Posts Tagged "technology"

*nix Tip of the Day: VMS

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:

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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Recipe to Crash a Kindle

Kindle

Here's a fun thing that I've just discovered:

  1. Purchase an Amazon Kindle 2 (this trick may work on other versions)
  2. Download the MobiPocket version of The Devil's Dictionary, by Ambrose Bierce
  3. Copy the .mobi file into your Kindle documents folder
  4. Open the copy of the book that appears on your device
  5. Enjoy the frequent crashes and random "java.lang.integer" exception errors that pop up (even when you do not have the book open!)
  6. Fight with the Kindle for a while until you realize that it's this book, remove it from your device, and reboot the device (yes, this step …
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New GPG Key

As you may have seen around the Internet, there was a fairly significant break in the SHA-1 hash function, which is used by default in GnuPG. This is worrisome, since GPG/PGP signatures are one of the only things I'd actually trust to verify somebody's identity online. So I've generated a new key with a 2048-bit RSA primary (for SHA256 and SHA512 support) and a 4096-bit ElGamal encrypting key (which took about 15 minutes to generate, so better be worth it). The key ID is CB8AA0FF, and the fingerprint is 5C35 D713 3E10 9A19 FFFC F58A 68E8 3B57 CB8A A0FF …

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Code

If you were to examine the Code section of this website, you would find that it now contains actual, real live content. Amazing!

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*nix Tip of the Day: vim modelines

vim logo As you may know, in the editor wars, I come down firmly on the side of vim. Vim is a lean and effective modal editor, contrasted with emacs. One of the features of Vim that I enjoy using (but did not know about until recently!) is modelines. A modeline is a small piece of text that you can put at the end of a file to give your editor an instruction. It is generally placed in a comment. For example, if I'm editing Python, I never, ever want to use soft tabs (well, I generally don't like soft tabs anyway …

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awesome window manager

First, some background for the non-technical among you. A window manager is a piece of software that controls the windows on your computer. It will do things like placement, drawing, keybinding, et cetera. If you're on Windows or Mac OS X, you have a window manager built-in to your operating system and cannot easily change it. However, if you're on a more traditional *nix (Linux, Solaris), you are free to select your window manager. In this post, I'll talk a little about what I use and why it's awesome.

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