* Posts by swm

722 posts • joined 6 Jun 2015


BOFH: You say goodbye and I say halon

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Re: Great murder choice.

Apples are preserved in a Nitrogen-rich storage. It keeps the apples "fresh" for 6 months or more.

It can be fatal if someone wanders in to one of the storage sheds without proper precautions.

Lawn care SWAT team subdues trigger-happy Texan... and other stories

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Re: Male mosquitoes ...

I recall, where I worked, a swarm of honey bees decided to swarm near one of the entrances. The swarm was 2 to 3 stories tall so I walked to the middle of the swarm to see if I could locate the Queen bee. It was like being in a wind storm with bees hitting my face etc. Other people thought I was crazy but swarming bees are relatively safe. Eventually one of the lab technicians joined me and we had a discussion in the midst of the swarm.

They were all for calling an exterminator but I convinced them to call a bee keeper. He came and said that the bees weren't ready yet. As the day progressed the swarm got shorter and shorter until it was only about 3 feet tall. The bee keeper returned, plucked the Queen out of the swarm and put it in a cardboard box. Most of the bees followed - the rest the bee keeper shoveled into the box and then drove away with a whole box of bees.

Bees are interesting creatures.

Gloom-dwelling subterranean robots battle for million-dollar DARPA prize

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I love this stuff

I remember the urban challenge. The big problem was getting insurance as these (non-simulated) vehicles roamed a city (with other vehicles) to accomplish objectives. They were given a map and a list of objectives shortly before the contest started (but, of course, the map had some errors and some of the roads were blocked).

Good practice for "AI".

How to keep your enterprise up to date by deploying the very latest malware

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Re: Been there - on a Nuclear Power Plant

At Xerox, with ALTO computers, the machine 8-bit address was wire wrapped in. This was OK until someone shipped a machine from one net to another. We were running byte-stream-protocol, leaf-sequin and a bunch of other pre-TCP/IP protocols. Very hard to find the interfering machine.

Microsoft adds cloud enablement to 1970s Altair 8800 tech

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Re: An open-source Intel 8080 emulator lurks under the hood

I recall, back in the day, writing a Z-80 emulator in SIGMA FORTRAN. It actually ran Microsoft BASIC, albeit slowly.

NASA fixes Hubble Space Telescope using backup power supply unit, payload computer

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I think it is amazing what can be done from the ground to "fix" aging hardware in space that has outlived its expected life by a decade. This shows the value of designing redundancy into a device properly and using this redundancy properly. All of this through a narrow radio channel!

I am incredibly impressed.

The world is chaos but my Zoom background is control-freak perfection

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Re: "Set-dressing" has been going on for ages.

I remember shooting a video in a studio at college and they had for a background bookcases filled with books. I pulled one of the books and discovered that it was only 2 inches deep - the rest of the book had been sliced off. The bookcases were only 2 inches deep!

I shuddered a bit about this mistreatment of the books.

BOFH: Here in my car I feel safest of all. I can listen to you ... It keeps me stable for days

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Re: Box Tickers Anonymous United .......

The ULAs are impossible to read in their tiny boxes and there is no way to print them out.

New mystery AWS product 'Infinidash' goes viral — despite being entirely fictional

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I love it!

See title.

Go to L: A man of the cloth faces keyboard conundrum

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'Is "A" an capital Latin A or an uppercase Greek alpha? They look identical in any font but they don't get treated equally by software.'

In latex they are identical.

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The LGP-30 flexowriter had no "1" - you used "l"(L).

Hubble telescope in another tight spot: Between astrophysicists sparring over a 'dark matter deficient' galaxy

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"scientists rarely agree 100% on something"

When a new discovery is made the evidence is not necessarily convincing. When the Michelson–Morley experiment results were published someone had a theory that the earth dragged the aether with it so they performed experiments at various elevations. They got a smooth curve with altitude showing that, indeed, the earth was dragging the aether with it.

For delicate experiments you have to repeat them carefully to be sure - remember the EM drive?

Hmmmmm, how to cool that overheating CPU, if only there was a solution...

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Re: no such thing as a stupid question?

"The only really stupid question is the one you don't know the answer to but don't ask because someone said "everybody knows that!"

The only stupid question is one you ask twice.

Tolerating failure: From happy accidents to serious screwups … Time to look at getting it wrong, er, correctly

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Fixing errors

When I was writing the Dartmouth time sharing exec there were errors (of course). Sometimes an I/O operation would complete successfully but, due to an error, the error path was taken. Rather than fix the code immediately we would check that the "error" was handled correctly. It is difficult to test very infrequent occurrences so anything that took the program down a little-used path was quite helpful.

I also learned not to trust the status of "good" after an I/O operation. Once, due to a hardware fault, the peripheral would return a good status even though all of the words had not been transferred. So I checked everything I could - last data control word, word count etc. and declared an error if anything I could lay my hands on did not match my expectations.

I also learned that in the exec there were no "errors" - everything had to be handled. In case of a disk error I retried 3 times (logging the first attempt on the console typewriter) even though the error was recovered) and, if the error was not recoverable, give an error status back to the user (with another log entry on the console typewriter).

Even so, mistakes were made.

Another policy was to tell the operators that, if they made a mistake, to talk about it and they would not get in to trouble.

Space Force turtle expert uncovers $1.2m Cape Canaveral cocaine haul

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Re: Naughty 45th Civil Engineer Squadron

At Dartmouth many students were making master keys to the college. So, at the beginning of one term they said, "all master keys can be turned in to the campus police - no questions asked. After the first month, if you were found in possession of a master key you would be separated from the college."

A visit to the campus police revealed a wast basket full of (shoddy) master keys. (Don't ask how I would know shoddy from good.) If you asked about the return policy they just pointed to the waste basket. No questions were asked.

A hotline to His Billness? Or a guard having a bit of a giggle?

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At Xerox, all top management had to spend 3 hours on the help line. The theory was that if they couldn't fix it something was seriously wrong. Also, this gave top management an idea of what customers thought of Xerox. Some of these top mangers said it was a real eye opener.

Toyota reveals its work on an honest-to-goodness cloak of invisibility

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Re: Easy peasy

When I and my son were in Las Vegas there was an electronic gambling machine that was three dimensional. It tracked your head position and projected two different images for each eye. It got really confused when we both tried to see the image.

Deluded medics fail to show Ohio lawmakers that COVID vaccines magnetise patients

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You can't make this stuff up

See title.

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

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Re: An old story ...

When I was in college during the 1965 blackout the associated hospital had emergency power (of course). The New Hampshire power was so unreliable that the system was used regularly. During the blackout the hospital was a blaze of lights surrounded by darkness. Sometimes these things work.

Linus Torvalds tells kernel list poster to 'SHUT THE HELL UP' for saying COVID-19 vaccines create 'new humanoid race'

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Re: Tricky to do that with people.

In New York it was policy to send COVID patients back to their nursing homes!

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Re: Masks and the Flu

When 9/11 hit all of the planes were grounded and infection rates went down as a result.

We don't know why it's there, we don't know what it does – all we know is that the button makes everything OK again

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Re: Dummy thermostats

I was at a conference at a hotel and the room was too hot. I opened the window and the thermostat just cranked the room temperature higher. I finally disassembled the thermostat and put a piece of paper between some contacts and everything was fine.

BOFH: Despite the extremely hazardous staircase, our IT insurance agreement is at an all-time low. Can't think why

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At Dartmouth, the insurance company insisted we put bullet-proof lexan over all of the windows into the main frame computer room. We neglected to tell the insurance company that the doors to the computer room were never locked (or even closed) and students wandered in all the time.

Once the business manager got a cardboard box about a cubic foot and labelled it "bomb" on all six faces. He snuck it into the computer room and placed it on the main computer console. The operator, an ex marine gunnery sergeant, discovered the box and swatted it off of the console and drop kicked it out of the room. An explosive that would fit into a cubic foot would never faze an ex marine gunnery sergeant.

An anti-drone system that sneezes targets to death? Would that be a DARPA project? You betcha

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During the Vietnam war US pilots would dive towards Russian missiles aimed at them causing the missile to turn enough to tumble their gyros. They went out of control and dropped onto the enemy city. The pilots were told to stop doing this.

AWS Frankfurt experiences major breakdown that staff couldn’t fix for hours due to ‘environmental conditions’ on data centre floor

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Re: [citation needed]

"From the article: And as humans need oxygen"

Clearly controlled tests are needed.

FBI paid renegade developer $180k for backdoored AN0M chat app that brought down drug underworld

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Evil people are always amazed that good people can be clever.

Thanks, boss. The accidental creation of a lights-out data centre – what a fun surprise

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At Dartmouth in the days of time sharing we had a room full of mainframe boxes. There was a big red button near one of the entrances. College students would regularly come in to the machine room (it was never locked). There was even a demonstration by students that packed the room solid with protesting students. None of them ever pressed the button.

However, the chief operator pressed it twice: once when the room started filling up with steam after an adjustment to the A/C and another time for a perfectly good reason (I forget what). The button worked both times.

Today I shall explain how dual monitors work using the medium of interpretive dance

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Re: Examples...

"Spinning disks are the equivalent of a standard filing cabinet. SSDs are like a filing cabinet with automated drawers that open to just the right place."

but have an attached shredder that will occasionally destroy documents when they become too old.

swm Silver badge

Re: IT managers were always the most difficult

Yep. I've seen people take pictures of library book pages so they could read them later.

BOFH: I'm so pleased to be on the call, Boss. No, of course this isn't a recording

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Re: Duplicate Asset Tag numbers!

At Xerox they wanted a metal asset tag on all capital equipment. They didn't know how to deal with a printed circuit card worth $5000 with no place for an asset tag.

Security is an architectural issue: Why the principles of zero trust and least privilege matter so much right now

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ARPANET Security

When Xerox in Rochester, NY added a node to the ARPANET I logged into the bridge machine and noticed several daemons running (accessible from the ARPANET): telnet, who etc. I asked if these were really necessary and, if not, stop running them. "They" thought about this and stopped the daemons.

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

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I've done the same thing. Takes a few minutes to find the problem.

Surprise! Developers' days ruined by interruptions and meetings, GitHub finds

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Re: Two meetings a day? That's still crazy.

The worst is when some people start talking in a meeting to get actual work done and the PHB says, "Let's have just one meeting here." This eliminates any possible use for a meeting.

Nasdaq's 32-bit code can't handle Berkshire Hathaway's monster share price

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Re: HMRC - Data Structures...

When I was teaching computer science I lobbied for a course in numerical analysis. No one was interested.

IBM says it's built the world's first 2nm semiconductor chips

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Maybe now they can put a chip in the COVID vaccine.

Philanthropist and ex-Microsoft manager Melinda Gates and her husband Bill split after 27 years of marriage

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It is always sad when a couple breaks up after a long marriage. I wish them both happiness in the future.

Terminal trickery, or how to improve a novel immeasurably

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Re: Rabbits and ferrets

When I was writing the Dartmouth time sharing system (phase II) the rules were that you could try to hack the machine but please tell how you did it so we could fix the problem. Students from Bates College were quite adept at finding holes.

Words to strike fear into admins' hearts: One in five workers consider themselves 'digital experts' these days

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Re: Buried the lede

But now car manufacturers are adding electronics that make the car very difficult to turn on the radio etc.

OK so what's going with these millions of Pentagon-owned IPv4 addresses lighting up all of a sudden?

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1/4 per cent sounds like a class A block of addresses

Was this a class A block like 13.*.*.* that used to be owned by Xerox or another class A block like BB&N or MIT or BRL etc.? If so, what was the block?

George Clooney of IT: Dribbling disaster and damp disk warnings scare the life out of innocent user

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I knew someone whose prompt was: "Segmentation error, core dumped".

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Re: It is very important to select your victim carefully,

Some victims deserve it but others don't.

When we were developing time sharing on a GE-635 the central computer (about the size of a pair of bunk beds) had lots of switches on the control panel. One GE person kept writing down the position of all of the switches (with no clue as to what they did). So every time the field engineer or me etc. walked by the computer we would randomly flip a bunch of switches that weren't doing anything at the time. Our GE person was going crazy until one day we were trying to track down an intermittent hardware bug so we installed another switch to enable some diagnostic function. Our GE person had a cow when he saw it especially because everyone gave a different explanation for the switch.

In research we hired co-ops to help with some of the work. One day, my co-op came in and said that there was something wrong with her X terminal. I went and looked and noticed a small box in the upper left hand corner. Every 30 seconds a flying saucer would emerge from the base and attempt to capture the cursor. You could evade the flying saucer but only if you let it drag the cursor back to its base would you be allowed to resume normal operations for another 30 seconds. I suppressed a laugh and looked around to se some other smirking co-ops. So I said to them, "OK, turn it off - you've had your fun."

X wasn't very secure in those days.

On a dusty red planet almost 290 million km away... NASA's Ingenuity Mars Helicopter flies

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Re: Penguins on the red planet

As someone once said to me, "God never intended a propeller to fly sideways."

To have one floppy failure is unlucky. To have 20 implies evil magic or a very silly user

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Re: Labels

I was talking with someone doing MRI research. Many time someone would walk in to the room of the 3T MRI machine and discover that none of their credit cards or university swipe cards would work thereafter. There was a fee for replacing university swipe cards but it was waved for MRI workers - it was too easy to forget the ID pinned to you.

Texan's alleged Amazon bombing effort fizzles: Militia man wanted to take out 'about 70 per cent of the internet'

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Then there was the day when a single bit error in an IMP (arpanet node) brought down the entire network and it could not be rebooted without careful patching of all of the IMPs.

The bit error was in one of the IMPS and caused a cycle of routing messages numbered 04, 40, 44 which, having higher priority than normal messages, took over the network and stopped all normal traffic.

Then there was the time a single back hoe took out all connectivity between the East coast and the West coast. There were two separate paths from the East coast to the West coast but the phone company routed them both through the same cable.

Airline software super-bug: Flight loads miscalculated because women using 'Miss' were treated as children

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The average weight of people has increased so the old averages are incorrect. I think a better way (weigh?) of measuring passenger weight is necessary.

In the early days of aviation passengers were required to "weigh in" and pay by the pound. The courts ruled this to be illegal.

What's this about a muon experiment potentially upending Standard Model of physics? We speak to one of the scientists involved

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Lattice Calculations

However the lattice calculations are in line with this current result.

CERN boffins zap antimatter with ultraviolet lasers in the hope of revealing the secret symmetry of the universe

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Re: Another test of General Relativity

There is the CPT theorem. This says that if you negate the electric charge of everything, look in a mirror, and go backwards in time, that nothing changes (at least in the mathematics. The "proof" of this theorem assumes causality and some other very plausible things. If the CPT theorem is false then we live in a very strange universe. (Could be true.)

There is no way to combine general relativity with the standard model (the canonical quantization process results in a unrenormalizable theory) and the standard model falls apart at very high energies. So we know our (highly accurate) theories are wrong but we don't know how to fix them.

Over a decade on, and millions in legal fees, Supreme Court rules for Google over Oracle in Java API legal war

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Re: When the bully fights the bully

I would like to see a charge of barratry against a lot of these lawyers. "vexatious litigation or incitement to it"

A floppy filled with software worth thousands of francs: Techie can't take it, customs won't keep it. What to do?

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I remember when transporting software from US to Canada on a magnetic tape was charged import duty. So they punched the software onto punched cards. OK, since the cards were punched, scrap paper so no charge.

With the internet billions of dollars cross the border without customs being aware. Welcome to the information age!

And the Turing Award for best compilation goes to... Jeffrey Ullman and Alfred Aho

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Re: Vastly wide of the mark

In 1964 there was a BASIC compiler (not interpreter) using ad hoc parsing written by J. G. Kemeny and an ALGOL-60 compiler written by Sars Blumpson(sp?) using a recursive descent on the Dartmouth time sharing system. Much of this technology was well distributed in the computing community.

Writing a text book which made many of these techniques available in a single place is still noteworthy though.



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