Show Dad How – Shawn Bean

初為人父要照顧BB,少不免手足無措。不懂的事情便要努力學習,學湊BB不外三個途徑,問親友們育嬰經驗,上育嬰堂或自已看書。育嬰書藉多不勝數,這本Show Dad How絕對是入門級中最入門的書藉。它由美國Parenting MagazineShow Me How出版社合作,用有趣的圖解方法,向新任父親講解初生嬰兒要注要的事項,從開奶換片,家居為BB裝修,選購嬰兒用品須知,到和嬰兒玩遊戲,到媽咪的心理應有盡有,總共有一百五十多個小貼士。

插圖採用平時搭飛機時,放在椅背逃生說明的風格,看見便不自覺發出會心微笑。書本的內容除了十分有用的資訊,也有不少很明顯插科打混的搞笑幽默。例如很抵死教如何使開媽媽,與一眾爸爸打賭BB爬行大賽,或教晚上換片餵奶睡不好,爸爸白天在公司偷懶小睡的方法。就算不喜歡閱讀的爸爸,也一定會被這本書吸引,不自覺地翻完整本書。當然圖解說明十分簡略,有很多細節的地方不太清楚,需要參考另外的育嬰資訊。但作為第一本育兒書藉,可以讓神經緊張的爸爸輕鬆一下,準備迎接新生命的來臨。

這本書是送給準爸爸們的最佳禮物,保證準爸爸一定會喜歡。出版社也有一本Show Mom How給準媽媽看,不過女人的幽默感與男人不同,女人不一定喜歡看。我老婆便不太欣賞這本書,她說這本書不設實際得啖笑。

變身男女chok chok chok

無記的劇集一向評價不高,無記的綜藝節目則偶有佳作。「變身男女chok chok chok」創意十足,大玩男扮女,女扮男,雌雄莫辯,雖然我不知道是否抄襲外國同類節目,但至少吸引到我每個星期也追看,笑足一個鐘。阮兆祥和伍詠薇當主持,每集請來一些藝員嘉賓,與觀眾一起估節目中出場的參賽者,到底那個才是真正的男人或真正的女人,估中有獎。雖說節目名稱有個chok字,但內容與林峰無直接關係,其實無記應該叫他上來當嘉賓,恐怕chok王阮兆祥也要退位讓賢。

每一集無記也找來些參賽者,有本港也有海外,讓他們清一色著男裝或女裝出現。嘉賓可以向他們發問問題找出線索,很多無厘頭搞笑的妙問妙答,問得最多是關於個人生衛的問題。接著參賽者自選表演,各種項目包羅萬有,唱歌,跳舞,打功夫,射籃球,變魔術等等,嘉賓和觀眾便要從他們的身形小動作中找出破碇,看穿他們是真身還是假扮。有些參賽者很快穿崩,但有些真是考起眼力。嘉賓間討論該選擇誰是節目的笑位,不乏挖苦尖酸刻薄的對白,經典之一是兩位男嘉賓從跳鋼管舞參賽者的舞姿中,下身沒有夾緊鋼管舞而推論出他是男人。中間嘉賓會玩些獎門人的小遊戲攝時間,無聊白痴但好笑。有時過場加播藝人反穿演出,女扮男跳勁舞倒沒什麼,郭政鴻扮周慧敏唱自作多情,簡直是極品。最後是開估時間,伍詠薇的主持福利,是可以去驗明正身,抱抱參賽者兼乘機揩油,她次次都扮發妏婆,但次次我都笑,無計。尾片花蕠最好看,看幾位參賽者的變身過程,每次我都佩服化粧師的鬼斧神工,尤其是男仔變靚女,有好幾集我也估錯了。

很多人說這個節目低俗,無記的搞笑節目一向也是如此,觀眾不用大驚小怪。撇除明顯是做媒的藝員模特兒不計,有專業一技之長如男人教跳肚皮舞,男人演崑劇花旦唱女聲的不計,我很佩服那些參賽者的勇氣,尤其是平時也以中性或換裝示人的參賽者,在電視機上為他們自已選擇的形像自豪。這個節目打破男女性別定位,誰說男人一定要似男人,女人一定要似女人,只要做忠於自我型像,便不怕旁人投以奇怪眼光。這個節目出街後,我可以想像在學校中很有一班同學仔,會指著班上的男人婆或女人型作語言欺凌,現在被取笑的一方大可以引用「變身男女」反擊,還加句說要上去參加比賽。當社會開始拿一件另類事物來開玩笑,而被開玩笑的對像亦覺得玩笑無商大雅,便標誌著社會已經接納了那些事物,將之為正常化的第一步。男人頭女孩子上「變身男女」以男性打扮示人,有足夠自信面對人家的閒言閒語,甚至取笑人家少見多怪,可見香港在兩姓平等上又向跨進了一步。不過看參賽者化粧前的容貌,我發現女參賽者不乏男仔頭,反之所有男參賽者都很男性化,沒有一些特別的女人型。可見香港社會上,對女人作男性裝扮比較包容,而對男人作女性裝份還有明顯的歧視,令他們還未自信在電視機面前站出來。

未來都市No.6

「未來都市」改篇自淺野敦子的輕小說,故事舞台設定在大戰後的未來世界,人類生存在僅餘下的六座城市。城市內一切整潔明亮井然有序,但美麗的背後是極權式的思想監控,人民被分成精英與平民等級。主角紫苑在十二歲時,救了逃亡中同樣也是十二歲的老鼠,被剝奪精英資格,長大後當上公園管理員。某一天公園內發生殺人蜂病毒,紫苑因為說了懷疑政府隱暪疫情的說話,被送去城外的勞改中心,途中被老鼠救出,踏進城牆外的另一個世界。

初看這套動畫的設定十分吸引,是那種經典的末世科幻小說類型,心想只要故事四平八穩發展,兩個少年反抗暴政打破城牆,精英和賤民不再階級分隔,每個人生而平等,故事理應不會太差吧。可惜故事兒嬉兼爛尾失控,殺人蜂伏線不知所蹤,忽然間女主角變成森林女神,可以把主角死人復活,瞬間毀滅城市。畢竟是暢銷輕小說改篇,故事差可以同情地理解為篇幅所限,小說內容被刪得支離破碎。劇情怎樣差也都算了,但那有兩個男主角公然接吻,大搞同性戀關係,簡直讓人看見嘔心。

兩個主角讓人看見眼冤,女主角又淪為大花瓶,不過一些配角的描寫倒十分出色。養狗人是棄嬰被母犬帶大,靠出租狗給旅人取暖和販賣情報為生。在亂世中有她一套生存哲學,不輕易信人不互相虧欠,但她卻被紫苑的純真感染,願意幫助他們潛入勞教中心,去改變世界。紫苑的母親大慨是整套作品的唯一亮點,萌媽竟然比女主角還要萌。她不單只是創建城市核心人物的科學家,被剝奪精英資格後,竟然可以若無其事轉行去賣麵包,不知是天然呆還是EQ高人。

我完全被這動畫騙了,這是一套披著科幻外衣的腐女作品。下次動畫公司製作這類作品時,好應該在畫頭貼上警句標簽,寫明內有BL腐女專用不喜勿看,不要浪費正常男性觀眾的時間。

漂流艦隊(漫畫)

早幾年「漂流艦隊」在電視播映動畫版,當時只改篇了原著漫畫四分之一的內容。我原本期待著電視版的第二季,可惜這套動畫看似爛了尾,第二季一直也不見蹤影。這套作品硬橋硬馬的純軍事風格,與現在賣女賣萌的商業主流背道而馳,連作賣機械人玩具廣告也不能,完全沒有周邊商品可以收回成本,難怪動畫公司不願製作續集。既然沒有電視動畫版看,我只好斷斷續續地追看漫書版。這套作品期後連蛓長達九年,去年終於完滿落幕,而我也一口氣煲完最後數本漫書。

「漂流艦隊」的故事講述日本自衛隊的神盾級驅逐艦未來號,回到未來反回二次大戰的時空,置身日本聯合艦隊和美國太平洋艦隊的交戰中。未來號救起了一個被擊沉的日本軍官草加,他從艦上得悉未來世界的歷史,決定要扭轉日本戰後的命運,結果改寫了一切將要發生的事情。故事初段的詳細評論,請參看「漂流艦隊」電視動畫版

其實電視版已經把故事中最好看的部份拍完,自從未來號擊沉美國空母大黃蜂號後,故事已經不再停留在保護已知歷史的發生,尋找回去未來的方法,下半部未來號甚至連出場的機會也沒有多少,主線變成未來號上的人選擇如何去撰寫歷史。作者川口開治再一次把他自已得政治理念融入漫畫中,構建出一套十分宏大的二次大戰假想歷史。故事中虛構的假想事件雖然在現實中不曾發生,但如果歷史的可能性朝那個方向發展也合情合理。

草介是整個故事的靈魂,他的日本改造計畫大膽驚人,尋找讓開拓新日本歷史的辦法。一方面明知日本不可能戰勝美國,因為客觀上國力懸殊相差太遠,就算擁有未來號的高科技武力也不能改變戰局。另一方面不願接受戰敗投降的日本,喪失國格淪為美國的附庸國。他先在偽滿洲刺殺薄儀,讓日本出找到藉口撒中國戰場,令主和派海軍佔主戰派陸軍的上峰。派特使暗殺希特拉,希望提早結束歐洲戰線,讓盟軍人民無心戀戰,願意接受日本和談。更重要是從歐洲運回濃縮鈾,使日本比美國更先製造原子彈。讓聯合艦隊遠征印度洋,攻擊英國屬土印度並資助其獨立。迫使美國提早派出第五艦隊,與日本進行一場歷史上不存在的大海戰。故事的高潮是草介用載著原子彈的大和號,衝入美國艦隊中心再引爆,令美國成為原子彈的唯一受害人,從而能在戰後成為負責任的核子大國。

相對地未來號一行人看似亳無主見,只是追著他的腳步走,不停地阻止草加的陰謀。諷刺的是去到最後,未來號眾人的理念變成與草介相同,分別只是執行的方法。明白日本不戰敗便不能重新,要先除去軍國主義的毒瘤,才可以守護尚未誕生的民主國家。未來號成功阻止原子彈炸毀美國艦隊,一直要阻止草介的洋角,戰後卻成為草介的執行者,利用未來的知識退居幕後,成為美國政壇商界舉足輕重的人物,推動新日本的重建,讓它踏上民主發展的道路。

這類回到未來的題材,在大陸叫穿越劇,穿越時空的意思,近年被中央以意識不良為名禁了。如果回到過去只帶回現代的科技,用現代高科技欺負落後古代人的心態,那與主角突然執到外星武器,或者基因特變擁有超能力的故事沒有分別,都只是讓主角擁有壓倒性武力的劇情道具。穿越劇的精萃,是回到過去是讓現代和歷史對話。現實中的歷史沒有如果,但如果可以改寫歷史的話,憑著現代對過去的知識,會能令歷史產生無數的可能性,衝激我們視之為理所當然的現狀,怪不得共產黨要禁止穿越劇了。「漂流艦隊」不是要復辟軍國主義,作者的中心思想甚至認同日本要戰敗才能重生,只是如何可以在最少傷亡的情況下,讓日本在戰後認清楚自已發動戰爭的錯誤。

Cars 2 反斗車王2

曾經Pixar是我最喜歡的電影公司,自從第一套「玩具奇兵」起,每套電影我一定捧場。當年給迪士尼收購後,我開始擔心Pixar的魔法會不會失效,拍一些只看賣錢沒有靈魂的電影。早幾年上映的電影是收購前己落實的計劃,創意見底的問題還未浮現出來。現在在凡事講成本效益的大財團底下,被要求多快好省地拍舊作續集,再加入新角色讓玩具大賣,已無可避免淪為商業公式下的生產線,「反斗車王2」大慨標誌著Pixar神話的終結。

雖說「反斗車王2」只是一般行貨,但仍然是一部製作精美,電腦動畫技術無懈可擊的超級卡通大作。今次換上集的舊拖車當主角,誤打誤撞化身成無敵特務,勇破錢七車黨壟斷石油供應,借世界大賽去打擊環保油的陰謀。電影有不少笑點和動作場面,照例玩轉占士邦式的情節,用汽車去擬人化很得意,尤其在刻劃日本文化時讓觀眾會心微笑。至上集主角閃電麥記成為大咖,那幾場賽車也只是點綴,場內的勝負無關重要,場外的碟戰才是主菜。其實上集我已經覺得拖車很煩,今集更是煩上加煩,他的白痴笑話很多很夾硬,反而八撇雞正牌占士邦車有形又帥氣。整套卡通最大的敗筆是故事主線,求其亂來兼無新意,拖車傻人有傻福大發神威,好人收捨壞人大團圓結局,救了朋友還抱得美人歸,有美女飛天車相伴。

或許是我期望過高,說到底卡通是拍給小朋友看,兼順便推銷玩具矣。以小朋友的眼光去衝量,「反斗車王2」可以拿滿分有餘。小朋友又那會明白「太空奇兵」講的寓意,「沖天奇兵」講的情懷,「玩具奇兵3」講的命運,甚至「反斗車王1」講的生活呢,只是我看卡通想多了吧。

鄧紫棋 G.E.M. Get Everybody Moving 2011 演唱會(溫哥華)

想不到三十多歲人,才第一次正式看演唱會,真是大鄉里出城。G.E.M.是近年香港最出色的女新人,她自已作曲又好唱功又彈琴又靚女,不過這些都不是吸引我買票入場的原因。我破例去看演唱會,主要是因為老婆是G.E.M.十分喜歡她,她的每一隻歌也煲到滾瓜爛熟,首首都可以瑯瑯唱口。演唱會門票開售第一天我便上網買飛,不過似乎銷路一般,今晚入座率只得八成,上星期還減價促銷,害我正價買票飛覺得有點被搵笨。

入場的觀眾平均年齡只有二十歲,不免自覺年紀大與他們有代溝,不過也有一家大細入場,大慨陪小朋友來看或贏了免費飛吧。票上寫著八時開場,結果要等到八時半才G.E.M.姍姍出來。雖說演唱會是把香港紅館照搬演唱會過來,但始終在外國表演舞台十分簡陋,只有一道樓梯一個大銀幕。伴舞的規模少,只有兩女四男六個人。兩個女伴舞的倒算正常,但那四個男伴舞跳得很嘔心,常常祼露身體在自摸,不知他們在想表達些什麼。演唱會長兩個小時,比香港紅館短,唱少了幾隻歌。其實兩個小時也夠了,只是坐著看也很累。最叫人受不了的那些吹氣拍拍捧,入場時一人分發兩條。只有兩條拍的聲音不大,但幾千人一起拍便很吵耳,吵到有點受不了。還有就是觀眾拿著拍拍捧,便沒有人拍手掌,結果演唱會零掌聲,只有很吵耳的拍拍聲。不知那個白痴發明拍拍捧,應該在所有演唱會禁了它。

G.E.M.是樂壇小巨肺,又有一把靚嗓子,她唱快歌勁慢歌甜,看現場的感覺比聽mp3好上百倍。最叫人刮目相看,是她在中段自彈自唱,坐在鋼琴前和觀眾分享她的音樂歷程,感性地懷念她去世的嫲嫲。想不到睡公主原來是她十三歲的作品,原本只想在唱歌比賽唱給暗戀的男同學聽,結果一唱成名入了娛樂圈。粵語歌和國語歌各佔一半,與觀眾對話以廣東話為主,她也唱了幾首英文歌騷她的唱功,但我喜歡她自已作的中文歌多些。自已唱自已作的歌,比只是演譯別人的創作,更富有感情和味道。上網聽過她紅館演唱會的人,也知道她翻唱了Beyond的情人,由她唱出來有另一番風味。她假encore前唱Get Everything Moving,全場氣氛十分熱烈,大家也站起來拍拍捧跳舞,連我老婆肚裏的BB也跟著G.E.M.一起動。全晚的高潮是大家也等到頸長,等她唱她的首本名曲Where Did You Go。她先在鋼琴上唱了半首慢版,再清唱了chores那段,最後在正常版大合唱下完滿散場。

在今天只有千篇一律流行K歌,英皇出品的垃圾音樂,只靠賣樣不懂唱歌的所謂歌星,熱愛音樂又有才華的G.E.M.好比一般清泉,成為日漸凋零香港樂壇一點希望之光。她出道才三年只得三隻大碟,我對她的末來充滿期待,想多聽她憑歌寄音分享她的感覺。希望她在娛樂圈這個大染缸中,仍能夠保持對音樂的堅持,不要只為賺錢衝人氣淪為音樂商品。平時看電視時不覺眼,原來G.E.M.真人是一名肥妹仔,她還十分為食貪吃,在台上念念不忘地說來溫歌華要食Japa-Dog。不過就算有天G.E.M.變成大肥妹,我仍然會喜歡聽她的歌繼續支持她。反正她是又不是靠賣樣,她賣的是自已創作的好音樂,和新一代歌手中無與倫比的好唱功。

Air-O-Swiss 7144 Ultrasonic Humidifier

Although Vancouver winter rains a lot, but the weather is actually very dry. Every morning when I get up, my throat and nose feel dry and awkward. I decided to buy a humidifier so that I can sleep better at night. I have used a few different humidifiers before, the typical old design either one of two types. One type is simply a kettle, boil water to emit vapor. It is hot and noise. The other type is a sponge with a fan. It is dirty and noise, the sponge is very disguising after a while and it may grow bacteria.

There is a new type of humidifier that ultrasound to vaporize water molecules from water into the air. Since it does not boil water nor has a big fan, this type of humidifier is very quiet. I bought a Air-O-Swiss 7144 ultrasonic humidifier from Home Outfitter last week and I am very happy with the unit. It has a very elegant metallic design. It comes with digital hygrostat and sleep timer. It can emit warm mist at room temporary (40 C) or cool mist when the heating function turned off. I turn it on before I go to bed and it maintains an optimal humidity (50%-60%) over the night. I have to fill up the water tank once every two days, which holds about 12L of water.
This humidifier is almost perfect except a minor down sides. The water tank is a bit inconvenient to refill, since it does not fit under the sink. I have to fill it up in the bath tub. It requires its own brand of Ag+ demineralization cartridge that need to be replace every year and its own brand of descaler to clean the deposit at the ultrasound surface every 2-3 months, which is some extra cost.

Now my throat and noise feel a lot better in the morning. I recommend this humidifier to those who hate dry throat and nose in the morning and cannot stand the noise from traditional humidifiers.

The Strange Birth and Long Life of Unix

Who said history is boring? This is a very interesting history of the world’s most important operating system.

The classic operating system turns 40, and its progeny abound
By Warren Toomey, IEEE Spectrum, December 2011

They say that when one door closes on you, another opens. People generally offer this bit of wisdom just to lend some solace after a misfortune. But sometimes it’s actually true. It certainly was for Ken Thompson and the late Dennis Ritchie, two of the greats of 20th-century information technology, when they created the Unix operating system, now considered one of the most inspiring and influential pieces of software ever written.

A door had slammed shut for Thompson and Ritchie in March of 1969, when their employer, the American Telephone & Telegraph Co., withdrew from a collaborative project with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and General Electric to create an interactive time-sharing system called Multics, which stood for “Multiplexed Information and Computing Service.” Time-sharing, a technique that lets multiple people use a single computer simultaneously, had been invented only a decade earlier. Multics was to combine time-sharing with other technological advances of the era, allowing users to phone a computer from remote terminals and then read e-mail, edit documents, run calculations, and so forth. It was to be a great leap forward from the way computers were mostly being used, with people tediously preparing and submitting batch jobs on punch cards to be run one by one.

Over five years, AT&T invested millions in the Multics project, purchasing a GE-645 mainframe computer and dedicating to the effort many of the top researchers at the company’s renowned Bell Telephone Laboratories—­including Thompson and Ritchie, Joseph F. Ossanna, Stuart Feldman, M. Douglas McIlroy, and the late Robert Morris. But the new system was too ambitious, and it fell troublingly behind schedule. In the end, AT&T’s corporate leaders decided to pull the plug.

After AT&T’s departure from the Multics project, managers at Bell Labs, in Murray Hill, N.J., became reluctant to allow any further work on computer operating systems, leaving some researchers there very frustrated. Although Multics hadn’t met many of its objectives, it had, as Ritchie later recalled, provided them with a “convenient interactive computing service, a good environment in which to do programming, [and] a system around which a fellowship could form.” Suddenly, it was gone.

With heavy hearts, the researchers returned to using their old batch system. At such an inauspicious moment, with management dead set against the idea, it surely would have seemed foolhardy to continue designing computer operating systems. But that’s exactly what Thompson, Ritchie, and many of their Bell Labs colleagues did. Now, some 40 years later, we should be thankful that these programmers ignored their bosses and continued their labor of love, which gave the world Unix, one of the greatest computer operating systems of all time.
Man men: Thompson (ken) and Ritchie (dmr) authored the first Unix manual or “man” pages, one of which is shown here. The first edition of the manual was released in November 1971.
Man men: Thompson (ken) and Ritchie (dmr) authored the first Unix manual or “man” pages, one of which is shown here. The first edition of the manual was released in November 1971. Click to enlarge.

The rogue project began in earnest when Thompson, Ritchie, and a third Bell Labs colleague, Rudd Canaday, began to sketch out on paper the design for a file system. Thompson then wrote the basics of a new operating system for the lab’s GE-645 mainframe. But with the Multics project ended, so too was the need for the GE-645. Thompson realized that any further programming he did on it was likely to go nowhere, so he dropped the effort.

Thompson had passed some of his time after the demise of Multics writing a computer game called Space Travel, which simulated all the major bodies in the solar system along with a spaceship that could fly around them. Written for the GE-645, Space Travel was clunky to play—and expensive: roughly US $75 a game for the CPU time. Hunting around, Thompson came across a dusty PDP-7, a minicomputer built by Digital Equipment Corp. that some of his Bell Labs colleagues had purchased earlier for a circuit-analysis project. Thompson rewrote Space Travel to run on it.

And with that little programming exercise, a second door cracked ajar. It was to swing wide open during the summer of 1969 when Thompson’s wife, Bonnie, spent a month visiting his parents to show off their newborn son. Thompson took advantage of his temporary bachelor existence to write a good chunk of what would become the Unix operating system for the discarded PDP‑7. The name Unix stems from a joke one of Thompson’s colleagues made: Because the new operating system supported only one user (Thompson), he saw it as an emasculated version of Multics and dubbed it “Un-multiplexed Information and Computing Service,” or Unics. The name later morphed into Unix.

Initially, Thompson used the GE-645 to compose and compile the software, which he then downloaded to the PDP‑7. But he soon weaned himself from the mainframe, and by the end of 1969 he was able to write operating-system code on the PDP-7 itself. That was a step in the right direction. But Thompson and the others helping him knew that the PDP‑7, which was already obsolete, would not be able to sustain their skunkworks for long. They also knew that the lab’s management wasn’t about to allow any more research on operating systems.

So Thompson and Ritchie got crea­tive. They formulated a proposal to their bosses to buy one of DEC’s newer minicomputers, a PDP-11, but couched the request in especially palatable terms. They said they were aiming to create tools for editing and formatting text, what you might call a word-processing system today. The fact that they would also have to write an operating system for the new machine to support the editor and text formatter was almost a footnote.

Management took the bait, and an order for a PDP-11 was placed in May 1970. The machine itself arrived soon after, although the disk drives for it took more than six months to appear. During the interim, Thompson, Ritchie, and others continued to develop Unix on the PDP-7. After the PDP-11’s disks were installed, the researchers moved their increasingly complex operating system over to the new machine. Next they brought over the roff text formatter written by Ossanna and derived from the runoff program, which had been used in an earlier time-sharing system.

Unix was put to its first real-world test within Bell Labs when three typists from AT&T’s patents department began using it to write, edit, and format patent applications. It was a hit. The patent department adopted the system wholeheartedly, which gave the researchers enough credibility to convince management to purchase another machine—a newer and more powerful PDP-11 model—allowing their stealth work on Unix to continue.

During its earliest days, Unix evolved constantly, so the idea of issuing named versions or releases seemed inappropriate. But the researchers did issue new editions of the programmer’s manual periodically, and the early Unix systems were named after each such edition. The first edition of the manual was completed in November 1971.

So what did the first edition of Unix offer that made it so great? For one thing, the system provided a hierarchical file system, which allowed something we all now take for granted: Files could be placed in directories—or equivalently, folders—that in turn could be put within other directories. Each file could contain no more than 64 kilobytes, and its name could be no more than six characters long. These restrictions seem awkwardly limiting now, but at the time they appeared perfectly adequate.

Although Unix was ostensibly created for word processing, the only editor available in 1971 was the line-oriented ed. Today, ed is still the only editor guaranteed to be present on all Unix systems. Apart from the text-processing and general system applications, the first edition of Unix included games such as blackjack, chess, and tic-tac-toe. For the system administrator, there were tools to dump and restore disk images to magnetic tape, to read and write paper tapes, and to create, check, mount, and unmount removable disk packs.

Most important, the system offered an interactive environment that by this time allowed time-sharing, so several people could use a single machine at once. Various programming languages were available to them, including BASIC, Fortran, the scripting of Unix commands, assembly language, and B. The last of these, a descendant of a BCPL (Basic Combined Programming Language), ultimately evolved into the immensely popular C language, which Ritchie created while also working on Unix.

The first edition of Unix let programmers call 34 different low-level routines built into the operating system. It’s a testament to the system’s enduring nature that nearly all of these system calls are still available—and still heavily used—on modern Unix and Linux systems four decades on. For its time, first-­edition Unix provided a remarkably powerful environment for software development. Yet it contained just 4200 lines of code at its heart and occupied a measly 16 KB of main memory when it ran.

Unix’s great influence can be traced in part to its elegant design, simplicity, portability, and serendipitous timing. But perhaps even more important was the devoted user community that soon grew up around it. And that came about only by an accident of its unique history.

The story goes like this: For years Unix remained nothing more than a Bell Labs research project, but by 1973 its authors felt the system was mature enough for them to present a paper on its design and implementation at a symposium of the Association for Computing Machinery. That paper was published in 1974 in the Communications of the ACM. Its appearance brought a flurry of requests for copies of the software.

This put AT&T in a bind. In 1956, AT&T had agreed to a U.S government consent decree that prevented the company from selling products not directly related to telephones and telecommunications, in return for its legal monopoly status in running the country’s long-distance phone service. So Unix could not be sold as a product. Instead, AT&T released the Unix source code under license to anyone who asked, charging only a nominal fee. The critical wrinkle here was that the consent decree prevented AT&T from supporting Unix. Indeed, for many years Bell Labs researchers proudly displayed their Unix policy at conferences with a slide that read, “No advertising, no support, no bug fixes, payment in advance.”

With no other channels of support available to them, early Unix adopters banded together for mutual assistance, forming a loose network of user groups all over the world. They had the source code, which helped. And they didn’t view Unix as a standard software product, because nobody seemed to be looking after it. So these early Unix users themselves set about fixing bugs, writing new tools, and generally improving the system as they saw fit.

The Usenix user group acted as a clearinghouse for the exchange of Unix software in the United States. People could send in magnetic tapes with new software or fixes to the system and get back tapes with the software and fixes that Usenix had received from others. In Australia, the University of Sydney produced a more robust version of Unix, the Australian Unix Share Accounting Method, which could cope with larger numbers of concurrent users and offered better performance.

By the mid-1970s, the environment of sharing that had sprung up around Unix resembled the open-source movement so prevalent today. Users far and wide were enthusiastically enhancing the system, and many of their improvements were being fed back to Bell Labs for incorporation in future releases. But as Unix became more popular, AT&T’s lawyers began looking harder at what various licensees were doing with their systems.

One person who caught their eye was John Lions, a computer scientist then teaching at the University of New South Wales, in Australia. In 1977, he published what was probably the most famous computing book of the time, A Commentary on the Unix Operating System, which contained an annotated listing of the central source code for Unix.

Unix’s licensing conditions allowed for the exchange of source code, and initially, Lions’s book was sold to licensees. But by 1979, AT&T’s lawyers had clamped down on the book’s distribution and use in academic classes. The anti­authoritarian Unix community reacted as you might expect, and samizdat copies of the book spread like wildfire. Many of us have nearly unreadable nth-­generation photocopies of the original book.

End runs around AT&T’s lawyers indeed became the norm—even at Bell Labs. For example, between the release of the sixth edition of Unix in 1975 and the seventh edition in 1979, Thompson collected dozens of important bug fixes to the system, coming both from within and outside of Bell Labs. He wanted these to filter out to the existing Unix user base, but the company’s lawyers felt that this would constitute a form of support and balked at their release. Nevertheless, those bug fixes soon became widely distributed through unofficial channels. For instance, Lou Katz, the founding president of Usenix, received a phone call one day telling him that if he went down to a certain spot on Mountain Avenue (where Bell Labs was located) at 2 p.m., he would find something of interest. Sure enough, Katz found a magnetic tape with the bug fixes, which were rapidly in the hands of countless users.

By the end of the 1970s, Unix, which had started a decade earlier as a reaction against the loss of a comfortable programming environment, was growing like a weed throughout academia and the IT industry. Unix would flower in the early 1980s before reaching the height of its popularity in the early 1990s.

For many reasons, Unix has since given way to other commercial and noncommercial systems. But its legacy, that of an elegant, well-designed, comfortable environment for software development, lives on. In recognition of their accomplishment, Thompson and Ritchie were given the Japan Prize earlier this year, adding to a collection of honors that includes the United States’ National Medal of Technology and Innovation and the Association of Computing Machinery’s Turing Award. Many other, often very personal, tributes to Ritchie and his enormous influence on computing were widely shared after his death this past October.

Unix is indeed one of the most influential operating systems ever invented. Its direct descendants now number in the hundreds. On one side of the family tree are various versions of Unix proper, which began to be commercialized in the 1980s after the Bell System monopoly was broken up, freeing AT&T from the stipulations of the 1956 consent decree. On the other side are various Unix-like operating systems derived from the version of Unix developed at the University of California, Berkeley, including the one Apple uses today on its computers, OS X. I say “Unix-like” because the developers of the Berkeley Software Distribution (BSD) Unix on which these systems were based worked hard to remove all the original AT&T code so that their software and its descendants would be freely distributable.

The effectiveness of those efforts were, however, called into question when the AT&T subsidiary Unix System Laboratories filed suit against Berkeley Software Design and the Regents of the University of California in 1992 over intellectual property rights to this software. The university in turn filed a counterclaim against AT&T for breaches to the license it provided AT&T for the use of code developed at Berkeley. The ensuing legal quagmire slowed the development of free Unix-like clones, including 386BSD, which was designed for the Intel 386 chip, the CPU then found in many IBM PCs.

Had this operating system been available at the time, Linus Torvalds says he probably wouldn’t have created Linux, an open-source Unix-like operating system he developed from scratch for PCs in the early 1990s. Linux has carried the Unix baton forward into the 21st century, powering a wide range of digital gadgets including wireless routers, televisions, desktop PCs, and Android smartphones. It even runs some supercomputers.

Although AT&T quickly settled its legal disputes with Berkeley Software Design and the University of California, legal wrangling over intellectual property claims to various parts of Unix and Linux have continued over the years, often involving byzantine corporate relations. By 2004, no fewer than five major lawsuits had been filed. Just this past August, a software company called the TSG Group (formerly known as the SCO Group), lost a bid in court to claim ownership of Unix copyrights that Novell had acquired when it purchased the Unix System Laboratories from AT&T in 1993.

As a programmer and Unix historian, I can’t help but find all this legal sparring a bit sad. From the very start, the authors and users of Unix worked as best they could to build and share, even if that meant defying authority. That outpouring of selflessness stands in sharp contrast to the greed that has driven subsequent legal battles over the ownership of Unix.

The world of computer hardware and software moves forward startlingly fast. For IT professionals, the rapid pace of change is typically a wonderful thing. But it makes us susceptible to the loss of our own history, including important lessons from the past. To address this issue in a small way, in 1995 I started a mailing list of old-time Unix ­aficionados. That effort morphed into the Unix Heritage Society. Our goal is not only to save the history of Unix but also to collect and curate these old systems and, where possible, bring them back to life. With help from many talented members of this society, I was able to restore much of the old Unix software to working order, including Ritchie’s first C compiler from 1972 and the first Unix system to be written in C, dating from 1973.

One holy grail that eluded us for a long time was the first edition of Unix in any form, electronic or otherwise. Then, in 2006, Al Kossow from the Computer History Museum, in Mountain View, Calif., unearthed a printed study of Unix dated 1972, which not only covered the internal workings of Unix but also included a complete assembly listing of the kernel, the main component of this operating system. This was an amazing find—like discovering an old Ford Model T collecting dust in a corner of a barn. But we didn’t just want to admire the chrome work from afar. We wanted to see the thing run again.

In 2008, Tim Newsham, an independent programmer in Hawaii, and I assembled a team of like-minded Unix enthusiasts and set out to bring this ancient system back from the dead. The work was technically arduous and often frustrating, but in the end, we had a copy of the first edition of Unix running on an emulated PDP-11/20. We sent out messages announcing our success to all those we thought would be interested. Thompson, always succinct, simply replied, “Amazing.” Indeed, his brainchild was amazing, and I’ve been happy to do what I can to make it, and the story behind it, better known.

哲學功課: Locutionary Acts and Illocutionary Acts

通常我們批評別人只說不做,但在語言哲學當中,說話也是一個行為,說話也是在做事。當然捲動舌頭發出聲音本身已經是一個行為,但這只是語言行為當中最表面的一層。深入一層的內語言行為是說出一句說話時,在表達出那句說話本身的意思。再深入一層的外語言行為,是那句說話起的實際的作用,如法官宣讀判詞,在婚禮上答我願意,向別人許下一個承諾,這些語言行為與一般可以分辨真偽的陳述說話,有著本質上的不同,因為說話本身就有一個力量。最深入一層的後語言行為,便是透過說話去達到某些目的,例如婚禮上答我願意目的只是為了嫁入豪門。這篇功課探討如何劃分內語言行為和外語言行為的界線。

In “How to do Things with Words”, J.L.Austin challenges the traditional view of philosophy language that the meaning of utterances concerns about its truth value. He proposed the concept of speech act, instead passively describe what is being said, he bring froth a new idea that identify a critical feature of speaking, which is “saying is doing”. He classify utterance into two categories, performative utterance and costative utterance. Costative utterance is more or less the traditional account of sentence, in which it concerns about how to interpret the meaning of statement in the sentence. A statement is stating some fact and some reference which can be denotated and resolved its sense and then determine the truth value of the statement. For example, the sentence “My school is on top of Burnaby Mountain” is a statement stating some fact about the school of the speaker which can be verified by the listener once “my school” is deference to “Simon Fraser University” and “Burnaby Mountain” is denotated to a particular place that the listener knows about. On the other hand, performative utterance has no truth value attached, rather the speaker is trying to archive something with the utterance. The major concern of the sentence, for example a command or an instruction, is about what the speaker intended to archive. For example, when the speaker says “Get me a cup of tea”, there is no true of false regarding the sentence, he is instructing the listener to fetch him a cup of tea.

Austin further divide the performative utterance into three sub-categories. When a person speaks, he is actually performing three acts at the same time. On the surface level, he is preformance a locutionary act, that he is making some sound, speaking some words and uttering a sentence that means a certain thing literally. In short it is the act that he is speaking. On the second level, there is the illocutionary act, what the speaking is doing when he is speaking. He could be promising something, ordering someone or stating some facts through his speech. In short it is the act in his speaking. The last level is prelocutionary act, it is the intention of the speaker through the act of speaking, he could be trying to draw someone’s attention, pleasing someone or insulting someone. In short it is the act behind his speaking. Austin points out that costative utterance is a special kind of performative utterance where the act performed is to state something. He also points out that a sentence with illocutionary verbs will make the sentence a illocutionary act, but some sentence without any illocutionary verbs can also be a performative utterance under the right context. For example, the sentence “I will be there tomorrow” has an implicit meaning that I promise I will be there tomorrow.

Searle disagrees with Austin distinction on locutionary act and illocutionary act in the article “Austin on Locutionary and Illocutionary Acts” [2]. His paper is divided into two major sections. In the first half of the paper he try to show that Austin account on the boundary between locutionary act and illocutionary act is wrong, “reduces the locutionary-illocutionary distinction to trying and succeeding in performing an illocutionary act” [2, p409]. In the second half of the paper, he propose his own boundary between locutionary act and illocutionary act by introducing the concept of propositional acts. In the following sections, I will examine Searle’s argument in details and point out how he failed to show that Austin is wrong about louctionary act and illocutionary act.

Searle agrees with Austin on the first two level of locutionary act, the phonetic act that is the act of making some sound, the phatic act that is the act of uttering some words, but he disagree on the rhetic act that constitute the sense and reference of the sentence in the utterance. On the rhetic act level, he thinks that the meaning of the utterance is the same as the illocutionary, “there are not two difference acts but two different labels for the same act” [2, p407]. He argue that if someone says “Get out”, the rhetic act is he told me to get out, which is essentially the same as the illocutionary act. In short, “the verb phrases in the reports of rhetic acts invariably contain illocutionary verbs” [2, p411]. There is no way to give an indirect speech report of a rhetic act which does not turn the report into the report of an ilocutionary act.

Let me show Searle is wrong by employing two counter examples. In the simple examples used in Searle’s article, it is indeed very hard to distinguish the the rhetic act and illocutionary. However when we consider a more complex example, we can clearly mark distinction between locutionary act and illocutionary. Under many circumstance, the surface meaning of the speech can be very difference from the illocutionary act. Imagine that there is a secret agent who is is contacting his undercover spy to exchange some information and issue further instructions in a coffee shop. They both agreed on using some secret code word, let’s say for example on surface they are talking about NHL games, but in reality they use the score of the games and the number on the hockey player’s jersey to encode secret messages. In this case, on the surface the locutionary act are just talking about hockey, but the illocutionary act has totally different meaning, maybe they are talking about their next assassination plan. Here we have a clear cut distinction between locutionary act and illocutionary act that the two are not the same.

Searle also made a wrong assumption that locutionary act must always has three parts. In fact a locutionary act can only consist of the first two parts or even just the first part, but there can still be an illocutionary act associated with the same utterance. For example, a brain injury patient lost his function in speaking, so he can only make isolated words or he is even only capable of making incomprehensible noise, although his can still think clearly inside his mind. Imagine a scenario that the patient want to get the attention of the nurse, he would try to speak something or make some noise to get the attention of the nurse. The illocutionary act of his utterance is very clear, but yet the rhetic act or the pahtic act is totally missing, only the phonetic act of the loctionary act remains. This example also demostrate that locutionary act is very different form illoctionary act. Even the utternace is totally meaningless on the surface, under some context the meaningless utterance could actually mean something that the speaker is trying to do.

In the second half of the paper, Searle attempt to reconstruct the boundary of locutionary and illocutionary by introducing a new layer, propositional act, above the phatic act in the place of rhetic act used to be. He started with stating three linguistic principles. Then he try to point out Austin neglects those three principles in his original theory in spech act to explain why Austin is wrong. His first argument (point 3) is less controversal, Austin’s attempt to identify specific illocutionary verbs and the endless distinction of different types of illouctionary acts is futile. The cataglory of illocutionary force of utternace is not precise, there can be more than one way to distinguish different types of illocutionary acts.

Searle’s next argument on Principle of Expressiblity (point 1 and 2) tries to point out that “for every illocutionary act one intends to performs, It is possible to utter a sentence the literal meaning of which is such as to determine that its serious literal utterance in an appropriate context” [2, p418]. He thinks that given proper translation and detail description, the meaning of an illocutionary act can be expressed by a sentence literally, so that the Austin’s separation between the said-meaning and the meant-force does not exist. Searle assume “the meaning of a sentence is determined by the meanings of all its meaningful components” [2, p415] which is not always true. The meaning of a sentence can sometimes determined by what is missing from its meaningful components, so that the listener can deduce the true meaning of the sentence from what is omitted from the sentences when it is compare against the normal components of that type of sentences. In a situation that a person has to say one sentence to two listeners but at the same time convey two different meanings to the two listeners with the prerequisite that one of the listener cannot know the meaning that is intended for the other listener. For example, a businessman introduce a customer to his long time business partner. The businessman praise the customer such and such during the introduction in front of the customer. To the customer, the illocutionary act is about using the praises to say something good about the customer. But to the business partner, the illocutionary act is about using what is not praised to indicate something bad about the customer. If the omission in the locutionary act is the true intend of the illocutionary act, then it is impossible to express the illocutionary act in a plain literal sentence, no matter how many details you put into the sentences.

Searle introduce propositional act, the act of expression the proposition, which is a specific type of illocutionary act that the intend of the sentence is merely stating the content of the sentences. Austin thinks that this type of performative utterance act bears the truth value of the content of the sentences just like traditional costative utterance. Searle argues that a propositional act has two components, the statement act itself which is the act of stating, and the statement object which is the content of what is stated. The statement act is like any other act that it does not have true or false. A statement object is a proposition that we can evaluate its truthfuliness. I think Searle are force to introduce this arkward layer of the proposition act in order to complete his speech act theory because he get rid of the rhetic act layer of locutionary act. Let’s recall Austin’s definition of locutionary act, especially the definition of rhetic act, is that the speaker is saying the literal meaning of the sentence. Statement act is actually a special kind of illocutionary act that the meaning of illocutionary act overlap with the meaning of rhetic act. Let me use the same technique employed by Searles earlier in the article but flip it, there is no way to give a report of an illocutionary act which does not turn into giving an indirect speech report of a rhetic. For example, he said “Simon Fraser University is in Burnaby”, the illocutionary act is that he is stating Simon Fraser University is in Burnaby which is exactly the same as the rhetic act.

In conclusion, I successfully defence Austin’s account on the locutionary act and illocutionary act from Searle’s attack by showing counter examples that clearly mark the boundary between locutionary and illocutionary acts. In addition, I also refute his claim that illocutionary act can be express in a literal sentence that in his account makes locutionary act no longer necessary. At last, I demostrated that the introduction of propositional act is redundant if we keep the distinction of locutionary act and illocutionary act. Propositional act is just a special case of illocutionary act that actually overlap with locutionary.

References:
[1] J.L. Austin, “Performative Utterances”
[2] J.R.Searle, “Austin on Locutionary and Illocutionary Acts”

Johnny English Reborn 特務戇J之救國大業

很久沒有進電影院,早陣子和老婆拍拖,吃完晚飯沒有節目,便決定去看齣電影。我不愛看愛情片文藝片,老婆不愛看恐怖片動作片,看笑片便是兩個人理所當然的共同選擇。很久以前看過「特務戇J」第一集,故事內容是什麼完全忘記了,只記得Mr.Bean搞笑的神態和表情,他傻更更的樣子,讓人看見他便不禁好笑。這次第二集好玩依舊,繼續玩轉老牌英國特務占士邦。

戇豆先生喜歡裝模作樣古古怪怪,有一幅天生充滿喜劇感的面孔。故事極盡情節抵死惹笑,比起夾硬人逗發笑的美式喜劇,這齣電影比較有英式幽默的聰明。開場時戇豆先生去了西藏修行,練下門金鐘罩的神功。中英兩國元首舉行峰會,發現刺殺中國領導人的陰謀,英國情報局急招戇豆先生回去幫忙,他平時撞板多過吃飯,但總是好好彩碌碌破案。

電影遠赴香港取景,香港的觀眾倍覺親切。開場在香港的天台追逐戰,戇豆先生靠食腦不用辛苦,人家飛跳爬鐵絲網,他卻從罅隙間穿過去,人家爬棚架下去,他便搭升降機快過人。整套電影爆笑情節甚多,整間戲院笑聲不停。他駕直升機去醫院便是一絕,好笑指數爆燈。另外阿婆殺手是全片的亮點,不單有可以變身狙擊槍,電鋸和機關槍的無敵吸塵機,還害戇豆先生認錯人,嘔打英女皇。

沒有什麼大道理毫無藝術性可言,看完腦袋空空如也不留下什麼印像,只是開開心心笑餐飽走出戲院,這便是「特務戇J」的電影了。不過在戲院看完第二集,挑起了我看戇豆的癮,回家Youtube重溫第一集,同樣的好好笑。