* Posts by Doctor Syntax

16426 posts • joined 16 Jun 2014

NOTHING trumps extra pizza on IT projects. Not even more people

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

"Oh look, another DevOps article."

And camouflaged. The editors are realising that if they make it too obvious in the title we'll just ignore it.

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Re: The Mythical Man Month - legit free download

"Or go direct to an apparently legitimate free download"

That's the 1st edition. There was a second edition that celebrated the 20th anniversary of publication. THAT was published in 1995. The original is over 40 years old and we're lumbered with manglements who still don't get it.

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Re: Odd source

Agreed. And what's more, why say that Dilbert was mocking Brookes? Just the opposite.

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Re: DevOps

"The stamp people?"

Cold Comfort Farm?

Universal Credit slammed by MPs: Late programme branded 'unacceptable'

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Not surprised

A colleague at one of my clients who did a fair amount of work for the DWP described their staff quite succinctly: "Not the sharpest knives in the box".

When customers try to be programmers: 'I want this CHANGED TO A ZERO ASAP'

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"Throughout my long career it was a good technique for helping people to solve their own problems."

And, of course, for solving your own. I found that out ... Good Lord! Was it really so long ago?

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Re: Customer always right?

Why edit it? Just quote it in full.

Little warning: Deleting the wrong files may brick your Linux PC

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Re: So, exactly...

"This really is a case of stupid users doing stupid things..."

Or a curious user being curious. Didn't Chernobyl happen in a similar way?

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Re: Sounds Really Clever?


My point was that these different approaches have different strengths an weaknesses. Windows, as you say, has been trapped in an ancient past and is, in consequence, somewhat inflexible.

The Unix approach creates a unified file hierarchy out of as many disk partitions as the installer deems necessary or has available. My example was an instance of that - you can do a clean reinstall or upgrade of a Unix system and still preserve the users' home directories in /home, locally installed S/W in /opt etc provided you gave the matter a little thought when you did the initial install. OK, your can back up C:\Users and restore it later if you try to do the same thing in Windows but at best it's an extra step and at worst a real pain if your OS is so hosed you can't boot.

On the other hand rm -rf * when you're in / or rm -rf / is indeed dangerous IF you're working with root privileges. But it's a consequence of the flexibility that the single hierarchy brings. And there's always rmdir which by default will only let you delete a single, empty directory or rm -i which interrogates you before deleting anything or even rm -r without the -f flag.

By the way a mistyped mv when you're at or near / can also be drastic. rm -rf is the one thing you're warned about from pretty well the first day you learn anything about administering Unix-like systems but mv not so much. It's the one thing to have caught me out with a typo in >30 years.

After those >30 years of dealing with Unix and Unix-like systems I have a distinct preference for their flexibility and elegance; those drive letters just seem so clunky in comparison.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: This is like BIOS flashing by Unix commands

'Nobody has yet said whether the hardware in question has a "CMOS reset" jumper'

Or if it has a glued-up case so you can't get at it!

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Re: Sounds Really Clever?

"Well I suggest one of the advantages of the drive letter paradigm, if used correctly, is that it can set a scope limit on commands. Which when you are dealing with non-IT expert users can be useful..."

You have C:\USERS. Now reformat the C: drive to reinstall the operating system.

You have user directories in a separate file system mounted on /home. Now reformat the root file system to reinstall the operating system.

Which works for you?

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Re: Sounds Really Clever?

"drive letter paradigm for certain operations which first saw the light of day in CP/M"

AFAICR A good deal of CP/M's user interface was borrowed from the PDP8's operating system. Or did that borrow from something earlier still?

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Re: Sounds Really Clever?

"Any that do deserve to brick their machine."

No, they deserve a better machine for their money.

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Re: Old Linux Steam Client ...

"Is there a way to make "rm" command safer?"

The -i flag.

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"Who thought this is a good idea, anyway?"

See Dazed & Confused's post for a valid use case.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: This is like BIOS flashing by Unix commands

"The "rm -rf /" is an issue since Unix was conceived over forty years ago, so why is anyone surprised?"

It's not an issue. It's a fact of Unix life. If you want to rm -rf / why shouldn't you? You simply should be aware of the consequences in exactly the same way as you should be aware of the consequences of formatting your C: drive.

OTOH firmware designers who make variables accessible to the OS should make their firmware sufficiently robust as to default to sensible options if the user, via the OS, does something nasty to them. And being bricked is not a sensible option. In this case it seems that the OS will have to be modified to protect mobos with less than sufficiently UEFI firmware.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: So, exactly...

"Are we talking about a situation where the files are actually in the mobo bios, and Linux is making pointers to them"

No. The kernel has access to the mobo hardware and presents them to applications (including rm) through the same mechanism (the same semantics if you want to get technical) as files. Unix lookalikes do this for any hardware resource.

The other thing to realise here is the Unix concept of mounting file systems. The root file system is a disk partition mounted on virtual mount point /. If you have any another disk partitions containing another file system such as your home directories you will need to provide a mount point for it. In the case of your home directory collection you will normally create a directory called home under the top level of your root file system. This is /home. You will then mount your home file system there so it appears as /home. The overall file system thus appears as a set of directories and their files nested within each other and a command such as rf -r will navigate it as a whole. Nevertheless it is still a number of individual disk partitions, each formatted as a separate file system mounted one on another.

The file system-aware tools such as rm are not aware of the underlying partitions. Conversely formatting software is aware of the partitions but not of the mounting arrangements. If you were to re-format your root partition it would not touch your home partition which would simply loose its mount point until you made a new /home directory on the new root partition. This, by the way, is why it's a good idea to set up a Unix-like system with a separate /home file system - you can reinstall the operating system without losing user's data.

Remember that I said hardware resources are made available by the kernel through file system semantics. We need a "file system" where they can be placed. Traditionally this is done through /dev. A virtual file system is mounted on the /dev mount point. Disks, disk partitions, keyboard etc will be "files" here. But such virtual file systems are the manifestation of specific kernel functions and not physical formattable disks they can't be reformatted. More recently kernel resources have also made available through file semantics via another virtual file system under the /sys mount point.

Just as real file systems are not touched by formatting the partition with these mount points neither are the physical items, including the mobo resources, if the root file system is reformatted although, of course, they won't reappear on the reformatted partition until there's a running kernel in place. But just as real files are accessible by file-aware commands, so are the virtual files. And in this particular case the file system semantics offered by the kernel included deletion of what shouldn't have been deleted.


Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: Sounds Really Clever?

"It's everything to do with systemd"

Much as I share your general opinion of systemd it appears not to be the culprit this time. Read to the end of the article.

Safe Harbor ripped and replaced with Privacy Shield in last-minute US-Europe deal

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"It's not worth the paper on which it is written."

Paper? It's not even worth the ink used to sign it, let alone write it.

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What's a US explicit promise worth? Very little, I suspect. What effective verification can be put in place if US legislation obliges companies to lie about demands from the NSA?

This will be going to the ECJ sooner rather than later and will be struck down again.

For sale: One 236-bed nuclear bunker

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Re: how much extra

It's in Co Antrim so there's plenty of real lava (basalt) about, it's just rather cold and old.

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Visiting the link and scrolling down reveals a list of "similar properties". They're not that similar; they're all much better disguised as ordinary buildings.

TalkTalk admits losing £60m and 101,000 customers after THAT hack

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"The biz said the costs of restoring its online capability and enhancing security are expected to total £40m-£45m."


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"You need the patented Harding eight step plan!"

Far too elaborate. You need two steps:

1. Have a supine board.

2. Have supine media.

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Re: The amazing thing

"You're forgetting that Call-Me-Dave is one of her best mates."

Irrelevant. The problem is that nobody in the media is prepared to go for the jugular. She shouldn't have been able to get through that first morning's media interviews without every single one challenging her on the point that she was CEO yesterday and is still CEO this morning. Especially with the recent precedent of the CEO of VW having quit: "Baroness Harding, Herr Winterkorn did the honourable thing. Why haven't you?"

It's at times like this that Robin Day is so sorely missed.

UK govt right to outsource everything 15 years ago – civil service boss

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"Manzoni said the Cabinet Office had 32 consultants on its books paid more than £1,000 per day."

It also has a Manzoni on the books. It might be one too many.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: Do they think we're daft?

"a final/average salary pension"

Don't be fooled by this. There are two factors. One is the rate at which the pension accumulates (1/180ths Civil Service vs 1/60ths industry) and salary. Consequently my Civil Service pension is a good deal smaller than my industry pension even though it covers slightly more years worth of service.

Firing a water rocket to 1km? Piece of cake

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Re: Zippy

How long to cross Wales?

Microsoft vs US.gov, Internet of Stuff, etc: What's up with 2015's legal cloudy issues?

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Irish amicus brief in the Microsoft case

As Ireland has raised this as a matter of recognition of sovereignty I wonder if, should MS lose, they'd raise it at the UN.

Windows 10 overtakes Windows 8.1's market share

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Re: Let's face facts

"And other large chunks of the world (cough China cough), where nobody wants to pay for new software when the previous pirated version still works just fine."

Maybe that's what he meant. After all, a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Windows 10 will now automatically download and install on PCs

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Re: I upgraded back in November, and Windows 10 is working great.

"Second biggest change is even fewer system problems."

You keep saying things like this. Have you taken note of even one of the posts here where an upgrade has failed or applications have broken?

Nor have you addressed the spyware aspects.

Nor the "I want to update and I want to update NOW" syndrome (I recently saw someone trying to give a demo of some S/W on his laptop. He switched on & the thing promptly started to install upgrades and then insisted, in typical Windows fashion, on a reboot).

As a consequence your posts lack credibility.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: What's all fuss is about ?

"And contrary to popular belief on this forum Linux Mint is not a replacement for Windows."

You're saying that as if it were a bad thing.

Lincolnshire council IT ransomware flingers asked for ... £350

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Re: Zero day?

"Also, quite a few of the newer copycat variants of cryptowall have had serious flaws."

The authors of TeslaCrypt 3, which hit my cousin, has learned from the security analysts' work on 1 & 2 and it's new so maybe this is the zero day. So far there isn't a key recovery mechanism AFAICS but I think I've got back most if not all of my cousin's files.

Ofcom's head is dead against Three and O2's merger

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Re: Easy fix

"Not only are they already everywhere"

They're not. They're in areas where there are houses needing a connection. Even if there was a femtocell on every post (and can you imagine anything bigger being allowed?) where there are no houses there'd still be no coverage.

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"Imagine not having to actually pay for all that backhaul anymore across the country."

Unless times have changed that wouldn't be allowed.

Chef reviews internal update plans after 'degradation incident'

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Re: Errm...?

I think it's one of these DevOps/Continuous whatnot/cloud things that out beloved vultures are always going on about. How embarrassing.

Safe Harbor crunch time: Today's the day to hammer out privacy deal

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"EC officials are obliged to make sure the ECJ's concerns are dealt with adequately. Diplomatic fudges and creative ambiguity are in limited supply. In addition, a failure to reach agreement would disproportionately impact US businesses such as Facebook and Google, putting US negotiators in a tough spot."

As one of Nixon's henchmen said, when you have them by the balls their hearts and minds will follow.

It's all getting very interesting.

'International tax' needs reform. Google's chicken bill makes me chuckle – comms guy

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"The point is the corporation tax is levied in the economic activity where its profits happen...we have 17,000 software engineers in California...The company has 2,300 employees in the UK"

So divide up the profits according to the number of employees in each country and apply the countries' relevant tax rates to each portion.

UK taxpayers should foot £2bn or more to adopt Snoopers' Charter, says Inquiry

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Re: Democracy

"don't be surprised to see the Corbynites come out against it."

OTOH if they were to get into power they'd probably change their tune although in such circumstances that might be the least of our worries.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge


"Well given the context of this bill is supposed to be about ALL communications, not just those across the Internet, what an ICR is and contains is also dependent upon the communications medium used."

If you communicate via carrier pigeon then, RFCs 1149 & 2549 notwithstanding, there wouldn't be any ICR so they'd have to rely on any other provisions of the bill that might apply. Ditto if you communicate by telephone.

An ICR only applies to internet communications. There are plenty of serious objections to this bill without going off-piste looking for others.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: Oh, really?

"Nothing about protecting the privacy of the 99.9% of the population that has no reason to be spied upon."

The article carefully explains that that is the remit of another committee:

the inquiry assessed it only in terms of its feasibility and cost, rather than whether its legal powers were proportionate to the threats they were intended to address. That second assessment is being made by the Joint Committee on the Draft Investigatory Powers Bill which is likely to publish its report within the next fortnight.

"And to think that they actually have the brass neck to say that we should foot the bill for all this stupidity!"

That is actually a good move. If the cost was hidden by being pushed onto the ISPs we'd still be paying but through ISP charges. If it were public expenditure it would be subject to Treasury approval when it runs over their stupid estimate & scrutiny from the PAC & NAO.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

"It's all going to be taxpayer's money no matter which budget it comes from"

I think John Brown's point is valid. If it's heaped on ISPs it's hidden, HMG doesn't have to justify the amount & they'll claim the fact it was 8x over estimate as the ISPs' incompetence. If it's a matter of public record they'll have to justify it and it becomes much harder for them to hide the real cost. Even better, if they stick to their estimate of cost and then have to fund it directly the Treasury has the chance to turn down extra funds whist the PAC & NAO have a chance to give them a good kicking.

The monitor didn't work but the problem was between the user's ears

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Re: Office nasty

"Some people did that to their own phones, just so they could recognize when theirs was ringing."

I can't remember how we discovered it but the pitch of our extensions' rings could be changed by adding a small capacitor. It served the same purpose.

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: Intermittent mouse

"But where do they make and test these things where daylight is not a normal condition?"

The engineering samples are probably OK but when it comes to manufacturing - well, isn't it a waste of money not using this cheaper plastic?

Doctor Syntax Silver badge

Re: I used to think 'the clearner' was urban myth...

"Modern switching supplies"

There was a time before modern switching supplies were used. We had to make do with mains transformers, rectifiers & big electrolytics. And BTW big electros intended to sit upright with wires connected to their terminals don't necessarily take kindly to being mounted upside down on motherboards supported only by the terminals.

I've seen a Z8000 server sitting in a room next to the lift being reset by its neighbour. Also a Z80 (the one with the humungous upside down caps) being reset when the stabilised xenon microscope illuminator was fired up.

BOFH: In-depth IT training needs a single-malt distillery

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Re: Wrong approach

"That said, the brown paper bag is one of my favourite tricks"

2' steel ruler?

Cloud growth? Take a number, Microsoft. Two engines have stalled

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Re: New business plan

"They should base it on Linux"

After all, Linux seems to be drifting to become more Windows-like as it is. But I doubt they'd be able to live with the GPL. On the other hand I dread to think what they'd do to BSD with EEE.

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Re: This'll be downvoted but...

I think next week I'll be putting Zorin on another cousin's computer. She got hit by Teslacrypt. I'm hoping I'll be able to recover some of her original files from free space. Just another benefit of the Windows ecosystem!

Facebook tells Belgian government its use of English invalidates privacy case

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"If data is being gathered on Belgian citizens, sat in Belgium, it's not hard to imagine that Belgian courts will imagine it falls within their jurisdiction."

Even more to the point, the cookie is being written to the Belgian citizen's browser located in Belgium.

Patent Troll Unit set up by Virginia government to slay lawsuits

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@ a_yank_lurker

Interesting point. I'm not familiar with the arcane workings of what appears to be a dual system of jurisprudence.

On the one hand it might simply be enough to frighten off the troll to try someone easier, rather like the troll who backed off when they realised their target was a subsidiary of Newegg.

However there may be something to get a wedge into. For instance if someone were to announce publicly that so-and-so is infringing my patent there could be a possibility of bringing a civil case for libel which, I assume, isn't a federal case. I'm not suggesting that this is how they plan to work it but the linked article indicates something vaguely similar, namely acting on the troll's letter so it could be an offence analogous to demanding money with menaces.

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