* Posts by cdegroot

117 publicly visible posts • joined 1 Dec 2014


Starting over: Rebooting the OS stack for fun and profit


You _use_ a lot of RAM and disk, but do you _need_ it? I mean, I ran a graphical desktop GUI on *nix systems in the late '80s/early '90s. I'm 100% sure that a designed-from-scratch OS would be an order of magnitude smaller than the "cobble some random crap together and pray it works" style of OSes we use today.


Re: Other smalltalks/lisps

Pharo is mostly a fork/cleanup of Squeak, they share VM and other important bits. Either would work, and so would any Lisp dialect although SBCL has some advantages (you can use it as a systems programming language, emitting straight machine code, so you can stay much closer to the metal than with a lot of other Lisps and any Smalltalk).

The biggest trick will probably be designing the thing to indeed seamlessly map the right sorts of memory onto the right locatoins. It's an interesting idea. And I do think that the current OSes should go away, none of them are very good.

But also: don't embark on such a project before reading Worse is Better :-) It is exactly the reason we're stuck with crappy old operating systems and incomplete/weak programming languages.

Air Canada must pay damages after chatbot lies to grieving passenger about discount


Re: Air Canada must really be terrible

Compared to AC? Pretty good. Glad the AC takeover fell through, I fly them often and got scared for a bit :)


Re: Can't wait until Air Canada replaces all of its C-suite high-priced suits with AI

Air Canada is one of these brain dead corporate corporations. I don’t think I’ve seen a single positive but of news on them in the last decade.

So replacing the C suite with AI would be a big step up in the quality of decision making.

A ship carrying 800 tonnes of Li-Ion batteries caught fire. What could possibly go wrong?


Also, EVs are low hanging fruit for governments to show how good they are. Typically things you can change within your four years’ term. See also Solar and wind. Nuclear, non-fossile gasoline and diesel sources? These are solutions that the next terms would benefit from and we can’t have that.

The battle between open source and 'sort of' open source is as old as software


Affero, anyone?

I’m kidding, of course. The Affero GOL just creates a level playing field but that doesn’t take in the levels of cash needed to pay back the VCs. Because that is really what’s at hand - market position gets bought with venture funding and, like the deal with the devil, they’ll come knocking at your door.

I don’t think any of the self-funded, organically grown open source businesses have the same issue, generally. They’re happy to exist on a level playing field and compete with engineers, not lawyers.

Red Hat bins Bugzilla for RHEL issue tracking, jumps on Jira


Re: Jira is the single source of suckage

I think just last year I spotted a reference to Greenhopper, a plug-in for kanban style boards that atlassian acquired ages ago and then tried to integrate. They’re almost done, apparently.

Why can't datacenter operators stop thinking about atomic power?


Launch it into the sea floor near a subduction zone. It’s as safe and cheap. And, of course, not allowed by Greenpeace.

Mixin suspends deposits and withdrawals after $200m cryptocurrency heist


Re: Insider again?

Which is why the plot of Goldfinger was a much more “practical” attempt ;)

Getting to the bottom of BMW's pay-as-you-toast subscription failure


Re: don't forget - 2CV spark-plugs and *proper* BMWs

That other venerable boxer powered car, the 911, wants you to remove the engine before changing spark plugs, apparently.

Yeah, my R80 and R1100 were a pleasure to work on. Once you got all the RT fairing bits out of the way. It’s never really easy :)

Microsoft: China stole secret key that unlocked US govt email from crash debug dump


Re: "another issue it said has now been corrected"

Except for the little detail that important keys should not leave Hardware Security Modules.

US Air Force wants $6B to build 2,000 AI-powered drones


Re: $5.8 billion

Not even eventually. Drones won’t be limited to a paltry 10G or so like human-operated fighters.

30 years on, Debian is at the heart of the world's most successful Linux distros


Re: free (as in beer)

I switched to Linux for the same user level. Before, starting on a new Unix box always meant a couple of days of installing a lot of the GNU toolchain, as I wanted to use Emacs and assorted utilities that really wanted to compile with GCC.

Linux gave me all that for no trouble at all!

Google's next big idea for browser security looks like another freedom grab to some


I totally agree that there is no real need to be civil with Google. It has shown time and time again that it is willing to breach ethical boundaries to get its way and it’s long overdue to a split up.

However, as long as everybody votes with their feet and uses Gmail and Chrome and Android and their search engine, nothing will change.

I hope that at least everybody here uses Firefox, has their mail with Proton, searches on DDG (just naming some potential alternatives), and so on. Because market share speaks and so far, they can get away with murder because the market rewards them for it.

Linux has nearly half of the desktop OS Linux market


Re: Installfest

Its not just mint. My latest laptop just for giggles I tried Fedora and Debian, both installed without a glitch. The only thing not working is the fingerprint reader but I can live with that. I had to go to Guix to get something that doesn’t work out of the box, pretty much 100% due to their “Libre” kernel.

Three signs that Wayland is becoming the favored way to get a GUI on Linux


At least systemd worked…

Every time I try Wayland (as recently as this quarter, both Fedora and Debian KDE) things don’t work. For now, I’ve retreated into tiling-WM-land (StumpWM is very nice) and as it stands now, it’s gonna take a forcing action like, say, Firefox going Wayland-only before I consider it again.

How a dispute over IP addresses led to a challenge to internet governance


Re: The issue with V6 is... NAT

For SMBs, that’s plain wrong. Public addresses are handed out inside the prefix received from upstream. Change providers pretty much is seamless, just restart stuff and it’ll get a new address. Changing providers is also something that’s hardly ever done.

Side note: I do hope that everybody here commenting on how hard/bad/… IPv6 is has gone through at least the trouble to do Hurricane Electric’s free IPv6 course.

Quirky QWERTY killed a password in Paris


Swiss keyboards are worse

Many, many, maaany moons ago I returned from a break to my office at a client site to find an admin at my desk, swearing loudly about passwords lockouts/resets to his colleague at the other end of the phone. This was not a happy admin and these were the days that admins wielded Special Powers from their data center where the VAX cluster lived…

I asked what was wrong and he told me that something was up with my terminal - he kept getting locked out, all he wanted to do was to do a quick print test for the printer just outside my office but logging in proved impossible.

Telling him that I switched the keyboard mapping off Swiss (a strange mixture of Qwerz and Azerty so both French and German became accessible) to US so I could write code on the bloody thing did not calm him down but at least helped him resolve the issue quickly ;). As “luck” would have it, his username mapped fine but the hidden by password, of course, did not.

Mozilla so sorry for intrusive Firefox VPN popup ad


Re: And there is the rub

Yup. All they need to do is to hire a small development team that maintains Firefox and extends it and shows that there is a world beyond the Google walled garden but that is not enough, so money keeps being thrown at stupid nonsense while complaining that there’s not enough money. The whole upper echelon needs to be fired.

When it comes to Linux distros, one person's molehill is another's mountain


Re: Another Ubuntu —> Fedora switcher

Same here, I’m on Fedora 38 now. Too much is made of distributions and distribution features - tools nor desktop requirements have changed much since I first started using Linux (ok, the browser got added as a primary tool but that’s pretty much it) and I wish everybody would just stop tinkering and start focusing on stability. KDE seems to have the upper hand there in terms of “DWIM” desktops that you can change to your liking with a couple of clicks before you go on to stuff really matters.

The new stuff is in Nix and Guix, not in Ubuntu or Fedora or Arch or whatever. But it’s too new, still. And most of their immediate advantages can be had with asdf-vm and direnv if you’re a developer.

Thanks for fixing the computer lab. Now tell us why we shouldn’t expel you?


Actual black hat baddie

We had a PDP11/44 in uni and Oracle was on it. A course used a lab database crafted by a teaching assistant. One weekend I was bored and started reading some manuals, where I learned that Pracle installed with default passwords.

To cut it short, one “sys/change_on_install” later I was wondering how to best test whether it actually worked, and “drop database <lab db>” was the only thing that came to mind.

They figured out it was me, called me in, and I never forget the expression on the TA’s face when I apologized and added “but you have a backup, of course?”

Learned me some lessons, there.

How Arm aims to squeeze device makers for cash rather than pocket pennies for cores


Softbank runs company into the ground. Film at 11.

I do wonder how much regret Apple now has. RISC-V should be pretty viable by now but they’re locked into Arm everywhere for a decade (that seems to be roughly the pace that Apple switches processor architecture).

Epson zaps lasers into oblivion, in the name of the environment


Re: Can't help feeling it's more a bottom line thing than a green thing...

True. If you don't account for the fact that ink cartridges empty themselves on cleaning cycles, which then don't work, so you have to toss them for fresh ones. All wheelie you're trying to print a boarding pass, say, the night before leaving on a holiday flight (I've stood in the security line once with a phone that was about to die, never again, I've gone back to printing boarding passes, theater tickets, and whatnot).

I'm now on my second laser since giving up in disgust on costly inkjets at home, and they work (the first lasted ten years before a drum replacement was needed, at what point we decided to upgrade to a wireless model instead). I run toner cartridges completely empty whether I print stuff daily or once a month (more the latter) and while they are indeed more expensive, having the printer always at the ready is a huge benefit and I waste much less.

Stress-free printing is also worth something :-)

How to get Linux onto a non-approved laptop


It's called a rescue disk on a USB stick. Linux.


Dual boot? Nope

Unpacked my Dell XPS 15 last year, booted it on Windows to verify nothing was dead on arrival, checked BIOS for funny settings, popped in Linux USB stick and told the installer to use the whole drive.

There's nothing, these days, that requires Windows. My games run all fine, and even when I had to test MS Teams for work, it was a straightforward install.

Dual boot ain't worth it anymore.

C: Everyone's favourite programming language isn't a programming language


Nothing new...

Even worse is the realization that hardware has bent to the whims of almighty C.

(don't get me wrong - I love C, it was my first "proper" programming language, learnt it when it was indeed still a) simple to parse, b) a high level assembly language, but I think it's time to exit stage left and leave some space for the newcomers)

We take Asahi Linux alpha for a spin on an M1 Mac Mini


Nothing new...

There's not blocking and actively ignoring all sorts of standards, reinventing wheels, and so on, that all end up having closed hardware that is not really friendly to anything but their own stuff. Practically, they block alternative systems.

I haven't been able to get Linux to run completely fine on anything later than a 2011 Macbook Pro, so I'm happily typing this on a Dell XPS :)

Open source, closed wallets, big profits – nobody wins the OSS rock, paper, scissors game


OSS with license clauses like "only usable by small companies" will never qualify as OSS, and for good reasons, I think.

What I've been doing is slap either the extremely strict AGPLv3 on things (so you're at least always forced to contribute back) or - a pretty good way to scare off company lawyers - just drop stuff in the public domain. The latter is too nebulous for legal types to recommend and smart companies will avoid it.

Theoretically, that forces organizations that do not want to play ball to contact the author, and then things like dual licensing can happen.

There is a reason, I think, that the GPL forces sharing and has some idea of how authors can make money and that's why the big companies all love the "permissive" licenses like Apache, MIT and BSD. And there's a reason that the FSF, for all its flaws, sticks with "Free Software" and does not like "Open Source". OSS makes it just too easy to be a bad player.

Also: Google lobbying the White House is a surefire way to get to a bad outcome in all of this.

Heart attack victim 'saved' by defibrillator delivery drone*


Nothing new...

W.r.t. mouth-to-mouth, our instructor recommended a keychain mouth-to-mouth protector which I carried around for years; my backpack had a sturdier but larger version.

(Yeah... I tossed it out because it expired and only now remember I should buy a new one ;-))

Cloud darling Hashicorp's IPO raises $1.22bn amid modest gains from a $80 start



We're 100% cloud native, and have zero need for pretty much most Hashicorp stuff because AWS, Azure, GCP all have that (and the number of companies that really need multi-cloud is small, much smaller than their total addressable market size dreams tell them).

Hashicorp was great when you needed something "cloudy" to run on prem, stuff like Vagrant was great fun (until Docker crashed that party) in development, Vault/Nomad/Consul are not something you should run if you can help it, leaving Terraform, which is indeed less awful and more useful than, say, CloudFormation. But it's hardly going to be the last word of "infra as code" (it is more "infra as HCL templates", for starters). Pulumi, AWS' CDK, and similar efforts (including Nix/Guix) are already pointing the way forward and all that Hashicorp can do is hope to hang on (Terraform is the only thing we use and more out of a "nobody got fired for choosing it" PoV than because we really like it).

Still, congrats to them on the IPO.

MySQL a 'pretty poor database' says departing Oracle engineer


I worked on some pretty large stuff with MySQL and when we joked that it was clear that it was written by a drunken Finnish student over the course of a weekend we were only half joking.

Currently back with PostgreSQL after a couple of decades of not having it and it is totally boring. We use RDS so that makes it even more boring.

“yawn” is good when it is managing your precious data :)


Re: Captain Obvious

To be honest, Postgres was a long time ago before it became PostgreSQL. I was sad, I loved postquel.

How to destroy expensive test kit: What does that button do?


Nothing new...

In the mean time, my '70s Tek, while hardly a daily driver, still is happily doing its work (I got it at a fire sale but was calibrated and thus in production use until 2011).

Crypto for cryptographers! Infosec types revolt against use of ancient abbreviation by Bitcoin and NFT devotees


Re: Hacker vs Cracker, v2

Add "pirate" to the list. Once these scumbags that raid ships and kill all on board for loot, thanks to the intellectual property industry now a person who copies a CD.

The Rust Foundation gets ready to Rumbul (we're sure new CEO has never, ever heard that joke before)


Nothing new...

Also, from my toying with Rust, it feels like a competent C programmer will be able to dive right in - a lot of the techniques that Rust employs in the compiler have been employed for decades in C coders' brains, like passing ownership of pointers around.

Golang is a manager's dream - a language so hobbled that you cannot write bad code in it (you also cannot write good code in it, just mediocre code) so that developers become replaceable cogs. It is not a surprise that Google developed it.

Think your phone is snooping on you? Hold my beer, says basic physics


Re: Encryption everywhere, 1 time passcodes for the paranoid!

I heard that people who sell WiFi extenders just _love_ these old walls. Signals are apparently limited to just one room.

Missouri governor demands prosecution of reporter for 'decoding HTML source code' and reporting a data breach


Re: The Register - Organ of Record

None of all that mousery and multi-step process is needed to "hack" a page. "Ctrl-U" will do it just fine on my FF/Linux browser.

Config cockup leaves Reg reader reaching for the phone


Nothing new...

cd /tmp

rm -rf *

I always typed that on the machine after completing an installation or upgrade on-site (I worked for a company making mid-office software for a bank and we supplied the stuff including a server and a tape drive for backups - all they needed to do on-site was swap tapes according to the schedule we gate them). Of course, back in the day, your Unix shell (this was Xenix) would just respond with


Nothing like the modern shells for wussies that will tell you where in the file system you are - I still consider that cheating. Anyway, I lied about what I typed. What I actually typed was

cd / tmp

rm -rf *

Helpfully, the change dir command ignored the extra argument causing me to wipe the whole box. By the time I realized what I done, it was too late - the box was firmly hosed and my day suddenly became a lot longer reinstalling Xenix, our database package, our systems software, and replaying the tape that, luckily, I used to make a backup of the customer's data just before I started the upgrade. Yes, that "please make a backup of your data before commencing this upgrade prompt" you always ignore? I learned pretty early in my career the value of not doing that :)

AI caramba, those neural networks are power-hungry: Counting the environmental cost of artificial intelligence


Re: Human alternative

Just what I wanted to say - the consensus seems to be that the brain uses around 20 watts. I'll call this applied mathematics stuff "artificial intelligence" as soon as they approach the intelligence of, say, a dog using, say, 20 kilowatts.

The web was done right the first time. An ancient 3D banana shows Microsoft does a lot right, too


Re: "would often have included all of the library"

The solution isn't really gorgeous either, although it works very well. I'm talking about Nix/Guix, which can run multiple versions of the same dll together so that you can recreate the exact binary copy of what was used to compile/test your app.

It's not gorgeous because now you have to run garbage collection on old versions of dlls, and your root filesystems suddenly becomes a lot more space hungry.

But, as far as I know, the only thorough solution against DLL hell. Everything else I know still suffers from it.

Electrocution? All part of the service, sir!


Happened once to me. I was invited to a hackathon in Redmond (you can guess the company), and because I was then as much against using Windows for software development as I was now and laptops weren't a thing (this was mid '90s-ish), I carefully put my favorite box - a DEC AlphaStation - in the middle of my suitcase, checked it in, and prayed that the fancy new Alphas were as well bit as the old VAX machines. Arriving at the site, we were helped to an office, I got a loaner keyboard and monitor, an Ethernet connection, and then turned the unit on - nothing.

Slapping my head I turned the power off again, moved the selector switch from 220V to 110V, and everything came to life. Two weeks of hackathoning ensued before the workstation was put - now padded by dirty instead of clean laundry, but just as safe - back in my suitcase and I flew back to Europe.

You know, I'm not even gonna bother with explaining what happened next, y'all are smart enough. Let's just say that DEC replaced the power supply under the repair warranty even after I explained why it sorta exploded :)

Do you come from a land Down Under? Where diesel's low and techies blunder


Re: looking at the DNS log

I had something similar, late '90s. We installed some internet-facing stuff at a customer site and a couple of weeks later, during a follow-up call, complaints about performance. I got sent in to troubleshoot and of course started with a traffic log analysis, conveniently available from their outgoing gateway (an AS/400, but that's a different story). Within ten minutes, it was clear what caused the performance issues, and the logs also gave with the IPs of the culprits' PCs where company time and resources were spent, well, "watching gerbils".

Wasn't the most fun chat with management to tell them what I found. And, indeed, I said that while I could give them the IPs of the offenders (I didn't tell them I already had the data), I strongly suggested that they would operate under the assumption that that info did not exist and just send a stern warning email around.

Which, luckily, they did.

AWS tops up the Bezos rocket fund thanks to more money from Brit tax collection agency


Re: "that still doesn't make tax avoidance ethical"

So where in that text does it say "should act ethically even if it comes at a large cost to [members]"? (Where I take it that "members" is UK legalese for "shareholders").

Also, Amazon is a US company, not a UK one.

While I don't like this situation either, I do think it's gonna need international cooperation and/or new tax laws (like the "digital taxes" that some countries are introducing) to rectify this, not shaking your finger "bad big company" and hoping for the best. And given that a lot of corporation tax laws have to fit within existing international frameworks, that's gonna take a while.

How do you fix a problem like open-source security? Google has an idea, though constraints may not go down well


Or see the apparent fact that they have vetted, hardened forks of important packages that they keep to themselves. Google is only interested in Google and this is an excellent example.

Revenues are up, the boss is about to give his keynote, and results are due. Time to sell shares, says Salesforce CFO


Re: Normally, you can't just "willy nilly" buy/sell as an insider

Worse, if you're that high up your trading window is effectively perpetually closed, and the only way to trade in your own stock is to file 10b5-1 trading plans with your broker, which basically instructs them to do X in three months, Y in six, ... (I think the minimum look-ahead is three months). I'd be very surprised if this is not just a pre-scheduled trade from a 10b5-1 plan.

AMD performance plummets when relying on battery power, says Intel. Let's take a closer look at those stats


Popcorn time

Don't you love some good competition? 2020 is interesting: AMD overtaking Intel, Apple tossing ARM into the competitive mix, and all that will happen is that we, the users, get better chips (whether that means faster, better performance/watt, cheaper, it'll be better whatever your preferences are). Competition is good, and I think it's good Intel's hegemony got broken.

Typing this on an XPS15 because, heck, whatever you buy is "fast enough" these days and more than the CPU core counts.

There ain't no problem that can't be solved with the help of American horsepower – even yanking on a coax cable


I didn't have a blanking plate when faced with the same conundrum, so quickly taped some ducktape over the switch. It'll be gone when I remember to grab a blanking plate from the hardware store which, knowing me, will be another decade or so.

I can 'proceed without you', judge tells Julian Assange after courtroom outburst


Re: The Much Bigger Picture Show ....

That is mixing politics and law. There is a legal basis, a current extradition treaty, which spells out on what grounds Assange can be extradited and it's a matter for the courts to interpret existing law.

The US refusing to sign up for the ICC may be a reason to end the extradition treaty in your view. Then you need to yell at Downing Street 10 and Parliament for that, not at a judge. Separate processes, and be glad for it :)

The Honor MagicBook Pro looks nice, runs like a dream, and isn't too expensive either. What more could you want?


Re: It's in The Book.

Look at the XPS 15. It's so compact, when I got the box in the mail I thought they sent me the wrong model because "surely, a 15" laptop won't fit in there". It's smaller than my employer's 2019 fruity gear.

What would you prefer: Satellite-streamed cat GIFs – or a decent early warning of an asteroid apocalypse?


Not just money

Having high speed internet everywhere in the world can be a game changer and one of the biggest equalizers we have seen. I’m in rural Canada and already have trouble getting the internet I need for work, can only imagine what difference it would make in less developed parts of the world. If it works and if it is somewhat affordable, of course.

Astronomy has survived worse, like our enormous light pollution. I’m sure we’re creative enough to fix this little setback as well.