Posts in 2003


A Unix-based Logic Analyzer

A circuit I was designing was behaving in unexpected ways: the output of a wireless serial receiver based on Infineon's TDA5200 was refusing to drive an LS TTL load. To debug the problem I needed an oscilloscope or a logic analyzer, but I had none. I searched the web and located software to convert the PC's parallel port to a logic analyzer. I downloaded the 900K program, but that was not the end. Unfortunately the design of Windows 2000 does not allow direct access to the I/O ports, so I also downloaded a parallel port device driver and a program to give the appropriate privileges to other programs. Finally, I also downloaded from a third site the Borland runtime libraries required by the logic analyzer. Needless to say that the combination refused to work.

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Software Complexity: Open Source vs Microsoft

In a readable and interesting paper titled CyberInsecurity: the cost of a monopoly seven notable security experts argue that the Microsoft's near monopoly in the desktop operating system and office productivity markets is creating a dangerous monoculture that exacerbates the effect of security vulnerabilities.

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Well-behaved Web Applications

Very few web-based applications are designed to match the web metaphor. As a result they are often irritating, counteproductive, or simply unusable. During the last two months I've been working on an IEEE Software theme issue titled "developing with open source software". Most of my work is performed over the IEEE Computer Society Manuscript Central web application. The application is an almost perfect example of everything that is often wrong with such interfaces.

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An Interesting Remote Control

The garage remote control at the place where I work is really interesting.

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Security researcher beguiled by email spoof

One would expect someone who is reading and contributing to comp.risks since 1990 to know better, especially if he is also lecturing courses on IT security, and has written a couple of papers in the area. Maybe it was also a well deserved punishment for laughing at emails titled "Valuable business proposition" and "Renew your e-bay account" (who is so dumb so as to fall for these schemes?)

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FreeBSD Committer

I became a FreeBSD committer. I've been using BSD Unix systems since 1986 starting with 4.3 BSD on a pair of VAX 780 machines. In 1992, as a bored PhD student, I reimplemented sed(1) and contributed it the unencumbered BSD version that was then being put together; it is now part of the *BSD family. I crossed again paths with BSD software when the prize of the 2000 Usenix technical conference ``win a pet Shark contest'', Digital's Network Appliance Reference Design-DNARD, came with a NetBSD boot image. I used that code for drawing about 500 examples for my book Code Reading: The Open Source Perspective (Addison-Wesley 2003), detailing how to read software code others have written . Since 2001 I 've been using FreeBSD to control my home's security, communications, and entertainment systems as described in a SANE conference paper and a recent article in Personal and Ubiquitous Computing (as an academic I have to live by the "publish or perish" motto).

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Code Reading: The Open Source Perspective

In July 2000, while working on a paper on the use of slicing for choosing parts of an application to develop in a scripting language (don't ask), I found myself searching open-source programs for motivating examples, and experimenting with a tool for annotating the corresponding source code. At some point, a loud click sound in my mind brought to my attention the fact that although most books and courses teach us how to program, we actually spend most of our time reading code others have written. I reasoned that by applying my annotation tool on open source software I could write a book to present the ideas, techniques, and tools that go behind code reading.

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Become a Unix command line wizard
edX MOOC on Unix Tools: Data, Software, and Production Engineering
Debug like a master
Book cover of Effective Debugging
Compute with style
Book cover of The Elements of Computing Style
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