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YES! I do

by Nitsuj (Hermit)
on Oct 29, 2000 at 02:47 UTC ( #38947=note: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??

in reply to RE: RE: Obfuscate my perl code
in thread Obfuscate my perl code

Ever read any really highly optimized code? In assmebly perhaps? Some methods like intentionally overflowing, stuff like that? Passing pointers in odd ways. Lots of stuff like that makes code almost unreadable, but can make it MUCH faster. Look at the goto statement! I have heard of old computers that move through data structures quickly by cycling to the end of drum memory, and then cycling foward one to arrive at the head again. Try a full time job maintaining old code, designed on old machines. Almost impossibly to read, but HIGHLY tuned and INCREDIBLY efficient. They used to fit everything in less than 16K on high end computers, and did some pretty crazy cramming to make it work.

Just Another Perl Backpacker

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(jcwren) RE: YES! I do
by jcwren (Prior) on Oct 29, 2000 at 08:12 UTC
    I can't vouch for the accuracy of Mel in the aforementioned story, but I can tell you that drum tuning was a *very* common practice. Other than Mel getting the sense switch backwards, all the tuning information is probable.

    There are a couple of machines that have some really cool instructions. The old Data General Nova systems had an indexed fetch instruction that if the high bit was set, would use the contents of the fetched data as another index. If the high bit was set, this would repeat. It made finding the end of a linked list pretty trivial. It could also make a pretty effective endless loop. With the Nova 1200 system we... acquired... we taught it to play the "Daisy, Daisy, Give me your answer true" melody by tuning loops that made the core memory planes "sing". If I run across my 8K x 16 core memory plane, I'll take a picture and post it. Hand woven by oriental women.

    Another interesting instruction was on the Control Data Corporation Cyber systems. At the request of the Atomic Energy Comission, an instruction was added that would return the number of bits set it a word (these were 60 bit words). This was used in some nuclear bomb simulation calcuations.

    One free ++ to anyone who figures out what this code does, and explains why:
    and al,00fh add al,090h daa adc al,040h daa
    The actual instruction set is irrelevant, but that's x86 code.


    e-mail jcwren
      <big dopey grin>
      jcwren - you've saved us'all the hassle of core samples, ring counting and carbon-dating.   You must be older than me or even gasp merlyn.
      </big dopey grin>

      I'll admit to doing a bit of 8080a assm 100 years ago in college, but those synapses have looong since been flushed.   So no guesses from /me.
          striving for Perl Adept

      i was always one for a challenge:

      perhaps this is a newbie asm question but I always thought al/ah were 8 bit registers- is this my old asm experience talking? could it be the "new" intel "standards". hmmmmm....well, I've seen stranger Mac asm, so, for the challenge, I'll assume 24 bit registers, I guess....

      I just followed my thoughts through- here they are:

      • and al,00fh: sets first 16 bits of al to 0, last 8 bits are left as they were
      • add al,090h: adds one gross (144=9*16) to al, which makes al now 09x where x is from the original set
      • daa: decimal adjust after addition: changes al to a packed decimal number stored in hex- results in 90+x as decimal packed into hex
      • adc al,040h: adds dest to src and carry flag, too: (90h+xh)+40h
      • daa: like (90+40)+x=130+x packed BCD

      hmmm, can this be right? probably not, oh well. I find it amusing that CISC processing leads to infinite obfuscation- much more than perl could ever achieve. (

      /me decides that perl is better than assembly.

      AgentM Systems nor Nasca Enterprises nor Bone::Easy nor Macperl is responsible for the comments made by AgentM. Remember, you can build any logical system with NOR.
      You gots ta be an old dog to remember shitty hex dump hacks like that one... (oh god I'm getting old...) Its nice if you need it real small, otherwise you'd be better off with a nice lookup table, 300ish or 700+ bytes saved was a big win in the 64KB days....

      $you = new YOU;
      honk() if $you->love(perl)

      There was a PDP11 instruction that copied it's own code (yeah, there are a lot of processors with this instruction). Anyways, they cut HUGE amounts of code in the Personal Rapid Transit Project using this instruction (as I alluded to in my other post, but they did some other crazy stuff too)!

      Just Another Perl Backpacker
RE: YES! I do
by cianoz (Friar) on Oct 29, 2000 at 04:04 UTC
    this is just haker's folklore, maybe you was too impressed by this story...
      It's not entirely folklore. We used to do this sort of thing all the time in the AppleII and 64KB PC days. Heck I used to have a switch construct in PC assembler that pushed the the segment and instruction pointer to stack, added a few bytes, then pushed a destination onto the stack and did an IRET. The routines it jumped to did an IRET to come back. I saved like 24 bytes by doing it "wrong" and basically broke any disassembler out there. Also, it was faster... =)

      Evil self-modifying code was the only way you could get anything to work in non-glacial speed on the Apple. My friend Rick wrote an 8 direction generalized 8x8 pixel block move that self modified itself in a tight loop. It could smoothly move about 50 cells of 8x8 tiles faster than the screen refresh and was about 130ish bytes. The original way had taken over a 1k and he wanted more room for tiles. And yes, we explored modifying the code a bit to use it as graphic tiles first. =)

      Writing in a memory budget was terrific for helping you think outside the box...

      $you = new YOU;
      honk() if $you->love(perl)

      I know that they saved a lot of memory by using what some would consider some very odd tricks, in the programming of the Personal Rapid Transit, which is the transportation system at my university (West Virginia University). You would be surprised how much info they squeezed into some VERY tight space.

      Just Another Perl Backpacker

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