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Comment Re:This is why we like C (Score 4, Interesting) 234

I have actually seen something similar to this before, also involving an Air Traffic Control.

They were having some problem in handling "Large Messages", I am not sure of the exact details / circumstances - I was only peripherally involved. Anyway, the programmer wrote these to a file, then they were processed asynchronously and deleted. This minor change was tested - as usual at the site - by someone shooting an hour's production traffic through the test system and checking for unexpected aborts or other abnormalities. All was fine, the spooling file was 1% full.
The patch went online. 4 days later (it was a Sunday morning and it was snowing) the file hit some limit and refused to accept new messages. At that moment things went "Keystone Cops".

  • All department heads were informed, except programming. Given that only one the patch had been applied in the previous week, not very helpful. Headless chickens ran around trying to find a solution.
  • Standard practice in this type of situation was to switch to the backup/standby system. Since ATC data is very short lived, the backup system had an empty database which would then be populated dynamically. All "Station Chiefs" had to approve this step. One refused because he could not see any problem. Finally someone managed to make him understand what the problem was, then it was "oh yes, we are seeing that as well". His was the smallest station of course.
  • Standard procedure was also to switch to manual control - rather than automated - and cancel short-haul flights. The railways could take up the slack. This was done.

The switch was duly made and everything was working again.
It turned out that the deletion of the processed records had a bug. One hour of live data left the file 1% full. 100 hours . . . do the math. It took 5 or 10 minutes for the programmer to fix the problem, he could have done it live on the Sunday if anyone had bothered to tell him what was going on.

One of the lessons from that is also relevant here - one hour of live data left the file 1% full. I'd bet that they were testing that the new feature worked, not looking for hidden side-effects.

Comment Re:Don't buy the cheapest cable (Score 1) 391

There are chemicals you can apply to plastic to make it less brittle, chemicals which are banned in most of the developed world because of their carcenogenic side-effects.
The computer magazine I read conducted a test of various components at the start of the year and had a very big surprise. I believe product lines were dropped.

Comment Re:Don't buy the cheapest cable (Score 1) 391

Wait until a laptop power cable fails, at 240v. A smell of burning then the insulation burns through.
I was really happy to be right there at that moment, it took a couple of seconds to turn the thing off at the wall.

The Ethernet cable I had simply fail during normal operations was harmless in comparison.

Comment Re:French cowards (Score 1) 330

Look at their losses in WW1 before complaining about their behaviour in WW2.
I don't know what U.S. casualty figures have looked like in the various wars but I doubt they ever reached the 60% France suffered. Then they were supposed to do it all over again because their leaders had been asleep at the wheel. No.

Comment Re:Third Dimension (Score 5, Insightful) 1197

up to the level allowed to commercial aircraft

That is too high.

  • 1 - Passenger-carrying fixed-wing aircraft. They have no place being near the ground except for takeoff or landing, light aircraft obviously fly much lower than jets. It ain't broke, don't fix it.
  • 2 - Helicopters. They fly a lot lower and make a lot of noise, at least they are expensive and dangerous enough that they are not ubiquitous.
  • 3 - Drones. They should be below the helicopters.

But what can - say - Gisele Bündchen do if some obnoxious prat has a camera-carrying drone hovering over her home? No "Lex Bündchen" here, anyone else should have the same expectation of privacy at their home.
Drones have been adapted to carry firearms, how close should they be allowed to approach?

If people are telling the truth here, taking a shotgun to it was a fair response.

Comment Re:We all saw this coming a mile away, why didn't (Score 1) 317

There appears to be a fundamental misunderstanding - on the part of Microsoft - just what a computer is for.
I have a Windows 7 PC which I fire up a few times a month to perform specific tasks. Those tasks are the reason I bought the OS in the first place. I did not buy Windows 7 just so I could install Windows patches. Yes I had automatic updates turned on until a few months ago (The tasks I perform on that machine tend to be towards the end of the month, so the worst turkeys are gone by then) but some security update caused a major update-reboot-fallback loop on my dual-boot machine when I needed it in a hurry so now I only apply patches when various sources indicate they have seen no problems with them.

From what I hear of Apple, they are not much better.

Submission + - Secret Service Agents Stake Out the Ugliest Corners of the Internet writes: Josephine Wolff writes at The Atlantic that sifting through messages to determine which, threats to President Obama need to be taken seriously is the responsibility of the Secret Service Internet Threat Desk, a group of agents tasked with identifying and assessing online threats to the president and his family. The first part of this mission—finding threats—is in many ways made easier by the Internet: all you have to do is search! Pulling up every tweet which uses the words “Obama” and “assassinate” takes mere seconds, and the Secret Service has tried to make it easier for people to draw threats to its attention by setting up its own Twitter handle, @secretservice, for users to report threatening messages to. The difficulty is trying to figure out which ones should be taken seriously.

The Secret Service categorizes all threats, online and offline alike, into one of three categories. Class 3 threats are considered the most serious, and require agents to interview the individual who issued the threat and any acquaintances to determine whether that person really has the capability to carry out the threat. Class 2 threats are considered to be serious but issued by people incapable of actually follow up on their intentions, either because they are in jail or located at a great distance from the president. And Class 1 threats are those that may seem serious at first, but are determined not to be. The overall number of threats directed at the first family that require investigation has stayed relatively steady at about 10 per day—except for the period when Obama was first elected, when the Secret Service had to follow up on roughly 50 threats per day. “That includes threats on Twitter,” says Ronald Kessler, author of In the President’s Secret Service. “It makes no difference to [the Secret Service] how a threat is communicated. They can’t take that chance of assuming that because it’s on Twitter it’s less serious.”

We want to create puppets that pull their own strings. - Ann Marion