* Posts by John R. Macdonald

104 publicly visible posts • joined 16 Feb 2009


BMW deems drivers worthy of warmth, ends heated car seat subscription

John R. Macdonald

Re: a £25 per year subscription to a service that identifies traffic cameras

Not entirely true for France. Apps are no longer allowed to indicate the precise location, only a 'zone' (can't remember the length of said zone) that straddles where the safety camera is positioned. French Waze users certainly report where the cops are. AFAIK nobody has been prosecuted for that.

Radar detectors OTOH are definitely illegal.

I'll see your data loss and raise you a security policy violation

John R. Macdonald

Some extremists used the same method to communicate with each other because they were aware of the Echelon program.

Florida's content-moderation law kept on ice, likely unconstitutional, court says

John R. Macdonald


It's an old French saying ("chacun voit midi à sa porte") that goes back to the era of sun dials. Basically means everyone sees the world in their own way or everyone acts in one's own interest.

Nothing's working, and I've checked everything, so it must be YOUR fault

John R. Macdonald

Re: Several times...


A former manager of mine regaled us with a tale where he was flown out by helicopter, a long time ago, to an oil drilling ship somewhere in the North Sea to fix the 'faulty' software that, no longer, kept the ship in place with the help of a couple of gyroscopes. My manager's diagnostic was the software worked as designed but both gyroscopes had been turned off. The officer on duty, when the ship started spinning around the drill, swore on everything he held holy that he had only turned off one of the two gyroscopes not both. The computer log said otherwise so a now fired officer was flown back to land with my manager.

31-year-old piece of hardware not working very well: Hubble telescope back in safe mode over 'synchronization issues'

John R. Macdonald

Re: JWST is not a new HST

If you mean "to eat humble pie" some French equivalents are "ravaler son orgueil", "mettre sa fierté de côté", "faire amende honorable", "baisser son fronc", "aller à Canossa".

Fatal Attraction: Lovely collection, really, but it does not belong anywhere near magnetic storage media

John R. Macdonald

Re: Regarding The Power of Observation

@Kobus Botes

Concerning your second anecdote here's a C&P of a similar post I wrote about 5 years ago.

Heard of a similar story concerning a mainframe (this was back in the 60-70's) that would crash fairly regularly during summer in the afternoon.

At first it was thought the cause was a defective aircon installation but checks and sensors said everything was okay.

Turned out that when the sun made its daily stroll across the sky, the computer room had this one particular window which would, in the afternoon, let the sun shine directly on the glass lid of the disk unit housing the system pack.

Can we talk about Kevin McCarthy promising revenge if Big Tech aids probe into January insurrection?

John R. Macdonald

Nothing to hide, nothing to fear

I can't be arsed to look it up but I wonder if Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has ever been part of the 'Nothing to hide, nothing to fear' crowd.

Japan's aerospace agency hooks up with Boeing to make planes quieter when they land

John R. Macdonald

Re: That landing pic is nothing


Ah yes, I remember landings at Kai Tak Airport in the 1980-90s, plane flying between the Kowloon high-rise buildings and the passengers peering into the living rooms of the locals.

a.k.a. Kai Tak Heart Attack

Version 8 of open-source code editor Notepad++ brings Dark Mode and an ARM64 build, but bans Bing from web searches

John R. Macdonald

Re: Granddads use z/OS

"... but nothing beats the ISPF editor ..."

Xedit on VM/CMS gives ISPF a good run for its money. TBH I like both.

Undebug my heart: Using Cisco's IOS to take down capitalism – accidentally

John R. Macdonald

Re: Yes, I've had a boss like that

A long time ago I heard a story, unvouched, about Thomas Watson (I can't remember if it was Sr or Jr) being denied entry to an IBM facility because he wasn't wearing a badge. The enraged entourage wanted to fire the lowly security guard on the spot but Watson said 'No, he's only doing his job'.

Scam-baiting YouTube channel Tech Support Scams taken offline by tech support scam

John R. Macdonald

Re: Always trust Microsoft reports - not


Dont forget things like entering whateversitedotcom instead of whateversite.com or when asked to input numbers, to ask if they are upper case or lower case. Got called 'an old fool' once after 45-50 minutes of such shenanigans. Got called much worse when caller and his supervisor sussed out I had been stringing them along for an hour. I had time to waste that day but unfortunately my phone didn't or I would have made it last longer so I asked for his supervisor to compliment him, sardonically, about his underling being so patient with an old dodderer like me and let on I knew, from the start, they were scammers.

Days I'm not in the mood I ask for the IP address or MAC number of the computer they're calling me about. Once got 'Sir, I'm calling about your Windows computer, not a Mac'. Conversations generally get very short afterwards.

In conversation with Gene Hoffman, co-creator of the web's first ad blocker

John R. Macdonald

Re: Okay, now I get cryptocurrency

"... Even the most parochial seem aware of Mexico ..."

So that's why some think of New Mexico as a foreign country.

Realizing this is getting out of hand, Coq mulls new name for programming language

John R. Macdonald

Re: There are two hard problems in Computer Science

A French Foreign Legion unit changed their official name because the acronym made their NATO counterparts snicker. The unit used to be called "Commandos de Recherche et Action en Profondeur".

Congestion or a Christmas cock-up? A Register reader throws himself under the bus

John R. Macdonald

I remember being on a team that wrote programs that generated similar flagged credit card lists for a major client many many moons ago. (Batch COBOL on IBM mainframes running MVS IIRC).

From Maidenhead to Morocco: In a change to the scheduled programming, we bring you The On Call of Dreams

John R. Macdonald

Re: Not on-call, but...

Worst case of jet lag I've seen in a person was a former GF. Her company, to thank me for helping them out on a thorny technical matter, had invited me to their week long annual shindig, in Senegal, which ended on a Saturday when we flew back to Paris. Sunday GF and I departed on our holiday, from Paris to Bangkok and by Tuesday we were in Hong Kong. GF was totally wasted and no longer knew where she was nor why. It took her days to recover.

Worried about the Andromeda galaxy crashing into our Milky Way in four billion years? Too bad, it's quite possibly already happening

John R. Macdonald

Re: Job interview question

Wondering why the Brexit talks are still dragging on.

This PDP-11/70 was due to predict an election outcome – but no one could predict it falling over

John R. Macdonald

Re: Performance Upgrade


A dive computer I used for years was sold like that. All the features were factory installed as disabled and for each extra option you paid for, you were given a key, to enter in the system setup menu, to unlock that feature.

COBOL-coding volunteers sought as slammed mainframes slow New Jersey's coronavirus response

John R. Macdonald


I've done the same in PL/1, which has my preference over COBOL.

The safest place to save your files is somewhere nobody will ever look

John R. Macdonald

Re: Endless recycling


I had a former colleague who liked using that technique. We soon got used to seeing her lying on the floor with a core dump, file printouts and source listing spread out. Fortunately she wore pants as she was prone to kicking her legs to assist thought.

Galileo, Galileo, Galileo, where to go? Navigation satellite signals flip from degraded to full TITSUP* over span of four days

John R. Macdonald

@Kubla Cant

Wait till you get to New Zealand!!

I don't have to save my work, it's in The Cloud. But Microsoft really must fix this files issue

John R. Macdonald

Re: Poor education


I had a somewhat similar learning experience with COBOL in the late 1960's on a 360/30 with 32K memory. My mentor, who was also an experienced assembler programmer, walked me through the compiler generated assembler listings explaining how and why various COBOL coding techniques affected the final size and speed of the program.

14 sailors die aboard Russian cable spy, er, ocean research nuke sub after fire breaks out

John R. Macdonald

Re: 14 less commies

Russia gave up on communism in 1991. Do try to keep up.

A Register reader turns the computer room into a socialist paradise

John R. Macdonald

@Nick Kew

The joys of an APL session using a 2741 terminal hooked by POTS to a mainframe at the other end of the country in the early 1970's ...

Cryptic APL and line noise are visually similar.

Not very bright: Apple geniuses spend two weeks, $10,000 of repairs on a MacBook Pro fault caused by one dumb bug

John R. Macdonald


I was pulling the 'turn the brightness down all the way' prank on my coworkers using 3279s around that time.

Planes, fails and automobiles: Overseas callout saved by gentle thrust of server CD tray

John R. Macdonald

Re: airport security

@A K Stiles

Same here, multiple return flights to Turkey with a similar gadget in my wallet with no problems either in Europe or Turkey. Fly back from Egypt and Egyptian security confiscated it because there is a 1.5cm "blade" on one edge.

Egg on North Face: Wikipedia furious after glamp-wear giant swaps article pics for sneaky ad shots – and even brags about it in a video

John R. Macdonald

Re: No such thing as bad publicity.

Groupe Publicis has its headquarters in Paris, on the Champs-Elysées and has 80,000 employees not 9,000, throughout the world (100+ countries).

'Software delivered to Boeing' now blamed for 737 Max warning fiasco

John R. Macdonald

Re: The interface between aircraft automation and human pilots is an immature science

If you are talking about the AF296 demo flight it crashed in Alsace not Paris. 3 people died and and 127 survived.

Sinister secret backdoor found in networking gear perfect for government espionage: The Chinese are – oh no, wait, it's Cisco again

John R. Macdonald
Big Brother

Re: Keys

"Gentlemen do not read each other's mail."

US Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson

NASA fingers the cause of two bungled satellite launches, $700m in losses, years of science crashing and burning...

John R. Macdonald

Re: Aluminum

Napoleon III actually.

Owner of Smuggler's Inn B&B ordered to put up a sign warning guests not to cross into Canada

John R. Macdonald

Re: Just waiting for the inevitable


If the only French drivers you know are Parisians, consider yourself lucky.

FYI: Get ready for face scans on leaving the US because 1.2% of visitors overstayed their visas

John R. Macdonald

Re: Blame Canada

Last year a French woman visiting her mother in Canada inadvertently entered the US while jogging on a beach and spent 2 weeks in a US immigration jail.

User secures floppies to a filing cabinet with a magnet, but at least they backed up daily... right?

John R. Macdonald

Re: On a side note

Had the same problem with glorified accounting machines that used tape cassettes as storage medium. A cassette written by machine A was not always readable by machine B even if both machines were in the same office. The read/write heads were not always calibrated identically on different machines.

Motion detectors: say hello, wave goodbye and… flushhhhhh

John R. Macdonald

Re: Emotionally scarred by toilet

Many many years ago I was backpacking in Afghanistan and when the intercity bus stopped at a rest stop for lunch I asked where the toilets were. The Afghan waiter looked at me quizzically then waved lazily at the desert. I walked in the indicated direction and looking down found out he was right.

John R. Macdonald

Re: Emotionally scarred by toilet


The French toilets you describe are called, in France and elsewhere ... Turkish toilets despite being a 12th century Belgian invention (Bert Vandegeim)

Overzealous n00b takes out point-of-sale terminals across the UK on a Saturday afternoon

John R. Macdonald


Maybe it's just me but I wouldn't call an AS/400 a mainframe.

Hello, tech support? Yes, I've run out of desk... Yes, DESK... space

John R. Macdonald

Re: Ah c'mon


I don't. I've personally seen someone freak out when the mouse reached the edge of the pad.

John R. Macdonald

Re: Set up Guide?

Like some fearless users who think the Windows directory and its subdirectories are a mess and need to be rationally organised. You know, put all the .dll's in the dll subdirectory, the .exe's in the exe subdirectory and so on.

Ex-Mozilla CTO: US border cops demanded I unlock my phone, laptop at SF airport – and I'm an American citizen

John R. Macdonald

Re: Banking On Trust

"Do Not Disturb"

John R. Macdonald

Re: Banking On Trust

Surely you put the "Do No Disturb" thingy on the door first.

John R. Macdonald

I remember reading a story about a Westerner, a long time ago (60's?) in Moscow, being hauled in by the KGB who showed him pictures of himself cavorting with a young Russian lady. The guy sorted the pictures into two piles, pointed to one of them and asked the KGB men if he could get extra prints to show to his mates back home. The KGB then concluded he couldn't be blackmailed into working for them.

How many Reg columnists does it take to turn off a lightbulb?

John R. Macdonald

Re: Hotel lighting

I know one restaurant where the staff give you a small torch with the menu so you can read it.

If I could turn back time, I'd tell you to keep that old Radarange at home

John R. Macdonald

Re: Data transmission problems at month-end

I've heard about cheap perfume wreaking havoc on at least one early mainframe.

Rookie almost wipes customer's entire inventory – unbeknownst to sysadmin

John R. Macdonald


IIRC a mainframe manufacturer, one of the seven dwarves at that time, did something similar. You could 'upgrade' to a faster, and more expensive, machine simply by connecting a wire.

Never mind Brexit. UK must fling more £billions at nuke subs, say MPs

John R. Macdonald


There is no civilian police force in rural France. The Gendarmerie fill that role (but not all gendarmes have police powers). Actually it's a bit more complicated than that but I'll let you do your own research.

Concerning "We don't have a quasi-military organization enforcing civilian law in the UK. " Doesn't some of what the SAS does, or has done, come pretty close to that?.

John R. Macdonald


Of course because the Gendarmerie ARE military.

'Can you just pop in to the office and hit the power button?' 'Not really... the G8 is on'

John R. Macdonald

Re: Does a running gun battle to the airport count?

Back in the 1990's. a former colleague told me that he went to an interview for a well paid IT gig in some unnamed place in the Middle East or darkest Africa (can't remember which). After all the technical and pecuniary questions had been answered, he was casually asked if he knew how to handle an AK-47 and if so, would he be amenable to being a squad leader for co-workers with similar skills, 'just in case'.

He declined the job.

Grad sends warning to manager: Be nice to our kit and it'll be nice to you

John R. Macdonald

Re: This is normal in every human endeavor.

@Rich 11

Pulled a similar trick on the kids of a friend of mine who were visiting. I was living in Paris at the time in a flat with a great view over the city, including of course the Eiffel Tower. At midnight I pointed to the illuminated Eiffel Tower, said 'Out!' in a loud voice and snapped my fingers. The lights on the Eiffel Tower obediently went out. Cue two very impressed young'uns.

Sysadmin sank IBM mainframe by going one VM too deep

John R. Macdonald

Re: CP == Hypervisor


You're talking about nowadays. I was talking about yonder years, in the previous century, when MVS was called MVS. A time when z/OS and z/VM didn't exist.

John R. Macdonald

Re: CP == Hypervisor

The service bureau I worked for was a MVS and VM shop. All new releases of both VM and MVS were tested under VM.

My VM sysprog friends joked that running MVS under VM was the only proper way to run MVS. Which is now how I run MVS (rel 3.8J), as a guest system on VM/370R6 , using the Hercules emulator on my PCs.

(for those so inclined, there is even APL on MVT available for the Hercules emulator).

Throw in THE (The Hessling Editor) and/or SPFLite and you're back in the heydays of IBM mainframe computing.