Computers of the Future

In all of the speculative fiction I’ve ever read in which there are computers, there are very few times when anyone guesses that, at this stage of the game, it is not hardware manufacturers who differentiate between computers, but operating systems. When someone asks about your computer, that is usually what they mean. It is a strange state of affairs, that’s for darn sure – to be concerned with the software run at the lowest level on your hardware, rather than the hardware itself.


The last couple of days of the website being down are aparently due to a PHP upgrade. The new version does not include by default the PEAR database abstraction library installed, and so several aspects of this site which use them borked. Little things like database connection. That has been fixed and the server rebooted, but it definitely means that I should re-code to avoid depenence on modules on whose presence I cannot count.

SMTP with telnet

One of the things I like best about the TCP/IP from a technical standpoint is that almost all of it happens in ASCII. This means that when your mail is getting refused or your web site isn’t working you can just fire up telnet, hit the right port and start poking around.

Alarmingly often I find that I can confirm and sometimes diagnose a problem with my ISP’s mailserver before they can. I also find it terribly handy for sorting out wonky behavior on my web server, though I just use an O’Reilly book for that (HTTP Pocket Reference).

I think it would be pretty useful if everything could be in Unicode, from OSes to networking protocols, but that seems rather a long way off. Just the ability to hack in telnet in your own language would be pretty neat. As it is, you’ve got to do things by rote or learn English. I’m glad I don’t have to do that again.