Tuesday, 21 February 2017

10:40 – It was 43F (6C) when I took Colin out this morning, with no wind. Today I’ll be working on taxes again and Barbara will be filling containers this morning and volunteering at the Friends of the Library bookstore this afternoon. She made chicken fried rice for dinner last night, all from long-term storage food.

One of the most time-consuming parts of doing taxes is figuring expenses. For most business purchases, I create a purchase order, and then have to go through every PO and total expenses in different categories. That’s not as easy as it sounds. As just one example, I may issue a PO to one of our vendors for, say, $1,500. But that doesn’t include shipping, which I find out the cost of only when I get the actual invoice from them. I then have to go back to our corporate check register and match PO#’s to checks written to verify the total. Even worse, if I paid by credit card, I have to find those transactions and update the totals for each PO.

So this year I’ve done something I swear I’ll do every year: keep a running journal/register of PO’s and update it as I actually get the final data. That should make things a lot faster when I do taxes next year.

There were several comments and emails about Jen’s guest post yesterday, all of which said they’d like to hear more from her. Meanwhile, I’d also sent emails to several other regular visitors inviting them to make guest posts as well. I got email last night from Jenny (not Jen) in Alaska accepting the offer, so I hope to see a series of posts from her starting in the near future.

If I didn’t send you email, please don’t take it as an insult. If you have something to say and want to say it here, please let me know. In sending invites, I was looking for unique viewpoints. I asked Jenny because she’s (a) prepping in Alaska at the end of a very long supply line, and (b) she’s a woman, and we don’t have many women here who do anything but lurk. I’ve not intentionally made this an old-boys club, but that’s the way it’s worked out. Having active participation by more women would be a Good Thing.

* * * * *

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101 Responses to Tuesday, 21 February 2017

  1. Dave Hardy says:

    38 here and mostly that bright overcast, a relatively gentle breeze. And the usual intermittent rain and snow showers predicted, with temps rising into the high 40s and low 50s.

    Chores and errands again today, exciting.

  2. Dave says:

    I liked reading Jen’s post, but it seems a little strange to see it under your byline. Oh, well, I’ll just have to pay more attention and click on the “Guest Post – Jen” tag if I want to see her posts.

    I think it would be a great idea to have more guest posts, particularly from the female perspective.

  3. pcb_duffer says:

    As a third generation businessman, I feel obliged to note that creating an expense ledger should have been done from day one. Very, very simple to do with a spreadsheet, let alone with any of the fairly cheap software packages available. Also, since you’re putting company expenses on a credit card, get a different card just for that purpose, and *never* allow that card to be used for personal items. You might have to split you Costco runs onto two different receipts, for example, but it’s not really that hard to do. (I don’t know that you don’t do this, but I offer it as a lesson to readers who might be going into business for the first time.)

  4. MrAtoz says:

    I’ve used some type of software package ever since we started in business. First was Quicken when we were a sole prop, then Quickbooks when we inc’d, and now, Quickbooks Online. Since we’ve had employees all over the country, QBO has worked out great. We run $3-5 million gross a year, so keeping books any other way but an accounting package would be a PITA. YMMV.

  5. Dave Hardy says:

    Once I get cranking here I’ll probably just start out with Gnucash hooked up to a biz account at our bank. If things get heavier, I may go with Quicken running under Crossover for Linux.

  6. RickH says:

    @RBT : you can set a post ‘author’ to someone else. Just need to have them as a user in your WP Admin page. Then change it on the post editing page.

    You might have to use the dropdown (upper right corner) of the edit page to enable showing the author.

  7. Minnesota Dave says:

    We had good weather for maple taps starting about 4 days ago. Going slowly but I got about 5 gallons sap out this morning. I’m trying a big countertop roaster on my deck this year to drop the cost of boiling it down. We will see how well it works. Should be good weather for it for a couple days, then too cold for a week.

    Even on this northern Minnesota Clinton island, I’m hearing discontent from my Democrat friends. The “deplorable” speech and the anti-gun crusade did not please people that work and hunt around here.

    Another excess Dave.

  8. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    I don’t have Jen set up as a user, per her request.

  9. Dave Hardy says:

    “…about 5 gallons sap out this morning….”

    Outstanding! I’ll be checking on the outcomes here in northwestern Vermont over the next few weeks; we like to stop by the actual sugar houses and pick up gallon milk jugs of their syrup for $25-40 depending on grade.

    Meanwhile, somebody should do a tally of just how many friggin’ “Daves” are on this board, yikes.

  10. Dave Hardy says:

    In case anyone still thinks all our worries are over and zippity-doo-dah what a wonderful day, etc.:

    http://www.thedailysheeple.com/the-illusion-of-freedom-the-police-state-continues_022017

  11. Dave says:

    I don’t have Jen set up as a user, per her request.

    I understood that. I was wondering if you could post as another user for her instead of as you. Never mind, just explaining it is more hassle than its worth.

  12. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    We also have three Jennifers (Jen, Jenny, and Jennifer, the latter two of whom aren’t actually on the board, but talk to me via email).

  13. Dave Hardy says:

    Here is what a contemporary systems administrator on the UNIX/Linux side of IT is expected to know at the organization which bought out the IBM plantations up here where I used to work until four years ago:

    “Summary of Role:

    The UNIX Systems Administrator will be responsible for the build and support/maintenance activities of Red Hat Enterprise Linux systems. Must be a self-starter, capable of simultaneously prioritizing and managing a variety of complex project tasks and operational support activities in a fast-paced environment. In addition, IBM AIX experience is a plus. The ideal candidate will also have experience with enterprise SAN/NAS storage systems, particularly as related to implementation on UNIX servers. The UNIX administrator will be responsible for providing technical expertise and support to application teams and delivery managers within the organization. This person will be also be responsible for documenting processes and automating them via scripting, as required. This individual will also be part of a 24×7 on-call rotation providing support for the production UNIX systems. Candidate must possess solid analytical, technical, written and oral communication skills.

    Essential Responsibilities:

    Lead technical discussions for new initiatives & solutions as per IT roadmap.
    Provision, install and maintain UNIX systems, particularly RedHat Linux systems.
    Perform proactive analysis of infrastructure capacity and performance.
    Initiate preventive maintenance on the operating systems as well as manage repair of system/environment problems.
    Analyze system faults and troubleshoot and run diagnostic tests on operating systems and hardware to detect problems.
    Document tasks, procedures, environments for setting up and maintaining systems.
    Perform system backup and recovery.
    Develop process automation
    Solid understanding of best practices and an ability to implement them.
    Work collaboratively with other staff.
    Manage setup and provisioning of storage resources.
    Review existing Infra landscape & look for opportunity to improve.
    Bring innovation or explore new opportunities in the IT Infrastructure space.
    Act as an escalation point for technical solutions.
    Provide on job training/coaching when required.
    Knowledge transfer to the team members through regular soft-skill or technical bulletin/sessions.
    Perform all activities in a safe and responsible manner and support all Environmental, Health, Safety & Security requirements and programs

    Required Qualifications:

    Associate and/or Bachelor’s Degree from an accredited college or university with a focus in Computer Science, IT Technology and 6 years of IT experience/ or a High School Diploma / GED with a minimum of 8 years of job relevant IT experience
    Applicant must be a U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident of the U.S.,
    ​or a ​protected individual as defined by 8 U.S.C. 1324b(a) (3),”

    Preferred Qualifications:

    Able to support, configure, and deploy Red Hat Enterprise Linux, IBM AIX, and/or Sun Solaris systems.
    Experience in mission-critical operations, ideally within a 24×7 large scale distributed and clustered environment.
    Fluent with shell scripting, PERL and UNIX utilities. Skill to automate routine tasks.
    Performance tuning and system optimization.
    Understanding of/experience with local/wide area networking concepts/protocols.
    Familiarity in the following areas is also a plus:

    Kickstart, puppet, Apache, revision control systems, LDAP, clustering/high availability, PERL, JSS, Windows clients, Nagios, Cisco switches and routers

    Provisioning and support of NetApp NAS storage, HP & EMC SAN storage, and Brocade SAN switches will be big plus.
    Strong problem solving and troubleshooting skills.
    Ability to troubleshoot standard daemons and tools (ssh, nfs, ntp, apache, pki, sudo, syslog, logrotate, chkconfig, init scripts, rsync, etc.).
    Excellent interpersonal and communication skills.
    Interact with vendors in the resolution of complex problems.
    Familiarity with VMware and/or other virtualization technologies.
    Excellent technical documentation skills.
    Experience in the semiconductor industry is an additional asset.
    Effectively communicate with customers, help desk support personnel and senior engineers.”

    Want much? And I’m betting that the pay and bennies are roughly the same as I had four years ago, too. If even.

  14. Miles_Teg says:

    When I started work in 1980 it was wonderful. Well paid, interesting, not stressful, I didn’t even need a completed degree in CS.

    Nowadays I’d be horrified if friends or family went into IT.

    Greg the frustrated electrical engineer.

  15. Miles_Teg says:

    Dave, you’re aiming too low. Go for a higher level management position that requires less qualifications.

  16. Dave Hardy says:

    Yeah, no kidding. Go into management and rake in the bucks and pretend to know IT chit at meetings and when touring a data center. Except I’m like Dilbert: I’d rather be dead.

  17. Greg Norton says:

    Able to support, configure, and deploy Red Hat Enterprise Linux, IBM AIX, and/or Sun Solaris systems.

    Good luck finding someone with the AIX background. Competent Solaris admin talent is also getting rare. Long before Oracle, Sun shot themselves in the foot with their cr*ppy C++ compiler.

    Fluent with shell scripting, PERL and UNIX utilities. Skill to automate routine tasks.

    Perl skils are also getting hard to find. It is a “write only” language IMHO anyway.

  18. Dave Hardy says:

    “When I started work in 1980 it was wonderful. Well paid, interesting, not stressful, I didn’t even need a completed degree in CS.”

    Ditto for me starting in 1984; good teams of guys to work, well-treated by management than at DEC and DEC sites, and I hadn’t even gotten my BA in English Lit yet. Things started going sour at DEC by 1988-89 when they let in the MBA suits and womyn-on-business witches.

    Left and went to grad skool for several years and then went back in at a DEC customer site, and then moved to Vermont and state gummint. Things were OK there for a while, too, and then yet another harpy rolled in and got rid of the VAX machines and made life utterly miserable.

    IBM was also pretty good for about 18 months and then we were moved out of our offices and made to share offices while some other group moved in, and meanwhile my work load doubled as I was tasked with covering a certain person’s endless vay-cay and personal time on top of my own chit, which was already piling up. So they hired three more guys and then laid us all off a couple of weeks later.

    My view on that (current) job description that I posted above is that those responsibilities would have normally been shouldered by two or three IT people; now they want one to do it all for the same or lesser pay and bennies. Good luck to them finding someone with all that up here, too.

  19. Dave Hardy says:

    “Good luck finding someone with the AIX background.”

    I also did AIX support during my time at IBM, while one of the AIX guys was learning Red Hat. Also did shell scripting with bash and vim but not Perl. The AIX guy had Java and my manager/boss had some Python and that was it. Nobody had the Solaris stuff and we winged it.

    We also did our own hardware and data center network stuff internally while AT&T did the external. Plus security. I was the backup RHEL security admin for my boss.

    All just dross and dust in the wind now. Fuck ’em all.

  20. Ray Thompson says:

    Go for a higher level management position that requires less qualifications

    Go for the CEO job, a position that requires no qualifications.

    I tried management once and I really sucked at it. Did not like the job with the hassles of vendors, customers, budgets, staff, etc.

    It is a “write only” language IMHO anyway

    As is C and many of it’s variants. Writing incomprehensible code can be done in any language. C just makes writing such code easier and sometimes it just happens without your knowledge.

  21. lynn says:

    As is C and many of it’s variants. Writing incomprehensible code can be done in any language. C just makes writing such code easier and sometimes it just happens without your knowledge.

    I can write Fortran in any language.

  22. CowboySlim says:

    “I can write Fortran in any language.”

    Roger that! I was doing on the job Fortran II 53 years ago. Feeding code into the IBM 7090 on 80 column punched cards.

  23. Greg Norton says:

    As is C and many of it’s variants. Writing incomprehensible code can be done in any language. C just makes writing such code easier and sometimes it just happens without your knowledge.

    Perl is really ugly to maintain with all of the special macro shortcuts. I call the language the “Guru Full Employment Act of 1994”.

    The big problem with C is that, to a lot of developers of my generation, it is a hammer, and, as the old saying goes, once you have a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

    Anymore, if I don’t need the performance C/C++ provide, I use Python. I also have a grudging respect for PHP to the point that it may be a dissertation topic.

  24. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    Yep. I started in college on an IBM 704 in Fortran on punched cards.

  25. lynn says:

    “Study: Venezuelans lost 19 lbs. on average over past year due to lack of food”
    http://www.foxnews.com/world/2017/02/20/study-venezuelans-lost-19-lb-on-average-over-past-year-due-to-lack-food.html

    Ah, the new bodybuilding of dumpster diving and diet of castoff food is working to help the general populace get healthier.

  26. RickH says:

    @RBT: re “Jen” as a ‘user’. You don’t need to enter her real email/info in the User screen. Just enter any email address, uncheck the box that says ‘send password to user’, enter her psuedonymn as the user name. Then enter the ‘Nickname’ as what you want to appear as the byline.

    The user info doesn’t need to be ‘real’, as all you are aiming for is a Nickname to use on the byline.

  27. RickH says:

    Re: programming languages: I’m working on a interactive program that teaches reading . Needs to be interactive (‘click here to hear the sentence’), some simple video, graphics. Would like it to be a standalone app, for iPad or Android.

    Could write it in PHP/MySQL (database to store settings/user info), and make it a web app. But think that a standalone app is better.

    Jeff Dunteman has suggested Lazarus/Free Pascal, or Python (both of those are good options, since they are free).

    Any other suggestions?

  28. Miles_Teg says:

    All hail Pascal! All hail Fortran!

    I learned my trade on a CDC 6400. None of this crappy IBM gear.

    All hail Seymour Cray! All hail Niklaus Wirth!

  29. Miles_Teg says:

    C/C++ code is like Hebrew. Looks like a fly with inky feet has walked all over it. Yuck.

  30. lynn says:

    Re: programming languages: I’m working on a interactive program that teaches reading . Needs to be interactive (‘click here to hear the sentence’), some simple video, graphics. Would like it to be a standalone app, for iPad or Android.

    What did Jerry Pournelle write Roberta’s reading program in ?
    http://www.readingtlc.com/

  31. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    @RickH

    Thanks. Actually, I just got email from Jen that I’m going to post tomorrow. I think I’ll just post this one under my account with “By “Jen”” as a title for that part of the post. But I’ll get her set up as a fake user. I’m just not sure I want to keep logging out and logging in just to have her posts listed under her own non-name.

  32. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    “What did Jerry Pournelle write Roberta’s reading program in ?”

    Stone table and cuneiform, IIRC.

  33. Dave Hardy says:

    All hail the late Ken Olsen!

    (who unfortunately once said that computers would never be in peoples’ homes.)

    All hail OpenVMS!

    All hail DCL!

  34. Miles_Teg says:

    In 1983 I told the boss that in a few years we’d have VAXen on the desktop. He laughed.

  35. Greg Norton says:

    Any other suggestions?

    If you are going for iOS, create a native binary. Fast, good multimedia support. The GUI will have to be Objective C or Swift, but you can mix in C/C++. iOS has had great C++11 support since the ink was barely dry on the standard.

    I would imagine that even Pascal would work if the compiler produced compatible object code.

    We have a group here at the university who are struggling with a cross platform app done with PhoneGap/Cordova. Avoid that approach.

  36. nick flandrey says:

    Apple hypercard originally, if my brain is working correctly.

    “What did Jerry Pournelle write Roberta’s reading program in ?””

    n

  37. nick flandrey says:

    Wow, what do you suppose a wide format printer COSTS when they are running a $9000 off special?

    n

  38. Greg Norton says:

    In 1983 I told the boss that in a few years we’d have VAXen on the desktop. He laughed.

    We essentially do have VAXen on desktops. David Cutler was a principal architect on both VMS and NT, the foundation of modern Windows.

  39. medium wave says:

    … Go into management and rake in the bucks and pretend to know IT chit at meetings and when touring a data center. Except I’m like Dilbert: I’d rather be dead.

    Apparently because I’m fairly well-spoken, a cab driver once asked me if I was in management. My immediate, spontaneous, visceral response was to go into mock-offended mode, exclaiming “Good God, NO! Management is SCUM!” 🙂

    In re the C-language bashing here: code is only as good as the person writing it, whatever the language.

  40. Dave Hardy says:

    “David Cutler was a principal architect on both VMS and NT, the foundation of modern Windows.”

    Yup. And then he went on to the Azure thing and last I heard was beavering away on some kinda Xbox caper. He got lured away to Richmond after not being able to go with the flow anymore at DEC with Ken Olsen, Gordon Bell, et. al.

    And he hated UNIX.

  41. SteveF says:

    I’ve not intentionally made this an old-boys club

    Hey, you agist! “Old” is unacceptable. The correct word is grand–, er gran–, er granulated that’s it.

    Once I get cranking here I’ll probably just start out with Gnucash hooked up to a biz account at our bank.

    Suggestion: try hooking it up to your bank(s) before you’ve put even a minute into setting up your chart of accounts. GnuCash has gotten much much better, but as recently as last year a number of smaller banks won’t talk to it.

    Meanwhile, somebody should do a tally of just how many friggin’ “Daves” are on this board, yikes.

    Not to worry. You’re still the Original Friggin’ Dave.

    Any other suggestions?

    PHP/MySQL aren’t bad for a small application. It’s possible to write industrial-strength code in PHP. The problem is, the language does nothing to force you to write good code, and it’s very easy to write crap “just this one time to get this thing working”. I have a lot of other experience and thoughts on web app languages and frameworks, but I think you’re right about stand-alone being better.

    I have no advice for writing iOS and Android apps. I’ve written only toy apps for tablets.

  42. Greg Norton says:

    Yup. And then he went on to the Azure thing and last I heard was beavering away on some kinda Xbox caper. He got lured away to Richmond after not being able to go with the flow anymore at DEC with Ken Olsen, Gordon Bell, et. al.

    I thought Gordon Bell went to Microsoft in the 80s. I remember seeing his name on a Microsoft NT book when I worked for Egghead Software (how’s that for a blast from the past).

    All kinds of talent got sucked into Redmond for XBox, but I believe Seattle requires a certain personality type that I know I’m not.

    A few years ago, I was at a retro show lecture on Atari 2600 programming, and, on issues about 6502 programming, the presenter kept deferring to an older woman in front of me who he identified as Rebecca Heineman from XBox. Not being familiar with the name, I pulled out my phone for a quick Google and then it hit me — that was a post sex change Bill Heineman, 8 bit game programmer extraordinare!

  43. lynn says:

    We essentially do have VAXen on desktops. David Cutler was a principal architect on both VMS and NT, the foundation of modern Windows.

    “Show Stopper!: The Breakneck Race to Create Windows NT and the Next Generation at Microsoft”
    https://www.amazon.com/Show-Stopper-Breakneck-Generation-Microsoft/dp/0029356717

    Highly recommended.

    And he hated UNIX.

    Sacrilege ! We used Unix boxes (Apollos and IBM RS/6000s) for our calculation engine programming for over a decade. I love Unix and wish that Microsoft had bought the operating system to convert DOS to. Just the scripting alone is freaking awesome. We use The Thompson Toolkit implementation of SH for most of our scripting now. X-windows, not so much.

  44. Dave Hardy says:

    “I thought Gordon Bell went to Microsoft in the 80s.”

    1995-2015.

    “GnuCash has gotten much much better, but as recently as last year a number of smaller banks won’t talk to it.”

    Our bank is TD North, i.e., Toronto Dominion, and it’s pretty big. And I have detailed instructions for setting up Gnucash with them.

    ““Show Stopper!: The Breakneck Race to Create Windows NT and the Next Generation at Microsoft””

    Yup, got it and read it. A sequel of sorts to the earlier “Soul of a New Machine,” by Tracy Kidder, concerning the engineering team at Data General, where your humble northern correspondent first slaved on the wave solder machines during the midnight shift and then transferred to the day shift in the PC Fab Lab. circa 1978-79. One of my colleagues on the wave solder machine was a fellow ‘Nam vet, formerly underwater demolition, and boy, he had PTSD bad. Violent, too, but not to me. He felt a couple of guys out on the line had dissed his gf there so he just jumped over the benches and nailed them both. I had to pull him off, not fun, wiry little fuck.

  45. Ray Thompson says:

    In re the C-language bashing here: code is only as good as the person writing it, whatever the language.

    Some languages just make it easier.

    When I was working on compilers (generated actual binary code) written Algol I defined a variable called “Maybe”. Defined in the source it was something like “Boolean Maybe := Not True and Not False;”. Then in places in the code I would assign a boolean variable to Maybe. You had to know where in the code to find Maybe but being the clever (asshole) that I was it was in an included file and thus took some research to find the definition.

    There was a lot of competition between several of us code slingers. Sometimes we liked to play games in our code to make it difficult. Yeh, it was stupid and as I got older I got wiser and avoided such foolishness. I eventually learned making code readable was a much better method than trying to be clever.

  46. MrAtoz says:

    My view on that (current) job description that I posted above is that those responsibilities would have normally been shouldered by two or three IT people;

    Or one obeses, handicapped, minority, female lesbian. Box checked!

  47. RickH says:

    What did Jerry Pournelle write Roberta’s reading program in ?

    Delphi. But he doesn’t know where the source code is…and it’s hard for him to find it if he had any idea. I’ve got all the files he has.

    @RBT: re users: you don’t need to log in as Jen (or anyone) to write the post. Just create the post, then change the author to another user that exists. On the Edit Post page, click the “Screen Options” dropdown (upper right), select ‘Author’, and then you can select the ‘author’ of the post to be someone else.

  48. lynn says:

    What did Jerry Pournelle write Roberta’s reading program in ?

    Delphi. But he doesn’t know where the source code is…and it’s hard for him to find it if he had any idea. I’ve got all the files he has.

    I was wondering if you were updating that program. And Delphi was the language that I could not remember to save my life. Too bad that he lost the code.

    I’ve been a software developer for 40+ years now. And the question of how to move a desktop app to mobile app has got me stymied. There is no right answer but there are many wrong answers. Many people seem to be putting the user interface on the app and the guts of the software on a server somewhere. But, there are exceptions to that rule. I would interested in knowing how the process goes for you if you are interested.

  49. OFD says:

    “Or one obeses, handicapped, minority, female lesbian. Box checked!”

    You’ve got it all wrong, hermano. Someone with those qualifications would go directly into upper management and stay there until they either croaked or decided to retire; no way could they ever be fired. And they wouldn’t have to do jackshit, either. You’d never find them in the IT trenches; in fact, during all my time in IT dating back over thirty years, I only met one chick in the trenches, at DEC, and the same chick years later at EDS. And she wasn’t a lesbian or handicapped or a minority; white Italo-Murkan U.S. Army MP vet, formerly stationed in Germany. She was still a PITA, though.

  50. SteveF says:

    And the question of how to move a desktop app to mobile app has got me stymied.

    I’d probably first make a hard line between the UI and the “guts”. They’d communicate only through APIs. From your comments over the years, I’d guess this step will be a doozy.
    After that you could work on the back end, to move it to the cloud, or work on the front end, to put it on an iPad or a web interface or whatever.

  51. Greg Norton says:

    Sacrilege ! We used Unix boxes (Apollos and IBM RS/6000s) for our calculation engine programming for over a decade. I love Unix and wish that Microsoft had bought the operating system to convert DOS to. Just the scripting alone is freaking awesome. We use The Thompson Toolkit implementation of SH for most of our scripting now. X-windows, not so much.

    HP/Apollo workstations were great for playing X-pilot. 🙂

  52. lynn says:

    I’d probably first make a hard line between the UI and the “guts”. They’d communicate only through APIs. From your comments over the years, I’d guess this step will be a doozy.
    After that you could work on the back end, to move it to the cloud, or work on the front end, to put it on an iPad or a web interface or whatever.

    For us, easy peasy. Our user interface is a Win32 exe and our calculation engine is a Win32 exe (calling a huge Win32 dll after the first handshake).

    It is our user interface and data storage that are casually intertwined. And kinda, but not really. Our user interface was originally a Win16 C exe and the data storage was a Win16 smalltalk exe. The dialogs were in the smalltalk exe though. Oh, I could tell you long stories about the problems that we ran into trying to keep those two walking through the world hand in hand. I never want to do that again. And the smalltalk code was interpreted with horrendous performance problems due to the garbage collector running all the time. Never, never, never, never again.

  53. lynn says:

    HP/Apollo workstations were great for playing X-pilot.

    We use to play SWars on our Prime 450 and the 750 that replaced it. The 450 could handle three players and the 750 could handle six players. Fun, fun, fun.

  54. OFD says:

    I played Adventure on HP3000 terminals at Bose Corporation, circa 1979.

  55. SteveF says:

    I built my first computer using hamsters for the bits. And they kept moving when they weren’t supposed to! Uphill both ways! With wolves chasing them in the winter! And we were grateful!

  56. OFD says:

    You had hamsters???

    And wolves only in the winter???

  57. medium wave says:

    First programming language: Fortran II on an IBM 1620 using punched cards, followed much later by COBOL (for pay) and Algol (for fun), the latter both on a Burroughs B6800. C came only years later when I bought an Amiga.

    The high point of my B6800 days was harassing the operators by sending full screen animated character graphics created in Algol of overflowing beer mugs to the left and right (and sometimes both simultaneously) displays of the SPO.

    In case you’re wondering what my boss thought of all this: he was the one egging me on!

    My subsequent “career” at an IBM mainframe shop was considerably more … subdued.

    And now that I’m retired and can code in any language I want, that language is C++.

  58. Robert Bruce Thompson says:

    If I’d had a hamster I would have used it to feed my family, including Tiny Tim.

  59. RickH says:

    Re: Reading program (@Lynn)

    My current plan is to replicate the interface for a couple of lessons in PHP with some Javascript functions to handle button-presses for audio or video. (I’ve got that figured out, with some googles.)

    And I’ve got a good responsive framework that I’ll be using (HTML Kickstart) to create responsive pages.

    I’ve a pretty good (and secure/encrypted) database for user management (I used it in my http://www.NotHereAnymore.com site, which is still sort of hidden, since I haven’t figured out how to promote it yet.) So I can use that to manage user access to the program.

    And the googles have indicated there is a PHP-to-EXE process that can compile a PHP site into a standalone executable. Haven’t tried it yet, need to develop some test pages. And to test the MySQL part of the program with that.

    I don’t know python or other languages. I have time to learn them, but that’s a big extra step to do for this project.

    I’m thinking that most potential users will have internet access, so a web-based app in PHP/MySQL might be good enough. So, leaning towards that environment. (And, I’m on a limited budget, so can’t spend much more than free.)

    Right now, the program is on hiatus; no distribution. I’ve been interested in trying to convert it, and got Jerry to agree. And I do have a beta tester (almost 6 year old grandson in kindergarten learning to read),.

  60. OFD says:

    From the Department of Really Bad Squarehead Mistakes:

    https://westernrifleshooters.wordpress.com/2017/02/21/gov-end-game-for-sweden/

    So tRump issues a temporary ban on a few musloid shit-hole countries, not including the worst incubator of hadji terrorists, Saudi Arabia, and the lefties lose their fucking minds!

    Better to have your head slowly and painfully sawed off with a dull kitchen knife while the hooded hadji piece of shit behind you screams “Aloha Snackbar!” than to be called rayciss. What a country!

  61. MrAtoz says:

    hadji piece of shit behind you screams “Aloha Snackbar!”

    Admiral Ackbar! “It’s a trap!”

  62. Greg Norton says:

    I played Adventure on HP3000 terminals at Bose Corporation, circa 1979.

    You would probably like this. The documentary’s director attempted to talk to everyone connected with text adventure games in the 70s and 80s.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRhbcDzbGSU

  63. lynn says:

    And now that I’m retired and can code in any language I want, that language is C++.

    I love C++. It is everything that Fortran tried to be (byte based instead of word based, zero start indexing instead of one indexing, etc). And if things are not going well then you can just drop down into C for a near metal experience. Great performance, almost as good as Fortran.

    The one thing that continuously torques me off about C++ is the lack of a standard user interface toolkit on every platform. I mean, each platform has their own function for creating a window. Each platform has their own function for the file dialog. Why can’t these features be standardized ?

    I have yelled long and hard at the C++ committee members but they have the same message, that graphical user interfaces are too high level for C++. I am continuously amazed by this attitude. Instead, they want to keep on playing with templates and such periphery issues. Shoot, they had to be beaten down just to get the Standard Template Library into the language definition and now it is like they invented it.

  64. OFD says:

    “You would probably like this.”

    As I recall, the various text adventure games were a means to while away the nighttime hours while waiting for backups to finish, as opposed to studying o.s. manuals and documentation, with about the same potential for excitement.

    IIRC, Activision was the main purveyor back then, with the Zork Trilogy and a bunch of others I never got to play.

    I was just a lowly operator back then; that job role has long since disappeared to Robotville. And if you wanna be a sys admin these days, better know a whole alphabet’s worth of IT acronyms, have two or three programming languages down cold, and be willing to do the work of three people while on-call 7×24 and holidays for shit pay and bennies, just waiting to be canned any minute that the PHB manglers decide to offshore your job to Bangladesh or Slovakia. With the additional requirement of walking on eggshells all day so as not to offend some fucking snowflake by your mere existence and presence.

  65. OFD says:

    From the Shitty Week But Hope Springs Eternal Department:

    http://thesaker.is/trump-dreams-vs-trump-reality-hopes-still-permitted/

    Dumping Flynn was a bad mistake. Take a page from the Lefty Notebook, Donald, and just double-down on everything. If it fails, double-down again.

  66. OFD says:

    That slippery little piece of shit went all-out on his last few days in office, and looky here:

    https://lewrockwell.com/lrc-blog/making-homeland-secure-last-day-office/

    Fighter jets for fucking Kenya?? Gimme a break.

    What’s next? ICBMs for Madagascar?

  67. OFD says:

    From the Boycott Hollyweird Department:

    https://www.lewrockwell.com/2017/02/no_author/boycott-academy-awards/

    When was the last really good movie, anyway? I mean really good, not just special effects and 21st-C model-type chicks in 15th-C period dramas?

  68. Ed says:

    RickH,

    Xamarin is using C# as a cross platform base, claiming 80-90% common code across iOS, Android and Windows. The IDE and such is free.

    When I finish my Objective-C app I’m currently slogging through I’m going to take a pass at it.

    Amusingly enough I’m updating a Fortean code right now (engineering stuff). Fairly structured stuff, if one isn’t freaked out by Fortean 77.

  69. Ed says:

    Fortean, Fortran, whatever – gotta love autocorrect.

  70. Greg Norton says:

    IIRC, Activision was the main purveyor back then, with the Zork Trilogy and a bunch of others I never got to play.

    Activision bought Infocom, the creators of Zork and many other text adventures. The company *still* aggressively enforces copyrights even though they haven’t released a retro collection in 20 years. It has reached the point where the retro collection boxes are as collectible as the original game boxes!

    Zork will be big again next year with the release of Spielberg’s “Ready Player One” where the white house in a forest plays a role in the plot. Maybe we will get another “Lost Treasures” release then.

  71. Ray Thompson says:

    Followed much later by COBOL (for pay) and Algol (for fun), the latter both on a Burroughs B6800

    Wrote a compiler in Algol running on a B6900 that generated executable machine code for a B3500. It was a challenge to create the output as the 6900 was a word machine (64 but I think) when the desired target was a character machine. Compiler had full conditional logic, full math capabilities, output formatting, etc. It did not have to have file I/O as that was handled by external logic. The compiler was a single pass with address resolution maintained as the output was generated. Resulting code was loaded into another program and then just called to execute. No interpretation involved.

    Burroughs wanted me to go to work for them in Pasadena working on their compilers or the MCP. During the interview they actually had me work on some production code, included me in meetings, etc. Almost like I was working there. I declined the job as it was in Pasadena.

  72. nick flandrey says:

    “you are in a dark passage. There is a lamp.”

    >_

    n

  73. Ray Thompson says:

    “You are in a dark passage, there is a FLASHLIGHT”

    Fixed it for you.

  74. Miles_Teg says:

    Pasadena Ca or Pasadena Tx?

  75. Ray Thompson says:

    California where the software for the medium systems software was developed. Most interesting interview I ever had. Treated me like an employee. About three years later my older brother had to tow one of the people I interviewed with. Their car broke down on the high desert. He said they would have paid triple what I asked to have me work there. I had hand coded my own module for the MCP and patched it in along with several patches to the COBOL compiler to improve code generation. I knew Burroughs Assembler extremely well along with most of the guts of the MCP. I just decided I did not want to live in SoCal.

  76. Miles_Teg says:

    I noticed that CIT and JPL are there, but nowadays it looks like a place to avoid.

  77. medium wave says:

    Burroughs wanted me to go to work for them in Pasadena working on their compilers or the MCP.

    A job I would’ve killed for. 🙂

    Always been fascinated by compilers and interpreters. Since retirement I’ve written a couple from scratch in C. Currently making the move to C++/Clang and LLVM.

    Also, like @Ray Thompson, I’m an AFOL (Adult Friend of Lego), now finishing up this:

    http://acarol.woz.org/antikythera_mechanism.html

    Why? Because gears!

  78. Dave says:

    I am not an Adult Friend of Lego, but I have thought about buying Legos and not trying to pretend they are my daughter’s. Mostly I’m just ticked that Lego came out with the first Mindstorms kit after I was “too old” to play with Legos.

  79. SteveF says:

    If you want the Mindstorms just because it’s Lego, that’s fine. Otherwise you might want to get an Arduino or a Raspberry Pi and then mix-n-match any variety of plug-n-play modules for a variety of sources, stand-alone steppers and sensors, and whatever else you like. While this approach isn’t as easy in terms of snapping pieces together and getting very quick and positive results, it’s much more flexible and educational. You’re also not locked into one vendor, a big plus in my book.

    I’ve gotten various motors and sensors and have done a few projects with Princess Peewee. Not as much as I’d prefer, but Tiger Mom ensures that the kid’s time is at a premium and we very seldom have a couple hours together. (And the two of us work on a lot of other things, too: music theory, song improvisation, fiction writing, and whatever else comes our way. Bottom line, we put an evening into electronics and programming once a month or less.)

  80. Ray Thompson says:

    A job I would’ve killed for.

    I gave it serious thought. Then I started looking at house prices and other infrastructure items. I could make what they were offering by staying in place in San Antonio. Based on what my brother told me I guess my negotiating skills were not that good, or sucked. Had I pushed for it, based on what they guy told my brother, I could have landed the job for $60K a year in 1979. I still think I was better financially staying in San Antonio. I worked for EDS for a year, then Burroughs for three years, then went to work at the bank that was one of my support clients support their Burroughs environment.

    I was the system guy, did all the MCP work, compiler work, CPNDL and later CP3680, wrote a screen compression routine for the terminals (typically running at 9600 BPS) which generally cut the screen response time by a third. Developed the interface into the PULSE system which the bank sold to two other banks at $25K a shot. Developed many system routines, revised my MCP module that dealt with printer backup files to work within the bank environment, developed software to allow remote configuration of poll concentration boxes, developed the interface into the Xerox 9600 printer to allow direct printing, developed remote print applications to print bank reports at the branch banks rather than mailing. A fun job.

    It was also during that time at the bank that I started writing a column for Burroughs World magazine (changed to Unisys World). Wrote 24 columns for them. And that had interesting results.

    When I left the bank and arrived in TN at my new job one of the people there said they knew me. I asked how and they showed me copies of my articles. I asked where he got the articles and he said at a training class where the instructor handed them out. Alarms went off as I had not given such permission. I contacted the training company by certified letter and they basically told me to go pound sand. So about 3:30 PM EST I contacted the publisher for help. They contacted the company in California. I don’t know what was said but next morning FEDEX arrived with an envelope with a substantial check. The instructor was fired.

    Another time I was attending a CUBE conference and was attending a session on the compiler dealing with some code generation. Someone asked a question and Burroughs responded. Another person in the audience stood up and disputed Burroughs answer. The person doing the presentation asked where they got the information and the attendee said “Ray Thompson”. The presenter then asked who they attendee thought was correct. They answered “Ray Thompson”. I quickly covered my name badge. Turns out I was correct and was told so by the Burroughs presenter.

    I had full listings of the COBOL compiler, the MCP, the BPL compiler and the ASMBLR compiler. I was fluent in all three languages but mostly wrote in ASMBLR. COBOL was used when I needed to help the other programmers with issues. BPL was used for some system utilities.

    The custom module for the MCP was done in ASMBLR and was patched into the MCP using the standard patch mechanism. This required some additional manual patches that could not be done with the ASMBLR to hook into the MCP mechanisms. The module could be turned on or off using the SOPBKP or ROPBKP command on the console. Burroughs eventually adopted the module and thus I was no longer required to retrofit to each MCP release.

    I’m an AFOL (Adult Friend of Lego), now finishing up this:

    That is a really cool project. Gears, motors, chains (never seen those before), and lots of twirly thingies.

    I was “too old” to play with Legos

    Bzzztttt, wrong.

  81. Dave says:

    If you want the Mindstorms just because it’s Lego, that’s fine. Otherwise you might want to get an Arduino or a Raspberry Pi and then mix-n-match any variety of plug-n-play modules for a variety of sources, stand-alone steppers and sensors, and whatever else you like.

    I already have at least one Raspberry Pi and at least one Arduino. I don’t particularly want a Lego Mindstorms now, but was referring to 35 years ago when I was a high schooler and didn’t have the resources to do serious electronics.

    I’ve gotten various motors and sensors and have done a few projects with Princess Peewee.

    Princess Buttercup is not quite to the project stage yet. Her reading and math skills are still deficient. She is merely above average in reading and math. We are still at the stage where I read books to her instead of the other way around. That will change soon. I need to hook up a Raspberry Pi to the TV so she can access the Internet for age appropriate content to enhance her reading and math skills.

  82. lynn says:

    http://acarol.woz.org/antikythera_mechanism.html

    That is freaking cool. I wish that I had the time to mess with Legos.

  83. SteveF says:

    We are still at the stage where I read books to her instead of the other way around.

    Sometime when she was four or five, Selene started reading on her own. That is, she’d been able to read the phonics instructional books as I taught her to read and she was reading some other simple books, but sitting down and reading something new wasn’t something she was really doing. Until one day…

    I’d been reading to her before bed every night. We’d worked up to The Magic Treehouse series and I was reading a chapter per evening, then hugs and lights out. One night she was pissed off because I hadn’t read as much as she wanted me to, so she grabbed the book off the nightstand and started reading the next chapter. There’s been no stopping her since.

    (I asked a librarian for suggestions one time, listing a few books my daughter had read recently and liked. She picked out a few and then asked how old the kid was, 12 or so? “Uh, no. Six and a half.” Oh. Well, this and that and the other were put back as not really appropriate for a girl not going through dating drama and puberty.)

  84. JimL says:

    I just gave my daughter kindle editions of Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn. Wife is appalled. I simply told my daughter there was one word in there that she was allowed to read, and ask me about in a closed room, but never to say aloud. She’s fine with that.

    Kids will read what they want, whether we want them to or not. So give them a challenge, and let them challenge you.

  85. OFD says:

    “… a girl not going through dating drama and puberty.)”

    And you, brother, are in for some interesting times when those years begin. May Almighty God or the FSM or whatever have mercy on you.

    “Kids will read what they want, whether we want them to or not.”

    + a quadrillion.

    I certainly did. Especially when my 4th-grade teacher crapped all over me in front of the class. No stopping me whatsoever after that. Fucking mean-ass psycho bitch.

  86. SteveF says:

    By contrast, my 4th-grade teacher was the only elementary school teacher worth the spit needed to curse them, and one of the very few in any of my school years.

    Kids will read what they want, whether we want them to or not.

    My wife came stomping into my office one evening when Son#1 was about 11. “He’s been reading things on the internet! Inappropriate things! Take care of it!” Turns out he’d been reading fanfiction and had lied in setting up the account to say that he was over 18 so he could read the “mature” stories. So naturally it was up to me to “do something”.

    That was my second exposure to fanfiction. The first was when I was searching for the lyrics for an anime theme song. (I can mostly fumble my way through written Japanese but have trouble understanding it spoken and can barely make out a word when it’s sung.) I stumbled across quite the trove of “mature” stories about the two main characters of the series, both female and one of them about 14. Lesbian jailbait, yo. The third exposure to fanfiction was when I was helping a few teens, Korean and Chinese, with their English and their writing. Turns out every one of them had written fanfiction. Every one of them had written Harry Potter fanfiction. And a lot of the stories shared a number of similarities. I was really sick of Harry Potter and especially of Harry Potter fanfiction by the time that petered down.

  87. OFD says:

    I guess I never got into any of that stuff. As a pre-teen and teen I’d been reading Hawthorne, Twain, Melville, the “Fireside Poets,” Dickens, Conan Doyle, and Bruce Catton’s history stuff, also the wild-ass stories and tales by the late Edward Rowe Snow, “The Flying Santa,” mostly concerning the New England coast back to colonial times.

    And working on my stamp and coin collections, building plane, tank and ship models, listening to British blues and Kalifornia psychedelia.

    What a precious wittle snowflake, eh?

    Not so much.

    Ran winter indoor and spring track (middle distances and high jump), played football (end and 3rd-string QB), and skipped skool, smoked doobies, drank beer and wine, dropped acid, went to rock concerts and commie demonstrations in Boston, etc., etc.

    A very busy little bee back in those days, the late 60s…

  88. ech says:

    Otherwise you might want to get an Arduino or a Raspberry Pi and then mix-n-match any variety of plug-n-play modules for a variety of sources, stand-alone steppers and sensors, and whatever else you like.

    From what I can see, Arduino is more for messing with sensors and effectors (i.e. control applications) and Raspberry Pi is for doing cheap Linux applications like servers and the like.

  89. OFD says:

    II have read Mr. ech’s summary of the main distinctions between Arduino and RaspberryPI boards and:

    I APPROVE!

    I bet I have half a dozen RaspberryPI’s and at least one Arduino sitting in a couple of boxes in the attic that I haven’t got around to yet. I also bet they’ve now been sort of superseded by newer models.

  90. nick flandrey says:

    Older ‘duinos are fine. Just have less memory, slower processor, etc.

    Don’t know about older pi…

    I’ve got some TI development boards that were $5 intro price. don’t know if they caught on or not. Programming the ‘duino reminded me why I stopped programming in the first place. MACHINES should mind the details. Humans not so much.

    (If the setup statements need to be present in every sketch, EVERY SKETCH, why does a HUMAN ever need to see them? F-in’ programmers. )

    nick

  91. SteveF says:

    From what I can see, Arduino is more for messing with sensors and effectors (i.e. control applications) and Raspberry Pi is for doing cheap Linux applications like servers and the like.

    Yes but.

    RasPi has a handful of digital and analog ports, just like Arduino, and can handle sensors and LEDs and steppers just as well. The big drawbacks of RasPi are greater power draw and larger physical size. RasPi’s advantages are much greater computational power and storage and multitude of programming languages and libraries and environments. Arduino might be more stable, as it doesn’t have an operating system, whereas RasPi’s OS might conceivably crash or glitch; in practice RasPi is rock-solid. There might possily be some things one or the other can do that the other can’t, like maybe only one can catch a rising voltage level on an interrupt and the other can’t. I’ve never come across anything like that, but I haven’t expressly looked.

    RasPi is also more expensive, but not enough so that it would matter for the learner or hobbyist. If you plan to build 100,000 of something, you pinch the pennies. If you’re building something for fun, the difference disappears in the noise.

    Generally, if I were making a project where bulk and power were not an issue, like putting together a large factory-floor-type robot, I’d go with the RasPi because it’s easier to work with. If I were making a widget that you’d carry around (eg, cat ears that can fold or perk up depending on head tilt) I’d go with Arduino or something even smaller.

  92. SteveF says:

    (If the setup statements need to be present in every sketch, EVERY SKETCH, why does a HUMAN ever need to see them? F-in’ programmers. )

    Early Java compilers would reject the source file if the last character was a curly brace. That is, if there wasn’t a carriage return after the brace, the compiler would tell you it was missing and then fail. Eventually Sun (or Oracle) fixed that so that if the compiler could figure out that everything was fine except for the missing CR, it would assume the CR was supposed to be there and get on with its life. Took years.

  93. nick flandrey says:

    yep, if every line needs to end in a , then put the freakin’ comma on in the IDE.

    Jeez.

    And since people mentioned it, I’m the baby here, with copying code out of magazines and typing it into the school’s apple IIs, and using basic on my TRS-80 model 1 to write my own adventure games. Parsers. F writing parsers!

    Also got time on a big DG with green and white fanfold, green monitors, etc, and some VAX time during college. I’d rather play Ultima on a commodore in the dorms….

    n

    (I did manage to eventually leave school with grades and even a degree, while the guy whose machine we were playing Ultima on, well, he REALLY liked to play. Fell off the edge of the world and never went back to class……)

  94. nick flandrey says:

    Oh yeah, this guy is making one -Antikythera Mechanism-

    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCworsKCR-Sx6R6-BnIjS2MA

    If you like machining, or brass and gears, or clocks, Clickspring has hours for you…

    n

  95. OFD says:

    I will just point out here that there are beaucoups Toob vids on doing chit with either PI or Arduino, and your humble and obedient servant in northwestern Vermont may get around to learning how to do that chit from them. Plus a couple of books. Nothing too fancy; to me they’re just machine tools of a sort, like a Ghost Gunner, for practical uses. I won’t be building robots or reproductions of ancient Greek gizmos. If they can run a set of outdoor web cams, or if it can manufacture a nice lower for an AR15 or AR10, I’m all over it.

  96. Miles_Teg says:

    Ray, I thought MCP was almost completely written in Algol.

  97. Dave says:

    The Arduino is a microcontroller and the Raspberry Pi is a full blown computer. My understanding is the I/O pins on the Arduino are a little more robust and harder to fry. If you need to do a lot of computing in your project, then the Raspberry Pi would probably be the better choice. If you absolutely need things to happen now instead of two milliseconds later, the Arduino might be a better choice.

    The Arduino is built out of off the shelf components, so you can literally build your own. Also there are cheap Arduino copies available. Some of the cheap copies use a different serial chip and therefore require a device driver to be installed in Windows.

    Most 3D printers and some kit CNC machines are built around a board that uses the same chip as an Arduino Mega. I am amazed that they can do so much with a 16 MHz microcontroller. To the best of my knowledge nobody has built a 3D printer or CNC machine around a Raspberry Pi. I’m thinking of buying a 3D printer that includes one of those 16 MHz microcontrollers. If I do, I’ll probably buy another Raspberry Pi to plug into it instead of tethering it to a PC.

  98. Ray Thompson says:

    Medium Systems (B-2500 through B-4900) MPC was written entirely in Burroughs ASMBLR. The Large systems (B-6800, B-6900) was written in a derivative of ALGOL that had additional constructs to get to low level hardware functions. On the large systems there were three or four derivatives of ALGOL depending on the application. DC-ALGOL was used for the data communications stuff which I had used some. Not much different, just added constructs.

    I remember a lot about the Medium Systems MCP. The overlay structure, the branch communicates (BCT, basically API’s), the major MCP structures dealing with file I/O, etc. We did not use normal file I/O in our programs as we modified the FIB-AA and FIB-BB addresses in the File Information Blocks within the programs. This allowed us to read and write variable length records, control our own read and write buffers, etc.

    There was an issue with the MCP in the BCT where if an address was passed that was odd the system would hard crash, as in Program Light, reboot time, major problem. When I was interviewing in Pasadena I brought up this issue. It would not happen with COBOL or BPL programs but was easy to do in ASMBLR. My solution was a simple BOT (Bit On Test) that looked for the low order bit being set (thus an odd address) and if true the BCT was trapped and the program faulted. Since my job in the USAF was the largest commercial user of ASMBLR it was an issue for us. Burroughs acknowledged the issue, liked my solution (fast and simple) and put it in the MCP. My opinion as I explained to Burroughs was that nothing a user created program did should be able to crash the operating system. Had I been hired that would have been my task, to plug those holes in the MCP as I already knew most of them, either by accident or intentional.

  99. Dave says:

    I found a link to a deal called the Humble Bundle that includes E-books about the Raspberry Pi and Arduino. One of those deals that you choose how much you donate and get to download a bunch of books for that low price. I almost bought it, but I read the fine print first. At least 3% of the money goes to the Tides Foundation. I choose not to support the work of George Soros.

  100. Miles_Teg says:

    I didn’t have much to do with Burroughs gear, just used a B-6700 (I think) at college. Both my employers had CDC (may peace and blessings be upon it) gear which they decomissioned in favour of IBM compatible MVS crap… 🙁

  101. medium wave says:

    That is a really cool project. Gears, motors, chains (never seen those before), and lots of twirly thingies.

    Bricklink is an excellent source for Lego parts of all kinds. Its catalog includes images so you can search for a piece visually. Generally lower prices than eBay, especially when buying in bulk.

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