* Posts by billdehaan

137 posts • joined 6 Mar 2014

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HMD Global revamps infamous commuter-botherer, the Nokia 5310 XpressMusic

billdehaan
Thumb Up

Shut up and take my money

If you're tempted, the handset will be available in March. Bus tickets and c are sold separately.

Could someone explain to a poor Canadian what the "c" in "and c" refers to? Probably a party drug reference, I'd guess, but I don't know the lingo.

Oddly enough, I still have my Nokia 5130, the thicker, cheaper version of the 5310. It was my daily driver from 2009-2010, and it's been a solid backup performer/emergency car phone since. The battery just died in January via overcharge, and I got a replacement Feb 2nd. Instructions said to charge it up and let it run down full three times. I've done so, having charged it on Feb 2nd, Feb 17th, March 2nd, and now... today.

Yes, two weeks plus a day or three on a charge. Ah, the good old days.

The only real complaint was that the PC/Phone software is, by modern standards pretty horrific. And as I recall, it could only take 1GB or 2GB microSD cards; 4GB or larger aren't recognized. So a 32GB capacity would be welcomed.

As I recall, it happily supported Bluetooth, but no wifi. There wasn't much in the S40 that needed the net back then, to be honest. This was not a phone to email or browse on. And there was no GPS for similar reasons.

The camera was tolerable for car accident photos, but little else (there was a green tinge on everything), but it ran for weeks on a charge, got reception when no other mobile would, matched MP3 players that cost more than the phone did, and being Nokia, a friend's daughter put hers in the wash cycle and was annoyed that the 5 key was "a bit fiddly" after the wash, but that was about it.

I can definitely see a market for this.

Hello, support? What do I click if I want some cash?

billdehaan

Re: This wouldn't have happened

No, but it would have opened up an entirely different set of problems.

We're currently dealing with some legacy OS/2 applications in the field. The major problem is finding replacement hardware that OS/2 runs on. We've been trying to migrate to ArcaOS. but finding programmers with the skills to maintain and develop OS/2 3.x drivers has proven just as challenging for us as it was for our customers to find 8GB IDE hard drives and Pentium processors.

And given that many of the ATMs were running OS/2 1.2 and later 1.3, and never updated to OS/2 v2.0, let alone Warp or Merlin, that problem would only grow.

I worked at IBM from 1990-1992, and I ran it as my home system until 1996, when NT4 came along and beat the stuffing out of if. I liked it for what it was, but I don't have any illusions about it being a cure-all for modern problems.

Cache me if you can: HDD PC sales collapse in Europe as shoppers say yes siree to SSD

billdehaan

Re: Define primary

Prices at a local chain (Canada Computers) sell the low end 120GB SSD for $40, a 240GB for $60, the 500GB SSDs going for $90-$120, depending on brand, there's a 1TB for $340, and $900-$1300 will buy you a 4TB, depending on the performance you want.

SATA drives don't have anything in the $40 range, but $60 gets you 1TB, $70 gets you 2TB, $110 buys you 4TB, and I see 16TB for $700.

So, SATA storage gives four to eight times (on average) the capacity for the same prices as SSD, and of course, the maximum SSD capacity is much lower than hard disks.

I definitely want my bootable OS drive to be a fast SSD, and my 128GB SSD does the job nicely. But I've got 8TB of data (and another 12TB of backup media) for things that don't require than performance. That Minute Waltz MP3 doesn't need to be on an SSD, for example, it's gonna take a minute no matter what.

I don't see disks disappearing any time soon. Also, as anyone who's debugged one knows, data from a dying drive can often be recovered, even if only partially and at great cost. When an SSD dies, it's gone, pining for the fjords, and that's all she wrote. One bad experience with an SSD failure has already spooked at least three people I know of and made them shy of the things.

billdehaan

Re: And..

As the old line in the Unix fortunes file said, SCSI is not magic. There are fundamental technical reasons why it is necessary to use a black dagger and an onyx throne when you sacrifice a young goat at midnight to get the chain working.

I remember when the big lie "with SCSI, there's none of that interrupt or memory addressing nonsense; all you have to do is set the LUNs". Of course, the reality was the terminating the SCSI chain was just as magic as other buses at the time. If anything, it could be worse because it was so simple. You had the terminator at both end, and as long as no LUN in the chain was duplicated, you were supposed to be okay.

But when it didn't work, what was there to debug? We all saw things like a 0-1-4 chain that simply wouldn't work, but a 0-1-5 would, despite there being no difference logically. Then a new device was added, and 0-1-5-2 failed, but set the original device back to the 4, and 0-1-4-2 worked just fine.

Now, when it worked, SCSI was a charmer. I ran OS/2 systems with SCSI that, once configured and left alone, ran rings around friends' systems with IDE. If they tried to burn a CD, their machine went to 98% CPU, and if an email popup appeared during the burn, the CD writer could time out and they lost the disk. So burning a CD meant turning off the modem, shutting down all programs other than the writer software, etc. before trying it. Meanwhile, I could burn a disk with my SCSI writer while copying a huge file between two SCSI disks and formatting a (non-SCSI) floppy all at the same time, my CPU never went about 35%, and I never lost a disk.

Of course, once EIDE showed up, SCSI disks became too expensive, at least for consumers. It was one thing when a 4GB SCSI disk was the same as an 8GB EIDE, but then the EIDE prices dropped so that same 4GB SCSI cost what a 10GB EIDE disk did. Then a 12GB, then a 20GB, then a 40GB, etc. Eventually, SCSI disk prices were ten times or more what EIDE cost. Yes, the EIDE were slower, and used more CPU. For corporate data, SCSI was still the way to go. But for consumers who could buy two 20GB EIDE disks (one as a backup) for less than a 4GB SCSI, it became difficult to justify.

And then SATA showed up and kicked over the apple cart yet again.

The BlackBerry in your junk drawer is now a collectors' item: TCL says no more new keyboard-clad phones

billdehaan

Re: That's a shame

There's already quite a wide selection of these already.

The average prices is about C$40; they've been around for years.

Thunderbird is go: Mozilla's email client lands in a new nest

billdehaan

Re: I've stopped using it

I've been de-Googling myself over the past year or so, and I replaced my Gmail with a more privacy focused provider (in my case, Mailbox.org, though there are numerous others). However, even when I was using Gmail and Google calendar, I ran Thunderbird and Lightning to maintain local copies of my mail and calendar data,dating back to about 2004. Prior to that, I was using The Bat!, which while recommended, was locked out by some local ISPs, which made it no longer viable, sadly.

For home users, TB remains a great archival tool, assuming you have POP3 access and not just IMAP. Whether or not you want to use TB for your mail is another story. For non-technical users, web mail is probably a better option nowadays, simply because someone else is doing all of the configuration for them.

TB still has some annoyances, including their creation window fonts being nothing at all like what's sent, and the UI is absolutely outdated. But the archival abilities, along with the search capabilities, still make it a tremendously useful tool.

Free Software Foundation suggests Microsoft 'upcycles' Windows 7... as open source

billdehaan
Stop

OS/2 all over again

When IBM tossed OS/2 onto the scrap heap of history, there was considerable hue and cry from the OS/2 user base, asking (or in the case of Team OS/2, demanding), that IBM release OS/2 as an open source project.

That was 20 years ago, and it still hasn't happened. It didn't happen then, and it won't happen now.

All other considerations notwithstanding, there are one major reason IBM didn't open source OS/2, and why Microsoft won't open source Windows 7.

Never mind the proprietary intellectual property that's embedded in all that code, which would have to be audited before release. Ignore the fact that they'd be giving away a code base that cost hundreds of millions of dollars to develop, over the past forty years. That doesn't even matter.

What does matter is that Microsoft doesn't own Windows, any more than IBM owned OS/2. Oh, it owns a huge percentage of it, to be sure. It's developed it over the past four decades, and the overwhelming majority is no doubt Microsoft spawned, for good or ill. But there are components in there, lots of components, that were purchased with conditions from other vendors, and/or licensed. Microsoft would have to either get free and clear title to the dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of licensed pieces of code that they've acquired and incorporated into Windows over the years before they could release it to the public.

That would be a major cost, and that's not even counting the potential legal exposure if they got sued for releasing something that they didn't have full legal claim to release. Parts may wind up on github, but lots of things are tied up in cross licensing agreements that will never be released to the light of day.

LastPass stores passwords so securely, not even its users can access them

billdehaan

Re: KeePass

Yes.

For one thing, you can use Keepass on cell phone/tablet/other computers without lugging the portable drive around.

Other benefits include things like auto timeout. If you leave your password file open and walk away from your PC, someone could copy your passwords. With Keepass, 30 seconds (configurable) after it gets the last keystroke/mouse action, it automatically locks itself, and you have to re-enter the password.

Other features include things like clearing the copy/paste buffer 30 seconds (again, configurable) so that if for example, a malicious javascript looks in your paste buffer, it won't see your last password.

billdehaan

Re: KeePass

I'm not sure why you're having a problem; Keepass has had CSV import for decades. I remember bringing in a CSV password file from a customer's Blackberry password manager that I worked for back around 2005 without problem.

Of course, there's no CSV standard for password files (that I know of), but Keepass lets you pick the order. In the worst case, you might have to write a script and/or manually edit the field order so that LastPass and Keepass understand each other, but it shouldn't be hard.

A quick search finds that there's a tutorial by a user who's done a LastPass to Keepass migration.

billdehaan

Re: KeePass

I've been using Keypass since the early 2000s, if not the late 1990s.

It may be a local DB, but one of the benefits of it being so established, and open source, is that there's always been a port or a version (a 1.x version, anyway) available on every platform I've ever needed, whether it's Windows, Linux, Windows Phone, IOS, or Android.

The other nice feature is that you can have as many DBs as you like. My general password DB, for things like El Reg and various forums, is on my home PC, my phone, and a keychain thumbdrive. My financial passwords DB is on a VeraCrypt volume on my home PC. Even if someone stole my phone, and somehow got my phone password and my Keepass password both, my banking info isn't exposed, because it's not there to take.

I've also got a BitWarden account where I copy some of the less important passwords (again, like El Reg) for forums and the like, for when I'm in places where USB can't be connected, and I'd rather not look at my phone to manually type in a 32 byte password of random characters. But it's just a convenience, not a necessity; and they aren't passwords that I'm worried if they were compromised. But my Amazon or eBay passwords? Forget it. Even with Authy authentication, I'm not putting those passwords in a cloud-based manager.

That code that could never run? Well, guess what. Now Windows thinks it's Batman

billdehaan

Re: Assume the worst

Less good work putting your personal landline number in the error message!

That was absolutely an error. When my group did a similar thing back in 1989, the burned-in-rom telephone number was that of our much-disliked group leader. He was the one who said it was ready for production and couldn't fail, let him deal with the fallout.

Remember the 1980s? Oversized shoulder pads, Metal Mickey and... sticky keyboards?

billdehaan

IBM AT Keyboard for the win

I still have a couple of my IBM AT era keyboards from 1986. I actually used to have an 1981 IBM PC Model 5150, but the 5 pin DIN to the 6 pin mini-DIN converter didn't work with the 6 pin mini-DIN to USB convertor very well, so I donated those keyboards.

The IBM AT keyboards from before 2000 were tanks. Some of them weighed as much as a modern laptop. I've have successfully run one through a dishwasher to clean it (placing the key caps int the closed cutlery container), and in the years before I had a dishwasher, the bathtub did the job. Remove key caps, fill tub to about six inches of water, and insert keyboard. For stubborn stains, use the shower head blast them off. Dishwashing soap with warm water and a soft sponge (no abrasive copper or steel pads, please) can restore even the most aged and grotty looking keyboard to like-new condition.

Quick!! The! top! five! things! you! want! to! see! from! Yahoo! – what! are! they!?

billdehaan
Mushroom

Free, and worth what you pay for

I set up a Yahoo account, back around 2004, and in many ways, it was better than Google's and Microsoft's offerings at the time.

The email was okay (GMail didn't exist), the calendar and contact manager were pretty good, and they also incorporated a number of useful features, like an RSS reader, bookmark manager, yahoo group interface, and file briefcase into your account.

Unfortunately, they ignored it, and it was surpassed by competitors. Still, it did no real harm to the functionality. The interface was dated, and missed features that were in competitor's offerings, but it remained usable.

But then the security breaches hit. And hit. And hit. And Yahoo either ignored them, hid them, or outright lied about them.

By that point, I'd pretty much given up on it, and was already using other systems. Some mailing lists still used my Yahoo account, so I checked in every once in a while to keep up. That is, until one day, I couldn't.

For some reason, my password wasn't accepted. I'd logged in the previous day at home in a portable browser instance, but I couldn't log in anywhere else. There was no reason given, and I was told use the password reset facility to get a new password.

The password reset facility said it couldn't proceed for "an invalid reason", and that I should go to Yahoo help. Yahoo help told me to call the Yahoo hotline. The Yahoo hotline told me to try the password reset facility. It was a perfect loop.

Now, when I'd set up the account, I put secondary emails and phone number information, in case of an event like this. It didn't matter; Yahoo doesn't even look at that. I used the browser that was logged in already to send emails to support from within Yahoo, and they sent me to the support forums. I went to the forums, and the Yahoo reps there told me to just use the password reset facility, which is where the problem had started.

Fortunately, since I was logged in in that one instance, I was able to scrub the account clean. I deleted everything. Every email, contact, calendar entry, briefcase file, RSS feed, the works.

Three months later, I got an email in one of my secondary accounts from Yahoo support, who had just discovered a server issue that had affected "a small number of users" and had locked them out of their accounts. This had apparently happened 90 days ago, and they had fixed it, so I could start using the account again, no problem.

I checked, and yes, I could reset my password. I still have it, but it's been idle for a decade. When I was locked out of my account, I was completely hung out to dry by Yahoo. Despite setting up secondary emails and phone numbers, they were ignored. Yahoo reps were unreachable. Forum posts and help requests were utterly useless. If not for the fact that a tech stumbled across the problem on their side by accident, my account would still be locked out. So, why on earth would I want to rely on a service like that?

I now use a paid service (mailbox.org) that charges me 1 euro a month, and actually has a financial interest in not locking me out of my service, because if they do, they don't get paid. Sometimes free really is worth what you pay for it.

We asked for your Fitbit horror stories and, oh wow, did you deliver: Readers sync their teeth into 'junk' gizmos

billdehaan

Re: Pebble

Now, if only someone would make another similar smart watch

No one has yet reached the Holy Grail of Pebbleness, but the nearest one, in terms of battery life, always on screen, notifications, music control, but no API for apps, is the Amazfit Bip The other one that's getting attention now is the PineTime, but it's still at the design stage, which is where most Pebble wannabes go to die, sadly.

billdehaan

Re: Pebble

Yep they bought Pebble and then cut the loyal users adrift...

This is a fairly common misconception. Fitbit didn't buy Pebble and cut users; Pebble went out of business, and Fitbit bout some of Pebble's assets (mostly software IP), and hired a bunch of (now ex-)Pebble software people.

It wasn't a merger, or a takeover, it was a garage sale. Many people think that Pebble was a healthy company, and Fitbit killed it. The reality was that Pebble crashed and burned, sadly. What we got from Fitbit was about a year and a half of hosting service, which is about a year and a half more than the nothing we were owed.

I'm not impressed with what Fitbit has to offer, but I can't fault them for their handling of the Pebble assets.

Can you download it to me – in an envelope with a stamp?

billdehaan

Persuading software

Does anyone here remember the tedious regularity of having to persuade your terminal software to pick up an interrupted upload/download from where it left off rather than starting it all over again from the beginning?

You mean replacing XModem and YModem with TeLink, and later ZModem?

Yes, yes, we do.

As for downloading via snailmail, remember the old maxim to "never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon filled with magtapes barrelling down the freeway".

MAMR Mia! Western Digital's 18TB and 20TB microwave-energy hard drives out soon

billdehaan

Re: I bought a drive on the weekend

When floppy storage was $1/MB

Whimper.

Back in 1984, when PCs were big, and the AT hadn't even been released yet, it was a big deal that DOS 2.x allowed you to reformat those DSDD 320kb floppies as 360kb. That allowed 1/3rd of a megabyte on a single disk. That 12% increase doesn't sound like much, but compared to other media, like 8" floppies at 88kb, and "high density" single sided media of 180kb, 360kb was huge.

Slow, but huge.

The going rate was something like $12 a disk, so a MB was about $35. If you bought a box of 10 Dysans, I remember they were "only" $99, so 20% cheaper than buying individual floppies.

So, 20MB of floppies would be 60 disks, or about $720 ($600 if buying in bulk). But given the horrible 80ms speeds, as opposed to 20ms for the hard drive, not to mention not having the flip through dozens of floppies, and split files, etc., the hard drive was well worth the 35% price increase over the floppies.

When the AT came out, and 1.2MB floppies appeared, they cost $99 for a box of ten, and the 360KB prices dropped significantly. But as anyone who's ever tried to back up a 20MB disk onto them (hello, FastBack), they were still a pain to use.

billdehaan
Thumb Up

I bought a drive on the weekend

Over the weekend, I did my monthly backup. This is the "take the 3TB disk out of the fireproof safe, do the backup, put it back in the safe for another month" backup, not the daily backup, or the offsite one.

It failed for the first time, ever. Apparently, my 4TB disk in my PC now has 3.09TB of data, so it could not be backed up onto the 3TB backup disk. So, I went to the shop, bought a 4TB WD Blue for C$99 (about 68 Euros), and did a backup. So, I've now got a spare 3TB lying around.

It occurred to me to do some math. That 4TB disk is 200,000 times the storage capacity of my first 20MB disk in 1985. And at $99, not even counting inflation, it was one tenth the cost. Going by price, storage capacity has increased two million fold over the past three decades. I picked up an 8TB three years ago on sale for $160 or so, and the 10TB, 12TB, and even 14TB have been on sale for a while now.

So, as glad as I am to hear it, increases to 18TB or 20TB don't really shock me nowadays. When they stop quoting TB and start quoting PB, then we'll have reached the next level.

Twice in one month: Microsoft updates new-style Terminal preview

billdehaan

Re: Bless 'em

I went to a Microsoft DevDays conference back in the early 2000s when .Net was just starting up. Our company wanted both an insider and outsider views, so they sent two of us. I was the Unix guy, the other guy on the team was the Windows guy.

I would say at least of half of what was presented was GUI wrappers for standard Unix functionality that had existed for decades. After one presentation, where my Windows compadre had written about three pages of notes on Microsoft's exciting new interoperability product, he noticed that my Unix-centric notes were somewhat terse. I'd written "Microsoft just invented UUCP". That was pretty much the tone of the the conference.

One of the biggest things that MS was pushing was Intellisense, and their adaptive spell checking technology that was going to really make MS Word super powerful. The example they gave was how Word automatically changed teh to the without any user interaction. My Windows colleague said, "I doubt Unix has anything like that, at which point I reminded him whenever he asked why I continued to use my "ancient" emacs editor, one of the reasons was "abbrev mode"...

Don't get me wrong, I think it's great MS includes these improvements. They're welcome. But I just don't see them as being all that brilliant.

I don't see anything in this new terminal that's not already in the freeware Cmder, which itself takes the console from ConEmu project, so I'm not getting excited about it. On the other hand, making it standard will mean it's available on all machines, and I won't have to carry a portable copy of Cmder around everywhere I go, so that's welcome.

Zapped from the Play store: Another developer gets no sense from Google, appeals to the public

billdehaan
Meh

Re: The Register has asked Google to comment...

I had a friend working on a Windows Phone app. He even got it in their store, except you couldn't find it.

It was a local app for Toronto-based consumers looking for a specific type of arts and crafts, but searching for "Toronto", "arts and crafts", or anything else came back empty. Only if you explicitly entered his app name would it come up.

So, he mentioned this in the feedback form. The result was silence.

A month later, he got a boilerplate "Hi, we've noticed your app in the app store hasn't had any hits. Have you considered that you need to advertise more? Is there anything we can do to help?". And, naturally, he copied back that the problem was that his (free) app couldn't be found unless people already knew it existed. Maybe if their search engine actually looked at, you know, the keywords he'd entered when he submitted the app, people might find it?

People could actually find his app in the Windows Phone Store, but not using the WPS search. If you used Bing or Google outside of the app store, it would point you to the app inside.

"We're sorry", MS said, "we cannot change the search algorithm to give preferential ranking to specific applications".

Of course, he wasn't asking for preferential ranking, just for the search engine to actually work. So, he said thank you, but he wasn't going to bother updating the app, it wasn't worth it.

A month later, MS sent him the "Hi, we've noticed your app in the app store hasn't had any hits recently, is there anything we can do?" email again.

And then they wonder why people bail on them.

Canadian ISP Telus launches novel solution to deal with excess email: Crash your servers and wipe it all

billdehaan

Re: It's somebody else's computer

I have always pulled my email down by POP3 and saved it in a local archive. Prior to Mozilla releasing Thunderbird, I used a couple of other options, but since then, it's been Thunderbird all the way.

I pay a third party (mailbox.org) 1 Euro a month for a secure email, rather than use the free Hotmail/Gmail/Outlook, because (a) I don't trust Big Email, and (b) being a paying customer, I have a right to complain. You're either the customer or the product, and I'd rather be a customer.

But even then, Mailbox is just a server with a POP3 and web interface. Although they offer to archive the mail, I don't rely on them to; I do that myself.

Unfortunately, that's not for everyone. Too many mundane/nontechnical people just assume email storage is some magical thing that's handled by "the internet". I've had clients with defective hard drives say it was fine to wipe the hard drive and re-image it, confirm that five separate times, say that there's nothing of value and they can redownload anything the need, and then totally freak out when you tell them that wiping their hard drive means losing all the emails they downloaded.

billdehaan

Was the placement accidental

I'm sure it was accidental. Adverts are paid for and planned long in advance. And the news guys don't know what commercials are playing in what order, so the can't really time the stories to match the ads.

I worked for a newspaper for a bit, and while that editorial/advertising firewall was very real and very necessary, it also produced a number of embarrassments that I can remember. The most vivid was a Gazprom ad in a German magazine (possibly Der Spiegel). On the left, a full page advertisement for a Russian gas company, proudly talking about the rich shared history of German and Russian in using gas together. On the right, page one of a historical retrospective of Auschwitz, and the Molotov Ribbentop pact. Awkward...

billdehaan

Re: This has all happened before, this will all happen again

If there is one thing all Canadians unite in, it's the mild dislike of Bell, Telus, and Shaw

Shaw and Cocego are actually held in less contempt than the big three. Rogers, Bell, and Telus are collectively referred to as "Robelus", or Big Telephone. They are interchangeable, essentially. Despite denying they are a cartel, it's pretty much a given that when one of the three announces a new service, price hike, or (rarely) price drop, that the other two will announce the same within 30 days.

Fortunately, there are alternatives. And despite being horrible consumer services, all three provide very solid back end networking, so third party MNVOs and ISPs are both plentiful and competitive. Unfortunately, the average user either doesn't know about them, or is not confident with having a no-name provider for something as important as their phone service and internet connection.

billdehaan
Facepalm

This has all happened before, this will all happen again

Back in the late 1990s, I had an account with Bell Canada. I was one of their first ADSL customers, which caused numerous problems. I was assigned a five digit account ID, but then Bell realized that in a country of 20M+ people, more than 99,999 people might want high speed internet, so they changed their system to be six digit IDs, which my account couldn't be used with. And no, it wasn't a matter of adding a leading or trailing zero.

But that's another story.

In April of 1999, the DSL system went down. For four days. Bell's response was that people should use dialup during the outage (which they would charge you extra for, of course). Those that did, and activated their dial up email address, discovered that in so doing, it replaced their DSL email address of the same name. In other words, DSL customer [email protected] may have had 1800 emails on the server, but if he logged in as a dialup user, and created a new user account also called [email protected], it deleted the previous account, and all history.

Then, two months later, Bell's mail servers all went down anyway. When they were rebooted, they were restored from a week old backup (the most recent they had), so everything sent in the interim was lost.

Bell's response? "It is recommended that if you were anticipating any emails to be sent to your account after the date of the restored backup, you contact the sender and ask them to resend the message to you". This was, of course, then followed by the Bell billing department refusing to resend lost bills, and actually told customers on the phone that they should have a reliable email provider.

Good times, good times.

As for Dell hosting, I dealt with them in 2001. I had a customer who was hosted on them, and one day, Dell discovered that he hadn't paid his most recent three bills. In fact, about 800 customers had not paid their most recent three bills. This was due to Dell not having sent the most recent three bills, but that was beside the point.

So, Dell then sent out email notices telling the customers that they were 90 days overdue, and if they didn't pay their amount owing, their accounts would be suspended at 5pm Friday. Of course, it took a while to send out 800 emails, especially since they only started sending them out at about, oh, 3pm on Friday.

As customers found their sites going offline, and called the 1-800 number to address the issue, they discovered two things. First, paying the account was easy enough to do with a Visa card (my customer's account was something like $350 a month; a $1,000 bill was not hard to pay). But secondly, that the tech department had gone home for the weekend already, and that the sites could not be restored until at least 8am next Monday.

But wait, customers said, we're paying for 7/24 support. Yes, Dell replied, in a message for the ages, but customers needed to realize that "24 hour support only applies to the telephone support, not networking support".

That's right. If you paid for hosting with 7/24 support, that meant that if you went offline at 5:01pm, you could call them, and they'd take a message to tell the tech team two days later. Even though your site was offline for 64 hours or so, it would be looked at first thing. Support!

It's good to see we've made so much progress in the past 20 years...

They say piracy killed the Amiga. Know what else it's killing? Malware sales. Awww, diddums

billdehaan

This reminds me on Son May

As many probably already know, Taiwan is not a member of the Berne Copyright Convention, so duplication of copyrighted works is perfectly legal within Taiwan.

SonMay Records was (and apparently still is) a bootleg operation that duplicated lots of musical CDs in the 1990s. They were based in Taiwan, so what they did was legal, there. However, their releases often ended up in North America, where they were not legal. Or maybe they were, because they were purchased legally from a Japanese importer. Needless to say, there was much confusion about the legality, and who in the distributor chain was responsible.

Sometimes, SonMay was not impressed with the packaging of the CD, especially if the original packaging didn't appeal to Chinese/Taiwanese audiences. So, they hired some graphic designers, and started making some releases with better artwork, detailed liner notes, and the like.

At least a couple of Japanese musicians preferred the SonMay artwork, and re-released their albums using it. The wailing from SonMay was a thing to behold. There were SonMay executives that were absolutely livid that their hard was being copied without any compensation. By the original artist, whose work they were selling without paying him. And they were completely oblivious to the hypocrisy of their complaints.

And now pirates are ripping off malware authors? It's almost like there's no honour amongst thieves, or something.

Microsoft has Windows 1.0 retrogasm: Remember when Windows ran in kilobytes, not gigabytes?

billdehaan

Both ran comfortably in 512KB.

While GEM was a fair competitor to Windows, the Amiga isn't really a fair comparison. AmigaOS ran on top of Amiga hardware, which had more than a few advantages over a generic PC.

And that was the allure of Windows. It ran on the PCs that people actually had, or at least that they could upgrade to. The problem is that Windows (and GEM) had to write to the lowest common denominator on a PC, and that was a fairly low bar.

I remember when Windows first came out, most people called it "Microsoft Window", as in singular, because you could really only run one thing on it at a time. Microsoft was pretty honest about the fact that version 1.0 was a proof of concept, and a work in progress, rather than a serious environment.

I actually did know a few shops that ran multiple Windows apps concurrently, or at least task switched between them. None of them did it in Windows, however. They all ran Desq, or DesqView, to multitask the different DOS sessions, where each DOS session ran Windows, and a single Windows application.

The in and outs of Microsoft's new Windows Terminal

billdehaan

Re: Good old days...

There was also a commercial FANSI.SYS ("Fancy") which was sold back in the 1980s.

I was always amazed that the default IBM/MS ansi driver had direct video connection to the display, and was only marginally faster than 1200 baud dial-up speeds. The number of DOS apps that wrote directly to video to bypass the lethargic video driver was legendary, and caused no end of problems once windowing systems started to become popular.

Hot desk hell: Staff spend two weeks a year looking for seats in open-plan offices

billdehaan

Re: Not suprised

I'm reminded of the bank I worked at where people had a choice of laptop or desktop. All of the sales types chose laptops.

Of course, one was stolen the first week, so from that point onward, every laptop was chained to a desk via a metal cable assembly that the user could not remove. It you wanted to move your portable laptop, you could submit a relocation request, in writing, which would be reviewed within two weeks.

On the one hand, the laptops were far less powerful than the desktops. On the other hand, they were considerably more expensive. But, they were told, that was the tradeoff you had to accept, in order for the benefit of portability.

We software developers, with our big, bulky desktops, would taunt the sales types by bringing our desktops and monitors into meetings with them. We bragged we could run with our computers the length of the building faster than they could with their laptops, which annoyed them greatly.

billdehaan

Re: A pox on people behaving sterotypically

Similar case for a vendor I worked with.

After moving to a new building, managers were put on the open floor with everyone else.

A friend's manager promptly booked one of the meeting rooms every day for the next ten years, forwarded his phone, and moved his computer (desktop, not laptop) into the meeting room.

Other managers immediately followed suit.

As a result, company meetings were usually either in the cafeteria, or the outdoor patio (in the summer). Of course, neither has white boards, or phones, but it's not like productivity matters, or anything.

billdehaan
Megaphone

Pre-book a chair?

So, you had a cube with a desk and a chair to start.

Then they took it away, to be "productive".

Now, they want you to beg for a chair to be allowed permission to work?

We had an open office inflicted on a couple of floors two years ago. People complained, but execs were firm. After a year of listening to "well if it's so great, why don't you use it?", a few execs actually did.

Within two days, barrages of all-company emails were being sent out by executives who were shocked to discover that all of the things that they said never happened were, in fact, happening all the time.

The "quiet" 40db office was in fact closer to 85db, according to a noise meter they installed. The "huddle rooms" for meetings were useless, since the first people to get in in the morning barricaded themselves in there in order to be able to do some damned work. And rather than talking to each other, the noise levels were so bad that three people sitting next to each other were writing 100+ long email chains during the day to solve problems that would take 30 seconds of direct communication. And they were horrified to discover that most people were completely incommunicado, choosing to put on sound-deadening headphones and tuning out all distractions, including management, upon arrival.

Perhaps not co-incidentally, previous plans to continue the adoption of the open office on other floors doesn't get mentioned any more.

Must watch: GE's smart light bulb reset process is a masterpiece... of modern techno-insanity

billdehaan
Facepalm

And I thought Smart TVs were bad

I have a very dumb television set. Friends are shocked, co-workers are aghast, but yes, I have a television that is nothing more than a monitor with a tuner (apparently; I've never tried to use it, to be honest), some HDMI inputs, and a TOS/Link audio output. That's it.

How can I run apps on it then? Um, I can't.

Really? Well, how can you see movies? Well, with multiple HDMI input ports, and numerous video-capable devices with HDMI out, it's not an issue

Well, what about getting weather or news? Well, uh, it's a TV set, so... television stations?

People laughed, until last week, when Samsung reminded people that they were responsible for keeping their Smart TV virus free. This was something which Samsung could provide for them. For a fee, of course.

A fee. To keep your god-damned television from being hacked.

I thought that was the pinnacle of over-engineering, the classic "just because we can doesn't mean we should" trap that engineers often fall into. I mean, who the hell needs a television to be so smart that it can catch a computer virus, for god's sake?

But I hadn't counted on GE. People have to care about firmware versions of their light bulbs? Light bulbs?

I'd say this was peak over-engineering, but the year's not over yet. I'd asked what's simpler than a light bulb that they can over-engineer for no reason, but I'm certain that people are working on it somewhere.

Never mind Rise of the Machines by deathbot or renegade fighter planes; the household appliances are being sentient, and they outnumber us.

Awoogah! Awoogah! Firefox fans urged to update and patch zero-day hole exploited in the wild by miscreants

billdehaan

Re: Re NoScript

If you're running a comment engine, like, oh, el Reg, or if you're an e-commerce site, it makes complete sense that your site needs Javascript or other in-browser code in order to function, since it's responding to dynamic user input.

If you're a newspaper, you don't need Javascript to render a printed page of text with a few graphics.

It's like this nonsense of saying users need to run anti-virus on their TV sets. Why in god's name do I need, or want, a TV that can run programs in the first place? I can happily plug programmable devices into my set via HDMI, and I can happily choose not to, as well.

Disabling Javascript in the browser is just the equivalent of using a dumb TV. You lose an incredible amount of garbage, but very little actual functionality.

NordVPN rapped by ad watchdog over insecure public Wi-Fi claims

billdehaan

Re: Train WiFi was actually that bad for a while

At least my bank ran me through some basic security checks

Someone posted a link the other day to their bank's security question. The security code was "your home phone number".

Apparently, some banks believe it is difficult to impossible to... look up a phone number.

Having worked at two banks in my life, I can attest that there are people to whom that would be an breakable code. Not to all, however. But then, given the number of banking cards that have been forgotten by customers on top of ATMs, complete with the PIN code written on the back of the card in a magic marker, I've stopped being incredulous about these things.

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

billdehaan

Re: Just waiting for the inevitable

Actually, based on current trends, Canadians might be willing (if not happy) to pay.

For the past decade or so, America has been of the "sure, come on in, we don't care if you're legal or not" mindset, which Trump is currently clamping down on. And as a result, a number of people in the US who aren't there legally (as per US laws) are now fleeing into Canada.

And while Canada has largely condemned Trump's handling of the "illegal aliens" issue, when confronted with it themselves, it's apparently very different. Hence the term "irregular border crossers" being used, to distinguish between the gentle souls entering the USA illegally (whom we are supposed to by sympathetic to), and the evil, drug-running scumbags entering Canada illegally (whom we are supposed to loathe).

Unfortunately for the narrative, many, if not most of the irregular crossers are also illegal aliens. This harshes the vibe a bit, as you can imagine.

It's an Easter Jesus miracle: MS Paint back from the dead (ish) and in Windows 10 'for now'

billdehaan
Happy

Re: Nostalgia?

simple and quick for doing some things

The screen capture tool we standardized on, Greenshot, allows users to capture the screen directly to MS Paint, allowing them to quickly highlight issues on a busy screen before passing them on to developers to debug.

Sure, other programs can do the same, but I'd rather not spend 45 seconds waiting for PhotoShop to load, just to draw a red circle on the icon/dialog I wanted highlighted when I can do the same in Paint in under a second.

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

billdehaan

Re: Well if the US ships want the Chinese to keep out of the way

His lawn mowing business employed three other students at that time, so he decided to maintain control of it, and started another branch in Palo Alto.

This sounds like the origin of Mitel Networks, currently doing about $1.3B of business a year.

Not bad for a company that started as" Mike and Terry's Lawnmower".

Seriously.

billdehaan

Re: Then there is the "send me a copy"

Ah, those were the days.

In my case, three months ago.

When asked for a screenshot from site, we got one, all right. And because the screen background was black, you can actually make out the reflection of the bloke taking the photograph of the screen with his phone camera.

billdehaan
Happy

Re: Well if the US ships want the Chinese to keep out of the way

I am reminded of the old CORE hard drive demos, and advertisements.

"First, our QA teams do a seek test. Then, they do another seek test, to the sure. Finally, they run a third seek test, during which, they pick up the computer to a height of five inches off the desk, and drop it, while the disk is spinning, just to be sure.

Or mean."

billdehaan
Facepalm

Re: Well if the US ships want the Chinese to keep out of the way

Really? This really happened?

I can't speak to the veracity of photocopying disks, but I have personally seen the "floppy disk stuck to a filing cabinet with a magnet" in person, back in 1984.

I was on contract at $BIGCOMPANY, and it had a the usual Dilbert-isms you'd expect. Software developers were given 8088 PCs with 64K of memory, a single 360KB floppy, and a 25x80 monochrome CRT, while the department secretary had top of the line, just-released IBM AT, with a 80286, dual 1.2MB floppy drives, a 20MB hard disk, and, of course, a 43x80 colour EGA monitor.

And when I say just released, I mean the serial number was under 100.

Of course, despite (or because of) having ten times the computing power of any developer, the secretary didn't really have much to do on it. Type up the occasional memo and print it off on the line printer, but that was about it, really. And despite having a 20MB hard disk to boot off, they'd screwed up the hard drive so it didn't boot, and the user had to boot off of floppy. So, sure enough, there was a boot floppy stuck to the filing cabinet next to the computer.

That wasn't actually so bad, since it was only the boot media, not actual corporate data. However, I still remember cringing when she was asked to type up labels for a release. In those days, 5.25" disks had sticky labels, inkjets were in their infancy, and laser printers were still a year away. So, when a release went out, you had to put a disk label in a typewriter, and type up the label, then apply it to the floppy. If you were doing a release of 8 floppies to 20 customers, that meant manually typing up 160 labels.

The secretary did this on the Friday. On Monday, we saw the output, and we were quite surprised. Our process had been to place label in the printer, type up the label, remove it from the typewriter, stick it on the floppy, and then go on to the next. Her approach was much more efficient. First, she applied all 30 blank labels to the 30 floppies. She then put the 5.25" floppy, with label, through the typewriter, and typed out the label. If any floppy survived being run through the typewriter (unlikely), the high impact of the typewriter keys would probably finish it off. And if that didn't do it, stapling it to the release notes surely would have.

The really scary case was my next job, however.

In 1985, I went to another $BIGCORP. And like the secretary above, one of the developers also had an AT, which required a boot floppy. In fact, every month or so, he asked me to format him a new one. After the third time, I jokingly asked him if he was using a magnet to stick his boot floppy to a filing cabinet. He said no, of course not, and showed me where he kept it.

In order not to lose it, he'd taped the floppy envelope sleeve to the side of his colour EGA monitor.

Oddly enough, every few weeks, the floppies seemed to become demagnetized. This electrical engineer just couldn't understand why IBM had such poor quality control in their floppy disks.

The secretary, I could sympathize with. This was new tech, she wasn't familiar with it, and she'd received no training on it. So although we laughed at her abuse of the floppies, we could underestand why (and after it was explained to her, she never repeated the problem). But an electrical engineer who doesn't understand that colour CRTs have magnetic fields?

What did turbonerds do before the internet? 41 years ago, a load of BBS

billdehaan

Re: The concept is not reall dead if you ask me

Likewise. In fact, oddly enough, despite my frequenting /r/Toronto and /r/Mississauga, I actually ended up meeting with someone from /r/Pebble to buy a used smartwatch last week.

Of course, with BBSes, if they were linked (FidoNet, PCBoard, Opus, RIME, or other), you were just as likely to be talking with someone from the other side of the planet as the other side of the street, too.

billdehaan

Re: The concept is not reall dead if you ask me

That was September. That was the month the schools got the freshmen in, and thousands no newbies, with no concept of what's now called netiquette, were dumped onto usenet at once.

AOL was originally known as "eternal September", because it dumped hundreds of thousands of those users, all at once, onto the system.

billdehaan

Re: The concept is not reall dead if you ask me

Despite being an old fart, I didn't get onto Reddit until about a year ago, when a search for a technical question linked to a Reddit posting that I wanted to follow up on.

Looking into it a bit deeper, I found that the structure of Reddit follows that of the Usenet more closely than BBSes. It's got a similar hierarchy, similar moderator structure, and similar layout. Also the same problems that historically plagued usenet are still around on Reddit today.

I found it amusing, since usenet today doesn't really resemble the usenet of 1990 any more, being more of a repository of binaries than discussion groups now. Reddit lets people link to content, and post images/videos as thread starters, but it's more discussion based than usenet is now.

billdehaan

Re: Not dead yet

I'm unable to understand why email groups are pushed into forums

They're pushed into forums because for nontechnical people, "the web" and "the internet" are interchangeable terms.

Hell, for most tech support, they are interchangeable terms. I still remember trying to get support for Rogers' (major Canadian telco) usenet server back in the early 2000's, only to find that before I could get past the level one support, I had to explain to the level one support tech what usenet was. Even the knowledgeable ones said things like "oh, I know that, it's like a web board, right?".

There are wonderful protocols like RSS and NNTP that solve certain types of problems quickly, efficiently, and elegantly. And for the technically inclined (most Register readers would reach the bar), they are obvious. But for the mundanes, the average user on the street, if it's not on the web, or there isn't a simple IOS/Android app for it, they've already lost interest before you can explain the benefits of it.

Fun fact: GPS uses 10 bits to store the week. That means it runs out... oh heck – April 6, 2019

billdehaan

Re: Yay landfill!

I assume they mean SatNav, but clarification from the OP would be welcome...

Sigh, yes. Can think, can't write to save my life, it appears.

Yes, the Satnav (a TomTom model) is 5", has a sunlight readable screen, does not require a data plan to update traffic, and can be used with gloves. None of which is true for my cell phone.

billdehaan

Re: Yay landfill!

Absolutely they are used.

My phone has a GPS, and also gets FM traffic updates, so it doesn't require data. It's also 5" in size, and has a couple of features cell phones don't seem to have.

But more importantly, it (a) is sunlight readable, and has a non-reflective screen, something that no phone seems to have. And (b) it works based on pressure points, so it doesn't require skin contact. That may not sound like much, but in a Canadian winter, the ability to use your GPS with your gloves on is a selling point.

And that's just consumer GPS. Things like specialty trucker GPS don't really have cell phone apps that can replace them yet.

Apple hardware priced so high that no one wants to buy it? It's 1983 all over again

billdehaan
FAIL

The last project named after a CEO's kid was the Ford Edsel

Like the Edsel, the Lisa was a dud that had some interesting ideas, but was a horror show for both customers and the company.

I actually used one of the first generation models. The experience was very similar to driving an Edsel, I imagine.

I was a student at a university that had one. How they got it, I don't know; there certainly wasn't any budget for such a thing. I suspect it was a demo/promotional unit that somehow ended up at a university as an educational credit, or a tax writeoff or something like that.

In any event, using it could be summed up by the infamous joke making the rounds at Apple at the time.

Person1: Knock, Knock

Person2: Who's there?

Person1: sits motionless, and unresponsive, for 90 seconds

Person1: "Lisa" (as if the previous 90 seconds had not happened)

Lisa was an interesting proof of concept of some neat technology (for 1983) which eventually did become mainstream. But as a product? Forget it.

Tens to be disappointed as Windows 10 Mobile death date set: Doomed phone OS won't see 2020

billdehaan

They didn't take out Nokia

Nokia took itself out.

And I say that as a Nokia fanboy who still has his 5130, C3, 5180 Music, and Lumia 920, all still working. And that doesn't count the four other CDMA carrier-locked handsets (one is analog only, from 1998 or so) that are still lying around.

Nokia, like Blackberry, was a fantastic cell phone manufacturer. But when the iPhone dropped in 2007, the market ceased being about phones with computer features, and became a market for portable computers with phone features, and neither Nokia nor Blackberry were prepared for the switch.

Sure, there was Meego, which was always two or three months away from being ready, and all sorts of other Hail Mary pass fantasies, but there was never really a realistic plan for a consumer friendly touchscreen smartphone with the usability of the iPhone.

S60 was an engineering marvel, and the usability of the interface was tolerable when there was nothing to compare it against in 2006, but once the iPhone showed up, Nokia lost the usability race, and they needed something different.

Whether they switched to Tizen, Android, or Windows Phone, Nokia was pretty much reduced to being a minor player. They could have switched to Android, but they didn't think they could compete with Samsung, and they were right. Switching to Windows Phone, they figured they could win that market, which they did. The problem was that they won a market that really wasn't worth winning.

Happy Thursday! 770 MEEELLLION email addresses and passwords found in yuge data breach

billdehaan

I store my low security passwords in a Keepass wallet.

I store my high security passwords in a Keepass wallet that's on a VeraCrypt volume.

I store my really high security passwords (ie. banking info) in a Keepass wallet that's on a VeraCrypt volume that's on a portable drive that's disconnected and locked in a fireproof safe when not being used.

And no, I'm actually not joking about that.

billdehaan

Password managers don't have to be networked applications. There are many standalone password wallets that are essentially just password-protected local files.

My favourite is Keepass (link). It's free, open source, and available on numerous platforms, both desktop and mobile. And most importantly, it's been audited by security experts like nobody's business.

I agree, "cloud-based password manager" can be synonymous with "single point of failure". But if your passwords are stored in an encrypted file on your Windows/Mac/Linux/Android/IOS box/tablet/phone, they're going to have to be able to access it either physically or remotely before they can even start cracking the password file.

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