* Posts by Mike 16

1406 posts • joined 17 Jun 2009


HDD Clicker gizmo makes flash sound like spinning rust

Mike 16 Silver badge

A "practical" use

Back in the day, the 1401 jockeys on the business side of the "computer center" (A porta-shed) got a program to play music via RFI modulated by the length of data in "MOVE" instructions. Not to be outdone, the 1620 pilots on the "engineering" side reverse engineered the code, ported to the 1620, and added a percussion section, issuing appropriately timed "seek" commands.

It may help to know that these were all community-college students, with a certain amount of youthful enthusiasm. And spare time...

(The practical side I have mentioned before. Having a reliable "audio signature" to track the behavior of the code allowed us to leave the machine room for next door while a longish task was running, secure in the knowledge that the distinct whine of the "waiting for next console command" state would cue us to put our parkas on and go start the next job.)

For completeness (sound from unexpected computer systems) I must mention Ken Shirriff's blog entry about using a printer for music:


Girls Who Code books 'banned' in some US classrooms

Mike 16 Silver badge

Re: Ban cookery books!

Seems like you would really enjoy Shel SIlverstein's "Put another log on the fire".

In Rust We Trust: Microsoft Azure CTO shuns C and C++

Mike 16 Silver badge

Developing in Intercal

What makes you think they (well, some of them) don't?


(IIRC, Intercal and The Colossal Cave share at least one author, who ( last I heard they) was at Google.)

'Last man standing in the floppy disk business' reckons his company has 4 years left

Mike 16 Silver badge


Tell that to the Coelacanths. Though to have died out over 60M years ago. Found living (under and assumed name?) in the 1930s.


Don't want to get run over by a Ford car? There's a Bluetooth app for that

Mike 16 Silver badge

Dim Recolection ..

Was SYNC the infotainment option Ford offered some years back? The one deeply intertwingled with the whole car network? The one that could "brick" the car by "playing" an evil .mp3 file?

From the rush of "Vital Security updates" lately, it looks like bothering to check the validity (format wise) of media before attempting to "play" is still out of fashion.

That old thumb drive labeled 'Stones Royal Concert Bootleg' that you picked up in the parking lot may not be a gift from the gods (unless you count Loki).

US border cops harvest info from citizens' phones, build massive database

Mike 16 Silver badge

Lord Protector

I once read that the drafters of the U.S. Constitution were very aware of Cromwell, and what he wrought.

Some saying about it being "written by 39 men and a ghost" (Cromwell). Some other bits of wisdom on the web indicate 55 delegates, but the votes to adopt were only 39 of them. We still have the ghost, of course, for those paying attention. Most are too busy to care.

To preserve Earth's treasures, digital silence is golden

Mike 16 Silver badge

Nobody goes there any more,

It's too crowded.

- Yogi Berra (allegedly)

Although he also (allegedly) said "I really didn't say everything I said"

Former Digital Realty datacenter reborn as urban farmstead

Mike 16 Silver badge

Planned crops

Given Virginia's long history with various TLAs, perhaps they could farm castor beans and various mushrooms. and don't forget rye with an ergot payload.

Micro Focus bought by Canada's OpenText for $6b

Mike 16 Silver badge

Will they still support,,,

...my copy of MF COBOL for RT-11V2?

Presuming I ever stumble across the system it's installed on, somewhere in the storage unit...

Microsoft finds critical hole in operating system that for once isn't Windows

Mike 16 Silver badge

Re: Bluetoot drivers

They have to put some effort into making sure Bluetooth is even buggier (security wise) than WiFi.

Mike 16 Silver badge

Hitting the -Wall

Good, but incomplete advice. Unless a fit of sanity has hit gcc developers since I stopped caring, to really

catch _ALL_ warning instances, you have (had?) do use

-Wall -ansi -pedantic

and of course -Werror

Apparently someone quite important considered standard compliance to be of lesser importance than continuing to "honor" a bug left over from some versions of the (pre-standard) Portable C Compiler.

In short (and invitation to the rabbit hole) the result of a pointer cast is not a valid modifiable lvalue

(I think I have that wording right)

Int myint;

char *myptr;


myint = *((int *)myptr)++; /* modulo some paren juggling */


Not that the gcc folks are alone in this. A very respected programming columnist lost some of my respect for flaming a compiler for having the audacity to issue a warning for this construct.

US Army drone crashes hours ahead of breaking flight duration record

Mike 16 Silver badge

Re: Miles and feet

Not sure about feet, but the miles used in aviation are (were?) the Nautical sort. That would at least make some sense for float planes...

Open source VideoLAN media player asks why it's blocked in India

Mike 16 Silver badge

Audio/video sync

You have lived a charmed life.

Synchronized audio came to film in the 1920s, and lasted (for TV) until the early 21st century. It was there that I first noticed significant lack of sync, but not via a Digital TV. It was apparent;y a case of the networks using DTV to distribute programming, but still transmitting in traditional (NTSC in my case) analog form. I knew something was up when my old CRT-containing TV "got the bug", a year of more before DTV transmission (other than tests) for over-the-air. Synchronized audio/video is pretty rare these days.

I'm still not sure how the arcane art of audio/video sync as lost. Did the last person who had read a spec die?

If any of them get thawed and re-animated, I'd also love to have a phone conversation devoid of long-delayed (sometimes 10 seconds or more) echoes and twilight-zone worthy audio artifacts.

Google gets the green light to flood US Gmail inboxes with political spam

Mike 16 Silver badge

Filter on intelligence?

IIRC, some years back a court in the U.S. ruled that candidates (for a job on the police force) who scored too high on "intelligence" (yeah, I know) could be rejected on that basis. In effect "Not that one. They're too smart of be a cop".

I assume that a plausibly accurate test of ethics could be used to disqualify political candidates. As if this hasn't already been implemented.

General Motors charges mandatory $1,500 fee for three years of optional car features

Mike 16 Silver badge

Re: Microtransactions?

I would love to know if they plan to have something akin to "Surge Pricing" for heated seats.

That is, in the winter it will be $18/mo for the heated seats to work, while in the summer, it will be $20/mo to allow you to turn them off.

Chip startup alleges Cadence sabotaged processor rollout

Mike 16 Silver badge

Re: "Always ask first how many times that block has been fabbed."

What makes you think you will get a truthful answer?

I have witnessed serious issues with 3rd-party IP from generally reputable sources. I have also seen product-killers (and it turned out a company killer) designed in house, and things in between like "jellybean" IP like I2C blocks that could cause some pretty hard to diagnose problems.

I'd love to have an answer, but doing business with only those you trust (for a good reason, not just because their CEO golfs with yours). is Table Stakes. Yes, I know, companies can change. I remember when e.g. Intel and NatSemi were the sort you expected to screw you on purpose, while e.g. Motorola and Signetics generally screwed you by accident.

Times change, companies change with them.

Forget dumping games designers for AI – turns out it takes two to tango

Mike 16 Silver badge

That portrait?

BTW: Sounds like this revisits what SRI (Englebart?) called "Augmented Intelligence" as an alternate meaning for "AI"

Meanwhile, that portrait?

It is there to cover the safe in which Chekhov's gun is kept when not on the table.

I wonder if the games so designed (by either AI or AI) can be readily solved by the likes of Tom7's (the one who "publishes" at SigBovic) game-playing bot.

Of course the technique (either meaning of AI) will appeal to the fearless leaders whose mantra is "Innovate me some more, like you did last year" (or month, or week). Game designers are well known as High Strung Prima Donnas

AI-friendly patent law needed 'as a matter of national security', ex-USPTO boss says

Mike 16 Silver badge

Reasonably Skilled

It has ben clear for decades that the descriptions and figures in patents are _NOT_ designed to be understandable to one reasonably skilled in the art. They are designed to be foggy enough to allow wide ranging calls of infringement, and to be so obfuscated as to drive the would-be implementer mad. I'd be hard pressed to implement one of my own patents from _only_ the description. This obfuscation is what wer pay lawyers for.

As for what the "originals" knew, well Boole's writings were originally about a multi-value logic (hand-waving, "A bit like Fuzzy Logic"). Only later did the bit-heads decide that "well, only zero and one really count". Much like those who think a "baud" is a "bit per second". Your gig-ethernet begs to disagree.

(BTW: Boole also wrote on theology and related subjects. Much like others of his era.)

Bad news, older tech workers: Job advert language works against you

Mike 16 Silver badge

Life begins at 0x40

Or so I have heard. I celebrated when I turned 100 (octal) and regularly include job experience that would indicate my age to a recruiter with a few miles on the clock themselves. Saves hopeless interviews.

OTOH, I once got a job offer by noticing that the questions on the civil-service exam were clearly "correct in 1962, not so much by 1972", and answering as if it was actually 1962.

Decided not to take them up on that offer, unlike a friend who unfortunately mentioned System/360 assembly language, and got saddled with maintaining some COBOL support libraries whose mention might provoke a quick Sign of The Cross.

Psst … Want to buy a used IBM Selectric? No questions asked

Mike 16 Silver badge

Re: Anything else we should know about

A friend (no really. Only he had actually been in the navy) saw a dummy torpedo at a surplus store, and just had to have it. So he bought it and took it home (no idea how, I would expect his truck to be too small). A day or so later got a call from the store saying he must return it. "No way!" he replied and hung up. Day after that a couple serious looking "men in black" showed up for a conversation. Turns out that it was "dummy" in the sense of "no warhead", but not so "dummy" as to lack the latest, classified, navigation system.

He didn't mention them paying any attention to the hemp forest...

After 40 years in tech, I see every innovation contains its dark opposite

Mike 16 Silver badge

Re: Tie me down

One job, those of us in Engineering (tee shirts and the occasionally shorts on hot days with the usual insane climate control) sometimes referred to the ties worn by the DP/MIS folks as their "EBCDIC Flags".

There, I've lost some generations of people who used a few (later) generations of the IBM S/360.

I got that job partially due to advice from a friend's girlfriend who was "skilled in the art" of the interview.

She had recommended a "casual" look that included jeans, but also a long-sleeve shirt with pockets

(signalling practicality), topped with a sport-coat. The idea was to appear "typically into comfort and utility, but threw on the coat at the last minute to signal 'but you are special enough to make the effort to dress up'"

It worked. Or was it my ability to avoid being sucked into a dispute between my two interviewers (heads of the Hardware and Software departments)?

Weird Flex, but OK: Now you can officially turn these PCs, Macs into Chromebooks

Mike 16 Silver badge


Maybe to test whether turning a (slightly shabby) silk purse into a sow's ear is Kosher?

Supercomputer pinpoints exact origin of 'Black Beauty' meteorite from Mars

Mike 16 Silver badge

The chances of finding ... are a million to one, he said.

"The chances of finding out where it came from on Mars are a million to one",

Tom said, oddly.

And when did they start naming meteorites for hip hop artists?

These centrifugal moon towers could be key to life off-planet

Mike 16 Silver badge

Effect on inhabitants

Not here to discuss the physical/mechanical problems, but the effect on human, and human cognition, has been studied:

The Centrifuge Brain Project


Or a bit further down the rabbit hole:


America's chip land has another potential shortage: Electronics engineers

Mike 16 Silver badge

8048 considered useful

Take a look at some fairly esoteric chips (e.g. using PCIE, infiniband, higher bandwiths of Ethernet...) and there is a high probability of there being a few 8048s inside. They are an important part of the 3rd-party IP used for high-bandwith SERDES. What part? The part that exists to allow downloading a "patch" when the delicate logic used to tune the taps of the filters. Of course, if the one that controls the PCIE bus itself is the slightly crazy one, you may have to resort to the modern day equivalent of percussive maintenance (power off, power on, check for working, perhaps somewhat degraded, repeat until you give up or it works well enough to do the patch)

The situation can most likely be explained by the "hardware guys" assuming the the firmware will be perfect, and the "software guys" assuming that both hardware and software are "pretty good, an if there's a problem we can always push a patch.

This may be related to the "verification" test during development that seem allergic to "fuzzing", so test only the limited set of states they have thought up in an hour of brainstorming (well, that's extreme, but I have teh scars...)

Actual quantum computers don't exist yet. The cryptography to defeat them may already be here

Mike 16 Silver badge

Prominent Cryptosystems

Let's not forget the "kinda RSA if you squint" code-signing on Atari 7800, Lynx, and Jaguar (IIRC, YMMV)

As copyright extension head toward the heat death of the universe, there _must_ be some way to prevent our cockroach and cephalopod successors from viewing Little Mermaid without an unlock key purchased from a server that was turned into a steampunk watch-fob before the second "Big Meteor Event".

I recall a bit of consternation when some time-sealed documents revealed (mid 1970s?) that the U.S. had preliminary studies of invasion plans for Canada, should the need arise.

embarrassment and greed are the main drivers, I suspect.

California state's gun control websites expose personal data

Mike 16 Silver badge

Which house not to break into

IIRC, some (many?) criminals will knock a couple points off their

"perceived value" assessment for a house displaying an American flag.

Correllation is not causation, of course.

Hardware flaws give Bluetooth chipsets unique fingerprints that can be tracked

Mike 16 Silver badge

a certain level of technological expertise

Or a certain level of knowledge about the variety of services available to customers who look for them.

And money, of course, or maybe byproduct data from the primary operation.

HP pilots paper delivery service for Instant Ink subscribers

Mike 16 Silver badge

Re: Print to Drone Delivery

Future: Print to printer nearest the desk of the person you were planning to give the printout.

If that is not obvious, the HP Print-AI will deduce from the content of the image and a complete search of all your email and social media to decide. If no physical location can be determined, the AI involved will search for the IP addresses used to contact them, and run scans to determine which backdoors are available to facilitate "local" delivery.

Of course some beardies will natter on about security, but who listens to them?

Record players make comeback with Ikea, others pitching tricked-out turntables

Mike 16 Silver badge

Approved Path?

So, the scratches are the translation of the "shortcuts"?

Mike 16 Silver badge

Re: Digital transmission?

IIRC (and per the display at the Computer History Museum in Mountain view) "Tom's Diner" by Suzanne Vega was the (a?) test track for what became MP3.

Yes, I realize that CDs are not MP3, but I want to express my appreciation for folks working on storage and transmission of any media looking for "the hard bits" rather than lumping it all into "Who cares, they'll be high while their listening anyway.

How one techie ended up paying the tab on an Apple Macintosh Plus

Mike 16 Silver badge

Re: Some things never change

You would really prefer the documentation if Excel?

Mike 16 Silver badge

Re: Punchcard

That's what the diagonal line across the edge of the deck is for.

We sat through Apple's product launch disguised as a dev event so you don't have to

Mike 16 Silver badge

Re: AR

"Movement and Spatial cues"?

From the company that is hell-bent on eliminating any way of finding your data other than "knowing" what conglomeration of their apps "owns" a particular morsel, or relying on one of the worst search interfaces I have ever used (False positives, random refusal to "reveal in Finder", etc.)

About makes me pine for the days when my body just _knew_ where to grab a particular listing or card deck.

Having only barely "tasted" (another sense missing) AR, I find it hard to believe a "thought->AR->Muscle memory" will work soon.

Mike 16 Silver badge

Re: We're long past peak tech

Highly useful Air Drop?

You mean like dropping a bomb/weapon image on every iDevice on a crowded airplane?

What I would _love_ to see from Apple is that all announcements come with a

"what we are taking away this time"

as well as the

"This is how you are meant to use our miracle device. Resistance is Futile"

IBM's self-sailing Mayflower suffers another fault in Atlantic crossing bid

Mike 16 Silver badge

Hardware and its maintenance

Have you tried hiring an experienced restoration guy:


Unless, of course, you _are_ such. :-)

Mike 16 Silver badge

Re: Its a hardware problem...

"Still a hardware company"

Once was a time (since before the change from CTR to IBM) that IBM was _very_ good at "hardware", in the cogwheels and levers sense. I recall reading about a business in Texas still using a card-based system (keypunch, sorter, accounting machine, etc.) as recently as 2010.


And (the mechanical guts of) and IBM 350 disk drive is still functional at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View.

The problem with selling hardware is that the vendor cannot stoke the "need" for a complete replacement with an urgent update to correct a few hundred emoji.

Mike 16 Silver badge

Always enough to fix it?

Maybe not always. You just gave me a flashback to a major project of a major networking company. Some of us were asking about a feature which could absolutely not be implemented with the design as planned.

Brought up and ignored for months at planning meetings.

Time to release to production, and the feature was quietly removed from the spec, as if "We never intended to provide that", much like a typical house-cat not quite making a jump smoothly.

Mike 16 Silver badge

Spent time maintaining electronic equipment

Which some times (or so I have heard :-) that maintenance involves chipping paint to to make a better looking paint job. Of course, when the pain is being chipped off a radar wave-guide, using a hammer, sometimes other maintenance (or an acceptance of the idea that "well, we didn't need Radar before WWII") is called for.

Mike 16 Silver badge

Alternative uses

Keep in mind that Great Eastern's ("Not Entirely Succesfull" much like Start Trek M1-4) allowed its sale at a bargain price, to be used in laying a working (for a while) telegraph cable from UK to America.

I suspect many of us have had the experience of re-purposing failed tech for not-quite-the-same task.

(Vasa, OTOH, reminds me of various military gear, for which Murphy's Law was invented, and ignored)

Safari is crippling the mobile market, and we never even noticed

Mike 16 Silver badge

Forbidden Fruit


Actually the bible originally never mentions apples


Maybe not originally, but when I was _COMPELLED_ by some force to do a (very) little bit of research on the subject, I found an interesting conjecture, that the Apple was chosen by the Western Church because the Latin word for "Apple" sounded much like the Latin word for "evil". So the folks who made that editorial decision may just have been punsters.

OTOH, I found that bit of knowledge on a Orthodox (Eastern) site:


So their attitude toward "The West" may influence their writing.

YMMV: Minsk is in Belarus.

Mike 16 Silver badge

That input problem

Every time I travel for more than a day or so, I have this inner debate about whether to carry my laptop or make do with my phone.

Handling (e.g. replying to) email on a phone (the main reason I don't leave both at home) is torture that the SPCA should have outlawed decades ago (are we not animals?).

But taking the laptop adds weight, and enlarges the attack surface on anything remotely security related (not no mention replacement cost when stolen).

But the phone has an almost equal attack surface, given how much we have wedged our lives onto them...

So I dither.

But it does occur to me to ask: What person who is old enough to read has fingers small enough to touch-type on a phone "keyboard"? If there are none, why stick with QWERTY or other such "designed for touch typing" layout?

Intel plans immersion lab to chill its power-hungry chips

Mike 16 Silver badge

12W vs 600

Human brains are not running javascript. At lest some aren't

Did ID.me hoodwink Americans with IRS facial-recognition tech?

Mike 16 Silver badge

Better at fraud than Thanos

There is more than one way to grab wealth and power.

Thanos is not so much into stuff like fraud. It just doesn't boost the special effects budget enough.

Or did you mean Theranos?

Pentester pops open Tesla Model 3 using low-cost Bluetooth module

Mike 16 Silver badge

defeated by simply cutting the latency of the relay process.

Hmmm. Much of my career involved "cutting latency". It's not simple.

Unless, of course, the latency of the (first implementation) relay device was needlessly much larger than expected, for reasons that were known but ignored.

Appeals court unleashes Texas's anti-Big-Tech content-no-moderation law

Mike 16 Silver badge

Some Stupid Judge

IIRC*, it actually derives from a note added to the decision by a clerk. This was later turned into a precedent and expanded to the "Corporations are people".

* Note that I do not personally Recall this, as it happened in the 19th century in a case involving a railroad (High tech at the time). Even I am not old enough to recall it in person.

Side Note, what really seems to chap some folks hides is that a corporation is a person in regard to rights, but not in regard to responsibilities. The "owners" are shielded from the effects of law breaking. LL stands for something.

Biden deal with ISPs: Low to no cost internet for 40% of US

Mike 16 Silver badge

Find another speed test?

Maybe the one Comcast (used to?) run right on the head-end? Right before your xMb of traffic was funneled along with a couple dozen other users and stuffed into a 5xMB backhaul.

That was around the same time they wedged their own DNS servers with "helpful" substitution of friendly sites for any that you mistyped. I'm sure thay don't do hat sort of thing anymore, right? I mean, once you become Xfinity, you must have pledged not to be a jerk.

An international incident or just some finger trouble at the console?

Mike 16 Silver badge

Re: Figured out what THAT meant

So, what does CRS mean?

Can't Route S...?

Thanks for the memory refresh. I had a cerebral hiccup at first, having never seen a GSR (Gun Shot Residue?) but remembered the HFR to CRS transition)

FTC says Frontier lied about its internet speeds amid $8.5m settlement

Mike 16 Silver badge

Dead Branches et al.

You forgot the squirrels.

Palantir expands from Covid role, wins $90m deal with US Department of Health

Mike 16 Silver badge

Blanket Purchase Agreement

Would this be for purchase of blankets formerly owned by plague victims?



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