Saturday, January 11, 2014
DNS Propagation and Disappearing Services
Since I have more than one domain pointing to my server it's still possible to access cubeman.org via the maxhost.org domain. Eventually the new dns records should propagate within 24 to 48 hours and things should be back to normal in a day or two.
It's been a bit of a battle keeping web services running. The now infamous ice storm which began in Dec. 22nd, 2013 disrupted power and telephone lines through much of Ontario. One of my phone lines stopped working, but it wasn't too bad as it was restored in a couple of days. Also I experienced two power failures of about 5 hours and 2 hours respectively. My UPS's kept the computers going for half an hour each time but it's clear that I need a longer lasting UPS than that.
Sunday, September 15, 2013
CBC changes radio links again
Saturday, August 3, 2013
2.11BSD Unix on PDP-11/73
Sunday, July 7, 2013
Computers and Operating System Bundling
In reviewing the history of computer sales in the 'modern era' we can see an interesting pattern. Early on we saw home computers which booted directly into ROM BASIC and booting into another operating system isn't even possible. Later on we see many examples of the CP/M operating system being bundled with z80 based computers. CP/M was usually bundled as one needs a unique BIOS for each type of computer. In a rare exception Radio Shack sold CP/M separately for their Model 4 machine for $150 in 1985.
Upon the release of the IBM PC we find that IBM offered three different operating systems for their machine: PC DOS, CP/M-86 and UCSD Pascal. Of these 3 operating systems PC DOS becomes the operating system of choice for most users. Even in this early era we can see that computer users had some different choices of OS.
By 1985 we see the rise of the IBM compatible computer and the near ubiquity of the x86 cpu architecture. Of course soon after this we see various Motorola 68000 based systems, including the ones offered by Commodore, Atari and Sharp. One constant we continue to see is that most operating systems are closed source although we see in academia that Universities have some access to the Unix v6 and v7 source code. The idea of bundling an open source operating system with a computer doesn't occur until much later. In 1987 we see the release of the open source MINIX OS.
In the 1990's we see the appearance of BeOS which is offered for free to various OEMs. Kuro5hin.org has an excellent blog post to explain how Microsoft suppresses the use of BeOS by OEMs. BeOS lives on in an open source implementation called Haiku.
With the increased use and speed improvements of the internet we see a new phenomenon: open source operating systems are distributed via downloading. This includes operating systems such as GNU/Linux, the BSDs, Haiku, Plan 9, Inferno, AROS and many others. By 2008 the Jiangsu Lemote Tech Co releases the Lemote computer with Linux and PMON, a completely open source system.
Thursday, June 20, 2013
Early History of Microcomputers
Friday, May 24, 2013
OpenBSD on Dell GX110 Hits 1 Year Uptime
Out of all the operating systems I've ever tried, I have to give a special nod of appreciation to OpenBSD 4.7. An hour ago it hit one full year of uptime. The hardware it's running on is nothing special, just an old Dell GX110 with a P3 cpu and 256 megs of ram. No mysterious slowdowns occurred and the system is still responsive. This marks the first time I've ever run a computer non-stop for over 1 year.
Here is a list of the longest uptimes I've personally had with various combinations of operating systems and hardware:
Longest Uptimes --------------- dell gx110 openbsd 4.7 365 days server tyan fc1 276 days dell gx110 freebsd 8.1 169 days toughbook cf-48 f10 165 days hp nx9030 f16 127 days zaurus sl-5500 embedix 120 days acer 5534 f14 89 days vector qdi p3 58 days pcchips f10 35 daysFC1 refers to Fedora Core 1
F10 refers to Fedora 10
F14 refers to Fedora 14
F16 refers to Fedora 16
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Operating System Features I'd Like to See
FOSS operating systems are great and I enjoy using and adapting them, but they are missing certain features which could make them even better.
One issue with FOSS operating systems is the plethora of package managers. Fedora even has two different package managers: apt-get and yum. Slackware has their own version of apt-get that they call slapt-get. The three BSDs use pkgsrc and the Sharp Zaurus used a similar package manager called ipkg. If you use KDE you are probably familiar with kpackage.
All these different package managers do take a bit of getting used to but it's the package names that are really confusing. One can't assume that the package names used by openbsd have the same names used by Fedora or Debian, or even if they have grouped programs together in the same fashion. One can't assume the every package used by Debian has a BSD counterpart and vice-versa.
But what I find most lacking in every package manager I've tried so far is that there is no way to see different categories of packages. There should be some way to list all text editors or browsers or games. Perhaps some package manager can do this but I haven't seen it yet. Another feature I'd like see is a suggestion feature based on the amount of ram available on the computer. For example, if your computer has 256 megs of ram or less it could suggest you to install dillo rather than the more voluminous firefox. Package managers could also tell you exactly how much hard drive storage space will be consumed before you actually install the package. (UPDATE: Fedora 14 does warn users when hard drive space is low.)
In general the resource management of computers could use a lot of improvement. It should be impossible for the user to lock up the computer by over-using it's resources but the truth is that it's easy to do (I'm looking at you firefox). It would be nice if one could tell the operating system not to let any individual program to use more than 50% of the available ram or at least have the operating system ensure that there is always a minimum amount of ram in reserve so the OS doesn't become unresponsive. Ditto for hard drive space, the OS should at least warn the user that the drive is becoming full and that some space should
be freed up.
Along the same lines any interactive program that becomes unresponsive should generate a warning message from the operating system to the user asking them if they would like the program killed. This process could even be automatic: e.g. the OS could kill any interactive program after zero response after a certain length of time.
Any operating system should be able to completely reset it's video driver. Assuming there is no hardware failure it should always be possible to reset the video card to a usable state without having to reboot the computer. My understanding is that this is not the case with current video drivers.
Labels: Operating Systems
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