* Posts by Stevie

7168 posts • joined 12 Jun 2008

An anti-drone system that sneezes targets to death? Would that be a DARPA project? You betcha

Stevie Silver badge

Re: Seems DARPA is several years behind the threat.


5kg lift capability, less than 10K, and can hover.

I feel you are reaching for an horizon only you can see.

Stevie Silver badge

Re: Seems DARPA is several years behind the threat.

So you missed the part that went "cheap, capable, commercially available drones" then?

From Wikipedia:

In September 2009, the Indian Air Force announced that it will be inducting the Harop systems purchased for US$100 million "for up to 10 drones".

10 million apiece No note on whether that includes the remote operating station to drive them.

I believe the threat isn't where you think it is either.

Prez Biden narrowly escapes cicada assassination attempt, hunkers down in Cornwall

Stevie Silver badge


1985, Westbury, NY.

My Dad: What the hell is that noise? It sounds like sprinklers, but it's deafening!

Me: You mean the cicadas?

My Dad: WHAT?


You think these things are a joke. All summer kept awake by them, followed by an autumn of having millions of disgusting thumb-sized carcasses on every vertical and horizontal surface. Thank Azathoth they only come out every 17 years. Haven't heard them that bad much since then, but then again, I moved.

Nasdaq's 32-bit code can't handle Berkshire Hathaway's monster share price

Stevie Silver badge

Re: Bah!

On real computers the "SYNC RIGHT" gets automatically added because the mill expects that. You can override it of course, but it is scarcely worth the trouble unless really starved for memory/disk space or have single word fields with multiple short values packed in them (The UNIVAC 1100 family has a 36 bit word that can be chopped in a number of ways, so using Cobol's SYNC is often a waste of effort better spent in the Data Division where fewer runtime errors will be waiting to silently bite us, for example).

What makes COMP a 'currency type' is that it is a binary numeric representation with a *decimal* scale factor. This means that arithmetic works as long as you know how the language arithmetic operators/verbs do, and have a grasp of implied intermediate value field types. Screwing up DIVIDE is a different order of problem, nothing to do with the declared variable picture clauses.

COMP-? declarations are different beasts, retrofits that are implementation dependent. I well remember a newly hired boss giving me gyp about using report writer because "it doesn't handle packed decimal", until I pointed out that packed decimal was an IBM conceit and we were in the world of Univac, where report writer worked just fine.

I can do COMP-? discussions all day because I once made my money converting such fields for running on other hardware than they were originally intended (lots of contracts with people doing government work), and somewhere I have a Univac Cobol Supplemental manual, long out of print, that details all the bizarre COMP variants for working especially with IBM->UNIVAC conversions (tape formats being top of the list. IBM x-track, y-parity, that sort of thing).

And yes, a bunch of clever young things really did nerf Wall St bizzes plural in the early 90s by deploying float types to record and calculate currency amounts. It was quite the secret scandal.

Stevie Silver badge


Christ on a fucking bike!

You NEVER use floating point for any kind of currency calculations.

Anyone in the banking industry would know this from the secret-to-most uckfup in the early 90s when some Clever Young Things, filled with the spirit of No More Cobol (which, of course, has a special scaled decimal currency type - "computational" - though that isn't spelled out in the code and the CYTs apparently never cracked a manual), did just that.

The reason that CYTs still *do* that is because newer IT manuals almost universally discuss FP with the same throwaway sentence used in the article and *never* go into why the Azathoth-damned type is approximate.


Ganja believe it? Police make hash of suspected weed farm raid, pot Bitcoin mine instead

Stevie Silver badge

Re: Dirty servers + clean shelves, oink oink aka REISER IS INNOCENT!

Easy enough to check. Just look at the logs for uptime.

I think you are reaching.

Big red buttons and very bad language: A primer for life in the IT world

Stevie Silver badge


Ah the Good Old Days.

Lighning & thunderstorm crashes = long and unshielded interconnects.

Long would mean dozens to hundreds of feet.

I remember the palaver teleloading a remote VT server in the spares department could be on an old ICL system. One operator at the console, one in the spares department several hundred feet away, phone to ear, one hand on the signal gain knob.

"Nope. Try again!"

"looks like rain..."


Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes-Benz? Detroit waits for my order, you'd better make amends

Stevie Silver badge

Re: Acoustic couplers!

<MODE=Clouseau>And the same to you, you filthy swine!</MODE>

Stevie Silver badge

Re:every time I received a text, the whole carriage erupted

Really? because in real life I've found the general tolerance for that sort of thing is about three repetitions before people start looking for improvised weapons.

The future is now, old man: Let the young guns show how to properly cock things up

Stevie Silver badge

Re: Regomised

Beat me to it.

Stevie Silver badge

Re: Police Computer

Heh. Many years ago a colleague set up an inter-agency computer system whereby - for the first time - one agency could directly query the document stores of another.

"We need a document to retrieve" says My Colleague.

"How about my driver's license?" says My Other Colleague.

"OK" <enters number>

17 unpaid tickets showing. MOC went white as sheet as he realized that not only was he a scofflaw, everyone in the building would shortly know that.

Everyone else stayed silent until he has left the office "for an early lunch" at which point hilarity broke out.

Gone in 60 electrons: Digital art swaggers down the cul-de-sac of obsolescence

Stevie Silver badge


But gosh, doesn't "non-fungible" mean "cannot be turned into cash"?

So these would be like bitcoin(s) that only ever have an onramp.

Not seeing the point/value here.

Of course, I'm old so I'm not supposed to understand it.

Bring on the EMP.

Perl changes dev's permaban for 'unacceptable' behaviour to a year-long lockout after community response

Stevie Silver badge

If it doesn't make sense,

Pfft. Mere crypto-clarification.

Appeals court nixes online blueprint sharing ban on 3D-printed 'ghost guns'

Stevie Silver badge


Well, your reasoned argument has a basic flaw in that you group those who want background checks in with abusers of the law, which is as misleading as saying that Fox audiences are all Q-anon nutcases. There's overlap but not equivalence.

"Years back, a law got passed so people who get guns at gun shows should have to get a background check, with the ability to do an "instant" background check that can be run in 10 minutes to an hour "

A gun fair salesman has the IT infrastructure to run a multi-state background check in 10 minutes? Or even an hour? Because there is no integrated system that would enable one to put, say, a driver's license into a scanner and get an answer back. What we are talking about here is running searches against various databases of interest.

Quite frankly, as an IT professional, the idea of a multi-state, multi-jurisdictional computer search for - well what are we searching for? Felonies? Mental Heath records? We don't keep those in one place - that can be completed in ten minutes is a fantasy from the same place as the shoulder surfing autonomous mini drone kickstarter.

Even an hour, given the easily conceived complexity of the job of "vetting" someone against - were we vetting against a Federally mandated menu of no-nos or a state mandated one? Because 50 states will have 50 different lists of disqualifying factors - would be what I would term "optimistic" even before I saw the spec.

Not that I disagree about the repugnance of overreach when it comes to the law.

But to my mind the three day thing was always a soundbite. Gun show organizers could include a background check as part of advance ticket sales for example, and gun show vendors could arrange post-show delivery or pickup. Not ideal and there must be many more ways of working the issue than just throwing up hands and saying "NOPE".

The real reason Gun Show organizers and attendees don't want background checks is that Gun Shows are the bitcoin of gun trading - anonymous and untrackable. You know it. I know it. The world knows it. Talking about gun show vendors as victims of the over-reaching system may be factual, but it is tangential to the real issue.

The relevant question to ask in a sane society is: Do you seriously want a gun in the hands of someone who cannot wait the three days to get it?

No, I have no interest in taking away your guns. But I don't want assault weapons - which I equate with military grade automatic longarms - in the hands of civilians "just because". There is no need, and not permitting that subset of arms is in no way infringing the second amendment rights of anyone.

Stevie Silver badge


Just gonna point out again that in the land of the free it is still cheaper to buy a gun than to 3d print one.

Good: Water vapor signal detected for first time on distant planet. Bad: Er, we'll let one of the boffins explain

Stevie Silver badge

Re: Bah!

I see Brexit has eroded the British sense of humour to the nub.

Never mind. Go have a nice fish'n'chips lunch ... oh dear.

Stevie Silver badge


The European Extremely Large Telescope?

Will they let British scientists have a go?

If they do, watch out for boot-polish on the eyepiece.

Can't get that printer to work? It's not you. It's that sodding cablin.... oh beautiful job with that cabling, boss

Stevie Silver badge

Re: Bloody Developers and memory

I had someone steal all the memory out of an old sun workstation I used once in a blue moon.

"Who would do that?" said my grinning manager.

"I have no idea" I said with a sigh, and went off to check the office for old kit lying under desks and on the hot desk we were supposed to give short-term consultants who we never hired.

A few days later the hardware replacement tech came yelling around my desk:

"Who left this old busted sun workstation on my desk? And all these broken keyboards? And what' s with this pile of old SCSI disks all over my cabinet top?"

"I have no idea".

Stevie Silver badge

Re: He'll have the small plate of crow

Damn straight, especially in the days of no standards to speak of. Who could tell what boards were expected to have socketed? I had a video card that had two empty sockets for chips if I wanted more video memory. The chips had edge connectors, not pins too, so were a bugger to source once I figured out I had options.

Stevie Silver badge

Re: Printers are the Devil's work

And yet our Paperless Office System survived as is even after the bleedin' obvious was pointed out to the pointy haired early in the design process.

The corporate standard is to call it "Poz". You know when someone is unhappy because they switch to "Pee Oh Ess" when discussing some aspect of it.

Microsoft demotes Calibri from default typeface gig, starts fling with five other fonts

Stevie Silver badge


In other words: differences so minor only a typeface dweeb would notice.

Wait ... aren't typfaces copyrighted? A light dawns ...

Also, never understood the fury over comic sans. You don't like it, paint it and replace it with wingdings.

You want a reboot? I'll give you a reboot! Happy now?

Stevie Silver badge

Re: Background

I'm not sure either, and I could make it do what I want color-wise but putty doesn't do the keyboard remapping thing and I really need that.

Stevie Silver badge

Re: Background

You need the colors *especially* if you are sshing from one to the other.

Because it is important to know which is your "baseline" and which is the one you are going to change.

I do this all the time.

When I have the luxury of multiple windows I open them. Then transfers between servers can be scp or sftp but I *know* which server is which.

So I don't eg restore a production database with test database data by mistake.

Stevie Silver badge

Re: Background

I use Reflections for my terminal sessions. Everyone else, younger and smarter than me, uses putty.

When I start a session I can pick from a palette of colour schemes I set up. Apparently, that is hard to do on putty. I wouldn't know.

So when, for example, I have sessions open to Dev, Training, UAT and Production they all get different bg/fg colours. Guess which one gets black on bright red.

I can also remap the keyboard if some very useful ways. our servers have a naming convention such that a name is a string made up of three character substrings. ssh is a four key op for me, with no yptos, and I have killer carpal tunnel issues. Yesyesyes I have to set up the certs on the servers to avoid needless password retyping but that takes a few minutes once in a blue moon.

Common file systems across servers means the need to zip all over the place during triage can be simplified. Single keystrokes to the rescue again.

I've just been informed that I may have to use putty in the future. The software installations guys cannot fathom the degree of pushback they are getting from one person in the department.

State of Maine says Workday has shown 'no accountability' for farcical $56.4m HR upgrade

Stevie Silver badge

Re: Bah!

Intransigent legacy system pays deployed soldiers', marines', sailors', aircrews' and coastguards' wives their wages on time, new system has them begging on the streets for change while the kids starve and those responsible make up stupid excuses for their incompetence.

Know which one I'm rooting for.

But then, I speak Cobol *and* C-like languages, know about how t code for currency and I am not a git.

Stevie Silver badge


Maybe a little less focusing on replacing Cobol with the Language Du Jour and a bit more on the Lost Art of Systems Analysis would pull the trick off?

Couple of years ago I had to listen to some Armed Forces bigwig telling America that the reason soldiers were not being paid was "old-fashioned Cobol systems" when in reality the (four different) Cobol systems in use by each branch of the armed forces were working fine. The problems started when they threw out the Cobol and introduced a new "integrated" system that was supposedly All Things To All Forces but in fact turned out to be No Thing For Any Forces.

The rules haven't changed just because the jargon has:

1) There must be a better way of doing it

2) There was a damn good reason for doing it the way it is now

3) Leave it the fuck alone - until you *understand* #1 and #2.

I'm currently helping support a large application which had a new internet-enabled suite added on. Underlying design assumption: All the data needed by the new parts will be there when queried. This data is from a periodic asynchronous load set provided by an independent source over which we have no authority or control. What happens when the data *isn't* there? Headless Chicken Dancing and the dreaded Teams Meetings.

When did programmers-sorry-software architects stop working from "what happens when this isn't true?"

If I had provided anything like this as a trainee back before micro computers I'd have had my fingers broken by the Chief programmer.

Traffic lights, who needs 'em? Lucky Kentucky residents up in arms over first roundabout

Stevie Silver badge



I spent a couple of weeks in France in '78. At that time the rule was you had to yield to people entering the roundabout. Come 5pm, every city in France was filled with pretty star-shaped traffic jams courtesy of this witless law. Traffic helicopter footage was eagerly lapped up by the news program audiences.

Changed now to doing it the sensible way.

Don't cross the team tasked with policing the surfing habits of California's teens

Stevie Silver badge


I once worked in a factory in which wooden desks could only be moved by carpenters and metal desks could only be moved by tinsmiths.

Came the day when we had to relocate to "temporary" office space in portacabins.

And they discovered we had a metal desk with wooden drawers.

Instant demarcation dispute.

Stevie Silver badge

Re: Where's The Story?

"I once fell overboard and was almost eaten by a shark which had a head shaped like a hammer."

Microsoft revokes MVP status of developer who tweeted complaint about request to promote SQL-on-Azure

Stevie Silver badge

Re: Influencers

Well before that wasn't something about someone inventing light?

Pretty influential of you ask me.

Stevie Silver badge

Re: you could just add more internet connections

Idiotic suggestion. Add cost for nebulous benefit over current solution.

And what about those times when Microsoft cannot authenticate over the internet?

I can't be the only one whose enterprise bought the MS spiel about cloud-based log-on, then couldn't get email or launch chrome for a day when heir server farm was "stressed"

I'm with the factory. Buy a second server if not there already and cluster-up. Don't forget your UPS.

Because I've sat through the 2004 blackout *and* the time some twillup cut a cable in the Fort McHenry Tunnel and took out internet for everyone northeast of Baltimore.

Huawei could have snooped on the Dutch prime minister's phone calls thanks to KPN network core access

Stevie Silver badge

KPN described Volksrant's reporting as "harsh"

I heard they said Volksrant was harshing their mellow.

Quality control, Soviet style: Here's another fine message you've gotten me into

Stevie Silver badge

Re: Not a translator

If only there were, I don't know, and auxiliary language everyone could use to bridge the gap.


NASA's Mars helicopter spins up its blades ahead of hoped-for 12 April hover

Stevie Silver badge

Re: What's to stop... Misconceptions

Well, I may be a bluff old cove with a hairstyle you could hide a badger in but even I can figure a way of folding a rotor protection ring so it can fold flat for transit and spring open "reverse gin trap" style for deployment.

I own small helicopters. I reckon the fear is not unreasonable and let's not forget that there is no-one to step over and tip the thing upright if it should come down at speed and "trip".

Because we don't send people to Mars in the post Von Braun word, we send roombas.


For blinkenlights sake.... RTFM! Yes. Read The Front of the Machine

Stevie Silver badge

Re: The Agony and No Ecstasy

The back:

Cleaning my teeth. Bent to spit and AAARRRRRRGGGGHHHH!

And the knee:

Doctor: How did you sprain your knee?

Me: Sleeping.

Why yes, I'll take that commendation for fixing the thing I broke

Stevie Silver badge


I deployed a networked software solution that chopped several hours off a 27 hour day, and thus this became a popular product. My deputy at the time ran an embryonic intranet server, and I used this to document everything including the fact that the compression button broke everything and should never be used. In this documentation I built in step-by-step playbooks for all the problems I had encountered including the "transfers hang = compression turned on" one.

My deputy claimed I never showed him anything, played his face to his manager (we had different ones due to some truly imaginative org trees) who had me fired off the project on a trumped up "annoys the users" charge. To stop me from walking they gave me Mr Backstab's web server to manage along with all the other stuff I did anyway.

Two weeks in I walk in and the network techs beg me to take a look. Mr BS was out somewhere and nothing was working across a networked enterprise the size of England. I said I wasn't allowed to touch it, but the big boss came in and said "just do it" so I did. I walked into the network room and under the eyes of the network techs I unchecked the "compression" box, and everything woke up.

Then I went into the Big Boss's office and made him fire up the intranet site for the product.

"Go to the problem page. It's the fourth hyperlink in the four member list"


"Now find the symptom we were seeing and click on that"


"Now read off the fix"

"Uncheck the compression option"

"Now tell me I never showed Mr BS how to do anything."

This hero presided over several more uckfups with that product which Those In Charge asked me to fix, including deploying a new version of Unix untested (and so not knowing about the added step of authorizing the printer so it could be reached from a PC, locking the entire thing solid in front of some VIPs) and bricking half of the training room's PCs two weeks after loudly acquiring a Microsoft Certification.

He can't look me in the face to this day. Totally worth it.

A borked bit of code sent the Hubble Space Telescope into safe mode, revealing a bunch of other glitches

Stevie Silver badge


The history of e Hubble Space Telescope is one of management control of budget resulting in spectacular near disaster and bolt-on remedies that ate all the cost savings of not doing the ground-based testing the science required.

Microsoft customers locked out of Teams, Office, Xbox, Dynamics – and Azure Active Directory breakdown blamed

Stevie Silver badge

Re: Cloud is great, brilliant, wonderful

One big cloudy basket for your eggs.

Stevie Silver badge


I hate TEAMS with a passion.

So it was supreme irony that yesterday I seemed to be the only person who could use the bloody thing sans nevereverspin or bizarro error messages.

You can drive a car with your feet, you can operate a sewing machine with your feet. Same goes for computers obviously

Stevie Silver badge

Re: "Old' and "solicitor" doesn't narrow things down...

1996, new (and first) PC with fax software and a voiceview modem sitting in home office.

Phone rings at too-damn-early on a Saturday and I get fax squeal when I pick up. And again. And again.

So I go downstairs boot PC and make tea while that happens. Then I start the fax software and out prints some poor woman's lab results with - as I'd hoped - a cover sheet with the phone number of the sender.

I call them, young woman answers and we fall down the rabbit hole:

"You are faxing the wrong number. Please check your machine."


"Okay. Let's review for a moment. You say you are faxing the right number. *I* say you are faxing the wrong one. What are the alternatives? Either I am right and you are sending - let me see - Mrs Elsie Zzzzzz's medical records to a private address, or you are right and I am a crank caller who has called you and accused you of sending a fax at exactly the same time as you actually did send a fax, and I have guessed randomly the exact details of the fax you are sending. You choose the more likely scenario."

"Okay. I'll re-check the number I dialed."

"Thank you. And I will shred the sensitive personal medical documents you sent to me, shall I?"

"Yes." Click.

Takes from the taxpayer, gives to the old – by squishing a bug in Thatcherite benefits system

Stevie Silver badge

56KB would have been considered a large mainframe memory in the 960s

I believe large computational memory was measured in beads in 960.

Stevie Silver badge

Re: As they said in the 80s... (very much @ RegGuy1)

Oh dear, someone is confusing "earned one's pension" (which people claiming them most certainly have absent any evidence of years of skiving off) and "funded one's pension" which works the way described.

The social contract was struck. One agreed to fund tomorrow's retirees if one's own pension was funded.

Breaking that contract should involve financial penalties and payments, just like in real life.

Stevie Silver badge

very few embedded systems that make use of date & time

Odd how the Keurig wakes up at 9 at night after a power cut.

You *don't* think ...

Stevie Silver badge

Nah. Most of us have already transmigrated to 64-bit.

But unbeknownst to you, your perl localtime routine hasn't.

Ask me how I know this.

Better yet, look it up in mi' archive.

Prepare for an unexpected ass-biting in some small but essential utility written by someone long-gone.

Microsoft's Extensible Storage Engine (JET Blue) source code arrives on GitHub – sadly comments not included

Stevie Silver badge


Nowt wrong with JET.

Nowt wrong with Access either. Have used it with great success for quite complex jobs.

Unless, of course, you develop either of them them into Humungo_Apps more suited for mainframe D/B tech.

If you go where No Man Was Meant To Go expect to see the error conditions No Man Was Meant To See.

There's no 'I' in Teams so Microsoft issues 6-month warning for laggards still on Skype for Business Online

Stevie Silver badge

Re: Kill it now

Try deleting an email account.

Now ask yourself: why wouldn't the application have such a feature?

Cats: Not a fan favourite when the critters are draped around an office packed with tech

Stevie Silver badge

Re: Benefit

motion-activated sprinkler.

Stevie Silver badge

Re: What?

Escaped disaster by a whisker.

Oh, no one knows what goes on behind locked doors... so don't leave your UPS in there

Stevie Silver badge

Re: ...and unlocked doors

Real aficionados grow the trees from saplings, log them by hand when they mature and mill them with a portable band sawmill.

*REAL* real aficionados build a rotary sawmill and power it with a restored traction engine of course, but that is going a bit far for a few planks IMO.

Stevie Silver badge

Re: It was the cleaners!

That's "orelly men".


Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021