A Rant on Redis

Posted Sat 14 December 2013 14:53 under category tech

It's been a while since I posted, and I've been spending a lot of time fighting with Redis, one of the darling databases of the NoSQL era, at work, so I thought I'd grace y'all with a brief rant on Redis, what it's good at, what it's bad at, and so on.

What is Redis?

Redis is an open-source moderately-structured in-memory key-value store. This means that, unlike full relational databases, it doesn't have a fixed schema, and it can't perform server-side operations like joining and filtering data1, and theoretically it's ...

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GPG (2013 Update)

Posted Fri 14 June 2013 09:30 under category tech

In light of all of the hullabaloo about PRISM and other spying technology, I thought it'd be good to remind all of your dear readers that we've had the technology to ensure private communications on the Internet for 22 years in the form of Pretty Good Privacy (and the much-more-commonly-used implementation, GnuPG). Ars Technica had an okay article about e-mail encryption with PGP which I recommend reading, although you should keep in mind that most security professionals would consider infrastructural PKI like SSL and S/MIME to be compromised by nation-state-level adversaries (and all associated MIC contractors).

Anyhow ...

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*nix Tip of the Day: Unix Time

Posted Sun 06 March 2011 21:43 under category tips

As the unix-savvy among you probably know, there is One True Way to tell the time: the number of seconds elapsed since midnight on January 1, 1970 +0000. It's an extremely convenient way for computers to represent the time, since it's just an integer that goes up. There's no parsing to be done, and arithmetic is just regular math. If you want a brain-numbingly-detailed overview, Wikipedia's article on unix time is, as usual, sufficient.

However, what I'd like to talk about here is converting back and forth between unix time and meatware time. I imagine ...

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*nix Tip of the Day: VMS

Posted Sun 29 November 2009 17:01 under category tips

Okay, so this is maybe a little unusual, but today's "*nix Tip of the Day" isn't about Unix/Linux/etc. at all. Instead, it is about their antiquated archenemy: VMS. First, a little bit of history:


Way back in 1970, the PDP-11 was hot stuff. Ken Thompson, Dennis Richie, Brian Kernighan, and others at Bell Labs were writing what would become Unix for the PDP-11 (well, for the PDP-7 at first, but nobody talks about that). Unix was a huge improvement over what DEC shipped with the PDP-11, DOS-11 and RT-11. This couldn't stand, so Dave Cutler at DEC designed VMS. It was a new operating system, with lots of fancy features, like networking and, uh, lots of upper-case letters.

VMS and Unix sort of battled on. Or so some people would have you think. Really, Unix won early on and VMS stumbled along with corporate financing and an obnoxiously difficult-to-use interface. It passed from DEC to Compaq to HP, from the PDP-11 to the Alpha to the Itanium. And it still lives on, churning away in scary back-rooms here and there.

Current Events

So, why do I bring this up? Well, as some of you may know, Harvey Mudd College has a few VMS machines around. The most well-known of these (to students) is thuban, which is a 667MHz DEC Alpha running OpenVMS 7.3-2. Today, I had the, uh, interesting experience of using it, and thought I'd share my impressions with my readers. You can see the proof of my VMS skills at my VMS homepage. That's right, I'm on the Internet. And on DECnet.

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