[TUHS] ATC/OSDI'21 joint keynote: It's Time for Operating Systems to Rediscover Hardware (Timothy Roscoe)

Jon Steinhart jon at fourwinds.com
Fri Sep 17 11:38:21 AEST 2021

Marshall Conover writes:
> Separately, for the larger discussion, I think the
> abstraction-aerospace-engineering seen over the last few decades comes
> from the adage "necessity is the mother of invention." People writing
> business logic today are targeting an OS-independent platform: the
> browser.

Wow.  I think that it would be more accurate to say that people writing
business logic today are targeting the browser because other people
are going through the trouble of porting it to different platforms.
Doesn't seem to me the best use of resources given that browsers are
more complex than operating systems.  And I've had many an experience
with things that are not portable among browsers.  Of course, given
that firefox is trying to die by regularly alienating users and that to
a first approximation much everything else is chrome or chrome based,
you're effectively saying that people are targeting a single operating
system even though we don't call a brower an OS.

And while there's no going back, I think that browsers suck.  Doesn't seem
that anybody had the foresight in the early days to realize that they
were really building a virtual machine, so the one that we have ended up
with is a Rube Goldberg contraption.

CSS is one of the brower components that I find especially appalling.
I understand its genesis and all that.  Would be lovely to be able to
make stuff just work without having to "program".  Despite revision after
revision it's still impossible to lay out things as desired without
reverting to JavaScript.  While it didn't start that way, at this
point there are so many properties with twisty and often undocumented
interactions that it would be better to toss it and just write programs.
Of course, programming is "hard" and it's supposedly easier to pore
though online forums looking for answers to questions like "I think that
this can be done but I have no idea how so can someone please share an
incantation with me.  I personally prefer a language that has a small
number of primitives that can be combined in an understandable manner
than a huge number of poorly documented primitives that no one person
fully understands.  And don't tell me that JavaScript is the answer; while
it has some good, it suffers from being the dumping ground for people
who were never able to get their favorite feature into other languages;
it's an incoherent mess.

I know that Larry and Clem and I agree on the value of past work.  I was a
proofreader for Alan Wirf-Brock's 20 years of JavaScript article.  I was
busy with other stuff when JavaScript began so wasn't familiar with some
of the history.  Kind of shook my head reading about Eich's big week-long
sprint to get the parser up and running.  Though to myself that it would
have only been a half-day sprint at most had he used existing tools such
as lex and yacc, and had he done so we wouldn't still be suffering from
the optional semicolon problem 20 years later.

Don't mean to offend anybody here, all just my opinion.


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