition, which on a DOS system in those days was on the order of 30 kB for completely idiotic reasons.

At some point during the development, inevitably, either due to a bug in the installer or incorrect command-line parameters, I managed to install the loader on top of the FAT on one of my DOS partitions. Continue reading “chkdsk considered harmful”

Skilled programming

From the VxWorks Kernel Programmer’s Guide:

Prior to VxWorks 6.0, the operating system provided a single memory space with no segregation of the operating system from user applications. All tasks ran in supervisor mode. Although this model afforded performance and flexibility when developing applications, only skilled programming could ensure that kernel facilities and applications coexisted in the same memory space without interfering with one another.

…whereas now, I guess, any idiot and his dog can write a well-behaved VxWorks application…

Dereliction of duty

I started on Lois McMaster Bujold‘s Vorkosigan Saga this weekend. Quite a good read; unlike many other books in the genre—say, David Weber‘s Honorverse—the societies she describes and their politics are not too far-fetched or caricatured, nor is the heroine too much of a Mary Sue.

One thing that did make me groan, though, was that the entire plot of the first four chapters of the first book hinges on no fewer than three starship commanders leaving their ships to lead what Trekkies would call the away team1. In any real military organization, this is the gravest sin a commander can commit and would be grounds for court-martial; heck, that almost happened to John Kerry when he jumped ashore for a few minutes in the heat of combat to save his ship and crew (they ended up giving him a Silver Star instead).

To add insult to injury, a few chapters later, in what is probably the linchpin of the entire novel, one of those very same commanders accuses a superior officer of dereliction of duty for doing the exact same thing.

Oh, and there are several instances of characters using a light pen to control a computer, or fiddling with it while thinking or talking. In the author’s defense, unlike light pens, touch screens weren’t all that common in 1986 :)

1 Most of TOS and a large percentage of TNG is about the Enterprise‘s entire wardroom leaving the ship to lead the away team, then returning sans about half of it.

Pot, kettle, black

The key to being a religious zealot is to criticize (real or made-up) characteristics of other religions while ignoring the very same characteristics in your own:

The earliest writings that are known to exist about the Prophet Mohammad were recorded 120 years after his death. All of the Islamic writings (the Koran and the Hadith, the biographies, the traditions and histories) are confused, contradictory and inconsistent. Maybe Mohammad never existed. We have no conclusive account about what he said or did. Yet Moslems follow the destructive teachings of Islam without question.

You could say the exact same thing about Jesus of Nazareth and the gospels. Muhammad’s existence is corroborated by contemporary non-Muslim sources and is just as much a historical fact as that of Jesus of Nazareth.

Islamic Law is totalitarian in nature. There is no separation of church and state. It is irrational. It is supposedly immutable and cannot be changed. It must be accepted without criticism.

The separation of church and state is a modern concept that dates back to the late eighteenth century. As for totalitarianism, irrationality and immutability: Have you actually read Exodus and Leviticus?

A Muslim does not have the right to change his religion. Apostasy is punishable by death.

Christianity is not known for its kind treatment of apostates and heretics.