* Posts by FeRDNYC

136 publicly visible posts • joined 8 Jun 2013


GNU turns 40: Stallman's baby still not ready for prime time, but hey, there's cake


HURD isn't unfinished, it's a zombie project

From the article:

It is arguable that in the sort of narrow, specific sense that Stallman himself tends to favor, the GNU Project failed. There isn't a complete, working GNU OS. An operating system is a stack of components, from the visible user-facing stuff to the kernel, and the GNU kernel, the also recursively named Hurd, is still incomplete and not ready for daily use, even after all this time.

It's not really fair to characterize HURD as an unfinished project, because nobody's really expecting to finish it anymore. The FSF's own tediously comprehensive GNU/Linux FAQ and/or harangue even admits:

We expected to release the GNU system packaged for installation, but this plan was overtaken by events: in 1992 others were already packaging GNU variants containing Linux. Starting in 1993 we sponsored an effort to make a better and freer GNU/Linux distribution, called Debian GNU/Linux. [...]

The GNU Hurd kernel never became sufficiently ready; we only recommend it to those interested in working on it.

Their user-facing recommendations exclusively promote use of the GNU system on top of the Linux kernel.

HURD is only still a thing because the entire kernel project became a manifestation of the sunk-cost fallacy. The FSF continues to develop a dead-end microkernel that will never be usable, simply because "Given the years of work we had already put into the Hurd, we decided to finish it rather than throw them away."

BOFH: We send a user to visit Kelvin – Keeper of the Batteries


In a modern inversion of that, I've long since learned not to trust Home Depot's website when it reports a product is in-stock in store, unless it claims there are a minimum of three units in stock. Fewer than three, it's a 50/50 shot there will be even a single one to be found.


Re: The force is strong with this new one

I like how you write that as if snooker suddenly became a popular TV sport after the introduction of colo[u]r.


Re: Keepers of...

Certainly, under-Scottying. You always double all of the numbers in your estimates, how else can you look like a miracle worker when you make things work with only half of the required resources?


Re: Evil,..... moi?

Headlight fluid. You can never have enough headlight fluid.


Re: Keepers of...

Hey, wait, is that < blockquote > ?!!? Did that FINALLY get fixed to work in the comment system here?!

I had to re-edit SO MANY posts over the years because I tried to use blockquote and had it fail, so eventually I managed up break myself of the habit... Guess it kind of tracks that, NOW it'd finally be working!


Re: Keep the Frogs happy.

(a less useful fact would be hard to imagine.)

Here's one for you, and it's even temperature-related: -40 is the point where the Fahrenheit and Celsius scales cross, so -40°F == -40°C.

Great for trivia purposes, sure. If you want to make a date suffer and reconsider their recent life choices, can't go wrong with that factoid.

But beyond those social-warfare applications, what practical use will that nugget of information ever be, really?

Resilience is overrated when it's not advertised


Do it Yourself (by Bill Sutton)

Oh, I-B-M, DEC, and Honeywell, H-P, D-G, and Wang,

Amdahl, NEC, and N-C-R, they don't know anything

They make big bucks for systems so they never want it known,

That you can build a mainframe from the things you find at home.

Boffins say they can turn typing sounds into text with 95% accuracy


Re: Beware, Take Care, IT is a Crazy FCUKing Jungle out there .... Devoid of Vanquished Prisoners

Sir, this is a Wendy's....


Re: This reminds me of the time some customer of mine had a problem with their password

Designers of login screens seem to have woken up to this flaw in their designs more recently.

I mean... to an extent. Yeah, any good login interface will now warn you if CAPS LOCK is turned on while you're typing your password... but that's about it. If anything, I think the infosec world is waking up to the fact that the flaw in login systems is the entire concept of successfully typing out a certain string of characters as a means of verifying a user's identity, not so much the fiddly details of exactly how they type in those characters. Better they just... not do that. Like, at all.

Passwords are a poor means of establishing credentials, full stop. Fortunately, advances in biometrics, key-exchange authentication, federated logins, and other "post-password" technologies are gradually making the humble string-of-characters textual password obsolete. Thanks to built-in browser/OS password-management features, the practice of manually typing in said password (just like grandpa used to do!) is even nearer to extinction. Can't happen soon enough.


Re: Bach, Beethoven or Mozart?

I think my favorite part of that is watching the typewriter slide itself across that tiny desk while he's "playing" it, to the point where he has to reposition the thing more than once during the piece. That just seems like one of those things that absolutely could've been worked out in advance, and compensated for... and it boggles the mind how it was not.


Re: 2016 called...

I suspect that's because the Skype figure comes directly from that exact 2016 paper, which is cited in this new one.


Re: Shift or not is only one bit of information per character

Even better, just use key-exchange authentication instead of passwords. Having the passphrase that unlocks your private key is useless, unless you also have the key itself.


Never thought my declining accuracy would work in my favor...

But as long as I'm careful to edit multiple keystrokes by holding down the Backspace key instead of pressing it multiple times, the system is probably pretty screwed for deciphering what the final state of my input actually ends up looking like. (Even better if I use the mouse to navigate around the input field while editing, which I do tend to do.)

BOFH: Zen and the art of battery replacement


An attempt to replace the BOFH? Oh, yes, I imagine that would completely sell out the stadium. (Despite the conclusion being foregone. RIP Korev.)



Not even tangentially related, really...

But, one of my favorite moments in Elaine Carroll's always-entertaining "Very Mary-Kate" skits (where she plays both halves of the Olsen Twins, protagonist Mary-Kate and occasional guest Ashley): After Mary-Kate sets the room on fire with pyrotechnic effects during a class presentation.........

Professor: Mary-Kate, use the juice cleanse on the fire!

Mary-Kate: Uh, okay Professor Text Adventure...


BOFH: We're an industry leader … in employing idiot managers


Not the Kanye/Trump transition!!! Nothing good ever comes out of seeing those two names together.

BOFH: Don't be nervous, Mr Consultant. Come right this way …


And just like that...

the existing financial system is suddenly deemed "good enough". Funny how you never appreciate what you don't need until the cost of obtaining it is transformed* into units of bodily harm.

* - (free of charge!)

BOFH: I know of a small biz that could deliver nothing for a fraction of the cost


Agreed. You should comment on the episode, instead.


Time for a staff cafeteria withdrawal...

If the Boss had been around as long as the rest of us, he'd at least know that he has several currency options for the deposit. The local company in question will no doubt accept deposits in any of: cash, BitCoin, or the form he should be offering -- onion bhajis.

Big changes coming in Debian 12: Some parts won't be FOSS


Re: @VoiceOfTruth - Seems like a pragmatic idea

Nice FUD, but a license is a no-backsies agreement. Something obtained under a valid license doesn't magically become "un-licensed" just because someone "changed their mind".

When firmware providers supply their blobs for inclusion in Linux distros, they do so under a license that allows redistribution. A hardware vendor can certainly decide to discontinue that practice and stop contributing any newer firmware, but it doesn't make the firmware they already contributed suddenly non-redistributable. Nor does it obligate Debian or anyone else to hunt down any previously-downloaded copies and terminate them with extreme prejudice.1

The Linux Vendor Firmware Service has already made the appropriate sacrifices to the requisite slavering horde of IP lawyers, to have covered everyone's collective asses on this stuff.


1. (Even with illegally-distributed content — which a "change-of-heart" firmware would not be, anyway — a distributor's obligations typically don't extend past halting further distribution of the illegal content. When a company, say, releases a movie they haven't secured complete rights to, they may be required to recall and destroy all of the unsold copies, but they aren't required to hunt down the purchased copies. They may run a buy-back/replacement program for buyers who want a refund or a corrected copy, but it's still up to purchasers of the "bad" version whether they choose to avail themselves.)

BOFH: It's Friday, it's time to RTFM


Re: IBM Jargon dictionary

I'm rather disappointed that the (SIXTY-FIVE PAGE!!!) IBM dictionary even contains a facetious — and different from Horst's version — example expansion of ACRONYM ("A Convenient Reduction Of Nomenclature, Yielding Mnemonic Syllables"), but it doesn't define or acknowledge "backronym".

Oxford Dictionaries "traced the word backronym to a 1983 letter from Meredith G Williams in 'The Washington Post'" (according to The Independent), so it'd almost definitely been making the rounds by 1990.



"OMG indeed", indeed.

BOFH: The Boss has a new watch – move readiness to DEFCON 2


Grues can appear in the most unfortunate of pitch-black places anytime when you don't expect them to...

So can Riddicks, which may be even more terrifying.


Not quite the same...

But N jobs ago, in the late 1990s, the company moved sites to one of those standard-issue cube-farm mazes on a large, open-plan floor. (In the Nestlé building in Westchester, NY, in fact.) There, unlike our previous digs, the interior lights were programmed to be turned on weekdays from 8am - 8pm. After that, they would switch over to motion sensors for the other half of the day (or full-time on weekends).

PLENTY of us worked long/weird hours, at that job, so usually there was enough movement for the lights to stay on until around 9, 10pm. But after that, if everyone was hacking away in their cubicles, every 20 minutes the lights would switch off, the floor would be plunged into darkness except for the emergency exit lights, and someone would have to stand up and wave their arms around a bit to turn the lights back on.

The apparent "GO HOME!" implication of the lights switching off, while it may have been effective with Nestlé's own employees, was entirely lost on us.

Dev's code manages to topple Microsoft's mighty SharePoint


I think that device is called "meth". Just make sure they get a LOT of it.


Microsoft phone support (baggy-pants edition)

2001 is probably well into the era where this sort of thing was waning, as the migration to primarily internet-based support was already well underway by the time Y2K rolled around, but a decade earlier the behemoth that was Microsoft telephone support was truly a wonder to behold.

My own dealings with it were back in the summer of 1993, when my just-survived-freshman-year self parlayed my 1/4-of-a-bachelor's-degree "experience" into a summer job doing on-site development for a business graphics service in Manhattan. The shop operated under a business model where they would meet their clients wherever they were at, technologically, rather than imposing the file-type and -format requirements typical of more regimented, higher-volume services. In order to uphold their claim that clients could submit files in any format, from any application, and have them made into whatever combination of slides, printed documents, etc. they requested invariably meant that preflight involved a fairly robust arsenal of middleware translators, parsers, reformatters, etc. sitting in the path between the customer files and the slide/document printers, and that was where I came in.

Since the bulk of the development was being done in Visual C for their Windows production workflow, at some point during the course of the summer I ended up hitting some issue that, like Mark, left me dialing the support number listed in the software manual.

What a trip. Never before or since have I encountered a phone-support infrastructure so massive in both scope and complexity, not to mention so actively used that it easily justified the entire production. The call center maintained dozens of support queues for all of Bill's various products and services, so at any time there were easily hundreds of callers holding to reach a support engineer. And while we all waited? No canned, tedious hold-music loops for these hopeful petitioners, no sir! Instead, a live DJ "hosted" the on-hold experience, interspersing his musical selections with updates on wait times for the various support queues in exactly the manner of a drive-time radio DJ giving traffic reports.

Considering there was at least one occasion where I spent a solid 45 minutes on hold, the novelty was not unwelcome.

NOBODY PRINT! Selfless hero saves typing pool from carbon catastrophe


Re: Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

Anyone who still uses any date format other than ISO-8601 YYYY-MM-DD is a sociopath.


Re: Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

The accountants refused to cut over to the shiny new Y2K compatible version...

Well, that's not really a Y2K bug, it's a Y2K stupidity. PEBKAC "bugs" don't qualify for the Actual Y2K Bug Toteboard. (They remain a featured category on the Schadenfreude Leaderboard, of course.)

I know, there are a surprising number of rules governing this stuff!


Yeah, making multi-part form pads was nothing compared to spiral- or comb-binding. Those were both fiddly punishments disguised as gainful employment.


Re: Uniplex "my God, it chills me just mention the dark lord's name,"

Ah Uniplex - sadly its licensing system died at the millennium

Oooh! An actual Y2K bug!? After we collectively poured so much time, effort, and money through all of 1999 into preemptively fixing those?

I think that's only the second one I've heard of "in the wild"! (The first being all the Perl-based web templates that rang in the new year by advancing the year from 1999 to 19100.)

This is the military – you can't just delete your history like you're 15


Re: Written reports on pron.

Indeed. Hell is other people's porn.


Re: We've Probably All Come Across This

Have Simon and Alistair eloped?

Aw, I'm rootin' for those crazy kids. I think they just might make it!

America edges closer to a federal data privacy law, not that anyone can agree on it


Re: I'm (still) puzzled.......

Well, on at least one point:

1. The sale of hacked data (e.g. the Equifax hack)

...there is something lawmakers can do to address the problem, and that is: Make it more costly, and less lucrative (in both the financial sense, and otherwise) to collect and keep so much data in the first place. To the point that, hopefully, companies think twice about glomming onto every piece of information they can hoover up, and are more circumspect in their handling of what they DO collect.

If there's less data in third-party hands, and it's better protected, then there will be less opportunity for hackers to acquire it, and they'll come away with less when they do. Or, at least, here's hopin'.

We'd all better hope, because it's clear the only chance lawmakers have of fighting illicit data transactions is if they choke off the supply. To accomplish that, they have a choice: They can either try to educate the public about better protecting their own data, or force companies to curb their appetites.

It seems they've correctly concluded that the education option is a lost cause. (Plus, to your second point, it's awfully hard to protect yourself when companies are pulling shady tricks behind-the-scenes to invade your privacy. Even harder if those tricks are technically completely legal!

So, it's privacy laws all 'round.

Just as soon as they settle on something everyone can agr—ohhhh shit, we're fucked.

Apple dev roundup: Weather data meets privacy, and other good stuff


Re: "without associating coordinates with personal information"

While my cynicism regarding this sort of thing is typically more in line with Dan's, the weather data service specifically has clearly grown (in whole or in part) out of their acquisition of Dark Sky.

Witness the latest wacky coincidence: Just as Apple is ramping up their weather offering for widespread usage, a new Big-Red-Banner™ appears on https://darksky.net/ warning of firm shutdown dates for the services. (Those dates have already been pushed back something like 2 years, but it sounds like they've finally reached the, "OK, for serious people, no more extensions" point where they're actually going through with it.)

Dark Sky was never really about data collection. (The web version never even had logins or any sort of user-account featureset — at ALL!) So, even though this is based on absolutely no hard information and ultimately amounts to nothing more than a fantasy narrative on my part, I like to think that the Dark Sky team brought Apple a weather service completely devoid of tracking and spyware features, and with no easy way to tack them on after the fact.

It would be a very Apple thing, if they responded to that situation with a pivot that looks pretty much exactly like what we've just seen, where they end up touting the service's uncharacteristic lack of nosiness as a privacy feature instead.

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


(Obligatory — well, not obligatory, but warranted:)

RIP Keith Flint. \m/,

BOFH: You'll have to really trust me on this team-building exercise


Re: Even more disappointed!

I must've missed when Charles Schulz took that gig animating acid trips. (Maybe I was too stoned.)

We can bend the laws of physics for your super-yacht, but we can't break them


Re: We canna change the laws of physics!

> "half a billion modem ports"

Yeah, let's not go crazy now. I meant half a million. Which is still a pretty crazy number of simultaneous phone calls to be fielding, during peak hours. (AOL going unmetered in 1996 nearly destroyed us. The company spent the following 18 months frantically spinning up additional banks of modems just as fast as we could get the hardware from 3Com and the capacity from the telcos.)


We canna change the laws of physics!

We had one of those, though not quite as colorful.

Back in the late-mid 1990s I worked for a backbone network operator. (Shoutout to ANS.net, long subsumed into UUNet, then MCI, then who knows where?)

One week, our backbone techs had been fielding complaints about round-trip latency in some customer's inter-city (interstate, in fact) link. They route-optimized, they load-balanced, they pulled every trick in the book to make sure data was flowing as smoothly and efficiently as possible from point A to point B.

So much so, in fact, that eventually someone sat down, did a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation, and determined that the link's current latency was consistent with packets flowing between the two endpoints at roughly 0.9 C, aka 9/10 the speed of light!

Further attempts at achieving FTLTCP/IP were immediately halted, and the customer was informed that, regretfully, we would not be able to "clear up" their supposed "lag" any further. Perhaps, as a non-relativistic solution, they would instead consider relocating one of their sites nearer to the other? The speed of light in a vacuum is generally considered a non-negotiable constraint.

(Background: I actually wasn't a backbone operator, rather I worked on our dial-up systems. Which were quite extensive, at the time, because ANS was several years into a massive project to build & operate the network for AOL, by whom they'd subsequently been acquired. — Yes, that narrow sliver of the pre-dotcom-crash 90s was the sweet spot during which AOL had the juice to buy a backbone ISP of its own. For the sole purpose of having a team responsible for keeping their nationwide network of over half a billion modem ports humming along. — Anyway, we all tended to eat dinner together often, so even though I wasn't directly involved in backbone operations I still got to hear most of the stories.)

Distributor dumps Kaspersky to show solidarity with Ukraine


"Dicker Dater" feels like a false dichotomy to me. #WhyNotBoth?

BOFH: The Geek's Countergambit – outwitted at an electronics store


You realize...

At the close of this one all I can hear in my head is Bugs Bunny declaring, "You realize, this means war?"

BOFH: When the Sun rises in the West and sets in the East, only then will the UPS cease to supply uninterrupted voltage


My tried-and-true, decades-of-results-to-back-it-up method of cleaning nearly anything electrically inert (either by its nature, or temporarily rendered that way) is to shower with it.

Fans, both environmental and device-extracted? Check. Clogged vacuum cleaner hoses? Checkity-check. Window blinds, window screens, aircon filters, sink mats? Check, check, check, aaaand... check. Keyboards? 1000% check, any other method is just farting around and wasting time. (It helps to have a spare on hand you can swap it out with, for the drying period.)

They all get a nice, soapy shower (and a good scrubbing and exfoliation from Mr. Retired Old Toothbrush), then they get a perch in front of the box fan on highest-tolerable speed, positioned at an optimal drying angle for ~12-36 hours (depending). ...Unless what I was cleaning was the box fan, then I too like to live dangerously.

My shower drain's always a little bit gross, but the rest of the place is pristine!


Re: Experience

I think part of the problem is that youth(s) never seem to check that they're properly grounded, before grasping lots of things.

Nothing delivers 10kV of Experience™ quite as effectively as a "Here, hold this!" trustingly complied with. (How else are they gonna learn? The ones that survive, I mean.)

BOFH: So you want to have your computer switched out for something faster? It's time to learn from the master


Don't leave out all the Snaabs who reliably infest such communities.

BOFH: Oh for Pete’s sake. Don’t make a spectacle of yourself


Re: Stupidity Cancelling Headset

Sorta, they just keep spinning it off into new markets.

I hear the Vatican is workshopping their own take, as sort of a fundraising experiment: 'Vestors Vestibule. Supposed to be very fancy. The ventures ride in on their Vespas, the pitching priests don the vestments, and this travesty of a joke is why I'll die a Vestal virgin.

BOFH: Postman BOFH's Special Delivery Service


Re: 'Remote Onboarding'

Hah! Not now that they've all got little tracking chips in them. Now they can just refuse to work if they're past a certain date.

(Which, in fairness, is perfectly on brand for printing technology. Refusing to work under basically any circumstances is the standard consumer inkjet printer's prime directive.)


Re: Queen's portrait on them

"What, like photos of Freddie Mercury?" </American>


Re: Back to work... NOPE

Sadly, Crom cares not.


Bringing home useless-to-them old equipment used to be my favorite thing about assisting people with their upgrades, since they always seemed to have too much money and a desire to replace perfectly-good devices with newer, perfectly-good devices. (I suppose "better", in many cases, depending how you look at it.) Whereas I always seem to have no money and the last time I paid for a brand-new anything was my recently-deceased printer, purchased back in 2006.

I say "used to be my favorite thing", because now my chickens have come home to roost. There's both a 17" Nokia 447w CRT screen and some model Asus 22" LCD display currently sitting in my closet, neither of which I really have any use for, but also neither of which I can get rid of... not without having to pay a recycling fee that's far more than I paid for the screens (which is nothing). So there they sit.

Footfallcam kerfuffle: Firm apologises, promises to fix product after viral Twitter thread, infoseccer backlash


I mean, you can easily read the law in question for yourself. (And it is, surprisingly, fairly readable and written in plain English.) As currently amended:

Unauthorised access to computer material.

(1) A person is guilty of an offence if—

(a) he causes a computer to perform any function with intent to secure access to any program or data held in any computer, or to enable any such access to be secured;

(b) the access he intends to secure, or to enable to be secured, is unauthorised; and

(c) he knows at the time when he causes the computer to perform the function that that is the case.

Yes, if you set up a public website then accessing it is not unauthorized. But merely serving content over HTTP does not constitute authorization, if the server in question is not a public internet resource. (Meaning, if it's only reachable by knowing or guessing the device's IP, and there are no links to it anywhere on the web, then it's not exactly "a website" nor is it implicitly public.)

And attempting to breach password-protected or otherwise secure areas of any service — public or otherwise — is still criminal "unauthorized" access, no matter how laughably weak their security is.