* Posts by ricardian

228 publicly visible posts • joined 12 Jan 2016


Suits ignored IT's warnings, so the tech team went for the neck


Re: Ahhh...the early days.

Reminiscent of Multimate on lots & lots of 5.25 inch floppies

Workload written by student made millions, ran on unsupported hardware, with zero maintenance


Re: I'm curious...

The PET had the IEEE488 routines (read, unread, etc) hard coded in ROM - very handy when using 6502 assembler (and the invaluable handbook by Raeto West)

Techie labelled 'disgusting filth merchant' by disgusting hypocrite


Who remembers PG Strangman RIP on a certain telecom-related newsgroup back in the 1990s

PEBCAK problem transformed young techie into grizzled cynical sysadmin


Re: Plausible...

Back in the 1978 the Open University had two computer sites, one in Milton Keynes and one in NE England (Sunderland?). These two sites did not share all the data as I discovered when sending in an assignment consisting of a handwritten bit of code that relied upon data saved by the previous assignment. On several occasions my assignment failed because the data was stored at the other OU site.

Reason for handwritten bit of code? I was living in Brora, Sutherland and nearest site with access to the OU system was over an hour's drive away (and access, via a 75 baud T100 teleprinter and a telephone-based modem, was decidedly flakey at the best of times)

What was the course? My first ever OU course, PM978 "Computers and Computing"

Did I pass? Yes, grade 2

Lock-in to legacy code is a thing. Being locked in by legacy code is another thing entirely


Re: Almost got locked in

Working at a secure government site the security guards would patrol twice a day to ensure that all was well. One area only worked Mon-Fri so when the security chap checked it on Sat morning and found a cupboard left open he reported the security guard who had performed the previous security check. Alas, he failed to realise that occasionally someone in the area would work on a Saturday. The outcome was that if that situation occurred again the security guard wouldn't simply report his mate for failing to do his job but check whether (a) someone was working in the area or (b) there had been a break in!

Nobody would ever work on the live server, right? Not intentionally, anyway


Re: Chemical Photography

And Orkney has Gunnie Moberg https://orkneylibrary.org.uk/orkney-archive/photographic-archive/gunnie-moberg

Bizarre backup taught techie to dumb things down for the boss


Re: "you have to wonder how they get home each night

In 1964 I was in the RAF, unmarried, living at RAF Northolt and travelling to work at the Air Ministry via the Central Line (with a free travel pass every 3 months!). It was 24/7 shift work and after a busy night shift it was not unknown for folk like me to get on the tube at Charing Cross, doze off and wake up several hours later at somewhere like Ongar...

Nobody does DR tests to survive lightning striking twice


That put me in mind of a quote from Pratchett's "Colour of Magic":

“If complete and utter chaos was lightning, then he'd be the sort to stand on a hilltop in a thunderstorm wearing wet copper armour and shouting 'All gods are bastards!”

Datacenter fire suppression system wasn't tested for years, then BOOM


Halon in action https://youtu.be/Jx1s8u2Mpmo


Re: Testing to destruction

I've told this story before but it is relevant to the topic.

My friend worked for a high security Government department and had managed to create a small piece of security-related hardware that matched all the specs - works with wide range of voltages both AC & DC, not polarity sensitive, not bothered by moisture, heat, vibration or being dropped from several feet onto hard surface. However, he failed on the final item in the spec - had to be easily & quickly destroyed in case of an emergency

Errors logged as 'nut loose on the keyboard' were – ahem – not a hardware problem


Re: Higgins

Many years ago a friend of mine produced a "hardened" piece of cryptographic kit for the military. It was tough (run over by tanks on Salisbury Plain, dropped out of aircraft) and dealt with a wide range of voltages ( AC & DC), reversed polarity, etc. He failed to meet the final requirement - it had to be simple to destroy in an emergency.

Don't worry, that system's not actually active – oh, wait …


Re: This is poor planning

And if you're colour blind...

A tip for content filter evaluators: erase the list of sites you tested, don't share them on 100 PCs


Re: mail filters

And Penistone.

Dear Stupid, I write with news I did not check the content of the [Name] field before sending this letter


Re: These guys' newsletter?

Or it could be The National Insulator Association (https://www.nia.org)

IBM ends funding for employee retirement clubs


10 Jan 2023

"A group of IBM retirees have come together to launch an independent new venture after the global computing company pulled its support from their decades-old club."


FAA grounds all US departures after NOTAM goes down


Re: "but which aren't known about enough in advance to publicize by other means"

The RAF recently changed the names of some ranks:

Leading Aircraftsman (LAC), Senior Aircraftsman (SAC) & Junior Technician (JT) became Air Specialist (class 2), Air Specialist (class 1) and Air Specialist (class 1) Technician.

Source https://www.raf.mod.uk/our-organisation/raf-ranks.

Techies try to bypass damaged UPS, send 380V into air traffic system


The electronic organ in the kirk where I'm the organist was bought new about 8 years ago. About 5 years ago it started "locking up" at random intervals (usually in the middle of a service) then "unlocking" after a few hours. I managed to get the manufacturers of the organ to admit that the problem was caused by the advent of local wind turbines & solar panels. Eventually the manufacturer replaced all the internal electronic panels and I've had no problems since then.

As liquid cooling takes off in the datacenter, fortune favors the brave


Microsoft used the cool seawater around Orkney in a two year test 2018-20 of a submerged cylinder full of servers. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-54146718

Programming error created billion-dollar mistake that made the coder ... a hero?


I'm surprised that nobody has mentioned https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Obfuscated_C_Code_Contest

Loathsome eighties ladder-climber levelled by a custom DOS prompt


Re: Prompt spoofing

Back in the early 1990s we were using MS Windows (I forget which version) and having problems with a slow disk drive. After several physical replacements we discovered that it was the drive letter that was the problem - it transpired that drive letter "F" was used by MS Windows for diagnosis purposes and had several "special" functions tied to it.

We've got a photocopier and it can copy anything


Re: Years ago....


Defense contractor pays $9m to settle whistleblower's cybersecurity allegations


Dr Chris Day (a medical doctor in the UK) was a whistle-blower


Smart thermostat swarms are straining the US grid


Interesting articles about the frequency of the National Grid in Great Britain



CAPSTONE mission is Moon-bound, after less rocketry than expected


Re: NASA boffins will spend months nudging CAPSTONE. UPDATE


NOBODY PRINT! Selfless hero saves typing pool from carbon catastrophe


Re: aaargggh! and more aaargggh aaargggh aaargggh

I dumped Santander (had been with them for over 30 years starting with Alliance & Leicester) when they refused to send the OTP via landline phone instead of mobile phone - no mobile signal up here. Transferred the account to TSB who are quite happy to send the OTP via landline phone.

UK police to spend tens of millions on legacy comms network kit


Re: Geographic coverage

A new mast with some equipment cabinets was installed a couple of months ago. So far no aerials have been added to the mast.

Intel plans immersion lab to chill its power-hungry chips


Microsoft servers underwater

Microsoft tried placing servers in a water-tight container and immersing the container in seawater for two years.


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


Re: Such memories...

I first encountered the Commodore PET in the mid 1980s when I worked for a large Government organisation and the head tech manager bought a couple for us "to play with". We didn't get very far until we bought a copy of Raeto West's invaluable handbook. I still have my copy in the attic but I might just put it on the market to see what price it will fetch! https://www.amazon.co.uk/Programming-PET-Raeto-Collin-West/dp/0950765007

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


Re: Unhelpful comments

Aztec C compiler also created .asm files that you could check



Re: Unhelpful comments

A Open University courses in the 1980s taught computing using HEKTOR (acronym now forgotten). First we coded by hand - pure assembler, calculating jumps, etc. Then progressed to a very simple assembler and so eventually on to a C compiler & linker. I used some of that knowledge when I had a chip whose floating point multiply took umpteen clock cycles to multiply by 10 - I did 3 left shifts then added the original twice, much faster

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


Re: Trust but verify...

Or Pen*stone

Details of '120,000 Russian soldiers' leaked by Ukrainian media


The Russian military appear to have shot themselves in the foot, metaphorically speaking:


We have redundancy, we have batteries, what could possibly go wrong?


Back in the 1960s a large factory installed a fire-suppression system which consisted mainly of sprinklers and incorporated a new innovation at the switchboard (a PMBX1A) which automatically called the local fire station with a voice message on a loop "There is a fire at factory xxx. There is a fire at factory xxx" if a fire was detected - the 999 system couldn't be used as the technology to interact with the operator didn't exist.

One night the large factory caught fire and the fire-suppression system did its best but the factory burned to the ground before the fire brigade turned up. At the post mortem it transpired that the factory's system worked as designed and telephoned the fire brigade with the repeating voice message. The fire brigade telephone system responded with its own message "The telephone number for this fire station has been changed to 1234578, please replace your received and dial the new number".

Saving a loved one from a document disaster


In the early days (1983-ish) of the IBM PC my department bought a copy of Multimate - it came on 7.5 inch floppy disks and there was a very large box full of them. It took the best part of a day to install and it did do what the advert claimed (i.e. everything) it did it very, very badly

Car radios crashed by station broadcasting images with no file extension


Re: GIGO for the goddesses sake!

It used to be between Hilversum and Schenectady on Long Wave

Court papers indicate text messages from HMRC's 60886 number could snoop on Brit taxpayers' locations


I do have a mobile phone but I can only get a signal if I stand at the bottom of the garden or over on the far side of the road. I moved from Santander to TSB because Santander insisted that I had to receive my OTP via mobile phone whereas TSB (and Paypal) are quite happy to use my landline phone.

Shut off 3G by 2033? How about 2023, asks Vodafone UK


I live on Stronsay, Orkney. The nearest mobile phone tower is on the island of Sanday, about 7 miles away. I can get a signal on my mobile about twice a week and that's usually just enough to receive a couple of texts. There is a new mobile phone tower under construction as part of the emergency services network, apparently that's run by EE. I wonder if Vodafone could add a couple of aerials on that tower?

Almost there: James Webb Space Telescope frees its mirrors and prepares for insertion



Dutch nuclear authority bans anti-5G pendants that could hurt their owners via – you guessed it – radiation


Back in the Good Old Days

You were able to buy your kids a proper science lab as a Christmas or birthday present https://youtu.be/zeyoJGqKbOQ

Leaked footage shows British F-35B falling off HMS Queen Elizabeth and pilot's death-defying ejection


Re: Well...

I believe that the ejection sequence is automatically triggered if certain conditions are (or are not) achieved - e.g. speed too slow


In the RAF (1959-73) the dreadful Izal toilet paper was stamped with "Government Property"

In the '80s, spaceflight sim Elite was nothing short of magic. The annotated source code shows how it was done


Re: Definitely never ever sat up...

And Raeto West wrote the definitive book for the Commodore PET. I cut my teeth on 6502 assembler after an OU course using HEKTOR and 8080 (or was it 8088) assembler

Sheffield Uni cooks up classic IT disaster in £30m student project: Shifting scope, leadership changes, sunk cost fallacy


My Open University courses in computing (circa 1986) started by writing in machine code then using a simple assembler before moving on to OU Basic. Great way to learn - who remembers HEKTOR?

New Zealand spooks say satellite snooping is obsolete – better intel is found elsewhere


Re: Aha! Just what I was waiting for

That link gives this interesting message:

If you try to run this site in Internet Explorer 8, you may need to try to turn on the compatibility view mode.


Some users have reported problems with Internet Explorer when viewing this site. We have not been able to reproduce the problem in tests with Internet Explorer 7. Firefox and Chrome run with the site with no apparent problems.

Remember when you thought fax machines were dead-matter teleporters? Ah, just me, then


Recommended reading:

"The Victorian Internet" by Tom Standage - "The Remarkable Story of the Telegraph and the Nineteenth Century's On-line Pioneers"

Orders wrong, resellers receiving wrong items? Must be a programming error and certainly not a rushing techie


Re: One of the very few regrets

I joined the RAF in 1959 as a 16 yr old Boy Entrant and after 18 months training left RAF Cosford as a "Telegraphist" with the ability to read/send Morse at 21 wpm and use a teleprinter to type at 45 wpm. One esoteric skill was memorising ITA2 (https://www.cryptomuseum.com/ref/ita2/index.htm) and thus being able to "read" 5 hole punched tape which came in very handy when I moved into programming after leaving the RAF in 1973.


Re: Fun with punch cards

In 1977 I was working in Brora, Sutherland and I took the Open University course PM951 "Computing and computers", my first encounter with any sort of computing (anyone who took this course will remember "Koch-Light" and visible-record computing). The course involved writing programs in OU Basic which I could then type in on a teletype, first booking a time slot at a school in Thurso (which was an hours drive north of Brora) and hoping that the system wasn't "down" when I got there, or

writing the program out on squared paper and posting it via Royal Mail to the OU computing centre in Milton Keynes who would run the program and post back the original hand-written program, the program as typed in by the OU and the output (if any) of the program.

I always took the second option which worked quite well until about half-way through the course when I had to recall some data stored in "my" memory area by one of my previous programs. This produced an angry response from the OU computing department asking what had I done with my data, they couldn't find it! After a lot of discussion it transpired that the OU used two mainframes, one in Milton Keynes and another in Newcastle. Although the mainframes ran the same software they did not share the data of OU students thus a problem occurred if my program ran on the Milton Keynes mainframe and my previous program which stored some data ran on the Newcastle mainframe. I eventually got an apology from the OU thanking me for drawing attention to the problem.

Heart FM's borkfast show – a fine way to start your day


This https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_Active_(radio_series) was far superior to any local radio station that I've encountered

BOFH: You. Wouldn't. Put. A. Test. Machine. Into. Production. Without. Telling. Us.


Terrifying when stuff you used to use is now in a museum! https://www.cryptomuseum.com/crypto/uk/bid610/index.htm.

Then you realise that it was nearly 60 years ago!

Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram deplatform themselves: Services down globally


What happened - https://blog.cloudflare.com/october-2021-facebook-outage