Lazy Reading for 2013/11/17

It’s been snowing this week in the northeast US, which makes me happy.

  • Unix: sending signals to processes.  Signals have always struck me as a somewhat byzantine messaging system that everyone uses for the equivalent of Ctrl-C.
  • Unix: Debugging your scripts.  This will be useful if it’s not already familiar to you.
  • Compatibility is Hard.  Contrary to popular belief, Microsoft Word documents are not backward or forward compatible, from release to release.
  • From that previous link: Why Microsoft Word Must Die.  The worst problems to troubleshoot are when someone says “Word/Excel is acting funny”.  There’s so many intermediate layers of software in those programs that it’s difficult to find the actual data and the actions being performed on it, much less troubleshoot any process.
  • moved from MySQL/MariaDB to Postgres.  I agree with the sentiments in the article, but I want to know the technical reasons that made Postgres the choice for scaling.  (via)
  • Apple ][ DOS source code.  I don’t have anything I can actually do with the source, but there’s a 1977 price list pictured in the the article that shows some interesting numbers: A 4Kb RAM system costs about $1300, and the prices just go up from there.

Your unrelated comics link of the week: the first four pages of Necropolis.  This comic looks to be fun.

2 Replies to “Lazy Reading for 2013/11/17”

  1. MS Word documents are barely compatible with themselves, let alone with other documents, even from the same release.

  2. Some related “word processing” trivia:

    Wordstar certainly had a multiple-document mode by 5.x, but my understanding was that being written mostly or entirely in assembler (the configuration utility would patch the binary!) vs. however WP was developed allowed WP to outmaneuver it. More likely (and particularly on-topic) is that Wordstar “.DOC”s were relatively human-readable save for some odd choice of CRLF character… so it was easy enough for WordPerfect shops to suck in others’ work, but the WordPerfect format was more opaque as far as getting text back out unless you started using the actual software.

    OpenOffice/LibreOffice has not been entirely bug-immune within its own format; in particular it’s been surprisingly easy to get into nightmares trying to insert text before or after a table (or a Table-of-Contents/Index object) if you didn’t pad it with some empty paragraphs and plan ahead, since UI corner cases will always be corner cases. The extra decade or so of legacy support in the Word format(s) does make it easier to end up with a genuinely “haunted” document, though.

    Here in the legal salt-mines, much of the overpriced templating stuff that would otherwise run fine in WINE relies on OLE or similar bindings to an actual copy of Word to generate/render output (although the last one I actually tried to use was old enough to be equally satisfied by an actual copy of WordPerfect for Windows).

    RTF: The joy of RTF is when you and probably a lot of holdout WordPerfect users spent some well-meaning effort badgering the local (government-employed/contracted) court reporters to use it instead of Word .DOC back in the mid-2000s… only to find out that the page numbering is generally done with an automatic token and the layout is only guaranteed to paginate correctly in the exact version of Word the RTF was generated with. Of course, the alternative is PDF, but at least 8GB RAM is now cheap.

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