* Posts by rbf

16 posts • joined 9 Apr 2014

One click and you're out: UK makes it an offence to view terrorist propaganda even once


Total Resistance by H von Dach

This book was written for the Swiss public in case of Soviet occupation (they were occupying substantial parts of neighboring Austria and Germany at the time of writing).

The eye of the beholder has much to do with whether this is a book for freedom fighters or terrorists.

I helped catch Silk Road boss Ross Ulbricht: Undercover agent tells all


Once you bring in other people, you have people who when informed by the authorities of how many years they face in the slammer, will turn.

Best not to operate in a jurisdiction where you stand to get life without parole, or one that will extradite you to same. Good luck finding one.

And NEVER be in proximity of evidence. That's a tough one.

There's been a few Silk Road successors. Some have been caught. Others have suddenly folded their tents and absconded - perhaps the best strategy as you can be gone before the investigators can track you down.

IBM HR made me lie to US govt, says axed VP in age-discrim legal row: I was ordered to cover up layoffs of older workers


Definitely a Big Data problem

IBM is doing what other technology companies have been doing, but because of its size, there's a critical mass of laid off over 40 employees.

To all you CS students: You want the laid off employees to win big time and take Big Blue to the cleaners.

If they lose, well you better put being laid off by 40 in your IT career plan.

IBM insists it's not deliberately axing older staff. Internal secret docs state otherwise...


It's not just IBM

I won awards at Xerox, but that didn't stop me from getting dumped at 55. What with the ProPublica and Mother Jones collaboration, I'm dreaming of 50% salary and pension contribution to 65 in wrongful dismissal awards to those over 50. Might be on the way in Canada.

And yes, it's a real bitch for a techie over 50 to get another job.

My advice to anybody aspiring to an IT career is it ain't worth it unless you can cash out at 35.

What's Big and Blue – and makes its veteran staff sue? Yep, it's IBM


Not just IBM and not just in the last few years

I got downsized at 55 in 2001 along with a number of other similarly aged employees, only to see my former employer advertising open positions a few months later at lower salaries.

Skills? I picked up relational database and a couple new languages in my last couple years with that employer in my usual way - by picking up the manuals and getting on with the job.

Plus I had just delivered a project on time and budget. But it conflicted with a corporate fantasy that took several years and tens of millions more to deliver.

'Incomprehensible failure' – Canada's $1bn Phoenix payroll IT fiasco torched by auditors


Only a government could survive a payroll system collapse

Way back when, I was given a project to port a number of engineering applications mostly in Fortran from VM to (yes) Multics. So I picked an application guinea pig for a pilot project to quantify the effort that would be required to do the whole lot.

The vendor touted its Conversion Support Team; so I brought them in for a meeting. In their eyes, my pilot would be a major project - not a good omen.

The pilot quickly crashed and burned with several mysterious messages from Multics and the compilers. My conclusion was that the technical demands vastly outweighed the available expertise including the vendor Conversion Support Team.

The conversation project was called off. I heard some talk that I had failed while I had in fact spared the company from a fiasco that would have cost many times my salary over my entire tenure.

The Multics system was eventually brought in to replace the vendor's earlier Time Sharing System. It gave no end of trouble and I occasionally stuck my head in my manager's office to remind him of the misery I had spared him from.

Xerox CEO resigns as company caves to activist investors


After Icahn's treatment, will Xerox end up asset stripped and a shell of its former self - or, mirabile dictu, a viable technology business?

When I was there it had top notch technologists and corporate management mentality better suited to a commodity operation.

Bottom line, Xerox has over some decades become a case study that constant cutting is counter innovative.

Facebook confirms Cambridge Analytica stole its data; it’s a plot, claims former director


FB Screwed up Big Time

Academic Research is all well and good, BUT any researcher with the slightest bit of integrity would have anonymised the data so that no trace back to individuals would be possible. In addition street addresses should have been converted to census tracts.

FB was sleeping at the switch as fifty million horses sauntered out of the barn.

Сильная Россия!

Sack the Xerox CEO 'immediately', yell activist investors


Corporate Kool-aid

Xerox has been drinking it for decades since before I joined up in 1990 or so, and got downsized in 2K - awards and commendations notwithstanding.

What bothered me was that Xerox would happily invent a software technology, market it to customers for several years - and then walk away from it leaving customers to replace or rebuild applications from scratch.

The successful copier salespeople rose to executive ranks without ever understanding the importance of software in the high volume printing data center environment.

Uncle Sam outlines evidence against British security whiz Hutchins


US Constitution applies to all within the country

One lawfully admitted of course, as he was.

Once detained, the mantra is "I need a lawyer"

IBM: ALL travel must be approved now, and shut up about the copter


It's been a long time coming

By overpricing mainframe cycles, IBM locked itself out of new applications on the mainframe and condemned itself to a slow decline.

It's been a couple decades now and we may be on the final decade.

Hackers uncork experimental Linux-targeting malware


China and Romania Colleges

Long time ago but it was easy to collect "popular" passwords by checking ssh logs.

You had to have a cert that I handed out on a USB key.

NZ High Court rules US can extradite Kim Dotcom after all


Conspiracy to Defraud

Yup, if you and one or more buddies get together to infringe copyright, it's Conspiracy to Defraud.

Who woudda thought!?

KD's only hope is to persuade a US jury that he was doing his best to respect copyright. His chances are slightly better than a guy with a Muslim name.

Paper factory fired its sysadmin. He returned via VPN and caused $1m in damage. Now jailed


System Slowly Sank into Sunset

Before a booked vacation my boss had me explain a weekly database update procedure to a non technical employee. Yes, there was a a SQL script to run. The trick was handling the exceptions, much due to the fact that the multinational corporate database was machine centric while the national CRM database was understandably customer centric. Machines would be swapped between customers and a fair bit of database leger de main was needed to tidy things up.

The non techie with no concept of SQL had no chance comprehending page long SQL commands or what the exception messages met.

A couple weeks later I was downsized. The weekly updates fell by the wayside and the CRM database inexorably drifted away from reality to the increasing confusion of support staff and customers.

Some years and tens of millions later a corporate system eventually came into operation.

I didn't have to so much as lift a finger.

US authorities name five Chinese military hackers wanted for espionage


Microsoft -- China's (and other hackers') Best Friend

We can begin with lots of security by obscurity.

Those with longer memories will recall agreements between China and MS to allow China access to source code.

Some folks in the PLA did some serious study and found some good holes -- much as was done at NSA.

Yes there's also holes in open source -- knowledge of which spooks and crims tend to keep to themselves. But security research (poking for holes) can and does get honest folks charged -- giving said spooks and crims a longer time to work undisclosed exploits.

Spare a tear for management which will have to spend serious money on security -- beginning with skilled security personnel and some serious infrastructure and password revamping. I'd keep the old password servers so that any password there would be invalid -- the PLA and NSA already have them.

Why won't you DIE? IBM's S/360 and its legacy at 50


I did some IBSYS Fortran on a university computer for an actuarial calculation which got me transferred to the IT department which had just got a Model 50 with 2311s and 256K -- the minimum to run a 7090 emulator. Started in OS/360 PCP. These days still tweaking channel programs to optimise performance.

The microcode came on special stock punchcards which were mounted on swingout gates. One of our programmers on a DOS machine was having trouble with Test and Set; so I wrote some code to exercise the instruction and store the condition codes; then showed the results to our non-IBM hardware engineers who at length agreed that TS was not working correctly. They changed the microcode. The next day JES2 would not run. The dump showed it waiting after a TS. The engineers had swapped microcode cards between the two machines.

Mainframes are not winning new applications because IBM overcharges for classic mainframe workloads. You can run pretty much all the new stuff on much less expensive restricted mainframe processors specialised for Linux, Java, etc which is great for virtualisation.

Banks, governments, insurance companies have strong motivations to migrate their classic applications off and a number of companies are ready to help them. But the heavy duty big stuff is real tough to move.

Though many sneer at mainframes, the fact remains that the most spectacular project failures happen in the new technology arena.

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