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Comment: Re:Let me be the first to say. (Score 4, Informative) 117

by Mr. Protocol (#49198045) Attached to: Harrison Ford's Plane Crashes On Golf Course

I saw the incident from my back yard. I was out there working on a Mr. Protocol column when I heard a particularly loud single-engine plane take off. What caught my attention was a sound I've only ever heard in the movies: the engine stuttered once, then stopped dead. I got up and looked to see if what I'd heard was really true, and saw the plane, with prop not moving, bank sharply in a 180 degree turn and start gliding back to the airport. I listened for a crash, since he was rather low, but didn't hear one. I'm glad he made the golf course and missed the neighborhood. (Look at a map: it's pretty obvious that the sole purpose of the Penmar Golf Course is to catch planes that don't make it. It happens often enough that I've wondered if they have course rules for playing around temporary obstacles with wings.)

Comment: It's not just the hardware, it's the algorithms (Score 2) 213

by Mr. Protocol (#45757403) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Can Commercial Hardware Routers Be Trusted?

All the crypto software I've looked into depends on big internal arrays of special numbers to do its work. If those numbers are compromised (which is what NSA contracted RSA to do, basically), then the whole end-to-end crypto channel is compromised.

And that's the problem. You can build an open-source hardware router with open-source software, to keep the possibility of hardware backdoors to a minimum, but if the basic crypto algorithm you use has been compromised from the get-go, none of it matters. I think that's going to be the next really difficult intellectual load to lift: vetting ALL of the current crypto algorithms in use today to make sure the algorithms don't have built-in compromises. Since that vetting has to be done by crypto experts, not just software engineers, that pushes the trust back up one step: which crypto experts do you trust?

Comment: It's ALREADY allowed... (Score 1) 371

by Mr. Protocol (#44113797) Attached to: FCC Considering Proposal For Encrypted Ham Radio

Two points:

1) The proposal (which is indeed from a private citizen, as many are) points out that ham radio cannot be used, at least in this country, to carry certain kinds of emergency traffic, because, for one thing, medical info about a particular patient can't be put out over the air UNLESS it's encrypted, due to HIPAA.

2) Encryption of ham traffic is already allowed in two specific instances: a) control of a satellite in space, and b) control of certain kinds of model craft.

So the ice has been broken, and the current proposal attempts to overcome certain legal hurdles in carrying emergency traffic. It's not just encryption for no reason, and it wouldn't be allowed for normal traffic.

Comment: Re:if only more technical leads had this mindset (Score 1) 1051

by Mr. Protocol (#42417401) Attached to: Linus Chews Up Kernel Maintainer For Introducing Userspace Bug

Except, of course, for the original UNIX team, which wasn't a thing like this. Thank God. And thank god I don't have to deal with brain-damaging interpersonal relations like those shown here these days. Retirement is good.

Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, et al. were much nicer people to work with.

Comment: Re:Commercialized in 1995? (Score 1) 257

by Mr. Protocol (#40752963) Attached to: Correcting the Record: the Government's Role In the Internet

The Internet was "commercialized", in the sense of being opened up to commercial entities and anyone else who was willing to pay the freight, in the early 1980s. Of course, there weren't many such people then, since most people had never heard of the Internet, and the societal infrastructure to make it worthwhile for ordinary folks to use it just wasn't there. The government, by which I mean just about everybody concerned in running the ARPANET and designing and building the nascent Internet, knew it would have to be a self-sustaining commercial enterprise in order to succeed, and that the government just doesn't do that sort of thing, and terrible things happen when it tries. So, a very delicate balancing act was necessary.

The CSNet Project, aka the Computer Science Research Network, was an NSF-funded project run through NCAR to see if it was possible to sell access to a TCP/IP-based Internet, and turn a profit doing it. There were four institutions involved: The University of Wisconsin, The University of Utah, The RAND Corporation, and BBN. The Network Operations Center was at BBN. By special dispensation, CSNet and its users were legally allowed to use the ARPANET as a backbone transit net (had to, it was the only national TCP/IP net around at the time). So, commercial traffic on the ARPANET was allowed, starting in the early long as the traffic came from CSNet. CSNet also came up with its own method of encapsulating TCP/IP packets in X.25 packets, so that people could buy commercial X.25 access (which was available) and run TCP/IP over it, communicating with the ARPANET and the rest of the nascent Internet using gateway machines run by CSNet.

CSNet was a success. Not a huge one, but they proved it could be done, and with all the inefficiencies of a government project, too. At that point, commercial entities were willing to stick a toe in the water, and some of CSNet's customers turned around and became Tier 1 providers. NSFNet followed on, CSNet was rolled into BITNet and eventually rolled up entirely.

In 2009, CSNet was awarded the Jon B. Postel Service Award by the Internet Society.

(Full disclosure: I worked on CSNet almost from the beginning.)

Comment: But...but...I upgraded my own GPU! (Score 1) 417

I stuck a much more modern GPU into my 2006 Mac Pro 1,1, but I bet the 32-bit firmware won't be supported by Mountain Lion anyway. A pox on them all. For the first time I'm seriously considering gutting a Windoze box I don't use any more and turning it into a Hackintosh. Anything future editions of OS X don't like about THAT box, I can upgrade away from piecemeal. Including the mobo.

Comment: Jon Postel used a chord keyboard with NLS (Score 2) 160

by Mr. Protocol (#38997579) Attached to: Engelbart's Keyboard Available For Touchscreens

Jon Postel, who ran the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) for many years, used Engelbart's NLS system to manage all of the information for IANA. He used a mouse and chord keyboard. I was interested at one time in user interface issues, and I'm located in L.A., so Jon kindly allowed me to interview him and watch him work (the Internet was a far smaller and more friendly place back then). NLS was designed to use these two devices in concert. The usage model was of a hypertext, with a mouse click on an item followed by a single-letter command. The command letters were typed in on the chord keyboard, at two chords per character. The scheme was to type in 8- or 9-bit characters as bits, five high bits followed by five low bits, or the other way around, I don't remember which. The effect was that to manipulate information, as opposed to entering it, you didn't have to move your hands back and forth to and from the keyboard. Just click-chunk-chunk, click-chunk-chunk.

At two chords per character, and with pretty clunky-chunky piano-type keys on the chord keyboard, entering more than a few characters via chord keyboard was slower and more painful than using a regular keyboard. I asked Jon how many characters he would type on the chord keyboard before switching to the regular keyboard, and his answer was, "About ten."

Jon was probably the last user of NLS aside from Doug & Friends. I believe ISI, where Jon worked, kept a PDP-10 running just to support his use of NLS in running IANA.

Comment: Re:Troll. (Score 1) 1307

by Mr. Protocol (#35862650) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Do I Give IT a Login On Our Dept. Server?

This reply is exactly right. The OP is a troll, for all the reasons he cites.

Even if he were not, the bulk of replies are totally out of touch with reality. A head of a clinical department is never fired unless he shows up on the front page of a big-city paper (c.f. Aceveda). He is God and can do what he wants unless the hospital director and the hospital board, acting in concert, shut him down. In practice, this never happens.

So a) OP is a troll, this never happened, b) even if OP is not a troll, this never happened because no clinical head of department would have time or inclination to do it, and c) if he did, he wouldn't "take it up the chain", or come to Slashdot - he'd tell anyone silly enough to complain to his face to pound sand, THEY were fired. Until he was arrested for HIPAA violations, which would appear on the front page of a big-city paper, c.f. para. 2.

Comment: PLATO was just a platform (Score 1) 203

by Mr. Protocol (#35483048) Attached to: Gates' Future of Education Straight Out of '60s

PLATO was just a platform. The PLATO Project never created any courseware of its own. It merely taught professors how to write their own courseware. They told them pretty baldly what they (PLATO folks) thought worked, and what didn't, but the results were up to the courseware authors, and their students were stuck with the results. Some were drill'n'practice types, some did thoughtful, exploratory stuff, and some (to my mind the most successful) wrote laboratory-emulation software that let the students run experiments on their own on stuff that would cost too much or take too long in the real world. PLATO's big showpiece was a bio lab called "fly" that let students breed fruit flies in emulation and see how traits were inherited. No hint of drill'n'practice or programmed courseware in sight.

PLATO lessons, like textbooks, came in good, indifferent, and truly stinky varieties. The reason people remember the games is that they operated under rapid and ruthless natural selection...unlike courseware.

Comment: Re:XMarks, private server (Score 1) 225

by Mr. Protocol (#33728718) Attached to: Bookmark Synchronizer Xmarks Hangs Up Their Hats

Yes, exactly. Xmarks does allow cross-browser synchronization, which is why I use it, but it also allows you to redirect it away from the Xmarks server and to any other server to which you have access, including (in my case) Mobile Me. So when Xmarks closes its doors, its servers will go away, but so far as I know, my copy of the code will keep right on working. I'm unhappy that development will stop, so as browser development continues and the code becomes out-of-date and non-functional I'll eventually have to find something else, but for now, my bookmarks will keep right on synchronizing.

"Call immediately. Time is running out. We both need to do something monstrous before we die." -- Message from Ralph Steadman to Hunter Thompson