* Posts by Mike 16

1433 publicly visible posts • joined 17 Jun 2009


Start rummaging: Atari's new 2600+ console supports vintage cartridges

Mike 16

Original Quartet?

If the author's VCS had only four switches, it was probably not "original" (Heavy Sixer) which

had a sextet of switches. Perhaps an younger sibling had "salvaged" a few parts for a Science Fair project?

Meanhwile, I "got the message" about VCS popularity when my home was burgled. The thieves took the time to disconnect my VCS from the (17 inch diagonal CRT) television.

left the VCS, took the TV. (1984 or so). Great way to convey "OK, Boomer"

The Pentagon has the worst IT helpdesk in the US govt

Mike 16

Not surprising

Long ago, I worked in the building housing my University's EE department. We were informed that ours was the second worst building on campus for Health and Safety

(not surprising when it housed lab equipment for folks whose future would include cutting edge distribution gear, as well as at least one generator that looked old enough for Tesla himself to have wound it)

Turns out that the _worst_ building housed the student health clinic, and the office of the campus fire marshal, who had conducted the evaluation.

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

Mike 16

_Bottom_ posted?

IIRC (left UseNet in 2000), most substantial conversations (as opposed to quick shots of "first" or "plonk"),

were Interspersed. Not having to start a major research project to figure out the context of a "yes" is

one of my favorite memories of the days. Compare and contrast to the "modern" mailing list which

relies on "nesting" every email in a thread in a "reverse chronological" order. At least so far they

have kept the order of the letters of each quoted copy reading left to right.

BTW: Green Card Lottery was not the first SPAM I encountered on UseNet, but it was certainly the

first to (seemingly) _intend_ to annoy pretty much everybody on UseNet.

I'm torn about "re-upping". I got so much free time back in exchange for the groups I had read.

I certainly could not get my old "name" back, as it was a bang-path. A while back IIRC bang-paths

were still part of the email RFCs. They are/were not handled by the likes of Google and Comcast.

Good times. Now if only I could get things done _and_ graze my groups (mostly comp.*)

Silicon Valley billionaires secretly buy up land for new California city

Mike 16

Re: Prisoners

And here I was thinking Rover was bouncing across _beach_ sand, when it is actually desert.

(Note: a Lottery here in California has started using a larger, red, version of Rover in its ads.

So maybe you have some tiny chance of getting rich and a larger chance of being smothered)

Mike 16

Building underground?

Been done:


The Forestiere Underground Gardens, in Fresno California.

IIRC, the precipitating event was a would-be farmer finding out that his

newly purchased (sight unseen) land was not really so agricultural.

But of course the notice of selling land that doesn't quite match

the sales pitch is all in the past, right?

RIP Kevin Mitnick: Former most-wanted hacker dies at 59

Mike 16

Re: But why tho...

Add Jef Raskin to the list, although he got less warning than Steve Jobs.

IIRC, he got very little warning (typical for pancreatic cancer, but even less that usual)

BTW I recommend the Humane Interface.

Indian telecoms leaps from 2G, to 4G, to 6G – on a single day

Mike 16

Re: 6G may be

> "if they just got 4G working consistently..."

I, Personally, would _love_ to see the carriers (looking at _you_ Comcast)

provide voice via 4G LTE with fewer (preferably 0) cases of my own speech

from 1-10 or so seconds ago competing with the other person on a call.

Halfway decent echo suppression has been around for at least 50 years,

with far less hardware.

Yeah, I know, it's no longer a hardware problem, as pretty much everything

has been punted to software. We all know software is perfect, right?

Thanks for fixing the computer lab. Now tell us why we shouldn’t expel you?

Mike 16

VT100 printer-port flashback.

Ah, the days, when WFH included a VT100, a Flexowriter, and the astonishingly fast 1200 bps modem.

I did manage to get stuff done, somehow.

Mike 16

Re: old password

We did have one machine (file-server for about 200 people) named GOD, until a devout user complained. We had to change the name to GAWD.

Later a new file-server was named for the head of "the other side"

Mike 16

Apologies if I tolr this before...

One place I worked solved the password-inconvenience problem by having an application on all the Windows machine that would allow the user to log on as any (Unix) user they wanted to be.

Another had the "network neighborhood" password be COMPANY_NAME_MONTH_YEAR (got to obey the frequently change passwords" order).

Mike 16

Unscheduled Power fluctuation

Above brings to mind two memories from the early 1970s.

A minicomputer (vendor to remain anonymous) had the nifty feature of a "AC Power fail" interrupt, which could "freeze" the current state of the machine in core memory, such that it could resume where it had been when power came up. Sadly, the interrupt would not be invoked if the front panel power switch was used to turn it off. So the least-bad way to shut down the machine was to yank the power cord.

An example of a non-power-related "unscheduled shutdown (of a task, not the whole machine) was found by a friend (like me sort of a IT wannabe) when he heard some salty language from another user in the terminal room. We were evaluating a new great-leap-forward time-sharing OS in the most logical way: turning it over for "testing" by random undergrads who had managed to justify a login.

Seems that one such user was "testing" the chess-playing program, and had just gotten it in a fork when the operator killed ("dropped") his process. We were guessing that this was a "we don't play games with expensive research systems" situation, but my friend was suspicious _and_ knew how to read the logs, where the death of that process was immediately preceded by a request from the running process for the operator to kill it. Um... isn't there a way for a process to exit? Why yes, but that would not produce a message about the operator having dropped it. This was apparently a case where the computer player, seeing itself in a fork, "kicked over the table" to avoid taking the loss. 50 some years later I wonder if modern "AI" game players also include "not in the official rules" moves.

GitHub publishes RSA SSH host keys by mistake, issues update

Mike 16


When would they have time to spend on stuff that would enhance security, after using up the time allotment in fights over the "coding standards" that care a lot about the niceties of camelCase vs PascalCase, snake_case, etc.

Not to mention tabs vs spaces, commenting layout, etc.

Mike 16

Sufficiently advanced stupidity

is indistinguishable from malice

Let's play a game: Deepfake news anchor or a real person?

Mike 16

Somehow got ahold of

I'd guess that legacy technology (envelopes and bank notes) would have been adequate.

What's up with IT, Doc? Rabbit hole reveals cause of outage

Mike 16

Cutting a dead cable

if circa 1940s films involving newspapers are to be believed (I dunno, as I didn't learn to read until after I was born), you must remember the "million dollar word".

I believe you meant to say "_allegedly_ dead cable"

Twitter starts auction to flip the bird, furniture, pizza ovens, gadgets galore

Mike 16

Re: a lot more money after Twitter is dead.

Ah, yes. The "Memorial Album" plan from "Phantom of the Paradise"

Mike 16

Re: Loving that print!

Trying hard to imagine Sterling Cooper ran their IT on a 360/20

Time to study the classics: Vintage tech is the future of enterprise IT

Mike 16


is in fact still being manufactured, but you can't (legally) get a 6501 (Because Motorola sued and won). So I'm glad I got my 6501 before the gavel fell.

That said, it took some years to get me to drop the practice of writing code that could run on the early 650[12] with no ROR instruction, and on the newfangled ones.

Mike 16

Old gear and malefactors

Resale Value? That must have been important to the folks who broke into my house. They took the time to disconnect my Atari VCS and leave it behind while taking the TV. "OK, Boomer" decades ahead of time. Also took some old silver coins, and probably used them in a vending machine.

As for VOIP landlines, unless you provide uninterruptible power, good luck.

Privacy on the line: Boffins break VoLTE phone security

Mike 16

In the middle

My recollection was "Eve" as in eavesdropper.

OTHO, when using voice rather than data I suppose one could place Yyes Saint Laurent in the middle.

His death over a decade ago might seem to present a problem, but with the sort of delays delays I have experienced with Volte, there might be traces bouncing around the telesphere.

Google adds stronger encryption for some Gmail users, in beta

Mike 16

End to End

Nice thought, but pretty much every communications device available to "common folk" is not all that trustworthy.

If the "client" lives in a smartphone, the already built-in capability to snoop the keyboard and display mean the "ends" are basically "Somebody Else's Computer"

True end to end would be my fingers to your eyes or my mouth to your ears (or vice versa) Not between two bits of software controlled by the developer, manufacturer, network provider, various government agencies, random criminals with "friends" in any of the above, etc. etc.

Of course, very few are likely to be willing to procure and manage a device less likely to be suborned. Available bandwidth for streaming is _far_ more important than staying solvent and out of the Gulag. :-)

Good chance that being found in possession of such a device is a quick ticket to that gulag.

Why did Microsoft just buy fiber optic cable company Lumenisity?

Mike 16

Power over Fiber

IIRC, back quite a ways some researchers into HCF for latency pivoted to "energy delivery" in the form of laser surgery using HCF to minimize tissue damage from "waste energy". This was (according to the article I read at the time) in place of a previous system involving mirrors (but hopefully no smoke)

Perhaps MSFT is looking to make the Blue Screen of Death more literal?

Two signs in the comms cabinet said 'Do not unplug'. Guess what happened

Mike 16

Re: Privileged user

That's the only kind RT-11 had.

There were a number of ingredients to that mess, but as a programmer I try to not "poke the bear" (use known "features" of the existing code in ways known to be error prone)

Mike 16

Re: Physical Methods Trump Signs in Any Language

Reminds me of a certain Pascal compiler that suffered (well, its users did) from a mismatch of expectations when run on RT-11 (PDP-11).

RT-11 has (had?) an odd convention that opening a file with only the disk name, not a filename, would return a file structure that referenced the physical disk (imagine any random program opening / on Unix and you get the idea)

the compiler, OTOH was a bit light on input validation, so when run without specifying any file, would open the system device Read/write,

and then abort when there was no source file named. But not before writing the boilerplate of an executable header over the boot block.

Maybe programmers should be exposed to "Trust, but verify" along with Hoare's advice on complexity.

Mike 16

Safe Place

I have been on (almost) two ends of this sort of thing.

First (Which I think I've mention before) was the time some bright spark removed my "Man On Line" tag and turned on the breaker for the roughly Austin-mini-sized Motor Generator that I was removing.

Second, while sidling down the inside of a wall (left when a rectangular space of the original building was "updated" to an irregular polygon).

I ran across a (turned on) switch on a piece of the old wall. The memory of my first experience aided the angel on one shoulder to override the devil on the other, who wanted to turn it off and see who hollered.

"Fools-proof, yes._IDIOTS_ proof no"

Boris Badenov

Aviation regulators push for more automation so flights can be run by a single pilot

Mike 16

Pilot Error

I suspect that a major reason for so many crashes being put down to Pilot Error is that the pilot is dead and anyway cannot afford the legal team to go against the army deployed by airlines or manufacturers to scapegoat them.

Millennials, Gen Z actually suck at workplace security

Mike 16

Re: "LEET"?

How the heck do you get a smart(ass) phone to _not_ rotate the screen image, and thus allow the "discovery" of what those digits really are?

Nuh-uh, Meta, we can do text-to-video AI, too, says Google

Mike 16


They made some interesting laser printers back in the day. Maybe that helped out on the "text to image" gig.

Is there a warehouse of old tech-company names somewhere, for cases like this? Or was that all handled by new tech companies buying older ones only for their horde of IPV4 addresses?

Google Japan goes rogue with 5.4ft long keyboard

Mike 16

Re: Time? Or rate?

A bit like the marketroid who was so proud to promise our products would have "nine fives" availability.

HDD Clicker gizmo makes flash sound like spinning rust

Mike 16

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Re: Bluetoot drivers

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

Mike 16

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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)?