* Posts by Daedalus

1237 publicly visible posts • joined 15 Oct 2009


OpenAI to buy electricity from CEO Sam Altman's nuclear fusion side hustle


There's a slight issue here

Sure fusion power is more or less infinite in fuel supply, even if you're restricted to deuterium, but note the following:

At the core of the Sun, energy is generated at a rate of less than 100W per cubic meter. For comparison your body does about 10 times that just sitting around. A compost heap does about the same without needing a temperature of 10 MK and a density thousands of times greater than water.

An internal combustion engine generates power in the cylinders at roughly 50 MW per cubic meter, or 50 kW/litre.

So your fusion technique needs to be 500,000 times better than the Sun to be comparable to fossil fuels. Or you could have a reaction chamber that's 100m square and 50m high.

Thanks for coming to help. No, we can't say why we called – it's classified


A not entirely unrelated example of uber-secrecy

The Polaroid SX-70 instant camera was revolutionary even by the standards of Polaroid. Apart from its much better optics, it boasted the ability to deliver a picture in 10 seconds without the need to peel off and discard icky chemical film.

It came to pass that someone was contracted to produce a certain part for the camera. However, in order to do that the person was given no access to cameras and when the time finally came to do a test installation, they were only allowed to fumble inside a black bag that contained the camera hardware. This came as quite a surprise, but fortunately the part fitted and the contract was fulfilled.


Re: Debug by research and guess

At a recent contract, and one might say, a career ending one because I finally retired, many TLA's were being thrown around and black/red was definitely in play. In order to get up to speed with the technobabble going by in meetings, I asked if perhaps there was a glossary being maintained somewhere.

The answer was, appropriately, a TLA. That is to say, TIO - There Isn't One.

'Little weirdo' shoulder surfer teaches UK cabinet minister a lesson in cybersecurity



Well, there's an opportunity that Elon missed. If he'd felt a bit more masculine when renaming Twitter, he could have hijacked a bit of the current nasdat for his own purposes.

NE1 4A Yeet?

I'll yeet myself out.

Techie's enthusiasm for decluttering fails to spark joy


Re: High tech farming

Joker goes on the lamb

UnitedHealth CEO: 'Decision to pay ransom was mine'


The cheaper option

After all, hiring competent cyber security people is expensive. As certain online tales demonstrate, the problem of security is really one of ego, incompetence and bureaucracy.

Help! My mouse climbed a wall and now it doesn't work right


Hoary chestnut

Seriously, this is one of a set of standard stories that surface from time to time. Along with "something pressing on the keyboard", "wireless keyboard in cupboard going nuts", "part of anatomy resting on keyboard", "wireless mouse swap", "magnetic jewelry" and that old, possibly obsolete one, "water dripping from pot plants onto monitor" (modern flat screens having much smaller impact cross-section for falling water)

AI will reduce workforce, say 41% of surveyed executives


Selling their souls

When cloud computing came along, all these companies signed up, not counting on the fact that a few large suppliers were going to control access to all their data.

Now AI is going to be supported by a few large companies, and everyone who signs up will eventually face the choice of paying through the nose or trying to implement AI themselves without having anyone on board who can actually do it.

Techie saved the day and was then criticized for the fix


Sometimes it's good to be a jobsworth

Maybe I'm old and bitter, but faced with this kind of cockup, I would simply have said "too bad, not my job" and let the higher ups argue about it.

The rule is: the last person to touch it gets the blame.

WTF is 'deployment phasing'? One reason Cisco revenue just went backwards, is what


Oh dear

All these deployment delays have nothing to do with the suits outsourcing everything, so that they have at best skeleton crews on site. Or worse, perhaps, the dress shirt and designer jeans crowd are staring at stacks of boxes while their minions desperately phone around for any kind of help.

Techie climbed a mountain only be told not to touch the kit on top


Re: Questionable resolution

That's what I would have done, if only so as not to come back to do it in the future.

War of the workstations: How the lowest bidders shaped today's tech landscape


Re: Correctness and Simplicity

"If your code is complex you've either made a mistake, or you're about to make one"

That's a quote from, er, me.

How to deorbit the Chromebook... and repurpose it for innovators


Wear and tear?

Did the writer of this article take account of the likelihood that all those scrapped Chromebooks would not be quite, what is the expression, fit for purpose because of not being gently handled? Cracked screens, abused and contaminated keyboards, broken hinges, destroyed data ports and other motherboard issues, and of course the horrors of old batteries.

People and electronics are a bad mixture. It's no coincidence that in the days of photocopiers, having the copier in a locked room with a designated operator, however inconvenient it was for the "got to have it right away" brigade, improved the MTBF immensely. Now we have the same problems with printers ("How was I to know it needed special transparency sheets?").

Enterprising techie took the bumpy road to replacing vintage hardware


Beware the beehive

I never did find out what the Beehive was, but it was somewhere and we had to write code as if it were going to run on the Beehive. Or at least take account of the Beehive's data protocols. You see, it was the 80s and a world famous chemical company had been in the process control automation business for decades. So many decades, in fact, that there was a machine colloquially known as the Beehive that dated from the 60s.

Never mind that there were systems that could run whole sections of chemical plants autonomously. There was still the Beehive, and there was Fortran IV, which was the language in vogue when the Beehive went into service. And which therefore was the language in which all work had to be done. Just for good measure, the programming rules said that each statement had to have its own label number whether it was the target of the dreaded GOTO or not. Earlier writers had helpfully left gaps in the numbering to allow statements to be inserted between, but of course those gaps were usually filled up by the time I fetched up there for the worst year of my career.

Did I mention that the developers there were among the least talented I have ever encountered? There were two gurus who weren't going to let new ideas get in the way of their retirement.

Oh well, they want editing, I'll give them editing. Delete 100 statements and replace them with the originals plus whatever I needed to add, all nicely renumbered. Make that 200 when necessary. This all had to be submitted as a "job" rather than done on the fly with an editor, as I was used to by then. That's their problem.

Turn the wheel the way it goes, only more so.

Workload written by student made millions, ran on unsupported hardware, with zero maintenance


Follow the writers

I just bookmark Simon Sharwood for "On Call" and Matthew JC Powell for "Who? Me?"


Random noise

Who knows what mysterious parameter was being monitored?

I'm reminded of one of Asimov's Multivac stories. The three controllers get together after Multivac "won the war" to compare notes. One admits that the incoming data was so bad he fudged it a lot, even adding random numbers sometimes. The second says that he had his suspicions about the programming, so he would adjust the output to fix it according to his thoughts. The third, being the top guy, admits that he himself had many doubts about the whole thing and occasionally resorted to the most ancient of computers.

"Heads or tails, gentlemen?"


No no no no no

That's not how you modernise an old solution running on ancient hardware. As an intern?

You find somebody who can do it outside the company. You agree on a price, get them to submit for the job, split the proceeds, then both of you disappear so there are no comebacks.

You might have to change your name.

Atlassian buys 'asynchronous video' outfit Loom for almost $1 billion


Re: Great ...

My feelings exactly. Granted some people have no ability to put things into words, but that's what L1 and L2 people are for. If only they would do their jobs instead of just "the needful".

How many times have I sat there steaming while some bozo Ummed and Erred their way through what should have been a simple speech? I want to grab them by the throat and say "Talk as if it was important for people to understand you!".

Once I overheard a cubicle drone trying to contact somebody in Mexico without knowing Spanish. I offered the services of a bilingual friend, who got him through to his contact who actually spoke English. The drone then proceeded to talk in circles, wasting the effort and everybody's time.

Grant Shapps named UK defense supremo in latest 'tech-savvy' Tory tale


Grant who?

For a moment I thought it was that actor on Murphy Brown. Maybe it should have been.

Oracle, SUSE and others caught up in RHEL drama hit back with OpenELA


Hats off

Didn't Red Hat put out Fedora to undercut the FOSS versions? Won't they do it again?


Lost in Translation

[日本語] just translates to "Japanese Language", not the name of the OS. Phonetically it's "Ni Hon Go".

Florida Man and associates indicted for conspiracy to steal data, software


Wouldn't it be funny if.....

Florida Man, in addition to his other mistakes, has "sold" his Fortress of Floritude to a company "controlled" by none other that Florida Man Junior. With the expressed agreement, no doubt, that he be allowed to reside and continue all his activities, legitimate or otherwise, in that place. This is evidently to prevent said Fortress from being breached by the Evil Empire of the Law. As a bonus, he gets funds which will aid him in "campaigning" (no doubt against his imminent incarceration).

Of course, Junior, being a chip off the old block, may have ideas of his own. Including, possibly, deciding that Florida Man needs a dose of what King Lear got, sent off on his wanderings, perhaps with New York Mayor Emeritus as Fool (a part he appears to have rehearsed for in recent years).

Looking forward to Florida Man and Fool braving the blasted heath in a storm. In orange, of course.

How to get a computer get stuck in a lift? Ask an 'illegal engineer'


The 402 was 404

I'll get my coat.

Quarter of tech pros say they're considering quitting jobs in next six months



For some reason, competition and natural selection don't improve the intelligence level of the decision makers. If anything, they're dumber now than when I blagged my way into software development all those decades ago. And woe betide he who questions their reasons.

Indian developer fired 90 percent of tech support team, outsourced the job to AI


Yeah right.

India has a history of, shall we say, exaggerated competence. Remember when every Indian software company was at CMM 5? And of course there's the bait and switch staffing.

Maybe compared to the bottom feeders of outsourced IT hell desk, an AI is better. That's more believable.

California man jailed after manure-to-methane scheme revealed as bull


I can see where you're steering the conversation

JP Morgan accidentally deletes evidence in multi-million record retention screwup



Anybody care to speculate about the exact location of the company hired to do the archiving? Perhaps one located in a country famed for bait-and-switch staffing, exaggeration of capabilities and certifications etc.? Oh the physical archives may have stayed in the USA, but it's rupees to bhajis that the staff were located elsewhere.

False negative stretched routine software installation into four days of frustration



So a large US manufacturer refused to install software because it was crap? So how did Lotus Notes become so widespread?

That old box of tech junk you should probably throw out saves a warehouse


Miracles are one thing

Keeping spares is another. Apparently somebody was smart enough to specify redundant servers, but somebody else was too cheap to keep spare parts for the control panels.

Oh well, chances are they would have found the spares had been half-inched anyway.

ChatGPT can't pass these medical exams – yet


Feynman's Observation

When Richard Feynman went to teach in Brazil, he encountered a system of education that produced people who could spout answers to questions on demand, providing the answers were those they had learned by rote. So asking about "Brewster's Angle" (relating to the polarization of light reflected from the surface of a transparent medium) he could get chapter and verse from students who actually had no idea what polarization or refractive index meant, and couldn't say why light reflected off water might be polarized.

I include this because it's exactly the kind of "learning" we can expect from AI as related to medicine or science.

Before you sprinkle AI on all your analytics, check data quality


GIGO is SOOOO last century

Now it's ugly garbage in, shiny garbage out.

Europe’s biggest city council faces £100M bill in Oracle ERP project disaster


Right said Fred

Every time this sort of debacle happens I'm reminded of the cartoon where the owners of a company are looking at, on the one side, huge computer stacks tended by white-coated acolytes, and on the other, an old guy hunched over a desk.

Caption: "You mean we need all that just to replace Fred?"

Botched migration resulted in a great deal: One for the price of two


Catch 22-fer

Similar story from Reddit: Severely incompetent client of industrial equipment installer orders and signs for an ISDN line without checking to see if it actually was installed. It was not, at least not at the client. The clueless telecom tech inexplicably did the job at a random building somewhere else in town. Inquiries by the equipment installer were stonewalled. Which building got the line? Sorry, client confidential. Well disconnect it! Nope, against company policy to enter a building without a contract.

Second line was correctly installed, leaving incompetent client on the hook for both lines. But installer was happy, at least as happy as you can be with such a client.

Techie wiped a server, nobody noticed, so a customer kept paying for six months


Re: Would have done otherwise

It's not just idiocy. When actual evil is at work you stay away, regardless of the opportunity cost. The company could quite easily have hired the dev and then stiffed them at the end, or claimed that the work was not done to spec. At worst, the dev could have been sued for some trumped-up reason.

Why ChatGPT should be considered a malevolent AI – and be destroyed



Marketers, influencers, and a host of “leadership” coaches, copy writers, and content creators are all over social media telling everyone how much time and money they can save using ChatGPT and similar models to do their work for them

Who will break the news to them? What little relevance they had in the world will disappear, and them with it.

Service desk tech saved consultancy Capita from VPN meltdown, got a smack for it


Fun fun fun in the sun sun sun

Sales droids and management unable to log in and tearing their hair out?

I'd microwave some popcorn, sit back and enjoy the show.

DNA testing biz vows to improve infosec after criminals break into database it forgot it had


SSN isn't just a nuclear submarine

Elephant in the room: what was Cellmark doing with Social Security Numbers in the first place? There is no legitimate need for them outside of employment and banking. Unless Cellmark were coordinating with govt. databases, they should not have been requiring clients to submit them.

Eager young tearaway almost ruined Christmas with printer paper


So much paper, so little time

The techno-kludges of the fanfold era were quite monumental. I remember pictures of large cabinets in which the paper hung as if to let the ink dry, there being some reason to not have it sitting in a stack.

And then - a miracle. Somebody realized that printing miles of paper for people to inspect for problems was a Really Bad Idea.

What was to be done? Answer: print out only the items that looked off. Yes! Exception processing!

Of course, competent programmers are more expensive than old fogies with reading glasses and those funny appliances to keep their shirt sleeves from getting ink on them. But once a problem gets big enough, even the most resistant corporate drone will shell out.

The problem is how big it has to get before the shelling out occurs.

Developers: What if someone said you’d never have to meet with marketing again?


Marketing is the business of selling projects to management

The company has extended automation from Jira to Confluence to make that sort of thing easier: finishing the new version would auto-create the new branch, see the release notes posted for approval, and marketing alerted it’s time to publish that blog post.

What? The idea of marketing being ready to do anything other than insist on last-minute changes is mind-boggling. Certainly if Atlassian are keen on bringing marketing closer to developers, many developers will be updating their CV's. Not to mention the project managers who won't enjoy being bypassed.

As for Confluence, if it's any better than a plain old Wiki I have yet to see it. My recent experience tells me that it's only as good as the people using it. Garbage in, garbage piled everywhere.

Mixing an invisible laser and a fire alarm made for a disastrous demo


Ah yes, the days of mysterious beams flashing from one end of campus to the other. We never did get the lowdown on who was doing what, but there were plenty of candidates in Chem, Physics etc. Green was probably Argon-Ion, Red the HeNe. The only laser I ever worked with produced a 1 microsecond pulse at 1.06 microns, so no showing off with that one. Neodymium YAG glass, if anyone cares. Part of the rig was a delay line consisting of 100m of coax still wound on its reel, artlessly placed on the floor. Simple but effective.

'Multiple security breaches' shut down trucker protest



You know, you could have quite a lot of fun setting up websites for these nutjobs, and then having "technical issues" just as their plans were about to come to fruition. Of course, letting the PTB and the PIC listen in on a side channel is a temptation to which you should not succumb.

University students recruit AI to write essays for them. Now what?


Automation and AI

The real truth that automation and AI expose is that most people are a waste of space. This includes Professors of Rhetoric who, amongst other failings, don't understand that the drones in their classes would be happy with a C or a C+. Finding people who care enough to do something well is hard. You can't do it by awarding participation trophies or passing every failing student on to the next mug. In fact, you discourage those who want to do well by passing those who don't care. The fact that the "don't care" crowd vastly outnumber the "give a damn" crowd means that "democratic" education will always produce mediocrity.

TSMC said to be considering first European semiconductor plant


This sounds familiar

Oh yeah, when Asian automobile manufacturers set up shop in the US etc. Simply demonstrating that local yokels are fat, dumb, happy and incompetent, otherwise they'd have expanded local production themselves a long time ago.

Iterable co-founder claims he was ousted because of racial discrimination, not LSD use


A Turk and an Indian guy walk into a meeting....

Well, I guess that's our revelation for the week. Apparently even those who are not from northern Europe, are convinced that the acceptable face of venture capitalism is the proverbial white male.

Come to think of it, the company I bailed on last year was just a Harvard and Yale gloss on an Indian boiler room operation.

You can't judge a company by its website.

How not to test a new system: push a button and wait to see what happens


Re: Doug is not the problem here…

Yes, well, if you'd care to put yourself in Bob's situation, you might think differently. After you've seen enough screwups, you assume that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, and will do it at the most excruciating time.


In related news....

Bill Gates (for it is he) was so convinced that an install of the latest Windows was bulletproof that, while it was being demonstrated by his VP on stage and on live video across the planet, he pulled the plug on the test PC in the middle of the process.

To say that the VP was "white faced" at that point is an understatement.

Boss broke servers with a careless bit of keyboarding, leaving techies to sort it out late on a Sunday


Re: "an on-prem email server"

The Jupiter mission ship in the movie "2001 - A Space Odyssey" was originally designed with large surfaces for heat dispersion when the on-board nuclear reactor was supposed to be working, running the drive system. These were deleted because they looked too much like fins, which, of course, are for ships that fly in atmospheres.

Instead we had the "seminal" design that we saw in the movie, a spherical habitation module connected to the drive module by a long spine. The novel kept the "fins".

UK competition watchdog investigates Apple and Google 'stranglehold' over the mobile market


HMG at it again

It seems oligopoly is a bad thing unless you're a supplier to HMG, in which case the fewer bidders, the better. The UK had a lot of aerospace companies once upon a time. The myrmidons got tired of dealing with all those proles and directed them to merge into one, the better to engage over lunch at the club.

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



Maybe it could be "one man and a dog" as in "the man is there to feed the dog. The dog is there to make sure the man doesn't touch the controls."


Sledgehammers to walnuts

Yep, let's spend billions on automation to save millions on salaries.

The nice thing about a mega tech project is that the top people can start one and then bail (with golden parachutes, of course) before the bill comes due.