* Posts by John Sager

454 posts • joined 28 Apr 2008


The internet is going to hell and its creators want your help fixing it

John Sager

Too much pessimism

BOB THE BOMBAST has it. All new things bring with them pluses & minuses, and society soon learns the trick of maximising + relative to -. I think the Net is a marvellous tool. The range of stuff to inform & entertain me is more or less inexhaustible. I'm glad I've been alive when it happened.

Privacy, security fears about ID cards? UK.gov's digital bod has one simple solution: 'Get over it'

John Sager

Go Forth & Multiply like a Mayfly

Nothing more really needs to be said.

It's nearly 2019, and your network can get pwned through an oscilloscope

John Sager

It's a valve, as that is its function. In the same way you have it better with rail(way|road) switches, rather than points. Why points? Unless they were thinking of the pointy ends to the rails.

Can your rival fix it as fast? turns out to be ten-million-dollar question for plucky support guy

John Sager

Sometimes you just have to dive right into the guts

Long ago, we were running a mix of VAX/VMS & RSX11 over DECNet, but the PDP11 kit was using 3rd party DECNet software. So one day we added some new nodes & started getting communication problems on the 11s. I passed the problem to the software vendors but they didn't seem to have a clue so I started looking myself.

The DECNet protocol was a bit of an eye opener - my first introduction to networking protocols - but I worked out what the various modules in this software did. I managed to get hold of a PDP11 disassembler & started looking at the module code. This was in the days before hex so the constants all printed out in octal. And guess what stood out - an octal 256 constant! WTF? So I changed it to octal 400 as it should have been, reassembled the code and it worked perfectly.

The constant dimensioned the node table (must have been DECNet phase III) so it overflowed when we added nodes above 173 (octal 255). I also discovered how the software bypassed the licence check for testing purposes, which was handy for quickly adding new nodes before we got a new licensed copy...

Erm... what did you say again, dear reader?

John Sager

Re: Forsooth!

It all went downhill after Beowulf. And Guillaume le Bâtarde didn't help either.

Apache OpenOffice, the Schrodinger's app: No one knows if it's dead or alive, no one really wants to look inside

John Sager

Well, if you want to use old distros the penalty is often to have to use old app versions as well. Same thing happens with XP and Win7.

John Sager

Re: The only thing going for OpenOffice...

A trivial example - type "* Hello", or "1. Hello", into Powerpoint and it automatically becomes a bulleted / numbered list

I take your point, but if you really wanted '* Hello' or '1. Hello' in an ordinary paragraph, how do you tell Powerpoint "no, I don't effin' want that"? MS stuff is very insistent on interpreting what it thinks you want but it often seems hard to avoid that. It's not too hard in LibreOffice to select bulleted or numbered paras if that's what you want.

Watt the heck is this? A 32-core 3.3GHz Arm server CPU shipping? Yes, says Ampere

John Sager

Re: It runs Linux

If it's a server chip it's almost certainly got a little ARM core to do low-level management stuff. Whether it's completely sealed off & spies on you I have no idea though.

Microsoft pulls plug on IPv6-only Wi-Fi network over borked VPN fears

John Sager

Re: "IPv4-only hosts are unreachable without either a dual stack or an address translator"

So how does a host fit into that? You still need a NAT64 equivalent. The guys who developed v6 weren't stupid or arrogant. They just realized that a clean break was needed. Dual stack works fine for me. v4 where I have to, v6 where I can, and the latter will grow with time. The next TV I get might even be dual stack, which would be a small advance.

SpaceX dodges lightning while storms keep Japan earthbound

John Sager

Re: drone ship

Very large speakers at the end of a seriously long exponential horn. That would be a lethal weapon too.

As for recovery, I suspect that it's pretty much impossible from a GTO. Much easier from LEO.

European nations told to sort out 'digital tax' on tech giants by end of year

John Sager

Google have shown the way re corporation tax. They give most of the profit to staff as bonuses. So, the bonus being quite high, the staff pay 40% income tax on it rather than Google paying 20-odd % corporation tax. So are HMRC rolling it it or are they rolling in it? Some lefty complaints really do show up the paucity of thought going on in that domain.

Yeah, go on downvote me. Do I care a flying f***?

Voting machine maker vows to step up security, Fortnite bribes players to do 2FA – and more

John Sager

Directory traversal, still??

You would think this is now a standard thing with websites to bar directory traversal, but obviously not:(

Security MadLibs: Your IoT electrical outlet can now pwn your smart TV

John Sager

Re: The S in IoT stands for security

Well, you can do the VLAN/firewall stuff, and so can I and so can a lot of commentards on here. But Joe & Jane Public? It'll be a long time before manufacturers get around to plug & play VLAN/SSID/firewall configuration.

'Oh sh..' – the moment an infosec bod realized he was tracking a cop car's movements by its leaky cellular gateway

John Sager

Re: Stingray list?

The article seems to suggest it's a router to Internet over cellular service, like the hotspot function on your smartphone. One assumes that the admin port on Stingrays is a bit more secure but then we all know how even the things you would expect to be secure, so often aren't.

Phased out: IT architect plugs hole in clean-freak admin's wiring design

John Sager

Surprised the sockets on different phases were close enough together to connect the servers like that. I thought there were rules about spacing. A server installation I visited once had the cabinets on different phases far enough apart so you could not touch 2 at the same time.

How much do you think Cisco's paying erstwhile Brit PM David Cameron?

John Sager


Choices, Choices (though only counterfactual), Cameron or May? I don't doubt Cameron would have been as strenuous as May in attempting to frustrate the democratically derived result. Perhaps we're lucky in that Cameron would have been more competent at it than May.

John Sager

Oh, I thought for a minute he was the hog in that situation.

Engineers, coders – it's down to you to prevent AI being weaponised

John Sager

Re: Dual use is hard.

+1. This stuff is going to get used for military purposes, just like all the other technical advances going back into pre-history. The better we know what AI can and can't do the better we are in understanding what potential adversaries have available. And it'll also get used by 'our side' - for better or worse it's the politicians who have to make the judgement calls, though no doubt there'll be a lot of screaming and virtue signalling going on in the process.

FWIW I think AI is pretty shit at a lot of this stuff currently but it will get better. The Met's fiasco of a face recognition trial demonstrates that, but the Chinese seem to be getting much better at it.

Declassified files reveal how pre-WW2 Brits smashed Russian crypto

John Sager

That theory is testable

With the volume of Venona decrypt available (only a few percent of the total AFAIR), it should be possible to verify if it's always or mostly a mix of KGB traffic with GRU traffic that decrypts.

You wanna be an alpha... tester of The Register's redesign? Step this way

John Sager

Re: Doesn't change on my phone

It came up with the new look this morning. However, I really don't like it - it wastes far too much space. The previous wasn't perfect, as headlines would repeat further down the list. But even with that I prefer the more condensed list on smartphone - screen real-estate is in short supply!

John Sager

Doesn't change on my phone

Nexus 5 Android 6, Firefox 61.0 with uBlock Origin 1.16.12.

'Fibre broadband' should mean glass wires poking into your router, reckons Brit survey

John Sager

Re: Is it important?

Even on a 200m copper run (120m overhead, 80m u/g) I get quite a lot of variation. I got FTTC service very quickly when they re-parented my formerly EO DP onto the local cabinet. It started off with a raw downstream speed of ~112Mbit/s, upstream around 30Mbit/s. Then, as more of the houses nearby came on the downstream speed has steadily dropped so the best is now 90Mbit/s, but that also varies with an SNR margin that goes up and down. Why, I have no idea - it's unlikely to be water as it hasn't rained here for weeks. I'm assuming BT haven't switched on vectoring yet.

Tech team trapped in data centre as hypoxic gas flooded in. Again

John Sager

Re: Buncefield

Our old boiler used to light up with a bit of a thump, and that morning my wife remarked on how noisy the boiler was becoming. Only later did I realise it was the bang from Buncefield, attenuated a bit over here east of Ipswich!

Mastercard goes TITSUP in US, UK: There are some things money can't buy – like uptime

John Sager

It's almost as easy to have 2 different CC providers & just use a direct debit to pay off the minor one. I have a Visa CC & debit card from my bank plus a shop-supplied Mastercard. The MC bill gets paid off monthly by DD. That way the cards use two completely different back-end systems. Anyway, I can't remember having a card declined due to system issues (even the Visa debit went through in Tesco amidst their problems a while back), but I have had the MC declined more than once because the transaction got caught by a fraud-detection process. That is bloody irritating, especially when abroad.

And in current affairs: Rogue raccoon blacks out city power grid after shocking misstep

John Sager

Re: Furry Vengence

We saw a raccoon in Stanley Park when over there a few years ago. Not, perhaps, unusual, but Stanley Park would make a good base for the Special Raccoon Service Regiment for running ops in Washington state...

Vodafone drank Facebook's network Kool-Aid … and LIVED!

John Sager

Temporary optical system performance degradation?

I thought optical fibres, especially in the ground, were fairly proof against the sort of performance degradation that e.g. copper systems suffer from water ingress. So what temporary degradation mechanisms are there, apart from the backhoe-induced total break?

Software engineer fired, shut out of office for three weeks by machine

John Sager

On my last day at work my manager initiated the process, and when I went back to my office a few mins later to pick up my stuff, the key card wouldn't work. Had to borrow his card to get in!

Microsoft Edge bug odyssey shows why we can't have nice things

John Sager

Standard big company shit. Turf wars, NIH, general mis-communication. You would, however, expect a large software company to be better at this.

User spent 20 minutes trying to move mouse cursor, without success

John Sager

Nope. Definitely not. Their bosses would probably have tried to do you under the Computer Misuse Act.

Trademark holders must pay for UK web blocking orders – Supreme Court

John Sager

Re: Good decision

However did this have to get to the Supreme Court? Some strange judicial thinking going on further down.

Internet engineers tear into United Nations' plan to move us all to IPv6

John Sager

Re: Mapping plan

Even my small home network is hard to configure for IPv6

Perhaps that's a router issue? My v6 network autoconfigures fine - I just run radvd and it all happens. The firewall config wasn't too hard - lots of good info on the net. It's true I have some v4-only hosts (TV, etc mostly) so run dual-stack. But all my laptops, phones, servers etc all use v6 when they can.

I think the home router manufacturers have a lot to answer for here. Mine is a home-brew linux-based router, and once you get the design right it all just runs. So why can't the mfrs get with the program?

Amazon can't or won't collect sales tax in Australia

John Sager

Re: Nice headline

An Oz friend played us this when we were over there:


Mirror mirror on sea wall, spot those airships, make Kaiser bawl

John Sager


Do you really need precision to 4 significant figures on your unit conversions - e.g 5.8m (19.02 ft)? Why not just 19 ft? Similarly for driving distances. 2, or possibly 2.5 sig figs (to the nearest 0.5) is perfectly adequate and it reads better. You need lots of precision on the GPS coords, as you have, but that's the only place it's important in this article.

UK Parliament roars: Oi! Zuck! Get in here for a grilling – or you'll get a Tower of London tour

John Sager

Yup. Political grandstanding. Zuckerberg should tell them to twirl on his middle finger.

if dev == woman then dont_be(asshole): Stack Overflow tries again to be more friendly to non-male non-pasty coders

John Sager

Nope. It's a dog...

NetHack to drop support for floppy disks, Amiga, 16-bit DOS and OS/2

John Sager

Re: Start the kids on Wumpus.

HP53305A s/w for driving a HP53310A modulation domain analyser. A rather Cinderella instrument but good for us as they are cheap now on eBay.

John Sager

Re: Start the kids on Wumpus.

Hey, that brings back memories! I wrote an implementation of Hunt the Wumpus in Coral 66 running on ICL 1900 series machines back in the late 70s. 300 baud dial-up with thermal paper terminals - that was real hacking!

On the subject of Software Archaeology I'm currently trying to resurrect some instrumentation software from the early 90s - Visual Basic 3 on Windows 3.x. I salute the retro gamers who thought developing dosbox was a good idea. That runs Windows for Workgroups fine under Linux. With an old version VB3 decompiler, Visual C++ 1.52 on WinXP in a VM and IDA on Linux, I've sussed out how it all works. So now I've actually managed to build a 16-bit DLL that successfully emulates the driver for the long-dead ISA GPIB card that was originally used by the software. That's probably more ancient x86 hacking than I ever did at the time - talk about climbing up the learning curve again! Next step is to build some 'hardware' in dosbox to talk to my USB to GPIB adapter.

OK, this time it's for real: The last available IPv4 address block has gone

John Sager

Re: Compatibility

Hurrah for everyone who found it "simple" to migrate to IPv6. Now kindly share your tutorials rather than sniffing at us old dinosaurs

Actually ISPs are already doing that. I've had V6 for many years but I had to build my own Linux-based border router/firewall. And V6 runs seamlessly internally on all our hosts - Linux, Windows, Android - when they talk to inside & outside V6 servers. I was surprised and fascinated to discover on holiday in Hawaii last year that the local (cable) ISP provided V6 service. The cable router was an Arris box so that manufacturer seems to have cracked the amazingly difficult problem of supporting V6 in their border router (it must be hard as so few other router mfrs seem to be able to do it).

John Sager

Re: I've been trying to get this happening

Perhaps the answer is to move social media to IPv6

That's already happened: ...:FACE:B00C:... in their V6 addresses, though they are still on V4.

Danish Navy expert finds no trace of exhaust gas in private submarine

John Sager

Re: Hope the judge is keeping track.

Submarines have CO2 scrubbers that would quite possibly lower the concentration to well below atmospheric in the absence of breathing people. However, being a homebrew sub, he could have skipped on that feature.

Europe dumps 300,000 UK-owned .EU domains into the Brexit bin

John Sager

Re: One more thing.

I don't suppose Vote Leave gave it a thought, or the Remain campaign for that matter. It wouldn't have affected the vote one iota.

There will be plenty of 2nd order effects like this, but we'll just work through them.

John Sager

Plenty of venom still

Lots of venom in these comments, so Brexit is still a very sore point for some.

As far as .eu goes, I guess, as Mr Worstall says, their gaff, their rules. It does seem a bit petty though to threaten to cancel them all next March. I would be quite happy with no new ones from UK and possibly no renewals.

However it's all of a piece with the notion, almost a religion in the Commission, that EU is a very important symbol of the underlying dogma, and wishing to leave is heretical. Hence the excommunication. At least we don't have the Brussels Inquisition yet

Java-aaaargh! Google faces $9bn copyright bill after Oracle scores 'fair use' court appeal win

John Sager

Re: so it's a win

You might hope that Judge Alsup would go that route but this will end up in front of a jury for damages.

You must be yolking: English pub to launch eggstravagent Yorkshire pudding

John Sager

Re: NO NO NO NO...

Jamie Oliver? For Yorkshire Pud? Or is that a wind-up? When I were a lad my Mum's Yorkshire pud with golden syrup was the pudding to die for, and I still occasionally eat it now. I say pudding, as we had never heard the word 'dessert'.

Linux Foundation backs new ‘ACRN’ hypervisor for embedded and IoT

John Sager

Re: Fractal?

No, you switch on the radio and all the lights go out

You jest, but I was coming back from the Joe Bonamassa concert in Birmingham the other night with a friend in his car - a recent BMW - and the rear reading lights kept coming on for no obvious reason. Apparently it's a known fault & not yet sorted by BMW. The lights are controlled off the Can bus.

You always wanted to be an astronaut, right? Careful: Space is getting more and more deadly

John Sager

The main problem so far is getting decent radiation shielding out of Earth's gravity well, and if we were to go interstellar, out of the Sun's gravity well too. Of course if we were to turn into cockroaches it would help...

Rant launches Eric Raymond's next project: open-source the UPS

John Sager

Re: You gets what you pays for with UPS

Too true. I've got a APC one now on its second battery, and it gave me fair warning that the first one was on the way out. However, like a lot of other people, I have reason now to hate systemd as it does shutdown in a completely different way, so the first power failure after I upgraded Ubuntu didn't shut the server down. It took me several goes at hacking on the apcupsd scripts to finally get it working reliably. It's still got a 'hope and pray' delay in the process to deal with an inbuilt systemd delay:(

Cavalry riding to the rescue of DDoS-deluged memcached users

John Sager

Re: Auto responders

Well, I wouldn't like to be the one to test this in court, especially if the dosser was in the US. Then we get into all the extradition shit that a few naughty boys here have had to endure.

Europe is living in the past (by nearly six minutes) thanks to Serbia and Kosovo

John Sager

Re: For those who wonder...

That's why they are going to use DC for the big windfarms in the North Sea. The routes are so long underwater that AC would lose too much reactive power in the capacitance to the seawater.

Britain ignores booze guidelines – heads for the pub

John Sager

Shock! Great British Public not stupid!

Looks like most people gave this advice the consideration it merited, i.e. none.


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