* Posts by PickledAardvark

182 posts • joined 14 Mar 2016


What did turbonerds do before the internet? 41 years ago, a load of BBS


Re: Oh yes..

You could also get fake green stickers for imported modems...


I missed the beginning and almost the end

I first tried using a BBS in 1995 using the 14.4 kb modem I'd bought to access the internet at home. There were a few hobbyist resources that hadn't moved to the internet and some were better on BBS. But that changed quickly.

Back in the late 1980s, some work colleagues used a dialup connection to access hensa.micros, a big UK freeware/shareware software archive on JANET. Was this a direct connection or did some BBS operators have gateways?

HENSA: Higher Education National Software Archive, I think.

Crash, bang, wallop: What a power-down. But what hit the kill switch?


Re: Beware the Chairman of the Bank

Perhaps a communication failure by the marketing team, or those who fed them their spin?

When talking about disaster recovery, getting back to normal performance within X hours, etc it is imperative to stress that recovery is VERY expensive. And a disaster is different from somebody pressing the Big Red Button.


Re: Not Unique...

No problem. You just hold the Reset button down for as long as the PC takes to complete its job...

A colleague set the Turbo button in on his 486-66 for months without noticing. As I understand it, the Turbo button set the ISA bus clock speed into a compatibility mode for legacy ISA cards. My colleague's PC had a VL Bus graphics card and a 3Com ISA Ethernet adapter, neither of which seemed to be affected when running Windows 3.1. He noticed something after installing Linux and pressing the wrong button at some point.

Use an 8-char Windows NTLM password? Don't. Every single one can be cracked in under 2.5hrs


Re: The Usual Response...

"I'd rather not. I keep mine on paper hidden in a book."

My sister's husband followed my advice to record his passwords in a private notebook. When he died in an accident, we recovered the passwords for his business and private investments. My sister would not have been affected immediately -- enough money around in current joint accounts. But the business could not have traded without stuff being written down.

Sysadmin’s plan to manage system config changes backfires spectacularly


Re: Automation does have its place

"Automation scripts should be considered as nothing less than production apps and subject to the same controls: peer review and source code check-in and check-out to name a few."

In the old days, we used to talk about things with colleagues. Even if you have a change management process, you still have to talk informally with colleagues -- including people who have a different outlook. When you take a day off and things go wrong, somebody else needs to understand more than you wrote in comments and a change report.

Support whizz 'fixes' screeching laptop with a single click... by closing 'malware-y' browser tab


Re: At one place I worked, they had speeded this up

Deleting user profiles worked for quite a while -- until drive-by hackers realised that they had to put the payload somewhere else. When Windows 7 arrived, I recall resetting ACLs on a bunch of shared document/photo/video directories accessible to all users. I changed the ACLs before we deployed Windows 7.

Consultant misreads advice, ends up on a 200km journey to the Exchange expert


Re: If...Then...Else

"Because that's the kind of instruction that never fails to confuse its audience. First they get "you don't need to" followed by "but you can if you want" and that invariably results in "now should I or should I not?"




IF my audience doesn't comprehend THEN my audience has failed computer logic, and we need a chat.

I don't like bossing people around.


Re: Mini brakes

"IIRC which can come in two varieties depending on whether you need to expand or contract the circlip to fit it in place."

In the application of a mini brake cylinder (not a master cylinder which is bolted to the bulkhead), a slave brake cylinder retainer clip clip should be removed by a blunt-ish screwdriver. Maybe by needle nose pliers. Not your decent screwdriver for obvious reasons.


Re: click this

"You need to get over it. Language evolves."

No. Evolve doesn't mean what you suggest.

If you apply Darwin ideas, a word would change to survive in usage for the mere purpose of survival. Words aren't organisms. Words don't evolve.

People change and language changes. And sometimes people get it wrong.

Failure to comprehend the distinction between uninterested and disinterested amazes me. Are we supposed to toss away the difference because the two words are "about the same"? 'Cos some people muddle them up?

Uninterested: I live in Wigan and follow Rugby League. I am uninterested by Manchester United because I have no interest in Association Football. Not bothered.

Disinterested: Owing to my acute eye sight, I earn a living as a tennis umpire. The sport bores my tits off so I am uninterested. I watch the players and when I proclaim that somebody played a foul, I am disinterested.

Evolution isn't change.


Re: Caution

"If you don't do something, you end up with systems that are 10-15 years old because they just run and you run out of support."

The roles of managers are to keep the stuff created in-house up to date and to keep the out-of-house stuff within bounds of support. If managers aren't doing that, you are in a problem organisation. Companies can run ancient systems for years -- as long as they are properly managed.

It is unlikely that any of your positive actions -- at sys admin level -- will change organisational direction unless a manager is on your side. But they might be the right things to do.


Re: Spoilers in Tech Docs!

I had a quick look at the oldest documentation I could find for GUIs -- Lisa 7/7 for the Apple Lisa 2 -- and it uses terminology similar to that described by Jason Bloomberg. It actually says things like "click OK".

So the convention has been around for at least 34 years... It still bugs me.



My documentation explained that an automated process would clean up some artefacts from the installation process within 15 minutes. The artefacts were harmless but annoying. Users didn't see them. I was cleaning up because I am conscientious. And you have other things to do on the PC which take more than 15 minutes.

My documentation explained that IF the process didn't clean up (2% failure rate), THEN the next run would do it. Or the one after that. ELSE that fails too or you are in a hurry, in which case you can delete the files manually.

So why are you on the phone after 16 minutes asking what to do?


Re: Spoilers in Tech Docs!

I hate the expression "click this". "Click" is an onomatopoeic verb or noun; "click" is the noise that a mouse or trackpad button makes when it is operated.

The GUI should be a metaphor for the physical world. In a GUI, users press buttons, slide controls, grab objects or select objects etc. When visiting friends, do you click the doorbell or do you press it?

Bright spark dev irons out light interference


Almost everyone seems to put kitchen knives into knife blocks resting on the blade. If you put them in the other way, the knife block isn't damaged and the blade stays sharper.

UK ruling party's conference app editable by world+dog, blabs members' digits


"The solution of the true BOFH in this situation would be to keep track of which devices attempted to edit the data, and once each device has tried to save the changes, to present JUST that device with the edited data and keep the data unedited for everyone else."

This solution requires various factors which may or may not work:

* The OS of a mobile device doesn't change the exposed MAC address.

* Nobody uses more than one device.

* Mobile devices have fixed IP addresses.

* Tokens assigned to a device/app which cannot be copied.

Tokens seem promising but Facebook's recent embarrassments suggest that tokens are difficult to implement.

Rookie almost wipes customer's entire inventory – unbeknownst to sysadmin


Re: ...then there's backup stories...

"So then we found out that NONE of the tape backups was readable!"

I've been there too on NetWare/ArcServe.

Write-only backups are secure. You can toss the tape in a bin and nobody can steal your data...


Re: One simple trick...

"Can't you enter a command to abort the wipe?"

Maybe. But you still have to work out what got deleted.

On the first Unix system I used, an admin configured the rm command with a system alias so that rm required a confirmation. Annoying after a while but handy when learning.

When you are reconfiguring a system, delete/rm is not the only option. Move/mv protects you from your errors. If the OS has no move/mv, then copy, verify before delete.

Bug? Feature? Power users baffled as BitLocker update switch-off continues


Re: Really?

We have a problem here.

Hells bells -- Microsoft supports a virtual TPM for virtual OS instances. The point about a TPM was/is that it was a bit of unique silicon wrapped in plastic. Theoretically, you couldn't make up responses from a TPM.


Re: seen it

Hold the power button down and count to ten. That should force a shutdown with a cold-ish reboot. But you already knew that.

Users shouldn't need to jump through hoops. Users should be able to reboot a Windows PC if that is what they want to do.

A Windows PC in a domain should normally take 60 to 120 seconds to boot to a login prompt, and login should take less than 30 seconds until an uninterrupted (non-jittery) desktop. Those are dreadful response times, but common targets.

If there's a stack of updates queued up, boot time will be long, even longer if updates have mutual dependencies. No matter how admins patch Windows, users have to reboot periodically. It is essential that admins provide a relatively painless boot experience when Windows doesn't need patching. Users have to accept that a reboot is good for them -- or acknowledge that they shutdown when they go home.

Queuing up patches create problems. Stacked up patch procedures disable/enable BitLocker and interact with others. A bit of a pickle.


BitLocker Drive Encryption Control Panel

Using the GUI, any Windows user with Administrator privileges (or elevated rights through other mechanisms) can use a standard control panel to Disable BitLocker. It means the volume is encrypted but that at subsequent boots the encryption key can be read from the boot volume without TPM, PIN or USB key device intervention. The facility is provided so that admins can perform maintenance on a PC without being in attendance all of the time.

Any program running as Administrator can access BitLocker APIs to disable/enable BL in the same way as the Control Panel. Windows Update runs as Administrator.

Whatever is going on is a horrible bug. Probably in Windows Update failing to reset flags after a reboot. There's nothing to suggest that there is a backdoor key.

WWII Bombe operator Ruth Bourne: I'd never heard of Enigma until long after the war


Standard German and Dialects?

I'm presuming that formal official messages would have been composed in Standard German (or the equivalent of the time) with the stilted jargon which permeates organisations. Would there have been other messages -- banter between operators -- in dialect or vernacular German?

Tesla undecimates its workforce but Elon insists everything's absolutely fine


Re: Unfortunately necessary

"I believe Tesla Inc. needs to survive."

That's like saying that Charles Duryea made a decent buggy so we don't have to try harder.

Tesla is in a pickle; it doesn't earn cash and investors aren't sure whether Tesla is a long term brand or owns substantial intellectual property.

Two companies who made the first internal combustion engined cars exist today: Daimler and Benz, who merged in the 1920s.


Contradictory to the Musk business model?

I have read many times that Musk's managers pay attention to details. Teslas are designed so that they use the minimum number of types of fastener -- it means that a factory requires fewer tools or employs tools which can be reused. Everything is supposed to be as efficient as possible.

But the firing of 9% of white collar workers suggests that Tesla is inefficient. Or maybe people were employed in the expectation that Tesla would be building more cars? Either way, it doesn't look good.

Have to use SMB 1.0? Windows 10 April 2018 Update says NO


Re: smb 1

"Even if you disable SMBv1 on Windows 10, it will either use SMBv2 or if possible then SMBv3"

As Microsoft note on one of their support pages, disabling a particular version of SMB in an environment with mixed versions of Windows is a right kerfuffle -- and this really is the URL:


Replacing old NAS devices sounds like a good idea most of the time.

I recall working with a £x00,000 NAS device which had been written according to the CIFS/SMB standards of the time. We were dumping files generated on Windows XP systems for an OS upgrade. The official spec for SMB 2.0 -- as interpreted by the NAS vendor -- was that some extended file attributes were optional, so the vendor did not support them for SMB 2.0 file transfers. If a file with certain extended attributes was transferred to the NAS from a Windows 2008 R2 server, the file was rejected. However the file was deemed valid when transferred by SMB 1.0.

The NAS vendor suggested a very long timescale for a fix. So we turned off SMB 2.x on the intermediary Windows servers and progressed at a s-l-o-w-e-r pace.

No doubt that bug/misunderstanding is fixed, but there'll be different bugs or the need to go back in time which require SMB 1.0.

Don’t talk to the ATM, young man, it’s just a machine and there’s nobody inside


Re: Staff don’t care about access to the computers

"Staff never used to and in most cases still don’t care about who has physical access to computing systems."

I have a similar sad experience. I turned up at a hospital to set up some student teaching PCs. I found the IT support office quite easily -- behind a rather thick locked door. Helpfully, there was a notice on the door providing a phone number for anyone wishing to speak to IT support staff. In search of a phone, I opened an adjacent door to find myself in the machine room housing some generic servers and Sun boxes.

Perhaps the management were ahead of their time, avoiding social engineering attacks by locking up staff who would have been more vulnerable than a physical attack on servers ;-)

Sysadmin's PC-scrub script gave machines a virus, not a wash


Just how many disks can you infect?

I popped in one day to see former colleagues at a market research company I'd left a few years previously. After I'd left the company had deployed new computer aided interview software which ran on PCs -- blooming expensive Toshiba T1000s or similar. A floppy disk could record dozens of interviews but interviews were expensive to collect. After a disk had been used 10 times at most, it was duplicated twice and one copy was sent off for processing.

A former colleague showed me a cabinet containing thousands of floppy disks infected with ONE boot sector virus. There were two cabinets at different sites containing backups of the infected disks. Ouch.

The virus had little or no impact on a laptop used to conduct interviews, or on the PC used transfer files to a minicomputer. It was only spotted when a PC used for number crunching became infected.


File size weirdness on a 486

My problem was reported by an alert Chemistry lab technician looking after a handful of student PCs (386 PCs from one manufacturer and 486s from another) all running MS-DOS 5. He'd experienced usual glitches and subsequently observed that the reported file size for some COM files was different depending on the PC; some of the 486s reported differently from ostensibly identical models and from all of the 386s. Naturally he suspected a virus but all of the PCs were running the same AV product, VIS Utilities which had been updated at the same time. And he'd nailed it down to some of the 486s.

I struggled to diagnose the problem before observing that some COM files changed size when copied to a floppy disk and examined on "good" and "bad" PCs. Then I turned off the AV software, VIS Utilities. And the problem went away. The "virus problem" was anti-virus software.

My guess at the time was that the identical 486s had a motherboard revision or cache/RAM from different manufacturers.

Uber robo-ride's deadly crash: Self-driving car had emergency braking switched off by design


Re: Sooo.... wait...

"I don't really see what the problem would be if the systems have entirely separate functions anyway. You have Uber's system doing the actual driving part, plus an emergency override that only comes into play to stop the car if the main system screws up."

I think you misunderstand the concept of "testing". Uber's cars are on the road to test their AV functionality. One test of Uber's AV functionality is to avoid an accident. Not Volvo's.

Separate functions? The Volvo emergency braking system might have used its sensors to detect a potential collision and used modulated braking in a straight-ish line to stop. An AV system might detect a hazard and move right or left to a different lane, perhaps braking earlier and approaching a hazard at lower speed. Let's try both at once, with two systems on the brake pedal and steering wheel -- or three if the human operator gets involved.


Re: would a human have seen the pedestrian in time and stopped?

"I hope i would have stopped but the linked video shows impact at 8 seconds but you don't see a hint of something might be there till 5 seconds..."

The video is misleading according to local people. The stretch of road is well lit and a human would see it as much brighter than in the video. A local person might have slowed in anticipation of pedestrians crossing at the stretch of the road. Alert non-locals would have braked.

"I'm assuming the car raises a huge amount of false positives which is why they turned that feature off, and warning chimes constantly going off would be soon ignored..."

Reducing false positives is one reason for testing AVs in real world environments.


Re: "emergency braking switched off by design"

"Uber could have designed its software to work with Volvo's emergency system, but it didn't."

Without source code and design specs, I do not see how Uber could have integrated their AV system with Volvo's safety system. Volvo's system had to be turned off in order for Uber's to drive the car. Otherwise there would be three systems potentially trying to operate the brakes and throttle -- Uber, Volvo and car operator.

* Uber emergency braking system did not appear to exist.

* Volvo emergency braking was disabled.

* Car operator was distracted and the AV did not have an alert system.

Uber's fault but for different reasons.


Re: Sooo.... wait...

When I first read The Reg's report, I thought there had been some misunderstanding or that the NTSB had fumbled the wording. I read a few other reports which clarify the NTSB report slightly but confirm that the Uber had no automatic emergency braking system.

I can understand why Uber disabled the manufacturer's safety systems in the Volvo XC90. It wouldn't have been a good idea for the car to have two independent systems driving the car; it's not comparable to multiple linked systems which are used to fly aircraft. Everything else is inexplicable to me.

Police block roads to stop tech support chap 'robbing a bank'


Emergency Red Buttons deserve a label

An Emergency Red Button may be placed conveniently close to the door so that staff can press it before running out of the building. Don't put it right next to the (unlabelled) release button for the magnetic door lock.

The future of radio may well be digital, but it won't survive on DAB


Re: just receive an IP stream, buffer as necessary.

"Nothing important ever happens quickly enough that you can't afford even 20 seconds of delay..."

Maybe Big Ben can be tweaked during its current refurbishment to deliver buffered bongs.


Re: Wait

I always think of it as BBC6 in spite of its official name.

And I'm delighted that the silly price DAB radio I bought 15 years ago still works with current broadcasting standards. It works best in one particular location -- inches make a difference. It has outlasted a gorgeous looking Roberts analogue radio which functions only as an ornament. Maybe I could hack it and put something useful inside. I'll buy a new DAB radio when my old one conks out, ideally one with push buttons to select my preferred channels rather than a "tuning" knob.

OP: "A lot of others aren't even available in stereo, which seems pretty bonkers in the 21st century." My radio is mono and 7" wide; it is enough for casual radio listening whilst cooking. If I want to listen to music -- to bury myself -- I tweak the knobs on my hifi for Robert Johnson, Louis Jordan, early Stones and Beatles but it still sounds like mono...

You've been Zucked: Facebook boss refuses to face-off with Brit MPs


Four year data retention?

"For instance, Facebook said that "due to system changes" it didn't have any records on enforcement action taken against apps between 2011 and 2014..."

What? They expect us to believe that they didn't keep the names of organisations who were unwelcome on their platform? That when Facebook introduced a new system in 2014, they forgot about previous offenders?

Elon Musk's latest Tesla Model 3 delivery promise: 6,000... a week


Hmm, 300 left

Unless your car shares components with a more popular model or is popular in another country, you're going to commission someone to make track rod ends sooner or later?


Musk versus Chesterton's Fence

'Warburton added: "The narrative around Tesla has been that it is having difficulty ramping 'because producing cars is difficult'. But we think a more accurate portrayal is that Tesla is having difficultly ramping because it has attempted to reinvent totally the production line. This is too ambitious and risky in our view."'

The problem is that "producing cars is more difficult than Musk imagined". Musk doesn't understand that production engineers and suppliers have developed ways of doing things for good reasons. And slagging off sub-contractors as “worse than a drunken sloth" doesn't make things better for Tesla.

The principle loosely known as Chesterton's Fence:

'In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, "I don't see the use of this; let us clear it away." To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: "If you don't see the use of it, I certainly won't let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it."'

Fleeing Facebook app users realise what they agreed to in apps years ago – total slurpage


Re: Not an FB user. Can I delete my personal data?

It's more complicated than that -- naturally.

If my uncle identifies me in a photo, should the photo and his comments be deleted? It's his photo and his right to say "that's my nephew".

For the moment, I'll stick with my belief that "shadow profiles" should be deleted from Facebook and Google etc.


Professionals act professionally

"Whatsapp is used extensively by the police and medical professions."

I suppose that police officers and doctors and nurses might use WhatsApp in their jobs. When talking about processes, it would be an all right way to communicate. Just not about individuals. Communication never works that way.

I can imagine a face to face group with police officers and doctors and nurses where the majority of people would spot that it is wrong to gossip online. Whilst tweeting that a bloke in front has a body odour problem. The whole purpose of social media is to gossip. You have to make it safe or safer to gossip, because you cannot change human nature. Create a space for people at work to talk about the things that piss them off.

Or eliminate human beings.


Not an FB user. Can I delete my personal data?

I read about Facebook when it was launched in the UK and declined to join. I have never given FB any of my personal data by participation with the Facebook platform. Owing to the way that FB sucks up data about my family and friends, however, FB possesses a "shadow profile" of me.

Can I delete that "shadow profile"? It seems a Schrodinger's Cat problem to me. I don't want FB to possess data about me, but the only way to request its deletion is to contact FB, thus exposing my personal information and validating inferred data. Can I delete my data without giving FB better data than they already possess?

If my "shadow profile" is deleted (let's say that somebody accidentally erases me), will Facebook create a new "shadow profile" of me?

I'm puzzled. Perhaps Facebook will have to act according to basic personal privacy laws and cease collecting data about people who are not their users.

UK watchdog finally gets search warrant for Cambridge Analytica's totally not empty offices


Re: Given the time it's take to get the warrant...

Having used a small office paper shredder last week to delete accumulated financial statements, I wouldn't try to shred many documents in-house. It didn't work well for the STASI in 1990 either. You have to use an industrial shredder* which makes it interesting to consider why CA allegedly removed boxes of material...

* I once watched a DEC RL02 disk pack being fed into a shredder.

Microsoft says 'majority' of Windows 10 use will be 'streamlined S mode'


"The Triumph Herald "S" was a cut-down version with rubber mats instead of carpets and no heater."

Given the hefty horse hair insulation and carpets on a standard Herald, it would have been pretty noisy inside.


"Any sensible OEM will want to pre-switch out of their PCs, and MS no doubt knows this-- yet they claim that new PCs sold will be in S mode."

Agreed. The economics of PC selling mean that manufacturers pre-install a bunch of crapware on consumer PCs and some equally lousy "added value" applications on business PCs. They are all Win32 applications which won't run in S Mode.

Your mouse can't reach that Excel cell? Buy a 'desk extender' said help desk bluffer


Windows 2.1x

I recall a colleague demonstrating Windows 286 or 386 back in the day. He managed to move a window to the side of the screen so far that it was impossible to drag it back again. Presumably there was a keyboard shortcut or menu option to restore the window but that may have been beyond many novice users. It certainly wouldn't have happened with Mac System 6!

Accused Brit hacker Lauri Love will NOT be extradited to America


Re: Good

It's about lots of things.

UK government has decided that the judicial process in the USA meets the standard in the UK. The UK and USA have a bizarre extradition treaty, which the UK should end.

UK government knows how USA prisons work, and still thinks that it is reasonable to send "anybody" to a USA prison?

We cannot send anyone from the UK to a USA prison.

Google Chrome vows to carpet bomb meddling Windows antivirus tools


No accessibility software?

No third party screen enlargers? No text to speech readers and navigators? Unless Google provide these features, a lot of organisations will walk away from Chrome.

Connected and self-driving cars are being sent to Coventry


Pardon me for asking...

...but why is a trial for driverless cars being announced by the Chancellor in a pre-budget leak? What has it to do with tax on beer, national insurance and government department spending?

Apparently, "up to £1 billion" will be available for hi-tech projects "including £75m for research on artificial intelligence, £400m for electric car charging points and £100m to boost clean car sales" according to the Guardian. So he is not really spending anything on AVs.

The UK's super duper 1,000mph car is being tested in Cornwall


Re: 40 lires/sec of HTP?

Cosworth designed Formula Junior, F3 and F2 engines for a period before the DFV engine which became the heart of 3 litre Formula One in the 1970s. USA independents, VPJ, suggested to Cosworth that a 2.8 litre turbocharged DFV might work. Cosworth responded that the engine required fuel at a rate greater than an English bath tap. The DFX worked.

Tories spared fine after being told off by ICO for election telemarketing


Re: the ICO has "warned the Conservative Party to get it right next time".

Wrong. It means that no party will try it again. Imagine the kerfuffle if a party was caught out eight days before polling.

In the past, we had silly expenses limits for parliamentary by-elections and silly expenses submissions by political parties, on the basis that I won't challenge you if you don't challenge me. That is more or less over.

The Tory battle bus of student activists in 2015? Owing to the early election, a few court cases were curtailed. It was noted, however, that election agents have to record a realistic expense for imported canvassers. If they turned up at the last general election, it was recorded.

Hmm. The worrying thing is national campaigning, which we think about as billboards and broadcasts. In reality, national campaigning is about personal letters, using personal data left on social media fora. How do we stop the people with the most money from winning elections?


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