Figuring

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This blog is named ‘Rose Glace’s Blog.’ This morning, Michelle asked (apparently not for the first time) why.

It’s VMS‘s fault. Sort of.

VMS is/was a computer operating system that you’ve probably never heard of. It’s an incredibly stable and fairly easy to use operating system that had the advantage (which was also a disadvantage) of being proprietary when its main competitor sort of wasn’t. (The era of the killer micros was hard on computer vendors. They sold a lot of product, it’s true, but they had to embrace the ‘openness’ of Unix and at the same time sell their own proprietary version that they had to argue was somehow ‘better’ than all the others to justify its proprietariness.(Is that even a word?) This level of blatant doublethink probably drove an entire generation of sales droids to madness. Not that you’d be able to tell.)

Where was I? VMS. VMS was a darned good operating system (more than good enough to steal from) but far from perfect. And I’ve mentioned that VMS was proprietary for a long time (I confess I don’t know its exact status today since I haven’t used it in twenty years.) The company that owned it was sort of like VMS — good in a lot of ways but with… warts. For one thing, it was often — but not always — incredibly inflexible. (For example, I remember an OS upgrade that rendered some third-party hardware non-functional. Even though they had no requirement to fix this, the DEC service arm did. For free. But unofficially: “We were never here; you found those parts in a dumpster somewhere.”)

On the other hand, sometimes (often? usually?) DEC was very bondage-and-discipline. Very ein-zwei. Rules-oriented. All about Processes and Procedures.

In other words, Difficult.

Unsurprisingly, this led to massive frustration (perhaps ‘widespread’ would be a better word — it wasn’t a ‘massive’ community, after all) but also prompted widespread humour. In particular, one famous (again, ‘famous’ might not be the right word) screed that came out of this community had the simple title ‘See figure 1.‘ It was born from the frustration of dealing with DEC and its various support arms, especially the VMS ‘support’ group. (Although VMS was darned good, no one — except the vendor — would ever claim that it was perfect.)

‘See figure 1’ had something to say about a lot of things. Including the default settings within the VMS operating system:

Defaults.  We put a lot of thought into our defaults.  We like them.  If we didn’t, we would have made something else be the default.  So keep your cotton-picking hands off our defaults. Don’t touch.  Consider them mandatory.  “Mandatory defaults” has a nice ring to it.  Change them and your system crashes, tough. See figure 1.

Of course this coloured my attitude toward defaults. (A bit. I mean, I never believed that The Vendor Was Always Right (because they clearly aren’t) but the folks that set defaults are sometimes clever people who have reasons for doing what they do. In particular, sometimes they have reasons for choosing particular values and making them the default. There is value in understanding those reasons before doing the bull-in-a-china-shop thing and changing stuff willy-nilly.)

Anyway, this blog was originally created because someone asked me how hard it was to create a blog. Because it was an experiment, a test, a proof-of-concept if you will, I took the proffered defaults even though they weren’t mandatory defaults. And the default name was… ‘Rose Glace’s Blog.’

Michelle also asks “…what it [the title] means to you.”

That one’s easy.

See Figure 1.

 

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The Author

Rose Glace is the pseudonym of nobody important.

1 Comment

  1. Pingback: Blanking – Rose Glace's Blog

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