My Money and My Sanity Went To Miskatonic University

Visited good old Miskatonic U (also known as Brooklyn College) today. I needed to beg for a stupid requirement waiver. I hate organized education.

Some professor at the CS department threw out a bunch of old computer books from the departmental library. I picked up some, among them “System/360-370 Assembler Language (DOS)” by Kevin McQuillen. Among other coolness, every chapter in the book was illuminated by a photograph of a programmer or a group of programmers.

See, in 1978 programmers always looked cool.

Even just repairing perforated tape, Tom Jennings’ favorite medium.

Or sitting at a terminal and not even looking at the blinkenlights.

The Mystery of Obidos

Whoa, caught while it was down.
They are showing a page with Rufus, the Amazon dog.

By the way, I was meaning to write about that for some time now. Did you ever notice enigmatic word “obidos” in Amazon url?

Some theories from usenet:

  • Castle near Lisbon
  • OBI (Wan Kenobi) + DOS (Disk Operating System)
  • ‘OBI’ = Object Broker Interface

    This seems to be the correct answer though: Obidos is is a major port on the Amazon river.

    Livejournal user hallerlake had this to add:

    “I worked at Amazon for a couple of years, and can mostly answer that.

    Obidos is the area where the Amazon is “concentrated” – it narrows to a point about a mile wide and a couple hundred feet deep. It’s the chokepoint of the Amazon. A wry sense of humor turned that to the naming scheme.

    The Amazon Marketplace (auctions+zshops+third party) code was called Varzea for similar reasons – it’s the delta point of the amazon river, where the river fans out.

    Amazon wrote their own web serving environment because the selection of scripting/webcontrol languages when they got started was so lousy. They had to call it something, so obidos it was. :) ”

    Obidos is huge, it might be over a gig by now. I don’t think it’s that bad, though. I haven’t been at Amazon for a few years. For a long time Amazon ran on the Netscape web server environment, then eventually moved to a specially tuned Apache. But yeah, the webservers had a lot of RAM in them so that we could fork a bunch of different processes… and a garbage collector got added to take care of some of the memory leaks. Even still we had a service that killed and restarted processes every hundred accesses or so. It wasn’t pretty.

    I don’t know who came up with the name… I’d bet on Shel Kaphan or possibly Joel Spiegel. Shel set the direction for the company’s software development and architecture, including standardization on C (instead of C++) due to easier debugging. Certainly for the first few years he was The Guy for software architecture; these days I would imagine Al Vermeulen has that task.

  • Prison For Dummies

    dmierkin posted a link to a dictionary of US prison slang. Well, I thought. There must be some books geared toward people who are going to prison, right? And surely there are. There is a somewhat outdated You Are Going to Prison
    the ever popular DownTime : A Guide to Federal Incarceration, and informative Behind Bars: Surviving Prison.

    What’s the audience for these books? Corrections officers, criminology students, and even some convicted felons. And me, I guess.

    From an excerpt from a review:

    I am on the way to FEDERAL prison and thought that this book would be helpful. Instead I found the book to concentrate on MAXIMUM security prisons. More akin to the Shawshank Redemption than information about what white-collar types will experience. […] White collar types will find that book much more helpful. […]

    I half expected a “For Dummies®” title to be available, but alas. Either they won’t touch such a topic, or they just did not think of it yet.

    If I had more room for books, I’d probably collect the entire “For Dummies®” series. They have fine titles like “Judaism For Dummies®”, AOLTVâ„¢ For Dummies® and Sex For Dummies®, 2nd Edition. Some books are pretty interesting, some are funny and some will become rarities. Gotta research them some more. There must be a lot of interesting trivia about “Dummies®”, like what was their first book, how they became so successful, etc.

    Hmm, they started in 1991, and “Dos for Dummies®” was the first book. Interesting.