Down the Rabbit Hole with Qemu, GIStemp and more

So sometimes something gets my attention and I’m “down the rabbit hole” for a few days (weeks… months… ye…)

In this case, it was an old problem, back again.

I never got the last steps of GIStemp to run, as all the machines I had at hand were ‘little-endian’ and GIStemp was ‘big-endian’ in the last steps. FORTRAN is a bit unforgiving about endian-ness in data structures. Data written in an unstructured way really gets the fundamental structure of the endian character of the processor. Endian is an oblique reference to Gulliver’s Travels and the wiki mentions it:

“In the discipline of computer architecture, the terms big-endian and little-endian are used to describe two possible ways of laying out bytes in memory. The terms derive from one of the satirical conflicts in the book, in which two religious sects of Lilliputians are divided between those who crack open their soft-boiled eggs from the little end, and those who use the big end.”

Basically, if you write 1234 into a computer, is it stored as 1234 or as 4321? (There is also a byte order endian issue, so it could also be 2143 or 3412 in some odd cases…)

Most of the time for almost everyone this endian issue is completely hidden.


For programmer geeks like me who keep the world sorted out for people who don’t care, or know, that endian issues are all over the place.

So GIStemp keeps endian issues out of the way until the very end, in Steps_4_5 code.

So I had most of everything that mattered by Step_3, and didn’t get the last bit running, as the machines I had at home were either little-endian PCs (Intel chips) or were Macintosh boxes with Motorola or PowerPC chips (big endian) but running Mac O/S and not something I was willing to blow away to install a Linux port.

So I left it an unfinished bit of the GIStemp port that I never did get the Big Endian bits to run.

Different Time Perception

I sense time differently than other folks.

I know this, but can’t change it. I remember being 3 or so years old and running down a dirt track with two tire tracks and grass in the middle and falling down and realizing that falling hurts skinned knees in just the same way that I remember being a ’20 something’ and dealing with a romantic rejection in just the same way that I remember missing a meeting at work a week ago; and in just the same way that I see what the world will be like a year from now, but can’t stop it from happening. To other people those are very different experiences. To me, it is all the same perception. All of it is “now”.

So I’ll set something aside to get back to it ‘later’, and then a 1/2 decade later pick it up again at just that spot. Only ‘lately’ have I realized that other folks don’t do that. That a decade ago is faded and lost to them. That it doesn’t just ‘pick up again’. So I’ll say things like “I need to do a posting on that”, and it is the same to me if it is tomorrow or a decade later. Other folks, not so much. They see it as not delivering as time ends shortly after the statement… Oh Well…

So, some ‘long time ago’ I looked at GIStemp and noted that it wasn’t using USHCN.V2:

That clearly shows it was 2009. It is now 2014. I make that 1/2 decade. To me it was just yesterday. Oh Well…

So why dwell on this? Because sometimes exact dates matter. Note that 2009 well.

So around 2009 to 2010 there was a change of USCHN and some GIStemp code changed. This is after I did the GIStemp port. This posting is about what has changed in GIStemp, so that date matters.

So let’s look at some GIStemp date stamps, and along the way look at new ways to run very old code.

Does anybody know what time it is?

I finally, and apparently about a 1/2 decade later, found a solution to my Big Endian machine need. That being a bit of emulator software that lets you make emulated Big Endian machines on Little Endian Intel chip machines. That being Qemu or the “Quick EMUlator” software. is the home page.

Qemu is an open source software bit that lets you emulate other hardware. Now, on my laptop, I have a Sun SPARC bigendian emulator running. Basically, I have a Sun SPARC based Sun 5 or Sun 10 running. Now, to make this particularly ironic, I have a SparcStation 5 and 10 in my garage. I bought them for about $5 each when some company in Silicon Valley was going out of business. Yet it is quicker and easier to make the emulator run on my laptop. (Not to mention that by now the lithium batteries are likely dead and the machines have lost their identity as their battery backup ROM evaporates…)

So where to get Qemu? Well… that depends. I got the “for windows” version that is scarce. The “for Linux”
version is available for just about any Linux. But… my laptop and my machine at work are Windows Intel machines. So is there a way to get a SPARCstation running on a WinTel box? Yes.

Has a couple of Qemu for Windows releases. I installed the 1.5.3 one. It worked fine. (Details in a future posting, though how many decades is an open perceptual difference ;-)

I now have a SPARC running Debian Linux on my laptop. (Technically, on an SD Chip in a slot in the side of my laptop… but…)

The GIStemp Download

So first I tried using “wget” to get the GIStemp sources (as I was running a non-windowing version of Qemu). No joy. So I went whole hog and started a full on X-Windows based Debian On SPARC emulation. It is slow. Very slow. But livable. Barely. And I got the “current” GIStemp source code downloaded via HTTP / Web Browser to my Virtual Machine.

Some Day I’ll write up the details of how to make this go. For now, the important bit is that I did get the download into a Virtual Machine on my laptop. I did get the compressed archive unpacked. It is ready to configure, compile, and make go. But what surprised me was the time stamp. To me, they are not very new. Most of GIStemp is unchanged. Yes, I need to do a ‘diff’ of the sources and figure out exactly what changed. But at a cursory level, it looks like ‘not much’.

Does this mean that they “double dip” and do the GISS adjustments on top of the GHCN / NOAA / NCDC adjustments? I don’t know yet. That depends on the exact differences in the code. That will come in the future. For now, the date stamps do not show much difference.

So what does it look like? Here are some screen shots.

Images Of GIStemp / Qemu Now

This is the top level picture of Qemu running in a window on my WinTel PC.

Qemu with Linux on emulated SPARC

A screenshot of a SPARC instance of Virtual Machine Linux on a WinTel Laptop

So here is a screen shot of a Big Endian SPARC (emulated) processor running Linux. Note the tar ball of GIStemp sources and the unpacked directory of them.

Note the Date Stamps on the GIStemp sources as unpacked. Not much change in the last 1/2 decade or so…

GIStemp listing with date stamps

GIStemp sources 9 July 2014 listing with date stamp

Step0 is largely unchanged. Step1, the Python step, is also not much changed.

To me, at a first glance, it looks like the “pick up the data” processes in Step0 have changed a little, but the actual “apply processing” in Step1 has not changed much.

Has GIStemp “double dipped” by having NCDC apply adjustments and GIStemp do “the same old same old” on top of them? I don’t know. But the date stamp pattern does not look like much change. Yes, I’ll go through the code “line by line” and see what did change. It just isn’t really looking like they ripped out a lot of stuff on a first glance…

How about Steps 2 and 3?

GIStemp Step 2 and Step 3 date stamps on ls listing

GIStemp Step 2 and Step 3 date stamps on ls listing

Again, it doesn’t look like a lot of change.

For completion, here is the last bit. Steps4_5:

listing of GIStemp Steps 4 and 5 source code

listing of GIStemp Steps 4 and 5 source code

The only notable change looking like it involves HadCrut R2 release changes.

OK, I’m definitely “down the rat hole” as I’m going to do a character by character compare of old and new. But it will take some time. My old copies are on a Mac from about 20 years ago (though it is with me). So it will take a while to get it booted and figure out how to get the old stuff from it to the new Virtual Machine SparcStation 10 emulator. And time is what I don’t have a lot of right now.

My sense of it is that GIStemp will not have really changed much from ‘last look’ and that they double dip the NCDC homogination / adjustments. But close examination will answer it, or end it.


Qemu is your friend. Running full on X-Windows is slow, but livable if needed. Running it as a text only ‘small’ shell Linux is quite fast. The SPARC didn’t have hardware video processing, so running in just a single core and having that do graphics is surprisingly effective; though the slow graphics isn’t everything.

(Someday I hope to make a multi-processor Linux Damn Fast machine, but that is a ways off…)

What has been demonstrated? That a BigEndian solution is in hand, if slow, and that GIStemp has not changed much, per the date stamps. More work needed on that to show exactly what changed, and what it does.

I will be spending the next few week making a GIStemp On A Chip, with GIStemp and data loaded onto a BigEndian system image under Qemu; all on a modest SD Card. If this works out well, then anyone can run GIStemp via a small emulator download.

So that’s what I’m doing now. Yet Another GISTemp Port.

Details as they are available.

I’ll be making a post or two about how to set up a Qemu SPARC 10, how to make it portable (on a chip / thumbdrive) and how to have a portable GIStemp on a chip that runs on most any Windows machine you have laying around.

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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19 Responses to Down the Rabbit Hole with Qemu, GIStemp and more

  1. Gary says:

    At the risk of sending you down another rabbit hole, are you aware of research on time perception by psychologist Philip Zimbardo ?

  2. Steve C says:

    ” … and then a 1/2 decade later pick it up again at just that spot.”

    I know exactly what you mean. It’s only a month or so since I picked up a couple of (small scale) chips to have a play with an idea that’s been rattling around in my mind since 1974. (-: Haven’t actually built anything yet, of course. One or two other bits need to turn up … ;-)

  3. omanuel says:

    On pages 153-154 of Sir Fred Hoyle’s autobiography he explains in detail how the internal composition of the Sun was suddenly changed from:

    1. Mostly iron (Fe) in 1945, to
    2. Mostly hydrogen (H) in 1946

    Without discussion or debate.

    Just before relating this information on the history of the Standard Solar Model, Hoyle cites from Alice in Wonderland

    I will post a quote when I get to my computer.

  4. E.M.Smith says:

    It is worth noting that the changes marked by USHCN.V2 tend to be only in the code that uploads the data, and not in the code that process it. I suspect that none of the ‘adjustments’ have been changed; so now it adjusts the already adjusted USHCN.V2 for a double dip.

    Yes, that’s only speculation based on date stamps. But there simply was not much changed elsewhere in the code where that get_ushcn_v2 is added in Step0 in 11 March 2010. The meat of the adjustments is in Step1 and Step2, and those date stamps are prior to that date…

  5. omanuel says:

    If anyone doubts the fairy-tale foundation of SSM (like that of AGW), and the total lack of respect for reality after 1945, let them read the bottom of page 153 and the top of page 154 from the 1994 autobiography [1] of Sir Fred Hoyle.

    Describing a meeting with Sir Arthur Eddington in 1940 that ended when Eddington uttered “My tea,” he said, and was gone all in a moment behind the door into the forbidden wing beyond, exactly like a character in Alice in Wonderland. [Reference 1, p. 153]

    1. “We both believed that the Sun was made mostly of iron, two parts iron to one part of hydrogen, more or less. The spectrum of sunlight, chock-a-block with lines of iron, had made this belief seem natural to astronomers for more than fifty years.” . . . [Reference 1, p. 153],

    2. “The high-iron solution continued to reign supreme in the interim (at any rate, in the astronomical circles to which I was privy) until after the Second World War,” . . .

    3. “when I was able to show, to my surprise, that the high-hydrogen, low iron solution was to be preferred for the interiors as well as for the atmospheres.” [Reference 1, pp. 153-154]

    4. “My paper on the matter confounded a doctrine of (Raymond) Lyttleton, who used to say there are three stages in the acceptance by the world of a new idea.

    _ a. The idea is nonsense.
    _ b. Somebody thought of it before you did.
    _ c. We believed it all the time.

    This matter of the high-hydrogen solution was the only occasion, in my experience, when the first and second of these stages were missing.” [Reference 1, p. 154].

    1. Fred Hoyle, Home Is Where the Wind Blows: Chapters from a Cosmologist’s Life (University Science Books, 441 pages, published on April 1, 1994):

  6. p.g.sharrow says:

    The Idea was to sell the concept that hydrogen/hydrogen fusion was real, used by GOD to power the universe and with enough money and effort man could harness this for unlimited energy production. Science got government to open check book Fission science for the war effort. Now get them to open check book Fusion energy production. Small problem, hydrogen – hydrogen fusion is a bridge too far. The 20 year time line is now 50 more years after 60 years of effort.
    Climate science advocates follow the same script. Give us lots of money to solve a problem that can’t be solved, climate change. We have these assumptions and models of reality, so we Know the answers will come. Then they manage the facts reveled to bolster their arguments. But time wounds all heels and the lie can only be kept alive so long. Even religions die of old age. You can not fool all of the people all of the time. Specially if it costs them money they don’t have. pg

  7. omanuel says:


    I agree. Frightened world leaders are not to blame. They tried to save themselves and the world from destruction by promoting falsehoods as “settled science.”. Greedy scientists share the blame for endorsing falsehoods that were disguised as Consensus, Standard Models

    When viewing Hiroshima’s ruins in August 1945, my mentor Kuroda [1] showed great respect, insight, even reverence for energy (E) in cores of the uranium atoms that destroyed Hiroshima:

    “The sight before my eyes was just like the end of the world, but I also felt that the
    beginning of the world may have been just like this”
    [reference 1, p. 2].

    The powerful rays of energy emanating from Sun’s core on the military flag of Japan were declared illegal and removed from Japan’s flag after WWII, although Japan’s Emperor was considered a direct descendent of the Sun goddess, Amaterasu.

    Now we know the Sun’s vibrant, creative pulsar core is the “conscious and intelligent Mind” Max Planck [2] assumed behind the vibrations of each atom it produced, perhaps even the source of conscious awareness in the biological systems [3, 4] it sustains !

    Thanks to Climategate, mankind may now be on the verge of another great new era.


    [01] P. K. Kuroda, The Origin of the Chemical Elements and the Oklo Phenomenon (Springer Publishing, 165 pages, 1982)

    [02] Max Planck, “The Essence of Matter,” a speech Dr. Planck presented in Florence,
    Italy in 1944, entitled “Das Wesen der Materie” (The Essence/Nature/Character of
    Matter) Quelle: Archiv zur Geschichte der Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, Abt. Va, Rep. 11
    Planck, Nr. 1797:

    [03] C. G. Jung, The Red Book: Liber Novus (Edited by Sonu Shamdasani, Translated
    by Mark Kyburz and John Peck) W. W. Norton & Co., October 7, 2009, 371 pages)

    [04] Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff, “Consciousness in the universe: Neuro-science, quantum space-time geometry and Orch OR theory,” Journal of Cosmology 14, (2011):; Stuart Hameroff and Roger Penrose, “Consciousness in the universe: A review of the ‘Orch OR’ theory,” Physics of Life Reviews 11, 39-78 (2014):

  8. omanuel says:

    Please delete my last post, which was poorly worded anyway, and I will try to express the central ideas more clearly
    this evening: Humility and humble acceptance of reality – the foundations of science and religion – were the main losers of WWII: The winners were false pride and totalitarian disrespect for truth, God and human dignity.

  9. One of my favorite quotes is from Dirty Harry:

    Posts like this make me aware of my limitations when it comes to understanding software.

  10. pg,

    Once again you nailed it.

    I used to build instruments for fusion research in the expectation of generating unlimited electric power for billions of years.  Back in 1970 we believed that it would take only 40 years (2010) to generate electricity on a large scale using thermo-nuclear fusion.  Today people will tell you it will happen by 2060.  I seriously doubt that but there is no rush as the fission fuels will last for many thousands of years.

    Gloomy Malthusians since Jeremy Bentham have predicted one disaster after another.   Don’t forget stars like Ehrlich and evil masterminds like Maurice Strong.  They are always wrong but they won’t stop predicting doom and disaster. 

  11. p.g.sharrow says:

    @Gallopingcamel; Yes the gloom and doomers have been preaching their gospel for thousands of years. The greatest disasters are caused when they gain political power and create the conditions that make their predictions true.
    Humans can solve any problem if allowed the freedom to create. But plentiful ENERGY is the root needed to nourish their creations. This was once well known but for the last 50 years intelligentsia have pushed hard to limit or reduce energy production. It is as if they want everyone to live short rude lives in poverty. Do they think that they will be immune? There can not be a shortage of stuff if energy is plentiful.

    LENR points the way to a better understanding of how GOD powers the Universe. We just need to grasp it. Oliver waves his hands that “They” are wrong about how atomic energy works but he was well trained in the standard model and needs to look outside of it for the truth. The standard model is a cul-de-sac and can not be patched with more complicated explanations.
    Look at the real known facts and create a simple explanation where everything fits. K.I.S.S.
    God is simple minded and works in applied science. It works because it has to work, no complex rules, no high math equations. LENR does not work within the accepted standard model of atomic energy. But it does work! The model is wrong. We need a new one. pg

  12. omanuel says:

    @ gallopingcamel “Man’s got to know his limitations.”

    Loss of that knowledge was symbolized by political removal of energy rays on Japan’s flag.

    After 1945, false intellectual pride of the scientific community blocked us from seeing that loss of humility was the problem and restoration of humility is the obvious solution to humanity’s current spiritual, political and intellectual demise.!

    Standard Solar Models, Watergate, Fusion Reactors, Climategate, Big Bang, Dark Energy, Oscillating Solar Neutrinos, AGW, etc are but manifestations of the same problem.

    @ p.g.sharrow “God is simple minded and works in applied science.”

    Humility is the key to unity of purpose with God. Einstein found mass is stored energy,
    E = mc2 (where E is ENERGY). Aston measured and used mass to predict nuclear stability as nuclear packing fraction (f), f = (M/A -1).

    von Weizsacker’s misleading nuclear binding energy equation:
    _ a.) Perhaps prevented Hitler from developing an atomic bomb during WWII, and
    _ b.) Prevented scientists from recognizing and using neutron repulsion after WWII

  13. p.g.sharrow says:

    The key is to explain how energy results in mass/inertia effects. Even Einstein failed in that attempt. His original goal was to explain Gravity. He got lost in reactivity and Quantum Mechanics, which precluded the solution. Just because the math works does not mean the concepts are

  14. E.M.Smith says:

    Well, hit the first roadblock…

    The SPARC 32 bit chip is the one that has a prebuilt system under Windows Qemu.
    The Debian port for the SPARC 32 ends support with 4.x Etch (the are presently at 7.x Wheezy).
    The Etch version has an archive to build from but …
    Attempting to do the apt-get install g77 complains that the index isn’t ready, and attempting to do the apt-get update causes a crash.

    Not sure why.

    But it’s pretty clear that if I can’t get the package update to work, I can’t install the needed bits.

    No, not a dead end. Yet. But not an easy ‘just works’ either.

    The PowerPC chip is a BigEndian, but the Debian description of the hardware on which it works does not look all that robust. Especially when the emulator may or may not have that hardware. (Mostly Apple, in some odd mixes). The MIPS chip comes in both big and little endian forms, and Debian has a port for each, so it might be better. Used in the SGI boxes, so fewer variations and most likely the emulator config will be a match to the supported list.

    At any rate, it looks like I’m going to ‘dual track’ at this point with both finding out more about set up and config of Qemu systems (perhaps with a ‘roll my own’ from scratch – that it looks easy to do – rather than depending on some other persons choices in a pre-built), along with install from scratch OS for a few of the other big endian chip emulations and newer Debian release; and at the same time see if I can get the Etch Debian to build apps / debug the crash…


    Nope. I’ll take a look.

    @Steve C:

    Familiar ;-)

    Other folks here will be thinking of the dozen or three things I’ve started and are still waiting the next step… sometimes years later..


    I heard that somewhere in The South there is a Boll Weevil Institute that has in it’s charter that once it finds a way to protect cotton / eradicate Boll Weevils, it is to go out of existence. Oddly, in some long number of decades, it has found solutions for all sorts of things and all kinds of bug problems; but has just never quite found a way to cope fully with boll weevils…

    Don’t know if it is true, but that’s the story.


    I’ll get around to deleting “in a while”.


    Software is pretty easy, really. In the end it is largely just a cookbook for moving symbols around. Just folks make it really complicated by constantly changing things and putting every more layers of complexity on top. Like electricity is pretty simple, but the National Electrical Code messes with your mind ;-)

    Per Malthusians: Yup. For some reason folks just LOVE a disaster story. Scare stories sell. Misery loves company. And so it goes. Somewhere along the line the political class learned that you can herd sheep more easily with a good scare than you can with kind words…


    Back on the GIStemp thread…

    Since I’m likely to be spending time in Qemu / Debian land for a while, I’m not likely to be doing much with the GIStemp code base noted above. Mostly it will just be reading / inspection of the individual programs and noting where it looks like anything was changed.

    The date stamps seem to show that only the bits of code that actually have the file name of USHCN vs USHCN.V2 in it have changed. IFF that is true, then there will be a layering on of the USHCN adjustments / homogenizing with the GIStemp adjustments homogenizing. I think that would explain why GIStemp is diverging from the other data series.

  15. p.g.sharrow says:

    @EMSmith; Yes, it seems if you adjust the embeds in a spread sheet to get the program to spit out the right answer for the wrong reasons, further projections will give answers that need additional “adjustments”as they always want to run off the tracks.
    Even worse, You are trying to find the errors and patches that they don’t want found. Bad for their image and grant stream. Theoretical “science” is not science, But, philosophy or religion. Computers can not make up for poor understanding. They just do exactly what they are told to do and are no cure for ignorance. Just dumb machines in the employ of stupid people. There is no cure for stupid.

    I do hope you are enjoying this detective game. You are acquiring a world wide following with some amount of reputation. I hope making a living is not too great a distraction. pg

  16. j ferguson says:

    Hi E.M.

    maybe not wildly off topic, but… We sold boat, moved to land in South Florida, and emptied out storage locker full of old hi-fi, Sun equipment, qic and exabyte tapes, and lots of cd-roms. IPX was dead – power supply problem. mail ordered a sparc 10 with 200 mb drive. It would boot but not work with daisy chained scsi stuff – turned out to be a known problem. So I moved 2 gig drive into sparc 10, installed 4.1.4 from cd, then cd drive died, bought another cd -drive ($25). it worked for about 2 weeks – long enough to check out everything else – jimmied hostid to work with software last used in ’93 – set date to october 93 to run date-locked stuff and eventually got everything running. patched to status as of january 1994 – so no 2k fixes, but machine thinks it’s october 93 so doesn’t matter. Then that CD drive died.

    The drive bands of all except 2 of the QIC tape cartridges were shot. the two that were still good were on smaller SUN tapes and would only work on other smaller tapes. All of the Sun Exabyte 8mm cartridges were fine which was really good because all of the backups from october 1993 when we went out of business were on exabyte cartridges. I kept using the IPX until 2003, so I had some newer stuff on it and an adapter to use a modern flatscreen monitor with the old frame buffers.

    If you decide to go this route. Forget about old Sun CD drives – they are Sonys and won’t stand running again if they haven’t been used in 10 years. Panasonics do work if you jumper the correct sector size. getting stuff off the qic tapes involves ,moving the good belt from cartridge to cartridge and dd’ing the data to an exabyte tape – which are available cheap on ebay.

    the old sparcprinter still works and with newsprint 1 does the old variety of fonts. Acrobat Reader 3 works too, but printer won’t print any modern pdf. It looks like I’ll have to install a newer GNU printer driver Ghostscript which means getting GNU C compiler installed and then compiling the Ghostscript and likely adding some patches to bring the system up to wherever it needs to be to suit all of this.

    Mozilla (netscape 6.1 latest which does work) works, but it is befuddled by a lot of the code it sees, works on some sites, but not others. This doesn’t matter much because machine is head end of an indoor process which doesn’t involve the internet.

    I started out wanting to put two 2-gig drives in box, then realized i could use bigger ones and just run 2 gig partitions (4.1.4 limitation of the day) then realized that i could run remotes from one of the linux machines nfs and save money and Sparc 10 cooling issues.

    E.M., you can buy another Eprom and maybe even specify the hostid, although I’ve gotten pretty good at changing them. One thing i did discover is that the first 2 digits on the hostid specifiy the machine type and some (but not all) software which thinks it’s being asked to run on an IPX balks at finding a IPX hostid on a SPARC 10. Also some looks only when you install it and then never realizes you’ve switched from an IPX hostid to a SPARC10. And lest any of you suspect that I’m talking about anything naughty, all of this is stuff I had licenses for but whose suppliers are gone or the machines that issued passwords for sparc 10’s running SunOS 4.1.4 have turned to dust. There is an issue on using a hostid from some other machine which may show up if that other machine is also on the net – very unlikely though.

    FrameMaker is a good example of software I own, but can’t run because I can’t get a password for it, and apparently never ran it on the SPARC 10 we had in 93. I think we were using a license server on another machine which took care of the entire office, but it would involve more archaeology than I have time for to reconstruct what we’d done..

    So it’s a bit like Rip Van Winkle. I’m also putting a machine shop together. It’s a bit of a gas to discuss this stuff based on last working in a shop in 1961. Things have evolved. The place I worked was a family business, I was a kid, and now have no idea what parts of what i know were anomalies of the place or standard jargon.

    But I’ll be cutting metal again in a few weeks.

    If you decide to resurrect the Sun, let me know, I’ll send you the stuff I needed to make mine work.

  17. Steve C says:

    @Rip Van Winkle – Trawl through some secondhand bookshops for old “home machine shopping” books. I don’t have a lathe, but my copy of “The Amateur’s Lathe” (12/6d, 1950), by L. H. Sparey – at the time editor of “The Model Mechanic” – is a delight. From the flyleaf:

    “Here is a book that every amateur, every small garage proprietor and every light engineer will find of unending interest. The author has succeeded within its compass of 232 pages in giving a complete course of instruction embracing every possible process that can be accomplished on the infinitely adaptable small lathe.” Sparey was both professional and amateur – worked on some very large machines, but always kept his enthusiasm (and his home machine shop).

    Your computer lore reminds me of why I never got into “real” computing back then. And yet … you can chat about it as if it were only yesterday, down to hardware oddities. Amazing. I struggle just going back to a bog standard Dos box ‘n’ 9-pin printer.

  18. j ferguson says:

    Steve C,
    It’s just amazing. I hadn’t done a SunOS install since 1993. The IPX I used after 93 ran applications I needed and I took it with me to my last two employers – I’m a sticks-and-stones architect but had owned a Unix engineering system shop in the late ’80s early ’90s, so I did know my way around the machines. It’s spooky how after the first couple of hours of wrestling with the S10, it mostly came back to me. It seems like only yesterday when a 2 gig drive was monstrous. I had three drives left over from those days and they still work fine. It’s different from majoring VW engines, I have a whole brainload of what I needed to know to do that in the mid-60s, but I doubt i’ll ever do another one.

    The internet is the great advance that makes most anything possible today that was challenging to impossible when i was a kid. I built relay-based computers using old telephone company relays in the mid-’50s. I couldn’t find anyone else in northwest Chicago who was doing it or knew anything about it.

    But now, as I’m getting set to build the CNC interface between my mill and Linux machine, I can find all sorts of intelligent advice, war-stories etc on the web. You’re not alone anymore. AND if the thing you’re into is screwy enough you’ll meet some really REALLY intelligent people to collaborate with.

    I’ve gotten so I yell at people who are pessimistic about what’s going on today. There are plenty of problems, and given the complexity of our world, why shouldn’t they be nastier than the problems of 50 years ago. On the other hand I’ve built navigation devices for our late boat with software contributions from NZ, Oz, Deutschland, and France – all found by googling or knowing where to find these guys.

    And just like coding, you don’t have to know what you are doing so long as you can cook up lots of different things to try, can remember what you’ve already tried (to avoid looping) and never NEVER give up. My stuff would likely be snickered at by the guys who DO know what they are doing. I doubt it’s efficient but it also works, and I did it (with some outside help).

    good to hear from you.


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