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Comment: Good points, bad points (Score 4, Interesting) 282

by Dynamoo (#49331759) Attached to: Ford's New Car Tech Prevents You From Accidentally Speeding
I've driven a car with a manual speed limiter for 10+ years now. I don't understand why all cars don't have one. Entering a 30mph/50kmh zone? Set that as the maximum speed on the limiter and you can drive around normally without having to keep checking your speed. Less time checking your speed equals more time looking where you are going. This is only a good thing.

In Europe, speed limiters seem to be common in Mercedes and Smart cars, Renault, Citroen and Peugeot cars, plus some of the newer Vauxhall/Opel models and Fords. It is built into the cruise control system.

The bad points? Well, reading signs is a so-so thing when it comes to accuracy, and satellite navigation systems sometimes get the speed very badly wrong if they have incorrect data. And just because the speed limit *says* that you can drive at up to whatever-is-on-the-sign, it doesn't mean it is *safe* to do so in the road conditions you actually have.

Comment: Outside Context Problem (Score 5, Interesting) 576

It's the case of the "Outside Context Problem" as described by the late, great Iain M Banks [via]


The usual example given to illustrate an Outside Context Problem was imagining you were a tribe on a largish, fertile island; you'd tamed the land, invented the wheel or writing or whatever, the neighbors were cooperative or enslaved but at any rate peaceful and you were busy raising temples to yourself with all the excess productive capacity you had, you were in a position of near-absolute power and control which your hallowed ancestors could hardly have dreamed of and the whole situation was just running along nicely like a canoe on wet grass... when suddenly this bristling lump of iron appears sailless and trailing steam in the bay and these guys carrying long funny-looking sticks come ashore and announce you've just been discovered, you're all subjects of the Emperor now, he's keen on presents called tax and these bright-eyed holy men would like a word with your priests.

Banks goes on to note that most civilisations tend to encounter an Outside Context Problem only once, at the point where that particular civilisation ends or is subsumed into the more powerful one. (Incidentally this is also the title of a series of eBooks by Christopher Nuttall which are satisfyingly geeky.)

Of course, there are plenty of fictional examples of invasion, I guess ranging from the barely-competent aliens in Niven & Pournelle's "Footfall" (who were easily detected) and the almost-Gods of Arthur C Clarke's "Childhood's End" who basically just turned up without warning. It's too varied a field to come up with an idea of how we could detect them.

Comment: Re:32bit vs 64bit (Score 2) 156

by Dynamoo (#48863961) Attached to: Windows Server 2003 Reaches End of Life In July
Application compatibility in Windows 8.1 is pretty good (except for really ancient 16-bit apps).. but a server environment is different with products that are often much more complicated and with very difficult migration paths to a newer version. If one exists. Take for example database clusters with custom code written by people who no longer work for the organisation - migrating from those is extremely difficult.

But.. although it is a pain, but Microsoft's EOL was well-known many years in advance. People are moaning about the dropping of support, but it has been around for 12 years. For a migration path Windows 2012 R2 will be supported until 2023, Windows 2008 R2 until 2020

Comment: Remember Conficker? (Score 4, Insightful) 156

by Dynamoo (#48863851) Attached to: Windows Server 2003 Reaches End of Life In July
The problem isn't that Windows 2003 will stop working.. the problem is that it won't get patched. Now, servers are generally lower-risk than client PCs because they just tend to do a couple of things without users surfing for porn, reading email or downloading crap. And also the products *running* on those servers may well continue to get updates anyway.

But about once a year or so, there is a vulnerability in Windows that is exploitable over the network remotely without authentication, the sort of thing that Conficker used to spread on (i.e. MS08-067). Wormable vulnerabilities are the highest risk, and the time between the flaw being announced and an exploit being created can just be a matter of days.

So, eventually those Windows 2003 boxes are going to get pwned. It might be weeks or years after 2003 goes EOL, but eventually it will happen.

Comment: It doesn't matter how secure the password is.. (Score 1) 197

by Dynamoo (#48859225) Attached to: The Most Popular Passwords Are Still "123456" and "password"
It doesn't matter how secure the password is, if a site or service gets compromised then it is highly likely that the password will get revealed. What makes a difference in those cases is how well encrytped or hidden the password is, and how determined the attacker is. Attackers can use precomputed tables made up of all sorts of phrases, letters, numbers etc which will get a handle on even very secure passwords.

It's far more important to have a different password on each site.. or at least a different password on each site you care about. For some sites is really doesn't matter if it gets hacked or not. The Gawker breach a few years back for example.. who would really give a stuff about having their Gawker password compromised.

So, it doesn't really matter on a lot of these sites if your password is 123456 because everything of value is protected by something better. Isn't it?

Comment: Type 1 vs Type 2 (Score 1) 140

Type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes are really not the same condition at all, although often the symptoms and treatment are similar. Much of the recent research has been into Type 1.

Incidentally, I have type 2 diabetes and my body/mass index is exactly where it should be, I'm not overweight and never have been. It doesn't just affect big people.

Comment: Re:it is all going to go horribly wrong (Score 2) 494

by Dynamoo (#47926251) Attached to: Scotland's Independence Vote Could Shake Up Industry
On the EU membership.. I would expect the concept of Scotland being a successor state would apply despite the posturing of certain EU members. Countries that break away from each other in this way (think Czech and Slovak Republics, the CIS) tend to retain the obligations and memberships of their predecessor states, which would mean that both the UK and the UK-sans-Scotland would both be EU members. It might end up as a legal fight in the courts to establish EU membership for Scotland though.

However, if they are not EU members and find themselves even temporarily outside the EEA (the European Economic Area that consists of the EU and EFTA countries) then that could effectively stop the free movement of people, goods and capital. It's possible that people from Scotland would need a visa to enter the UK unless a bilateral agreement could be make (such as the UK/Ireland agreement that exists outside the EU). This has the potential for being absolutely catastrophic.

The currency is also difficult, it has been argued that the Scots could have a once-side currency union with the pound sterling even if the UK did not agree. This sort of system already exists in the Isle of Man and Channel Islands, but those are not independent states as such (but nore are they part of the UK). However, there are only a quarter of a million people on those islands and Scotland has more than 20 times the population and 25 times the GDP, so it's a different league altogether.

But the clincher for me would be the sheer amount of paperwork involved if I were Scots. Am I Scottish or English or what? What about my family members? Where will my bank account be? My pension? My job? How do I get across the border? Even if everything goes smoothly, there is an immense amount of effort needed from citizens of the UK to straighten out all these details.

Comment: Re:All the happy (Score 1) 136

by Dynamoo (#47580269) Attached to: HP Gives OpenVMS New Life and Path To X86 Port
I used to run an 11/750 back in the early 90s. Rock solid, but ancient even then. Our students used it for Pascal programming using a bunch of VT131s which were also relics from another era. When we ditched those and got some (VT320-like) Televideo 9320s instead, everybody thought that the system had speeded up too..

Comment: One change (Score 1) 294

by Dynamoo (#46778151) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: System Administrator Vs Change Advisory Board
A whole bunch of OS patches = One change
Replacing a server = One change
Reconfiguring some shared folders = One change
Replacing a whole bunch of printers = One change

There are a couple of advantages with a change process like this.. the first one is collective responsibility, so the poor sysadmin can pass at least some of the blame back to the CAB if it goes wrong. And then also there's the point that other people might have a legitimate input into the process, especially if there are things happening in the business on the same day as the proposed change that IT doesn't know about.

Administration: An ingenious abstraction in politics, designed to receive the kicks and cuffs due to the premier or president. -- Ambrose Bierce