27 Nov 2007 reenoo   » (Observer)


I've been looking into LISP recently (initially for university stuff). Historically, I think it played an outstanding role in the development of computing. Bringing functional programming to a world of assembler and low-level C hacking is clearly an achievement in its own right. I am particularly impressed learning that LISP was used to control some NASA spacecraft - today most people don't even use anything higher level than C or perhaps C++ on robotic systems, and that's on much more powerful and significantly more accessible hardware (try attaching a JTAG interface to a probe on another planet to debug a problem with your code).

From a language design point of view I'm not overly impressed by (Common) LISP though. Some of the criticism I have for it is arguably purely a question of taste: I find the lack of mixfix operators rather annoying, but of course it makes parsing by orders of magnitude easier. More of a problem is the apparent lack of strong typing - e.g. LISP will happily allow you to have elements of differents types in a list, among other more serious issues. It also appears to be possible to change semantics based on input types of a function. The fact that functions (like +) can take a variable number of arguments is a bit of a nail in the coffin from my point of view. I'll keep using Haskell for real world functional programming.

GHC on Debian/armel (ARM EABI)

A while back Riku Voipio called for help with missing bits for Debian/armel one of which was GHC. Not knowing Martin Guy was already (privately) working on bootstrapping GHC (an ARM port existed already) I decided to have a go at it. The GHC porting documentation is clearly excellent and resulted in quick success (relatively quick given the slow build hardware). At that time Martin was already far ahead of me. Meanwhile he has made packages available. I have yet to get around to reporting some minor problems GHC upstream and I may also investigate why ghci doesn't work at some point, but basically this means Haskell is available to the EABI crowd :)

Final Random Bit: Linux Kernel in a Nutshell

When someone pointed me to Greg K-H's book Linux Kernel in a Nutshell my initial reaction was: Building a kernel isn't exactly rocket science. Why would I want to read a book about it?

Well, it seems I was wrong. I skimmed through the PDF version today and noticed a very useful feature of make menuconfig: Hit / and it allows you to search the CONFIG_ strings.

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