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The Infamous SCSH Scheme Shell “Acknowledgements” (1994) (scsh.net)
174 points by pcr910303 5 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 46 comments

He also once wrote:

"Enough of this last-minute, stay-of-execution, midnight-phone-call-from-the-governor stuff. Throw the switch and let's fry this thing."


Also: “First, do you understand the difference between a dissertation and a thesis? A thesis is an idea. A dissertation is a document that supports your thesis. After you write your dissertation explaining why your thesis is a good one, you have to stand up in front of a crowd and defend it -- the thesis defence. It is best if you can capture your thesis in a single sentence. If you can do this, make it sentence #1 of your dissertation, and repeat this sentence, word for word, wherever you need to drive home the point of your dissertation. This is a tremendous aid in focussing your work. A side benefit is that it provides an unassailable defense to an entire class of attacks on your work. For example, should someone attack your work by pointing out that it does not scale, you simply reply,

You may be correct, but right or wrong, your point is irrelevant. My thesis is that "crossbreeding gerbils with hamsters provides an order of magnitude speedup over standard treadmill technology." I clearly demonstrate factors of 12-17 in my dissertation; I make no claims beyond an order of magnitude.

This is one of the benefits of focus.”


This is another paragraph that works for me:

The point is: what are you trying to show? The point is: what is your point? If you can get that straight in your head, and put it up front at the beginning of your document, you will be able to proceed in a straight line. You will know what things are essential, and what things are distractions or detours. You will know when to stop writing: when you have demonstrated your thesis. If your thesis committee makes unreasonable demands of you, you will be able to tell them: "(a) My thesis, as stated, is a solid advancement of the field, and (b) I have supported my thesis. This is all I need to do to graduate; your requests are above and beyond this threshold. Cancel them and give me my degree."

A classic.

Autoweapons too: http://www.ccs.neu.edu/~shivers/autoweapons.html.

"He just couldn't get it through his head that I didn't want to hear about Interlisp, and I damn sure didn't want to hear about 9-fucking-millimeter automatics; we were a Zetalisp/.223 project. I finally gave up on him; that was the first time I'd ever personally encountered the east coast/west coast split in Lisp style and weapons choice."

It reads exactly like an Onion article!

I am very fond of Berkeley. I think that while LA represents the dark, twisted climb-the-water-tower-and-start-shooting-until-the-Marines-settle-it side of California weirdness, Berkeley represents the very best of the pure, innocent-killer side of it all.

> A 10 oz. Jack 'n Zac helps me get through the meetings without one of my students winding up with his severed head in a bowling-ball bag.

This is very colorful. He should have written thriller novels. Shame he wasted his life doing "something with computers".

The reference to “Tops-20 JSYS manuals” is analogous to “Linux syscall wiki”. “JSYS” is the opcode for “Jump into the operating SYStem” on Digital Equipment’s 36-bit mainframes.

Can you get hardcover Print-outs of the Linux man pages, syscalls or other sections? Huge printed manual sections on shelves appears to be a thing of the past...

I haven't seen anyone selling them commercially. But if you could find high-quality lever-arch binders and the right kind of blank paper you could presumably make your own Linux version of the Big Grey Wall http://www.jargon.net/jargonfile/b/BigGrayWall.html . I assume that the core APIs change slowly enough nowadays that printing new pages often enough to keep the wall up to date would not be infeasible. One possible problem: IDK if all the snags involved in converting man page troff into other formats are fully ironed out, even now. http://man7.org/linux/man-pages/man1/gropdf.1.html Probably the bigger reason not to is that the arrival of cheap tablets and laptops, multi-monitor and/or ultrawide-monitor desktop setups and AR/VR is eroding the remaining usefulness of such hardcopy docs. It still might be a marginally-useful fashion statement for a whole office of programmers who build directly on the Linux APIs fairly regularly.

Probably the nearest thing that's available off the shelf (no pun intended) is a hardcover copy of Kerrisk http://man7.org/tlpi/ , which actually happens to be on a slightly-higher-than-usual discount this very weekend: https://nostarch.com/tlpi .

I have used eprinting services to bind APIs as a book before. It's nice - definitely worth the money if you plan on using something a lot.

Interesting. Which services did you use, and were you happy with the service and prices? Did you find anyone who will print pages punched for ring-binding?

I used lulu - and I just printed the html documentation (it was for Allegro 5) as a novel-size book. The price was fine. Other than that, it wasn't significantly more difficult than ordering any other book - so I have no real feeling for the service. They have a sort of web design app which was predictably terrible, but it didn't really bother me because I didn't want anything on the cover.

Even better would be to run them off on a dot matrix printer.

Ah the '90s, when talking about how much you hate the world and would like to do violence to it was cool, instead of a way to get banned from social media.

It got you banned from publishers except when you had a ton of reputation already, so no much changed really...

Originally posted by pg in 2007: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=76462

And my good self in 2010.


I'm not bitter though. Not any more.

What's the story behind this?

I had Olin as a professor while he was still at Georgia Tech.

Below is roughly as I recall from him telling the story. Olin has a colorful sense of humor (see his usenet posts).

The anti-acknowledgements page was originally intended for his doctoral thesis. It was going to contain everyone who discouraged or otherwise hindered his efforts to degree (e.g. parents, girlfriend). His advisor talked him out of it.

Later when he was at the one of MIT's lab he puts in the SCSH manual. The manual gets printed and distributed. He doesn't hear anything. Later he gets called into the head of the lab's office. Olin comes in and sits down. The director takes out the manual and opens it to the acknowledgements section. The first question is "Who has been stealing your work?", the second one is "do you need to go into rehab?". Olin tells him it's a joke. It ended up being a career limiting move for him.

And I had him as a professor later, at Northeastern. He said it turns out it's really easy to convince someone you're crazy, and then really hard to convince someone you're actually not.

A lot of people are working hard to keep it under control. Those who show signs that they can't will be viewed with much wariness, as we anticipate the next outburst that will do physical damage.

Proving that that one outburst is a one-off and nothing to worry about is justifiably hard.

He's had tenure at Northeastern University since 2006. NEU is an R1 university in Boston. His dissertation has 741 citations in Google Scholar, where his h-index is 19. Matt Might is among his advisees. He might not win the Turing Award but I think his career is doing okay; he's probably one of the world's most successful 128 computer scientists.

I didn't mean to imply he screwed up his life. My intent was just to convey the anecdote as I remember him telling it. I recall he referred to it a 'CLM' at that time. That was likely just his oratory flair.

Oh, I can totally believe he would have described it that way. And for someone else it might have been. But his career doesn't seem to have been particularly limited by it.

Sad to hear that!

Related viewpoint from a contemporary: Greenspun's "Reinventing professionalism for software engineers" https://philip.greenspun.com/ancient-history/professionalism...

I love the comment that some engineers are too arrogant or lacking in social skills to collaborate, and then gives the example of Linus Torvalds as someone who is humble and friendly.

Torvalds only unleashes his wrath on senior people who should know better. He gives voice to the masses.

Hardly surprising. What did he think was going to happen?

That everyone would get it was a joke?

Yeah, go figure. I'm glad it seems he was able to roll with it and go on being his awesome self, but there's a solid cautionary tale here: assume someone with power over you is going to find and take offense to your snark and it will hinder your forward momentum.

... that's the phrasing for sociopaths. For everyone else, you can summarize it as "Don't be an asshole."

I have made some similar career limiting moves in the past, and I regret none of them. The single thing I am most grateful for is being privileged to be in a situation where I don't have to dial down the snark to survive. I've known people for whom it would have been a "roof over your head" limiting move, and that sucks.

I do try to keep the snark to a minimum on hn though, because I firmly believe that I should only be an asshole to someone if I'm also granting them the opportunity to punch me in the face.

My apologies for the few times I've not done so.

Or as I've put it, everything you say will be given the least charitable interpretation possible by the least reasonable person in the world -- a person with your boss's phone number.

Things like this being a potentially career-limiting move — especially these days — is a strong argument for more software developers to start their own businesses.

I consider it a serious and grave problem that if someone takes issue with your worldview — or if you merely ask the "wrong" questions, or even if you ask completely innocent questions that are misinterpreted — they'll go after your livelihood.

Case in point: http://www.tersbakis.com/news/17661/how-swedish-professors-l...

He did and he turned out fine - he co-founded a dotcom and then afterwards became a professor.

You have someone who publicly says they're a hair away from committing multiple acts of murder, carry a gun with them and are a barely functioning alcoholic. Do you expect people to not take alcoholism and murder, with means on hand, seriously?

Wasn't the Terminator elected governor of California? I expect people to only take violence seriously when it's, you know, real.

Of course that specific case should be taken seriously. I'm not sure what made you think I thought otherwise.

As long as we're linking to other pieces he wrote, "The History of T" is fascinating. (Mostly not funny.)


He also wrote a chapter in the unix haters handbook.

Is this the same Olin Shivers as [0]?

[0] https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/95333577/olin-shivers

No - I believe he's at Northeastern University. It's humor - don't take it as anything but that.

  He saved a few lives
  and a nice old house
One wonders if they're related.


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