* Posts by smudge

984 publicly visible posts • joined 8 Aug 2008


It's that most wonderful time of the year when tech cannot handle the date


My leap year tale

Exactly 40 years ago, I was working for an IT company which supplied software for pathology labs in hospitals - basically databases of results of blood tests, urine tests, and other unmentionable things.

Quality wasn't very good, but, having been there for only a year, I was trying to improve it.

Feb 29 rolled around, so I sat back and waited for the phone to ring. Nothing. No complaints. Had we got through it? No. The next day, March 1st, the complaints came in.

At some time in the previous four years, before I joined, someone had added a "delta check" facility to the software. This checked a patient's latest results against their previous results, and raised an alarm if they were changing too quickly.

Whoever programmed the delta check had forgotten about February having 29 days every four years. So when it compared new results against older ones, it calculated the time difference to be 24 hours less than it really was... and all hell broke loose as a large number of patients were flagged as needing attention.

Only good thing about it was that eight years later, New Scientist magazine published an article which I had written about it. I had realised that in 1992 they would have an issue actually dated 29th February, so I submitted an article recounting the above leap year woes, and then looking forward to 01 January 2000 - one of the early mentions of what became known as the Millennium Bug.

The next week they published a letter by one Arthur C Clarke, saying "interesting article, but I described this problem, and a solution, in my book......". I later saw several very similar letters from him, on other topics, so he must have had a standard template that he just added the appropriate details to before firing it off to the magazine.

Not even the ghost of obsolescence can coerce users onto Windows 11


How long?

Windows 10 may be just over a year away from the ax, but its successor, Windows 11, appears to be as unpopular as ever.

The end of Windows 10 support is getting closer. Unless the company blinks, October 14, 2025, will be the end of the line for the Home and Pro editions of the operating system

On my planet, it's currently October 2023.

So, two years.

USENET, the OG social network, rises again like a text-only phoenix


Re: It never went away!

Yup. I still occasionally look at groups like uk.railway and uk.telecom.broadband.

I was going to say something about starting a gopher revival, but I see that it never went away either! OK then, Winsock API anyone?

UK air traffic woes caused by 'invalid flight plan data'


Re: Expertise

Always assume that the form may be filled by a dog or someone sitting on the keyboard.

In my first job, we had someone whom the dog would probably have outscored in an IQ test.

I don't think he ever actually sat on the keyboard, but he certainly did things to systems which you wouldn't have thought possible.

Invaluable, he was. If you want to make a system idiot-proof, first catch your idiot...


Re: Resiliency – we've heard of it

I hadn't. I'd heard of resilience, though.

UK flights disrupted by 'technical issue' with air traffic computer system


Re: The network is token ring.

It's the Flight Planning System which failed, not the network.

If the network had completely failed, then they wouldn't have had radar or voice comms either. Now that really would have been serious!

Western Digital sued over claims of data-trashing SanDisk, My Passport SSDs


There's an opportunity there

the case aspires to be certified as a class action that would represent an unspecified number of customers said to have experienced similar device failures or data loss. The class potentially consists of "tens if not hundreds of thousands of individuals" in the United States.

There's an opportunity there for someone to initiate hundreds of thousands of induhviduals into the secret, shadowy world of "making backups".

Infosys launches 'sonic identity' – an aural logo to 'reinforce brand purpose'


Reminds me of....

...Pop Goes The Weasel.

First-ever orbital satellite launch from British soil will be delayed


Re: Why are they doing this?

Can't find any details of the orbits of the 7 satellites that they are going to launch, so I will just make the observation that they don't have to be equatorial orbits.

I do know that satellites to be launched from Sutherland and/or Shetland - several hundred miles further north - are destined for polar orbits, or other non-equatorial orbits

Government by Gmail catches up with UK minister... who is reappointed anyway


In the scheme of "UK Gov Shitshows so far in 2022", this is a non-issue.

No. It is the tip of the iceberg. (Another lettuce to bring the government down!)

She admitted that she did it six times in the six weeks that she was Home Secretary for the first time. Presumably because she has been confronted with the logs showing these six events.

Follow-up questions which should be asked include:

- how many times did she do this during the 31 months that she was Attorney General? (for those overseas, that position is the most senior law officer in the government)

- how widespread is this practice throughout government?

The internet's edge routers are all so different. What if we unified them with software?


is it desirable?

I am not an expert in this area, so the detail of the article is beyond me.

But as a security pro (retired), my first question would be - is this putting all our eggs in one basket? Could it create a dangerous monoculture, where one exploitable vulnerability - possibly in the protocols themselves - could be catastrophically dangerous?

Will be interested to hear opinions.

Ofcom announces plan to protect endangered species – the Great British phone box



BT has been tolling the bell for copper phone lines for some time now, but upgrading payphones to digital too would require significant investment.

Does that mean to a digital landline? Could installation of a robust mobile be cost-effective?

Say what you see: Four-letter fun on a late-night support call


Re: The joys of the phonetic alphabet

The look on our faces when he shouted "Ulysses".

How many of your team thought that was move 'y'? :)

Computer scientists at University of Edinburgh contemplate courses without 'Alice' and 'Bob'


Time to rename that operating system...

... since Unix is an unfair singling out of castrated males.

How long till some drunkard puts a foot through one of BT's 'iconic, digital smart city communication hubs'?


The monolith

Does the monolith show strange, hypnotic, moving patterns at night, to teach new skills to the locals?

And will it be gone one morning when they wake up?

Spring tears down math geek t-shirt listing because it dared to mention the trademarked word 'zeta'


Re: That’s going to upset a few fans...

Yup. I came here to say that the Reg had missed a trick by not contacting her for comment :) But you beat me to it.

NSA: We 'don't know when or even if' a quantum computer will ever be able to break today's public-key encryption


Re: So...

Mandy Rice-Davies, not Keeler.

UK promises big data law shake-up... while also keeping the EU happy, of course. What could go wrong?


Doing away with "endless" cookie banners

Dowden said he planned to do away with "endless" cookie banners and only apply them when cookies pose a high risk to individuals' privacy.

And of course he has a simple, efficient, infallible, automated method of determining when a cookie poses "a high risk"?

In fact, before we get to that, he has a simple, workable, deterministic definition of "high risk"?

Blue Origin sues NASA for awarding SpaceX $3bn contract to land next American boots on the Moon


Standard practice?

Isn't it standard practice - or as near as dammit - for the loser in a large US government procurement to sue?

I have worked in IT with a very large US company who were intending to do just that, but then unexpectedly won the bid :)

Chocolate beer barred from sale after child mistakes it for chocolate milk


The child mistook it... in a shop and bought it? Found it at home?

RTFA. (A = article)

Sysadmins: Why not simply verify there's no backdoor in every program you install, and thus avoid any cyber-drama?


the sunny island of Heraklion

ENISA, which is soon to be dragged from its Greek home – split between capital Athens and the sunny island of Heraklion –

Last time I was there, Heraklion was the capital of, and firmly attached to, the sunny island of Crete.

What happened? Has there been another Santorini (pictured)?

Britain to spend £22m influencing Indo-Pacific nations' cybersecurity policies against 'authoritarian regimes'


Re: It Might be a Good Idea to Start at Home - the UK InterNet is Censored

Compared to many countries, the UK is a Nanny domain with many restrictions forced on the great unwashed in the UK.

I am genuinely curious. Can you give us some examples of these restrictions, please?

So what if I pay peanuts for my home broadband? I demand you fix it NOW!


Re: 666

Agree that it's an immortal album - and as mad as a box of frogs - but for me the best bit is "Aegean Sea".

Only a week or two I posted a link to it to a football forum, where a review of a game had said that our defence had "parted like the Aegean Sea". In correcting it - y'all know which sea it should've been ;) - I posted a link to "Aegean Sea", because the author is even older than me and often posts links to music from way back then.


Brit MPs and campaigners come together to oppose COVID status certificates as 'divisive and discriminatory'


Re: Not "divisive and discriminatory", but essential

I wonder if when that was introduced there were arguments about people wearing seatbelts believing they are safe and likely to drive with less caution?

I can't remember (possibly I am too young) to remember any controversy about seatbelts, apart from those who insisted it was better to be flung out of the vehicle.

But there was certainly a widespread belief, especially amongst motorcyclists, that Volvo drivers were dangerous, because their cars were marketed as and were perceived to be very safe, with consequential effects on the owners' driving.


Re: Not "divisive and discriminatory", but essential

You mean like a 97% survival rate of the virus and the great majority of those 3% deaths being 65 or older?

I also understand that on my next birthday I will be 65.


Re: Not "divisive and discriminatory", but essential

I oppose any requirement to identify yourself, much less provide official documentation, for any day-to-day activities.

So you don't get cash out of an ATM or use credit cards or log into any system where you have to authenticate your identity?


Re: Not "divisive and discriminatory", but essential

You've been vaccinated so you've nothing to worry about right? Or don't you have faith in medical science?

I have faith in medical science.

I also understand percentages.


Not "divisive and discriminatory", but essential

They join other campaign groups, including Liberty, in backing the statement: "We oppose the divisive and discriminatory use of COVID status certification to deny individuals access to general services, businesses or jobs."

And I oppose the lack of COVID status certification, which will enable individuals to endanger my health and that of the general public.


1) On the assumption that people who can't have the vaccine are relatively small in number and would pose no great risk to the general population, I would treat them the same as those who had been vaccinated.

2) Those who won't have the vaccine are on their own. To those who say it's their right to choose not to have it, I say it's also my right to be protected from such idiots.

3) To the young who protest about age discrimination, I point out the Government's appalling record in getting effective IT systems up and running, and reassure them that everyone will have been vaccinated before any working system is in place.

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


Re: Communicating with only obscenities?

Anthony Burgess - "A Clockwork Orange", etc - said he heard a mechanic in the Army say, whilst trying to fix a Jeep, "Fuck it — the fucking fucker’s fucking fucked the fucker.”

He then subsequently used it in teaching English, since the word is used as a different part of speech (adjective, noun, verb etc) in each occurrence.


Re: The Agony and No Ecstasy

Washing up the cups I turned to pick up a tea towel and put my back out!

Nowadays, with me it's often putting on a sock, my underpants or my trousers. Just have to get my right leg into the wrong position, and...

Discussed this with my doctor, who said, yes, it will now always be when you don't expect it and aren't thinking about. He's right, of course - if I am lifting anything heavy, I make a conscious effort to do it the proper way.


The Agony and No Ecstasy

...the agony with which all those who have lifted something silly will be familiar (ours was an incident involving a washing machine, some stairs and the overconfidence of youth – you?)

Re-arranging the furniture in a meeting room at work. Picked up a table in the wrong position (me, that is, as well as the table) and bang! - something just went in my back.

Phoned up my wife to accompany me home - Tube and train out of London to the sticks - and had a few days off work, after which I thought I was fine.

But if I had had any inkling of the amount of pain that recurrences would give me over the years since then, I'd have sued the arse off my employer.

Yep, you're totally unique: That one very special user and their very special problem


My special one

but have you encountered one whose specialness did not extend to fiddling with a brightness knob? Or finding that pesky power switch?

Early 80s, minicomputer pathology lab systems, large disk drives each with a chunky power button on the front illuminated when switched on. Depending on the amount of storage needed, and on whether they had mirrored disks, the number of disk drives could vary from two to six.

A customer phones me up one morning. He's a consultant biochemist, doctorate and umpteen qualifications, so he has some intelligence, but of course he isn't - and doesn't have to be - a computer expert.

"The system's not coming up!".

So we start going through the usual stuff - it closed down OK last night, there IS power to the console and main processing unit, etc etc.

I didn't know his exact configuration, so I asked "Are all the disk drives turned on?".

"Oh yes, of course!".

Just then, a colleague who did know his configuration came in. I gave him the phone.

"Are both disk drives turned on?".

"Oh no, one of them isn't.".


Back to the Future

Fun fact – a Back To The Future of today would send the Delorean to the 1990s, after the events of Philip's story.

Yeah - but until recently they had the perfect update for the "Who's President?" joke.

Fancy a £130k director of technology role with the UK's Ministry of Justice? All you need to do is 'fix the basics'


Why a season ticket?

Travel to London is required "on an occasional basis", hence the season ticket loan

If it's only "occasional", why do they need a season ticket?

That's my money that they are wasting!

Atheists warn followers of unholy data leak, hint dark deeds may have tried to make it go away

Paris Hilton

an organisation that works to demystify atheism

You don't believe in any gods.

There - demystified for you for free :)

Paris - clearly still mystified.

Euro privacy watchdog calls for end of targeted advertising plus a squeeze on the processing of personal info


Re: Show me as many ads for cheap women's clothing as you like!

So it's not just me, then? I've often wondered what I did - where I went - to deserve it.

Trump tries one more time to limit H-1B work visas with new minimum salary requirements


We beat you to it!

However, the Trump Administration’s effort to reform the program have come across as punitive and xenophobic – fed by the president’s fierce anti-immigrant rhetoric – rather than good management.

Here in the UK, we have had, since 1st January, a new immigration system whose minimum wage requirements are set at a level higher than the average worker in the health and care sectors receives. Those sectors are heavily dependent on foreign workers, not just from our neighbouring EU countries with which there is no longer free movement, but also from countries further afield, such as the middle and far East.

Cutting off a large part of our supply of health and care workers is just what we don't need at any time, but especially not in the middle of a pandemic.

"Punitive and xenophobic" and "fierce anti-immigrant rhetoric" are words which could well be used to describe some events and politics in the UK over the past 5 years.

Loser Trump is no longer useful to Twitter, entire account deleted over fears he'll whip up more mayhem


Re: An elephant in the room

Your BBC propaganda station(s) (note, you have state controlled media) are full of bad information

And presumably the Washington Post also?

"Anyone who attempts to contravene a valid, authentic and legal (in the sense of whether the strike package was legal, and all off-the-shelf nuclear strike packages are pre-vetted for legality to some degree) order would be doing so illegally and risk the charge of mutiny. Now, if POTUS ordered a nuclear first strike out of the blue against China or Russia, there would be questions about legality. But if, for example, he ordered a limited nuclear strike against targets in Iran, such as the hardened and buried Fordow enrichment facility, or a complex in North Korea, it would be very difficult to argue that the president did not have the legal right to do that out of the blue if he or she deemed it in America’s national interest."



Re: An elephant in the room

There is coordination between all branches of the military for any first or defensive nuclear strike.


See my reply to your other comment just above.


Re: An elephant in the room

Sorry, it's moronic to even think a president, ANY president, can unilaterally initiate a nuclear strike. There is a procedure for any such action and you would have to also have consent from others that are not politicians.

Depends on what you mean by "consent".

The President is the Commander-in-Chief, and no one has the power to legally disobey or not carry out any orders that he gives. This was discussed at length early on in Trump's presidency, when a nuclear exchange with North Korea looked very possible. On TV in the UK this morning, we had an American political academic asserting that this is still the case. The system was designed in the Cold War to enable retaliation against the Soviets in the few minutes that may have remained for everyone.

If you equate "consent" to "folllowing orders without thought or question", then you are correct. However, most people would say that "consent" requires some form of positively "opting in" or "agreeing".

One would hope that anyone in receipt of such orders from Trump over the next 11 days would question them. However, it is undeniable that that would undoubtedly lead to a court martial. And I would guess that with the military's need to maintain discipline and not have every order questioned, the outcome of that court martial would not be as straightforward as you or I would hope.


it looks more like it's actively upsetting people, and I don't see why.

Maybe they all live in Florida.


Re: An elephant in the room

My guess is that The Button sends a verified command to a team of highly skilled fighter pilots who would carry out the orders, or not, as the case may be.

There is no "Button". The case contains authentication codes to provide assurance to the recipients that the orders to launch have originated from the President.

And fighter pilots don't fly nuclear missiles :)


Re: At least Trump has finally conceded

In his last tweet ever he said he would not be going to the inauguration.

Which is surely because he doesn't want to be in a known and very public place at the moment his Presidential immunity from prosecution runs out.

He will be hiding.

No amount of Glasgow handshaking will revive this borked kiosk


Re: Pacific Quay?

Actually, the area had no links to the Pacific.

Thank you! That was my point.

Glasgow made its wealth from tobacco, sugar and cotton - none of which came from the Pacific. Ships to and from the likes of India and the Far East would have gone round Africa and across the Indian Ocean.

As someone has already said, Pacific Quay is just a name dreamt up by some ignorant marketing people, in the 1990s.


Re: Pacific Quay?

Yes? Your point being?

I rest my case :)


Pacific Quay?

In Glasgow?

Geography lessons needed urgently!

How'd they do that? It's classified: Microsoft's Azure cloud goes Top Secret


Silly name

Stupid to include the marking "TOP SECRET" as part of the product name.

There was, and I see that there still is, an IBM mainframe access control product called "TOP SECRET", which was Government security-certified against the Orange Book (ask your grandfather), and consequently used by many Government establishments.

Legend had it that many a salesperson or engineer had had their exit from said establishments delayed somewhat, whilst the security guards established why they were attempting to leave along with boxes of manuals and computer media labelled "TOP SECRET" :)

UK infoseccer launches petition asking government not to backdoor encryption


It's easy

All he has to do is talk to Sir Graham Brady and Sir Ian Duncan Smith and Steve Baker and all the Tory MPs who are currently fuming at the authoritarian attacks on our freedom and human rights that are the covid restrictions.

They will of course instantly understand that backdooring encryption is also an attack on our liberty and rights, and will organise a rebellion to ensure that any proposal to backdoor encryption will never get through Parliament.

Won't they?

Mysterious metal monolith found in 'very remote' part of Utah


Re: Much ado about this...

Did they look inside?

Yup. Usual shit. Full of stars.

Test and Trace chief Dido Harding prompted to self-isolate by NHS COVID-19 app


So on the 10th November, John Penrose MP, husband of Dido Harding was told to self-isolate. Yet Dido was only informed by her app 5 days after she was in contact with someone (14 days self isolation, 9 days left when notified). So presumably hubby wasn't the contact. Good illustration of how weak "her" system is, that she can wander around for 5 days as a potential "spreader".

Penrose was told to isolate because he had been in contact with some who had had a postive test. Penrose himself has not had a positive test.

People who live with those who are self-isolating but who haven't had a positive test don't have to self-isolate. Therefore Dido didn't have to self-isolate just because her husband was.

She herself has subsequently come into contact with someone who has now had a positive test. So now she has to self-isolate.

Those are the rules, and I am sure that they were laid down by the Government's medical advisers, and not by her.

If every contact of someone self-isolating had to self-isolate, there would be no staff in hospitals or schools.