59 posts • joined 29 Apr 2008
Aw 'cmon - you could spend days debugging a COBOL program if the punch girl missed a slightly faint full-stop. And, despite my disinclination to type long variable names (and let the compiler find the typo's), to this day I habitually put a horizontal bar through 7's and Z's when I write them down.
I would say that COBOL has achieved its longevity (we are talking about mainframes here) largely through:
a) IBM making the s/360, S/370, etc. architectures backward-compatible (genius IMHO)
b) Programming in assembly language being just too hard/too easy to create nightmares out of.
Pace that COBOL ur-program mentioned above - I'll bet it was a sequential batch update ported from the original assembler by someone who happened to be extremely proud of their penmanship!
COBOL - Yuck!
Never been fond of it, even though I've done a fair bit over the years. It got slightly more tolerable when Cobol 2 came along and you didn't have to type with your little finger constantly on the shift key though. As Dominic points out, insanely verbose though, especially when people insisted that variable (or "field") names should be suitably meaningful. Not fun on 3270's without cut'n'paste. These days, of course, IBM do perfectly good 'C' and C++ compilers which work nicely with any s/360-derived data formats if you avoid that string malarky, and there is a perfectly good JVM if you really enjoy typing (pun intended).
I guess it was popular simply because it was intended for accountants and business managers; just unfortunate that, whilst a language syntax may be relatively easy to pick up, writing decent software, for any purpose, remains rather hard.
Re: S/360 I knew you well
ESA is the bit that you are missing - the whole extended address thing, data spaces,hyperspaces and cross-memory extensions.
Fantastic machines though - I learned everything I know about computing from Principals of Operations and the source code for VM/SP - they used to ship you all that, and send you the listings for everything else on microfiche. I almost feel sorry for the younger generations that they will never see a proper machine room with the ECL water-cooled monsters and attendant farms of DASD and tape drives. After the 9750's came along they sort of look like very groovy American fridge-freezers.
Mind you, I can get better mippage on my Thinkpad with Hercules than the 3090 I worked with back in the 80's, but I couldn't run a UK-wide distribution system, with thousands of concurrent users, on it.
Nice article, BTW, and an upvote for the post mentioning The Mythical Man Month; utterly and reliably true.
Happy birthday IBM Mainframe, and thanks for keeping me in gainful employment and beer for 30 years!
Yes, it was arse. Very hard to see how someone could think that using IMS was more advanced than using DB2 in the modern world. Disclaimer - both IMS and DB2 are rock-solid, industrial strength database management systems, very well supported by IBM. Most likely RBS simply went with what they knew best. BTW, if you think it is hard to get experienced CICS/DB2 people these days, try getting good IMS people. It is extremely beloved by American insurance companies though.
Their problems mainly stem from getting rid of people who knew and understood their core systems IMHO.
Especially the one written in Assembler which has comments dating back to the late 60's. Good luck getting someone who can hack that for what RBS expect to be the going rate.
Re: There's your problem right there.
Sigh! I guess the "code monkey" paradigm is still alive and well then. If the central craft and art (I believe Mr Knuth referred to it as such in his series of textbooks) of the software business is held in such low esteem, then I guess that we've answered the question. Programming, how quaint. You wonder how anyone ever managed make a living and/or get a sense of satisfaction out of the simple expedient of sitting on one's arse and figuring out a way of making a computer do something other than just consume electricity and then actually making it happen. Perhaps if we'd all spent the last 30-odd years or so doing things properly before we let the vulgar code monkeys loose, we might be on course to create a multi trillion dollar industry. Oh, wait...
Re: Do you need a degree to...
You are managing the Universal Credit program for the DWP and I claim my £10
There's your problem right there.
"not happy with the idea of being stuck coding in some basement"?
IMHO, the only skill which matters a damn is the ability to write code that does something useful, and does it well - whatever that might be. If an article asking "What is wrong with Britain's bricklayers?" was so distainful of the building of walls, then perhaps the question might be easier to answer.
Satire dead again?
According to this...
Nationwide are a Unisys shop, not IBM. So more like replacing your old Ford Cortina with a new Nissan, rather than your new Mercedes with a new Nissan. In one sense, anyway. Still, huge opportunity for bog-up though.
Re: Alien origin...
If anything, El Reg's headline on this is understated compared to the BBC, who have it on their website today as "Nazi Buddha originally from space" on the "Most Popular" sidebar. Nearly as good as my all time fave (from the Jo'burg Star, back in 1998), "Ex-President Banana, guilty of Sodomy, slips into Botswana"
Re: Mainframe Forum: Where Indians Cavort
Had a look at that: I particularly like the assembler and PL/1 forum where people are posting their homework from some college course in the hope that they will get stuff explained, then getting flamed when they start arguing the toss.
Re: RBS don't seem to understand basic book-keeping
Well, their batch run is intended to be overnight. This implies that file allocations in all the various jobs which comprise the batch are designed for the typical volumes they expect (IIRC they have an double-sized run one night, since there is one atypical run in the schedule, might be Saturday or Sunday, can't remember now).
So they will have to stage the now greater than normal volumes of data somewhere in the meantime. Again this will be atypical, and one can only speculate exactly how it is done. They won't have done it often, although it may well have been tested out.
It may well be this process which is putting in the generic descriptions described by the poster.
Of course, if these transactions are masking descriptive data which other parties rely on for their own processing (which is what it sounds like), then the knock-on effects will be, to say the least, unpredictable.
Well boys & girls
The Today program on R4 this morning (Wed 27th) Let's have a listen.
Re: Breaking news...
Hah! - nice one.
Re: Breaking news...
I can assure you that the Guardian did do its own research. And anything which gets this to a wider audience is OK by me.
Re: no backup of the schedule?
From the CA-7 sysprog manual.
Because CA-7 is controlling a production environment, backup and recovery of its database
becomes extremely important. Backups of the CA-7 database should be scheduled
on a regular basis, at least once each day. If possible, CA-7 should be down or at least
reasonably inactive during the backup, with no permanent updates being made to the
database. All data sets in the database must be backed up at the same time.
Additionally, the backup procedure should be as fast as possible especially if scheduling
is to stop. Two other concerns for backups are to produce a single source for recovery
and, where practical, to provide error checking of index and pointer elements.
With the above items in mind, you may find that no single utility satisfies all your concerns.
On the one hand, the SASSBK00 program provided with CA-7 creates a single
source file for recovery and performs error checking of index and pointer elements;
however, it is slow for a large database. (It is slow because it creates a logical as well as
a physical backup for conversion purposes and therefore produces many more records
than a utility such as IDCAMS or CA-ASM2.) On the other hand, utilities such as
CA-ASM2, IDCAMS, and DFDSS are fast and can produce a single source for recovery,
but they have no error checking of elements.
Seems pretty simple to me.
4 thumbs down? Since this is an entirely accurate description of how RBS Group do their processing, one must assume that there are shills out there. Damage limitation?
Re: Reposted from previous article
It is pretty much disastrous. In RBS world, there are many interconnected systems, some of which can maintain a view of an account for some time, but eventually all transactions need to be reconciled via the main overnight mainframe batch. If this is not done, the account info maintained by these satellite systems (ATM, card purchases, etc) will become stale, and increasingly risky from the bank's point of view. So the CA-7 failure seems entirely plausible. It leaving them in the shit for 4 days, however, is not a situation one would expect a competent mainframe site to find itself in. If this is a consequence of "off-shoring" support, then someone has made a very bad judgement on an essential component of the bank's ability to stay in business and heads need to roll over this.
You're missing something. Your transfer may show up in whatever webby system which shows incoming transactions. Your real account balance is updated overnight in batch on a mainframe.
In other words, RBS/NatWest do not actually know what balance any of their customers actually have in their account, have not done so since this failure occurred, and will not know again until the problem is fixed. So good luck getting your money back out, since they do not know how much you actually have.
A Maximum Fail icon is required for this.
Re: Reposted from previous article
Well, if as the previous poster says, it takes about 12 hours of conference calls to get anything done, then I guess that they held over until the subsequent night's run to try to re-run everything. Of course, unless things are staged very carefully, they then have to process twice the transaction volume, and there may just be some hard limits on the feeder system dataset sizes which are now too small, or the batch runs now take too long, so the on-line daytime stuff cannot start. And undoing the problems which cascade from there is where you really, really want your experienced system people.
Which it seems as if they no longer have.
Re: Reposted from previous article
If it was a software update to CA-7 and they corrupted (or otherwise lost) the various VSAM datasets which hold the schedule database, then I think that backing out and restoring should have been a fairly simple exercise, and the complete failure of an entire overnight batch run is something they would have noticed pretty quickly. Assuming that they are even slightly competent.
Ah - if I recall RBS correctly, then the sequence of processing will be something like this (admittedly speculative, things may have changed).
RBS have a system called Accounting Interface. It applies various accounting "rules" which reconcile the path of monetary transactions from, say, a cash withdrawal from an ATM (say, a Barclays one) back to the original customer account from which the money is debited. These transactions are then fed into the main batch account update program, and everything should reconcile at the end of exercise.
So a mobile payment would result in (possibly):
passage through some gateway to be added to a list of mobile transactions, which would then end up in a transaction file fed into their batch systems (plenty of scope for bog-up here).
In batch, these transactions are typically expanded by other generated transactions such as:
a) a debit from a holding account for the new mobile app
b) a credit back to that holding account from the customer account
c) a debit from the customer account
d) a credit to another holding account for transactions to the target of the payment
e) a debit from that holding account when the payment is transferred to the bank of the payee
and so on...
If the accounting rules governing each of these transactions are bogged-up in some way, the main batch account system (which updates EVERY account) will not reconcile properly, and panic will ensue. To fix this, the transactions via mobile would have to be corrected and everything re-run from that point. And then re-tested quite a few times to make sure they are correct this time.
Anyway, fun to speculate exactly what went wrong (I don't bank with RBS BTW).
Re: Pots calling kettles black?
Lewis Page does tend to attract lots of flak in the comments on his articles, which after all, are only opinion pieces, much like any other journalism. As to where this opinion comes from, well you can read his book; http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lions-Donkeys-And-Dinosaurs-Blundering/dp/0099484420/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1338302704&sr=8-1.
Having read it, I have a lot of sympathy with his viewpoint; not dissimilar to Paxman's "Why is this bastard lying to me?" interview default with politicians.
"Follow the money" is usually a good thing to bear in mind when trying to understand differing sides to a story and the incentives to favour a particular narrative. There are undoubtedly lots of people with their noses firmly in the trough of public funds, and they most certainly do not wish this to attract too much attention. Resorting to an ad hominem is usually a fair indicator that something is getting too close for comfort.
And my particular fave
Am I the only one who raised an eyebrow at ...
"Sources alleged to The Telegraph that ex-NI chief and one-time News of the World editor Rebekah Brooks and her racehorse trainer husband Charlie Brooks are being questioned by police. This is yet to be confirmed."
And those sources might be who?
For sure, the NI gang and others in the same biz have poisoned public and political life for too long, but I don't pay their wages and expect them to work in the public interest. Those that I do, I expect to cop twice the shit, but I suspect that I should not hold my breath for that.
Or am I being too cynical?
Re: SATRE - step backwards
OK, real trains. I commute fortnightly to the office. The rest of the time I'm working at home where I don't emit (or not too much) carbon more than I would elsewhere. It is cheaper to fly there than it is to take the train, and it's 1 hour 10 mins opposed to 7-ish hours, for a start and you don't have to sit amongst the mentally ill for that time (don't know why this should be the case, but it is inevitably is).
But that is only the case for one person. Add one more and the economics are completely in favour of the car, and you get to go exactly where you want, when you want. I could drive door-to-door for £140, whereas the train is £125, but not quite door-to-door (extra £18 for taxis), so it is already pretty close, and the timings are roughly similar. The main problem with driving there is staying awake (which in former times would be solved with over-the-counter amphetamines). A car which could do, say, 50-ish to the gallon and drive itself mostly would probably win the entire argument for me, if it were sensibly priced. Which of course it won't be. If you can avoid the panel problems, a W210 E class Mercedes of a reasonable vintage costs stupid money (about £1,400) and will do 450 miles on a tankfull. In terms of "a much better coefficient of drag because it's a single long tube", in real cash, in the real world, I have some advice for the people running the railways as to where they can best put those virtues to use. And it ain't on rails. Of course, their profits come from the captive commuter market, and it shows. I'd love to use the train, but since it is expensive and sucks mightily, I don't. Buses are even less useful. Where I live, I can get to the nearest big city (17 miles) for £5 return. Station to office, £4, and I have to walk for 20 minutes, and they only run every 20 minutes. How anyone is taken in by the idea that we have a decent public transport system in this country anymore for the general traveller astounds me. It seems to be priced for the rich (who never use it), or people who have so much time to hang about waiting for connections that they cannot possibly be working for a living.
No, as is usual now, it's a device to make money for the favoured, whilst having the appearance of being for the benefit of the public.
Best I stop now before I get onto the racket which is Car Insurance.
You missed a word from the title...
I think that the missing word was "through".
Peace to all.
So, never heard of the "Streisand Effect"
So, can we say, pissing in your garden if you have a perfectly good bog indoors is a bit, say, tacky?
Someone passing by sees you and takes the piss.
Someone with a camera sees you, posts it on the interwebs, and lots of people take the piss.
This is something that could have easily been avoided (no pun intended), and down to your own lack of tack. The size of the audience is entirely coincidental. Privacy is dependent on your (and everyone else's) expectation of a private act in a private place. I doubt that that would extent to "in full view of anyone in the street". Having the right to ones image would be a hell of a thing to preserve. You would probably end up with a total prohibition on posessing a camera in a public place.
OK, lots of "piss" in this comment. No wonder I have a shiny 'S' key :)
So, we accept that all this "human right" stuff is something that we (as humans, with a view on the matter) have made up. Well, fuck me, the truth of the matter is that we made everything up, sometimes in great and florid detail. That said, surely it is not too intellectually taxing to tell the difference between "If we deny you this, then we are bad people who are oppressing you" and "Here's good shit, wade in and fill yer boots (for a small consideration)".
Mr. Cerf is quite right as far as it goes, assuming that everything else is equal. I think that to conflate his statement as a reasonable point with the undeniable trend towards some other bastards limiting decent public services to those who do have internet access is to miss the (strict) point he was making. The blame here lies elsewhere. And that is where you should aim it.
Well, that's how it used to sort of work, before the bastards in power decided to pull the ladder up behind them. I got a free university education, courtesy of the taxpayer (not the government) back in the day, which was much appreciated thank-you. I very much doubt that I would have considered that now with this loan crap, especially as, then as now, the main consideration was riding out a recession doing something more useful than sitting around on the dole. Also, it's rather fun to see the expression on younger people's faces when I tell them that I could get my rent paid for the Christmas and Easter breaks and full income support for the summer. I graduated with £120 in the bank, plus a large repertoire of mince recipies, having never done a days paid work in my life.
Not wishing to get into the science vs. art argument (although I did go to a university where every toilet roll holder had the legend "Arts degrees, please take one" inscribed above it in bold letters) but I guess it comes down to whether you regard it as indulgency or an investment in the future. I can't say for certain if not having that opportunity would have made a difference to how things panned out; neither can I say that it was a hinderance having a degree in a hard science once out in the big world. What I do know for a fact is that I've paid more in tax every month for the last 20 years than I got in a year from the taxpayer as a student and that seems like we both got a fair deal out of it. I also have no doubt that that education was a large part of the componentry of this fact.
I also know that I am hugely unimpressed that public policy regarding education seems to be "Heads, we win, tails, you lose" these days. That being so, I regard Mr. Willetts' statement to be the usual grandstanding dipshittery that seems to pass for debate on this subject.
You spoiled it!
That last sentence over-egged the cake! And you should have started with "I, for one, look forward...". Is this not the internet?
Still an excellent comment though...
I think that this is a contender for the best Reg comment thread EVAR!
A "routine flight"?
This seems to be a common usage. Give me the non-routine flights every time then, where they land safely and everyone gets off and goes about their lives.
Needs a musical accompaniment.
This http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKTKkpWBHdI, and cake? Perfect!
Life is definitely too short to watch these unfunny twats.
So, unless they are going to outlaw compilers and debuggers, Good Luck with That!
I'm sure it is but...
You could also have pointed out that people are a common factor in all crimes, so the ability to track a person from the scene of a crime to another location is a useful tool for the police. So why don't we just issue pass books and have checkpoints like the old South Africa? Could it be because that might be a bit much, even with the currently (mostly) docile British public? Best then to sneak in the police state apparatus in another way.
Anyway, a quick look at the statistics (www.statistics.gov.uk) regarding trends in road accidents is quite illuminating.
Which makes me wonder. How come it cost me much less to insure a car 26-odd years ago when accident levels were higher and cars less safe? And who really benefits financially from points on the license from fixed point penalties, loss of no-claims discounts and fear of uninsured drivers?
You're not a shill from the insurance industry, are you, Mr Anonymous Coward? 'Cos these days I'm finding it increasingly hard not to suspect that it's really all about the money.
Dunno about that
I understand that DB2 is quite popular. Well amongst people who take their data seriously at least, you know, banks, insurance companies, national goverments, etc, etc.
Never watched it - might now!
- the content "was too sexually explicit and inappropriate for the young audience of this show".
Were they actually fucking on the "X Factor" then?
I guess that this explains the previous inexplicable (for my anyway) viewing figures for this so-called "entertainment".
The s/360 line of mainframes originally used 24-bit addressing and had the spare 8 bits to save various things depending on the instruction executed. Back in the mid-60's, 16Mb of main storage would have been quite extraordinary, not to mention extremely expensive (IIRC IBM used to "rent" main storage at about $100 per K per month); this memory would be ferrite code, BTW.
When it became desirable somewhat later on to remove this constraint, in order to maintain backwards compatability - a major feature of the s/3xx/z line over the years; you can take a program compiled in the 60's and run it on your z/196 today - the hi-order bit of an address was used to flag the addressing mode leaving 31 bits for the actual address.
A modern IBM mainframe can happily run 24, 31 and 64 bit addressing modes as required.
What you need to do is to write NOSWEAR/ip, so that you don't get exposed to language that you find vulgar.
Or perhaps, contribute to a forum where you find the house rules more condusive to the sort of argument where the way a point is made is more important than the point made, MUMSNET, perhaps. Or the House of Commons.
Or even better, appreciate the occasional ironic usage regarding an article about "acceptable" vis a vis how an opinion is expressed.
Otherwise, not a bad ad hominem, albeit with a false postulate; why on earth would I write to Ed Vaizey in the terms you suggest?
That said, the point still stands. Why do silly people expect that something that they don't understand should behave the way they want it to?
Hint - it won't kill you to post under a login, unless you don't want people to join the dots.
If they want a safe "internet", they create their own?
Call it the MUM/Ip stack. Your protocol, your rules.
Otherwise what they are doing is the equivalent of walking into your house and criticising the colour of the curtains, carpet, objecting to the wallpaper, etc.
They are a gang of dipshits. Fuck 'em.
I think that I must be getting old, but when I started in this business, there was no such thing as IT (it was know as data processing, which was exactly what it was), and you needed to work for a company with a few mill to drop on the kit. This mostly had a three-letter acronym on the side, was blue, and lived in a big, air-conditioned room. The company which produced this kit also published a big book, known as "Principles of Operation". If you could be bothered to read and understand that, the world was your oyster. Still is...
These days, I mostly write "C" (yeugh!), but it is always satisfying to tell my colleagues exactly what the machine is doing when they get the always-entertaining S0C4 following a crap pointer.
But I digress...
In the modern world, there are toolchains and operating systems for free, with all of the source code. There has never been a better time to learn whatever you want about how computers work with very little outlay to yourself. If someone is interested enough, they can learn about anything they damn well please, from DSP to vector graphics to relational databases.
You can even have a mainframe on your laptop!
If you are getting people looking for jobs who can't be bothered to take a little interest in their subject beyond the spoon-fed stuff, then I suspect you might be searching in the wrong places.
Degree? I know lots of excellent people with none, very few with CS. Mine is Chemistry, so I had to educate myself as regards computers. Experience counts, so get some. Join an open-source project, contribute stuff. It won't kill you and you might learn something useful which can translate into $$'s down the line.
Somehow I don't see decent software going out of fasion real soon now!
#i saw the Northern lights once in the UK
Driving north up the new M24 about 30 miles past the border, circa 1990ish. About the middle of June at about 3ish in the morning. Huge, amazing, colossal green curtains in the sky, shimmering and flickering. Utterly awesome. I dug my ex-wife, who was asleep in the passenger seat, in the ribs, and mentioned the fact.
"Oooh, what's that?". Bloody network specialists!!
Making an Application to Register a .gov.uk Domain Name
1. Review the .gov.uk domain naming conventions
1. Group of Parish and Town Councils
2. Individual Town Councils
3. Individual English Parish Councils
4. Individual Welsh Comunity Councils (Cyngor Cymuned)
2. Review the and terms and conditions for .gov.uk domains
3. Complete an application form
4. E-mail the application form to HCI Data Ltd
5. Answer any queries about the application
6. Wait for a committee to decide on whether or not to grant the .gov.uk domain name
7. Promote your web-site
So that's £100 + vat is it? Nice work if you can get it - cunts!
Kindly stop making excuses for these chiselling basatrds in future, or stop shilling.
And why pray tell
should information that THEY ALEARDY HAVE cost hundreds of hours to release to the people WHO HAVE ALREADY PAID FOR IT?
Jeez, the shills are out in force today.
DB2 on a mainframe is not the same as the UDB or iSeries flavours; in fact, in some areas (eg. running stored procedures) it is quite different. It also offers some performance enhancements which are completely incompatable with UDB and iSeries DB2, so your comment about lock-in is not really valid. Depending on how an application uses DB2, the effort to port between environments can be considerable. You also fail to mention CICS and IMS, both in most likelihood used heavily by the people who make sure that your bank balance or pension balance is accurate every morning.
But all this is to miss the point. Readers who have honed their current skills on commodity hardware and software, using common programming languages and technologies, many donated for free from a community of other programmers, might forget that for many of us the only way into this business was to be fortunate enough to work for companies who could pony up enough (ie. < £1,000,000) for a mainframe, plus attendant controllers, tapes and disks.
The Hercules project has always been (IMHO) about allowing people to run mainframe operating systems on commodity hardware, thus allowing those of us who like to keep our IBM chops up to scratch, or simply scratching an itch, to do so; not ripping off IBM's IP to undercut their hardware business (as if a x86 and a z10 are remotely comparable).
IBM's stance on modern operating systems frustrates those of us who would like to keep the mainframe ecosystem healthy by being to contribute at our own expense, and in our own time.
"These proposals are not new in principle and reflect an approach to policing and law-making that the present government has encouraged."
"The review suggests that ACPO would like to extend this power, arguing for police to be given the right to issue such an order without further recourse to the courts."
There is a widely-used term for places where the police decide what constitutes the law and enforce it without judicial oversight. Regardless as to this being perhaps a useful thing in individual cases, it always boils down to the same old argument. To keep the good people safe from the bad people, we just need to know who the bad people are.
Problem is, who decides who the "bad people" are? And how?
Good God!!!! Alt-Tab to change focus - who on earth uses a mouse for that?
Meanwhile, a proper user interface, where real work gets done looks like this:
Menu Options View Utilities Compilers Help
DSLIST - Data Sets Matching CEE.**.H
Command - Enter "/" to select action
***************************** End of Data Set list
I suppose that if nothing else, the GUI paradigm has allowed sufficient numbers into the biz, that we can have silly religious debates which miss the point of the article again!
Dude, I did make a point by saying actual harm. Consumption of whatever is not an excuse.
But there must be millions of people who have a drunk, smoke, inject and harm no-one.
Paris - who does she hurt?
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