* Posts by el_oscuro

320 posts • joined 14 May 2014


Enough with the notifications! Focus Assist will shut them u… 'But I'm too important!'


Re: Now if only Teams had something similar...

When I first started work for my current company, they warned me to always make sure I locked my workstation, as there were roving bandits that do funny things to it if you ever left it unlocked. Of course they didn't know I was one of them.


Re: Another great victory for Tim Cook and Jonathan Ive

I once wrote a Windows service that I would install on my victims unlocked workstations. All it did sleep for a random interval, then pick a random number and pop up the Windows error dialog for that message. There is nothing like getting a random pop up like "The control file blocks have been destroyed.".

Make sure your sysadmin and security people are in on it.

Apple tells suppliers to use 'Taiwan, China' or 'Chinese Taipei' to appease Beijing


Re: Airlines have been doing this for years...

Here on the other side of the pond, *Everything* I have ever seen that was made in Taiwan was labeled exactly that way: "Made in Taiwan". I have never seen anything labeled "Made in Taiwan, China", or any of that other rot.

I avoid buying Made in China junk whenever possible.

Like Ubuntu, just a bit less hassle: Linux Mint 21 'Vanessa'


Mint updates have been a disaster for me

I tried Mint twice, both times one an extra PC I had, not a VM. The first one was Mint 13 32 bit and the second time, it was Mint 16, 64 bit.

Both installed just fine and worked flawlessly - until I tried an update. I'm not talking about any major version upgrades - just an apt-get upgrade to apply patches and such. I run these updates on Ubuntu and other distros about once a week and they work. Except for Mint.

In both cases, the update broke the desktop in the same weird way. All of the navigation menus became scrambled, which made the desktop unusable.

And it also changed the Firefox search engines, completely removing Google and making DDG the default. Now I actually like DDG, but still want to have Google as an option. I know you can go into about:preferences and change it back, but that didn't work either. I got some sort of error, and neither search engine had any solutions for either problem.

Speaking of updates, that is where Ubuntu 0wns practically every other distro. Their LTS editions have 5 years support, and you can upgrade from one to another without reinstalling. I think the original version on this computer was 14.04 or 16.04. I have never reinstalled and am running 20.04, and will be running 22.04 in a few months. Debian makes you reinstall, as does the Redhat based distros. MX Linux which is based on Debian also expects a reinstall. As far as I know, only Ubuntu supports the upgrade in place.

Mars helicopter to take a breather, recharge batteries


Re: Thanks NASA!

It hasn't actually launched yet, but I did try it on KSP:


Linux Mint 21 hits beta, and it's looking fresh


Re: Snog marry avoid?

I tried Linux Mint twice - I think Linux Mint 13 32bit and a few years later, 16 64 bit. Both times, I had the exact same weird problems. It installed perfectly and everything ran. But when I applied the first update, it broke all of the menu navigation and scrambled the Firefox search settings.

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


Re: Microsoft phone support (baggy-pants edition)

I remember when my ISP would ask me to change some registry settings and reboot my machine (I was of course running Linux), when the issue was that my router had no connectivity to the central switch.


Re: It's still going on

Ah, yes, shitty error messages. I once wrote a little program that ran on as an NT service and would select a random error number and display the message as a popup dialog at random intervals. There are a *lot* of weird Windows error messages.

There is nothing like a dialog popping up with the message: "The control file blocks have been destroyed.", along with an abort, retry, fail.

We would install it on unsuspecting co-workers that left their workstations unlocked. Make sure your sysadmin and security are in on the gag.

Sick of Windows but can't afford a Mac? Consult our cynic's guide to desktop Linux


Re: Control Your Own Upgrades

I do Linux the Windows way - by buying most of my PCs with Linux pre-installed. I run Ubuntu LTS, which comes with 5 years support, and upgrades come out every 2 years. I'm about due to upgrade from 20.04 to 22.04 which is simply running "apt dist-upgrade" or select yes in the GUI when the option becomes available.

Right now on my old computers, I have support until 2025. After the upgrade, I'll have support until 2027.


I mostly run Linux at home and Windows at work, but when the pandemic started I put an old Mac into service. It mostly worked fine, but a killer issue I had was keyboard shortcuts, specifically copy and paste. Every other O/S uses control/c while Mac uses alt(cmd)/c. This is a royal pain in the ass because if you use multiple O/S like I do, you are always hitting the wrong key. I was Googling how to remap the Mac keys so that my Linux/Windows shortcuts worked when my old Mac died. I replaced it with a Laptop running MX Linux and haven't looked back.

Keeping your head as an entire database goes pear-shaped


This is why you practice restores all the time. Use them to create standby databases, or simple restore them to /tmp or somewhere to make sure you can. If you haven't practiced restores recently, you don't have backups.


That is just shitty error handling - I fail shit like that in code review all the time. Why not?

errorhandler: if err=cantsave print $actual _error_message

Swallowing error message is probably the biggest source of bugs these days.


As a 30 year Oracle DBA

The very first time I logged into a production Oracle database - was to restore it for a client I had never worked for. It seemed that Oracle support had sent their recovery consultant and he said they would lose 2 years of data and there was nothing that they could do. So the client called me and asked for help. I asked different questions and got a full restore and recovery.

A year later, I joined Oracle and was at an awards ceremony where that consultant was awarded "fireman of the year".

Since then, I have restored many other DBA mistakes when they didn't have proper backups. But with Oracle, as long as you have archive logs, you can probably restore. I have never failed to restore a production database.

That is because I practice restores all the time as part of routine operations. Because, if you haven't practiced restores recently, you don't have backups.


Re: I'm not a DBA...

Oracle has you covered:

RMAN> drop database including backups;

I have no idea why Oracle would even consider that command to be something that could be issued.

Switch off the mic if it makes you feel better – it'll make no difference


Re: Barbecue with stereo iSummers

That is awesome :) Most Spongebob covers just use 2 or 3 clips from the show repeated over and over, which is pretty boring.

But these of Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal" and "Thriller" are good too.




Repatriation preceeds me

Before the pandemic, I always used a Model-M keyboard, so in conference calls, people were always asking me to mute. These days, I no longer use the Model-M, but still have a quieter mechanical keyboard.

But on zoom calls, when someone is typing, they always blame me, even though they can clearly see my mic is muted.

Not to dis your diskette, but there are some unexpected sector holes


Re: You were lucky

At my high school computer class, they had a teletype that connected to the PDP-1170 downtown. You could play Zork all day on that and the teacher was cool with it. But if you spilled the papertape holes, you automatically failed the class.


Re: You were lucky

The first computer I ever used was a Heathkit H-89 - with 5 1/4 hard sectored disks.

BOFH: On Wednesdays, we wear gloves


A few years ago, they were constructing a new office building near mine. When they were getting ready to lay the cement pond - er - foundation, they ran into a major issue: Buried deep under the ground was an object they couldn't identify. It was square, about 2 meters high, 8 meters wide, and 18 meters long. It was too heavy for the cranes to move. So they simply laid the foundation and parking garage around it.

To this day, the parking garage has a large section on the bottom floor which which is walled off.

US Navy in mad dash to salvage F-35C that fell off a carrier into South China Sea


Re: Where Britain leads, America follows

This Iron Maiden video seems to capture that concept. And Maiden screwed up by using a 737-Max for their flight 666 tour plane.


NASA's Mars InSight trips into safe mode and ESA's Sentinel-1B gives scientists the silent treatment



Opportunity dropped off the grid a few years ago, pretending to have been disabled by a dust storm. Now we know what it has been up to:


Linux Mint 20.3 appears – now with more Mozilla flavor: Why this distro switched Firefox defaults back to Google


Re: I shall be investigating

I have MX Linux has my daily WFH driver and it is quite nice. I have traditionally used Ubuntu at home before a co-worker suggested (right before the pandemic) that I try MX Linux.

I have tried Mint twice - one Linux Mint 13 32bit and Linux Mint 64 bit and they both broke exactly in the same weird way: Installed perfectly, but the first apt-get upgrade clobbered the menu navigation and broke the Firefox search engine choices.

The browser search should have been fixable by going to preferences but that didn't work, and I never found anything at all about the clobbered desktop menus.

Nothing's working, and I've checked everything, so it must be YOUR fault


Can't say I have ever heard of an OTA network going offline like that. But back in the late 1990's I watched mostly the Fox network (not Fox news). The Simpsons, Married.. With Children, The X-files and Futurama were all appointment TV. They also had the best New Years coverage of the local networks. And New Years Eve in 1999 as we were getting ready to watch the ball drop:

10..9..8..7..6..5..4..3..2..1 (screen goes blank)

No Y2K failures - it seems that our cable network (COX - insert your own jokes here) had a contract dispute with the Fox network and abruptly cut them off at 12 AM 1/1/2000.

I canceled my Cox cable a few days later and got DirecTV, which had great service until they got bought out by AT&T and became shitty.


Re: Humble

By a strange coincidence, 1988 happens to be the first year that I fucked something up. I had been working at a data center in West Germany for the US Army, and we ran massive cycles on the mainframe for supplies and requisitions, as well as financial.

These cycles had dozens of jobs that had to be started when a previous job had passed a certain job step otherwise things would quickly go TITSUP. By automating the job release processes, we were able to automate a lot of this, which reduced mistakes and sped up the processing of the cycles. I also made lots of changes to automate generation dataset processing and free up lots of space. There was nothing special about this - it was basic MVS JCL.

n 1988, we had just finished setting up the last cycle for automation - the monthly financial cycle which took more than a day to run.

All of these cycles had one thing in common - a job at the end of the cycle to print the spool files and produce the output for the customer. Since this was pretty simple and never really had any issues, it was an afterthought. No one, including me, had really looked at.

So when this cycle that I had modified was scheduled to run, I was out of town. And of course that was the first time we had ever had in issue with the print job. I don't remember the details, but it failed to print, issuing a return code, but not abending. And the file disposition for that JCL step was set to delete the spool files.

So the job didn't print, the spool files were gone - and weren't on any backups because they had just been created. And the person who just made changes to the cycle - me - was out of town when it ran. And had I been available, I could have easily avoided the problem.

The client wanted his printouts - and my head on a platter. We had to restore from backups and re run most of the cycle. I owed lots of people beer after we got those printouts. And to this day, I am always around when any production system I made changes to runs for the first time to ensure it runs smoothly.

Notes on the untimely demise of 3D Pinball for Windows


Oracle had an easter egg too

In about 97 or so, as part of a service request, I received a patch for an Oracle middle ware product on a CD-ROM. In addition to the patch, the CD had a directory called "sparky". So I check what was in that directory - and it had a complete enterprise edition of MS Office 95 - no license key required. Served my office needs for years.

Not the kind of note you want to see fluttering from an ATM


I love notepad

Anytime I see a notepad window like this, I know the machine is mine. That notepad window is probably running with SYSTEM level privileges, so using the file/open menu is like running explorer in admin mode.

BOFH: What if International Bad Actors designed the vaccine to make us watch more Steven Seagal movies?


Re: The Arnie dream was different...

You realize that Musk is from a small planet in the vicinity of Betelgeuse and not from South Africa as he claims. He just founded SpaceX to get some replacement parts delivered to Mars so he can fix his ship and get out of here.

Meanwhile, the Illuminati will fail as Mars has already been spoken for.


The rocky road to better Linux software installation: Containers, containers, containers


Hold my beer. I had the fun of troubleshooting a Oracle6 installation on WFW 3.1, running in real mode. Apparently a requirement of Oracle 6 on DOS. Both Windows and Oracle were flaky and I spent hours troubleshooting. Finally, I tried to resize the virtual memory file and it BSOD, nuking the entire filesystem with it.

Nuclear fusion firm Pulsar fires up a UK-built hybrid rocket engine


Re: Flames came out of the right end

Actually, it really should point to the ground if you want to go to space. If it starts point up towards space, you are having a bad problem and will not go to space today.

Say what you see: Four-letter fun on a late-night support call


The somebody’s else’s problem

Ah, yes, the Somebody’s else’s problem. I get one of those and it’s like I am hanging up, logging out and removing the SIM card from my phone as fast as I can.

Yes, of course there's now malware for Windows Subsystem for Linux


Re: So, let's summarise this..

You don't even need Linux to do it. You can bypass all sorts of security restrictions enforced by the GUI by just using an CMD shell.

And while the CMD shell is old and most people don't use it anymore, you can do even more with power shell. In fact, it has a well documented option to bypass execution policies:


And none of this stuff requires administrator access.


Re: How this works

I'm pretty sure the Enterprise Edition of the Oracle database is not considered consumer grade. This is the EULA for the database.

And every other "Enterprise" grade vendor has a similar EULA.




Internet Explorer 3.0 turns 25. One of its devs recalls how it ended marriages – and launched amazing careers


Netscape got doomed because they decided to rewrite all of their code from scratch - and learned that most of that old kludgy code was bug fixes.


Woman sues McDonald's for $14 after cheeseburger ad did exactly what it's designed to


Re: Dippy

No, those dinosaur bones are quite real. God's contractors - the mice - need them to be installed as part of the original specification provided to the Magratheans.

What is your greatest weakness? The definitive list of the many kinds of interviewer you will meet in Hell


Re: Interview 2.0

If I were asked that question, I would get my phone out and give him the answer:



I am that lead guy

With 30 years of Oracle DBA experience, I am only involved with candidates that are interviewing for a senior DBA position. The question I ask is always the same, and is extremely hard, but if you are a senior DBA, it shouldn't be:

"Have you ever restored a database from your backups? If so, please describe what you did. There is no wrong or right answer."

I have had exactly one candidate in 30 years answer that question, and she basically interviewed us. By the end of the interview, we were simply listening to her and learning, while trying to figure out how to accommodate her WFH requirement pre-COVID.

Wanna feel old? It is 10 years since the Space Shuttle left the launchpad for the last time


I remember watching the Enterprise Shuttle's first test flight live. I was in junior high school for the first STS mission.

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


Re: Stupidity Cancelling Headset

Thanks. Please see icon


Re: huh

Now if someone could invent a drive powered by stupidity. It would be an absolutely unlimited resource and make the Bistromathic Drive look like an electric perambulator. Of course, I'm not sure I would want to be on a ship powered by one for some reason.

Intrepid Change.org user launches petition to make Jeff Bezos' space trip one-way


The other evil overlord

Is actually from a small planet in the vicinity of Betelgeuse. His spaceship crashed on Mars, and he was able to use his rescue pod to hop over the next planet where the strange ape-like beings still though digital watches were a neat idea.

Still they had successfully landed on their moon. How much harder would going to the next planet be? All he had to do is hitch a ride on one of those rockets with a few extra spare parts. But decades after they landed on the moon, they had gone exactly nowhere.

So he developed a payment system for the local version of the sub-ethanet, and used the profits to build his own rocket to get him to Mars, known locally was the BFR.

The common factor in all your failed job applications: Your CV


I kind of had something like that. The first time I logged into an Oracle production database was to restore it - after Oracle support's top recovery consultant said it was unrecoverable. According to the Oracle6 documentation, he was correct. The client was performing online backups incorrectly. They were set to lose 2 years of data.

This was on someone else's system, and I had never seen the O/S, much less performed any recovery operations on it. But since their online backups were no good, I started asking other questions like whether they had exports or had maybe taken a backup when the database was down.

Turns out the operator had taken a full backup of the system after the original crash and we used that for full recovery.

But even if they hadn't taken that backup, it was still recoverable. You just needed to install the (then new) Oracle7 which had new features to allow recovery in this scenario.

Why Oracle's "Fireman of the Year" didn't ask questions like this, nor knew of the new features of Oracle7 is still something I don't understand.


Re: Add the latest to the top but don't delete anything

I'm famous like that - and have had a well known nickname for the last 25 years. The last time I actually used a resume was in 1998 - and I didn't take that job.

That story about my resume in 1998 goes way up on the weird shit-o-meter. Several years prior to that, I met my future wife while we were in the Army and she recounted an exercise she was on called "Team Spirit". Every time she was on the base where they had the exercise she had weird premonitions where it seemed like something terrible was going to happen there.

So fast forward to 1998 and my contract has expired. I had interviewed with a consulting firm and they had made me an excellent offer. The comment from the client was "if he is half as good as his resume, he will do fine here". Meanwhile my former project manager who worked for Oracle wanted me on a new contract they were starting up. So I had a 2 minute phone interview and Oracle Fed-Exed my offer to me the following morning. That same morning, my girl friend told me she was pregnant with my first child. With obviously a lot more influence in my life now, we discussed the 2 offers I had. She said: "Remember that premonition I had during Team Spirit? I think you should take the Oracle offer instead".

So I listened to her and took the Oracle offer. Had I not listened to her, I would have been in the Pentagon on 9/11.


Re: Different types don't match well

I typically interview people for senior DBA positions. And to me, the number one job of any DBA is knowing how to backup databases - and restore from those backups.

Typically I just listen in on the interview while the other DBA's conduct it. But I always ask one question: Have you ever had to restore a database from your backups and if so, please describe how you did it.

This is a totally free form question - there are many ways this can be done. But for all of the senior DBA positions I think maybe one has even attempted to anwser that question.

Whoop! Robot/human high-fives all round! Oh, my fingers have disintegrated


Kindle: Hold my beer

I have a paper white Kindle which has an ad for a book I might want to read based on past purchases. But most of the time, the recommendations are books I have already read - on that same Kindle. Sometimes the ad is for the book I am actually reading right now.

The server is down, money is not being made, and you want me to fix what?


Re: Constantly, in a fashion.

Well at a data center I worked at while I was in Germany, all of the equipment was brand new. The reason why is they had a trash can fire about a year before I started. The problem is, it activated the sprinkler system, and it wasn't just water. It was some highly corrosive agent which made all of the previous equipment look like it had been in the bottom of the ocean for 20 years.


Re: On call

Back in the 90's, I left a government contract for another one, then got hired back to it 6 months later. When I showed up on the first day, the senior government accounting official was waiting for me and had a list of long distance calls I had made from the government phone.

Most of these were to the Oracle support number, while a few others were to my home number to check messages (on this side of the pond, phone companies would charge extra for in-state "long distance" calls). After going through all of these, the total price of the "long distance" calls to my home number was $1.25, which I paid on the spot with spare change in my pocket.

This whole mess took me about 15 billable minutes at $50 an hour, plus however many hours the senior accounting official spent researching it.

Pics or it didn't happen: First images from China's Mars rover suggest nothing has gone Zhurong just yet



SpaceX's entire corporate mission:



Wait until Opportunity tracks it down.


You want a reboot? I'll give you a reboot! Happy now?


Re: Background

I have considered using different background colours for dev/test/prod/etc but found it doesn't always work - especially if you have to ssh from one to another. And these days we always have to use jump servers so we can't tie the colour to a specific server.

So changing the prompt color is the way to go.


Re: Background

When I was a lowly corporal, I had already been through my Pointy-Haired WO and survived without incident. We were running mainframe cycles for supply and finance in West Germany, and I had made some updates to the monthly financial cycle so the JCL jobs would get released automatically at the correct time, reducing errors. I also made some minor changes to the print job, which was submitted after the cycle was complete. Normally these jobs worked without issues and were an afterthought.

But when the cycle ran the first time with my changes, I was out of town. Of course, something went wrong with the print job, and the operator followed the SOP to fix it. They would have called me but I was out of town. And directly as a result of my changes, the deleted all of the temporary spool files without printing them.

The books were perfectly balanced and the databases updated, but the client had no output. They wanted it, along with my head on a 6250BPI platter.

Many hours later after a lot of Fast Dump/Restores, we were able to produce the output. I owed my cow-workers lots of bier after that.



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