Friday, March 18, 2011

A new Atlantis

There existed, once upon a time, an island inhabited by many men of wonderous and marvellous power, of ancient and flourishing culture. These men held sway over many lands, and were much renowned. So revered were they, that Gods themselves feared for being deemed ineligible for Godhood in favour of the Atlanteans. So the Gods, in one day and one night sent misfortune such that the island was levelled ... all that remained of that mighty civilization were those scattered atlanteans who had been abroad when misfortune struck.

In the past, as recently as the middle ages, physical prowess was the single reason to be a lord of men. Since then, times have changed. Over the last couple of centuries, physical prowess has taken a second place to economic and intellectual might. With intellectual and economic might, it is possible to make another do your bidding - physical, or even intellectual. This applies not only to the community of humans, but also to the community of nations. Amongst the nations that have taken the forefront in leading the community of nations, was the one nation that was utterly vanquished towards the close of WWII - Japan.

An island community of ancient culture ... inhabited by many men (of wondrous and marvellous power) whose thought changed the way we live our lives, flourishing as one of the strong economies of the world ... and then in almost one day, and one night - the earthquake, and then the Tsunami struck ...

The parallel is uncanny

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Institutional Amnesia

Just received an email that said a folder in windows can just not be named 'con'. Sounds weird but turns out, it is true. I just can not name a folder 'con'.

It might appear to be inexplicable ... if you're not exposed to old DOS console.

A lot of the windows OS was constructed on top of the old DOS shell. Now DOS used unix style short-hand a fair bit. So in DOS, 'con' was short-hand for 'console' aka command prompt.

Now file editing happened in DOS even in the days before wordstar etc. This was done by telling the OS to copy the contents written on the console to a file like this -

copy con myfile.txt

This meant as follows -
copy = duplicate the contents
con = source of the contents = command prompt = console
myfile.txt = target name where the duplication will be retained to disk

Apparently the underlying code didn't change; just to illustrate the example try this on the windows command prompt -
copy con con

So when windows explorer tries to create a folder named 'con', in all probability it is still using the same old DOS code where 'con' is a keyword. Therefore attempts to use 'con' as a name are fruitless
, and hence the folder remains unnamed.

As a programmer, I'm in favour of code reuse. As an engineer, I believe in the age old adage - 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it!' The decision to reuse the known DOS shell code was fine as it was known to work well. But if Microsoft have to fix this now, how much effort will it require to change code no less than 20 years old?