* Posts by Scott Wheeler

113 publicly visible posts • joined 13 Sep 2007


Keeping your head as an entire database goes pear-shaped

Scott Wheeler


Sounds safe, doesn't it? Just the sort of thing that should be the matching command for BACKUP under MS/DOS. What it actually does is delete any directory information, then reconstruct what files it can as FILE0000 to FILE0127 in the root directory. You had more than 128 files? Well now you haven't.

Smart contract developers not really focused on security. Who knew?

Scott Wheeler

Re: When something is called "smart"


Picking apart the circuits in the ARM1 – the ancestor of your smartphone's brain

Scott Wheeler

Re: actually the *86 goes back to the 8008 .

Intel tried a fresh start at least twice, with the 80432 and Itanium.

UK's Surveillance Camera Commissioner grills Hikvision on China human rights abuses

Scott Wheeler

The Wombat

The wombat lives across the seas,

Among the far Antipodes.

He may exist on nuts and berries,

Or then again, on missionaries;

His distant habitat precludes

Conclusive knowledge of his moods.

But I would not engage the wombat

In any form of mortal combat.

-- Ogden Nash

Hacking the computer with wirewraps and soldering irons: Just fix the issues as they come up, right?

Scott Wheeler

Later than most of these stories: I needed to acquire some image data in real time (photon by photon, recording the positions) from some lab equipment in the early 80's. This needed a big flat memory space on an 80386 PC, and at the time there were few ways of doing it. I ended up using OS/2 1.0. That was pretty much "half an operating system" at the time, as important stuff like the GUI were not yet supplied, but that didn't matter for me - I just wrote my own simple GUI. The problem was that I had to swap bits around in the coordinate information provided over incoming ribbon cables, and I needed to do this at about 200k events per second. There wasn't enough oomph in a 386/25, so I just used a box of wire-wrap.

That did the job fine, and I got on with the research which was the point of the exercise. The problem was that OS/2 1.0 had been designed to be compatible with an 80286 processor (ask your grandparents) and the way some of the memory handling changed when they moved to OS/2 1.1 - at least that's how I remember it. Anyway, the wire-wrap was not compatible with OS/2 1.1. Didn't matter to me - I just stuck with 1.0 and carried on taking readings. But when I left I occasionally got calls from new students proposing upgrading the operating system to something modern. I'd point them at the big box of grey spaghetti that would need to be rewired - and wait for the next generation of students to make the same call.

Scott Wheeler

Re: PL/I … "think C with even crappier aesthetics"

The Icon language was the successor to SNOBOL. It's really quite elegant for a 70's/80's language.

Scott Wheeler

Re: PL/I … "think C with even crappier aesthetics"

Lyons, the tea-shop chain, build the first commercial computers, initially to handle supply chain logistics. Even before they build the LEO machines they were using decimal pounds for internal accounting, and putting lobby money into the decimalisation campaign.

Scalpel! Superglue! This mouse won't fix its own ball

Scott Wheeler

There were optical mice well before then. Unlike modern mice, they had hard metallic pads with a pattern marked on the pad. They were usually used on things like Sun Workstations, but I think I bought some for our PCs as well.

What is your greatest weakness? The definitive list of the many kinds of interviewer you will meet in Hell

Scott Wheeler

Re: Interesting previous interviews

It can be worse: technical types not involved in interviews at all. I was in a small R&D team in the early 90's. We needed someone with C skills. One day I turned up for work to find an unexpected new hire - who had used C Shell.

On this most auspicious of days, we ask: How many sysadmins does it take to change a lightbulb?

Scott Wheeler

Re: Facilities are to blame

Corruption? I prefer the term "Incentive-linked decision making".

Something went wrong but we won't tell you what it is. Now, would you like to take out a premium subscription?

Scott Wheeler

In some industrial context I use error messages like "Pink giraffe - there is a timeout on the doffer on line 3 in the gate area". Users don't always have the time or resources to write an error message down, so the conversation is something like:

"Was there an error message?"


"What did it say?"

"Dunno. You're the techie, figure it out."

"Was there anything about an animal?"

"Yeah, some idiot said something about a pink giraffe!"


Samsung spruiks Galaxy Buds Pro performance as comparable to hearing aids

Scott Wheeler

Re: Use an app ?

There are already "monitor" apps which use the phone as the amplifier and frequency response corrector. I occasionally use them with my motorcycle helmet (fitted with speakers, or using wired earplugs) to avoid taking the helmet off in bad weather. However the problem is the latency. It's acceptable when the direct channel is blocked by ear plugs, but otherwise you hear the direct sound, followed a fraction of a second later by the amplified sound. That doesn't work for conversation.

From Maidenhead to Morocco: In a change to the scheduled programming, we bring you The On Call of Dreams

Scott Wheeler

Re: Not on-call, but...

SCCS goes back to 1972 - almost 50 years. RCS dates from 1982, and RCS from 1986. Source code control has been available for the whole professional life of almost all people still working in the industry, though perhaps they may not have known to look for it.

This developer created the fake programming language MOVA to catch out naughty recruiters, résumé padders

Scott Wheeler

Re: I can't believe it's not real!

I've used that one for recruitment. It's a simple enough protocol that you can hand someone the RFC and set them a test that requires them to read and understand. It was a while back, but I seem to remember there was a bug in the standard so you had to be careful designing the exercise so as not to use that bit of the standard.

Don't be a fool, cover your tool: How IBM's mighty XT keyboard was felled by toxic atmosphere of the '80s

Scott Wheeler

Re: I miss IBM keyboards

They do exist, yes. Alternatively you might look at Unicomp keyboards. Apparently they bought the designs and tooling from IBM. I have a Model M that I bought about 15 years back. That one has a PS/2 interface, so I use a converter, but their modern ones are USB. The disadvantage as always is the sheer noise of the thing. I had to give up using it in an office because of the complaints and I prefr a Das Keyboard these days - however that is lighter and not dished, so the Unicomp keyboards would probably be better for you.

We don't need maintenance this often, surely? Pull it. Oh dear, the system's down

Scott Wheeler

Re: The people who wrote it said that it would take them weeks to fix, at a cost of ~£5k

Or for the UK: https://www.microsoft.com/en-gb/microsoft-365/get-started-with-office-2019#compare_table. It's there, but not particularly easy to find.

Infosec bod: I've found zero-day flaws in Tor's bridge relay defenses. Tor Project: Only the zero part is right

Scott Wheeler

Re: The problems continue

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the term was invented to describe the USA and the USSR during the Cold War.

'I'm telling you, I haven't got an iPad!' – Sent from my iPad

Scott Wheeler

Re: you never have to print the emai? For rather loose values of 'never'.

Speaking cynically, an unscrupulous employee holding the only copy of such promises could turn this to his/her advantage.

Scott Wheeler

Re: Which is why I always turn off email sigs...

My SMTP 220 response (the first thing my MTA responds with after another server contacts it, and before it can send anything) has a EULA. Basically if you send anything to me, I reserve the right to do anything I want with it.

Microsoft has a cure for data nuked by fat fingers if you're not afraid of the command line

Scott Wheeler

Re: Might be helpful but not for regular users

The version of RECOVER I knew was worse than that. It would delete everything other than the first 128 files that it found. Then it would rename the survivors as you said.

Windows Notepad fixed after 33 years: Now it finally handles Unix, Mac OS line endings

Scott Wheeler

Re: relief arrived a long time ago

Character 10 could mean drop down to the next line at the same character position, as you say. It could also mean feed a line and return the carriage - either were permitted by the ISO standard for teletypes. IBM used character 15 to do the same two jobs. But that misses the main point: these are printer or teletype codes, and there is no particular reason why the OS should use the convention of one variety of printer internally. These days we would use device drivers to abstract that away, and even in early Unix, there were ways of removing that device dependence. Which is obvious, if you think about it, otherwise printers wouldn't have worked with Unix.

Play stupid games, win stupid prizes: UK man gets 3 years for torching 4G phone mast over 5G fears

Scott Wheeler

Re: @ Iglethat & "since hes proven that hes a gullible idiot"

I think the flat Earth response to point 1 is that the Earth is not a planet, and planets and stars are close and small. As to point 2 - some of them don't believe in gravity, and think that the flat Earth is in uniform acceleration, so "down" is in the same direction everywhere.

Scott Wheeler

Re: Gullibility is no excuse.

I believe the theory is that 5G is used to control the virus rather than to produce it, and that the virus is produced in labs in China controlled by Bill Gates / Soros / Barack Obama / the US Democratic party / probably Prince Andrew as well by now.

No, I have no idea what "control" would constitute in this context. But I'd love to know how to fit a low-GHz aerial in to a virus.

ALGOL 60 at 60: The greatest computer language you've never used and grandaddy of the programming family tree

Scott Wheeler

Re: "notions like beauty and elegance in mind for the language"

Chef is potentially useful. I sometimes draw simple Gantt charts when I'm cooking multiple things, and they could perhaps be produced automatically from Chef specifications. Even add in a bit of blur so that you're not unloading five pots and pans at the same time.

Internet's safe-keepers forced to postpone crucial DNSSEC root key signing ceremony – no, not a hacker attack, but because they can't open a safe

Scott Wheeler

Re: "WD-40 is not a lubricant!"

A 50/50 mix of acetone and ATF (automatic transmission fluid) is the best I've used. You need to make a new batch every so often, as the acetone evaporates even from a chemical wash-bottle.

For soaking components, diesel is good as it's cheap and a pretty good penetrating oil.

A challenger appears: Taiwanese devs' answer to Gemini PDA wraps a Raspberry Pi in a tablet

Scott Wheeler

Gemini Linux

Realistically, the Gemini does not support Linux. Yes, it's possible to install it, but some key features do not work and Planetcom's idea of "support" is that someone out there in the Linux community will get things running eventually. Very disappointing if you actually want a Linux device - it's really just an Android PDA.

OK, Google, please do a half-hearted U-turn: Stay of execution for smart home APIs after Big G goes cuckoo in the Nest

Scott Wheeler

Re: Google!


Apple: You can't sue us for slowing down your iPhones because you, er, invited us into, uh, your home... we can explain

Scott Wheeler

Re: "Apple had no duty to disclose the facts regarding software capability and battery capacity."

You can't convert hp in to kW. These are not "bhp", i.e. brake horsepower, measured on a dynometer. They are "taxable horsepower" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax_horsepower), calculated from the bore (not the stroke!) and number of cylinders of the engine according to a standard formula. My modern 1200 Triumph motorcycle would have 13.5hp according to this formula, but is claimed to develop 135bhp.

Heads up: Debian's package manager is APT for root-level malware injection... Fix out now to thwart MITM hijacks

Scott Wheeler

Re: Lousy advice guys

> Shouldn't be anyone who is not experienced or at least not willing/eager to dive deeper into linux using something like Debian. For those folks anyway this specific thing mentioned in the article is a non issue to begin with.

No - this presumably affects Ubuntu and other distros downstream of Debian.

Scott Wheeler

Re: "Supporting HTTP is fine,"

apt supports HTTPS (by changing the URLs in /etc/apt/sources.list and /etc/apt/sources.list.d/*). However that doesn't mean that the web servers ("apt data sources") that those URLs point to actually implement HTTPS. Certainly the default servers for Ubuntu for a UK user do not support HTTPS.

Lords of the DNS remind admins about Flag Day, Juniper likes Watson and more

Scott Wheeler

Re: DNS/EDNS Flag Day?

I haven't heard of it either. Also the version numbers for BIND are odd. The latest number that ISC offers for download (https://www.isc.org/downloads/bind/) is 9.12.3-P1 - earlier than this article speaks of. I run an Ubuntu server (version 9.10.3-P4-Ubuntu is current), so I looked at the Ubuntu packages that ISC offers. Again, the latest version is 9.12.3.P1.

I am not familiar with https://dnsflagday.net, or whether they are actually authoritative. However announcing a flag day two weeks out for which the sw they say is mandatory has not yet been released seems very strange.

Oracle v Google: Big Red wants $9.3bn in Java copyright damages

Scott Wheeler

Obligatory Linux angle

If APIs can be patented, there is no obvious reason why this would be restricted to application libraries, rather than including things like the API or ABI of operating systems. Linux was designed as a work-alike for Unix, and this could imply that the entity holding the copyright for Unix would be able to shut Linux down. It is not entirely clear who that is at the moment - either Micro Focus International, or our old friends SCO.

How to help a user who can't find the Start button or the keyboard?

Scott Wheeler

Re: Can't click any of the things on the screen

> I've heard of people asking for a bigger mouse mat because with their

> small one their pointer can't reach the whole screen.

Well what's wrong with that? Would you want to spend all day lifting your mouse and re-placing it under the circumstances? Yes, you know that it's possible to "gear up" the mouse movements. They don't, so a larger mouse mat is a reasonable solution from their point of view. And since it would actually work, what's the problem?

From Zero to hero: Why mini 'puter Oberon should grab Pi's crown

Scott Wheeler

Why Oberon is not my favourite language

Three reasons why children would hate an Oberon programming environment.

* Oberon is case sensitive

* The key words are upper case

* You're going to have to type PROCEDURE an awful lot.

So you need a PS/2 keyboard with a comfortably upholstered Caps Lock.

Let's get to the bottom of in-app purchases that go titsup

Scott Wheeler

Re: Re SCART -I think you'll find PAL is about as English as Queen Victoria ....

> Is there still a special relationship between England and Hannover?

No. Hanover had Salic law (monarchs must be male), so Victoria could not inherit it when she came to the throne.

POW: Smut-seeding copyright troll slammed as 'extortionate'

Scott Wheeler


Isn't this straightforward blackmail, and hence a criminal offence?

Hello? Police? Yes, I'm a car and my idiot driver's crashed me

Scott Wheeler

Re: How severe does the 'crash' need to be..

> As a bonus, there is a summary of the privacy considerations contained in the technical document above.

Thanks - this is exactly what we needed to see. So to summarise the document: the device is not registered with any network until an accident occurs. This is more stringent than not having a data connection open: the device will not have a way to receive incoming calls, data or SMS. [This should preclude its use for bugging or tracking, including use by insurance or road-use based taxes]. The device will not retain more data than is necessary to establish the current position and the direction of travel - older data will be discarded. All of this being subject to possible change in the final requirement.

In summary, it seems to be designed with privacy in mind, and to be resistant to abuse by state agencies. While I would rather not have one, this appears to be a Germanic product - safety conscious, and also very cautious about the potential for mis-use.

Scott Wheeler


> My iPhone tracks my every move in much more detail anyway, who cares if the car is doing it too!?

Your iPhone tracks you because you have allowed it to do so. Mine doesn't because I've turned off that option.

US military SATELLITE suddenly BLOWS UP: 'Temperature spike' blamed

Scott Wheeler

They have already demonstrated the capability to destroy an old satellite, so it would appear that either this is not a treaty violation or they don't care: more likely the former I would say.

Lenovo shipped lappies with man-in-the-middle ad/mal/bloatware

Scott Wheeler

Re: Microsoft hardware

> You would simply find that an Apple device is all but unusable if you deny it the chance to phone home with a far more comprehensive set of personal data.

No it isn't - that's exactly what I do, using Little Snitch. In any case, Macs don't do MITM attacks on HTTPS sessions. They are far from perfect, but on both Windows and Mac it's still usually possible to prevent sw phoning home.

However I do agree with you that a Mac will attempt to phone home much more than I am happy with.

Ferraris, Zondas and ... er, a bike with a 500hp V10 under the saddle

Scott Wheeler

Re: fugly

> Wrestling a V10 down a motorway seems an utterly pointless exercise, and on a racetrack it would be doubly so due to bends.

The bike was build by Adam Millyard a few years back. As with all his bikes, it's a real road-going bike, not a design freak. I've seen him ride it down single track road to the West Hagbourne bike night. It's a lot more practical than the donor Viper car. The fact that it does 207mph is neither here not there.

You'd probably prefer his latest creation, the Flying Millyard, a 5L V-twin minimally based on a big aircraft radial. It's hard-tailed, has manual mixture and advance/retard, and requires kick-starting - which I've seen him do. Or is that removing too much complication and weight for your taste?

Quicker, easier to fly to MOON than change web standards ... OR IS IT?

Scott Wheeler

Re: We went from NCP to TCP/IP overnight.

NCP could only address 256 hosts. It's hardly a comparable problem to changing an Internet standard today.

Speaking in Tech: 'Software-defined' anything makes me BARF in my MOUTH

Scott Wheeler

Please take that phrase out and shoot it. And I'm not talking about "software defined".

AV for Mac

Scott Wheeler

Re: Impossible.

Al fazed:

The computer is a Mac (i.e. Macintosh) not a MAC. The company is Apple, not MAC. Given this level of knowledge, perhaps you'll understand if I ask for a source for your assertion that:

> thousands of users and administrators contacting MAC tech support asking for help with, what turned out to be .... a virus.

Are you perhaps thinking of other forms of malware, such as a Trojan?

TrueCrypt turmoil latest: Bruce Schneier reveals what he'll use instead

Scott Wheeler

Re: Whoa there

> Furthermore, Bitlocker requires TPM hardware

No it doesn't. It will use it if available, but it runs fine without it.

MPs blast HMRC for using anti-terrorism laws against whistleblower

Scott Wheeler

Re: Lawmakers and the law

As far as I know, RIPA was not justified on the basis of counter-terrorism. It's simply there to define which authorities can require interception, and what authorisation they require for it - and this has always included use for criminal investigation. A RIPA-type law was clearly needed as prior to that it was ambiguous who had the right to intercepts, which could lead to abuse. Of course it's possible to argue that it permits interception too easily (and I would agree with this), but that doesn't argue against the need to define the legal framework for interception.

Planes fail to find 'credible' candidate for flight MH370 wreckage

Scott Wheeler

Except that following DB Cooper, the planes have been designed to prevent parachuting out of them.

Blighty goes retro with 12-sided pound coin

Scott Wheeler

That sort of thing is what I'm worried about with this "authentication". While it's unlikely that they use RFID because the coins are metal, I'm concerned that they may give coins individual identification, which will make cash transactions trackable.

Spend zero notes to take all notes with OneNote: Microsoft makes app free, builds it for OS X

Scott Wheeler

No local storage on Mac version

You have to use Microsoft's Skydrive on the Mac version - no way avoid your content going on to their servers. I can't use it for this reason. While I prefer OneNote on the PC to Evernote, at least Evernote allows local storage.

Mac OneNote also missing a significant amount of other stuff which I happen to use - for instance the "Print to OneNote" function has gone. On a PC I'm in the habit of printing large docs to OneNote, putting the image in the background, then writing notes over the top. This won't be used by everyone, but it was important to me.

DARPA: You didn't think we could make a Mach 6 spaceplane, so let us have this MACH TEN job

Scott Wheeler

Re: Once something become possible

> Basic nukes aren't hard. They require zero engineering experience (for a gun-type nuke.)

Ok, that means you need U235. Do you know of an easy way to get that?

Do you need an initiator for your design? What will you make it of, and how large is it?

What is your critical mass? What amount of explosive do you need in the gun to avoid a squib explosion? Is there any danger of the explosive shattering the uranium that it is propelling?