Paw Prints: Writings of the maddog

The "minnow", a small, tasteless fish used for bait

Sep 22, 2013 GMT

At LinuxCon in New Orleans Intel made a big splash about CircuitCO's new board, the “minnow”, declaring it the “first open hardware board based on x86”.  This, of course, ignored the “Gizmo” board, which came out previously...Intel then compared the “minnow” against the Raspberry Pi (RPi) declaring that the RPi was not “open” because you could not go down to your corner store and purchase the components one at a time to solder (surface mount, anyone?) those components onto your (multi-layer) printed circuit board.With the great success of the RPi (which uses an ARM chip) I suppose Intel had to do something, just as Intel had to develop the Classmate PC with...
A good "second board" for learning

Jul 24, 2013 GMT

It is not often that I point to a specific product, slap my forehead and make a snap buying decision.  It is even less common for me to pay for something I know I will not get for a couple of months, but last night a friend of mine, Lucas Teske wrote to me and pointed me towards the Adapteva board.I had looked at this board when they had their kickstarter going, but as Lucas and I discussed it, and particularly in light of my work with both Linaro (on performance improvements) and Project Caua (on economic computing), I started to get more interested, then excited. By the end of the night I had purchased one of the Zynq 7000 units (there is a unit based on the Zynq-7010 and one on...
Announcing "Wear a Tux Penguin Day"

Jul 20, 2013 GMT

When I went to the Guinness Brewery in Dublin Ireland with my friend Antoni Dabek (an English-speaking Polish person living in Galway), I was wearing my Linux Essentials T-shirt from the Linux Professional Institute ( I handed in my ticket the gentleman at the door said "Do you use Linux?", pointing at my T-shirt. I said "yes I do". He said "My room-mates all talk about it".We had gotten about fifty feet inside the building when a tour visitor (with his family) said "Do you use Linux?". I said "Yes, I do", and he introduced himself as a new employee of the Hewlett Packard Cloud Initiative, who would be starting his new career...
Compiler Design - Terror in the classroom

Jun 06, 2013 GMT

I was terrified! It was my second term of teaching at Hartford State Technical College, and I had to teach the course on compiler design!Compiler Design was the course that I almost flunked in undergraduate study, and when I took it for my Master's Degree I almost flunked it again!For a long time I did not understand why so many people struggle with this course, but finally I realized that it is typically the first time coders do some programming where you are not just adding numbers or scanning a string of characters, but instead you are transforming a set of input characters into another completely different set of output characters. Sometimes there are just a few input characters that...
Tails of the maddog: Knowledge of Architecture Does Matter

Jun 03, 2013 GMT

People seemed to like my blog yesterday about how the knowledge of assembly and machine language improved my programs, or the programs of people around me.Today I would like to show people how simply understanding a little about the architecture of the machine and operating system, even without knowing assembly language, can improve program performance. Likewise the study of algorithms and computer techniques.When I was at Aetna Life an Casualty in 1975, some of the first computer kits were emerging. My boss, who had his Masters in Computer Science and taught compiler design and operating system architecture at the Hartford Graduate Center, bought one of those kits and was assembling it,...
Ode to Machine Architecture

Jun 02, 2013 GMT

I have been writing lately about the importance of learning the underlying tenants of computing if you are going to be a great programmer, and in particular some machine language and computer architecture.It typically does not make a difference which architecture you learn, or which machine language, as long as the architecture and machine language can illustrate the basic concepts of computing to a level that is useful in future studies of operating systems design and compiler theory, helping you to under stand issues like cache management, interrupt handling and I/O.This blog entry, however, is not going to talk about those issues. Instead it will talk about a few instances in my life...
FISL, Drupal and DrupalCamp in Porto Alegre, Brazil

May 27, 2013 GMT

Once again the conference season is warming up and one of the largest FOSS conferences in the world is going to be held in Porto Alegre, Brazil.The conference, called “Forum International Software Livre” or “FISL” for short is in its fourteenth year.Every year I look forward to going to FISL. In recent years this means joining a bus of university students sponsored by the Federal University of Santa Caterina (UFSC) who leave the evening before the event starts and arrive just before opening of the event. For me, this trip sets the tone for FISL, which is a healthy combination of programmers, systems administrators, university students and professors along with business and...

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