Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Computer Language Jungles

I've noticed that the number of computer languages has grown exponentially since I first learned one back in about 1969. I learned FORTRAN in college, barely, and following that, IBM360 BAL (basic assembly language). Then COBOL.

I have taken a spoon and scooped out the part of my brain that learned those 3 languages very long ago.

However, I cannot even begin to list all the compiler languages, scripting programs, meta-languages and implementations of lambda calculus with various cryptic names that have since exploded into existence. I wonder, why this has to be?

It seems that once I learned the 4th or 5th assembly language (finally for 64 bit Intel) that I've had it with those. Also, way back when there were only a few flavors of C (always bastardized for some specific company like Microsoft, DEC, etc.), I could have just settled with C. In fact I prefer C even today. Concise, no bullshit, fast.

But, no. There had to be every Tom, Dick and Harry's version of re-implemented-smalltalk-like-pascal-superscript-lisp-forth-C++. In addition to many C++ versions there is C# (and 3 different ones, too!). There are so many languages I can only refer to Wikipedia for a relatively comprehensive list of "famous" languages.

There are, unfortunately, many "unfamous" languages that were designed in-house for various corporations or even for specific departments within corporations, or even for specific people. The reason for this is not clear, but I would bet that it has to do with the phenomena that it is easier for some people to learn something by re-inventing it.

I think there is also another factor, one that is very apparent with JavaScript and various networking languages -- security. The only way security can be maintained is to write a new language that implements whatever essential subset of instructions or functions must be there, and leaves out the unneeded or dangerous ones. Thus there are dozens of half-JavaScripts out there that implement everything except the ability to actually use them in real web pages. That way there are no security problems.

This is similar in nature to JavaScript itself (which is a misnomer anyway -- it is EcmaScript, which sounds much like a skin rash to my ears) which leaves out all the file I/O, process controls and other things that can render a virus or worm in the networked computers. Despite this, various viruses and worms were written in JavaScript anyway.

So, there are all kinds of languages -- at least one for every 2 or 3 programmers. I've written my own languages (3 in total), although I would never expect them to still exist after all these years. They were specific to certain manufactured robots anyway, so they would not be useful for anything more general. One was called ZMAT, which is all I need to remember about it.

I have also written 3 operating systems. One was for a z8000 system (ZOS), another was for a z80000 system (ZMS), and another was for a graphics processing board (GAS). But all of those have since died merciful deaths. Like most computer hardware systems, they had short life spans, so the operating systems that ran them also had short life spans.

I hope to never write another OS or another language. But even though C is just fine with me, or even C++ if it needs to have formality and STL, it seems that for the rest of my life (probably not excessively long, now) I might still have to use dozens of other languages.

In the world of WPF (within the world of Visual Studios version whatever++) there are many subset languages, mostly C# and XAML. In other systems there are equivalent systems, although done in C++ and XML or Java and XML. I could just shoot C# in the head. It has nothing on Java (and neither does Java smell that nice), so it seems merely another Microsoft thing to jam their programming environments down our throats.

Oh, well. It's a living. Oh, wait! It's not even a living. Nobody wants to pay programmers anymore. Unless they live in India. Yet another batch of languages.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


All my life, from childhood to the present, I have been disparaged as a "nonbeliever". I would rather be labeled a "disbeliever" however, since that is closer to what I really am.

A non-believer is someone who believes nothing. That is probably not possible for a human brain. The brain will tilt one way or the other, regardless of any truth in that direction or not. A disbeliever is someone who chooses to NOT believe in something that is being forced down their throat. That is me.

In many of my posts I've blithered endlessly about theories of various kinds and it is unlikely that any further blithering is necessary. Suffice that there are plenty of scientifically proven subjects which, if studied closely, are very difficult to disprove. Yet there are many people who disbelieve them. They choose to NOT believe things which are already proven beyond any doubt.

I am not like that. I will not kick a brick, because I know that my toe is less substantial than the brick. No amount of "disbelief" in bricks will change that fact. My disbelief is in things offered as opinion.

Ad hominem attacks are the most common form of propaganda. It is very easy to destroy someone's reputation by the copious use of slander. Given any name, whichever side of any "belief" that person falls into, some kind of belittlement can be used in the hopes of changing someone's opinion of them.

I will not use any example, because that is exactly what is so slimy about the subject -- the example cannot be made in the abstract. It can only be made in such a way to disparage someone.

So, my attack is on the use of propaganda itself. To use riches to buy up as many channels of information broadcast as possible and then blither on about whatever political crap or religious drivel -- that is what is despicable. So, if you do this, you know who you are and what you are.

But why am I a disbeliever? Because, other than kicking bricks and other physically provable situations, there is nothing which can be trusted. There are so many liars, marketing pukes, political slanderers and reputation destroyers out there that the residual "believable" information is too tiny to notice. It doesn't matter what "ism" you push, you are just a pusher -- like a drug pusher.

Someone might point at this article as an example of disparagement, and they would be right. It is very difficult to write anything meta-political without stepping on somebody's toes. But I don't mind stepping on the toes of frauds, thieves or other kinds of crooks. And, unfortunately, that is the most common form of propagandist out there.

What about religion? Is that not a "non-evil" form of propaganda? In some ways I agree with that. Certainly the pleadings for people to discard their selfish, pompous ways and live their lives according to some standard values for the greater good -- can't be bad. I think religions get kind of out of control, though. Some wind up just being another kind of greedy corporate entity, with an endless supply of suckers to bilk. So, I "disbelieve" in religion just the same as the rest.

Am I not then "throwing the baby out with the bathwater?" Not entirely, because I still believe in the reality of physics. Solipsism is not exactly my bag. I think reality happens to me, I don't create reality as I go along. There is no opinion, such as saying that "materialism is so nerdy", that can disparage my belief that kicking bricks will hurt my toe. So I do not extend "disbelief" to obvious, measurable phenomena.

Does this mean I "don't believe in aliens?" Well, that is a bit difficult to swallow without actually being confronted by a real, nuts-and-bolts alien. But the "possibility" of aliens is still fairly high, somewhere out there in the vast numbers of stars. But believing in aliens and believing in doctrines of opinion are completely separate things. It is far more likely that both Democrats and Republicans are equally polluted by corporate influence than "aliens are visiting the Earth."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Working Stiffs

The term "working stiff" applies to all of us humans that actually get up every morning and start doing something in the attempt to make a small sum of money. Such people as gardeners, nannies, grocery store cashiers, computer programmers, janitors, teachers, cooks, nurses, doctors, mechanics, technicians and several thousand other kinds of workers -- all fall into this category.

There are other people, for instance the CEO of Exxon, who probably get up in the morning and also start doing something, however they do it for vast sums of money and are never referred to as "working stiffs".

I have noticed that the GOP, the right wing party in America, has become quite incensed with any hint of socialism that might creep into our government. I'm not sure they understand the difference between socialism and totalitarianism (which is closer to GOP thinking than socialism itself). The fear of socialism would be quite understandable if you are the CEO of Exxon, or perhaps the King of Texas (I mean, the Governor), because socialism means that they might be forced to accept less money for their stupendously superior amounts of work compared to say, a doctor.

Somehow, with the marvelous information propagation capabilities heretofore reserved for such greats as Goebbels or Stalin, the GOP has managed to make every gas station attendant, waitress and stock yard worker in America take up pitchforks against them damn socialists, wherever they are. This is because... well, I don't exactly know why.

Why would a waitress that makes $2.30 per hour, plus maybe $10 or $20 in tips, feel so incensed about taxes that they don't even pay that they would stick a needle in your eye for voting in favor of increasing their chances of getting quality health care someday? Why do working stiffs actually desired getting stiffed by the Insurance Industry? Why do "nonworking" working stiffs that can't even get a job desire for any possible job they might get to be outsourced to China?

I can at least understand the hatred some GOPs have for other races. I don't like it, but I understand it. I understand the hatred they have for other religions, again something I'm not especially on board with. They have a whole drawer full of stock hate-symbols to drag out for every occasion. I am not exactly sure why all the working class heroes are so dead set against worker's rights, minimum standards of health care, education and so forth. It's like wanting to own guns in order to shoot yourself in the feet.

Why are the GOPs so effective in making working stiffs desperate to screw up their own lives?

Propaganda on mass media. It works. Ask any preacher, advertising executive or producer for You-Know-Who News. They know it works and the GOP knows it works. And us working stiffs know it works-- so stop falling for it. Think for yourself.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Believe me, believe me not...

What makes a person decide to believe something? It seems very unlikely that people will just believe 50% of everything they are told is "true" and then disbelieve the other 50%. And there is also the "pollster" effect -- that people are more likely to say they believe something if it is expected of them within the context of a question.
Louis XIV visiting the  Académie des sciences ...Likewise, if I suddenly found myself surrounded by whooping and hollering painted savages who revere the great stone Volcano God, I doubt that I would just argue about the fine points of it all, or point out how silly such a thing is. I would probably just whoop and holler along with them, in fear that I might be found to "believe" the wrong thing.

Yet, in any of these instances the belief is a public thing -- a social thing. It is not necessarily what you believe regardless of any peer pressure. If you are in a cowboy bar, I doubt you are going to shout anything about why everyone is wearing those big hats and buckles. Nobody wants to get beat up over inconsequential things, so you just go along with it.

Science is my "thing", but it is a very dangerous thing for all the above reasons and more. Cowboys in the late 1800s, confronted with the scientific fact that their longhorn cows were spreading diseases would just as soon shoot you as listen to reason. That was their livelihood you were messin' with.

In the current day, oil and coal is the big thing and it is spreading a lot of death around, although mostly in less obvious ways. Most people don't care if this or that microbe in the ocean is dying off. Or even that coral reefs are dying off. Just so long as they can drive to work everyday and heat the house in the winter -- who cares about those bugs and slimy things anyway?

So, it is very popular nowadays to belittle scientists as being "blinded by science", or greedy for "research funding" or whatever. If you think greed is the issue, you should try being a scientist. They generally aren't rich people. And being blinded by a whole bunch of measurements and collections of facts is hardly worse than checking how much you pay for those shoes and making sure you're pants fit before you buy them.

There are also scientists who somewhat smugly ridicule "lesser educated folks" and try to push their objectivity theories as a kind of superior religion which should supplant all inferior belief systems as a matter of course. Whereas there may be good reason to push away "snake oil" religions and the harmful practices of savage rituals, there is hardly any reason to worship nuclear explosions as being more holy than anything else, either.

But you must ask yourself, in a world filled with exceptionally large amounts of discarded chemicals and nuclear waste -- do you believe that magical fairies will fix it all?