Code spiral
Posted by aogWednesday, 03 September 2008 at 13:52 TrackBack Ping URL

I know that stuff on Governor Palin is hard to find, and you’re desperate for some more, but I think I’ll write about something geeky that’s been percolating for a while.

For those with memories longer than a social activist, there was a time when people thought that web browsers would take over from the operating system as the primary interface for computer users. This was driven mainly by despite for the Dark Empire and was never, in my view, to be taken very seriously.

In computer science, there’s a saying “to solve a problem, add a level of indirection”. The term “indirection” means to not refer to a thing directly, but to indirectly refer something else that refers to the thing. So, if you have something that works with the number ‘7’, but you’d like it to work with ‘12’ also, you don’t change ‘7’ to ‘12’, instead you store an address of a memory location which can have ‘7’ or ‘12’ as needed. You’ve added a layer of indirection to solve a problem. This can go on a long way and achieve some really amazing levels of indirection.

We are now seeing this principle applied to the issue I mentioned in the previous paragraph. The web browser is a level of indirection on an operating system. It provides the same sort of stuff as an operating system, but indirected through HTML. But web browsers were originally built back in the days when displaying anything was considered an achievement and they are showing this legacy, just like operating systems did when web browsers were first built. The solution? More indirection! First there were Java engines, to live in web browsers. Then Javascript and other languages. Then Flash Player and now Silverlight, which is the Dark Empire deciding that instead of fixing Internet Explorer, they’ll start over and embed a working browser in the existing browser’s framework. I would mock the Dark Empire for that, but as noted they’re far from the first to do that. Don’t ask where it will all end, there is no end. Just hop on the slide and spiral on down …

Comments — Formatting by Textile
cjm Wednesday, 03 September 2008 at 17:03

chrome looks to me like a way to make google’s office apps run better and maybe use the host pc as a local emergency server when the remote versions are inaccessible. a new browser is about as exciting as choosing joe biden for vp.

do you have any interesting insights or stories about all the “cyberwar” activity i see mentioned occasionally?

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 03 September 2008 at 20:09

Back to Palin 24/7, eh?

No, I haven’t been following the cyber war much. I should ask SWIPIAW about it as that would seem a good subject for one of her lectures. It will have to get a lot worse before people take it seriously. For instance, I still get junk email alledgedly sent from someone else at my domain. How hard is it, really, to have a mail server notice that if it’s getting email from someplace else but claims to be from a domain on the server, it’s bogus?

I think that if the Internet has real problems, it’s going to be DNS related. That’s more rickety than you’d believe.

cjm Wednesday, 03 September 2008 at 20:17

nah, i don’t watch the monkey circus surrounding the election. much more interested in what russia is upto and waiting for iran to get smacked around. also following the dropping price of oil and the crashing price of natural gas — both of which hurt iran and russia. funny coincidence isn’t it? the recent progress in laser based weapons seems important too. lots of dots to connect out there.

what’s up with DNS? read any good sci-fi recently?

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 03 September 2008 at 21:24

DNS is just not very secure and has scaling problems. And if you can spoof DNS, you’re golden. There’s no good way for a victim to know he’s been sent to the wrong place. There’s a secure variant but no one wants to make the effort to upgrade and it makes the scaling problem worse.

I haven’t been reading a lot of new SF lately, just don’t have the energy. Re-reading old favorites instead. I am waiting for the next Battle Angel Alita graphic novel to come out. The problem with that, though, is that the $ / hour is really high, compared to text based content. I will probably read the next Honor Harrington that comes out, but gosh that series has gone downhill.

cjm Wednesday, 03 September 2008 at 22:55

are you ok?

Annoying Old Guy Wednesday, 03 September 2008 at 23:46

Fine. Just doing some intense code development. We’re going to Las Vegas next week for ISACA to see if we can convince anyone to buy our product. Struggling a bit with that, and trying to get everything polished for the show. Plus we had 4 interns over the summer, which takes a lot out of me.

cjm Thursday, 04 September 2008 at 00:00

that’s what billc said, re interns :) glad to hear things are ok :)

Hey Skipper Thursday, 04 September 2008 at 11:29


I’m probably going to be in LA in early October — what’s your email address?

Jack Diederich Thursday, 04 September 2008 at 19:11

Silverlight isn’t as Evil as your think or as much as Microsoft would hope. Since it runs their VM it will also run Ruby (IronRuby) and Python (IronPython) and probably some others I’m unaware of. Microsoft is this and is OK with that. It has hired the Ruby/Python devs who wrote those compilers and pays them to keep working on them.

Of course because I’m a Python guy I don’t care much about platforms because I don’t have to; doubly so because I mainly do web stuff where I get to pick the platform.

Plug: if anyone is going to UK PyCon next week I’ll be speaking. Say hello, and then buy me a beer.

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 04 September 2008 at 20:39

I don’t think Silverlight is evil. I am just amused at spiral, which is not something the Dark Empire started. Now I have to load an operating system, then the browser, and then the actual display engine.

cjm Thursday, 04 September 2008 at 23:07

look forward to meeting you :) you seem to be in the new cool state

Annoying Old Guy Thursday, 04 September 2008 at 23:22

Hmmm. Did you notice, cjm, that Skipper moves in and Palin works on moving out? Coincidence?

cjm Friday, 05 September 2008 at 00:45

i also notice he somehow took down kwame as well. the man clearly has powers and influence.

Hey Skipper Friday, 05 September 2008 at 00:58

(shhh … ixnay on the fluenceinlay)

Gideon7 Friday, 05 September 2008 at 02:13

One could say that most major CS advances introduced a new layer.

The GUI: Multiple screens layered on a real screen.
Virtual memory: Multiple pages of memory layered on real memory.
The Hypervisor: Multiple virtual machines on layered on a real machine.

OOP is basically fancy indirection.

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