Nah, they didn't think on a large enough scale.
996 posts • joined 24 Apr 2008
In the 1990s one of our customers moved to new larger premises as their business expanded. They had started with a single computer, and then a small 10BASE-2 network with the cable carefully snaked around their main office (tied to ceiling panels, run under carpet edges etc.). Our software ran on a small server in the corner. Fortunately we had persuaded them to install network cards with both 10BASE-2 and 10BASE-T connectors as we knew that they had bought land to build new premises. A couple of years later we were asked to help move the network to the new building that they had built themselves (they were in the building trade).
They had build a small comms room under the stairs with a couple of 19" rack slots and square section metal drainpipe conduits down the wall for the cabling. We bought them a 16 port switch to temporarily connect two computers in the reception areas, and a new server placed under the receptionists desk. We moved the software to the new server - It worked. The owner said that the "proper" cabling was being installed over the weekend next week (Yes, AFTER the building was built), and asked us to move the server and switch to the comms room on the Friday after they closed.
On Monday they phoned us and said that nothing was working and we needed to be there. When we got there they said that it must have been us moving the server that broke everything as no-one could log-on. After faffing about for a while we realised that it must be the cabling. I disconnected all of the wiring to the switch except for the server and connected the nearest reception computer with a 10m cable - The receptionist could log in. After experimenting we found that a couple of users in nearby rooms could also log in, but when we connected up the others everything stopped working. We got blamed for recommending the fancy new networking when the old coax stuff "had worked fine". I made up a ~30m cable and ran it from the switch, up the stairwell, to the bosses office in the upstairs corner of the building - He could log on, when we connected "their" cabling he couldn't.
I asked who had done the cabling - It was his brother in law, who "knows what he is doing, he's an electrician". Oh dear, the conduiting went past the wiring and motor for the lift and the main air-con unit. We pulled one cabled and saw that the sheathing was damaged where he had pulled it through the metal conduit. The business owner got a mate's brother, who's business was actually cabling, to rewire it properly. They earthed the metal conduit and ran lengths of ABS piping down it from the top and put labelled patch panels in at the top and bottom. I suspect that the brother in law didn't get paid.
So, if we go with Sturgeon's revelation, that would mean that there would be a lot less crap to wade through before we find the 10% that isn't crap. We might even have had commerce sites that didn't rely on 100+Mb of obtuse frameworks just to add a purchase to a shopping trolley.
Thank you, mine is the old grubby one with K&R in the pocket >>===========>
Where I volunteer they had a 1990s vintage HP unmanaged switch with 8 x 10Mb ports and one 10/100Mb connection that could be used to connect to a single server (we didn’t). It was fully populated and used to share a single internet connection. It cost several thousand dollars, last year we replaced it with an 8 x 1Gb port switch for less than $50.
Many of us accept that Sturgeon's Revelation applies to equipment, software, manuals, etc. When working in support, I realized that Sturgeon's Revelation could also apply to the people in organizations; in particular: coders, administrators, employers, sales and support staff, and computer users.
In retirement, I still find it useful in attempting a near Zen-like calm.
Not really. I came from an Rdb, Informix, Oracle, Sybase, etc background. Access 97 was fine if you were a professional developer. It’s problems often came from the failure/i ntransigence/l ack of resources of larger organizations’ IT departments - Users just wanted to put together something to get a “simple” job done. The job then became mission-critical and was required to be adequately supported, that’s when “professionals” were brought in - The professionals were (usually rightly) horrified as to what had been produced.
We would use Access 97 to prototype systems for small/medium businesses as we could quickly develop something to show how it might/would work. One customer said that what we had produced seemed to work, so why couldn’t he use what he had seen rather than wait for us to produce a “proper” system - So we looked at what he was trying to do and realised that if we split the system so that the data was separate from the user interface/forms/reports it would be robust enough for his 10 user $2million dollar business. We had already produced a range of single-user shrink-wrap solutions that went back to Access 2.0. I am retired now, but the company still has many hundreds of customers who use Access based applications (The bigger/multi-user ones have a SQL Server backend, but the interface forms and reports are still separate Access clients for each user - These are OK for tens of million rows of data and at least 50 concurrent users, the server does the heavy lifting and Access gives a nice friendly interface).
The historical background of Access is that it owes a lot to MicroRim’s R:Base from the 1980s: Wikipedia link. Microsoft used to sell R:Base with their own sticker in Europe, and when MicroRim got into financial difficulties developing a VAX based product, Microsoft acquired a number of their staff that helped produce Access 1.0, and then Access 1.1 which included Access Basic. Access 2.0 ran on Windows 3.1 was quite fast (contained a fair amount of assembler?) and generally worked fairly well unless the PC crashed/was powered off with an open database. Access 95 was a major rewrite (all in C?) and available as part of the Microsoft Office Professional suite - It ran like a badly crippled dog for anything but a very simple application. Access 97 worked (Very well, if you knew what you were doing).
Thanks, yes, I look like this >>======>
Probably because I was one of the XT/AT installers, supporters, and system architecture & software specifiers at a very large public utility. A tip was to put a spare key in the IBM installer ring folder as nobody ever looked at them after the system was working - Many people "lost" the key/folder when they moved office, so we also kept a register of which key fitted each machine. Our standard install was a WordStar or DEC WPS/IBM Displaywrite word processor (Depending on whether the user's job was as an engineer/scientist or administrator/secretary - Later we standardized on WordPerfect); Lotus 1-2-3; and R:Base or dBase III if required. Generally a suitable pseudo-menu batch file was supplied by us and called from AUTOEXEC.BAT on start-up. Some people paid for the IBM DOS menuing program which was OK, or later we supplied Norton Commander or XTree. When Windows became common we noticed that people who had used NC seemed to prefer separate Windows Explorer windows, and XTree users tended to drag files into one window, so what they learnt first seemed to stick with them later...
The ecosystem thing was/is important. The easy transfer between iPad, iPhone and computer was/is important in smaller businesses that use iPhones. The whole “it just works” thing was nearly true (in my experience, certainly compared with Windows8/10). A sign that they took their eyes of the ball was the decision to drop the Airport/Airport Express - They were expensive compared to an entry level Belkin, but if you had an iPhone and an internet connection they were working within a couple of minutes, and they kept working - Their networks were very extendable, and capable of relatively high-end and sophisticated use by a knowledgeable installer. The prices almost look reasonable compared to later generations of mesh WiFi networking.
"Why operating systems don't offer centralised database functionality as part of the OS, I never understood. Everything from users to configuration files to program installation manifests should really be a database, meaning something DESIGNED to be query and modified like a database. MSIs and things do contain databases but not in the same format. A generic, OS-wide, database feature (even down to filesystems, remember the WinFS promises?) is something sorely lacking."
As I recall, the Pick operating system from the 1970s offered something very similar. I spent a bit of time in the 1990s moving small multi-user businesses off Pick onto Windows [The users liked Pick, so not necessarily an improvement :-) - Their managers wanted Windows...].
The AS/400 OS was object-based and relied on a DB2 relational database. Even Netware (from 2.0 upwards?) included a database, but I think it only included file and user attributes; you could extend this with additional business functionality, but I'm not certain that it was used much - A very large public utility where I worked ran a version of XDB ES on top of Netware in the 80s, but I never saw it anywhere else.
Funnily enough, I have deployed Access as a front-end client to MS SQL Server/MSDE on LANs, it generally worked well.
I am retired now and only fiddle with this stuff - I had some problems with Monty Widenius’ and MySQL going into MariaDB licensing with a product that we developed that was mostly used by not-for-profits and government users; so we normally used licenced MS or open source PostgreSQL and SQLite. It was relatively easy to move from a SQLite DB to Postgres; and not too difficult to move from Access prototypes to MSDE/SQL Server.
I think you are underestimating the potential security problems of "MariaDB, MySQL, Oracle, MS-SQL” databases. SQLite works surprisingly well as an internet database because the web-server is acting as a single user to the DB (i.e. not a true multiuser system). From personal experience, SQLite can work well as a website database engine - See the "Websites" section in sqlite.org/whentous:-
"SQLite works great as the database engine for most low to medium traffic websites (which is to say, most websites). The amount of web traffic that SQLite can handle depends on how heavily the website uses its database. Generally speaking, any site that gets fewer than 100K hits/day should work fine with SQLite. The 100K hits/day figure is a conservative estimate, not a hard upper bound. SQLite has been demonstrated to work with 10 times that amount of traffic.
The SQLite website (https://www.sqlite.org/) uses SQLite itself, of course, and as of this writing (2015) it handles about 400K to 500K HTTP requests per day, about 15-20% of which are dynamic pages touching the database. Dynamic content uses about 200 SQL statements per webpage. This setup runs on a single VM that shares a physical server with 23 others and yet still keeps the load average below 0.1 most of the time."
My wife bought me a Linn Sondek LP12 in 1974, it is still working well. It became a bit of a Trigger's broom as various bits were upgraded, but the basic chassis is still the same. When I was younger, and even more foolish, we spent serious money adding similar "quality" Linn/Naim HiFi kit to it until the late 1980s - So a thoughtful (but expensive) gift became a very expensive hobby. I had a car accident that meant that I could not drive and enjoy it, so it was sold on - The new owner is about 25 years younger than me and still very pleased with it, so hopefully it will live on.
My only other bit of long-lived "high tech" kit (for the time) is a 1941 Longines wristwatch from my father which still works well. Nothing that I have acquired since has/will last anything like as long; but to put it in perspective the LP12 was about a month's wages and the watch about a fortnight's.
Earlier this year I upgraded my 6 to an X. I was quite happy with the 6 until it started to have intermittent problems charging. A bit of experimentation showed that the problem was with the lightening connector, and that cleaning it did not improve things. I was just about to go on a longish trip and my wife suggested that I replace the phone - At her suggestion (because the screen was better, honest guv), I bought the X instead of a 7 or 8.
I must say that, for me, it was a noticeable improvement. FaceID seems to work better than fingerprints (I suspect that may be because many older people’s prints are relatively indistinct) and swiping up seems easier than clicking. I did not own many 3.5mm accessories, so that was not a problem. BUT the article is correct, I will not be replacing the X unless I have too (or until my wife wants to upgrade to my X?).
As I tried to suggest, some of the staff who have “real” computers forced on them may not need them and don’t like them. The bleedy things may not be ideal, but might just be OK. Unfortunately, I suspect that a significant proportion of staff that “need” to produce complex highly-formatted Word documents, and huge business analysis spreadsheets will soon be gone from many medium-sized businesses. In some large businesses even sales staff are being automated out as well as admin people. Quite what society is going to do when perhaps 40-70% of these jobs have gone is not clear to me. A friend has suggested that there will be plenty of personal care and support work available as Western countries’ populations age. I am not happy about my thoughts, as I used to be the rotten bastard who got decide what kit was issued to most of the technical staff in a very large national public utility - I also suspect that many of these jobs (including some of the ones I had) will also be restructured, simplified and automated out.
OK, I’ll take your downvotes. A bit of self aggrandisement before I start - I have been professionally involved with IT and technology since 1971; have written shrink-wrap, not for profit, business and scientific software running on a variety of OSs; been an enterprise architect; run consulting and technical businesses, and have chartered status in one of the basic sciences.
I am retired, but help out as a volunteer supporting and teaching retirees “computing”. Most of the retirees that I see don’t want, or can’t cope with, a traditional computer; an iPad does almost all of what they want. Some other users who may find that an iPad is all the computing that they need might include artists, photographers, some multimedia workers, writers, IT server and website support staff, researchers and managers.
Recently what I have found surprising is the number of small businesses that are run on a mobile phone, often with a tablet too; and the number of younger people who (even on a normal computer) run in a “modal screen” environment where they are mostly doing something in a full screen, with a minimal use of cut & paste.
I do have an iPad Pro, along with an iPhone X, a 2011 vintage iMac, and a couple of small BSD/*NIX servers (as toys). The iMac runs High Sierra, and occasionally Windows and Linux in VMs, but I probably spend most of my time reading the paper on it. I volunteer as a technical assessor for our national accreditation authority, so it is still useful for looking at very large documents and spreadsheets. The iMac is not supported for Mojave, and if it dies I might consider replacing it with a large screen and a Mac Mini; but I have some difficulty justifying this as I have found that I can do much of what I want on the iPad in a split screen with a Bluetooth keyboard, so echoing the iPad to a large screen with an HDMI cable might work OK *for me*. iPads are not aimed at *most* of El Reg’s readership.
Things may be getting a bit better according to nbnco: About half of users are now on nominal 50Mbps (56KB PDF). Apparently they can now expect >30Mbps at evening peak time. This would be consistent with my retirement village’s 100Mbps $33/month unlimited data wholesale plan where we get about 85Mbps down and 38Mbps up during the day; and ~70Mbps down and 30Mbps up at peak times during the late afternoon (Schoolchildren have come home?).
I set up an iMac with the included Postfix system; mail -s subject email@example.com [Enter] type or copy message body [Ctrl]+[D] was a surprisingly cathartic experience.
Having said that, the bog standard Mac email client is adequate, allowing viewing "All headers" and "Raw Source" - Turning off "Load remote content" in messages helps a lot too. Whoops! Having just checked, I have 2,200 current local messages and another 15,300 archived in local mailboxes; as I am retired, I probably should sort and prune them a bit.
"Arbitrary base-60 measurements" go back to at least the Babylonians. Most of us cary an easy way of counting to 60 around with us - Using the thumb of one hand start counting by touching the top joint of the same hand's little finger, then the second joint, then the third; now move on to the ring finger and count the three joints, then the middle finger, and then the index finger giving a total of 12 - Now count off the thumb of the other hand for the first 12, then repeat and count off the index finger for 24, middle for 36, ring for 48, and little finger giving a total of 60. The number 60 is divisible by 2,3,4,5,6,10,12,15,20 and 30 - So for people who traded (and needed to count) a much better system than stopping at 10 (only divisible by 2 and 5), when you run out of fingers (and toes at 20 [sandal wearers?] divisible by 2,4,5 and 10).
Before I retired, I had a customer site that is now a museum, It had been a Victorian prison. I was doing some on-site database work one night, when nature called. I left the small room that contained the server and workstation that I was using and walked past an adjoining small room to get to the corridor. It suddenly felt very cold (yes, it was a cold night, and the corridor was draughty) and more than a little creepy. I knew that the first small room had been a warder’s guard room (from the sign on the door), later I found that the second room was the condemned cell where prisoners were held before their execution.
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