Pierre and his Poor Pathetic Page

Computers section

Main Menu

Miscellaneous - Computers - Personalities - Science!

(Vers version francaise)



Map of this section:

Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) - Software Patents - CoCo
Miscellaneous - Folklore - Hacking
The Internet - Free Software - GNU/Linux
Programming



Bulletin Board Systems (BBS)


Montréal BBS List for November 25th, 1988
September 1, 2002

This list was maintained by the Montreal BBS Juxtaposition, which started maintaining such lists in 1985. (Thanks to Paul Guertin for preserving and contributing this list.)

ZIP Beep
July 28, 2002

ZIP Beep was probably the first on-line humor magazine. It lasted from 1984 to 1989 and was distributed to more than 150 BBSes.

Montréal BBS List for July 21st, 1989
July 7, 2002

This list was maintained by the Montreal BBS Juxtaposition, which started maintaining such lists in 1985.

When 300 baud was the bomb
June 26, 2002

A Salon article on the BBS world.

A Documentary About Bulletin Board Systems
October 6, 2001

Jason Scott wants to film a documentary on Bulletin Board Systems in order to preserve their history. The Web has kept very few traces of this very dynamic world.

In my case, I was a member of several BBSes mostly from 1988 to 1991. The main ones were Alpha-Byte, Cheers!, InfoDoc-Montréal, Infolie and C-PC.

Bulletin Boards are online world's good old days
December 21, 2000

A Montréal Gazette article about the Montréal BBS scene as it was in 1997. The original link was this one, but the page disappeared. Fortunately, I kept a copy of the text.

The History of BBS's
December 6, 2000

This is a 1986 article by Thomas Ark that talked about how stupid users were polluting bulletin board systems. I translated this article in French in 1989. I have searched the Web with the name Thomas Ark but failed to find any mention of him. I would be curious to know more about what made him write this article.

textfiles.com
February 27, 1999

A collection of text files that used to circulate on the BBSes of the seventies and eighties.

The Santa Barbara BBS Nostalgia Page
November 2, 1998

The Santa Barbara BBS Nostalgia Page serves as an exposé of the thriving pre-internet culture in Santa Barbara cyberspace.

"People with no lives reminiscing about when they had - no lives
-- Useless Pages


"Batman" strikes again
January 26, 1998

I was a member of several Bulletin Board Systems from 1988 to 1991 (first with a 1200 bps modem on a CoCo, then with a 2400 bps on a PC...). One of them was called Alpha-Byte, and its sysop was known under the alias of S.T. Garp; I was a co-sysop for that BBS for about eight months.

There was on Alpha-Byte a section where a few users would write a "never ending story": each user write a message that adds something to the story. I kept an example of one of the worst contributions (in French) made by one of the idiots that unfortunately polluted that fine BBS.


Software Patents

Excerpt from Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8 of the Unites States Constitution:

[The Congress shall have Power] To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;

Copyrights and patents are authorized by the American constitution only towards the goal of advancing science and the useful arts, and not to protect the interests of private businesses...

The documentary Triumph of the Nerds on the beginnings of micro-computers shows very well that the nerds that created major programs like Visicalc for example had no need for legal or financial incentives. They did it because computer programming is a fascinating activity that can also improve the human condition. The software industry was and is still doing very well and does not need to have a patent system that implies the privatization of ideas to the great pleasure of the large companies that have the means to buy them.

The worst effect of software patents is that they endanger the free software movement. But since this movement helps the promotion of liberty and science in general, it is obvious that patents on algorithms violate the Constitution.


Against Software Patents
October 31, 1998

An article by the League for Programming Freedom that explains the whole problem. I have been maintaining the LPF site from time to time since October 1998.

The Constitution never sanctioned the patenting of gadgets
August 9, 1998

En 1950, the United States Supreme Court deplored that the U.S. Patent Office granted patents for gadgets as simple as a rubber tip put on wood pencils to serve as erasers. Such patents have nothing to do with the advancement of science are the arts, which is the only justification authorized by the Consitution for patents and copyrights.


CoCo

My first computer was the CoCo 2 (a Color Computer, from Tandy) in 1984. I learned to program in Basic and in assembler on this machine, which I found fascinating and remember fondly. It is thanks to my CoCo if I am a programmer today.


Verbiste for the CoCo
September 6, 2014

I have done partial port of my French verb conjugator to the CoCo.

CoCo mailing list
September 5, 2014

A mailing list hosted by Dennis Báthory-Kitsz, publisher in the eighties of Undercolor magazine.

Rainbow Magazine issues
September 5, 2014

PDF copies of most issues (1981-1993).

CoCopedia
September 5, 2014

A wiki on the Color Computer.

Emulating the CoCo 3 on a GNU/Linux system
June 17, 2012

This page gives a practical procedure to install and run an emulator for the Tandy Color Computer 3 under a GNU/Linux operating system.

Homebrew 6809 Computer: First Test
April 11, 2010

This YouTube video shows a user entering a hand-assembled machine-language program into a 6809 processor's memory, one byte at a time using switches, and then executing the program successfully.

MESS CoCo 3 emulation
August 23, 2001

MESS, of which a Linux version exists, is able to emulate a CoCo 3. One must have the right files that represent the machine's ROMs. I had to guess how to produce a ';' (with the numerid keypad '+' key) and a '+' (with the same key, but shifted). The joystick's button can be emulated by pressing the AltGr key (the one that produces the X11 "Mode_switch" keysym).

CoCo Game List
July 5, 2001

This site lists hundreds of video games for the CoCo.

WHILE for the CoCo 3 BASIC
April 26, 1998

In 1988 approximately, I added a WHILE command to the CoCo 3 BASIC interpreter. I told about that in the newsgroup bit.listserv.coco in a 1998 discussion about that BASIC interpreter's DLOAD command.


Miscellaneous


Problem with the Viewsonic VP930b monitor
June 6, 2006

I had to bring back this monitor to the store because its main menu quickly became inaccessible.

Tenth Anniversary of Wired
April 3, 2003

This article compares the climate of 1993 to the similar climate of 2003. Hope appears when one remembers all the effervescence that followed the recession of the early nineties.

The origin of Spacewar
December 9, 1998

This article describes the creation of the legendary game Spacewar, in the sixties.


Folklore

I am in possession of a working 5.25" diskette drive (tested on August 29th, 2006). If you are desperate to extract files from such diskettes, I may be able to help you.


Octo-puce (Bits and Bytes)
March 4, 2007

Octo-puce was an educational television series about computers. It was the French version of Bits and Bytes. These series of twelve half-hour episodes were produced in 1983 and aired respectively by the Radio-Québec and TV Ontario educational channels. They taught computer science to the general public and even dared to teach programming. Since about 2008, Google Video has offered this video of Octo-puce and Octo-puce Plus.

NCSA Mosaic, the first graphical browser
April 3, 2003

This page continues to offer the source code for the oldest browser with a graphical interface, NCSA Mosaic. It is still possible de compiler this proprietary program under GNU/Linux today, by using the free library LessTif as a replacement for Motif. (I was able to create an RPM package that adds an entry to the GNOME menu.) Ironically, Mosaic is not able to correctly display the page that it automatically loads on start-up and ends up displaying lots of Javascript code...

Beyond the Tesseract
October 28, 2002

"A highly conceptual game in which you interact with abstract concepts and mathematical entities as if they were tangible." I reconstitued this .tar.gz archive from two shell archives and two patches that I found in old comp.sources.games posts from December 1988, thanks to Google Groups. If you compile this on a modern GNU/Linux system, the linker will rightly complain that the `gets' function is dangerous and should not be used...

SEA vs PKWare
April 22, 2002

The court decision where PKWare was forced to stop using the .arc format, created by SEA, followed by some comments on the affair.


Hacking


Should hackers spend years in prison?
June 14, 1999

An article in Salon that questions the appropriateness of requesting long sentences for people who have cracked the security of information systems.

Computers and the Internet continue to frighten people, but prosecuting hackers runs the danger of setting nasty precedents that will begin to snare regular people, not programmers.

2600 - The Hacker Quarterly
November 28, 1997

This magazine is a fascinating source of information on major issues concerning computers and communications. It promotes freedom of speech, curiosity and experimentation.

See for example The Secret Service Wall Of Shame, which gives namely in its More Info section a list of frequencies used by the United States Secret Service and codenames for people, places, and things...

But most of all, do not miss the opportuniy to see a secret service agent who picks his nose.

There are 2600 meetings in Montréal: see the official website.


The Internet


Flash is Evil
December 4, 2000

Flash is a proprietary language allowing the creation of unusable and irritating Web sites. This site described the fundamental problems posed by this language. One can also read hostile replies from unbelievably stupid and/or superficial Flash fans.

HTML Validation Service
June 28, 2000

This service checks HTML documents for conformance to W3C HTML and XHTML Recommendations and other HTML standards.

Correct Moronic Microsoft HTML
March 25, 2000

This page describes, in Unix manual page style, a Perl program available for downloading from this site which corrects numerous errors and incompatibilities in HTML generated by, or edited with, Microsoft applications. The demoroniser keeps you from looking dumber than a bag of dirt when your Web page is viewed by a user on a non-Microsoft platform.

The Ecology of Computer Viruses
April 7, 1999

An article in Salon Magazine that points out that the organizations that were the most vulnerable to the recent Melissa virus were those that standardized on a software "monoculture" like Microsoft's. This article is interesting because few journalists in the media have mentioned that after all, viruses are possible because some systems and applications are simply ill-designed. The Great Worm of 1988 was due to bugs in some systems, while Melissa only takes advantage of the bad design of a few applications.

Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial Email
September 27, 1997

a group of Internet users that have had enough with spam have decided to form a coalition whose goal is to obtain legislation in the United States to ban junk email on the same grounds as junk faxing. The site has many sections and offers a mailing list.


Free Software

I think I have invented a slogan in French on March 18th, 1999: GNU vaincrons!


GPL scores historic court compliance victory
August 4, 2010

Westinghouse Digital Electronics has been forced by an American court to cease its non compliant distribution a product that contains GPL software, namely the BusyBox utility.

Freedom or Power?
November 23, 2001

This essay by Bradley M. Kuhn and Richard M. Stallman says that the choice of license for a program is not a freedom, but a power.

Freedom is being able to make decisions that affect mainly you. Power is being able to make decisions that affect others more than you.


Thus they conclude that the ethical way to exercise that power is to choose a free license, such as the GNU GPL.

What's Wrong With Content Protection
January 22, 2001

A very important text by John Gilmore, of the Electronic Frontier Foundation on the threat to free speech posed by the extension of copyrights.

The Right to Read
March 22, 1998

A work of fiction on where the copyright system could lead us if we let it out of control... I wrote a french translation which appears on gnu.org.

Brush With Greatness: Dennis Ritchie answers me
November 29, 1997

An article by Dennis M. Ritchie in response to a question that I asked in the newsgroup alt.folklore.computers about the attitude of AT&T towards the Unix versions created by the University of Berkeley.


GNU/Linux


French Canadian keyboard under XFCE
January 27, 2013

I use a 104-key US keyboard but I make it work like a French Canadian layout. Under XFCE, I have to edit an XML file to get exactly what I want.

Experiences with Ubuntu
August 14, 2011

I installed Ubuntu on my laptop and was able to make the wireless network interface work.

MS paper touts Unix in Hotmail's Win2k switch
November 22, 2002

An interesting Register article for anyone who wonders if it's true that Unix is simpler to manage: An older MS internal whitepaper from August 2000 on switching Hotmail, which MS acquired in 1997, from front-end servers running FreeBSD and back-end database servers running Solaris to a whole farm running Win2K, reads like a veritable sales brochure for UNIX


Programming


My Experiences with Eclipse
September 2, 2011

A few notes on my use of this programming environment (under GNU/Linux).

A functioning Turing machine
March 27, 2010

A man from Wisconsin built a classic Turing Machine with a thousand instruction tape.

The Daily WTF
August 5, 2005

This site regularly presents examples of very moronic code, with comments from the readers.

Csh Programming Considered Harmful
April 12, 2005

The C shell, and even tcsh, are irreversibly handicapped. It's hopeless.

Myths Open Source Developers Tell Ourselves
December 12, 2003

This article attempts to dispel many illusions about the software development process that some open source developers keep propagating. I particularly like the part that insists of the importance of providing precompiled packages to facilitate the installation of a program by a non-technical user.

Several projects neglect this aspect and tell their users to lobby their GNU/Linux distributor to have them produce those packages. But what if the distributor does not fulfill this demand? One cannot expect the user to go through the hassle of compiling the sources. This then means fewer users, less feedback and above all, fewer users who renounce proprietary software.

Verbiste: a French conjugation system
May 30, 2003

This GPL C++ library that I wrote can conjugate and deconjugate French verbs. It comes with two command-line utilities.

BoolStuff, a library for the Boolean Disjunctive Normal Form
November 7, 2002

BoolStuff is a small C++ library that I wrote and that supports a few operations on boolean expression binary trees, like parsing, and computing the Disjunctive Normal Form.

Creating Really Teensy ELF Executables for Linux
October 21, 2002

This document explores methods for squeezing excess bytes out of simple programs. "If you're a programmer who's become fed up with software bloat, then may you find herein the perfect antidote."

Sagasu - a GNOME tool to find strings in multiple files
March 29, 2002

Sagasu is a GNOME tool to find strings in multiple files. The user specifies the search directory and the set of files to be searched. Double-clicking on a search result launches a user command that can for example load the file in an editor at the appropriate line. The search can optionally ignore CVS directories. Sagasu is a Japanese word that means "to search."

Learning Standard C++ as a New Language
March 16, 2002

This article (PDF - 40k) from Bjarne Stroustrup shows how one can teach C++. It namely compares examples in C and in C++ to illustrate some Standard C++ library features that help to reduce the number of concepts that have to be taught from the start.

Odd Comments and Strange Doings in Unix
October 22, 2001

Dennis Ritchie explains some legendary comments and error messages, including You are not expected to understand this.

Maximum RPM: a book on building RPM packages
January 4, 2001

This book explains how to create binary and source RPMs. By following the given example, I was able to easily create a package from one of my libraries.

However, I use the command
    ./configure --prefix=/usr && make
    
instead of just make to ensure that the binary RPM would install its files in /usr/include and /usr/lib instead of /usr/local/include and /usr/local/lib.

GNU Autoconf, Automake, and Libtool
January 4, 2001

This books teaches the complex subject of automatic source code configuration, in the GNU manner. I tried a few times to learn autoconf and co. by hacking it, namely by reading the manual, but in vain.

It is only when I brought myself to read this book that I finally has access to the Revelation. I am quite satisfied to now know this tool suite. Now I can distribute my source code in a familiar form (the well-known ./configure, make, make install sequence).

The Rise of "Worse is Better"
October 19, 2000

This is an article by Richard Gabriel, a designer of Common Lisp and CLOS. It claims that striving for perfection may not always be the best approach:

I have intentionally caricatured the worse-is-better philosophy to convince you that it is obviously a bad philosophy and that the New Jersey approach is a bad approach.

However, I believe that worse-is-better, even in its strawman form, has better survival characteristics than the-right-thing, and that the New Jersey approach when used for software is a better approach than the MIT approach.


Duff's device
October 13, 2000

The most dramatic use yet seen of fall through in C switches, invented by Tom Duff en 1983. He was trying to bum all the instructions he could out of an inner loop that copied data serially onto an output port.

A History of Unix
July 26, 2000

After three decades of use, the UNIX* computer operating system from Bell Labs is still regarded as one of the most powerful, versatile, and flexible operating systems (OS) in the computer world. Its popularity is due to many factors, including its ability to run a wide variety of machines, from micros to supercomputers, and its portability -- all of which led to its adoption by many manufacturers.

The dumbing-down of programming
September 12, 1998

An article by Ellen Ullman that tells how installing GNU/Linux on a PC that had heretofore been equipped with Windows made her discover the archeological marvels of PC history. She deplores that systems like Windows try too much to protect us from ourselves and even tend to use insulting childish language...


Main Menu

Miscellaneous - Computers - Personalities - Science!