* Posts by Chris King

1153 publicly visible posts • joined 13 Feb 2009


Seriously, you do not want to make that cable your earth

Chris King

PCSA, Vampire Taps and All-In-1...

Damn you, I'm still drinking to forget them...

Shouted across a room - "Log in to All-In-1, I just sent you a message!"

Thicknet cables with their 15-way D connectors used to confuse users, who would plug them into the joystick port on their sound cards and wonder why they couldn't connect. (Younger readers - this is much like plugging your RJ45 network drop cable into an ISDN card),

Thicknet was positively skinny compared to the inter-floor hydra cable I encountered on one site. BICC ISOLAN hubs serving two floors, delivering RJ45 Cat 3. Yes, you read that right, Category 3. I can't remember how many U's they took up in the cabs, but "many" springs to mind.

For extra giggles, the ISOLAN network cards in the PC's would release their magic smoke if anyone ever attempted to install Windows 95. Log in, and your machine would be impersonating Robert the Robot from Fireball XL5 within moments.

OpenVMS on x86-64 reaches production status with v9.2

Chris King

Public clusters?

There's not much in the way of training material and knowledge exchange going on these days.

Until a few years ago, there were public-access VMS clusters out there, like Deathrow. These acted like the BBSes of old, and that one used VTX to maintain a knowledgebase and host forums. I found it useful to develop DCL scripts without having to run an emulated VAX or Alpha of my own.

That cluster had machines named after serial killers - I usually hung out on DAHMER:: (their Alpha) but they also had VAXes (GEIN:: and what was the other one?)

I wonder if there would be any mileage in VSI reviving such platforms as public demonstrators and a way to rekindle interest?

Chris King

I started with VMS on a VAX 8800 nearly 35 years ago - one of DEC's first true SMP boxes - at Uni, then went on to run it on various VAX amd Alpha platforms for a number of employers, eventually ending up as the "VMS Wizard's Apprentice" in my current gig.

The central VMS cluster and various offshoot machines went out the door nearly ten years ago and the Wizards have all retired, except for me.

I can see this as being useful to extend the life of existing code, and to help as a migration tool, but I don't see any new deployments happening. Not many folks are getting trained in it these days, and I regularly get approached on LinkedIn by people looking to recruit an experienced VMS greybeard on the cheap,

Critical vulnerabilities found in 'millions of Aruba and Avaya switches'

Chris King

Re: Well there's your problem

Would Cisco or Juniper even NEED SSL/TLS bugs, given all their telnet backdoors over the years?

Don't hate on cryptomining, hate the power stations, say Bitcoin super-fans

Chris King

Re: Wow

It's like crystal meth dealers blaming the drugs companies for manufacturing pseudoephedrine.

"We wouldn't be such evil bastards if you didn't make cures for a runny nose!"

Baby, I swear it's déjà vu: TalkTalk customers unable to opt out of ISP's ad-jacking DNS – just like six years ago

Chris King

Re: ISP -> Internet Service Provider

"Servicing", in the way bulls service cows ?

Planet Computers has really let things slide: Firm's third real-keyboard gizmo boasts 5G, Android 10, Linux support

Chris King

It's not just the Gemini that has bugs...

I went for a Cosmo - the hardware is fantastic, but the software has been pretty ropey. Lots of irritating little bugs in Android and the occasional show-stopper have prevented me from making much use of mine.

The last Cover Display (CODI) update took me TWENTY-FIVE attempts to install, despite taking all the usual precautions (Notifications off, Airplane Mode On, DuraSpeed Off etc), and the latest firmware update had to be pulled and reissued because it caused so many problems - including the loss of fingerprint data. The latest version requires you to back everyting up, hard reset the Cosmo and restore from backup. A previous version included a dodgy OTA updater that had to be replaced - no way I could trust this thing with access to my Google account details until it was fixed.

Linux functionality is incomplete (forget using it as an actual phone) and Sailfish is still some way away - even if it does turn up, it will almost certainly be a community version without Android emulation and predictive text, just like the Gemini.

So no, I won't be buying the shiny new toy they're dangling in front of me. I've gone back to using my previous "daily driver", a Nokia 5.

Instagram, YouTube 'iron man' marketer first to be nabbed by Feds cracking down on fake coronavirus web cures

Chris King

"So a bit like advertising then?"

Or politics...

Firefox 74 slams Facebook in solitary confinement: Browser add-on stops social network stalking users across the web

Chris King

"Log in with Facebook"

Yeah, right. Like I'm going to trust FB to be the gatekeeper for other sites. Same for Google et al.

We regret to inform you there are severe delays on the token ring due to IT nerds blasting each other to bloody chunks

Chris King

The internet is not a toy...

Some postgrad had developed a distributed search engine, and set it loose spidering various internet sites.

All was fine until I got a SOS message to the abuse@ mailbox - this thing had malfunctioned, and all the nodes were spidering the web site of a small Italian dialup ISP. Repeatedly and constantly.

It was pounding them so hard, they had to sign up for an account at another dialup ISP to get a message to us. (We had more bandwidth than them)

I checked out the researcher's web site - "If you don't want to be spidered by my bot, set up your robots.txt accordingly".

Bollocks to that son, the internet is not your pet project's chew-toy...

I tried to contact the guy, but he screamed "My work cannot be interrupted !" and slammed the phone down on me.

Okay, you had one warning and that was it... I disabled his network ports and waited for the screaming to start.

It wasn't long before his supervisor rang up to complain, but once I told him why I had taken action, he made the postgrad apologise to the Italians, and asked me to keep the systems off-line until the code could be reviewed.

MORAL: If you don't implement rate-limiting, I will. And you get NOTHING.

Sure, check through my background records… but why are you looking at my record collection?

Chris King

Drug Test

"Some 49 per cent are checking whether you've tested for drug and alcohol abuse. Perhaps that's not so surprising: this is the IT industry after all."

If you come back clean, do they offer you some to make sure you can cope ?

BOFH: Gosh, IPv5? Why didn't I think of that? Say, how do you like the new windows in here? Take a look. Closer...

Chris King

Re: Optional

I take it you'll be wanting an ergonomic keyboard and another monitor then ?

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to save data from a computer that should have died aeons ago

Chris King

Re: Serial Taps

Back in the early 90's, I was tasked with the job of hooking up a proprietary Unix box to a VAX, though the vendor reckoned this machine would only successfully talk with IBM kit.

I proved them wrong, but almost at the cost of my sanity... I learned more about Reverse LAT and $QIO than a mortal man is meant to know...

(Icon, because you need many of them after a long DEBUG session)

Call us immediately if your child uses Kali Linux, squawks West Mids Police

Chris King

Re: Yikes

Hey Blofeld, is this your cat ? ->

(The icon will have to do, it's got ears and fangs, and most pissed-off cats look like they're possessed anyway)

Chris King

Re: Yikes

Indeed, they're one of the few ISP out there that still treats their customers like adults - but that also means you have to take responsibilty for your own security and not rely on them to look after you,

I like that, because it means I can choose and use my own router/firewall to protect myself, and not rely on a some cheap, nasty ISP-supplied device.

Chris King

Re: Yikes

So, let's see...

I'm with AAISP, so static IP's and an unfiltered internet connection...

I've got various VPN accounts and Tor on at least one machine...

I've got multiple VM's including Kali...

I use encryption at rest and in transit...

That probably makes me a criminal mastermind in their eyes, and only missing a dormant volcano hideout or a Legion of Doom.

Icon, because even a fictitious Victorian detective would have more luck finding real cybercriminals.

Parks and recreation escalate efforts to take back control of field terrorised by thug geese

Chris King

Hell Hath No Fury...

...like hung-over swans.

I used to live opposite a pub next to a waterway, and swans would congregate there. If you decided to eat or drink outside when the swans were around, you were taking your life into your hands - they would relieve you of your food, and help themselves to your drinks.

They would then sleep it off for a while, but invariably woke up all bad-tempered and fighty.

They weren't in the same league as Mister Asbo though.

You want a Y2K crash? FINE! Here's a poorly computer

Chris King

Who needs the A-Team or MacGyver when there's a techie with an SCSI cable?

Chris King

Re: This one obviously needed a chalk pentagram in the computer room...

If you never felt the searing, dry heat like that of the sun itself, you probably never got that close to a Micropolis disk. (Or a Quantum Fireball for that matter)

Chris King

This one obviously needed a chalk pentagram in the computer room...

My predecessor in a previous job set up a real nasty Frankenserver...

Not one, not two, but THREE SCSI controllers - one for disks, one for a CD-ROM and one for a tape drive.

The one with the tape drive wasn't properly configured, so any attempt to make a tape backup would result in the machine locking up solid.

There was a sound card in there for some reason as well *boggle*.

Oh, and all this lot (complete with long SCSI cables) was sat in a ATX desktop case with two 5.25" Micropolis SCSI disks - so it got pretty toasty.

Did I mention this was the site's primary DNS, DHCP and web server ?

So you locked your backups away for years, huh? Allow me to introduce my colleagues, Brute, Force and Ignorance

Chris King

Re: Seen in the wild

Same with DEC RA series hard drives. I'll admit to literally booting a MicroVAX II with a well-aimed kick when a RA81 suffered "stiction" problems.

Of course I wiped the boot print off the front of the machine...

Need 32-bit Linux to run past 2038? When version 5.6 of the kernel pops, you're in for a treat

Chris King

Re: Can someone...

"I replaced the BIOS battery (which was soldered to the board)"

Proper battery, or a Dallas chip ? Horrible bloody things.

Chris King

Re: Can someone...

I deal with a lot of embedded kit in the day job, a lot of this stuff is ancient, predates 64-bit hardware and can't be easily replaced. Either it's too expensive (research grants to buy kit having long since run dry), the manufacturer has gone bust (so no updates available anyway) or the equipment needs an expensive recalibration after any upgrade to ensure that readings are still accurate - vital if experiments rely on the results from the device. Killing a ten-year study in year nine "because security" won't make you any friends.

Some of this kit is frighteningly long-lived, one or two of these things run MS-DOS, let alone Windows !

Chris King

"I've been to the year 3000... Not much has changed..."

The UK is still trying to negotiate a deal with the EU, and Star Citizen is still in alpha...

It's been one day since Blighty OK'd Huawei for parts of 5G – and US politicians haven't overreacted at all. Wait, what? Surveillance state commies?

Chris King

Re: Academics

Nah. Why bother building in secret back doors when they've already got things like this to play with ?

BOFH: When was the last time someone said these exact words to you: You are the sunshine of my life?

Chris King

I won't abuse people calling for surveys, but that doesn't mean that I have to put up with nonsense. I will firmly but politely refuse to take part, unless there's a good reason to continue the call.

I had one from Microsoft this morning - they've noticed that I don't make full use of my Ofiice 365 tenancy and wanted to know why. Raising a ticket in my name and repeatedly calling me is not going to make me any more talkative.

"Quite frankly, I find your marketing campaign creepy AND I specifically DIDN'T opt-in for surveys. Please close the ticket and take me off whatever list you're using for this nonsense. Good day !"

Salescritters who phone up pretending to be running a survey are a whole different matter - they're wasting my time AND they've already lied to me to make that happen. All bets are off for a pleasant conversation.

Chris King

Be careful of low-balling the scores, that can trigger a follow-up call. Three once annoyed me with a survey, so I gave them zeroes across the board to make a point. Next thing I know, someone more senior calls me, wanting to know why I gave the scores I did.

"You screwed up my service, then asked me to tell you how well you did. What the hell did you expect ?"

Let's just say that short-circuited his little script.

South American nations open fire on ICANN for 'illegal and unjust' sale of .amazon to zillionaire Jeff Bezos

Chris King

"Who types URLs nowadays anyway?"

Most people just search. and trust that the first hit is the right one. Add in a bit of SEO gaming, and even Mad Sergei's Emporium of Tat can be first hit for "Google" for a short while.

LastPass stores passwords so securely, not even its users can access them

Chris King

I should have been a doctor - my careers teacher told me my handwriting deserved to poison somebody !

BOFH: You brought nothing to the party but a six-pack of regret

Chris King

When "Pot Luck" actually puts you on the pot...

"After the laxative cake of 2012 no one's going to take snacks from us," the PFY points out.

I'm amazed they didn't go for a sedative-laxative combo... You'll shit yourself, but you won't give a shit about it.

Add in a little LSD for extra effect - having someone screaming "CAN'T YOU SEE THAT BLOODY DRAGON ON THE BOARDROOM TABLE ?!" as they void themselves will live long in corporate memory...!

Chris King

"Philip is a consultant"

And with those four words, we've already identified this week's first victim...

Chris King

Re: 'You brought nothing to the party but a six pack of regret?'

Nah, it's probably some cheap cover version sung by someone called Billy-Bob - someone with six fingers on one hand who can play a mean banjo, but does so when the song really calls for a guitar.

Chris King

Re: 'You brought nothing to the party but a six pack of regret?'

"Hair of the Dog" - I never really understood if they boiled the carcass down or liquidised it...

The Six Million Dollar Scam: London cops probe Travelex cyber-ransacking amid reports of £m ransomware demand, wide-open VPN server holes

Chris King

Re: Banks and building societies are, in my experience, the worst offenders ..."

"So you're saying I had a serious accident ? Wow, I've got absolutely NO memory of it whatsoever - the brain damage alone must be worth millions ! Where do I sign up ?"

*click* again.

Chris King

Re: Banks and building societies are, in my experience, the worst offenders ..."

"Don't know whether they still do and I'm just on an 'awkward list' of people who never reveal any information on any incoming* call"

They still do, and I still tell them I will ring back on one of the bank's normal telephone banking numbers. And WHY am I such a git about this ? I had one cheeky bastard try the "Hello Sir, I am from your bank" opening gambit on me.

"What's my name ? Which bank ?"


Yes, it's a new decade, and people still fall for this crap.

It's always DNS, especially when you're on holiday with nothing but a phone on GPRS

Chris King

Re: DNS and PFYs

I had to read DNS and BIND in its entirety before I was allowed to do *anything* with DNS.

Shame it hasn't been updated for a few years, but DNS for Rocket Scientists isn't a bad resource.

One day, I will probably have to print this all out... just so I can roll it up and beat someone over the head with it.

Chris King

Re: always DNS

"Years back, the whole root DNS of a major global company was the only service run on a very old HP workstation in the DC"

Been there, done that. And that was back in the days when resolvers were generally open so you never knew who was using you until you turned on query logging to debug issues...

...like finding several thousand NTL cable modem users and a whole Far Eastern university campus forwarding their traffic through our local resolvers, which back then were a couple of desktop PC's.

Chris King

"We both spoke fluent drunken idiot and resolved the issue in short order, agreeing between us to never let anyone know the unimportant details...."

What, like finding comments like "You're my best mate, I love you" all over the files you edited ?

Chris King

Remembering Y2K call-outs and the joy of the hourly contractor rate

Chris King

At the other end of the spectrum...

From a post I put up in 2018 - at this point, I was serving my notice ahead of a move to a new employer, partly because this lot refused to take things like Y2K seriously... Icon, because I wasn't officially on-call that night, and had already consumed several of...

I didn't get paid an extra bean. They even chained up the door to the computer centre just in case the heating control system set fire to everything, that's how confident they were. (I did point out that this was the same type of heating control system that covered student halls, which were still occupied by a few overseas students over Christmas)

Just after midnight, I quickly checked the most critical systems, said "Meh, my stuff's fine, everything else can go whistle" and went back to partying like it wasn't 1999 any more.

Some sites turned EVERYTHING off, just in case. Some of them then discovered that leaving stuff powered down but still plugged in won't necessarily save it from a nearby lightning strike. Just when you think you've covered all possibilities in your disaster recovery plan, Mother Nature says "Hold my beer".

A user's magnetic charm makes for a special call-out for our hapless hero

Chris King

Re: Why is there always at least one?

I had one like that, but one day I snapped and delivered this...

"Don't worry, I'M the one they pay to Think Bad Thoughts And Make Sure They Never Happen !"

Apparently, he went over to someone else and asked "Suppose Chris goes under a bus...?"

No that he got any sympathy there either - "Well, we can only hope he'll take you with him !"

Chris King

Super Magnets

Good thing they put some decent shielding on those things when they ship them. I had one sent to an Amazon Locker, then thought "Oh crap, what have I done ?!"

Cheque out my mad metal frisbee skillz... oops. Lights out!

Chris King

Re: Cheques still relevant... at leastt for someone

I still have a cheque book, but I haven't issued one in over a decade - seems the last one I issued was to that place up in Kendal that services Leatherman tools. (I made the mistake of lending mine to a friend who messed up half the blades, but they sorted it out, and said friend is no longer allowed to borrow or use any of my stuff)

Chris King

Cheese and wine... One of 'em anyway...

So it's coming up to Christmas, an academic wanders in to my office and throws his coat open like a flasher mac.

"Oh my God, what have I done to deserve this ?" I asked myself. Then I noticed he was fully-clothed and there was a bottle in each of the inner pockets.

"Thanks for everything you've done this year - would you like a bottle of red or white ?"

(Yesh, it'sh the one with pocketsh big enough to take Clanking Bottlesh of Joy - hic !)

Careful with that Axe, Eugene: Excessive use of body spray causes school bus evacuation

Chris King

Forty years ago, it would have been Hai Karate.

Yes, mine's the one with the self-defence manual in the right pocket.

Revealed: NHS England bosses meet with tech and pharmaceutical giants to discuss price list of millions of Brits' medical data

Chris King

"Numbers of adherents is freely available from census data".

That's only useful if you're Darth Vader and you're looking to hunt down the remaining Jedi.

Internet jerk with million-plus fans starts 14-year stretch for bizarre dot-com armed robbery

Chris King

That, and the lab staff don't get so emotionally attached to them...

Remember the Dutch kid who stuck his finger in a dam to save the village? Here's the IT equivalent

Chris King

Re: From Experience (and In Hindsight)...

"A thick computer manual resided on top of that PC which was enough to thereafter put the cat off thinking of it as a suitable bed".

Why ? Are you threatening to make them read it or something ?

Listen up you bunch of bankers. Here are some pointers for less crap IT

Chris King

Re: Legacy still all over the place

I also hear the L-word used for systems that people want to get rid of, but they hope that they can just stick it in a corner and hope it will eventually biodegrade because the New Shiny Thing Is Coming.

I've ended up nursing a lot of these poor old things, making people plan properly for migrations, making sure data gets backed up (or destroyed) as appropriate, and doing all the things necesary to take a system out of service without any unforseen consequences.

(Maybe I need a new job title and business cards - should I be "Systems Executioner" or "The Decommissioner" ?)

Whoooooa, this node is on fire! Forget Ceph, try the forgotten OpenStack storage release 'Crispy'

Chris King
IT Angle

Re: Ahhhh

Be careful what you wish for... That's right, Doodles !