Friday, January 30, 2009

First contact pictures

Over the time, I collected photographs of several exotic (i.e. non-x86) machines booting HelenOS for the first time. Below you'll find pictures of SGI Indy, Sun Ultra 60, Dell PowerEdge 3250 and iMac G4 all booting HelenOS in some point of its evolution. Some of the pictures are in a very poor quality as they were taken using a cell phone.

The first picture was taken by Ondrej Palkovsky and depicts the early mips32 port running on SGI Indy. The Indy support has been removed from the trunk some time ago as part of some cleanup, but continues to live in our memories and, in the first place, in our repository history. I believe the picture predates the userspace support in HelenOS and therefore you can only see the kernel having passed some sort of test followed by the kinit kernel thread printing "kinit..." in 1-second delays over and over again.

The next picture illustrates one sparc64 email debugging session attended by me and Martin Decky. I believe the picture shows the first successful boot on Sun Ultra 60 in Martin's office. The picture was taken using a cell phone when Martin wanted to share his view with me. Note that at that picture, the visual for the Ultra 60 framebuffer is still wrong and the kernel panics due to a bad fast_data_access_mmu fault.

On the next picture taken and sent by Jakub Vana, you can see one of the first successfull boots on a dual Itanium II system. Even though the ia64 port was long able to run entire userspace in the Ski simulator, the real world Itanium was something quite different and required additional work to reach a comparable level of usability.

The last picture (so far) motivated me to write this blog entry. It's only several hours old and shows an astonishing progress on a real-hardware support for the ppc32 port. It was taken by the same Martin in the same office, I believe, using the same cell phone as the sparc64 pictures. HelenOS/ppc32 runs in the PearPC simulator, but seeing it run on real hardware after lots of failed attempts was very rewarding, even though the full credit goes to Martin.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

How the Russians renamed my wife and confused the French

Sometime in October 2008, my wife's Russian passport was about to expire. Because of that, she visited the Russian embassy in Prague in order to get it renewed. Because you never know what documents and in what form will the Russian authorities need (and how much it will cost), it took four visits in total: Marina initially forgot to bring a couple of her photographs with her, on her second visit they decided they needed our wedding certificate again (they've already had it since after our wedding when they official changed her name to Jermářová) and on her third visit, she successfully submitted the passport renewal form plus a negligible fee of CZK 3000, at that time an equivalent of roughly EUR 125 or USD 176. On the fourth visit, it was the embassy's turn. Because perhaps it would be considered a bad form in Russia to let the holder of the newly issued passport verify if everything is alright with it, they let her sign the completion certificate and let her go with the precious document. What a surprise when I found out that along with a new travel document, she has also received a new name! After the marriage, the old passport was altered to spell her new last name Jermářová (both in the Cyrillic and the Latin alphabet). In Cyrillic, the closest transcription from Czech would be Ермаржова (which translates back to Czech as Jermaržova), while the preferred transcription to mere Latin alphabet is simply Jermarova. Now, the problem is that in the new passport, they used a different transcription which is neither Czech nor mere Latin alphabet. It reads as: Ermarzhova, which is quite far from what I have in my passport: Jermář, and can confuse people with lack of imagination.

I suspected future problems, but the Czech authorities, despite all worries, did not have any problems with this and continued to call my wife using her Czech last name. They even managed to fix the name on the Czech/EU permanent-stay enclosure in the Russian passport, so I hoped that it is safe to travel with Marina at least across Europe. In December, we went to Paris and spent few days there. Right before our home flight, the French airport authority, who served at the check-in, diligently and compulsorily identified the name mismatch and called a more knowledgeable colleague to help. It took me by surprise that the French authorities, the true candid Europeans, would not consult the EU enclosure of the passport, but would accept the bigger challenge and try to decipher the national page which is half in Cyrillic and half a Latin transcription from Cyrillic. After some explanation from my side, the French were eventually able to find some lexical similarity between the two last names (the Levenshtein distance between Ermarzhova and Jermář is 7 and 4 between Ermarzhova and Jermarova).

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Time for a new survey

Two months have passed since I published the microkernel survey. The survey is now closed, but I saved the results here. Even though interesting, so few people took part in it that it does not reveal any trends. I need to give a serious thought to how to attract more readers to my blog. I can either improve the contents or have better surveys :-) Hopefully I'll have a little more visitors after the next release of HelenOS, which is still not here, but is definitely approaching.

This month, I decided to let you vote for your favorite processor architecture. There is nothing tricky in that question. If you miss your favorite one on the list, just feel free to post a comment and tell me what you think. I never vote in my own polls, but if I did, I would have voted for ia64 and sparc64...