* Posts by ButlerInstitute

71 posts • joined 16 Oct 2014

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Maker of ATM bombing tutorials blew himself up – Euro cops

ButlerInstitute

Re: Dereck Lowe on FOOF:

A friend who works in the industry (university lecturer - industrial chemist) recommended

Ignition! An Informal History of Liquid Rocket Propellants, by John D. Clark

Don't touch that dial – the new guy just closed the application that no one is meant to close

ButlerInstitute

Re: Critcal system

This story is about broadcasting not IT. Please bear in mind that a lot of the kit is quite specialized, hence not common, and often quite old. It may not present a remote log-in service so a KVM is the only option.

ButlerInstitute

Re: As a young broadcast engineer, unschooled in IT at the time

Not just controlling shutdowns; I've been asked to take away a "restart everything on the network" button even though it did have "are you sure?" "are you really sure?" buttons (*).

A tired broadcast engineer in the middle of the night can very easily hit "restart all" "yes" "yes" without thinking and when he really just meant "restart this" "yes" "yes".

(*)

It took about 20 minutes to restart all during which time you had no control of anything on the network (**).

(**)

Unless you were a properly trained broadcast engineer and knew that actually you could connect individually to each of the separate bit of kit, using the manufacturers own diagnostics (a web page (all different) or a particular manufacturer's own control application) and take complete manual control of everything one at a time. Networked control systems exist to avoid needing to go in at that level.

ButlerInstitute

Re: As a young broadcast engineer, unschooled in IT at the time

I work on an alarm system for broadcasters and all the kit nowadays has black/freeze/silence detection, and when one of those happens for long enough it will trigger an alarm which will make a noise in the control room.

(it doesn't need AI)

Small broadcasters often don't have an alarm system, even now.

Some broadcasters (public service) will get fined for broadcasting black.

Commercial broadcasters won't get paid for advertising if the advert doesn't go out as agreed.

Electron-to-joule conversion formulae? Cute. Welcome to the school of hard knocks

ButlerInstitute

Re: At least two ways of dealing with problems

A friend used to say the definition of "interference fit" was that you interfere with it until it fits.....

Which doesn't quite fit this usage.

Ex-DJI veep: There was no drone at Gatwick during 2018's hysterical shutdown

ButlerInstitute

Re: Stealth cloak, anybody?

See "I can't find my camouflage net" - by Les Barker.

Western Approaches Museum: WRENs, wargames, and victory in the Atlantic

ButlerInstitute

Re: Seems a security risk

> The British were fortunate that there weren't any German spies

Not so much luck but that the British had all the German spies under their control.

Either there was a mole high up in German Intelligence, or Bletchley Park etc tipped them off to trap them when they landed, or find them if they were native, either way then taking control of them.

Ouch! When the IT equipment is sound, but the setup is hole-y inappropriate

ButlerInstitute

Re: She was trying to open the hinges.

I heard it was Steve Jobs.

Ie someone within Apple showed him that it might be done like that and he said go for it, and so it seems to have been ever since.

ButlerInstitute

Re: She was trying to open the hinges.

Used to be some desktops that had the logo rotatable so you could have the main box upright on the floor (or desk) or on its side on the desk (maybe under the monitor) and either way could have the badge set to be the right way up.

Monitoring is simple enough – green means everything's fine. But getting to that point can be a whole other ball game

ButlerInstitute

Rocket science is easy - it's the rocket engineering that's the difficult bit.....

ButlerInstitute

Re: Green means everything's fine

Like I said, they are in a stylesheet so they can be changed. So it's ultimately the users' choice.

It may be black text on red for alarms, so I would presume there you could tell the difference between black and white text.

And the users are in a position where they can avoid having anyone without normal colour perception in positions where it is relevant.

ButlerInstitute

Other states in alarms and monitoring

As well as "it's ok right now" and "it's reporting a fault right now" we have :

"it reported a fault recently but it's OK right now - you need to acknowledge that"

"the device's reporting is noisy so we don't treat it as a real fault unless it reports for more than a certain time" (and other time processing)

"Yes it's a real fault, but we've booked an engineer for tomorrow morning so we want to ignore it until after that time"

This is for broadcasting, so some faults are "it's gone black live on air, so do something NOW"

ButlerInstitute

Most broadcasters don't have "C-level" people in control rooms.

Anyone seeing an alarm should understand its implications. Or there will be someone else on duty to refer to,

ButlerInstitute

We have a masking system where the output of one alarm can mask another to appear off.

That's used for this case where the data points to the left will mask those to the right so they don't generate alarms,

ButlerInstitute

Re: Green means everything's fine

Our alarms and monitoring system (for broadcasters) sets the colours of indicators based on a stylesheet. (Alarms are shown on screen, written to database, optionally sounders in control rooms - always as defined by local admins)

Usually Alarm is red with white text, Ok is green / white.We also have Acknowledged(orange / black), Latched(khaki / white), Ignored(grey / black), Forced On(yellow / red), Forced Off(yellow / green).

But as a stylesheet they can be changed. Also, there's usually text "alarm" or "ok".

I think broadcasting is (or was until quite recently) an industry where operators could be required not to be "colour-blind". It's hard to have someone in a control room who can't look at outputs and be sure they are correct (correct image and colour).

There are different noises depending on assigned severity. Some things need action immediately (the output's gone black, or silent, or the video has frozen) so have noises giving appropriate sense of urgency.

IBM pulls up the ladder behind some supercomputer customers

ButlerInstitute

Louisville Ladders link seems broken. Lots of "Object not found" messages.

Fancy trying to explain Microsoft Teams to your parents? They may ask about the new Personal version

ButlerInstitute

Skype is Teams? (if I remember rightly)

My understanding, and I can't remember where I read it, is that Skype and Teams use the same underlying libraries.

Which is why you can't have both installed at the same time.

That might be specifically SfB, rather than domestic Skype.

When software depends on a project thanklessly maintained by a random guy in Nebraska, is open source sustainable?

ButlerInstitute

Escrow

We, a small software dev group (a tiny part of a big company) write software that is vital to at least one much larger company's operations.

On at least one occasion we have been requited for a project to put our source code in escrow. So that if we disappear the big customer will at least get the source so they can continue to (try to) maintain it for their own needs.

So closed source does have ways where a customer, if large, can take steps to ensure its continuity.

The Wight stuff: Marconi and the island, when working remotely on wireless comms meant something very different

ButlerInstitute

Hovercraft

Fastest, and probably least comfortable, route to the IoW is the hovercraft from Southsea to Ryde.

Takes about ten minutes. Then ride the ex-London Underground train from Ryde pierhead to the mainland (ie the island).

Foot passenger only, so you'll need the bus to get much further.

Ministry of Defence tells contractors not to answer certain UK census questions over security fears

ButlerInstitute

Re: Important census-related questions for the commentariat

I did most of it on Saturday. No problems or delays. Submitted it on Sunday with again no problems.

I have in the last year or so also done Inheritance Tax and Probate online - both of which were quite straightforward - as much as I thought they could be for potentially complex issues. (There was one problem where an invisible value might have been persisted after another value was changed)

Given how bad some web-sites can be I was pleasantly surprised how straightforward these gov.uk sites were. Presumably gov.uk have decent budgets for this sort of work.....

I'm not sure what people have been looking at to find the "usual crowd" badly implemented but these all seemed quite reasonable.

Splunk junks 'hanging' processes, suggests you don't 'hit' a key: More peaceful words now preferred in docs

ButlerInstitute

Re: Master and slave

Those are probably the best options I've seen in the entire discussion!

I have some software I wrote that sometimes used the terms Master and Slave, and sometimes used Stimulus and Monitor (it's for testing). Unfortunate side-effect was that M and S have opposite meanings in those two pairs so I could never abbreviate anything.

You want me to do WHAT in that prepaid envelope?

ButlerInstitute

Re: Happy with a mouse..

I'm surprised even a mouse works for you for drawing.

I'd always use tablet and pen for that. I discovered those years ago when I worked at Quantel, and found that a mouse is rubbish for the kind of absolute positioning we needed, and tablet (aka bitpad) was great, just like drawing on paper etc.

Forgot Valentine's Day? Never mind, today marks 75 years of the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer

ButlerInstitute

Re: 100k parts from the 1940s

I think he had another trick which was to run things at lower power than the normal spec.

ie heater at lower temperature, possibly some of the very high voltages lower than normal.

UK dev loses ownership claim on forensic software he said he wrote in spare time and licensed to employer

ButlerInstitute

Gardens/Plant Collecting - Journal article

Not just in software, or obvious creation of IP like photography.

My wife worked for a while at - well I suppose I shouldn't name it but it's obvious where I mean - a world-renowned garden in West London. One of the staff there had, prior to working there, been on a plant collecting trip to China (probably, that seems to be where most plants of interest come from [*]) and written an article, and submitted it to a learned journal for publication (all before this current employment). However, because it was actually published while he was working at *** Gardens, they had to get the rights to the article. That's the way the contract was. He was quite junior; it may well be that someone more senior might have had more ability to keep the rights.

I have heard that in academia - undergrads keep their own rights, and they are not taught about IPR, and post-graduates have to sign the rights to the institution and they *are* taught about IPR.

[*] The other place would be Madagascar.

Dept of If I'd Known 20 Years Ago: Call centres, roosting chickens, and Bitcoin

ButlerInstitute

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers" - T J Watson (attributed) was right!

I think the ultimate historical statement that's been poo-pooed for many years, but turns out to be about right, is T J Watson's alleged comment that "I think there is a world market for maybe five computers".

In the long run this has turned out to be right (approximately). They are:

Google Cloud

AWS

Microsoft Azure

and probably very few others (eg IBM, Alibaba, DigitalOcean)

The number may be slightly out, within a couple of orders of magnitude maybe, but the principle is that there are very small number doing most of the world's computing)

You can't spell 'electronics' without 'elect': The time for online democracy has come

ButlerInstitute

Re: The problem isn't the ID requirement per se

"church where your birth was registered"

Do you mean the USA doesn't have national (or state) registration? (ie that you have to rely on a church/hospital/town council keeping records)

The UK has had that since 1836 (actually that's England & Wales, Scotland and Ireland were a couple of decades later). A "birth certificate" in the UK is a certified copy of an entry in the register. There is nothing special, I don't think, about the original one from the time, ie the one with the actual ink from the registrar/priest/doctor. I know people like to have that one, but I don't think it is special.

Excel Hell: It's not just blame for pandemic pandemonium being spread between the sheets

ButlerInstitute

Re: Disappointing

While we're at it, we can blame austerity on another Excel failure....

(Probably in the article already mentioned. I heard it from Hannah Fry on Lauren Laverne's R6 programme on Tuesday).

This'll make you feel old: Uni compsci favourite Pascal hits the big five-oh this year

ButlerInstitute

80s right through 90s

I was taught Pascal at uni (Southampton) then found myself at my first job programming in Pascal for the next 15 or so years for the Quantel Paintbox family.

It was embedded, so we made our own hardware, so cross-platform wasn't an issue. We used the Oregon Pascal-2 compiler, running on DEC Vax and outputting for 68000 family. That compiler had the best of both worlds - Pascal levels of type checking, but a selection of features useful for real systems (eg separate compilation, the ability to turn off bits of checking as required, and the ability to use pointers to fixed addresses to allow us to write to our hardware's registers).

We wrote our own real-time OS for it. We had the spec for how to get Pascal to call assembler or vice versa.

Down-sides? Lack of IDE or debugger - development done with text editor (initially Dec EDT, later VaxTPU with our own extensions), debugging done by writes to console (or with a logic analyzer if you're dealing direct with hardware). Sometime mid-90s we started being able to edit using PCs and send to the Vax to batch compile.

At the time (early 80s) when this direction was chosen I think C was too new and didn't give you the help Pascal type-checking did. Don't let anyone tell you the compiler should do whatever the programmer asks because quite often the programmer is wrong on some details so a bit of help from the compiler is very helpful. And when you found you did need to defeat some checking you could do.

We had the source for one version of the compiler, Oregon having disappeared without trace, and made the occasional mod to it. Eventually the rest of the world caught up and we moved to C++, though there were attempts at other ways forward, such as trying to compile the Oregon Pascal compiler with Vax Pascal, or gpc, or with trying to combine the concepts of cross-gcc with gpc to get a cross-gpc.

Grab a towel and pour yourself a Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster because The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is 42

ButlerInstitute
Mushroom

Post-DNA radio versions

I find the post-DNA radio versions all a bit flat in comparison. DNA managed to instil a curious type of almost-science, and relentless logic, into it that sort of made sense, as well as being funny. The newer ones seem to be more focused on inventing characters whose names are generated in a way reminiscent of the originals. There's nothing like the SEP field, or Bistromathics, in the recent ones.

ButlerInstitute
Mushroom

Studio Audience

It's interesting the note in the article about not being able to make it with a studio audience.

At the previous anniversary - not sure whether it was 2 or 7 years ago - there was a broadcast of a version of it done before a studio audience. It was surprisingly indifferent. Not sure whether that was because of a lack of properly mixed-in effects, or just the players' need to wait for the audience laughter to subside.

Either way it emphasised how essential the lack of studio audience was to the quality of the original.

Greatest threat facing IT? Not the latest tech giant cockwomblery – it's just tired engineers

ButlerInstitute

Re: Estimating Software Projects

A colleague in a former job told of a Project Manager he'd had at a previous job who would take all estimates from developers and multiply by pi. Which apparently got reasonable results.

When the developers discovered this they would do the pi multiplication themselves. Then the PM would multiply by pi again, and again got the reasonable results.

Ex-Mozilla CTO: US border cops demanded I unlock my phone, laptop at SF airport – and I'm an American citizen

ButlerInstitute

Re: They don't even know how

It's called a guillotine.

Also, there are two kinds of hanging. One, without a "drop" causes death by asphyxiation, as noted above. I think it is still used in some parts of the world - often in public as a deterrent....

The other, the one with a "drop", causes death by breaking the neck. It was used in the UK until the death penalty ceased to be used in the mid-1960s. Yes it could go wrong but my understanding is that the length of the drop would be selected according to the weight of the criminal to cause a very quick death by breaking the neck without either ripping the head off or not being an abrupt enough stop and causing asphyxiation. A particular problem if the prisoner had attempted suicide by cutting his throat.

What made a super high-tech home in Victorian England? Hydroelectric witchery, for starters

ButlerInstitute

The Armstrong Disappearing Gun

For anyone on the other side of the world there is another of Armstrong's products near Dunedin in New Zealand. In response to an 1886 scare about an invasion by the Russians they installed a "disappearing gun" at Taiaroa Head, at the end of the Otago Peninsula (there are a few others that are since lost). It is held just underground with a set of gas springs that will push it up in order to fire. The recoil will then push it back into its hidden position.

One for the Geek's Guide to New Zealand, maybe....

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disappearing_gun.

This is the one I've visited. I note from the wikipedia article that there are others in various locations, some in working order - the one at Taiaroa Head isn't.

Return of the audio format wars and other money-making scams

ButlerInstitute

Re: Holding my breath turning blue

I used to work for Quantel, developing video editing/post-production gear. Back in the mid-90s we used video disks as our source of test video, piped around the R&D lab. It meant getting to see half a movie in a random order for several weeks and then someone getting fed up with it and turning it over so then seeing the other half for a few more weeks. Every so often someone would get even more fed up and change the disk. I have yet to see all of Back To The Future in the correct order.....

(or Outland, though that tends to be rather dark (ie in the sense of lack of lighting, rather than subject matter). Those were the two that were on most often; there were a couple of others - I've a vague recollection of Bo Derek in Tarzan).

Leeds hospital launches campaign to 'axe the fax'

ButlerInstitute

4. Walk to scanner/copier.

Use your Id card to log-in to it.

Put physical documents in scanner and hit Scan button.

Take physical documents off scanner.

Go back to your desk and find that the scans have been emailed to you.

No network drives involved. Scans have come straight to you (could have been encrypted if so configured). Activity may have been recorded in a log somewhere.

London's Gatwick Airport flies back to the future as screens fail

ButlerInstitute

That wouldn't really be redundancy.

"Pulling a multi-pair cable"

But then you've got two cores in a single cable, thus failing to provide any resilience when a digger goes through the cable. Ok for a fault with the cable/core itself maybe, but not for a physical break.

Your alternative core needs to come into the site via a different route, So wouldn't be cut by the same digger. See for example major BBC facilities where there are redundant power and signal cables coming in from opposite sides of the site.

Good news: It's still legal for Apple to keep its MacBook, iPhone batteries from melting

ButlerInstitute

Have Patent Offices ever needed to see implementations?

I don't think patent offices have ever tried to see inventions in action, except for perpetual motion machines. Think of those inventions like the one to let trains cross on a single track?

Fixing a printer ended with a dozen fire engines in the car park

ButlerInstitute

Re: Had the fire brigade called to a five star hotel, in Malta....

Sound to me like Southampton - South Stoneham.

I was at Montefiore, just across the road. Though I was there in the mid-80s.

Last time I visited, South Stoneham was cordoned off and looking very empty, so I assume it's since been demolished.

Prof Stephen Hawking's ashes will be interred alongside Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin

ButlerInstitute

Re: why the honour?

You can't prove a theory, this is not maths.

Only improve the evidence, or the details of the theory.

ButlerInstitute

No, science is not proven.

Mathematics can prove things, but not science.

Science is only ever theories, the process being as someone else outlined above - hypothesis, experiment etc.

But nor is it believed - same reason.

Fancy a viaduct? We have a wrought Victorian iron marvel to sell you

ButlerInstitute

Re: Just up the road...

And noting that dual-use, sharing a bridge between road and rail, does exist. I saw one in New Zealand. I think the one I saw was Taramakau Road-Rail Bridge.

https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@-42.5610788,171.1453183,17z?hl=en

Oi, drag this creaking, 217-year-old UK census into the data-driven age

ButlerInstitute

IL6 ?

"IL6 / Interleukin-6 Protein"

That's from searching for "IL6 storage". Nothing in the first few pages of results that looks like it might be relevant to this issue.

Crunch time: Maplin in talks to sell the business

ButlerInstitute

Re: Hi Di Hi, campers.

Maplin was electronic supplies quite a while before it was a fictional fading holiday camp.

Hi-de-Hi! was a BBC television sitcom shown on BBC1 from 1 January 1980 to 30 January 1988.

Maplin Electronic Supplies was established in 1972.

(source: wikipedia).

Are you taking the peacock? United Airlines deny flight to 'emotional support' bird

ButlerInstitute

Re: You don't need to fly

All you need to be in EBU/Eurovision is to be a public service broadcaster, from the European Broadcasting Area (defined by ITU) or be a member of the Council of Europe.

Associate membership is available worldwide.

£60m, five years late... Tag criminal tagging as a 'catastrophic waste' of taxpayers' cash

ButlerInstitute

Re: I Object

I think I've seen the term "Lessons Unlearned" for this sort of situation.....

Remember those holy tech wars we used to have? Heh, good times

ButlerInstitute

Re: Sarcasm...

A lot of people seem to think that "erstwhile" means "distinguished" (or something similar implying respect or quality) - it actually means "former", hence the correct use here.

1980s sci-fi movies: The thrill of being not quite terrified on mum's floral sofa

ButlerInstitute

Re: ILM

21st Century Doctor Who gets to use modern SFX, but doesn't have the budget to go overboard on it. Gives quite a good balance (IMHO) without giving the viewer time to dwell on them and spot the joins.

ButlerInstitute

Re: Say what?

"Elstree Studios and Shepperton Studios, not Pinewood, both of which are just on the edges of London."

All three are on the edge of London. Elstree and Shepperton are inside the M25, Pinewood is just outside.

New MH370 analysis again suggests plane came down outside search area

ButlerInstitute

"assuming that the flight data recorder and voice recorders are both solid state"

I thought they specifically weren't. They used to be wire recorders, so they would by indestructible (ish), even after fire or immersion.

ButlerInstitute

Re: It will be found

It will be found In the last place they look

Of course.

They aren't going to carry on looking after they find it, are they?

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