* Posts by C R Mudgeon

252 publicly visible posts • joined 1 Aug 2020


Cunningly camouflaged cable routed around WAN-sized hole in project budget

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"What is the carrying capacity of a migrating European Swallow Ethernet cable?"

Two pigeons. Three is right out.

Windows XP activation algorithm cracked, keygen now works on Linux

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"The last of which will be over 15 years old now."

That's the part of your situation that would be keeping me up at night -- continued availability, or not, of suitable drives. My sympathies!

Cheapest, oldest, slowest part fixed very modern Mac

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Re: Regomiser needs help this week

Well, he did have to beetle off to the store for those parts.

An important system on project [REDACTED] was all [REDACTED] up

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Give him time. He'll get to it.

Owner of 'magic spreadsheet' tried to stay in the Lotus position until forced to Excel

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Re: Some times there's a reason

"it held data for a now-obsolete system that needed to be retained for 12 years for legal reasons"

I once worked for a place that had three mission-critical applications, each running on its own Unix server (well, Unixish; most of them were Xenix), plus there was a fourth server that backed up the other three.

I had taken to naming the servers after mythological figures. Charon (the ferryman across the River Styx), along with its main function, served as our Internet gateway. Vishnu ("The Preserver") was the backup box. Shakti ... well, to be honest, that one was named more for the band [1] than for the goddess.

Came the time that all three of those applications got replaced by two new ones -- all at the same time, but that's another story. Their servers got replaced by Apple kit and NetWare. [2]

We needed to keep two of the old applications available, though, for people to refer back to, essentially read-only. Given the much reduced load, we coalesced them onto one Xenix box.

I called that machine Baal -- for old, superceded systems, the name of an old, superceded god. [3]

[1] Shakti plays jazz fusion that's heavily influenced by Indian classical music. It originally consisted of John McLaughlin, Zakkir Hussein, L. Shankar, and T. H. "Vikku" Vinayakram. They have toured in various incarnations over the years. As it happens, they're on a world tour now, but not coming anywhere near me, alas.

[2] Far from ideal, especially for this old Unix hand, but those were the requirements for the two high-end, off-the-shelf applications we bought.

[3] Ba'al is the Caananite god that the Israelite prophets are always inveighing against in the Hebrew Bible, aka Old Testament.

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Re: The machine that goes 'Fweeep'

"Apologies for excess length."

No apology needed. Your tale is wonderfully told.

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Re: Fond memories of 1-2-3

I call BS on your calling BS.

The bit you're reacting to appears to be this: "any operating system released this century wouldn't run [1-2-3] at all."

The people involved could have mistakenly believed it wouldn't run, and acted accordingly.

Or Randi knew at the time that it could run but did away with it anyway -- or more likely, didn't bother to look into the question --because his goal was to get the guy onto modern kit, not to enable his continuing obstruction; but Randi now, in retelling the story, is misremembering.

Or it could have been an older version of 1-2-3 than your folks have, which truly couldn't have run on a modern OS.

So there are any number of ways for that one brief assertion, even should it be false, not to invalidate the entire story.

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

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Re: Auditors

Carma [sic]

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"Google is probably your friend"

I did try a DDG search, but without success.


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Just out of curiosity, what's the situation in a commercial airliner? What's the effective oxygen level, given the lower air pressure they maintain?

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Even without an equipment failure, a 15-12=3% margin of error seems dangerously tight.

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Indeed! That the guy in the box is wearing a tie just seems so strange -- even though I wore one, along with the suit jacket, for work in the corporate IT world, until I got hired at a start-up in 1982. (I never bothered with the vest though.)

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That demo setup made me think of the disintegration chamber from the Star Trek episode A Taste Of Armageddon.

Shocks from a hairy jumper crashed a PC, but the boss wouldn't believe it

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Re: Dust bunny jumper

Now that's a hairy jumper!

I have to say, as a non-Brit, something along that line is what the headline first suggested to me.

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"Regonomize" makes me think of being regonomical with the truth. So perhaps keep that in reserve for the day (may it never come!) that the Murdochs buy El Reg.

How prompt injection attacks hijack today's top-end AI – and it's tough to fix

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World-weary sigh

"In the rush to commercialize [X], security got left behind"

So here we are yet again.

Firmware is on shaky ground – let's see what it's made of

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"Goddamn UEFI straight to hell."

Serious questions: what are your pain points with it? And how much of that pain is due to UEFI per se, and how much to the TPM?

My experience of TPMless UEFI is much more positive. Sure, there's a learning curve, but that's the case with anything new. And there's some frustration, but my distant memory of BIOS-based machines includes a significant amount of frustration with those too.

But as I say, that's on a couple of older machines that, if they even have TPMs (I honestly don't recall), they're disabled. Since I run Linux and FreeBSD, I've never had to open that can of worms.

There are a couple of things about UEFI that I actively like:

GPT: 128 partitions (it's hard to imagine needing that many, but you can format a drive with more if you want them); no primary/extended/logical ickiness; effectively no size limits (we're a fair few Moore's-law generations away from exceeding 64-bit sector numbers, whereas we're already maxing out MBR's 32-bit fields).

All the on-disk boot stuff lives in a file system -- no more magic sectors (other than the partition table of course), and no more of the contortions GRUB has to go through to fit itself into an MBR-formatted drive.

Student requested access to research data. And waited. And waited. And then hacked to get root

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"... they updated the Linux image and the partition manager ceased to pop up anymore."

Hmmm, I wonder why *that* happened?

I'm guessing they realized just what was being done, even if they never figured out who was doing it.

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Re: In Code We Trust


That's an excellent tool -- my go-to live CD for Linux recovery, file-system mucking about, etc.

But it's unlikely to be the one this person used; I don't think it has a lot to offer in Windows-specific utilities

Pager hack faxed things up properly, again, and again, and again

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Re: what fun it was writing configuration scripts in the Hayes ‘language

The BASS I'm referring to wasn't either of those. It operated in (at least) Southern Ontario, and perhaps more widely in Canada, but I wouldn't know about that.

I had no idea there were other BASSes, so thanks for that.

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Re: what fun it was writing configuration scripts in the Hayes ‘language

My favorite off-label modem use: as a primitive speed-dialer.

1987. We badly, badly wanted tickets to the upcoming Pink Floyd concert. In those pre-Internet days [1], the way to get them was by phone. Problem: world+dog wanted the same thing we did, so getting through was a matter of blind luck. So we all sat at our phones, dialing and dialing and dialing.

Unlike my friends, I had a computer -- my first, an Amiga 1000 -- and so, an optimization was available. I got into the terminal program and used the modem to dial the ticket company's voice line [2], prepared to pick up the phone and then type <space> to make the modem hang up, should I actually get through. I got a busy signal of course, but then it was a simple matter of "a/" (which meant "redial the last number"), wait for busy, <space>, repeat. For at least a couple of hours.

That shortened the retry interval a lot, vs manual dialing -- and so, I figured, greatly improved my chances. Even so, it wasn't me who finally got through, but one of the others who, all that time, had been redialing the hard way.

Not only didn't I ever connect, but in all those hundreds(?) of attempts, I only once or twice got a normal busy signal. The rest of the time it was fast busy, which meant upstream network congestion -- that's how swamped the system was.

[1] Yes, I know. I'd even heard tales of it. But as far as the general public were concerned, including my long-out-of-university self, it might as well not have existed.

[2] I can't recall whether that was still BASS (Best Available Seating Service) or whether they were already Ticketmaster by that point.

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"There was also insufficient marketing input to R&D..."

Wow, that's a first! Usually it's the opposite complaint.

Astronomers clock runaway black hole leaving trail of fresh stars

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Earth is a speck of dust clinging to the felt.

The most bizarre online replacement items in your delivered shopping?

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Fair point

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Re: Ingenious

Ordered: chili powder. Got: paprika

Well, I guess they're both reddish powders ... and to be fair, it was the first month of the pandemic, when everything was crazy.

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Re: Years ago....

Somebody read 555 for the quantity *and* the part number, did they?

"Just think if he has ordered an 80486"

And got 80,486 of them? Yeah, that'd be a problem.

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"If you get stuck in that situation mix them or alternate between dog food and cat food."

I agree with all of your post *except* for the quoted sentence. I don't know -- never kept cats -- but I'd want professional advice before feeding a cat even a partial dog-food diet.

Once in a while, if you run out of cat food? Sure. But as even a semi-regular occurrence? That seems unwise.

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"cats are 'obligate carnivores' "


"for whom most (if not all) vegetable matter is anywhere from mildly to very toxic."

I don't believe plant material as such is actively toxic to cats, just that it's of little to no nutritional value, since they're not set up to digest it.

That said, it's been speculated that cats in the wild might ingest a certain amount of plant material -- conveniently partially pre-digested -- in the stomachs of their prey, and might in fact get nutritional value from it. (I read that some years ago, and don't know whether it's since been confirmed or refuted.)

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"Perhaps a dumb question but.. Is there much difference?"

There is. Cats can't survive long-term on dog food.

They need taurine (an amino acid) in their diet, while dogs can synthesize the stuff, given the necessary precursors. Thus, cat food is supplemented with taurine, but dog food typically isn't.

Cats are obligate carnivores -- in the wild, they *must* eat meat. Dogs are more omnivores than true carnivores. And taurine is something that you get in meat and fish.

Earth is running out of places for stargazers to do dark deeds in the name of science

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"If the likes of Starlink can deliver that connectivity to a nice dark rural area"

It seems unlikely, seeing as they're a big offender. In the act of delivering the connectivity, they'll destroy the darkness.

IT phone home: How to run up a $20K bill in two days and get away with it by blaming Cisco

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Re: Not just ISDN or just work

Yeah, our area code took in a *lot* of territory (416, before the 905 split). There was a page at the beginning of the phone book that listed all the prefixes that counted as local calls, and so free.

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Re: Ah, the good'ol days..

We also had a good experience with it. For a ten'ish-person office, an ISDN line was a perfectly satisfactory Internet link.

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Re: Mobile dongle and ISDN

It's amazing how often people equate "I haven't heard of that" with "there's no such thing".

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Re: Mobile dongle and ISDN

I had the reverse happen. Can't recall whether I've told this story...

While driving along a rural, low-traffic section of Southern Ontario's Highway 401 late one night, I had reason to call 911 (Emergency Services). Not yet an actual emergency, but could easily have become one if not taken care of -- road debris big enough to cause a serious accident, and it was black, so easy not to spot at night.

I tried to describe where the problem was, but the operator wasn't getting it -- she didn't recognize any of the landmarks I gave. It was a frustrating minute or two -- for her as well, I presume.

I can't recall which of us twigged first: my phone had roamed and I was talking to one of New York State's 911 operators across the lake. I'm sure she had a really good mental map of her chunk of New York. Ontario? Not so much.

I was already in a service center's parking lot, so after apologizing, I went inside and placed my call on a (wired) pay phone. And then turned off roaming on my cell phone.

Duelling techies debugged printer by testing the strength of electric shocks

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Yup. That satisfying crunch (both sound and feel) as a chip settles more firmly into its socket, and you know you've just solved a problem, whether actual or incipient. It might not be the problem you were trying to solve, but even so, you've made things better.

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Re: I've Seen Both Sides Now

It's a corollary of Parkinson's Law: software expands to fill the hardware available to run it on.

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Re: Stan must be VERY old!

That was actually quite clever.

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SEP-puku would be more fitting

Ex-Tweep mocked by Musk for asking if he'd actually been fired

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"Thorleifsson ... chose to take his cut of the earnings from the sale as wages instead of in stock options and other less tax-intense forms of earning"

A prescient move, as it turns out.

Backup tech felt the need – the need for speed. And pastries and Tomb Raider

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"Manually burning 10 DVDs and then only checking the result for errors a week later"

No. They verified each backup both at the time and *again* a week later. (See the description of Guillermo's first, by-the-book run-through.) So it wasn't, at least in that respect, a "garbage" procedure; it sounds to me like a particularly diligent one. (It may well have had other problems -- the length of the manual hints at the possibility -- but on the evidence we have, failure to verify backups wasn't among them.)

"USB harddrives were readily available and easily large enough to hold 10 DVDs worth of data"

They had about 40 weeks' worth of DVDs in the pool. That many HDDs would have been pretty expensive, I imagine, and also quite physically bulky to store and manage.

Formatting DVDs in parallel seems like a smart improvement to the procedure, but it would have been best to clear it with the boss first -- maybe there were reasons for doing it the way they did. (Given the then state of the technology, potential drive compatibility issues come to mind -- but that's just a wild guess.)

It seems to me that if Guillermo was too "busy" to label the DVDs, he might also have failed to verify them. But if so, that wouldn't have been the procedure's fault; rather, it would push his story even further into "Who, Me?" territory.

PC tech turns doctor to diagnose PC's constant crashes as a case of arthritis

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Thumb Up

Re: Dell's help desk script

That deserves two upvotes -- one for the story and one for the descriptions of the sounds.

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One of my proudest travel moments

"I don't speak Italian. Somehow I managed to communicate..."

I was in Frankfurt am Main on a business trip, walking from the conference centre back to my hotel (a quaint little place on the edge of the red-light district -- much more atmospheric than the bland, corporate, could-be-anywhere box that we could have been staying at).

Anyway, a truck driver pulled over, asking me for directions. I don't speak German and he didn't speak English, but I knew where Mainzer Landstraße was, and I'm pretty sure I was somehow able to convey the directions (fortunately, pretty simple from where we happened to be).

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Same stimulus; opposite prank.

One of my highschool teachers, nigh-on half a century ago, told the story of the time a student fell asleep in class. They hung (not "hanged", q.v.) a "do not disturb" sign on his back and carried on. At the end of the period they filed out *quietly*, and told the incoming bunch to do likewise.

The kid finally woke up of his own accord -- and was mortified to find himself in the wrong class.

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Re: Unfixable CRT Display

The room that an MRI machine lives in is a Faraday cage; otherwise, those fields would screw things up over a much wider area. That wouldn't be good in a hospital.

I met a guy once whose specialty was building those Faraday-cage rooms for new MRI installations.

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Re: South don't work in the North

A sports bar I used to frequent, back in CRT days, had one TV whose image was backwards. Text was mirrored etc., but the really disorienting thing was watching baseball players run the bases clockwise.

It seems that the unit had previously been used as the image source for some kind of projection system. That thing's lenses flipped the image, so the TV's horizontal deflection coils had been flipped over (or rotated, or the connections just swapped; I don't know the technical details) in order to compensate.

When the TV came out of the projector and began to be used on its own, the coils never got changed back.

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I learned that lesson from an old girlfriend re. buying factory seconds. Every pair of jeans (or whatever) failed its final inspection, or it wouldn't be there. Best to inspect it yourself. Often the flaw is trivial, but not always...

Learn the art of malicious compliance: doing exactly what you were asked, even when it's wrong

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Re: Rate your skill level

Ah, a variant of the old truism. Garbage out, garbage back.

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Be careful of the human foods that Scruffy ought not to eat. A lot of them are easy to avoid in this context, but onions and garlic are really, really common in packaged foods, and are toxic for dogs.

What's up with IT, Doc? Rabbit hole reveals cause of outage

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Re: Junction Boxes


OK, I'm not an electrician, but if that's true, it strikes me as a deficiency in the regulations.

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Re: They love cables.

Upvoted for the last paragraph.

Another way of looking at it:

Dogs = Stepford Wolves

(Well, only approximately equal, but you get the idea)