Monthly Archives: July 2009

Executables for SPITBOL for Microsoft DOS and Windows now available

The DOS and Windows ports of SPITBOL are now available on the SPITBOL Downloads section

The DOS version is S.COM. This is 16-bit 8086 version and can be run under Linux using the package ‘dosqemu.’

The Windows version is SPITBOL-3.7-win.exe. This is 32-bit version and can be run under Linux using Wine. You also need to download 32RTM.exe to run this program. I don’t know why. I just know SPITBOL complains if it is not present.

These are the *only* executable versions of SPITBOL at hand. S.COM dates back to 1983. SPITBOL.exe was last updated a decade or so ago.

Both are as fast as the wind, and a Linux version should be available shortly. 🙂


My First Computer: The Geniac, 1958

While poking about the web I located my first computer, The Geniac. See also this entry in the Old Computer Museum web site: Geniac picture

I can recall building most of the circuits, especially the one that played tic-tac-toe.

There is was a Geniac for sale on ebay: Geniac Vintage Computer Edmund Berkeley Simon.

I just bought it!

It turns out the buyer lives nearby and I hope to pick it up in person.

I had a lot of fun with that computer — back around 1958 — over fifty years ago.

I’m still having lots of fun with computers — except when I have to use Microsoft software.

My first Geniac cost less than $20. My second Geniac just cost me $320.

That is less than $100 more than the cost of a copy of Microsoft Windows Vista Ultimate SP1 – Retail from Newegg.

The Geniac boots up much more quickly. Just flip the switch on the battery, and away you go.

And you don’t even need the Internet to install new updates every other day…

On restoring Ubuntu after messing it up

I messed up my Ubuntu install last night by wrongly deleting a package that was essential for network access.

Fortunately, I had a spare FAT32 partition I had created for sharing files between Windows and Linux, so I made a tarball of my home directory and saved it to that partition. I also rebooted into Windows and used cygwin to verify the tar file was readable.

I then fired up a Kubuntu 9.04 install. Usually when I do an install I format the root partition (“/”) but I decided to leave it as it was. I also thought of saving the files to a flash drive, but I have had such good luck that I decided to go ahead.

Good thing I did. I noticed during the install there was a message “copying changed files” or similar language.

When I booted up the machine there was my home directory!

All I had lost were the packages that I had installed. I’ve already recovered the ones I need. I know I need them when I type a command and there is no executable. A quick apt-get fixes that.

Good work — as always — Ubuntu team. Keep up the good work.

This is yet another reminder why one should run Linux instead of Windows. The Linux folks know what they are doing. With Microsoft you never know. (And if they do know then they won’t tell you.)

Swanson Shields on Attending Funerals

I just learned via Google News of an item in the Washington Post so profoundly obvious that it is amazing the editors decided to publish it:

Arts & Living > Music >
Jackson’s Casket Expected at Memorial Service

Michael Jackson’s casket will be front and center during his star-studded memorial service today at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the entertainment Web site TMZ reported this morning.

The news sparked a frenzy of excitement among the anchors of the morning infotainment shows, all of which were broadcasting from outside the Staples Center in the pre-dawn darkness in order to capture the magnitude of the event.

The possible physical presence of the remains of the King of Pop — who died suddenly and suspiciously last week at age 50 — raises the specter that “crowd control could become an even bigger issue,” said “Today” host Meredith Vieira.

There was no way to independently confirm whether, in fact, The Casket will be onstage with the performers as the Land of La-La says ta-ta to Jackson, one of the best-known and most controversial entertainers ever. But TMZ, you’ll recall, has been leaving the traditional media mostly in the dust since it was the first to report Jackson had collapsed at his rented Holmby Hills mansion on June 25.

Family spokesperson Ken Sunshine, interviewed by Viera, refused to confirm or deny the casket reports — as did Al Sharpton, interviewed a short time later. But Sunshine did want Meredith to know that the Jackson family “has shown extraordinary dignity in a very emotional time” and that “Michael Jackson is the biggest figure emitting love ever.”

“Has anybody been to a wedding or family event when a Michael Jackson or Jackson Five song came on it wasn’t the highlight of the event?” Sunshine asked rhetorically.

But perhaps I thought this old news because it made me recall my father’s funeral, in October, 1997, at the Stephenson – Wyman Funeral Hom, in Clare, Michigan.

While waiting for the service to begin I spoke for a few minutes with Mr. Wyman, owner of the home and a long-time family friend.

Mr. Wyman said that he and Swanson had once spoken about my dad’s funeral.

Swanson Shields on His Own Funeral:

I don’t know how many people will be there, but I promise that I will be one of them.

Though I am no great fan of Mr. Jackson, I do find it noteworthty that he decided to honor our family policy on attending funerals.

One Million Lines Per Minute: SPITBOL/386 times for tokenizing and code generation

I’m making good progress on producing a version of SPITBOL for Linux.

One sign I’m on the right track is the performance that PC-SPITBOL delivers when run on Linux using Wine.

The translation is done in two steps.

The first step tokenizes the input, puts the operations in a standard form and drops the comments. This takes about 0.8 seconds to scan 31,000+ lines of MINIMAL source for v3.7, and produces just over 12,000 lines of tokenized instructions. This corresponds to about 2,325,000 lines/minute.

The second step generates assembly code for 386 for the 12,000 instructions. This results in 14,000 386 instructions and takes about 1.4 seconds. The scales up to about 500,000 statements/minute for the code generation phase.

The combined phases take just over 2 seconds to translate 31,000 lines of MINIMAL to 14,000 386 instructions. This corresponds to about 930,000 source lines per minute.

Not bad for a program written over 25 years ago.

And that’s before doing any tuning…

SQL No, Set Theory Yes

Slashdot just posted a story about a “nosql” conference, Enthusiasts Convene To Say No To SQL, Hash Out New DB Breed.

The “nosql” folks seem to agree with me that SQL is fundamentally wrong.

However, a quick look at some of the presentations to be found at NOSQL debrief suggests they are missing a key point.

The presentations lament the problems with SQL in today’s world, and make mention of some of the latest buzzwords such as “JSON,” “REST” and “Log-structured Merge Trees.”

I suggest the answer is not be found in a mashup of hot new technologies but by going back to the basics.

That would be mathematics.

If set-theory is good enough for mathematicians shouldn’t it be good enough to describe what you want to retrieve from a database?

Get the basics right, and all the rest will follow. This is a much better approach than working backward from technology to determine how the user should construct a query.

Soldiers At Work

Courtesy of a tweet from @ThomasCrampton I learned of an extraordinary video report about a firefight between Viper Company of the U.S. Army and Taliban forces in Afghanistan.

It shows some of the best soldiers in the world plying their craft:

Viper Company Firefight, 2009-06-30

PC-SPITBOL for Intel 8086 DOS Now Available

I just located my copy of PC-SPITBOL for the IBM PC, 8086, circa 1983. This is a 16-bit version.

It can be downloaded here.

Here are some pictures of the manual and a screenshot showing PC-SPITBOL starting up:

PC-SPITBOL Manual, 1983

PC-SPITBOL Manual, 1983

2009-06-NM-TREK 146

I did comparative runs of PC-SPITBOL 8086, SPITBOL/386, and CPython, using Cygwin on Windows XP:

CPython 55 seconds
SPITBOL/86 15 seconds
SPITBOL 8086 22 seconds

The numbers speak for themselves. PC-SPITBOL, written in 1983, is almost three times faster than CPython. SPITBOL/386, created over a decade ago, is more that four times faster than CPython.

Screenshot showing comparative times

Screenshot showing comparative times

Here are the test programs:

def add(a,b):
 return a+b
def sub(a,b):
 return a-b
n = 0
limit = 1000000
limit = limit * 50
trips = 0
for i in xrange(0, limit):
    m = add(n, 1)
    n = sub(m, 1)
    trips += 1

PC-SPITBOL, 8086, 16-bit:

 &stlimit = -1
 define("add(a,b)") :(add_end)
 add = a + b: (return)
 define("sub(a,b)") :(sub_end)
 sub = a - b: (return)
* repeat for limit1 * limit2 * limit3
 n = 0
* limit = 1000000
* limit = limit * 50
* variant for 16-bit spitbol, need to keep numbers small
 limit1 = 10000
 limit2 = 100
 limit3 = 50
 trip3 = 1
 trip2 = 1
 trip1 = 1
 m = add(n, 1)
 n = sub(m, 1)
 trip1 = trip1 + 1
 le(trip1, limit1) :s(lp1)
 trip2 = trip2 + 1
 le(trip2, limit2) :s(lp2)
 trip3 = trip3 + 1
 le(trip3,limit3)  :s(lp3)
 output = limit1 " " limit2 " " limit3

SPITBOL/386, 32-bit:

&stlimit = -1
 define("add(a,b)") :(add_end)
 add = a + b: (return)
 define("sub(a,b)") :(sub_end)
 sub = a - b: (return)
 n = 0
 limit = 1000000
 limit = limit * 50
 trips = 0
 m = add(n, 1)
 n = sub(m, 1)
 trips = trips + 1
 le(trips, limit) :s(lp)
 output = trips

There is a bug in the “sourcecode” function in that right parenthesis followed by a colon is deemed to be a “smiley face” and so rendered as an image. I find this so charming that I have left it in.

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