The ARM64 Race

At a recent talk SoftIron gave a talk about ARM64 versus x86 servery, it was emphasized that comparisons are often apples v oranges. Given the right race, ARM64 is competitive today, say, in storage servery. That’s because smaller cores distributed with lots of storage hanging on each is a better match to the workload. Further, ARM64 is becoming competitive in its 1st generation while x86 is on its umpteenth generation. With the large cast of developers and interest from large customers, growth/maturity could come very rapidly. Continue reading

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To Code, Or Not To Code? That is the question

Some visitors here rudely proclaim I am not a programmer because I eschew “C”. I’ve written a few lines in C, mostly configuring Linux builds or making tiny changes in other codes, but I’ve coded in more than a dozen programming languages over the years, from assembler on many machines to PASCAL, my favourite. It occurred to me that I might have relevant data on my hard drive. Scanning the directories where I generate PASCAL code and where I write web pages and web-applications, I find ~60K lines of code. Back in the day I wrote thousands of lines every year and I have none of that stuff I wrote for IBM 360. Nor do I have the BASIC codes I wrote for my SuperBoard II… I left a 2400 foot magnetic tape at a school in the Arctic as a museum-piece… It had a lot of my scientific computing codes which were written in Fortran. Without a tape-reader, they were rather useless to me. Now FLOSS provides me with a much larger universe of codes and I don’t have to carry them around, thanks to the Internet. So, I code a lot less and I’m certainly not in top form for lack of practice, but yes, I am a coder and will be until I die, I guess. I’ll leave you with one of my pieces in PASCAL, just to annoy the trolls.

This is shuffle, a programme written to randomize a simple list of items. I use it to randomize the order of things on web-pages or parameters to applications such as mplayer. Mplayer has a -shuffle option but others do not. Continue reading

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Linus Waxes Eloquently

“Oh Gods, Andy. That pt_regs_to_thread_info() thing made me want to do unspeakable acts on a poor innocent wax figure that looked _exactly_like you.”
See Linux-Kernel Archive: Re: [PATCH v3 00/13] Virtually mapped stacks with guard pages (x86, core)
Linus is still at the helm, herding cats, writing code and sorting things out. He seems to have evolved a less offensive form of verbal abuse. Perhaps he’s become politically correct or something. Still, it’s good to know someone is setting a true course for it all.

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OMG! FORTRAN Gets A Piece Of JavaScript

“JavaScript developers will finally get a “raise to the power” operator, which was mysteriously left out of the standard for twenty years. The operator is **”
See ECMAScript 2016: New Version of the JavaScript Language Released
One of my first programming languages was Fortran II which had an exponentiation operator, “**”. I haven’t seen that in a while but it’s back in a new version of JavaScript. I guess there are only a few ways one can do that, but I bet there are a few old guys still out there specifying stuff and writing code…

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Meanwhile, In An Alternate Universe, M$ Defines Reality

“Changing the motherboard, however, generates a new installation ID. Under Microsoft’s sometimes Byzantine licensing rules, your license is valid if you replace a motherboard because of hardware failure. You need a new license if you chose to upgrade the motherboard, because you’re essentially building a new PC.”
See Microsoft tweaks activation rules for the Windows 10 Anniversary Update
Chuckle. The slaves of M$ accept that upgrading a motherboard is “essentially building a new PC”. No, it isn’t. A motherboard is just one of several components that a user can clean, replace or even repair to get the use of a computer that a person wants. It’s only in M$’s alternate universe that the “new PC” concept exists. You do not build a new house when you change the flooring. You do not build a new car when you change the engine or the tires. I certainly do not make a new flower-pot when I plant a seed in it.

My Beast is on its fourth motherboard, second case, 8 or ninth hard drive, third PSU, and I’ve run several different NICs in it. It’s still “Beast”. I think of it as “Beast III” for the generations of 32-bit, to 64-bit to quad-core CPUs but I ran essentially the same source code on all three generations.

No. This is an essential part of Freedom when considering Free/Libre Open Source Software. You get to use the hardware you own to its full potential because you can run, examine, modify and distribute the software on any or as many PCs or servers as you like. Amen. I recommend Debian GNU/Linux because it sets me and my hardware FREE.

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OMG! Canada Post Complicates My Flow Of IT From China

“The contract between Canada Post and the CUPW expired in 2015. A work stoppage would affect 40,000 employees, including mail delivery personnel.
In anticipation of a possible work stoppage, governments and other companies are making alternate arrangements for essential paper mail to be made available.”
See Canada Post service disruption possible in July, preparations now underway
I have several items in the pipeline from China: a network switch and new mice and … If it doesn’t arrive next week, I could be out of luck for quite a while. Other items are coming from I have more hope for them. They are due next week. This will raise the price of IT here as I may need to use couriers.

PS: I happened to meet someone who works in the PO… The flow of mail from China has been stopped at Vancouver to avoid piles in closed POs all over Canada. I think this means that if my mail is not already close by, I’ll have to wait until the work resumes after the labour actions. Shucks!

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Tick…Tick…Tick… The Sound Of A Countdown To The Exploding Nomination Of Trump

“One of Virginia’s delegates to the Republican National Convention has filed a federal lawsuit in an effort to avoid voting for presumptive nominee Donald Trump at the party convention next month.
The delegate, Carroll Correll Jr of Winchester, Virginia, argued in the suit that being forced to vote against his conscience was a violation of his constitutional rights.”
See Republican delegate sues to avoid voting for Donald Trump at convention
There’s a problem being an insurgent. If a groundswell of support doesn’t arise, sooner or later the target of the surprise attack can’t sustain a determined counter-attack. It doesn’t get much more sustained than prying the delegates to the convention away from supporting Trump on the first ballot.

There’s still the problem of figuring out what to do next but when the grenade lands close you don’t have time for reflection. I don’t have a strong opinion on the outcome of this suit but it’s quite likely not to arrive in time and there could be a lot of contention between “states’ rights” and freedom of conscience/belief/speech for the individual. There might also be a conflict between standing for a state to legislate about the inner workings of a political party (freedom of association). While the US Constitution set up all kinds of checks and balances, it did little to divide powers cleanly… (Canada tried an enumerated list but created a black hole by allowing the federal government to have all “new” powers. Guess what? Whenever the feds want to increase their power, they invent a new thing, like firearms-safety…) With judges being political and even SCOTUS dividing along party-lines. There isn’t much hope of salvation from the courts.

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Printing At Night

“If the Print & Fax lock icon appears locked, click the lock icon and enter an administrator name and password when prompted.”
See Mac 101: Printing (Mac OS X v10.6) – Apple Support
I haven’t touched a Mac in over a decade but one came to my home yesterday in the hands of a visitor. A party was being planned and a document was produced on the Mac. It should have been simple to print over my LAN. I allow all comers. Somehow, it didn’t work. The printer was seen but no driver could be found and there was the “locked” icon beside it. The last time I was in a school that used Mac OS (Pre UNIXy version) printing kept failing to a bog standard HP Laserjet printer so the Macs e-mailed a Mac which had been liberated by me to GNU/Linux. A tech arrived eventually and made the Macs print again but within an hour of his departure printing failed again. Besides connectivity, the Macs butchered every file with a MacOS header of some kind which I had to strip off… MacOS/X is apparently much more sane.

The owner had never printed and I didn’t want to figure out MacOS. I knew that it had a UNIX connection so I asked the visitor to “open a terminal”. The result was a blank stare. So, I rephrased the question to “Where do you find your applications?”. Voila! A terminal window was opened. We tried FTP but the visitor could login with “anonymous” credentials but could not do a “put” (forgot to cd to pub… / is not writable…). Then we used SCP and moved the files to Beast and I printed them from there. The files came from PS in PDF and there was no problem printing from GNU/Linux once the files had moved. Aren’t flexibility and open standards wonderful?

I’ll stick with GNU/Linux. Apple makes no version for ARM so far and I do know how to get GNU/Linux to do anything.

PS: I checked why FTP had failed. It was user-error. We had not cd pub.
ftp localhost
ftp: connect to address ::1: Connection refused
Trying ::1…
ftp: connect to address ::1: Connection refused
Connected to localhost.
220 ProFTPD 1.3.5 Server (Ellaina) []
Name (localhost:pogson): anonymous
331 Anonymous login ok, send your complete email address as your password
230 Anonymous access granted, restrictions apply
Remote system type is UNIX.
Using binary mode to transfer files.
ftp> put zero.pas
local: zero.pas remote: zero.pas
200 PORT command successful
550 zero.pas: Operation not permitted
ftp> cd pub
250 CWD command successful
ftp> put zero.pas
local: zero.pas remote: zero.pas
200 PORT command successful
150 Opening BINARY mode data connection for zero.pas
226 Transfer complete
151 bytes sent in 0.01 secs (13.5037 kB/s)

That was my mistake. So we had multiple solutions and two of them should have worked.

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DisUnited Kingdom

“Leave has 51.3% of votes counted so far”
See EU Referendum Results
I just watched the UK disintegrate in real time on the Internet. I have mixed feelings about that. My ancestors left England over a century ago for better opportunities. In the current referendum, England largely voted to leave with a huge majority. Scotland and other regions mostly voted to stay in the EU. While much of the fervour has been about separating UK from the shenanigans of the EU, this is also about breaking up UK. Does anyone really think Scotland which is teetering on the brink of separation anyway will not be pushed over the edge by being dragged out of the EU by Big Brother, England?

This is a man-made disaster. The EU is a mess but it is fixable. Breaking up the UK will be a bigger mess and it isn’t fixable. There hasn’t been any trust since before the Battle of Culloden and it’s gone now. In the short term there will be disruption of trade, weakening of NATO in the face of Russia and Daesch, more moves to separate UK into components… After all, if independence from EU is a good idea, surely independence from England is also a good idea…

The price of gold shot up and US stock futures dropped ~3% as the vote was counted. Gold is $1300USD/ounce as I write this ($1308 as I pushed “publish”). At least there is a short term gold lining for me and mine. Maybe I should cheer for Trump… I own a lot of gold-stocks…

PS: An hour later, the British Pound is down 10% and gold is $1325USD/ounce. Amazing. Despite all the warnings about what would happen, folks voted to give away 10% of their wealth overnight. This should be a warning to Trump-suppositories. Trump wants to build a wall with the world and interfere with all trade everywhere, not just local stuff. How much gold will the wealthy of USA buy to escape the USD? I was hoping my pension annuity would rise ~100% this year. At this rate it could be ~400%. I pity the young people who have to live in the economy these fools are creating. I can always build a shack in the bush and live off the land but they have to work for a living, commute, pay mortgages, etc. They won’t have the option to opt out.

PPS: It’s done. At midnight, my time, zulu – 5, the Leave bunch have 16.7 million votes out of 72.1% turnout of 46,501,241 electors. That’s 50% of the votes. This is insane. UK is jumping off a cliff because 35% of electors say so. It’s the Trump effect all over again. USA be warned. Vote or be damned!

OMG!: It’s the morning after and David Cameron, PM of UK has resigned, DOW futures are off 500 points and gold is hanging around at $1320USD/ounce. Some gold stocks are up over 10%. Not bad for one night’s sweat.

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One Of The Places Where I Taught Up North Is In Trouble

“evacuation orders have been issued by the communities of Easterville and Chemawawin First Nation, 450 kilometres north of Winnipeg, due to smoke and threat from a fire that has moved to within half a kilometre of the community.
Fire crews are working on three fires in the area, with ground attack as well as two water bombers.
At this time, approximately 70 people from the community of Easterville will be heading to The Pas while up to 2,000 people from Chemawawin First Nation will be going to Winnipeg.
Support and co-ordination of the Chemawawin First Nation evacuation will be handled by the Canadian Red Cross.”
See Province of Manitoba – Fire Bulletin #16
My biggest GNU/Linux migration in a school was in the community of Easterville. It was a new school building of dramatic size and shape. It was the best computer lab in which I ever worked: no windows/indirect lighting from the library below, air-conditioning which we didn’t need because I used thin clients, and the ability to see every screen at a glance from a single position, both directly and reflected off the windows to the library. It was a rare privilege. You can see the building from space. I specified, ordered and installed all the new clients and servers and provisioned them with software from Ubuntu. I also enjoyed a bounty of Shaggy Mane mushrooms…

One of the hazards of living in the North is that much of the region is forested, gets quite dry in summer, and is a huge source of fuel for wildfires ignited by lightning or human activity. There just isn’t the infrastructure to stop some fires nor to get people out of the way without outside help. The fires can destroy a community and affect the health of people and the ecosystem by smoke and ash. It can also cause closure of air-strips. I once watched in horror as a thunderstorm moved past just a mile or two to the north of us. Every lightning strike caused a fire which threatened the community for several days. We were very fortunate to have light winds. The young and the elderly were evacuated just in case. Fighting such fires can succeed if the winds are not too strong or moving the fire towards the community. Men and machinery can extinguish point blazes and maintain buffer strips. Water bombers are very useful as water in lakes is abundant and close. Almost all communities in the North are adjacent to large bodies of water.

Easterville has access by road so evacuation can be relatively swift but still very disruptive.

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ARMed  Software

“for the most part you can develop for ARM on ARM and it works well and is a pretty fast compile. Today, when you can you should just develop and compile natively on ARM, it’s not tricky, you are guaranteed that the binary you make is correct for the installed libraries and will run as expected. Cross compiling brings in extra complexity.
But the 96Boards CE specification allows fairly small amounts of RAM on a board and it’s possible to have a project that will run on the system but you can’t compile on the system you run out of RAM. So we are back to cross compiling.”
See How to Cross Compile files on X86 Linux System for 96Boards, libsoc & mraa libraries
I’m planning to go all in for ARM on my desktops and servers this year, because I can and because the estate is getting old. Hard drives are creaking. 45nm and 95W CPUs ared just not stylish. We have gigabit cabling but few gigabit clients. We are low on storage and RAM.

The fear in me and the “fear mongers” who visit this place is that there is not enough horsepower or software for a GNU/Linux desktop. The former will be dealt with by products like the Lemaker Cello and the Huskyboard which have been available to a select few testing things out. This year they should be available for the rest of us. RedHat has been using this stuff and have worked to ensure that systems are somewhat familiar to new users. Debian certainly has most of my usual packages available for ARM64 and Debian GNU/Linux has been run by others on thes boards. I don’t anticipate any show-stoppers.

As a backup, I can always cross-compile stuff on the old machine in case anything goes wrong. I’ve already backed up all our old files and moved them to a shiny new hard drive which, so far, has not shown any defect. Networking and other peripheral devices have been ordered. RAM and hard drives have been selected. The only missing hardware is the motherboard, one of which is promised for this month…

I’ve gone over my package-lists and everything I need/want is in Debian’s respository. They recently made some change which bumped up the bug-count but testing/Stretch was definitely usable in my last installation in a virtual machine. I expect an installation on ARM should be smooth if I choose to modify the system provided with the motherboard or roll my own.

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Fujitsu ARMs Itself For 1,000-PFLOPS HPC

“The Post-K machine is supposed to have 100 times more application performance than the K Supercomputer – which would make it a 1,000 PFLOPS beast – and is due to go live in 2020. The fastest known super in the world is China’s 125.4 PFLOPS Sunway TaihuLight machine, which would be crushed by the Post‑K if it lives up to its performance hype.
It would also make the world’s fastest known computer an ARM-powered system; there are no other ARM-powered supercomputers.”
See Fujitsu picks 64-bit ARM for Japan’s monster 1,000-PFLOPS super
Well, I suppose this vindicates my choice of ARM for computing here even with the ~20 billion scale factor…

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