user since
Fri Sep 27 2002 at 07:33:50 (14.4 years ago )
last seen
Sun Jan 29 2017 at 16:05:39 (3.6 weeks ago )
number of write-ups
114 - View dabcanboulet's writeups (feed)
level / experience
10 (Polymath) / 6340
C!s spent
mission drive within everything
Not any more.
Kernel hacking, high performance computing, distributed computing, history buff
read the book / still watching the movie
That which works is better than that which doesn't.
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Time to move on . . . (2006/12/06)

It has been a long process although I can trace it back to when it started - December of 2003. I'd just spent three weeks in Hong Kong and had decided to create some w/u's describing my experiences. I made reasonable progress on a bunch of different w/u's but could not seem to come up with a satisfactory theme for a Hong Kong w/u.

From past experience, I knew that if I submitted Hong Kong-related w/u's under any title other than Hong Kong then it was more than a little likely that some well meaning editor would move one of these Hong Kong-related w/u's to the Hong Kong node. I didn't want this to happen as I definitely intended to write a very C!-worthy Hong Kong w/u eventually. Consequently, I held off on submitting any Hong Kong related nodes until I was ready to write a really good Hong Kong w/u.

After a few months, it became clear that I had not come up with an appropriate theme for a Hong Kong w/u and that I was rapidly losing interest in preparing but not submitting more Hong Kong-related w/u's. I guess that one could say that I gave up on ever getting to the point where I would be ready to write a good Hong Kong w/u and hence be ready to submit the other w/u's that I had been working on.

Since then, I've 'checked my E2 mail' on a regular basis, C!'d w/u's from time to time and have even written a few w/u's.

In very late November of 2006, an editor concluded that a w/u that I had written which described the eating habits of Crown-of-Thorns starfish (COTS) in somewhat edgy detail should be moved to the Crown-of-Thorns starfish node (an example of what I was worried about regarding writing 'minor' Hong Kong w/u's too early). Upon discovering that I already had a w/u under the COTS node, the editor deleted my w/u describing how COTS eat and sent me a /msg (politely) asking me to insert the contents of the deleted w/u into my existing COTS w/u. I (politely and truthfully) replied that I preferred things the way they had been (i.e. two separate w/u's) and declined to move the now deleted content into my COTS w/u. I did edit my COTS w/u to remove its reference to the deleted eating habits of COTS w/u since I saw little point in leaving a broken link behind.

While hardly a major issue, I suppose that these events in very late November of 2006 have acted as a catalyst of sorts in the sense that I have decided to 'make official' what has been fact for over two years (I wrote my last w/u in September of 2004) and become a 'fled user'. Although I will no doubt drop in from time to time, my w/u writing days are definitely over.

It was fun for a while. Thanks muchly.

Folks wishing to contact me are advised to send email to Make sure that the subject line is something that I am not going to instantly dismiss as SPAM. One possibility might be to reference by name one of my E2 w/u's.

With one tiny tiny exception, the rest of this information has not been updated since at least 2005 . . .

Biographical sketch

I'm an "unemployed" kernel hacker who would rather live in Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada than make a living doing kernel hacking (and I've really enjoyed making a living doing kernel hacking from time to time over the years). I graduated from the University of Alberta with a BSc (honours) in Computing Science in 1979 and have managed to spend almost all of my career getting paid to do things that I like to do (i.e. kernel hacking, software development, lecturing, kernel hacking, software architecture development, kernel hacking, traveling, kernel hacking, etc).

My "day job" is to provide clustering expertise (high availability and high performance computing) via Matilda Systems Corporation with my partner in Ontario, Canada (nothing quite like having a business partner who's a three and a half hour commercial airline flight away to make the whole process more interesting).

Just so we're clear: kernel hacking in particular and hacking in general is an honourable practice which has its origins at MIT. It has nothing to do with breaking into computer systems, a practice which should be called by a more appropriate name like trespassing, theft or vandalism.

Areas that I intend to mine

For the sake of simplicity and clarity, all links in this section are to writeups that I've written (apologies if you're unfamiliar with a term that I've not yet written anything about - try the "Search" window at the top of your browser screen).

As there is no hope of me being able to keep the following lists up-to-date, I don't intend to even try. I'll try to provide a sample writeup for each topic (assuming one exists yet) but the wu's that appear below are most likely to simply be the ones that I like the best.

More details

I'm not sure that this belongs here (i.e. it may disappear or it may stay).

I've been involved with computing for over twenty five years and I've found the time to

  • be a systems programmer on a pair of System/370 mainframes configured in a highly availability cluster (they didn't call it that back then) which supported a real-time process control application that was running one of the biggest oil refineries in Canada
  • do kernel hacking on a System/370-based operating system called the Michigan Terminal System (two of the stranger tasks was to do some work on the disk unit check routines and implement a paging device driver for the IBM 2301 Drum Storage Unit that used self-modifying channel programs)
  • chase a few system vandals (literally as in "through a building and down a flight of stairs" on one occasion)
  • lecture in Computing Science
  • do software testing, compiler construction, kernel hacking, distributed operating system development, hardware requirements analysis and acceptance testing, and applications programming for Myrias Research Corporation on a massively parallel computing system (on the way by we managed to build a then world's record sized parallel computer system (1047 processors))
  • work with a very interesting fellow to develop a cellular automata-based simulation of the Crown-of-Thorns starfish phenomenon on the Great Barrier Reef
  • develop software for a point-of-care nursing information system
  • manage a herd of cats software developers
  • write some kernel-level software in my spare time that ended up in the Linux, NetBSD, FreeBSD, OpenBSD and even Mac OS X kernels (if you run any version of Mac OS X then you are running an operating system that includes kernel code that I wrote)
  • develop software for a large scale document imaging system targeted at litigation support
  • implement and attempt to market (in partnership with another fellow) a transparent firewall toolkit
  • teach all sorts of AIX-related courses and do a bit of course development here and there
  • get involved with high availability again with IBM's AIX-based HACMP product
  • architect a _very_ large scale distributed digital content delivery system
  • start about a half dozen companies
  • travel to many parts of the U.S., Australia, Great Britain, France, Germany, Austria and every province in Canada (so far). I almost made it to the Soviet Union twice (to satisfy a desire for knowledge; not for any misguided ideological reasons) but the 1973 Arab-Israeli war killed one trip and the 1980 Olympic boycott killed the other one
  • (really important) get to know some interesting people, some of whom I'll be doing writeups on eventually:
  • (most important of all) get married and raise a child (still a "work in progress")

Did I mention that I like to do kernel hacking?


My inefficient hello world programs writeup poses a final question (see the node for details). The answer is:
It will take twenty seven doublings to reduce the execution time of the program to under one year. If performance doubles every two years then it will be possible to run the program to completion on a computer which is purchased in the year 2003 + 2*27 or 2057 (i.e. the program will finish before the end of 2057 if you start it on a newly purchased computer shortly before my hundredth birthday in January of 2057 and it won't finish before the end of 2057 if you run it on a newly purchased computer in January of 2056).
It's (just barely) possible that I'll still be alive then so please send me an e-mail when you get the result (please include in your e-mail a short description of what you've been up to lately and let me know if it's possible to boot a typical "personal computer" in under a minute yet).

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