* Posts by Saruman the White

194 publicly visible posts • joined 3 May 2018


Finally, a wafer-thin server... Only a tiny little thin one. Oh all right. Just the one...

Saruman the White Silver badge

Re: PSU fun

At the start of this century I was a part of a team developing a highly specialised network simulator for a customer. The network that the simulator supported also included RF (SATCOM) components, and the simulator was designed to calculate the intermodulation products that all of the various RF carriers generated. The simulator was actually quite a beast; written in Java with a lot of work put in to optimise it, but with some settings you could more-or-less see the JVM (and the PC it was running on) scream.

The customer originally was planning on installing the simulator on a desktop machine running a mid-range single-core Intel processor. However when they saw the simulator running in the lab they decided to upgrade the target platform to use a dual-processor SMP motherboard with higher-specification Intel processors. This was 100% a customer decision, we did not recommend the upgrade, or (to be honest) gave it any thought at all - our responsibility stopped when we delivered a working simulator.

Eventually the day of the initial delivery dawned, and I went to the customer site, installed the simulator, and ran the delivery checks that verified that everything was OK. Customer sign-off of the delivery was obtained, and everyone was happy at that point.

About a week later we got an e-mail from the customer say that the simulator was causing their desktop machine to blow up! Off I went to the customer site, to be greeted by a very irate representative who proceeded to demonstrate how, when they ran a test scenario on the simulator, the desktop machine it was running on would shut itself down with extreme prejudice after about 20 seconds. I checked the simulator software that we had delivered - no problems. I then asked, casually, whether they had upgrade the desk machine's PSU when they upgraded the processors - I got about 30 seconds of silence before a muttered "Oh shit ..." was heard.

We never had any further problems with the delivered system.

BT and Serco among bidders competing to run Britain's unfortunately named Skynet military satellite system

Saruman the White Silver badge

This is only the spacecraft procurement

Keep in mind that this is only the procurement of the spacecraft and TT&C infrastructure; this is not a full-blown PFI job like the one that one G. Brown forced on the MoD for Skynet-5. That went so well that the MoD are not even thinking about going down that route again - ever!

Saruman the White Silver badge

Re: Skynet not Terminator

Skynet did not, but there was a spread-spectrum modem used by the navy that should have provided up to 10 users with a nearly jam-proof 2k4 bps over the same spectrum allocation. I seem to remember that it was developed by BAe. Not surprisingly they managed to screw up the spreading codes so that any more than 2 users sharing the same spreading code resulted in everyone being jammed.

BTW, those modems have long ago been withdrawn from service.

Saruman the White Silver badge

Skynet not Terminator

Lets just be clear here - Skynet is the series of MoD Satcom platforms that dates right back to the early 1970's - way, way before Arnie got into his Terminator suite. Apparently the film makers were looking for a nifty name and thought that they had come up with one that no-one had every thought of, only realising their mistake after the film was released and someone pointed this out to them!

Also Skynet was the first military satcom system; up until it was launched everyone (i.e. the Americans) had been saying that the military had no need for satcom. Skynet-1 was so successful that the critics shut up immediately - the rest, as they say, is history.

NASA to send Perseverance, a new trundle bot, and Ingenuity, the first interplanetary helicopter, to sniff out life on Mars in July

Saruman the White Silver badge

Re: "When we see the landscape at Jezero Crater for the first time"

... before the area is covered with a green mist ...

Only true boffins will be able to grasp Blighty's new legal definitions of the humble metre and kilogram

Saruman the White Silver badge

Its a pretty baa-ing definition anyway.

Whose side you on, Nominet? Registry floods .co.uk owners with begging emails to renew unwanted .uk domains

Saruman the White Silver badge

Re: Is this Fraud?

It certainly seems pretty close to it at first glance. Registering a .uk on behalf of a third party without their explicit permission, then sending out letters demanding money to renew the unwanted domains is definitely something that the police might get interested in, particularly if enough people/companies complained. In fact if the amount of money heading into their coffers is enough, it could bring the SFO into play.

'One rule for me, another for them' is all well and good until it sinks the entire company's ability to receive emails

Saruman the White Silver badge

Seen something like this before

One of our consultants had been working at a major customer's site for several years, and had an e-mail account in the customer's system. Because he was rarely in the office, he set up a similar rule in Exchange to forward all of his internal corporate e-mails to his alternate e-mail address with the customer with a receive acknowledge enabled. Everything worked fine until the contract he was working on was completed (successfully I should add); the customer deleted his e-mail account at COB on the Friday.

Urgent call for me on Sunday afternoon from one of my company's directors - they need to get a significant proposal out to another customer PDQ, but the e-mail system had ground to a halt. A not-so-quick remote log on to the e-mail system later (for some reason, soon to be discovered, the corporate Internet connection was very slow as well) I had a look at the external e-mail server's logs (no, not exchange - the relay server was Postfix, something that I was really glad I had set up) and discovered that it had over 30 thousand e-mails queued for transmission - the two e-mail servers spent the entire weekend playing ping-pong with the messages until things had reach pretty catastrophic levels. More to the point the process was continuing even as I watched.

Emergency action was very quickly taken. The relay server was quickly shutdown (the metaphorical silence was deafening) and its outgoing queue was purged. Incoming messages for the guilty party where temporarily redirected to a bit-bucket (to allow the customer's e-mail server to calm down and purge its queue) and a message was sent to everyone in the company saying that any outgoing e-mails may have been lost and may therefore need to be resent. A more thorough report was sent to the director, who had a little "chat" with the guilty party Monday morning (while I was resetting things back to normal).

Keepnet kerfuffle: Firing legal threats at bloggers did infosec biz more damage than its exposed database

Saruman the White Silver badge

I do love it when some PHB's brilliant plan to sick the legal eagles on someone falls apart.

Ooo, a mystery bit of script! Seems legit. Let's see what happens when we run it

Saruman the White Silver badge

Re: Not quite the same...

I can remember doing a summer programming job when I was at university for a certain company (I'll leave their name out of it - you can try to guess). One of the full-time programmers wanted a print out of an application he was working on. However this was on an IBM 370 running CICS - one of the most evil systems around. Anyway said programmer submitted the print job, but managed to miss the print queue and hit a punched card queue instead. He ended up with an 18 inch stack of punch cards on the corner of his desk and a very bemused expression on his face.

Those where the days ....

Yet another beefy BSOD spotted lurking within the walls of US patty pusher

Saruman the White Silver badge

Re: Stuffed full of deliciousness

There's a Wimpy still in Basingstoke Festival Place. Fortunately its somewhere very out of the way, so you can usually avoid it unless you really want your digestion wrecked.

'Beyond stupid': Linus Torvalds trashes 5.8 Linux kernel patch over opt-in Intel CPU bug mitigation

Saruman the White Silver badge

Re: git broke English

I really, really hate to break this to you, but Linus is the original developer of GIT (although I suspect that other people have contributed to it). So whatever you do, please ensure that whatever rocks you through at Linus' house are very small.

Privacy activists prep legal challenge against UK plan to keep coronavirus contact-tracing data for two decades

Saruman the White Silver badge

Re: Optional?

Let them mandate it, I will not put it on my phone no matter what they say or do.

Boeing brings back the 737 Max but also lays off thousands

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Re: "more than a dozen initiatives focused on enhancing workplace safety and product quality"

Boeing don't need FAA clearance to build the planes. They do, however need clearance to fly the plane commercially - this is something that I believe they are unlikely to get in the near term.

Twitter ticks off Trump with new 'Get the facts' alert on pair of fact-challenged tweets

Saruman the White Silver badge

Re: I, as President, will not allow it to happen!

As the Texans would say: Trump is all hat and no cattle.

It wasn't just a few credit cards: Entire travel itineraries were stolen by hackers, Easyjet now tells victims

Saruman the White Silver badge

Re: Stelios & EGM

Accusations are easy for Stelios to make. Maybe he should ante up some evidence to support his claims.

Linux desktop org GNOME Foundation settles lawsuit with patent troll

Saruman the White Silver badge

Re: An excellent result

I prefer boiling in oil - slowly, paying lots of attention to all of the very sensitive bits.

Nothing is too much for a patent troll.

Open letter from digital rights groups to UK health secretary questions big tech's role in NHS COVID-19 data store

Saruman the White Silver badge

Re: Privacy and data ownership are critical for wide support

I will not be installing this app on my phone under any circumstances, even if they try to make it mandatory. If they try to prosecute me, I'll use the Human Rights Act on the basis that my phone is my private property, and HMG has no authority to tell me what I should, and should not, have installed on it.

Mirror mirror on the wall, why will my mouse not work at all?

Saruman the White Silver badge

Re: Even easier to get wrong with Sun optical mice

Thanks for the reminder. I've spent the last 2+ decades trying to forget about them.

Russia admits, yup, the Americans are right: One of our rocket's tanks just disintegrated in Earth's orbit

Saruman the White Silver badge

Re: Honest question....

Generally satellites destined for GEO are initially launched into LEO, then (once everything is checked out) moved to a transfer orbit before finally ending up in its GEO slot. A GEO satellite can spend up to 2 weeks in LEO, sometimes longer if there is a problem, hence the increased risk.

India makes contact-tracing app compulsory in viral hot zones despite most local phones not being smart

Saruman the White Silver badge

Fool proof!

... India’s IT minister has even labelled it “foolproof” ...

Oh but there are so many very clever fools out there, Minister

Who's still using Webex? Not even Cisco: Judge orders IT giant to use rival Zoom for virtual patent trial

Saruman the White Silver badge

Re: As it happens I've got a Webex tomorrow morning

As it happens I have being doing 4 or 5 Webex sessions every afternoon since the start of April; tomorrow finally wrapping up the last one. However I have to agree; clunky, unsophisticated, but it does work.

Academics demand answers from NHS over potential data timebomb ticking inside new UK contact-tracing app

Saruman the White Silver badge

Re: Fraudsters will likely clone the app

And seldom disappointed I suspect.

Saruman the White Silver badge

I'll be looking closely at the details when they emerge and will (or not) sign up depending on the data they require.

I'll be looking very closely at the details, and will raise a GDPR complaint with the ICO if they are slurping anything apart from the information they must have. Even HMG has to obey the law!

Sometimes one can go a little too far in search of isolation

Saruman the White Silver badge

Re: Admiral Grace Hopper to post in 3, 2, 1...

Admiral Hopper died 1st January 1992. RIP.

Florida man might just stick it to HP for injecting sneaky DRM update into his printers that rejected non-HP ink

Saruman the White Silver badge

I have just replaced my printer at home (which I also use for business purposes) which had basically worn out after 10 years. HP was never even on my list of acceptable replacements. I settled on nice big Epson printer, and am more than happy with it.

UK snubs Apple-Google coronavirus app API, insists on British control of data, promises to protect privacy

Saruman the White Silver badge

Re: Paranoid Android

It also does not work if you simply don't download and install the app.

I suspect that trying to force it on to everyone's phone without explicit permission (which is effectively granted by someone actively installing the application) is going to result in HMG being taken to court for breach of privacy.

Cloudflare goes retro with COBOL delivery service. Older coders: Who's laughing now? Turns out we're still vital

Saruman the White Silver badge

Re: Mindset

When I was a research student (several decades ago) I used to take tutorials on COBOL for under- and post-grads. I loved to start the first tutorial comparing a C "Hello World" to a COBOL one. Made people realise that you actually had to think to be a COBOL programmer.

Oh yes - the reason why I took those tutorials? I was the only other person in the Comp Sci dept (apart from the lecturer in charge of the COBOL course) who had any sort of practical experience in COBOL. Or at least, the only one who admitted to it :-)

Kepler telescope is dead but the data lives on: Earth-sized habitable zone planet found after boffins check for errors

Saruman the White Silver badge

Very probably, although it is possible that there is a resonance between it's orbital period and it's rotational period. Mercury has exactly that (a 3:2 resonance).

White House creates 'Team Telecom' to probe whether foreign telcos should be allowed near US networks

Saruman the White Silver badge

The decision will be: "we need more time to decide".

NASA mulls restoring Saturn V to service as SLS delays and costs mount

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I actually believed it for a moment ...

... until I got to the second half of the article.

Funny enough, re-vamping the Saturn-V has been discussed several times. The big problem (and they are BIG) are the main engines; each one had to be basically be hand-made and hand-tuned, and unfortunately all of that highly specialised knowledge is now gone. Shame really since the Saturn-V was really something to see launch, and it never suffered a failure!

Lets raise a glass to the NASA engineers of the Apollo program!

Australian state will install home surveillance hardware to make sure if you're in virus isolation, you stay there

Saruman the White Silver badge

Yep, it was. Then they realised that their Most Hated Foe (at least for Rugby and Cricket) might actually be on to something.

Zoom's end-to-end encryption isn't actually end-to-end at all. Good thing the PM isn't using it for Cabinet calls. Oh, for f...

Saruman the White Silver badge

Re: wait, what?

GCHQ operates in a purely advisory role in this case; it is the Cabinet Office which is actually responsible for providing secure communications links. As I understand it, GCHQ heard that Zoom was going to be used and basically blew a gasket in response, however the Cabinet Office ignored them and went ahead anyway. the rest, unfortunately, is history.

Exchange some currency you want to? Guess the BIOS setup keyboard combination first you must, young Padawan

Saruman the White Silver badge

Re: Battery

The question is: who is the cattle prod being applied to?

Tupperware-dot-com has a live credit card skimmer on its payment page, warns Malwarebytes

Saruman the White Silver badge

Their lids are sealed

Taiwan collars coronavirus quarantine scofflaws with smartphone geo-fences. So, which nation will be next?

Saruman the White Silver badge

Re: Signal?

Pretty much the same here.

Implementing these measures is pretty easy in countries that are heavily urbanised, and where good mobile signal coverage is pretty much taken for granted. Achieving the same result in countries with significant rural communities who have poor and/or erratic signal strength is going to be more of a challenge, and attempting to improve the rural coverage (by putting up more base stations) is not going to be a viable option since it will simply take too long to do.

Crack police squad seeks help to flush out Australian toilet paper thieves

Saruman the White Silver badge

This really is a crap story

US prez Donald Trump declares America closed to those flying in from Schengen zone over coronavirus woes

Saruman the White Silver badge

Re: I was particularly amused...

Blame management. He has someone to sack when it all goes runny on him.

Saruman the White Silver badge

Well air fares have gone up

Booking a flight to the US on business next month, air fares pretty much doubled in the space of 30 minutes. Suspect there are a lot of Europeans who think they can get around the band by flying via Heathrow. Bet Border Control has a surprise for them ...

Latest bendy phone effort from coke empire spinoff Escobar Inc is a tinfoil-plated Samsung Galaxy Fold 'scam'

Saruman the White Silver badge

I have always held to the view that any other that sounds too good to be true, probably is just that!

I have rarely found any evidence to contradict this.

Australian privacy watchdog sues Facebook for *checks notes* up to £266bn

Saruman the White Silver badge

That could hurt

Up to now FB has been subjected to likely more than a few mild hand raps (financially speaking), now all of a sudden it is facing a public flogging. £266 billion is going to hurt them if it actually gets through the courts; even if the courts disallow 3/4 of the fine, what is left is still going to sting a hell of a lot. If the ICO joins in with its 4% global turnover fines, then FB is going to have to change its ways, or it will go under from the weight of fines.

How's this for a remote support fix? Solar storm early-warning satellite repaired with million-mile software update

Saruman the White Silver badge

Re: The Deep Space Climate Observatory

Yeah, but he had 18 months with little else to listen to. That would be enough to drive you completely around the twist.

Saruman the White Silver badge

Re: Yay!

And Voyager 2 when it was way part Saturn (over 1.5 billion km away).

I work in the satellite industry, and my respect for the people who design and build the deep-space probes, whether for NASA, ESA or anyone else, is completely and totally unbounded. I host my glass to them!

Take it Huawei, Pai: Senate passes bill to rip 'dodgy' kit from rural telcos

Saruman the White Silver badge

Re: Let's face it

First problem with that statement: there is no American made kit. At alternatives are Nokia or Ericsson, both Nordic.

Early adopters delighted as Microsoft pulls plug on Mobile Backend as a Service. Haha, only joking – they're fuming

Saruman the White Silver badge

... this demonstrates why developers should be wary of dependency on something that is not fully supported ...

i.e. most of Microsoft's products.

Startup Mycroft AI declares it will fight 'patent troll' tooth and nail after its Linux voice-assistant attracts lawsuit

Saruman the White Silver badge

Re: How mental is Texas?

The only question here is, can Texas field a sane judge?

Do you really need to ask this question?

Crypto AG backdooring rumours were true, say German and Swiss news orgs after explosive docs leaked

Saruman the White Silver badge

This is really bad news for some companies. I know one country (I will not mention their name) who built a military satcoms system that use CryptoAG kit to provide COMSEC. They must now be wondering whether their entire communications system has been compromised. Some security bods are going to have a *very* bad month ahead of them.

Starliner snafu could've been worse: Software errors plague Boeing's Calamity Capsule

Saruman the White Silver badge

Re: Capability Maturity Model ?

Unfortunately CMM turned out to basically be a fad - once the bean counters realised just how expensive it was to implement (a company like Boeing would need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to get to Level 5) they very quitely dropped it.

This and the 737-Max fiasco has me thinking that Boeing is starting to suffer from a hardening of the corporate arteries. Management have lost sight of what the company actually does (aircraft, spacecraft, ...) and have become far too concerned with the bottom line. As a result of this shortcuts are being made in the engineering (software, mechanical, ...) that are having major Safety of Life implications. The only solution may be a radical overhaul of corporate management, starting at the top and working down to the bottom: the corporate equivalent of "nuke it from orbit, its the only way to be sure".

Ah, night shift in the 1970s. Ciggies, hipflasks, ADVENT... and fault-prone disk drives the size of washing machines

Saruman the White Silver badge

When those old disk packs fail

I remember one year working for a company who built flight simulators (at the time mostly military, but some civilian). They had a big IBM mainframe that ran all sorts of stuff for the company, both technical applications as well as financial and management stuff. One day the shift operator went into the next room to find the tapes that had to be mounted in preparation for that night's backup; just after he went in the room there has a very loud "bang" followed by lots of noise as of broken glass bouncing off things. When he went back into the main server room he was greated by the sight of the mainframe crashing, and one of the "washing machine" disk drives with a hole in its side, with the metal bent outwards.

It turned out that the lower bearings on the disk spindle had failed, resulting in the spindle tearing free and (along with the disk drives) deciding to take a strolling around the server room. Odds are that had the operator been in the room at the time he would probably have caught some of the debris that was flying around at great velocity.

Took IBM 3 days to haul in a new disk drive unit, wire it up and then rebuild the system from scratch and backups.

Curse of Boeing continues: Now a telly satellite it built may explode, will be pushed up to 500km from geo orbit

Saruman the White Silver badge

Re: Where will the bits go?

There are 3,600 seconds in an hour. 3000 m/s = 3 km/s, multiple it by 3,600 results in 10,800 km/h.

180 km/h = 50 m/s