* Posts by Paul Hovnanian

684 posts • joined 16 Mar 2008

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Palaeoboffins discover 500 MILLION year old ARMOURED WORM

Paul Hovnanian
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Did I tell you ...

... about the fish I caught with one of these? It was THIS BIG!

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Linux bids for UAV world domination by enslaving future skybot army

Paul Hovnanian
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Forget the desktop

Take the high ground.

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BOFH: Don't go changing on Friday evenings, I don't wanna work that hard

Paul Hovnanian
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In the 80s, I worked for the local electric utility. The line crews referred to work slowdowns over contract issues as 'work to rules'.

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Paul Hovnanian
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Re: Its a small change!

Reboot it and see if it happens again.

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Abort, abort! Metal-on-metal VIOLENCE as Google's robo-car nearly CRASHES

Paul Hovnanian
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Terminator

Get the popcorn

This is going to be just like the T-800 vs the T-1000 series Terminators.

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BT: Let us scrap ordinary phone lines. You've all got great internet, right?

Paul Hovnanian
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Time to switch to fiber

We already have workers from the Meth Addicts Local pulling out the old copper.

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Wake up, sheeple! If you ask Siri about 9/11 it will rat you out to the police!

Paul Hovnanian
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Re: Siri drives a 911

Then Siri rats you out to the police. Because you must be speeding.

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Super Cali goes ballistic – Uber says it's bogus (even though its contract is something quite atrocious)

Paul Hovnanian
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What about ...

... workers who prefer to be contractors?

Perhaps this doesn't apply to many Über employees. But I don't want the tax man sticking their nose into negotiations between myself and my clients.

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The insidious danger of the lone wolf control freak sysadmin

Paul Hovnanian
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I've been 'Tim' ....

... on a few occasions.

When management decided to cut funding for an IT system to the bone, I was the only person left who really knew how it worked. So I carried on as the chief cook and bottle washer. It was I who brought up the issue of getting run over by a bus when seeking an assistant as backup.

Finally, they relented and brought in a guy who was (supposedly) fluent in Perl. A lot of our system's glue code consisted of Perl. So, on his first day on the job, I sat him down with my documentation notebook and a read-only account on the server to show him the bits and pieces. I figured I'd let him walk through one function, looking at my notes and the code and get him used to how things were put together. After a few minutes, he asks, "What language is this?" With the following first line staring him right in the face:

#! /usr/bin/perl

Hopeless. But then that was the idea (I found out later). The CIO was actively strangling all in-house IT projects to force management to outsource them to a few firms he had interests in. So I waited until the next round of layoffs and stepped out. A few months later, thanks to my name being plastered throughout all the code comment sections, I was contacted by one of these firms to bring them up to speed on the system with a very lucrative contract. Good times.

Sometimes 'Tims' are created by incompetent or corrupt management.

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Unlucky, Palmer: Facebook's going to BAN Oculus pr0n apps

Paul Hovnanian
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Porn not family friendly?

Isn't this how families are started?

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The Martian: Matt Damon sciences the sh*t out of the red planet

Paul Hovnanian
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The last time ...

... Matt Damon was left behind on an exploration mission, things did not go so well.

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INTERNET of BOOBS: Scorching French lass reveals networked bikini

Paul Hovnanian
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Re: Temperature?

"Needs gps with a warning"

That could have saved some mountain climbers a bit of trouble caused by their overexposure.

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Config file wipe blunder caused deadly Airbus A400M crash – claim

Paul Hovnanian
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Re: The investigation should center on...

"This is because the planes were deliberately designed to prevent out-of-control engines powering back up, to avoid them causing other problems."

How far out of control?

As far back as WWII, aircraft were provided with the capability to go over 100% rated power if throttles were pushed past a retaining wire. It was called War Emergency Power and, although the engines were either rebuilt or scrapped once this mode was engaged, the idea was that it was better to let the pilots push the aircraft and scrap a couple of engines rather then lose the plane.

With modern aircraft, allowing pilots to exceed a false maximum torque value would be a non issue once the DFDR data was accessed and raw data confirmed operation within limits.

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Your servers are underwater? Chill OUT, baby – liquid's cool

Paul Hovnanian
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Re: Heat pipes may offer a better solution

This is the best compromise. There are already sime high end gaming machines that I've seen with self contained liquid cooling. It just circulates from the main processor and graphics card to a radiator at the top or back of the case. For racked servers, it would be a simple matter to have an ordering option for a liquid to liquid exchanger. The board components (other than the processor) can be cooled with a small internal fan and heat exchanger to the cooling loop. The air inside the case would be a closed loop, so no dirt and dust.

Racked servers could be connected to a liquid cooling loop with quick disconnects (similar to what is available for garden hoses). So maintenance, including swapping out an entire blade would not involve going elbow deep into a fish tank. Less coolant would be needed, as most of the server/rack volume would be air. And the coolant would be contained within a loop. So less concern with flammable liquids or weight when adapting to existing building structures.

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Airbus confirms software brought down A400M transport plane

Paul Hovnanian
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Re: Is there any reason for the Spandsh to block the black bod data?

Not block. But the Spanish authorities might be having trouble reading it, resulting in delays.

This was a military transport, ordered by Turkey. Odds are that CVR and FDR data is encrypted. So extra steps may need to be taken with Turkey's cooperation to get a 'plaintext' copy.

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What does it take to find the Antikythera Mechanism? Underwater robots, of course!

Paul Hovnanian
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Re: Don't worry at this rate it is not long until it is a collateral to a loan

Check out the shop down the road with the three brass balls.

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NSA eggheads tried to bork Nork nukes with Stuxnet. It failed – report

Paul Hovnanian
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Big Brother

USB Sticks do exist in NORK

They are used to smuggle news and videos in from abroad to be viewed on portable DVD/SD/USB players. I'd guess that the temptation to sneak a USB stick (infected or otherwise) into a nuclear or military facility is mitigated by the penalties that would result.

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The time on Microsoft Azure will be: Different by a second, everywhere

Paul Hovnanian
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Years ago, Windows systems had a problem with their clocks based (IIRC) on their tracking local time rather then GMT and applying the proper delta. Is this still the case?

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NASA hands Boeing first commercial crew contract for SPAAAACE

Paul Hovnanian
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Joke

Re: CST-100's schedule looks interesting

They've got to move fast. Their software counters are only good for 248 days.

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Creationist: The Flintstones was an accurate portrayal of Dino-human coexistence

Paul Hovnanian
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Linux

"You think people who disagree with you should be murdered?"

Only over the choice of an operating system or init daemon.

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Paul Hovnanian
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Angel

Re: Me, give me strength

"the omnipotent God can make anything happen"

So how do we know that the God of Abraham and the Old Testament is not just a concoction created by the FSM to fool Ham and his ilk?

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Maserati Ghibli S: Who cares what Joe Walsh thinks?

Paul Hovnanian
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WTF?

USA Gets Screwed Again

Just one of my pet peeves ....

The car pictured in this article is the UK version. As such, it has the EU standard amber rear turn signals. Why must all USA bound cars be equipped with red rear turn signals? So we can't tell if you are signaling or tapping the brakes. Or your $100K car has an intermittent tail light?

From time to time, US vehicles are equipped with amber signals. And sold as a 'Euro version' (for a few extra dollars). They are a legal option. So what's with the cheap look on BMWs, Porsches, and Maseratis?

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Adult FriendFinder hack EXPOSES MEELLIONS of MEMBERS

Paul Hovnanian
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Junk e-mail address

Well, I'm proud of it. But not enough to give it it's own address.

Its got better things to do than correspond with strangers. Like do all of my thinking.

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Massive police 'heavy equipment' robot drags out suspect who hid inside television

Paul Hovnanian
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Windows

My wife ...

... would like to know if one of these are similarly effective in extracting people from in front of television sets.

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BARMY bio-boffins are growing DINOSAUR SNOUTS on CHICKENS

Paul Hovnanian
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So now ....

... we can no longer say "as rare as hen's teeth".

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Cop in gay porn film advised to put his helmet away

Paul Hovnanian
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"potential for blackmail"

The only potential for blackmail here is the risk of being fired for something his employers object to. So I'd say that management with overly strict moral standards are what create a potential for blackmail. Remove them and the problem is solved.

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Why don't you rent your electronic wireless doorlock, asks man selling doorlocks

Paul Hovnanian
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Open the pod bay doors, HAL.

I'm sorry Dave ....

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Paul Hovnanian
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"Is this lock at least as usable as a physical lock if the power (or data connection?) goes?"

As I undersatnd it, this lock replaces the inside lock knob. You still have a key hole available on the outside (for backup). On the inside, this lock can be actuated by physically turning the lock/unlock ring or remotely with a Bluetooth app. So it is exactly as secure or insecure as the pin and tumbler cylinder that you select for the outside.

Security is still a question seeing as how some automobile RFIF locks are somewhat less than secure.

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Security bods gagged using DMCA on eve of wireless key vuln reveal

Paul Hovnanian
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Why hasn't the vendor been identified? And possibly the product involved.

I can understand DMCA applying to the necessary reverse engineering and release of proprietary information. That should (rightly) be kept between IOActive and the anonymous vendor until such time it can be established that no fix is forthcoming and the public good can only be served by a release. But I'd like to know (as a potential buyer), if a potential purchase might be defective. And whether I should wait or select an alternative.

The alternative is that I put a hold on all SCADA equipment purchases until such time as the issues become known. And result in harming some completely innocent vendor.

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Boeing 787 software bug can shut down planes' generators IN FLIGHT

Paul Hovnanian
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Re: Something I don't understand

"it is not clear that functions like output regulation, protection and monitoring need to become disabled if the GCU software should crash owing to the overflow of a finite counter."

All of these functions are implemented using digital signal processing techniques. Sampling, filtering and other functions with any kind of time variable will depend on the system clock, timers and event queues. If the clock becomes untrusted, continued operation of the generator can result in a hazardous condition. So a watchdog circuit trips the generator field off, preventing it from producing power and disconnects it from the system. The system design assumes a fault on a single generator channel. So another generator could be switched over to pick up the load. But since this failure mode can affect all channels nearly simultaneously, there is no source left to fall back on.

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Paul Hovnanian
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Re: Something I don't understand

It contains the voltage regulator, generator field and generator main breaker control plus a lot of protection and monitoring functions.

As with practically all modern digital control systems, anything requiring a time delay, interval, scheduling future events, etc. uses a system clock to determine when the next task is to be run. At first glance, this would appear to be a simple implementation. Schedule event at Time = Now + Interval. But there's that nasty limitation of all microprocessors in that time is stored in a register or memory location with a finite upper bound. So when the timer reaches that, it rolls over to zero again (much like a mechanical odometer). So all timing functions must be written to handle this discontinutiy in their logic.

What shocks me about the 787 power system controls (sorry about that), is that the real time controls and event scheduling routines appear not to be based on some stable and tested software libraries. Where such goofs have been caught and fixed early in their development. These are the sorts of goofs that any competent embedded s/w designer should be aware of. But better yet, this level of code is something that an application developer should never have to write from scratch.

This reminds me of an anecdote from my days at Boeing*. I was reviewing the credientials of several candidates for a job which involved the maintenence of a large package of (mainly) Perl code that moved documents around between various systems. One guy submitted a Perl app he had written in his previous job that implemented an FTP session to do just this sort of thing. It was well written, neatly formatted and showed that he had a good understanding of Perl syntax and programming. But it was dozens of pages of an 'expect' like program that called a Unix command-line ftp client. So, during the interview, I asked him if he had ever heard of CPAN. "No", was his reply. "So, you've never seen the Net::FTP module?" "No" again. Net::FTP could do in a dozen lines what he had done in that many pages of code, leaving me to wonder just how 'good' a developer he was.

*Boeing most probably didn't write the GCU code. That's a trail that runs back through several layers of h/w and s/w vendors.

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Fondleslab deaths grounded ALL of American Airlines' 737s

Paul Hovnanian
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Bad Data?

That's the hypothesis some have put forth on another s/w geek board. The flight crew reached the point in their checklist where they were to open a particular file (PDF? Proprietary format?) and they both crashed simultaneously. The solution was to go back to the gate WiFi hotspot and grab a repaired copy.

So we have data required for a flight. And there's no means to checksum it against a vendor's tested copy on download? No signed certificate to make sure Bad People haven't slipped a corrupt copy onto the server? And then a viewer app that crashes the tablet instead of popping up a "bad data" message? If it was up to me, the iPad would keep the last version of map (assuming adequate storage capacity) and allow reverting to the older one.

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Evil Wi-Fi kills iPhones, iPods in range – 'No iOS Zone' SSL bug revealed

Paul Hovnanian
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Not seen in the wild?

Perhaps it has. Multiple iOS devices going dark simultaneously. Scarier yet, where this is happening.

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FBI alert: Get these motherf'king hackers off this motherf'king plane

Paul Hovnanian
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Boffin

"the comms databus is shared."

I'm not certain if this is the case on the 737-800 (Roberts' plane). But in the case of the 787, Boeing asked the FAA on a ruling regarding just this configuration. Here it is.

Aircraft use a special implementation of Ethernet for avionics communications, AFDX. This network can reject data packets from hardware not programmed into its routers static MAC address table. However, there remains a danger in that someone might find a way to upload malicious code into a passenger facing device (the in-flight entertainment system, for example). This could then talk on the AFDX bus, given that the data originates from an 'approved' piece of hardware.

The likelyhood of some basement dwelling hacker managing to get this far and inject anything other then garbage into an avionics subsystem is vanishingly small. However, what with nationally sponsored hacking (Stuxnet, for example), it is entirely possible that a well funded hacker group could invest a few million dollars into an avionics test bench and buld something workable.

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Something's missing in our universe: Boffins look into the SUPERVOID

Paul Hovnanian
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We have found ...

... the universe's belly button.

Or perhaps this is the drain that everything is circling.

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Watch: Nasty JPEG pops corporate locks on Windows boxes

Paul Hovnanian
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Linux

Server Permissions

So what user is this server running as? On my Linux boxen, Apache has its own user account with no special (admin) privileges. So even if someone manages to feed it something that it chokes on (and even with Linux/Apache there is a small possibility) the malicious code it is tricked into running can't get into other subsystems. Particularly if that same box runs a domain controller. With Windows and a clueless admin* this appears not to be the case. Worse yet, Microsoft seems to think that doing some user level stuff in kernel modules is a Good Idea. For performance, of course.

*Sometimes, one doesn't have a choice with Windows. Given that everything has a web based administrative interface (Windows admins can't be buggered to log on and use a command line), IIS pretty much has to run with admin (root) priveledges.

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Because the server room is certainly no place for pets

Paul Hovnanian
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Re: It all made sense

"And all ignoring two factors that virtualization can't fix:"

In these cases, virualization is like chicken soup. Will it help? It couldn't hurt.

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Paul Hovnanian
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Re: Old crap is more like it

"Why is that?"

Because management funds the development and deployment of an app. Once tht's done, the funds dry up. And it's the IT department's responsibility to keep the disks spinning and the hosts up. But nothing more.

Try going to management to request ongoing funding to keep applications current and ported to the latest platforms and see how far you get. IT management 'heros' are made when these legacy systems finally break down and the spare parts hoard for their servers runs out. The person that spearheads your companies program to finally get off IE6 will probably become a potential CIO candidate. If the grunts in IT had managed to keep it current with everything up through Chrome, nobody would notice.

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Paul Hovnanian
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Devil

It all made sense

The arguments about legacy hardware vs keeping apps ported to current platforms, consolidating lots of single purpose hosts into their own VMs, reducing the physical IT footprint and utility bill. All good arguments.

But then, in the last sentence, they said 'cloud'. And I sensed the presence of some cloud service sales rep whispering in my CIOs ear.

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Ex-cop: Holborn fireball comms outage cover for £200m bling heist gang

Paul Hovnanian
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Hmm. According to some sources, the alarm at Hatton Garden did go off. But for some reason, it was not given the attention by police that (in hindsight) it deserved.

It's possible that the Holborn electrical fire and subsequent BT outages may have triggered quite a few false alarms* and resulted in the police ignoring this as just one more. Some forensic analysis into the cause of the fire should be done. And if it turns out that it was vandalism and possibly related to the heist, there are bigger problems. On this side of the pond, utility infrastructure is generally considered to be economically critical. Access to cable routing and other construction details are not easily available to the public. So there is the possibility of insider connections within the various utility companies.

*Triggering false alarms in advance of a burglary is one method of getting a real alarm to be overlooked or even have the system disconnected. Some years ago, a safety deposit box heist was facilitated by the thief renting a box and placing an alarm clock inside it. The alarm clock triggered a sound/vibration sensor in the vault, setting off the burglar alarm. Repeatedly finding nothing, the acoustic sensor was disabled (in the belief that it was faulty). After that, the theif struck.

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Oh, hi there, SKYNET: US military wants self-enhancing software that will outlive its creators

Paul Hovnanian
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Outlive its creators?

Well, there's C, COBOL and FORTRAN.

On the other hand, you could use .NET. And get developers to pursue its creators with sharp garden implements.

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ICANN urges US, Canada: Help us stop the 'predatory' monster we created ... dot-sucks!

Paul Hovnanian
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Re: Or, in other words.

ICANN.really.sucks

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Data centre doesn't like your face? That's a good thing

Paul Hovnanian
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Location

Some years ago, I supported a system located in my companies data center that satisfied practically all of this articles 'should have' checklist. Except that it was built within a few hundred yards of the Seattle Fault.

Sadly, the system had originally been designed to be redundant and distributed. So that one clod tripping over a power cable would result in functions failing over to another site in the Puget Sound region. But the PHBs in IT management figured that all the redundant servers should be relocated to the one central site.

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Non-American nerds jam immigration pleading for right to live in the US

Paul Hovnanian
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Time to replace ...

... that stone tablet the Statue of Liberty is holding with a laptop*.

*A Lenovo, of course.

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Apple swears that NO FANBOI will queue for its new gumble

Paul Hovnanian
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"After all, who wants to stand in the street for days on end,"

This is why they hire homeless people to hold places in line. So here's another employment opportunity lost for the disadvantaged.

Apple might be upset by the difficulty that the general public has in telling the difference between fanboi hipsters and the placeholder hobos.

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Are you sure there are servers in this cold, dark basement?

Paul Hovnanian
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"It doesn't fit a supplier taking equipment. They'd just take their servers and leave the cabling untouched."

Good point. And the supplier would just hide the old servers somewhere on site. Then, when they get the call to put in new units, they just reinstall the old ones, bill the customer for the new hardware and put it (still in the box) on eBay.

Twice, by the looks of it.

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Dot-com intimidation forces Indiana to undo hated anti-gay law

Paul Hovnanian
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Re: More gas please. My fire's going out...

"Science seems to point towards homosexuality not being biological, but instead psychological [1]. So they're not discriminating against something you're born with, as would be the case with e.g. race."

Well, Christianity is a lifestyle choice as well. Should I be allowed to throw them out of my pizza parlor?

As to the nature/nurture argument: Science is pretty sure its both. Kinsey found that about 35% of the male population can be aroused 'both ways'. That appears to be the biological basis. From that point, it's psychological. You can marry a nice gal, raise 2.4 children and live in a house with a white picket fence. With only the occasional extra glance at the GQ models. Or you can march in the rainbow parade wearing assless chaps.

The remaining 65% of us have no choice. We are stuck with the runny-nosed kids, PTA meetings and driving a minivan instead of a Miata.

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Paul Hovnanian
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Angel

Re: I wonder how they're going to know?

"non Christian"

I was thinking more along the lines of how I'd handle a non Pastafarian ordering pizza from my establishment ..... without the obligatory side of spaghetti.

Infidels, the lot of them!

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SPY FRY: Smart meters EXPLODE in Californian power surge

Paul Hovnanian
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Re: Exploding somethings

"Smart meters are full of electronics and capacitors, I suppose."

And batteries. Some smart meters can "phone home" over wireless networks in the event of an outage. That can give the utility operators an up to date picture of system conditions (during storms, etc.) instead of having to wait for customers to wake up in a cold, dark house hours later and phone the problem in.

The battery technology used might be something similar to that used in exploding laptops or burning airplanes.

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Paul Hovnanian
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"So suppose the line had been hit by a couple of million volt lightning strike?"

The upper, high voltage lines are typically protected against lightning strikes by surge (lightning) arresters. The lower voltage lines underneath are shielded by the presence of the higher voltage line on top. Lightning hits the highest point.

But if the upper 12 kV (?) line hit a 240 V line, the 12 kV surge protectors would see no unusual voltage.

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