Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Quis custodiet ipsos...

I don't know what this says about Lispers' attitudes toward automated testing, or toward the RT test framework, but the commonly-distributed versions of the RT test framework did not pass their own self-tests.

The apparent cause is that the introduction of a hash-table and tail-pointer in rt.lisp to efficiently find tests by name and insert new tests at the end of the test list were not matched by the updating of the rt-test.lisp to consistently construct the miniature mock-up test suite. This diff for rt-test.lisp, introduces code to dynamically rebind those variables. The patch, in addition to one putting the self-tests into a separate package, has been applied to the HEAD of the CVS repository for GNU CLISP. Note that changing the package changes the names of the tests themselves, which requires editing the expected output in the tests.

Note how powerful and convenient the dynamic binding feature of Lisp (optional, as it should be, in Common Lisp) can be: while running the individual tests, the test procedure can effortlessly construct a sandbox in which to test out the features of the test suite, without destroying the suite of tests that is being sequenced through, and automatically restoring the state of the outer test suite as each test completes, even if the inner test throws an unexpected error---all with essentially no special effort on the part of the original programmer (except, as we see, to identify all of the state that needs to be shadowed.)

Monday, December 17, 2007

Monday, December 3, 2007

System 7 Accessing Mac OS X file servers

Using my MacIvory, until now, I have been using an old Mac Powerbook running Mac OS 9 with AppleTalk file-sharing to allow me to copy files from a USB key to the Mac IIfx host running 7.6.1. Trying to access shared folders on my newer laptop running Mac OS X failed, as did sharing in the opposite direction.

Presumably, the problem is that Mac OS X uses a revision of the AFP file-sharing protocol which is incompatible with the version used by the default Mac OS 7.6.1.

It turns out there is a fix for this issue:

  1. Install Open Transport 1.1.2 (a dependency for the next step) on the 7.6.1 Mac

  2. Install AppleShare Client 3.8.3 on the 7.6.1 Mac


The Apple article on AppleShare Client 3.8.3 has more information on this release of the software.

Apparently AppleShare 3.8.8 requires System 8.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Genera and Packages

As I alluded to in an earlier post, Symbolics Genera takes a slightly different approach to packages than most current environments (such as SLIME under Emacs).

Part of that is because, unlike GNU Emacs today, the editor and all its intelligence is running inside the Lisp environment; another part is due to Genera supporting multiple dialects of Lisp, each slightly compatible with the other.

One consequence is that Zmacs pays close attention to the "file attributes line" in your Lisp source files. (That's the line at the beginning of the file which contains the marker "-*-"). Other Lisp environments use a heuristic, like looking for the first IN-PACKAGE form.

A chicken-and-egg problem arises when loading a file that expects to be read in a particular package. What if the package doesn't exist? Well, it isn't possible to use that package to read the file. But the package itself is defined in a file.

For me this caused a bit of confusion, because if you try to load a file with a non-existent package defined in the attributes, and you have not given Genera permission to create the package, it complains that "<package name> is not meaningful as a package name in <Lisp dialect>".

You can press Resume to allow it to be created, and then the problem goes away until you try to bootstrap again without the package existing.

The answer is found in the documentation section "Specifying Packages in Programs." If the package attribute is enclosed in parentheses, it is automatically created if it does not exist. Furthermore, you can include one package name, or a list of package names, as the second element of the list in order to specify packages which this package uses.

The other way to approach this is to create a system definition file which defines the packages up front.

(Another aspect that made me more confused is that the package name was "6502", which if in the package attribute without quotes will read as an integer, which cannot designate a package. I had to muck around a bit trying double-quotes and vertical-bar escapes, in an effort to make the problem go away, before I realized the "not meaningful" was not referring to violating some non-existent rule about package names. From time to time, I would create the package and not realize that made the message go away.)

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Learning Genera, bit by bit...

Having hacked on the COMFY code for a while in Emacs Lisp, I got the itch to move it over to my MacIvory, which has been waiting for real work to do. I've crafted some tests in the Emacs Lisp using elk-test (trying to add heirarchical suites-of-suites along the way), and wanted to port them to one of the Common Lisp test frameworks (I'm thinking of checking out Stefil, LIFT, and rt, which I've used briefly). While copying the files, I ran into a few issues.

  1. I couldn't figure out an automatic way to handle line-ending issues in the text files. I ended up locating the file on the Mac OS side in the file browser, Mouse-R clicking to Edit the file, then M-%, C-q [LINE key] [Return] C-q [Return] [Return] ! in Zmacs, then saving to a file on the Ivory file system. (I like the offer to create non-existent directories on a save.) There is probably a Copy File(s) command I could have used to move them en masse, and I should have been able to code up a quick conversion routine or Zmacs keyboard macro, but it worked.

  2. Trying to compile the RT framework, I think I had been misled by my experience in the Genera Development Tutorial. The Common-Lisp mode apparently is Common Lisp the Language, 2d ed. What I was looking for is ANSI-Common-Lisp. The confusion cause all sorts of problems with DEFPACKAGE, and the presence of FUTURE-COMMON-LISP made me even more confused. An e-mail on the SLUG list apparently explains the various Common-Lisp strategies on Genera.

[UPDATE: the old link to the e-mail broke, but gmane.org still has it.]

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Baker's COMFY: a few notes

I've been working a bit with Baker's COMFY-6502 code; a few notes of what I have learned so far.

First, a couple of tiny bugs in the genbrc; the code miscounts the size of the branch instructions, meaning that (- l 2) should be a (+ l 2) and so on. I found it handy to enumerate each clause of the cond. Each clause handles a particular case, such as when the "lose" continuation can be reached by a short branch instruction, while the "win" continuation is far enough away to require an absolute jump.

Second, genbrc, genbr, and compile all provide the address of the resulting "continuation" as the return value. This is perhaps clear when one traces out all the recursion, but it isn't explicitly mentioned. One interesting case is genbrc when the "win" and "lose" branch destinations are the same: one could simply emit an unconditional branch to that destination, and return the address of that branch but actually returning the destination works just as well. (In the emit routine, if the continuation does not happen to be the next instruction, the unconditional branch is, after all, emitted, moving the continuation to the front of the instruction stream, ready for the non-branching instruction to be emitted just in front of it.)

As for "upgrades" to the package, I have been focused up to this point on moving the knowledge of 6502 opcodes and addressing modes from magic decimal numbers to symbolic processing. Instead of simply emitting a decimal opcode, I have been changing the code to emit symbolic opcodes, such as (ADC ABSOLUTE), with routines to reduce these symbolic forms to the appropriate opcode, including checking for invalid opcodes. Baker's original code will happily emit opcodes with addressing modes not supported by the chip. Currently, the compiler emits these symbolic codes into the code vector, awaiting a processing step to convert them to the decimal equivalent. Ideally, one would detect invalid addressing modes in the compilation stage, not the post-processing stage.

Some other changes I am contemplating are allowing for symbolic jump destinations, so that object code can be relocated and external labels could be used to relax the restrictions of the current scheme, which requires manually sequencing compilation and storing of addresses.

MacIvory ADB Adapter Protocol

Working with ResEdit and DeRez, I believe I have traced out the keyboard protocol used by the MacIvory ADB adapter. My adapter is on the blink, probably because of the small screw I found rattling about inside. I hope DKS can bring it back to life, or the PIC-based project I had begun will make its way back to the front burner.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

MacIvory Keyboard Support Software

The ADB adapter has not just given me some help uncovering the behavior of the Rev. C Symbolics keyboard protocol, but also works when attached to my MacIvory. Along the way (and with the help of David K. Schmidt) I encountered some glitches, mostly stemming from my original accidental trashing of the System file DKS installed.

There are a few software components the ADB adapter box needs to convert the Symbolics keyboard to something the Mac OS 7.6.1 (including the "FEP" window which communicates to the Ivory board on a low level) will accept as a keyboard with the right keymapping, and furthermore to something the Genera application will recognize with all the Symbolics-specific keys. Without these components, you will see one of the following two stages of malfunction.

Stage 1: The mouse connected to the ADB adapter works fine. In the Mac OS (including the FEP window), there is total keyboard confusion, with the keys all scrambled. On the Genera side, things are less scrambled, but some keys are missing, such as "e", "t", "u", and "o"; the "o" in fact causes the Mac menu bar to flash. Modifier keys seem absent. If you activate the keyboard control application, Genera seems to crash easily. Peter Paine reported this at the time System 7.5.3 came out.

If you do a custom install of the "Symbolics Keyboard for System 7" selection in the MacIvory software installer, you get the Symbolics Keyboard extension icon at Mac OS startup, and a Symbolics keyboard layout choice in the Keyboard control panel. The situation improves, reaching

Stage 2: The alphanumeric keys work for both the Mac OS and for Symbolics. However, Genera treats a press of the "Page" key as a press of the "Line" key, treats "Escape" as "Select", and ignores the \{ and |} keys, the Hyper modifier key, and most of the large function keys (Function, Refresh, Square, Circle, Triangle, Suspend, Resume, Abort, Network, Local, Select, Line). Kent Pitman reported this after an upgrade to System 7.5.

The solution is to do a full install of the MacIvory support software. I believe this is necessary to get all of the resources installed in the Mac's System file.

I'll try to gather more details on the resources; it would be nice to understand how to make a box that takes, for instance, a PS/2 keyboard & mouse and connects it to the MacIvory, although the Symbolics keyboards and mice may be more plentiful than than the Ivory boards at this point, so it might be mere archaeology. More practical, if ADB adapters are scarcer than Ivory boards, would be a combination of the Apple keyboard (which works well enough for MacIvory use) and a three-button PS/2 mouse with a "partial ADB adapter" allowing it to provide multi-button mouse function to Genera.

UPDATE: I examined the resources, and was able to decode the Symbolics ADB adapter encoding.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Symbolics Rev. C Keyboard Secrets

The ADB adapter has fulfilled its main purpose: providing an example of hardware which can speak to my Rev. C Symbolics keyboard.

The apparent trick is that the clock pulses must be narrow, without being too rapid (i.e., a relatively low duty cycle.) A 10 microsecond long low pulse on /CLR, followed 30 microseconds after the beginning of that pulse by the clock going low for roughly 9 microseconds, continuing with a clock period of approximately 50 microseconds does the trick. The ADB adapter pauses somewhat between groups of 11 clock pulses, corresponding to the natural "section breaks" of the keyboard mapping; I don't know if that is strictly necessary. My first crude approximation, using bit-bashing for the PIC with timing loops resulted in Caps Lock and Mode Lock that felt a bit sluggish---needing to be held down relatively long to "lock" or "unlock." The overall cycle time may be important in that regard.

In any event, I reconstructed the keyboard mapping from the LMKBD project, although I chose to count pulses from zero, rather than n=1 in that listing.

Unfortunately, this seems to make the PIC EUSART not fit the application: its clock pulses have a symmetric duty cycle. I had hoped to use the serial port intelligence to offload enough of the bit-handling to allow for rapid response that the ADB protocol seems to require. Perhaps I need to look at some of the other peripherals; can I use some pulse-width modulation output to drive the keyboard and the EUSART in synchronous slave mode together?

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Baker's COMFY for the PIC?

I encountered Henry G. Baker's COMFY compiler a couple years ago. (Baker's site contains a text article, a TeX format article, and an Emacs Lisp implementation. The ACM published the two articles COMFY theory and COMFY-65) COMFY is not a very high-level language, in the conventional sense, but is an attempt to provide a clean but simple set of control structures on top of conventional machine code. Baker calls it 'medium-level.'

The resulting compiler is very small; its main task in life is to automate the generation of branch instructions, which is one of the tedious parts of tightly optimizing assembly programs. Yet it allows as well for arbitrary Lisp-style macros.

I found the concept intriguing, but I found the article and the compiler code itself rather obscure. Part of the obscurity is the unconventional names for the 6502 operations, unconventional notation for the addressing modes, and decimal numbers for opcodes (because Emacs Lisp does not accept other radixes). Another is that the implementation is lean-and-mean, emitting code bytes directly into a destination vector---the only output to look at is a vector filled with decimal numbers. The manipulations on the 6502 opcodes take advantage of the low-level bit patterns without explanation. Finally, it uses the term 'continuation', which, no matter how many times I think I understand it, scares me, probably because it introduces a highly abstract term into an area like assembly programming which is relentlessly concrete.

I've been learning about it by going through the code, restructuring a bit as I go. I'm beginning to be impressed by the subtlety of the code. One thing that is just dawning on me is that the return values of the code-emitting functions is as important as the side-effect. (To those of you chuckling, you see how far I have yet to go.) Lisp can hide that from you when it "looks imperative."

My longer term goal is to see if the same technique can be fruitful even within the more restrictive limits of the PIC. In order to get there, I'm going to have to gain confidence that I understand the formal concept of the 'win' and 'lose' continuations, which means, I think, having to come up with legible examples that compile to 6502 code, and use that to firm up my understanding of the compiler. Finally, I'll try to code the 'genbrc' routine for PIC branches.

For the "legible examples" part, I think I will try to break the lean-and-mean single-pass direct-to-binary compiler into a "compile to a vector or list with symbolic 6502 mnemonics" followed by a very simple 6502 assembly pass. A similar enhancement might accumulate a relocation table to allow more flexible linking. (I'm still not used to the idea that the code is emitted starting in high memory and working down.) I've begun abstracting out the addressing mode bit manipulations, and probably will add error-checking to make sure invalid opcodes are not generated by mistake.

One thing that I think that will have to go in the PIC version is the shallow binding mentioned in the TeX column, but not in the text version; without a stack, I'm not sure where to save anything. I'm also just a bit worried that the PIC has so many idiosyncracies (e.g., register pages controlled by special flags, instead of a uniform zero-page) that even a medium-level language doesn't help much.

(I should mention in passing Frode Vatvedt Fjeld's nifty little Lisp code to generate PIC instructions from the bit chart.)

[UPDATE: I should also mention a COMFY-based assember for x86, implemented in Scheme, called `Sassy', although I have never tried to use it.]

Monday, September 24, 2007

ADB adapter on its way...

David K. Schmidt evidently scrounged up another ADB converter box which he just sold to me. Assuming I haven't blown up my Symbolics keyboard, I may finally have what I wanted: a piece of hardware that knows how to talk to my Rev. C keyboard! I hope that will shorten the time to coerce my PIC circuit to do the same.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Beginner PIC mistakes, and detective work

Step 1 in the Symbolics keyboard to PIC project was not as quick as I had hoped.

It was pretty easy to generate the reset pulse, and get the serial port to send a clock signal to the keyboard. I then was using an oscilloscope to look at the keyboard response, but various attempts to get the PIC code to light up LEDs in response didn't work at all. In fact, I was being bitten by two bugs, which I used the PICkit 2 in-circuit debug to discover.

  1. An array overrun bug (it seems the default radix in MPASM is hex, so reading 16 bytes into a sixteen element array doesn't work! Unfortunately, my byte counter was located after the array, was stomped directly from 6 to zero, missing the "decrement and skip if zero" termination test until the array covered well into register bank 1.) Safety tip of the day: put your counter before the array!

  2. Something not addressed in the early lessons: ANSEL. The RX/DT pin of the 16F690 is shared with AN11, and the low bits of PORT C driving the LEDs are shared with AN4 through AN7. That means, unless one clears the corresponding bit in the ANSEL registers, they read as digital 0, no matter what the RX data is, and no matter what the state of my PORT C output. Toggling RC5 with a read-modify-write operation was clearing my LEDs before I could see them. Read your data sheets carefully!

A few tips/gripes on the PICkit 2 in-circuit debugging experience

  1. At least for newbies like me, and probably for more complex applications, any ICD is a great puzzle solver. At US$45 plus shipping, it is a great deal.

  2. The white triangle on the PICkit 2 programmer goes to pin 6 (near the "ICSP" silkscreen) of the AC164110---mark a triangle there to make it more foolproof.

  3. The green execution arrow stops after the line marked with the red B. I.e., the instruction with the breakpoint on it gets executed before control comes back to the user. This is counter to my habits built up using the similar looking VBA debugger in Excel.

  4. With the 16F690, you get only one active ICD breakpoint. That's much better than zero, of course.

  5. The W register indicator in the MPLAB IDE seems not to work (stuck at zero); look at the Special Function Register window instead.

  6. Another MPLAB IDE gripe: hovering over constants in code (such as a bit number) shows the value of the File Register at that constant address. Not so helpful when I want to check which bit position I am trying to flip.

  7. Modifying special function registers in the File Register window is evidently forbidden; modify them in the Special Function Register window.

Modifying special function registers directly is a real time-saver. Instead of downloading different code to set up the baud rate registers, I edit them by hand to experiment. (And, unfortunately, my Rev. C keyboard behaves differently at different clock rates! More to come on a separate page.)

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Symbolics keyboard to PIC, step 1

The first step is to connect the Symbolics keyboard to the PIC. I am using the 16F690 which comes with the PICkit 2 starter kit on the low pin count demo board (Microchip DM164120-1). The keyboard cable mates to a 6-pin modular jack (such as Digikey part number 609-1061-ND), which I tacked onto the side of the board. Unfortunately, this mod jack has pin spacings of 50 mil "horizontally" between successive pins, so I bent up the odd pins and soldered the even pins to the demo board.





































Mod jack pinKeyboard functionPIC functionPIC pin marking
6GND
5GND (N/C)
4Vdd
3Key DataRX/DTRB5
2CLKTX/CKRB7
1/CLRRC5RC5

My first task will be to power up the keyboard, code a scanning loop, and try to detect keystrokes for a single key, such as the Left Control Key, displaying the count of key-down events in binary to the LEDs connected to RC0-RC3. If the keyboard is not debounced by the internal microcontroller, the count will not increment cleanly, but I hope to at least prove that I can talk to the keyboard and make sense of what comes back. I'm not sure how much current the keyboard will need, so I might have to power the demo board with an external supply.

[UPDATE: It turns out the standard numbering of modular jack pins is the reverse of the pin numbering of the P1 header inside the keyboard. I've corrected the table above to reflect the standard modular jack scheme. Looking into the opening of the jack, with the locking tab down, pin 1 is on the left side.]

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Debouncing switches

I made a little exercise out of compacting the example "switch debounce" code that the PIC tutorial examples uses. My next exercise will be to improve the debouncing in the "reverse variable speed LED rotation by pressing switch" by interleaving the debouncing check into the delay loop. As it stands, when the rotation is slow, the example can miss brief switch pushes.

My glorious savings of three instructions is documented on a separate page.

One nifty trick I found through Google that might be very helpful if I have to debounce 88 keys on a Symbolics keyboard (naturally, the same number as on a piano) is called "vertical counters." This consists basically of replacing counter increments with boolean operations, which can be easily performed in parallel, if the corresponding bits for multiple counters are grouped in register-sized words.

This page shows how to use a four-count two-bit vertical counting scheme to debounce eight switches in parallel.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Learning more about PIC

A few comments about the PICkit 2 learning experience.

There's a slight bit of polish that could be applied to the example code.

  1. A few redundant instructions, such as

    • Extraneous operations setting register pages

    • In A-to-D examples, the data sheet seems to say the 5 microsecond settling time is needed only when changing the input source, not for every conversion, as in the examples

    • For the 5 microsecond interval, a few of those microseconds are covered by the non-NOP instructions before the conversions

  2. In one of the variable-speed rotating bits examples, the carry flag is not explicitly cleared when it needs to be clear. When I modified the example to change the sign of the pot setting-to-delay conversion, I would sometimes set the carry, putting extra bits into the display. Took me a good fifteen minutes to debug that.

  3. I think a few extra instructions are wasted using the W register and an explicit move to the file register when the file register destination could be used instead

I also got bitten by the issue mentioned briefly in the PICkit 2 release note: if you program the examples from the IDE, the IDE forces the line controlled by the push-button low, meaning the push-button examples fail to work, unless you program the device from the dedicated programming application and the .HEX file produced by the IDE.

I am slightly disappointed that there doesn't seem to be any visible progress getting the PICkit 2 with version 2 firmware to work under Mac OS X.

Also, I find a real lack of documentation of the PICkit 2 "Debug Express" support for in-circuit debugging. This may be because Microchip doesn't want to undercut sales of the MPIDE 2 hardware. I think, however, one can use a combination of the AC162061 (containing an ICD version of the 16F690) and AC164110 (to convert the ICSP six-pin interface to the modular plug used by the usual ICD interface) to do in-circuit debugging of 16F690 applications with the PICkit 2, at an additional cost of about $50.

I've started sketching out some ideas for interfacing the Symbolics keyboard on a dedicated page.

[UPDATE: Microchip does, after all, document the PICkit 2 Debug Express hardware requirements (scroll down a bit to see what I missed before.) I ordered the combination even before I found the document, and when the backorder is filled, I will be giving it a try myself.]

[UPDATE: Jeff Post announced that he releasing alpha code supporting v2 firmware for the PICkit 2 on Linux/Mac OS X]

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Making lights blink...

My latest diversion is a Microchip PICkit2. The idea is to make something that can understand the Symbolics keyboard I have, and then connect that something to other things that can speak Apple Desktop Bus (ADB), PS/2 keyboard protocol, or USB, in roughly that order. If I can make something that takes a multi-button PS/2 mouse and a Symbolics keyboard and connects both to a MacIvory, I could be set for beautiful three-button mousing and classic keyboarding on my Lisp Machine.

I've mostly traced out the schematic of my Rev. C Symbolics slim-line keyboard (thank god for simple two-layer boards!). Rev. C has LED's in the Caps Lock and Mode Lock keys, in contrast to this picture of the similar Symbolics Rev. B keyboard. Compared to the Symbolics 3600 keyboard schematic, mine is roughly similar, but unfortunately has a 40-pin microcontroller (an Intel 8749H, a member of the MCS-48 family) soldered in. I am certain I could make something work with the simple protocol the 3600 keyboard apparently implements, but if the microcontroller does anything beyond driving the LEDs on and off based on simply counting the corresponding keystrokes, I might be sunk. I've fired off a few questions to people who can hopefully tell me that all of these are plug- and wire-compatible.

As for the 3600, it is pretty obviously a matter of pulling the reset line low to clear the counters, and clocking through the other 127 counter states to read off the switch matrix closures on the 16 X by 8 Y (I surmise that high on the output would mean the corresponding key is down.) I'm not sure how frequently I have to collect the bits to avoid missing keypresses, and what debouncing I might have to do.

The strange thing about my Rev C is that the ICs driving what I guess is the X direction are a pair of 74145 devices with what the datasheet claims are open-collector outputs, and the IC connected to what I guess is the the Y direction is a 7442 with conventional TTL outputs. That seems to mean that scanning an X column with a pressed key causes an open-collector pulling low to compete with the TTL high output on the Y row, except when the Y scan tests that line with a TTL low. What good that does is a mystery. That, and I haven't finished tracing out the part of the circuit with an LM319 comparator. The 3600 schematic drives the X columns (one low, the rest high) and muxes the Y rows (driving ordinary inputs through any pressed keys) to the readout.

[UPDATE: Seems that the keyboard protocol should be identical, so I'm going to forge ahead with the plan, and assume the circuit knows how to work itself.]

[UPDATE 2: fixed the link to the online 3600 schematic.]

[UPDATE 3: I probably should have given more explicit acknowledgment for the inspiration of the project. If I had not seen asciilifeform's schematic revealing the simplicity of the protocol, I'm sure I would have been far less tempted to start this project.]

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

MacIvory speaks!

I've only had a bit of time to play with my MacIvory, but already things are getting interesting.

One is getting used to the system administration style: typical UNIX system configuration resides in text files, and the boot process reads them. Genera is different. The state of the system is contained in the memory image ("world"); you change it through various operations---some interactive, some by loading Lisp files---and preserve it by saving a new world as a file, which can be defined incrementally based on an existing world. The boot process involves loading that saved file back into the living Lisp machine. I haven't yet developed the sense to complete a block of tasks before saving the world, and how much change pushes one from incremental to a complete world.

Another was getting the network to speak, and part of that is the timewarp of working in Mac OS 7, an era in which Mac networking was going through the introduction of Open Transport, and an AppleTalk era which Mac OS X refuses to acknowledge. Luckily, I've got a PowerBook G3 that runs Mac OS 9. My first ethernet card didn't work, either because I screwed up some software setting or because the hardware was bad. (More embarrassing disclosure later.) DKS sent me a replacement, which worked immediately. I've only got ChaosNet configured on the MacIvory side at this point, and my ChaosNet work isn't up-to-date on my Powerbook, so I've only seen raw ethernet packets in tcpdump, but my archaeology is already progressing---documentation to follow soon, as well as getting some Python software (with libpcap or Mac OS X kernel packet filters?) to respond to Chaos-formatted Ethernet packets.

As for the embarrasing disclosure, one of the first things I did was try to set the video card to a mode not supported by my Sony Multisync 15sf monitor. Instead of waiting for the change to timeout and revert, I hit Esc or Command-. or some other key which confirmed the change, leaving me with a blank screen. I tried various reboot, PRAM zapping, or magic key sequences to force the Radius Precision Color 24X to a good mode, but none of that worked, and at some point I screwed up the system. Once I hooked up the Dell 2007fp that understood 1152x870, I saw the floppy-with-blinking-question-mark. Recovery without a working network card involved the ancient hassles of multiple-floppy installs.

I have a Kensington ADB multi-button mouse, but all the drivers I have downloaded are either for Mac OS 8 or cause serious bugginess: system freezes or error -192 when launching the configuration application. I hope I don't have to roll my own software to get multi-button goodness to work with the Ivory. (At this date, few vendors pay much attention to 68k Macintosh support.)

UPDATE: I've captured a bit of the tcpdump results in my ChaosNET information page.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Ordering a Lisp machine

Just sent off the Paypal payment for a MacIvory II system with 2.6 MW of memory. I'm hoping also to get a Symbolics keyboard, although Symbolics is apparently out of the ADB box that allows the keyboard to be used with the vintage Macs.

It was a tough call whether to splurge for this or, for about twice the money, a new MacBook Pro. I'm hoping the Symbolics machine will be much more entertaining.

My main idea of a project is to use the Lisp Machine as a Chaos FILE host, in order to allow development on the CADR simulator with a versioned file system, without having to simulate and learn ITS or TOPS-20.  To get that to work, I probably will need to do a little bit of investigation to understand how the Symbolics box gets configured to talk on the network, what Chaos packets look like on the Ethernet, how to get those to my Python/Lisp code on the modern machine, and, for data security what would be needed to talk to a CD-ROM drive on a remote computer, or to use a remote computer to do backups (to a simulated tape drive?).  In order to get 2.6 MW of NuBus memory, I had to choose a Mac config without a CD-ROM drive, and I'm not too excited about trying to get an external SCSI drive for this old machine. Backing up to floppies is another thing I don't want to relive.

Some other things I'm looking forward to are Zmail, Concordia (to generate HTML output, anyone?) and Document Examiner,  using CLIM, and grokking the Symbolics compiler(s).

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

My non-blog web site

I should mention my non-blog site, which exists pretty much to hold information for recruiters who want to get some idea of my software experience. Don't expect much exciting there. I am, by the way, currently and happily employed, but am interested in opportunities in the New York City metropolitan area.

Monday, February 5, 2007

ChaosNET and Python

My blogging has been much less frequent of late, mostly because of an unfortunate abundance of non-computer issues. Despite those, I believe I have made some progress in my Chaosnet-on-OpenMCL work, but I've switched most of my hobby-development to Python, mostly to get in touch with trends outside the Lisp Universe.

My current main project circulates around ChaosNET emulation; the main thing going for Python here is a socket interface that is roughly compatible between UNIX-like and Windows operating systems. Lisp can support that as well, but not for my favorite and familiar implementations. (One thing I hope to try before I get through this is to get an asyncore-like framework set up in CLISP.)

So far, I have implemented a `chaosd' process in Python that simulates multiple ChaosNET `ethers' in the form of localhost TCP streams (on Windows or UNIX-like) or UNIX-domain sockets (on UNIX-like); each stream corresponds to a subnet. The idea has manifold goals:

  • Allow the usim CADR simulator to communicate on Windows with minimal alterations using Winsock in place of BSD sockets (Done) (Brad Parker's server, however, works with forking and other UNIXisms that would require more work)

  • Allow separation between local activity and activity exposed or connected to the wider Internet

  • Provide 'masquerade' and 'network translation' bridges, to flexibly map external resources, such as an ITS or TOPS-20 simulator into something that appears to be a local network. (The translation here is necessary because ChaosNET is a LAN architecture; outside resources might have their own incompatible scheme of subnetting and addressing. These translating gateways would allow me to place external UDP-responding resources into arbitrary Chaos addresses in my local scheme, without requiring any change on the external resource.)

  • Eventually, provide small modular `gateway' simulators that appear to be ChaosNET resources on a local subnet, but translate to external services such as AOL Instant Messenger or IRC.

  • Recreate `historically accurate' network organizations for amusement

  • If I ever break down and get a real Symbolics machine, I expect it to be able to speak Chaos over IP or raw Ethernet; I would like some way to connect that to multiple simulators on a single Mac or PC

As a step in this direction, I have implemented a stream-to-UDP masquerade, that automatically takes traffic on a local `ether' for a particular address and feeds it over UDP using Bjorn Victor's protocol. Running this on two machines, I am able (mostly) to allow a Lisp machine simulator on my Linux box and another on my Windows box to both believe they are on a single Chaosnet LAN, and to communicate with one another. The next step is to get something like a local ITS or TOPS-20 simulator running in KLH-10 on Linux supporting Bjorn's UDP protocol (or possibly Bjorn's machine) to provide FILE service and e-mail service to my Lisp machine simulators on either machine. I have been learning to recompile ITS, with mixed success. My initial impressions on Python in another post.

Early impressions on Python

Python isn't so bad. However, I find myself bothered by a few issues.

  1. The development environments are not as Emacs-oriented as Lisp environments are. My default installations of Emacs don't seem to come with Python mode, and I have mixed success doing SLIME-like development on Windows and Linux. For now, I use IDLE. I find it hard to view what is going on in the stepping debugger, including such basics as what line in the code I am currently stopped at, and have no apparent interactive inspection facility. (E.g. if I step through my code, I can see a local variable holds a dictionary, but see no way to expand the view so that I can see every entry in that dictionary, or to see the contents of objects contained in the dictionary.)

  2. Backtraces by default are limited in their description of the stack frames (also, Python's documentation (proudly?) states that Python uses the termination model for error-handling, although rumor has it the backtrace stacks include more information than the default handler prints.) IPython might be better in this regard, but then I have to solve the editor integration puzzle again.

  3. Python is both more and less dynamic than Lisp


    1. The usual 'mistyping leads to a brand new variable/attribute without warning'

    2. 'reload' doesn't update current object instances to reflect a newer version of the class defintion. (The backtrace, however, will refer to the new code even when an error occurs in the old instance)

    3. property seems to grab only the getter and setter that are defined at that point in time on the class being defined. That is, if I define slotname=property(getter,setter), if I override getter or setter in a subclass, the property apparently uses the superclass getter and setter, unless I execute the property line in the subclass. That's doable, but requires redundant typing.

    4. In general, it seems that definition forms in Python are designed to act pretty much as procedural code which acts by mutating state in dictionaries, etc., at definition time, and isn't supposed to persist in ways that allow for redefinition to transparently replace old definitions, but are simply supposed to mutate the current dictionaries, etc., into the new form, orphaning anything that depended on the old form.

  4. Asyncore is like a red-headed stepchild. Ask a question about it, you hear 'use Twisted.' I can't find a clear explanation of asyncore's faults. What's the point of 'batteries included' if everyone throws them out and uses other batteries?