A new Lisp-based OS that hearkens back to the old days of comprehensible computers

Liam Proven lproven at gmail.com
Wed Sep 30 15:13:30 CDT 2015

On 30 September 2015 at 17:08, Noel Chiappa <jnc at mercury.lcs.mit.edu> wrote:

> I am _very much_ in sympathy with the complaints here; I too feel that modern
> computers are too complex, etc. (Although some of it, like the entire computer
> turning into a single chip, were/are inevitable/unavoidable.)

Indeed so.

> I like the functionality of modern system, but I feel they are _more complex
> than they need to be_ to generate that level of functionality.

Absolutely -- and there is a *lot* of legacy stuff that we could do
away with now.

Even though I'm a former Red Hat employee, I have long favoured
Ubuntu. Fedora's always been way too bleeding-edge for me. However, I
approve of one change they made recently: they've merged /bin into
/usr/bin and /usr/sbin into /usr/sbin. I think they're merging
/usr/sbin and /usr/bin as well. The argument is that the root
filesystem is huge anyway, and there's no longer any benefit to having
them separated, the distinction not being clear in any case.

> However, one thing I am going to quibble with:
>     > This is a nice explanatory quote:
>     >  The main reasons TempleOS is simple and beautiful are because it's
>     >  ring-0-only .. Linux wants to be a secure, multi-user mainframe. ...
>     >  It was simple, open and hackable. It was not networked. ... It was
>                                                 ^^^^^^^^^^^^^
>     >  simple and unsecure. If you don't have malware and you don't have
>     >  bugs, protection just slows things down and makes the code complicated.
> Note the part I highlighted. If you want to have a system that's
> network-capable, which is pretty much mandatory for a _really_ usable system
> in this day and age, i) that means Web-capable, and ii) if it's Web-capable
> today, it has to be able to handle what I dub 'active content' (JavaScript,
> etc) - i.e. content coming off the network which contains code, which runs in
> the local machine.

Mere point of reference: Acorn RISC OS still has a small active user
community. Its primary native web browsers, Oregano and NetSurf, don't
have a document object model and don't run Javascript. There's an
elderly port of Firefox but it's not maintained or current -- the hero
developer of the RISC OS Unix porting tools got a job in the states
and had to abandon the project, and in the insular world of RISC OS,
nobody else really understands the importance of it.

So, the old-fashioned pre-Web 2.0 WWW is still useful. More than you
might expect.

> To paraphrase a certain well-known SF work, IMO active content is probably the
> worst idea since humans' fore-fathers crawled out of the mud.

Just out of curiosity -- who? I can't place it.

> It's
> _potentially_ a giant, gaping security hole - one that in today's OS's is
> responsible for a huge share of security issues. (There _is_ a way to have
> systems which aren't as vulnerable, but it means having military-grade
> security on everyone's machine - and no, I don't mean crypto; probably not
> likely, alas.) I mourn the early days of the Web, when there was no active
> content - just text, images, etc, etc. But no, they had to add all sorts of
> flashy eye candy - and did so in a way that makes basically all modern
> machines horribly insecure. But let me dispense with the soap box...

All agreed with!

But OTOH a machine whose lowest level isn't a C-like language is in
principle immune to buffer overflows, stack-smashing, etc.

> Anyway, the inevitable consequence is that if you want a networked machine,
> it's _not_ going to be simple. Alas.


> You're basically sharing the machine with _lots_ of other people -
> effectively, every Tom, Dick and Jane out there in the Internet. In other
> words, you need everything one normally saw/sees in a time-sharing machine.
> (And I'm not talking about wimpy ones like Unix/Linux. I mean industrial
> strength ones like Multics.)


Liam Proven • Profile: http://lproven.livejournal.com/profile
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