* Posts by swm

884 posts • joined 6 Jun 2015


DuckDuckGo says Hell, Hell, No to those Microsoft trackers after web revolt

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Re: My name is unique and...

My wife once typed "pron..." to get the pronunciation of a word. The auto correct changed this to porn and she still gets suggested pornography on her searches and elsewhere.

Yeah, we'll just take that first network handshake. What could possibly go wrong?

swm Silver badge

Re: The guiding principle

When we were developing time sharing in the 1960's on a main frame we discovered a computer instruction that would hang the computer dead even in slave mode. On complaining we were told to run interpretive when we were about to run code with that computer instruction.

No amount of protesting worked until we started crashing their computers.

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

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Re: It's not just the OS...


Drag & Drop, Dungeons and Dragons?

Lapping the computer room in record time until the inevitable happens

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Re: Green energy

I was a research scientist. My best ideas came in the shower - some quite complex requiring advanced mathematics.

Meta proposes doing away with leap seconds

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GPS doesn't have leap seconds. But there is a known offset between GPS time and UTC time (currently 18 seconds).

DARPA seeks portable muon-making machine to see through almost anything

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Re: Hmmm

There’s nothing like kicking a lot of muons at an enemy ship, have them pass right through armour, shields, whatever, and decay in a blast of gammas…

muons decay into electrons and neutrinos.

Just because you failed doesn't mean you weren't right

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We once had a hard failure in a mainframe with parity errors on the console typewriter. The field engineer swapped a likely board with another parity board but this didn't solve the problem. Six hours later he discovered that the parity errors were no longer word position sensitive. Turns out that the board he swapped the suspect board with was also in the data path.

Sometimes it is best to forget all you have learned during trouble shooting and start at the beginning again.

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

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Re: It's still going on

I wrote a file transfer program and was faced with the problem as what to do when confronted with characters valid in one file system but not another. Not an easy problem to solve.

Watch a RAID rebuild or go to a Christmas party? Tough choice

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Re: IBM Engineer...

Alpha particles from the case material are more capable of flipping RAM bits. Ceramic cases used to be slightly radioactive and it took a while to discover the problem. High-energy cosmics don't cause as much ionization.

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Re: IBM Engineer...

About 50 years ago our college time sharing system failed. It couldn't even load diagnostic tapes. Eventually it was traced to a cable from memory to CPU. So this cable was replaced and worked perfectly - but three other bits did not. Our field engineer had three spare cables at this point which he gingerly connected without cable ties etc. and got the system up. He then put in a call to have ALL cables of this manufacture replaced. A team came the next weekend and replaced hundreds of cables. Did not have a problem thereafter.

Don't tell me that cables can't go bad.

First-ever James Webb Space Telescope image revealed

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Re: "The better alternative is to keep the politicians away from this stuff"

See "The Solar Lottery" by Phillip K. Dick where everyone,at birth, was issued a 'power card' and a random drawing was made every so often to see who the next ruler was.

NASA's CAPSTONE silence down to a software flaw

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As Murphy's Law states "Anything that can go wrong - will go wrong" - and Sod's Law adds the rider "...at the worst possible moment"

And Roget's corollary says, "Murphy was an optimist."

We need a Library of Congress – but for the digital world

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Re: The Library of Congress already has this in hand

"For copyright to be protectable in a court case in the USA, the work has first to be registered with the US Copyright Office"

Yes, but in the US the registration can take place just before the lawsuit.

You need to RTFM, but feel free to use your brain too

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Re: Check you can complete before you start

We had a professor who once gave a multiple choice exam where the correct answer to every question was 'B'. Students got worried when they discovered the pattern.

Bipolar transistors made from organic materials for the first time

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Re: Gatekeeping

Silicon wafers are about as fragile as a piece of glass. You don't want to drop one (as I did once in a CS class I was teaching - everyone wanted a piece) but the wafer is pretty strong. Keeping it clean is another matter. I believe making 1000 nm transistors is doable with ~ $100K of equipment.

BOFH: HR's gold mine gambit – they get the gold and we get the shaft

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Re: Unicycle test

In our neighborhood many years ago a lot of the girls had unicycles. It was fun watching two girls with a boy between them holding hands as the girls tried to teach the boy how to ride a unicycle.

AMD to end Threadripper Pro 5000 drought for non-Lenovo PCs

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I do like ECC memory though.

Know the difference between a bin and /bin unless you want a new doorstop

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In my day (1960's) we wrote operating systems.

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Re: Clean desk policy

Our company had a "clean desk policy". I had a messy desk/room policy. When the inspectors came around they checked every box on the form including the "passed" box. I found the form a week later and since I had passed I ignored it. My boss said I had a very secure office - nobody could possibly find anything in it (except me).

swm Silver badge

Re: We can do better than 8.3 these days, can't we?

"modulo access permissions"

Access permissions? What are those? On a CPM machine?

How one techie ended up paying the tab on an Apple Macintosh Plus

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HTML ignores double spaces and substitutes single spaces. Using & nbsp; can keep the double spaces but why bother?

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I am the webmaster of a square dancing website. I use a database (sqlite) and a program that extracts data from the database to make web pages. No scripts, one css style page. and very clean html output. My pages (some of which are long) load instantaneously. Also, the database allows the same information to appear in multiple formats (dances sorted by time, club, caller etc.)

Researchers claim quantum device performs 9,000-year calculation in microseconds

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Re: Better

Neutrinos and photons are neutral point particles and both have spin.

Spam is back with a vengeance. Luckily we can't read any of it

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Someone at our college would identify SPAM and fetch the email with a maximum packet size of only one data byte and a window of one packet. When the email was finally received (minutes to hours) the software replied "send again".

He called it the tar pit.

When management went nuclear on an innocent software engineer

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I once saw an operating swimming pool reactor. It was a big pool of distilled water with the reactor elements way deep. I could see the cherenkov radiation as a deep blue halo around the active elements. With 20 feet of water between me and the reactor, no safety equipment was needed.

Beware the fury of a database developer torn from tables and SQL

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Re: Just a quick question.

At Xerox there was a natural language understanding project. They built a small database of airline schedules and let people try it out:

"Book me a flight from San Diego to San Francisco."

"I have a flight leaving at 12:00."

"I'd like one a little closer to 6:00."

"I have one at 12:01"

[There was a flight at 6:00 but the customer specified "a little closer." He meant a lot closer.]

Voyager 1 space probe producing ‘anomalous telemetry data’

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I think it was a Viking mission near Jupiter where the JPL engineers said the computer was running slow because the unexpected radiation kept flipping bits in the active registers.

This did not cause a crash but only a slow down. WOW!!

Failed gambler? How about an algorithm that predicts the future

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"My entire lab really loved this project."

At GE where they built microwave ovens one researcher used to bake cakes in them. He could tell by how the cake rose where the microwave energy was going.

Around 4:00 a large crowd of researchers gathered around to eat the discarded cakes.

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

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Re: Bee-sting ?

At Xerox we used RG-11U foam cables for our 3MBit ethernet and cable TV taps. The problem was that nothing moved and eventually the tap became disconnected. The taps were designed to be used outside so the wind would move the taps a little and thereby keep the center "stinger" connected.

Outlook bombards Safari users with endless downloads

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Or alpine.

Rocket Lab successfully catches falling rocket booster with a helicopter

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Re: "a supersonic ballet"

'Last time I checked, helicopters find it to be rather difficult to get even close to "supersonic".'

Maybe straight down but level flight would require the leading blades to be supersonic while the trailing blades would be stalled.

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

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Re: You were lucky

No - the holes were used at weddings instead of rice.

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Re: You were lucky

"Most tape equipment drove the tape via the sprocket holes. Colossus didn't, it drove it via a roller mechanism & just used the sprocket holes for timing."

The LGP-30 high-speed paper tape reader also used a roller mechanism. The tape reader had to be able to stop on a character (stop code) so reading a tape was a little "jerky."

We had a problem with one paper tape that someone had spliced with scotch tape assuming that the light would go through the holes.

Fish mentality: If The Rock told you to eat flies, would you buy my NFT?

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"If the money's right it might even be the same actors and actresses."

If you're rich they think you really know. - "If I were a rich man"

What do you do when all your source walks out the door?

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Re: Been on the other end of this one…

This was standard operating procedure at Xerox. Each software component was "owned" by a different department so no common software could possibly be developed. They had a proprietary bus that connected all of the subsystems and it mostly worked.

swm Silver badge

Re: Formatting pc's in the days of DOS and Windows 3.1

When digital audio was just coming out I had a million dollar idea to sell "digital speaker cable" for analog speakers on digital sound systems. A year later I found someone actually doing this!

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Re: accidentally

I did that once -- not rm .* but chmod 644 ./* in my home directory. This allowed read access to the mail folder and the (very smart) mail program refused to download mail as my account was read world. Took awhile to track down 1. the problem and 2. how this happened.

If you fire someone, don't let them hang around a month to finish code

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Re: Unhelpful comments

Writing bootstrap code required actual bit slinging. There is no loader etc. You had to key in the bootstrap manually from the switches (remember those?).

AI beats top players at Bridge in two-day tournament

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Re: They missed another bit besides the bidding

But you are allowed to put down "psychic bids" on your card.

Debugging source is even harder when you can't stop laughing at it

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In 1964 there was code in a DN-30 time sharing exec with a variable khunt. All variables in the disk section were prefixed with a 'K' and this was the hunt routine. No one noticed it for some time but it was eventually noticed. Later the symbol disappeared during a code rewrite (but not deliberately).

IT outage at Scotland's Heriot-Watt University enters second week

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Re: "hinting at some severe trouble within the university's on-premises infrastructure"

At the university where I taught computer science we had an excellent IT support staff. We ran our own email and storage etc. But the university wanted to take over our email and student submission system and, last time I heard, the CS department was still resisting. Our systems work, the university's, not so much.

Hackers weigh in on programming languages of choice

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Re: 93 percent have five or more years of programming experience

60 years from programming on an LGP-30 (with valves/vacuum tubes).

Help, my IT team has no admin access to their own systems

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Re: Forget the turtles...

Why not store the key to the safe in the same safe as the passwords?

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

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Re: Nothing new, kinda pathetic really

BCPL was an interesting language. Everything was a 16-bit word and context determined its "type". I remember writing on the XEROX ALTO something like [161223, 000777](1,2) which would treat the array as a function and call it with the arguments 1 and 2. The first number was a jump to microcode and the second number was a return statement.

Almost all code on the ALTO was written in BCPL.

Oracle releases Java JDK 18 with enhanced source code documentation

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When writing Java code for file transfers from a UNIX-type machine the file names are not UTF8 - they can be anything except null characters or nulls. UTF8 has illegal byte sequences. So I was forced to use bytes.

File Explorer fiasco: Window to Microsoft's mixed-up motivations

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Re: Microsoft is putting revenue ahead of security, ahead of productivity

Originally software was free and the money was made by selling (main frame) hardware.

Oracle's compliance cops now include Java in license audits

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Re: Confusing mess

I like Java but it seems that whenever I want to do something I have to undo the "creature comforts" of the Java library and redo them.

Chinese Go Association suspends player 'for using AI'

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Human GO players are currently studying the Alpha GO moves carefully to improve their game. Looking at some of the games the play is very subtle.

Unable to write 'Amusing Weekly Column'. Abort, Retry, Fail?

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Re: Eudora of olden days

I still use eudora (with wine).

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Re: Turbo Pascal - Missing Semi-Colon at line 454

I was teaching C++ and a student was getting really weird error messages on code like:

switch(ch) {

case: '\' // handle /


// do something


case: '\' // handle \


//do something



The student was puzzled as were all of the TA's

But \ at the end of a line is deleted with the following new-line resulting in the following line also being commented out.

The resulting error messages were not helpful and pointed to a problem after the \.



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