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Moshe Bar on Programming, Society, and Religion 847

Well, here we are: Moshe Bar's answers to questions you posted earlier this week. Read and enjoy.

1) As a device-driver writer...
by Marx_Mrvelous

It seems like such a chore to write drivers that work on all distros since they all use different kernels. It seems to me that businesses only develop for windows because they are guaranteed that their drivers will work on all windows machines for X (4,5,6) years without any more work. Having experience writing Linux device drivers, do you think that a cross-distribution effort to standardize on kernel versions and guarantee major hardware manufacturers this compatibility would promote driver development in Linux?


I don't think a standardized kernel version across distributions is a) feasible business-wise b) necessary c) going to make driver writing any easier. Not that it is that difficult now. I also don't think that the various kernel versions among distributions is to be blamed for bigger (if really so) number of driver developers under Windows. Most drivers do not really create problems across the different kernel versions of the distributions, in most cases a simple recompile of the kernel module with the modified kernel headers is different.

On top of that, I really suspect that writing drivers across the many Windoze versions is far more difficult because each different Windows type (95, 98, ME, 2000, XP and what have you not) is really a different OS.

2) I have only one question:
by Baldric Dominus

Does Moshe have a son/daughter named "foo"?


Moshe does not have children yet. We do plan to fork() some children eventually, but have not yet made plans about their names. :-)

3) Different social groups

As someone involved in many different activities, do you have cohesive social groups? That is, do the people from, say, your motorcycle-riding friends develop/use linux as well? I'm interested in knowing what your social ties are, being as it seems you are a fairly active individual.


The social groups of which I am a member of vary wildly, in part due to the fact that me and Ms. Bar have effectively two homes, one in Israel and one in Europe. Since Europe and the Middle East (ie Asia) differ quite substantially culturally and ethnically, I find the biggest differences lie therein. As to what concerns the various other groups (motorbikers, lawyers, business people, etc.) they do differ somewhat if on the same continent, but the diversity is actually something that attracts and intrigues me. A very typical motor-biker is not going to be a very typical kernel hacker, mostly. A very typical lawyer is not going to be a very typical Talmud student (although both study essentially just law and its practice), usually. However, I am not a typical member of any of these stereotypes (not sure if anyone really is). What unites them all is that they all do whatever they do with passion if they are good at it.

4) BitKeeper
by AirLace

Despite staunch opposition from certain developers, Linus has recently started to maintain the kernel using the non-free BitKeeper SCM product, which is not only proprietary but also uses undocumented file formats, making interoperability difficult or impossible. Do you think it's fair to encourage developers who would otherwise keep to Free Software to turn to a proprietary solution and what is in effect, shareware?


Nobody has to use bk to create patches or to send them to Linus. It is true that Linus is more likely to include them if they come through bk, but by far not all have adopted bk (Alan Cox being one famous such exception). I personally have switched to bk for my personal stuff, but I still don't much like the bk business model. The question is: would Larry lose money in any way if he was to open up bk completely? I don't think so. The other question is: would it be so difficult to produce a bk-compatible openBK? Don't think so either. If the community continues to adopt bk at this rate, sooner or alter, someone will come out with an openBK for sure. Welcome to the wonderful world of OpenSource!

5) As a device driver writer...
by dalutong

do you think that the Linux kernel should follow the same route as the Mozilla project. That being that when Mozilla reaches 1.0 the API will freeze and any plugins, applications that use gecko, etc. will be compatible until version 1.2 is out. Should the Linux kernel make some sort of standardized API for drivers so a driver that works with 2.4.0 will work for 2.4.20?


No, I dont' think so. The Mozilla API model is based on an old and mean-while superseded assumption: that writing software is expensive. In the OpenSource world having to modify a driver because something changed in the kernel, is an advantage not a disadvange, both economically and techically. Proprietary software goes at the tariff of US$ 50-200 per line of debugged code. No such price applies to OpenSource software. Additionlly, if the API changes it is for a good reason. Then why not letting your driver benefit from it?

6) Database Clusters
by emil

As a cluster guru, I am curious about your take on database server clustering in both the commercial and the open-source space.

First, it appears that IBM DB2 has been wiping the floor with Oracle on the TPC benchmarks lately, and Oracle "RAC" has been a flop. However, IBM is not using any hardware from its proprietary server lines, but instead relies on clusters of "federated" databases running on 32 standard PCs running either Linux or Windows. It does appear that Oracle still generally beats IBM in raw performance on a single system (as IBM refuses to post any non-clustered benchmarks AFAIK).

Do you think that any of the hype over either of these vendors cluster packages is worth attention? Do you agree with Sun's claim that TPC(-C) no longer has any practical relevance? It all seems to be getting rather silly.

Second, is there any push to make any of the ACID-leaning open databases (Postgres, SAP-DB, etc.) fault-tolerant, perhaps using Mosix? I assume this would require modifications to Postgres enabling it to access raw partitions. Have you had any talks with the Red Hat Database people about cluster modifications to Postgres, just out of curiousity?


There have been talks with the DB2, Postgres, SAP DB and various other DB technologies. All their proprietary clustering technologies (in particular DB2's and Oracle RAC's) are bound to show very poor scalability and TOC. In the openMosix model, you install *one* DB2 or *one* Oracle 9i on one machine and - assuming we have finished implementing Distributed Shared Memory, something which we plan to do - then the processes making up an instance can migrate away to other nodes and make more room for a larger DB block caching area. All that happens transparently to the RDBMS under openMosix because we implement the clustering layer within the kernel and therefore all applications, whatever they might be, benefit from it.

Under Oracle RAC, for example, you need to install the RDMBS on everynode being part of the RAC cluster. If you need to apply a patch and that process takes, say, 2 hours, then the whole patching downtime to the DB will be 2 hours x n nodes. Also, in openMosix we are soon goin to implement Dolphin support, allowing us to copy a full 4KB page from node to node within 14.4 microseconds. Something like Oracle will immediately benefit from the cluster-wide ultra-low latency. If not in kernel space, then every application vendor would have to write his own driver, possibly conflicting with other applications trying to do the same on the same machine. In short, doing clustering at the DB application level is essentially flawed.

openMosix does not handle High Availability, so I am not answering that part of the question.

7) Not about Linux at all...
by Dimwit

...but the article said pick anything. Since there are quite a few philosophers on Slashdot (and since I'm Jewish and this question gets a lot of thought from me, and when will I ever be able to ask again?) here's my question:

Do you see any reconciliation between science and the G-d of the Torah? What about between Science and any sort of Creationism at all? Do you see the possibility that science, as it approaches the moment of Creation itself, becomes more in tune with religion? I guess a big part of what I'm asking - do you see a place for (or proof of) G-d in science?


No, as much as I am firm believer in our G-d, I do not believe the two things can ever go together in harmony. We know the world created itself a few billion years ago and not 5762 years ago (according to the Jewish counting). We know that evolution is the culprit for that inexplicably destructive and increasingly contradictory thing called the human, the human was not made directly by G-d. Yet, the religious teachings really do make for a more peaceful and quality living if followed the same way by all people. In my view, religious belief and science do not negate one another on the philosophic level, but on the at-face-value level. The more you try to negate G-d the more you end up having to believe in something in its stead. Kierkegaard for all his trying to disprove G-d always came back to G-d. Camus' attempt to show that there is no G-d only shows how divine the emptiness is that is left behind once you eliminate G-d. Staunch atheism is ultimately only an active attempt at ignoring the question what is the divine if it is not G-d, not at answering it.

8) What area of law are you studying?
by gosand

According to the FAQ on your website, you are currently studying for your first law degree. With such a heavy technical background, especially in CS, I am curious as to what area of the law you are planning on going into. Is it a technology-related area? It would be nice to have some more technically-capable people in the law profession, especially those who are Linux friendly. Or is going into law just your way of making money for that early retirement?


I am studying law because at my age I already see how much faster younger programmers are than me. Back when I was in my early twenties nobody could beat me at programming. Nowadays, when I sit next to people like Andrea Arcangeli, I realize that programming, too, (even considering the advantage of experience) is for the young. Perhapes extreme programming, ie good quality, high speed programming, should be considered a sport and not an art or science or a skill. Since, I do not see myself being a programmer at 60 years (which is more than years from now), I deduced that I have to find a new job between then and now. Law is something that really goes well with progressing age. My area of law will be mergers/aquisitions, something that mainly bases on a wide-spread social network rather than talent or very intimate knowledge of the law. I do not actually intend to be a very good lawyer, just to be one.

9) Single Memory Space for openMosix
by Bytenik

Right now, as you've mentioned in the documentation, programs that access databases or shared memory do not derive any particular benefit from using openMosix.

Is there any work planned to enhance openMosix to support a single memory space among all nodes or to otherwise allow implicit sharing of memory? Is this what the "network RAM" research is attempting?

Implementing something along these lines in an efficient manner would hugely expand the range of problems that openMosix could be used to tackle.

Imagine being able to split a database transaction into hundreds of parts and run it in parallel on hundreds of openMosix nodes with a terabyte or more of combined RAM. The processes that share data would automatically migrate to the same node. Mmmmm good!


Network RAM is simply allowing mallocs or swap-outs to be done to the RAM of neighboring cluster node rather than to physical swap space on disk. In order to run databases under openMosix we will need to implement distributed shared memory. Due to the exceptional complexity of this project, I do not assume to have a valid implementation before the end of 2004.

10) IBM and Hercules?
by Jay Maynard

(I'm the maintainer of Hercules, an open source emulator for IBM mainframes that runs on Linux and Windows.)

You've mentioned Hercules in your column a couple of times, both quite favorably. Thanks!

One industry analyst from Germany has claimed repeatedly that IBM is getting ready to slap down Hercules with its lawyers, on the basis of some unspecified violations of their intellectual property rights. He's said that it's not just patent infringement, but refuses to go into exactly what else.

What effect would you think that taking such an action would have on IBM once the open source community finds out?


Hi Jay, long time no hear! I have heard similar rumours. If IBM is reading this: going against Hercules would be an extremely stupid move (not unlike the one by the asinine Adobe legal counsels against Sklyarov). Hercules only helps to sell more mainframes because as people familiarize with the Linux on the S/390 architecture, they will ultimately end up buying a mainframe to run their production workload. If you - as a vendor - want a particular computing platform to succeed, then you do everything possible to spread the gospel according to that platform. You don't go and destroy evangelists doing that for you. I use Hercules very often, and actually have an instance of Hercules running under Linux, with VM/ESA inside running Linux S/390 under it for about 3 months now. openMosix nicely balances the load across my 5 nodes cluster at home and I get very decent speed.

If IBM truly embraces Linux as just one of the members of the OpenSource family (rather than just Linux alone because it saves them billions in proprietary OS development) than it will not go against Hercules. If it does, then we all know that IBM is not serious about OpenSource and only taking advantage of it without really behaving like a good OpenSource citizen.

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Moshe Bar on Programming, Society, and Religion

Comments Filter:
  • Moshe is... (Score:5, Funny)

    by phatStrat ( 575716 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @12:16PM (#3660085)
    We do plan to fork() some children eventually...

    ... a cannibal?
    • He'll also need to watch out for zombies.....

    • We do plan to fork() some children eventually.

      remember, there IS no spoon!.

      hence the fork.

    • by fava ( 513118 )
      We do plan to fork() some children eventually, ...

      The real question is do you plan to use OpenMosix to fork across mutiple hosts in order to reduce the normal runtime. By using 9 hosts you can reduce the runtime to 1 month.

      Of course trying to admin 9 hosts simultaniously might be difficult.
    • I cannot believe you. I am told that Slashdot is forum for technical Linux discussion where I can talk about Mosix. Instead, Slashdot is newbies who do not even know fork(). My humour and insight are obviously wasted on you American heathens. This is why you were attacked on September 11th: because you deserve it.
  • That's just not right. He was a devout Christian, and the highest category of human existence for him, above the Aesthetic and the Moral, was the Spiritual.

    • But Christians know nothing of G-d. They see some slut's bastard child and call him G-d's son! More like a bastard hippy if you ask me! So Kierkegaard is trying to disprove G-d by believing in a false idol. If you do not understand this, perhaps you have not the appropriate level of theological study. I have taken two community college courses on theological theory and thus am an established expert on matters of religion. Also, I am from Israel, home of the Jews (and not those lazy pansy "Jews" you have in America).

      But even still I cannot believe that Slashdot asks me to answer questions, and then try to disprove my answers! Such treachery on the part of Mr. Malda will not be tolerated. I write Mosix, for G-d's sake!

  • About atheism (Score:5, Informative)

    by PD ( 9577 ) <> on Friday June 07, 2002 @12:19PM (#3660101) Homepage Journal
    Moshe, thanks for your comments on religion, I found them most fascinating, and I hope I can add just a bit to what you said about atheism. I am an agnostic atheist myself, which means that I do not believe in any gods because I have no reason to.

    I believe that your comments were referring to what is called "strong atheism" which is an active disbelief in any god whatsoever, something distinct from agnosticism.

    But, I think you're incorrect that atheists of any stripe ignore the question of what is divine, and fail to answer it. A strong atheist says that NOTHING is divine, and an agnostic atheist like myself says that nobody can show that anything is divine, so there's no reason to hypothesize it. That's a pretty direct answer to the question.
    • It also applies to the converse.

      Whenever I have a religious discussion with anyone I always start out by stating that I'm agnostic and that means:

      a) I will not believe in a God until it's existance can be proven.

      b) I will not NOT believe in a God until it's existance can be disproven.

      • Re:About atheism (Score:4, Insightful)

        by PD ( 9577 ) <> on Friday June 07, 2002 @12:35PM (#3660192) Homepage Journal
        b) I will not NOT believe in a God until it's existance can be disproven.

        I guess that I should point out that I have a skeptical side as well. I do not agree to the second statement, for a couple of reasons. First, the burden of proof is on the person making the claim. If a god is claimed, I have no obligation to believe anything without support. Second, I do not think that it's necessary for an open mind. An open mind will conform to A), but I think that a skeptic with an open mind will not conform to B)
        • I guess I'm just trying to avoid religious flame wars. I too have a skeptical side. For many years I was pure atheist and just down right did not believe in the existance of God. But that's being rather closed.

          Can I disprove it's existance? No.
          Can I (or anyone else) prove it's existance? No.

          So why fight over it? I chose not to believe in religion because it seems to cause more pain and hatred than peace of mind. Death is certainly a scarier concept to me than for anyone who believes in an after life but at least I have the peace of mind, while I'm alive, of knowing that I'm not contributing to any organization that descriminates against others solely for what they believe in.

          I see it as just being a very stupid argument and so I like to take a completely un-biased point of view and let other people fight over it if it means that much to them ;^)

          But this is just my opinion of course....

      • Re:About atheism (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tshak ( 173364 )
        The problem is, we have not proven Evolution by any means either. We can't. We have some evidence, and based on that evidence we draw some conclusions, but these conclusions are strictly theories. We can believe in evolution if we feel that the evidence is strong enough to warrent faith, but not blind faith. It is extremely close minded to not believe in something until it's existance can be proven, because that is choosing to be ignorant of realities that may be impossible to actually prove.
        • Re:About atheism (Score:3, Interesting)

          by rsidd ( 6328 )
          The problem is, we have not proven Evolution by any means either. We can't. We have some evidence

          Actually, we have lots of evidence. Overwhelming quantities of evidence. We can't prove it because outside of formal systems in mathematics/logic, we can't prove anything. The world could have been created 5700 years ago with its fossil records, geological evidence, astronomical setup, etc created "just right"; it could also have been created 5700 seconds ago, with all of us already created, with our desks and computers and everything, and our memories pre-programmed to make us think we had a childhoood. None of this can be disproved, so it makes sense to look for the reasonable solution.

          (And if you really want to believe in God, I think it would be nicer to believe in a God who isn't a confidence trickster, who wouldn't set up all these fossil records and stuff just to con us for his amusement...)

        • The problem is, we have not proven Evolution by any means either.

          Evolution has been actively observed, therefore, it is proven that it is a process in nature.

          The only thing that isn't "proven" is that mankind itself (and most other animals) arose through evolution. For that, we only have overwhelming evidence.

        • Re:About atheism (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Damek ( 515688 ) <adam&damek,org> on Friday June 07, 2002 @01:16PM (#3660461) Homepage
          The difference between evolution and the question of whether or not God exists is that we have evidence (as you said) for evolution. I don't know about you, but as far as I'm aware there is no evidence for the existence of God short of hearsay and word-of-mouth.

          Look at it this way: taking Occam's Razor into account, if the simplest explanation is usually the "right" one, with evolution, it's the simplest explanation for the information we have. I guess that's debatable, if you think that assuming the existence of a superbeing is simpler than assuming everything happened on its own.

          As for whether or not god exists, is it simpler to assume the universe just exists, or to assume that not only does it exist, but it was created by a superbeing of some sort? Personally, I think the second option adds a layer of unnecessary complexity.

          I'll agree with the original poster - In response to Moshe's comment about atheists ignoring or avoiding the question of what is the devine, my response is just that I never thought there was any devine. I don't know what that means. It's not part of my world view. If that's disgusting to some people, I'm sorry, but I just haven't ever had an experience that could only be described as devine, so I have no reason to consider the question. I'm not avoiding it, I'm saying that it's moot to begin with.
        • Closed mindedness (Score:4, Insightful)

          by PD ( 9577 ) <> on Friday June 07, 2002 @01:24PM (#3660526) Homepage Journal
          There's a lot of confusion out there about what a closed and open mind really is. I'm going to help out with some definitions.

          A person with an open mind is a person who will believe in something if they have been convinced.

          A person with a closed mind is a person who will never believe in something, no matter what evidence is presented.

          If you believe in something even though existence cannot be shown, then that's not a virtue, that's a fault of discrimination. Following that rule means that a person doesn't use their logical and reasoning abilities to determine what is true or what is not true. The pursuit of an open mind should not be confused with filling that mind with any garbage that comes along. The burden of proof is on the person making the claim.

        • Re:About atheism (Score:3, Informative)

          by t ( 8386 )
          To prove evolution one does not have to prove that we humans evolved from pool slime. One merely has to examine say fruit flies against changing conditions etc...

          And also, there is no such thing as "faith" in science. Either you can test a theory and show that the reality agrees with theory or you can't.

          As for close mindedness, I believe there is a god that shit out the galaxies, from which we humans evolved. Are you going to be close minded or are you going to put my theory on your list next to intelligent design? No I can't prove my theory, but you can neither disprove it therefore you must accept it as possible. Is your flaw in your logic obvious or must I whip out the rigourous baseball bat of science?


      • Re:About atheism (Score:5, Informative)

        by Phanatic1a ( 413374 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @01:06PM (#3660393)
        That's not what agnosticism means.

        Agnosticism was a word coined by Thomas Huxley, as a play on the gnostics, who claimed special knowledge of God. Agnosticism is not a metaphysical statement like atheism is, it's an epistemic statement. In other words, it's not a statement about the nature of the universe or the existence of God; it's a statement about the nature of knowledge and the limitations on it.

        An agnostic might believe in God. An agnostic might be an atheist. But in either case, an agnostic believes that knowledge on the subject is not possible. An agnostic believes that it is impossible to prove the existence of nonexistence of God.

        Atheism and agnosticism are completely orthogonal. You can be a theistic agnostic, or an atheistic agnostic. From your statement above, you're not an agnostic, because your beliefs leave open the possibility of confirmation or disproof of God's existence, and that's exactly what agnostics don't believe are possible. Your description indicates that you are, however, a negative, or "weak", atheist.
        • agnostic Pronunciation Key (g-nstk)

          1. One who believes that it is impossible to know whether there is a God.
          2. One who is skeptical about the existence of God but does not profess true atheism.
          b. One who is doubtful or noncommittal about something.

          atheist Pronunciation Key (th-st)

          One who disbelieves or denies the existence of God or gods.

          I fit definition "a" of agnosticism. I believe that it's impossible to prove or disprove the existance of God and therefore I take an un-biased position. That makes me agnostic.

          Thanks for the history of the word though. I found that interesting.

          • Referring to a general-purpose dictionary to glean the meaning of a term that has a specific meaning within a particular field can be a very bad idea.

            router1 Pronunciation Key (routr)
            One that routs, especially a machine tool that mills out the surface of metal or wood.
    • I'm something along the lines of an apethetic agnostic. I don't have a reason to believe in any diety, and I think that religious dogmas are hypocritical, at best. I am fascinated by the many religions, just as I am fascinated by the many myths that make up the cultures of the world. I don't care where we come from nor why the tiger eats meat instead of veggies... however, I do think that science will one day answer those riddles and pose even more questions. With knowledge comes curiosity, it is human nature.
    • It doesn't matter if you believe in God.

      He believes in you!

    • I am a weak atheist/empirical agnostic, and the only thing I can find to fill the "void", is really Humanism. Humanity and life itself is what is divine and we need to start shifting *that* to our focus. We are always concentrating on some holy "otherness" when we really need to start taking care of ourselves. God will not save us. One of my main gripes about dogmatic religion is that it forces a divorce between individual conscience and some external set of laws. I believe that people are to a large part inherently "good" (derived from evolution - if we were too "bad" we'd simply be extinct), and so I believe that individuals keeping true to their own conscience (instead of following some externally enforced dogmatic laws) in general will eventually lead to the best outcome. (incidentally this is somewhat like Open Source itself - let everybody do their thing, and you get nice emergent behavior as a whole). Unfortunately too many religions/societies are based on the idea that humans are innately "bad" and are innately in conflict with nature and each other and thus have to propose all sorts of rules to supplant normal human tendencies and override our own consciences.
    • From all the activities Moshe is involved in, it appears he may have a naturally polytheistic temperament. Monotheism is about psychological monoculture - note where he talks about how religion "works well" when everyone shares a single belief set. Polytheism is about there being a vast range of superior spirits, or states of mind, each with particular strengths in particular contexts, and for particular activities.

      If you look at what the Wahabbi Muslims (the Saudi movement responsible for the WTC) believes, the very center of their practice is the destruction of of any site at which any god other than their own might be worshipped. This hatred of all other gods but one is the essence of extreme monotheism. The ecumenical Christian version tries to be more liberal by pretending that all other gods are just aspects of the one god, and so still may be legitimately worshipped. The Jewish version at least tends to not be so concerned with what gods those of other faiths show respect to, as long as the Jews are left alone.

      But we of open source should be warry of monotheists of every variety. From the polytheistic perspective, any god claiming to be the only god is a pretender to a monopolistic throne on which no single god should be allowed to sit. Where the athiest's stance is that there are no gods at all, the polytheist's stance is that any god claiming to be the only god is a liar and pretender, whose demonization of the competition is exactly the sort of move pulled off by Bill Gates, deserving no respect.
  • by abigor ( 540274 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @12:22PM (#3660121)
    I can't say I agree with this. Maybe full-on hacking, yes, but in terms of advanced development -- that is, software architecture -- then I just don't see 21 year olds fresh out of CS knowing all there is to know about J2EE design patterns, for example.

    I'm not trying to be a pompous ass, I'm just trying to say that there's more to software development than breakneck coding speed, stuff that only comes from years of experience.
    • by TheGratefulNet ( 143330 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @12:38PM (#3660220)
      as an aging programmer (40), I see myself doing less actual grunt-level coding and more design, review and mentoring. what I don't have in raw speed I more than make up for in extensive experience (I've been coding since 16, starting back in the z80 days).

      yes, the kids today have more raw stamina than someone of my age. but there's just no way they could have such a fine tuned understanding of the art of programming; and more important, seen enough of the 'world' to have an eye for what will work in a given situation and what wont.

      not saying I want to move into management (yikes!) but more as a designer and less as a raw coder. isn't that pretty usual, these days?

    • by nordaim ( 162919 ) <nordaim@y a h o o . com> on Friday June 07, 2002 @12:40PM (#3660230)
      I am currently working with an individual who has more years of programming experience than I have years of life. His ability to code quality is amazing, but I find that the younger programmers I know can whip out the smaller portions of what he is doing on a scale 10x faster. It is his knowledge of all the intricacies of the language where his abilities really show: He can tweak someone else's code, that would take him hours to write, in a matter of minutes and make it scream.

      A very good project manager with excellent knowledge, but that knowledge is a hinderance because of how much of the picture he knows.

      I think of it along the lines of a lot of logic puzzles: There are many that the young (12 or less) can do in 5 minutes, but an adult will ponder for hours because they have too much experience to think about the problem properly. Too many options are available...

    • As a fresh-faced youngster (23) in the corperate programming world, I can say that it's much easier to monkey with code written by someone with 10 years' experience then that of someone with 2 years. Most of the prodigies I've seen during my college years wrote code quickly, and often times it was intelligent and elegant. However, from a maintainability/style standpoint it was crap. In that respect, good code comes from spending lots of time mainting your own and other people's code. So, now, the only question remaining is which is better? Code that can be maintained indefinitely, or code that is produced quickly? As a guy who pretty much maintains code (rather than developing new applications) for a living, I know what MY answer is!
    • Yeah, I agree. I think there are two factors here, the first being that a lot of us spent more time in front of the computers when we're younger. More time = More programming, but More Programming != Better Programmer.

      Secondly, I think younger programmers get to jump in to the game in a more advanced, usable state. How many of today's crop would have the patience to program if it were in assembler and you saved your programs on the same 5 1/4" 360K floppy used to load your editor and assembler?

      There's a lot of crap I had to digest to get to the point where I am now, and most of it useless. Newer programmers can jump in starting with something like C++ or Java and expect that one skillset to last for a career.
      • I have some problems with pretty much everything you've said.

        More programming = mode debugging = more experience = better programming. That's it. It's pretty simple. If that isn't the way it works in some cases, then those are the exception and those people probably shouldn't be involved in software development.

        Second, new programmers aren't more usable out of the gate. Any kid can come along and write some basic program or script that can send data across a network. It doesn't mean that's all they ever need to know. You're assuming that this next generation of programmers can write 100% bug free code right off the bat. It's a huge advantage to understand things like the TCP/IP protocol and what the Nagle algorithm does. You'll find that once you understand the low level capabilities, then you'll have a much better understanding of what can and can't be done with the high level stuff.

        Third of all, if you've digested a lot of technical info and feel it's all useless, then you don't have the capability to actually apply that information to development. Maybe you don't truly like development (that's my guess).

        I'd personally like one person that is in their 40's to comment here that C/C++ have been the only skills they've ever needed in professional development.

        Go ahead and mod this as a flame, the lost karma is worth it.
      • Secondly, I think younger programmers get to jump in to the game in a more advanced, usable state. How many of today's crop would have the patience to program if it were in assembler and you saved your programs on the same 5 1/4" 360K floppy used to load your editor and assembler?

        This is a good point, one that deserves two ansers:

        I don't think too many fresh-out programmers appreciate what it took to get programming where it is today, and not many would survive that environment nowadays.

        It is better that they don't have to!

        This is not that far from other industries. I think they should learn the history of programming, it can teach good skills, like memory and storage management. But don't be limited by that stuff, or you won't grow. The older guys can give that perspective, and the younger guys can pick up the ball and run, pushing the limits of current systems.

        "Why, I used to be able to create a program in 50k of space. Now kids are putting things in 50M of space." You have to look at it as an evolving thing. The 50M code probably could be tweaked to fit in a smaller space, but the 50k code simply doesn't have the horsepower to contend with the new stuff. Do you need to know assembler to program Java? No. Do we still need assembler programmers around? Yes. Will we always? Probably not.

    • I can't say I agree with this. Maybe full-on hacking, yes, but in terms of advanced development -- that is, software architecture -- then I just don't see 21 year olds fresh out of CS knowing all there is to know about J2EE design patterns, for example.

      Oh my, you seem to be one of that group of "old elites" (no offense). Don't underestimate people's ability to grasp complex concepts, even at a young age. Long years of experience (note that "many years of working" does not count) can help, but is not a necessary and sufficient condition to good programming and system design.

      A lot of "guru programmers" are already gurus at early age. Look around at the open source developers, and you'll see a lot of them. To pick your example on J2EE, you should really talk to Rickard Oberg, an (ex?)-developer of JBoss. The kid is young, and ask him if he knows about J2EE design patterns, and you'll be in for a big surprise.

      There are a lot of others too, e.g. Andrea Arcangeli that Moshe has mentioned. And how old was Linus when he started developing Linux?

      And it's not just in computer programming that you see young people excel. In math, Galois developed his theory before he turned 20. In physics, how old was Eistein when he developed his relativity theory? And how old was Wolfram (author of "A New Kind of Science") when he received his big science award?

      I agree with Moshe that as you grow older, you will find it harder to keep it up. However, it's not necessary that you become slower than the youth (that may be true too), but you probably have more other stuffs to worry about, and that pull away your attention/energy. And programming is a high concentration profession.

  • No stable API? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mccalli ( 323026 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @12:26PM (#3660145) Homepage
    In the OpenSource world having to modify a driver because something changed in the kernel, is an advantage not a disadvange, both economically and techically.

    An advantage to whom? Not to the user, who may have some obsolete hardware that they wan't to use with a newer distribution. If the driver branch hasn't been kept up to date, then since the API may not be compatible there's less chance of things working.


    • I agree. I never understood Linux' need to break binary compatibility between point releases (I can see an argument for major releases, like 2.2.x -> 2.4.x).
  • ..especially Mr. Bar.

    I think he is very skilled (whether he admits it or not), and for my money the ability to create new, useful things is soooo much more valuable to society than deciding how to distribute existing resources.

    In any event, I have to thank him for his past contributions. Thanks!


  • Proprietary software goes at the tariff of US$ 50-200 per line of debugged code.

    I can hammer out about a thousand lines of code in an average productive coding day at my job. My employer pays about $55 an hour to keep my ass in the seat when all taxes and environmental (office, air conditioning, etc) is paid for. I know they make about $40 an hour on my work.

    So then, if the client pays $760 to keep my ass in place a day, they are $49,240 short using your lowest estimate. Jeez.

    I should also mention that those costs are canadian.

    • you're making, at most, CDN15.00 per hour.

      Have you considered getting out of programming and going to work for the post office or something?

  • by dgb2n ( 85206 ) <(ten.tsacmoc) (ta) (n2bgd)> on Friday June 07, 2002 @12:48PM (#3660269)
    As a Christian, I believe that the entire Bible is true.

    That said, I reconcile creationism and evolution through a very simple statement.

    It took God 7 days to create the universe. No one can presume to know how long one of God's days lasted. Plenty of time in one of God's days for evolution to occur.

    No contradiction at all.

    • If you believe every word of the bible is literally true, then how can you believe that every word of the Bible is true? Not to sound too redundant, but if Man is flawed, how could he have penned the bible? Asside from that, how can you account for the losses in translations? You do know that things have been added/omitted over time, right? So does that make the bible non-infaliable?
      Again, I'm not trying to troll, nor am I trying to start a flame war, I m a skeptic who once upon a time was a sheepish fellow who believed everything he was told. I just want to hear it from some intelligent persons.
      • If you believe every word of the bible is literally true, then how can you believe that every word of the Bible is true?
        You have a point, I think. Just to be sure that I understand you, you are asking, "Are you sure that there are no figures of speech in the Bible?". If so, I would claim that there are figures of speech in the Bible. When many Christians say that the Bible is 100% true, or that they believe that it is 100% accurate, they probably mean that when you factor in the context, and account for figures of speech then, yes the message is 100% accurate--at least they ought to believe that.

        To quote a couple of paraphrased examples in your favour: "the trees of the fields will clap their hands", and "the eye of the Lord runs to and fro throughout the earth". Most Christians, would say that these are actually literally true. But to be actually literally true, the trees of the fields would have to have hands like ours and the Lord's eye ball has to run around on legs. Fortunately, for the Christian, it is better to say that the figures of speech describe things that are 100% true. So, the Christian should be standing up for the intended meaning. It's just that most North Americans are so used to thinking skeptically from a literal stand point, that it is difficult to interpret the text.
        Not to sound too redundant, but if Man is flawed, how could he have penned the bible?
        Perhaps I misunderstand you. This doesn't sound redundant to me at all. I believe that God can use the resources available to him to produce *exactly* what he wants. The Bible says that he can raise up rocks to be children of Abraham. In that context, Jesus Christ was speaking, and he wasn't speaking figuratively at all. He was trying to be emphatic about the Father's skills. Therefore, I don't believe that it is too great a task for God to use error prone man to create a Bible.
        Asside from that, how can you account for the losses in translations?
        I don't believe that there are any losses in translations, so I guess I'm free to go now? ;^) Seriously, I don't believe that there are any. However, maybe I can answer a slightly different version of the question, or just another question. If my answer doesn't help, then it's no use discussing it, because I don't have much else to say. One could ask, "Why are the gospels so different in describing similar events?". Well, a simple answer, from a non-researched point of view, is that Jesus Christ was around for a long time, and he could have done several similar things in those few years. I believe this to be true about many events in the gospels, but not all/most. I believe that the authors were very different types of people trying to describe similar facts, events, and technologies.

        If you will you allow me to digress just for a moment, I try to tie this next example in. In the book of Acts, there is a man described as "the chief man of the island", according to the KJV. The point is that the man wasn't described as the chief, big wig, or the leader. Many non-Christians claimed that this was just a made up fable or whatever. When archelogists found manuscripts describing "the chief man of the island" [in the original language of course], they began to see that the Bible does have some credibility. My point is that the Bible is trying to be a context sensitive compilation of 66 books, as opposed to 1 text book.

        Thus, in the gospels, different authors will try to describe the same events, in different ways to make different points. The one about the centurian and his servant is a perfect example of my point. Matthew states, "...there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him...", and "...the centurian answered...". Luke states, "...and when he heard of Jesus, he sent unto him the elders of the Jews, beseeching him...", and "...the centurian sent friends to him, saying unto him...".

        I'm going to continue in another post, because I don't want Netscape to crash and loose this entire message. Netscape crashes on me when my messages get too big.
    • I'm a Christian, but don't believe that things happened in the beginning the way Genesis says the do

      However, I do believe in an *all* powerful God. If God wished to create this universe at this exact point in time (as I type this message), so that everything *appeared* to have happened the way our scientific understanding shows it to have happened, then he could have. He could put the current thoughts in my head and all the knowledge, and all my memories, so that I would not have any idea that I didn't have those thoughts, learn that knowledge and create those m emories.

      I think one of the Hitchhiker Guide books mentions the aliens who were creating the science project that was the earth buried dinosaur bones. same basic idea.

      so, you have to admit that it sure *appears* that our scientific understanding of the history of the world is correct, but if you believe in an all powerful God whose thoughts and actions can not be understood by man then you have to accept we may have been fooled.

  • What is G-d? (as opposed to just writing "God")
    • Re:What? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wiredog ( 43288 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @12:55PM (#3660316) Journal
      It's a Jewish religious convention. IIRC, His name is never supposed to be written.
      • His name is never supposed to be written.

        But I thought "God" was a title, rather than a name (like "Satan", which I'm told is a sort of "title" meaning "the Opposer" rather than an actual "name" - I have no idea if that's really true, though). "JHWH", I thought, was the "name" (as it is written)?....

      • Re:What? (Score:4, Informative)

        by sethg ( 15187 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @01:23PM (#3660517) Homepage
        The Orthodox, as far as I know, agree that when you write a Hebrew name of God on a piece of paper, you're not allowed to erase it, throw it away, etc. So it's common to use euphemisms instead of the real names, except when you're writing something like a Bible.

        But they disagree on whether or not this same restriction applies to English words that refer to God. There's a famous story about Rabbi Joseph B. Soleveitchik (ztz"l), "The Rav", one of the most influential Orthodox rabbis of the 20th century: He visited a classroom in the school he was running, and observed that one of the teachers had written "G-d" on the blackboard. The Rav, in front of the students, wrote "GOD GOD GOD GOD GOD" all over the blackboard, and then erased it.

        Also, even for the Hebrew names, if you're displaying the name on a computer screen, I don't think this rule applies. I think there are some people who would say that it doesn't even apply when you're using a printing press rather than holding a pen and writing.

        But there are some who use "G-d" instead, either because they follow a stricter opinion or because that's what everyone else in their community does. Heck, there are some people who put dashes in the middle of English transliterations of Hebrew euphemisms for names of God. Go figure.

        (Disclaimer: I am not a rabbi.)

      • Re:What? (Score:4, Funny)

        by Linux_ho ( 205887 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @02:46PM (#3661127) Homepage
        Actually, it's because they believe that vowels are inherently evil and not to be associated with our L-rd. I am probably going to hell anyway, so I figured I might as well educate people on the way down. Check it out:

        L-rd ... Lord!
        G-d ... God!
        YHVH ... Yehovah ... Jehovah!

        Shocking, I know. When Our L-rd personally scribbled the Torah down on paper, He did it in Hebrew because that language doesn't have any of those temptation-inducing, voluptuous sounding vowels. After all, during fornication many people vocalize nothing but vowel sounds. Fortunately, since Y is only sometimes a vowel, it is allowed.

        Why Our L-rd took went to the effort of personally appearing as a burning bush before Moses (when he could have just dropped him a note the same way he wrote the Torah) is still a mystery. Perhaps Moses was a skeptic.

    • by bbk ( 33798 )
      It's a jewish tradition to show reverence to God. According to some interpretations of the bible, you are not to speak God's name, so in writing, this is expressed as G-d. It also corresponds to the vowel-lessness of the Hebrew language.

      See, you learn something new every day!

      • by jonathanjo ( 415010 ) <jono@f[ ]org ['sf.' in gap]> on Friday June 07, 2002 @03:44PM (#3661591) Homepage

        From the Jargon File []:

        UN*X n.

        Used to refer to the Unix operating system ... in writing, but avoiding the need for the ugly (TM) typography. ... Ironically, lawyers now say that the requirement for the trademark postfix has no legal force, but the asterisk usage is entrenched anyhow. It has been suggested that there may be a psychological connection to practice in certain religions (especially Judaism) in which the name of the deity is never written out in full, e.g., `YHWH' or `G-d' is used.

        Source: tml

    • Re:What? (Score:2, Informative)

      In much of Jewish culture, particularly the Orthodox, God's personal name is too holy to be spoken or written, outside of certain very specific circumstances. Mispronunciations or typos might be seen as a sort of blasphemy. See Exodus 20:7 []. So letters are left out when writing it. IIRC, the term "Jehovah" comes from using the vowels from Adonai (which means Lord) with the consonants from God's personal name, YHWH. Even the title "God" is respected similarly.

  • Most drivers do not really create problems across the different kernel versions of the distributions, in most cases a simple recompile of the kernel module with the modified kernel headers is different.

    On top of that, I really suspect that writing drivers across the many Windoze versions is far more difficult because each different Windows type (95, 98, ME, 2000, XP and what have you not) is really a different OS.

    The point is, you don't need to recompile under Windows. The same driver works under Windows 95, 98, ME (ok, sometimes not under 95), and often works under NT, 2000 and XP too. I can understand a driver not running under both kernels 2.2 and 2.4, but within the same major kernel version number, surely that should be possible and desirable? Recompiling isn't a thing you ask ordinary users to do, and distributing the source is often not something companies want to do, this should be simplified. I thought the kernel module versioning information was meant for this, but apparently it didn't quite work.

  • Oh, wait, that was "A Boy Named Sue".

    My bad.

  • bitkeeper (Score:4, Interesting)

    by larry bagina ( 561269 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @01:27PM (#3660550) Journal
    The question is: would Larry lose money in any way if he was to open up bk completely? I don't think so.

    I think Larry stated his opinion about this here []

    The other question is: would it be so difficult to produce a bk-compatible openBK? Don't think so either. If the community continues to adopt bk at this rate, sooner or alter, someone will come out with an openBK for sure. Welcome to the wonderful world of OpenSource!

    If "the community" had produced anything better than CVS, bit keeper wouldn't exist, and Linus/Linux would be using it. Welcome to the wonderful world of OpenSource!

    • Re:bitkeeper (Score:3, Insightful)

      by EvlG ( 24576 )
      I believe this points to problem which ofen arises from Open Source projects - the 'good enough' syndrome.

      A tool like CVS is good enough to get the job done, roughly speaking, but it is not best-of-breed for a number of reasons.

      Why do these projects stop when they are good enough? Is it due to a lack of a strong maintainer, as ESR recommends? Or is it something else?

      I'm interested to hear what others think.
  • No offense but this statement is scientifically untrue

    "We know the world created itself a few billion years ago and not 5762 years ago (according to the Jewish counting). We know that evolution is the culprit for that inexplicably destructive and increasingly contradictory thing called the human, the human was not made directly by G-d"

    Actually, we scientifically don't know. because we have not actually witnessed it. We had a hypothesis which has become a theory. But we don't know. Remember, they knew scientifically that the Earth was the center of the galaxy for the longest time ( astronomically proved it with science too ;) ) and were wrong.

    Note's definition [] of Theory. Especially items 4 & 6

    Item 6: An assumption based on limited information or knowledge; a conjecture

    Also note that science ( in the past and somewhat now ) doesn't wish to say anything is absolutely certain unless an experiment can reproduce the behaviour, event or action. Creationism vs. Big Bang vs. ??? is a debate and no particular side is right as far as science is concerned. Personally, I believe in Creationism, others do not. Please Please Please people, before you must say that we all evolved or that the earth is millions of years old and that those who say otherwise are incorrect remember that you are no more correct than they as far as science is concerned ( and it's you using science to make the claims )

    I am ready to receive the flames I'm certain I will get for my statement but I felt it necessary and felt it to be on topic
  • Kernel API stability (Score:3, Interesting)

    by captaineo ( 87164 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @03:27PM (#3661449)
    As the maintainer of a (very small but useful) piece of the Linux kernel, I disagree with the assertion that driver maintenance (keeping up with an unstable API) is cheap. I am very annoyed at the steady stream of patches I have to apply to keep up with even the 2.4 kernel. The worst part is when someone sends a patch directly to Linus or Marcelo - bypassing me and the other guys who maintain our kernel subsystem - so that the mainline kernel ends up out of sync with our own development code repository. We spend too much of our limited kernel-development time chasing API mismatches when we could be fixing real bugs or adding features. (fortunately most API-change problems are caught at compile-time, but there was one recent instance where an unexpected kernel change led to a HUGE but silent memory leak in my code)

    I would very, very much prefer if the driver API were frozen at least for the "stable" kernel series. I don't really mind what happens in 2.5.x.

    I understand and agree with Linus' philosophy that large-scale code breakages are sometimes required to force reluctant stragglers to adapt to a new, improved API. Just don't do this in a "stable" kernel series!

    IMHO the world would also be a better place if binary-only driver vendors (read NVIDIA) had to target only one, stable kernel API. But feel free to disagree...
  • Device drivers (Score:3, Informative)

    by Krusher55 ( 414674 ) on Friday June 07, 2002 @03:45PM (#3661604)
    "On top of that, I really suspect that writing drivers across the many Windoze versions is far more difficult because each different Windows type (95, 98, ME, 2000, XP and what have you not) is really a different OS. "

    I completely disagree with the above statement. As a device driver writer with experience being involved in Windows, Mac, Linux, SCO Unix, AIX device drivers let me say that although Linux drivers are the easiest to write, they are the most difficult to support. A device driver that works for Windows 2000 can often work on Windows Me or Windows XP with no changes at all or at most fairly minimal changes. Under Windows you can have a single binary that runs on Win 98/Me, Windows 2000 and Windows XP. Under Linux you need a different binary for practically every different kernel. I have had Linux drivers break from kernel 2.4.x to 2.4.x+1 on more than one occasion.

    There are lots of things to dislike about Windows or Mac device driver development but unstable API's is not one of them. There are lots of things to like about Linux driver development but API stability/driver compatibility is not one of them.

"For a male and female to live continuously together is... biologically speaking, an extremely unnatural condition." -- Robert Briffault