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Wed, 20 Jul 2022 12:00:00 -0500 en text/html https://www.consumeraffairs.com/computers/hewlett_packard_computers.htm
Killexams : HP Victus 15

It's been half a year since HP debuted its Victus brand of affordable gaming laptops, positioned below the Omen line and replacing its Pavilion Gaming series. First up was the 16.1-inch Victus 16, on the high end of the budget spectrum at $1,249.99. The 15.6-inch Victus 15 reviewed here is a true economy model with a list price of $799.99 at Best Buy, but the retailer frequently discounts it—it was on sale for just $549.99 at press time. Despite the low price, it offers a few perks, like Intel's latest 12th Generation Core i5 processors and a 144Hz screen refresh rate. It's a decent deal, but its three-year-old Nvidia GeForce GTX graphics keep it from challenging GeForce RTX rivals like the MSI Katana GF66 and Acer Nitro 5.


AMD and Intel CPU Options: Something for Everyone 

HP offers Victus 15 systems with both Intel and AMD silicon. Our $799.99 review unit combines Intel's new Core i5-12450H (four Performance cores, four Efficient cores, 12 threads) with a far-from-new GeForce GTX 1650 GPU, along with 8GB of memory, a 512GB NVMe solid-state drive, and a 144Hz full HD display with a dim 250 nits of brightness.

HP Victus 15 rear view

The company plans two step-up models with 16GB of RAM, one at HP.com with an AMD Ryzen 7 5800H chip and Radeon RX 6500M and one at Best Buy with a Core i7-12650H and GeForce RTX 3050 Ti. At this writing, however, HP had only Ryzen 5 systems for sale, though Best Buy did offer the Core i7 config for $1,099.99. 

Whatever the variant, the Victus 15 has a 15.6-inch non-touch screen with 1,920-by-1,080-pixel resolution. (A 300-nit low-blue-light panel is optional.) On our review unit, the screen's viewing angles are fairly wide; fine details are sharp; contrast is pretty good; and white backgrounds aren't too dingy. But colors are bland and lifeless rather than vivid, sorely lacking in brightness. If it didn't boast a 144Hz instead of generic 60Hz refresh rate, we'd call it a totally forgettable economy-class panel.

The Victus 15's plastic chassis—available in our dark grayish Mica Silver or $10 extra for Performance Blue or Ceramic White—measures 0.93 by 14.1 by 10 inches and weighs 5.06 pounds. That's trimmer than the Nitro 5 (1.06 by 14.1 by 10.7 inches, 5.51 pounds) and a match for the Katana GF66 (0.98 by 14.1 by 10.2 inches, 4.96 pounds).

HP Victus 15 right angle

HP claims an 82.2% screen-to-body ratio for the Victus 15, with skinny side bezels but larger ones at the top (holding a webcam with no privacy shutter) and bottom. There's a lot of flex if you grasp the display corners, though not much if you press the keyboard deck. As with many gaming laptops, you'll find neither a fingerprint reader nor face recognition webcam to speed Windows Hello logins.

HP Victus 15 left ports

You won't find a Thunderbolt 4 port, either, though we don't consider that a deal-breaker in an under-$1,000 laptop. The left edge holds a USB 3.2 Type-A port, an audio jack, an SD card slot, and the power connector. Another USB-A port joins a USB Type-C port, an Ethernet jack, and an HDMI video output on the right. Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth handle wireless communications.

HP Victus 15 right ports

A Puzzling Keyboard Layout, With No RGB

The keyboard has a comfortably responsive typing feel and—almost unheard-of for an HP laptop—cursor arrow keys arranged in the correct inverted T instead of a clumsy row. There are also top-row system controls and a numeric keypad. The buttonless touchpad is good-sized and glides and taps smoothly, though it has a somewhat stiff, dull click. 

On the minus side, while the keyboard is brightly backlit, it's in plain white with no multiple zones or per-key RGB color choices, so don't bother trying the supplied Omen Light Studio software. The Fn key doesn't team with the cursor arrows for Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down navigation, so you must perform those moves from the keypad, which is marred by the Num Lock key not having an indicator LED as the volume mute and touchpad toggle keys do.

HP Victus 15 keyboard

Believe us when we say we've seen plenty of laptops with cheap, low-res 720p webcams, but the Victus' is poor even by the usual standards—it captures blurred, blotchy images with some noise or static. A speaker grille above the keyboard pumps out flat, tinny sound. There's no bass, you can barely make out overlapping tracks, and I couldn't find any of the audio software we usually see to select music, movie, or gaming modes or tinker with an equalizer. 

HP Victus 15 front view

HP bolsters the Windows 11 Home system with the Omen Gaming Hub app, which combines status info with options to optimize network traffic and disable Windows services and processes to boost game performance. HP QuickDrop transfers files to or from your smartphone. You also get McAfee LiveSafe, Dropbox, ExpressVPN, and LastPass trials.


Performance Testing: Battle of the Gaming Bargains 

For our benchmark charts, we compared the Victus 15 to four other wallet-friendly gaming laptops, led by the MSI Katana GF66 and two Acers, the Nitro 5 and Predator Helios 300. The Dell G3 15 is the cheapest in the field.

Productivity Tests 

The main benchmark of UL's PCMark 10 simulates a variety of real-world productivity and content-creation workflows to measure overall performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheeting, web browsing, and videoconferencing. We also run PCMark 10's Full System Drive test to assess the load time and throughput of a laptop's storage. 

Three benchmarks focus on the CPU, using all available cores and threads, to rate a PC's suitability for processor-intensive workloads. Maxon's Cinebench R23 uses that company's Cinema 4D engine to render a complex scene, while Primate Labs' Geekbench 5.4 Pro simulates popular apps ranging from PDF rendering and speech recognition to machine learning. Finally, we use the open-source video transcoder HandBrake 1.4 to convert a 12-minute video clip from 4K to 1080p resolution (lower times are better). 

Our final productivity test is Puget Systems' PugetBench for Photoshop, which uses the Creative Cloud version 22 of Adobe's famous image editor to rate a PC's performance for content creation and multimedia applications. It's an automated extension that executes a variety of general and GPU-accelerated Photoshop tasks ranging from opening, rotating, resizing, and saving an image to applying masks, gradient fills, and filters.

We don't expect even a 12th Generation Core i5 to hang with Core i7 CPUs, and the Victus 15's Core i5 mostly doesn't (though the Nitro 5 and Katana are over- and underachievers respectively). So while it's not meant for workstation tasks such as video editing, the HP nevertheless performs nicely for a budget laptop, most importantly posting more than half again the 4,000 points in PCMark 10 that indicate excellent productivity for everyday apps like Microsoft Office. 

Graphics and Gaming Tests 

We test Windows PCs' graphics with two DirectX 12 gaming simulations from UL's 3DMark, Night Raid (more modest, suitable for laptops with integrated graphics) and Time Spy (more demanding, suitable for gaming rigs with discrete GPUs). 

We also run two tests from the cross-platform GPU benchmark GFXBench 5, which stresses both low-level routines like texturing and high-level, game-like image rendering. The 1440p Aztec Ruins and 1080p Car Chase tests, rendered offscreen to accommodate different display resolutions, exercise graphics and compute shaders using the OpenGL programming interface and hardware tessellation respectively. The more frames per second (fps), the better. 

Our next three tests involve real games—specifically, the built-in 1080p benchmarks from an AAA title (Assassin's Creed Valhalla), a fast-paced esports shooter (Rainbow Six Siege), and a sports racing sim (F1 2021). We run each benchmark twice, using different image quality presets for Valhalla and Rainbow and trying F1 with and without Nvidia's DLSS anti-aliasing technology, although in the Victus 15's case, the GTX 1650 is unable to run F1 with DLSS turned on.

Officially, the GeForce GTX 1650 is still Nvidia's entry-level mobile gaming GPU, but realistically its day has passed and we're living in a GeForce RTX 3050 or 3050 Ti world now. The Victus 15 delivers playable frame rates at low to medium image quality settings ("playable" defined as the minimal 30 frames per second rather than the 60fps that even budget gamers seek nowadays), and it justifies its 144Hz display in esports titles like Rainbow Six Siege. But it's in the bottom three or four of all gaming laptops in our benchmark database. 

Battery and Display Tests 

We test laptops' battery life by playing a locally stored 720p video file (the open-source Blender movie Tears of SteelTears of Steel) with display brightness at 50% and audio volume at 100%. We make sure the battery is fully charged before the test, with Wi-Fi and keyboard backlighting turned off. 

We also use a Datacolor SpyderX Elite monitor calibration sensor and software to measure a laptop screen's color saturation—what percentage of the sRGB, Adobe RGB, and DCI-P3 color gamuts or palettes the display can show—and its 50% and peak brightness in nits (candelas per square meter).

The HP's battery life is fine for a gaming notebook, and its color fidelity is adequate for an economy model, albeit far short of suitable for image editing or content creation. But its 250-nit brightness would be disappointing in even in a bare bones Chromebook—we expect 300 and hope for 400 nits from all but the cheapest laptop panels.


Verdict: Only for the Tightest Budgets

The base-model HP Victus 15 has a temptingly low price (especially if Best Buy keeps its discount), but to be blunt, there's no need to settle for GeForce GTX 1650 graphics when so many affordable gaming rigs today offer RTX 3050 or 3060 GPUs. Unless your budget just can't stretch beyond $600 or $650, look for a higher-end configuration of the Victus 15, or look elsewhere to better-equipped rivals like the MSI Katana GF66 or Acer Nitro 5.

Tue, 12 Jul 2022 12:27:00 -0500 en-au text/html https://au.pcmag.com/laptops/95070/hp-victus-15
Killexams : The Great Windows 11 Computer Extinction Experiment

There was a time when a new version of Windows was a really big deal, such the launch of Windows 95 for which the tones of the Rolling Stones’ Start me up could be heard across all manner of media outlets. Gradually over years this excitement has petered out, finally leaving us with Windows 10 that would, we were told, be the last ever version of the popular operating system and thence only receive continuous updates

But here we are in 2021, and a new Windows has been announced. Windows 11 will be the next latest and greatest from Redmond, but along with all the hoopla there has been an undercurrent of concern. Every new OS comes with a list of hardware requirements, but those for Windows 11 seem to go beyond the usual in their quest to cull older hardware. Aside from requiring Secure Boot and a Trusted Platform Module that’s caused a run on the devices, they’ve struck a load of surprisingly recent processors including those in some of their current Surface mobile PCs off their supported list, and it’s reported that they will even require laptops to have front-facing webcams if they wish to run Windows 11.

Out With The Old And In With The New

On some motherboards the TPM is a real module. FxJ, Public domain.
On some motherboards the TPM is a real module. FxJ, Public domain.

It makes absolute sense for a new operating system to lose support for legacy hardware, after all there is little point in their providing for owners of crusty old Pentiums or similar. The system requirements dropping support for 32-bit cores for example mirrors Windows 95’s abandonment of the 286 and earlier chips that had run the previous version, Windows 3.1. But in this case it seems as though they have wielded the axe a little too liberally, because a lot of owners of not-too ancient and certainly still pretty quick hardware will be left in the cold.

In the past there were accusations of a Microsoft/Intel duopoly idea that revolved around the chipmaker and OS vendor conspiring to advance each other’s products, and some commentators have revived it for this launch. A comparison between the 1990s and the present isn’t an easy one to make though, because the difference between the capabilities of a 386 desktop of 1990 and a Pentium 3 of 1999 through a decade in which Moore’s Law was at its height is so much more than for example that between between the first Intel i7 and the latest one. Is this simply Microsoft’s attempt to break with the need for so much of the backwards compatibility in which Windows is mired, and define a new PC for the 2020s? It will be interesting to see when the OS does finally land whether or not it will in fact run on some of the lesser machines, simply without official support.

A New OS Shouldn’t Cause An E-Waste Crisis

Burning cables to recover copper, Accra, Ghana. Muntaka Chasant [CC BY-SA 4.0]
Burning cables to recover copper, 2018, Accra, Ghana. Muntaka Chasant [CC BY-SA 4.0].
Moving on from applying a commentator’s magnifying glass to the new Windows, it’s worth looking further to the effect it will have on the PCs it leaves behind. If so many slightly older machines won’t be able to make the upgrade from Windows 10 it’s likely that a significant number will be discarded even though Windows 10 will continue to be supported until 2025, something that given the scale of the Windows userbase could represent a significant e-waste impact. And for many users, buying a new computer with the latest OS installed is more palatable than the thought of performing their own system upgrade, even if the hardware is still well supported in 11.

It’s likely a greater-than-average number of Hackaday readers are already users of alternative operating systems such as GNU/Linux, but expecting an ordinary Windows user to install a Linux distro on their machine is a pipedream. Perhaps the real impact of the Windows 11 launch will be a large and slowly dwindling Windows 10 population and a new mountain forming in the e-waste breaking centres of the developing countries who can least afford to deal with the consequences. I think that a new OS should have a better legacy than that.

Fri, 05 Aug 2022 12:00:00 -0500 Jenny List en-US text/html https://hackaday.com/2021/06/29/the-great-windows-11-computer-extinction-experiment/
Killexams : How to Network With WorldShip

UPS WorldShip is shipping software that can be installed on one or several computers and connect the users with UPS shipping services. Installing WorldShip on a network requires LAN configuration, with a main Administrative workstation and one or more Remote workstations all sharing the same folder.

Tue, 17 Jul 2018 06:39:00 -0500 en-US text/html https://smallbusiness.chron.com/network-worldship-36405.html
Killexams : How to Accelerate your Product Sales

The shortening sales cycle can significantly impact revenue generation and, as a result, the company’s growth. In a sales-based business, growth is everything. After all, there is no revenue if there are no sales. Sales acceleration describes the methods that guide in developing prospects more efficiently through the selling process. 

unsplash.com

A Sales CRM solution aims to assist you in reaching new customers, achieving their business, and managing to keep them comfortable by coordinating customers. And potential information in a way that allows us to create stronger relationships with them and increase your sales faster.

Here are the most effective sales acceleration strategies you can use to increase sales and revenue in any niche or industry.

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a technology that allows you to manage all of your company’s relationships and interactions with current and prospective customers. The goal is straightforward: improve business relationships to grow your company. A CRM system helps businesses in staying connected to streamlining processes, customers, and increasing profitability.

Promotion

Promotions and marketing inform customers about the products or services on the market. In some cases, discounts allow customers to try your products for free. The promotion can help attract more customers while also increasing the number of existing users. In some cases, you may be able to provide free samples. Marketing is the best for increasing sales. Through marketing, unique and high-quality products and services primarily capture customers’ attention and, as a result, make them esteemed consumers. These all responsibilities could be effectively managed by CRM software with simple clicks. Customers are the only ones who can help you increase sales. Customers can be rewarded as part of the marketing process.

Reduce The Sales Cycle

Nowadays, instant gratification is not only appreciated but also expected. If your sales process is unusually long or complicated, you’re probably passing up several opportunities. Examine your overall process and contrast it with that of your competitors using CRM analytics. Find ways to shorten the process by reducing the number of clicks or contacts.

Develop A Customer Operating Model

Creating a comprehensive resource center and customer service is an excellent way to provide clients with access to a wide range of the products and services that you provide. Furthermore, you should monitor your brands and address the issue as soon as possible in the event of a complaint with CRM software (integrated with your website). Customers must always feel appreciated and welcomed in the business.

Follow Up With Leads

If your sales team needs to follow up with leads, they must be quick and professionally. If a hot lead is not followed promptly by a sales representative, that lead is likely to seek out your competitor’s product. Create a system with CRM for staying organized and ensuring timely callbacks.

Unique And Creative Products

Customers should not leave your establishment dissatisfied with some of your products or services. It is critical to make customers prefer your company over others by focusing on high-quality, one-of-a-kind, and innovative products that outperform similar products on the market.

Effectual Coaching

The coaching you provide and the tools you use to provide that coaching are also critical for accelerating sales. Providing real-time corrective action during a call can be extremely beneficial. It’s also critical to make sure you’re coaching your top, average, and below-average performers in various ways to help them achieve or maintain success.

Establish Products Valued

The best way to increase your sales is to create and cultivate value in all forms, such as employee training and higher-value products, among others. Creating a value-setting atmosphere helps attract and retain existing customers throughout the year.

Customer Support

One method of increasing sales is improving customer relations and genuinely maximizing available customers. Employees should be taught how to behave with their coworkers in special and appreciated ways to retain those who have come to business.

Recruit The Perfect Sales Staff

Your sales team is the public face of your company. They are the ones out in the field, overcoming objections and meeting with potential buyers face-to-face or on the phone. Make certain that you have hired passionate, talented individuals to represent you. After all, this is the most effective way to establish a solid reputation and brand.

Conduct Surveys

An enormous amount of data is available for you to pursue software and technology. Furthermore, if you’re selling to businesses, it’s simple to go online and learn as much as you can about that company and its industry. The more research you conduct, the better you understand why your product or service is valuable.

Give Importance To The Clients

If you want to increase sales, you should shift your focus from attracting new customers to convincing those who have already tried your products or services to buy again, and you should learn how to keep all of your customers. Partners’ sales and marketing professionals, the best sales prospects, have already converted into existing customers rather than total strangers.

To sell to someone – whether a person or a business – you must first understand their needs. Listening is the best way to understand. Pay special attention to your company objectives and how they respond to your communications.

You can massively increase and grow your business by focusing on your proven customers. Marketing can certainly impact sales, but it cannot solely result in increased sales because you focus solely on new customers and fail to maximize the sales of existing customers.

Assemble A Massive Amount Of Data

Science has demonstrated that the decision-making process is frequently a pattern. The more data you collect, the more data you can analyze, and the better you can identify and exploit patterns. You can accurately predict which leads are most likely to buy if you have the right data.

Accelerating sales is critical for growth, and these eight sales acceleration tips will help you get there. Above all, make sure you take the time to research and understand your clients’ needs and that you work hard to hire the best sales team possible. Then, use a sales acceleration tool to collect data to make better predictions and increase sales.

Consider Out About Your Industry Rivals

You should analyze your competitors’ offerings and learn new techniques to outperform them. Competition is both a challenge and an opportunity to increase your sales, especially if you exploit their weaknesses while maximizing your own. 

Consider Product To Be A Solution

Your product or service is more than just that: it is a product or service. It’s a significant trouble remedy for the right leads. When you understand your customers’ specific needs and the industry in which they operate, you can find ways to demonstrate how the product or service you sell can Strengthen their lives.

CONCLUSION

To summarize, the importance of sales in a company’s high success should not be underrated or inefficient. Profit from the impact that sales can have on earnings and company image, long-term customer satisfaction, and business growth. Sales Acceleration by the steps mentioned earlier will perform an essential role in advancing customer trust and confidence. However, a bit of advancement and savageness of time can make your place even more prominent. Using CRM in business activities is definitely a wise decision. It can help you in multiple ways. During sales relations, empowering customers to recommend a companion or provide positive feedback can help the business grow by increasing brand awareness and sales.

Thu, 14 Jul 2022 04:19:00 -0500 GISuser en-US text/html https://gisuser.com/2022/07/how-to-accelerate-your-product-sales/
Killexams : Forth: The Hacker’s Language

Let’s start right off with a controversial claim: Forth is the hacker’s programming language. Coding in Forth is a little bit like writing assembly language, interactively, for a strange CPU architecture that doesn’t exist. Forth is a virtual machine, an interpreted command-line, and a compiler all in one. And all of this is simple enough that it’s easily capable of running in a few kilobytes of memory. When your Forth code is right, it reads just like a natural-language sentence but getting there involves a bit of puzzle solving.

robot_forth_had-colors
From Thinking FORTH (PDF)

Forth is what you’d get if Python slept with Assembly Language: interactive, expressive, and without syntactical baggage, but still very close to the metal. Is it a high-level language or a low-level language? Yes! Or rather, it’s the shortest path from one to the other. You can, and must, peek and poke directly into memory in Forth, but you can also build up a body of higher-level code fast enough that you won’t mind. In my opinion, this combination of live coding and proximity to the hardware makes Forth great for exploring new microcontrollers or working them into your projects. It’s a fun language to write a hardware abstraction layer in.

But Forth is also like a high-wire act; if C gives you enough rope to hang yourself, Forth is a flamethrower crawling with cobras. There is no type checking, no scope, and no separation of data and code. You can do horrible things like redefine 2 as a function that will return seven, and forever after your math won’t work. (But why would you?) You can easily jump off into bad sections of memory and crash the system. You will develop a good mental model of what data is on the stack at any given time, or you will suffer. If you want a compiler to worry about code safety for you, go see Rust, Ada, or Java. You will not find it here. Forth is about simplicity and flexibility.

Being simple and flexible also means being extensible. Almost nothing is included with most Forth systems by default. If you like object-oriented style programming, for instance, Gforth comes with no fewer than three different object frameworks, and you get to choose whichever suits your problem or your style best. You can modify the Forth compiler or interpreter itself, so if you want type checking, you can add it. Some Forth implementations are written with just twenty or thirty functions in native assembly or C, and the rest is bootstrapped in Forth. Faster Forths are implemented entirely in assembly language, with some compile-time optimizations that make it run about as fast as anything else, even though it’s compiled as you type, on the target microcontroller itself.

Forth is probably not the language you want to learn if you are designing an enterprise banking backend. On the other hand, a string of blinky LEDs running a physics simulation isn’t an “enterprise” anything. Forth is a hacker’s language, in both the laudatory and the pejorative senses. I’m not sure that it’s going to help you get “real work” done at all, and you engineer types might want to walk away now. But if you want to tweak at the language itself, or use it to push your hardware around, or just play, Forth is fantastic. The hacker in me thinks that’s a lot of fun, and it’s a great match for smaller microcontroller projects.

Forth Crash Course: Theory Section

Forth is the simplest language after assembly language. Forth is procedural in the extreme — a Forth program is really just a chain of subroutines, called “words” in the Forth jargon. There’s no syntax, and all words are separated by a space and are parsed left to right. With a few exceptions for compiling, all words run right now so the Forth interpreter doesn’t have to look ahead to the next word. run this code! is valid Forth if you’ve already defined the words run, this, and code! and it calls each of the three words in the order that you’d expect.

Simplicity and Reverse Polish Notation

The corollary of this simple setup is that Forth uses the so-called Reverse Polish Notation (RPN). If the Forth interpreter is going to execute the + word right now, it has to have the two numbers that are going to get added already on the stack. Otherwise, it would have to wait for the next number to come along before it could finish the addition. Read that again, and let it sink in. It’s different from what you’re used to, and it’s important.

crazyAny other ordering or syntax is unnecessarily complicated. The way that you think of as “natural” to write down math is crazy, in the sense that the look-ahead nature of the + operator requires either parentheses or an “order of operations” to be unambiguous. Look at 2 + 3 * 4. There is nothing natural about getting 14 here at all — it’s the result of a convoluted syntax with implicit rules. You have to read the whole “sentence” first, find the *, remember that it has priority over +, evaluate it first, and then go back to the addition to finish up, even though + is the second word in the sentence. A computer doesn’t want to know about “order of operations”, it just wants to add two numbers, preferably ones that are already sitting in ALU registers. Don’t believe me? Read the machine code.

Forth, and RPN, write this as 2 3 4 * + or 3 4 * 2 +. Either way, the operator works on whatever numbers are already available. If you don’t think of this as being “reverse” or “polish” or even a “notation”, you’ll be on the right track. You’re simply writing things down in the order in which they should be executed. (How crazy is that!?!)

I like to think of RPN as the computing equivalent of mis en place; before you start cooking, you get all your ingredients lined up. This is the way Forth code works: get.broccoli chop.broccoli get.beef slice.beef get.oyster-sauce stir.fry Some elements are naturally interchangeable — you could get and slice the beef before the broccoli — but the overall order is important to the procedure, and you really don’t want to be going back to slice the broccoli while the beef is in the wok. But this is exactly what you’re doing when you insist on writing 3 + 4 instead of 3 4 +.

Compiling and Running

New words are defined and compiled with a : to enter compilation mode and a ; to exit. Compilation, such as it is, takes place immediately. Under the hood, the Forth interpreter is looking up each word that you use in the definition and simply stringing them together. One exception to this rule is the function name itself, as you’ll see now.

stack_ops_had-colors
Starting FORTH

Compile your first Forth word: : seven 3 4 + ;. It’s not very useful, but it creates a word called seven that will put a 3 and a 4 on the stack and then run the addition word. The “result” is that whatever you had on the stack before, you’ll have a 7 on top of it now. An optimizing Forth compiler will just push a 7 onto the stack.

All programming is about breaking complicated tasks down into reasonable-sized chunks. What constitutes “reasonable” depends a bit on the language, a bit on the programmer’s own style, and a bit on the cultural zeitgeist. Executing a word in Forth requires a lot less overhead than a function call in C, and following long code logics can get convoluted even for experienced Forthers, so the definition of Forth words tend to be extremely short, typically one-liners including comments. You’ll be compiling quite often.

The Stack

The heart and soul of Forth is the data stack, henceforth “the stack”. Forth is a stack-based language, and until you’ve coded in Forth for a while, you can’t appreciate what this really means and how thoughts about the stack come to dominate your coding life. Forth words don’t take arguments or return values, instead they operate on whatever data is on the stack when they’re called.

stack_spring_had-colors
Starting FORTH

The stack is the best and worst part of Forth. When your stack contents line up right with the words that operate on them, the result is code of a beauty and efficiency that can’t be beat. When they misalign, you find yourself wondering if the object-oriented folks aren’t right, and that coupling data with methods might be a good idea after all.

The gimmick in Forth programming is figuring out what’s needed on the stack by one word, and making sure that the word used just beforehand leaves that on the stack. In this sense, the Forth programmer defines words, but needs to think in phrases, where the contents of the stack start out empty and end that way again. This is like the way that C uses the stack within a function scope, keeping the local variables only until it’s done with the function, and then overwriting them.

As a concrete example of this chaining, imagine a word, gpio-set that sets a GPIO pin high. It will probably need both a port and a pin number to get the job done. A particularly Forthy way to implement this is to define a word for each pin on the part that you’re going to use: : PA3 PORTA 3 ; Then you can light the LED on pin A3 with PA3 gpio-set. In C, you’d first define a structure that includes a port and a pin number, then define gpio-set to take a structure of that type. In Forth, this is implicit: you make sure that the pin words push a port and pin number onto the stack, and then that pin-handling words expect them. It’s not safe, but it’s simple.

Stack Juggling

Swap-swap, the Forth Mascot, from Starting FORTH
Swap-swap, the Forth Mascot, from Starting FORTH

The absolutely worst part of Forth is stack manipulations. People usually start learning Forth by learning about the stack manipulations, and indeed they are important, but they’re trivial. Words like swap, drop, and dup let you move items around on the stack, but too many “stack juggling” manipulations in a given word is probably a sign of bad Forth code, rather than good. You’ll use these words for sure, but that’s not where the bodies are buried.

Rather, the stack is where the absolute minimal amount of data wants to sit between processing steps. The number of items needs to be small enough to avoid running out of finite stack space, of course. But a second reason is that it’s simply hard to keep too many stack items straight in your mind. As you get used to Forth, the amount of stack that you can internalize might go up from three items to five or seven, but you’re going to get confused if you let the stack grow unpruned for long.

So Forth is a disaster. It’s a language where you have to manage the stack yourself, and the only hope of not getting caught in a tangled web of endless stack juggling is to keep things as simple as possible. Forth proponents would claim that this is also its greatest virtue — there’s always pressure to keep things simple and straightforward because doing anything else will embed un-figure-outable bugs so deep into your code that you’ll go mad. I don’t know if it’s Stockholm syndrome, whether I’m a minimalist at heart, or whether I like the challenge, but this is actually one of the reasons that Forth is so neat.

Other programming languages allow you to juggle tens of variables because the compiler keeps track of different scopes for you, keeping track of how deep each (local) variable is on the stack. Forth doesn’t. And that means that you need to think about the order in which things run. Forth forces you to internalize a bit of optimization that an ideal compiler would do for you. This can end up in very tight code, or in headaches. It depends on the programmer and the problem.

In my experience, simple syntax, computer-friendly ordering, and the resulting emphasis on transparency and simplicity make it actually surprisingly easy to get stuff right in Forth.

The Sweet Spot

But enough philosophical crap about Forth. If you want that, you can read it elsewhere in copious quantities. (See the glossary below.) There are three reasons that Forth more interesting to the hardware hacker right now than ever before. The first reason is that Forth was developed for the computers of the late 1970s and early 1980s, and this level of power and sophistication is just about what you find in every $3 microcontroller on the market right now. The other two reasons are intertwined, but revolve around one particular Forth implementation.

Mecrisp-Stellaris

There are a million Forths, and each one is a special snowflake. We’ve covered Forth for the AVRs, Forth on ARMs, and most recently Forth on an ESP8266. The joke goes that if you’ve seen one Forth implementation, you’ve seen one Forth implementation. But I think that’s too cynical — Forth is as much a way of thinking about the computer programming problem as it is a particular implementation. Once you learn one, you’ll be on good footing to learn any other.

Anyway, a few years ago, a physics graduate student [Matthias Koch] wrote a Forth for the MSP430 because he needed a microcontroller to collect analog data for an experiment. That’s “Mecrisp”. Later on, he needed more speed and re-wrote it for the ARM Cortex M family of chips, and we got “Mecrisp-Stellaris“.

And that’s where things got awesome. [Jean-Claude Wippler], the “J” in JeeLabs, decided that he was going to implement his new system of distributed electrical and environmental sensors in Forth, at least under the hood. To do this, he needed a hardware abstraction layer. The combination of Mecrisp-Stellaris with the JeeLabs libraries is a tremendous Forth ecosystem for a whole bunch of ARM microcontrollers, and it has all been developed within the last two years by a small core of thoughtful hackers. Combining the two provides a very pleasant Forth microcontroller hacking experience, like a weird interactive Arduino.

Your Homework

So if you want to follow along down a very strange rabbit hole, learn a bit about the real hacker’s programming language, or just fool around, stay tuned. In a couple of weeks, I’ll publish a hands-on guide to getting started with Mecrisp-Stellaris on the STM32 family ARM chips.

These are the droids you're looking for.
These are the droids you’re looking for.

A good minimum Mecrisp-Stellaris development environment is going to consist of a cheap STM32F103 development board, a ST-Link v2 (or better) programmer for it, and a USB-TTL serial adapter. Chances are good that you’ve got at least the latter kicking around already. If so, you could be set up with the rest for around $10, €10, or £10 depending on where you live. “STM32F103” and “ST-link” should get you set up on eBay.

So order some parts right now. While you’re waiting for delivery, work through this very good online tutorial. Run through that, and you’ll be set for next time.

If you want to go further, you can download a Forth for your desktop computer and start working through some other introductions.  Brodie’s “Starting FORTH” is the canonical Forth introduction, but it’s a bit dated (and feel free to skip Chapter 3 on disk access). If you prefer brevity over humor, check out J.V. Noble’s Beginner’s Guide or the Gforth tutorial.

All images from Starting FORTH used by permission from FORTH, Inc. The originals are black and white, rather than Hackaday dark charcoal and yellow, naturally.

Wed, 27 Jul 2022 12:00:00 -0500 Elliot Williams en-US text/html https://hackaday.com/2017/01/27/forth-the-hackers-language/
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Ruri Ranbe has been working as a writer since 2008. She received an A.A. in English literature from Valencia College and is completing a B.S. in computer science at the University of Central Florida. Ranbe also has more than six years of professional information-technology experience, specializing in computer architecture, operating systems, networking, server administration, virtualization and Web design.

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