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CBC Warns Canadians of "US Law Enforcement Money Extortion Program"

Vlad_the_Inhaler Re:The hosers are right (458 comments)

Some time back in the 90's I had fun going both ways between Quebec and the US.
US Immigration in upstate NY spent ages trying to work out if I (and several other crossing at the same time) really needed to be in the US. Eventually the guy decided it was ok.
A few days later I was driving back from Vermont and the Canadians were dubious about letting me back (driving a Canadian-registered rental car). The bug question was: "why do you have a commercial/business visa for the US?". My WHAT???? got me back in again ;-)

I stopped going to the US when they introduced fingerprinting and mugshots at the borders. They don't miss me and I don't miss them.

2 days ago

Ask Slashdot: What Are the Strangest Features of Various Programming Languages?

Vlad_the_Inhaler Re:Powershell (724 comments)

Both Fortran and Cobol allow you to pass slices of a string to a subroutine or anything else, the syntax is in each case stringvar (x:y) although the meaning of y is different. In Fortran it is (from:to) and in Cobol it is (from:bytecount).
When I was learning we used Algol68 and - although I have not used it for a good 35 years - most other languages come up wanting when compared.

about two weeks ago

Ask Slashdot: What Are the Strangest Features of Various Programming Languages?

Vlad_the_Inhaler Re:Powershell (724 comments)

I'm from a different generation. When I was learning things there were attempts made to make languages somewhat failsafe by avoiding ambiguity. Then I saw the C syntax.
- if (a = b) assigns the contents of b to a and executes the code following if b <> 0. Who the hell thought that would be a good idea?
- sizeof(string) (I may have got the name of the function wrong) returns the length of a single byte rather than the length of the entire string. Who the hell thought that would be a good idea?
- strings terminated by a binary zero rather than their physical size. Who the hell thought that would be a good idea?

Kids grew up with this idiocy, I program in Fortran, Cobol, even Assembler to avoid that mess. Oh, and buffer-overruns have been a serious security problem for years now. Well what a f****** surprise.

about two weeks ago

Munich Council Say Talk of LiMux Demise Is Greatly Exaggerated

Vlad_the_Inhaler Re:Oh really? (190 comments)

I'd be amazed if it was.
My experience is that OpenOffice has less features but they work better. They (OO) also seem to be to be more interested in MS compatibility than LO is. I find that particular fork rather regrettable but Oracle would never have divested themselves of OpenOffice if they had not seen themselves becoming irrelevant.

about three weeks ago

Apple Begins Storing Chinese User Data On Servers In China

Vlad_the_Inhaler Re:Not just China (92 comments)

It looks to be an obvious move.
Accept that various agencies in various countries are trawling for data. Storing data locally minimises the number of agencies which have access to that data. Once the Snowden revalations became public, keeping data within national boundaries became a selling point for (not just) ISPs in most countries. I suppose I was ahead of the curve, I avoided Cloud services for just that reason - and then suspicions were confirmed.

When the Chinese Government request (or demand) that users' data remain within the country it is more about keeping things away from the NSA than making sure they themselves have access to it. I can imagine that users in that country share some of those concerns, they certainly do in Germany.

about a month ago

Ask Slashdot: Unattended Maintenance Windows?

Vlad_the_Inhaler Re: Murphy says no. (265 comments)

I have no idea if once a week is realistic, it sounds far too high. I have around 5-10 such windows a year, some are stuff I can do from home (with support from the guys on shift) and some entail me being physically there, so there have been none of the second kind this year.
Major Outages of one of our production systems have been featured on national news and Slashdot before, although it requires an outage of several hours to cross that threshold. Our windows are at around 02:00 to 03:00 depending on which system is affected.

Murphy has really bitten us in the ass a few times:

  • Someone making an update (on a test system) which meant that the system did not come up properly after the next reboot which was days later. The symptoms made it look as though the test "window update" caused the problems. It was an accident but very annoying.
  • A weird error on one switchable hardware unit rendered it unusable on our main production system. That unit was one of 32 and the allocation system automatically only used it on other machines, the next reboot would have cleared the problem anyway. Someone decided to use *that* unit for a critical update and brought it up manually for that purpose. The update failed and our main system was down. I drove in at 03:30 and (I thought) fixed things by falling back. Shortly after I left again, one application stopped working and dragged the rest down with it. I went back in again and did the original update cleanly - over initial management objections - after which things were fine.

There have been others but they were even more arcane. The absolute worst cases we had were with virtually everyone there. They made the news, two of them made it to Slashdot. Different causes in each case.

about 2 months ago

Russia Wants To Replace US Computer Chips With Local Processors

Vlad_the_Inhaler Re:Good luck with that (340 comments)

Who is going to slap an embargo on them? Not the UN, Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council. I can't imagine China would vote for that either.
What percentage of processors are made in (mainland) China?

about 3 months ago

Unisys Phasing Out Decades-Old Mainframe Processor For x86

Vlad_the_Inhaler Re:what's the point anymore (113 comments)

The language "Plus" predates the Burroughs/Sperry-Univac Takeover/Merger so I think the answer will be "no".

about 3 months ago

The Game Theory of Life

Vlad_the_Inhaler Re:Two things (85 comments)

Just call it "Intelligent Design". Lots of people are going to be claiming they were right all along, although most of them won't have any chance of actually understanding the maths.

about 3 months ago

Unisys Phasing Out Decades-Old Mainframe Processor For x86

Vlad_the_Inhaler Re:An impressive technical feat (113 comments)

There are two character-sets which are in use, an ancient 6-bit one which is still used for a lot of internal functions and 9-bit ascii. The 6-bit one is mostly used by systems programmers.

about 3 months ago

Unisys Phasing Out Decades-Old Mainframe Processor For x86

Vlad_the_Inhaler Re:Half a century (113 comments)

Sperry Univac was one company back then, probably formed by a merger or takeover in the 60's or 70's (I can't be bothered to look up Wackypedia).

What happened in 1986 was that Burroughs' CEO (Michael Blumenthal, previously Secretary for somethingorother in the Carter administration) launched a Leveraged Buyout of Sperry. Sperry fought it but lost, the resulting company was then renamed Unisys and had so much debt from the takeover that it had to divest assets to simply survive. Blumenthal himself did very well out of the deal, I don't think anyone else did.

about 3 months ago

Unisys Phasing Out Decades-Old Mainframe Processor For x86

Vlad_the_Inhaler Re:what's the point anymore (113 comments)

Speaking as someone who programs and administers computers on the Dorado line, that is total bollox. dreamchaser's post is also inaccurate.

Part of the Exec (= OS) is written in Assembler, the rest is in a proprietary language called Plus (a bit like Pascal) or C.
The same applies to processors and libraries provided by Unisys or third parties.
User programs can be in Fortran, Cobol, C or Assembler. Pascal and PL/1 were dropped a few years back, use of Plus in non-Unisys-written code is unsupported.

The key part of the article was Both the OSes will execute tasks on Intel's Xeon server chips through a firmware layer that translates the OS code for execution on x86 chips. Existing programs will work without recompilation, it is the Exec which needs to make the accomodations.

I don't know much (ok, anything at all) about the Libre lines but the Dorado machines have some very unusual characteristics such as 9-bit bytes which would render anything other than hardware compatibility a total disaster necessitating a forced conversion to another platform immediately.

about 3 months ago

Who Helped Kill Patent Troll Reform In the Senate

Vlad_the_Inhaler Re:Kudos (157 comments)

There was a recent article (here, I think) pointing out how utterly clueless a lot of legislaters are on what they are legislating on - especially technical subjects. Most of them have some kind of legal background and for this they need a bit of that along with a bit of the technical. Was this bill fundamentally misguided or was it withdrawn because of opposition (up to and including bribery) from special interests? My guess would be "yes" to both ;-)

about 4 months ago

Do Embedded Systems Need a Time To Die?

Vlad_the_Inhaler Re:Planned obsolescence (187 comments)

I think *that* is the main point of this idea, security is just a way of selling it.

about 4 months ago

Actual Results of Crimean Secession Vote Leaked

Vlad_the_Inhaler Re:well (557 comments)

Quite honestly, I don't think they are true.
I was there around 18 months ago and the place had a very Russian (rather than Ukranian) feel to it. It is an accident of recent history that the Crimea ended up in the Ukraine at all, it was also taken for granted before the vote that there was a large majority for secession. That majority had not been evident in the Eastern regions as of a week or so ago, what effect the Ukranian Army marching in is going to have on public opinion - I would not want to hazard a guess. The secessionists there were using all means up to and including murder of public figures to intimidate the locals, but an army fighting their way in could also cause antagonism.

Western perception is of the Ukraine is that part of the country orientates itself westwards and part towards the north (Russia). It is a simplification but wtf. The problem is that whoever was in power, they lined their own pockets. When the last west-leaning government was voted out but still in power, they proclaimed Stepan Bandera a Hero of the Ukraine. Bandera was a figure who (to a certain extent) cooperated with the Nazis against the Soviets and Russians, and whose followers "ethnic cleansed" around 70 000 Poles - mostly women and children - around 1943. He himself was interned at the time because the Nazis considered Ukrainians to be only slightly less sub-human than they saw the Russians. Bandera's people had nothing agaist Ukrainian Jews.
Still, those who distrust "western leaning" politicians have been provided with good reasons.

about 4 months ago

Firefox 29: Redesign

Vlad_the_Inhaler Re:more downgrades (688 comments)

Someone asked the Seamonkey developers months ago if they were going to implement Australis: No, not enough resources, not enough interest.
Firefox are essentially making the same step Microsoft did with Windows 8 - unifying their look-and-feel across platforms (PC/Laptop, Tablet, Phone) and we all know how that went. Seamonkey makes absolutely no sense on a Tablet or Phone so the developers feel no need to move that way. What could cause problems in the medium term - and I simply don't know if this is a danger - is that the Seamonkey code is largely based on the Firefox and Thunderbird code bases. Bugs in F+T propagate across to Seamonkey, as do the fixes. I *think* that Australis is independent of the underlying code but the chances of me being wrong are probably 50%.

about 5 months ago

Blood of world's oldest woman hints at limits of life

Vlad_the_Inhaler How much is this worth? (1 comments)

There was a French woman called Jeanne Louise Calment who died in 1997 aged 122. She had worked in a village shop as a teen, a shop frequented by Vincent van Gogh. A similar analysis of her blood cells - if available - would seem to be indicated. One is not a statistical sample.

about 5 months ago

Evidence Aside, FBI Says Russians Out To Steal Ideas From US Tech Firms

Vlad_the_Inhaler Re:Big deal (132 comments)

Snowden supplies some of the answers.
The GCHQ and NSA's surveillance of Italy specifically included looking for commercial advantages. It looks very much as though the same applies to Germany so it seems obvious what this is a general pattern. My first thought when I saw this article was that the FBI is trying to claim "everybody does it" - hell, they may even be right.
What annoyed the Germans so much was that it was their supposed friends acting this way.

about 5 months ago

OKCupid Warns Off Mozilla Firefox Users Over Gay Rights

Vlad_the_Inhaler Re:More reason to keep using Firefox! (1482 comments)

Firefox users! Boycott OKCupid!
So this guy was against Prop 8 six years ago. Big deal. I wonder what Steve Balmer's position (ouch!) was on Prop 8 back then, are visitors allowed to use Internet Planet Exploder? The guy in charge of Apple now? Is Safari access welcome?

This has to be an April 1 thing, right?

about 5 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Preparing For Windows XP EOL?

Vlad_the_Inhaler Re:Is it really that costly? (423 comments)

My "old laptop" - it was released as "Vista ready" which gives an indication as to its age - has 1GB and a Core Duo processor.
It is totally unuseable under XP for several minutes after booting, XP is doing all the things it really *has* to do with the very highest priority.

I'll admit it runs decently after that.

It is not going to be upgraded for several reasons, what I have done is to uninstall security holes like Flash or Java. I never browsed as Administrator anyway, people who did are a big reason XP is considered so insecure.

about 6 months ago



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