Hugh Winkler holding forth on computing and the Web

Friday, April 25, 2008

Hardly any near death experiences

The Hardy upgrade went... ok. Better than the upgrade to Gutsy, at least --the initial boot this time at least got me to an X, if only in 600 x 800 mode.

So you don't have to read to the end, here's my helpful hint to you this upgrade cycle. If you're having trouble with your nVidia: after you upgrade, use Synaptic to uninstall your old restricted drivers packages (in my case, for kernel 2.6.22), and select the new ones (for kernel 2.6.24) which, in my case at least, were not selected after the upgrade.

Only after you do that, and reboot, can you see the new nVidia driver in the System/Administration/Hardware Drivers applet. This used to be called the Restricted Drivers Manager and all the online docs still refer to that. But Hardware Drivers is what you want. Go there and do what comes naturally.

Last night I was finally able to get Update Manager to connect and start downloading files. I let that run overnight -- it took 6 hours or so to download everything, presumably because of the tremendous load on the U.S. Ubuntu server.

This morning, I awoke to find it paused in a dialog. Just a warning that it was about to clobber my modified mime.types. I answered OK. It proceeded a little, displaying the progress in a little terminal window. I noticed some interesting progress output, and started editing some notes. At one point, I selected some text in the terminal window, and copied it. Using Ctrl-C. Who would have thought the goddamn terminal window was accepting keyboard input and processed the interrupt. So immediately I get three alerts warning that it could not complete the emacs/ede/eieio installations becuase it had received an interrupt. Yesterday I predicted the emacs upgrade would fail, but I didn't mean to fulfill my own prophecy.

It seemed to continue from there almost without trouble -- but at the end it complained it could not upgrade the update-manager. Ironic, isn't it? And at the end of the install it displayed a scare alert: "Your system may be unusable". Nice. Bravely, I rebooted, and found myself in 800 x 600, but at least with an otherwise stable system.

After some flailing I discovered the secret sauce to getting nVidia working again. And all systems are now go!

I wonder how Mark Pilgrim's mom and dad are doing?

[updated to fix link]

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Ubuntu Hardy is out and I'm a sucker

I managed to hold off about 6 hours before giving in and pressing the "Upgrade" button to get Hardy Heron. Yes, I'm in the middle of a project. Yes, I expect I'll have nVidia issues. My emacs will probably fail upgrading as usual. But: it's too tempting. I'm a sucker. I know it! No discipline whatsoever.

Hm... I guess the servers are mighty busy today. My first attempt timed out: "Could not download the release notes/ Please check your internet connection".

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Lisp a casualty of its time

This sad editorial remark from the CLIPS architecture document, describing perceptions about Lisp within NASA around 1984:

...Despite extensive demonstrations of the potential of expert systems, few of these applications were put into regular use. This failure to provide expert systems technology within NASA’s operational computing constraints could largely be traced to the use of LISP as the base language for nearly all expert system software tools at that time. In particular, three problems hindered the use of LISP based expert system tools within NASA: the low availability of LISP on a wide variety of conventional computers, the high cost of state-of-the-art LISP tools and hardware, and the poor integration of LISP with other languages (making embedded applications difficult).

Would they encounter the same barriers today, twenty-four years later?

1. Low availability of LISP on a wide variety of conventional computers: Now we have commercial implementations and open source Lisps, working on most computers and operating systems.

2.High cost of state-of-the-art LISP tools and hardware: The hardware issue has faded away since Lisp machines gave way to general purpose computers. And Lisp is no more memory intensive than Java or .NET. Of the commercial Lisps, LispWorks is affordable for normal mortals, and certainly the Allegro products are within reach of NASA. And there are several good, free, open source CLs.

3. Poor integration of LISP with other languages: An issue only if your mindset is 1984. Nowadays, to integrate with a Lisp program, you'd treat it like any other network resource -- like an RDBMS, or a web service.

I wonder what is the state of the Lisp renaissance within NASA?

[updated to expand remark on item 2]