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Comment: Re:The hosers are right (Score 1) 461

Some time back in the 90's I had fun going both ways between Quebec and the US.
US Immigration in upstate NY spent ages trying to work out if I (and several other crossing at the same time) really needed to be in the US. Eventually the guy decided it was ok.
A few days later I was driving back from Vermont and the Canadians were dubious about letting me back (driving a Canadian-registered rental car). The bug question was: "why do you have a commercial/business visa for the US?". My WHAT???? got me back in again ;-)

I stopped going to the US when they introduced fingerprinting and mugshots at the borders. They don't miss me and I don't miss them.

Comment: Re:Powershell (Score 1) 727

Both Fortran and Cobol allow you to pass slices of a string to a subroutine or anything else, the syntax is in each case stringvar (x:y) although the meaning of y is different. In Fortran it is (from:to) and in Cobol it is (from:bytecount).
When I was learning we used Algol68 and - although I have not used it for a good 35 years - most other languages come up wanting when compared.

Comment: Re:Powershell (Score 5, Funny) 727

I'm from a different generation. When I was learning things there were attempts made to make languages somewhat failsafe by avoiding ambiguity. Then I saw the C syntax.
- if (a = b) assigns the contents of b to a and executes the code following if b <> 0. Who the hell thought that would be a good idea?
- sizeof(string) (I may have got the name of the function wrong) returns the length of a single byte rather than the length of the entire string. Who the hell thought that would be a good idea?
- strings terminated by a binary zero rather than their physical size. Who the hell thought that would be a good idea?

Kids grew up with this idiocy, I program in Fortran, Cobol, even Assembler to avoid that mess. Oh, and buffer-overruns have been a serious security problem for years now. Well what a f****** surprise.

Comment: Re:Oh really? (Score 1, Interesting) 190

I'd be amazed if it was.
My experience is that OpenOffice has less features but they work better. They (OO) also seem to be to be more interested in MS compatibility than LO is. I find that particular fork rather regrettable but Oracle would never have divested themselves of OpenOffice if they had not seen themselves becoming irrelevant.

Comment: Re:Not just China (Score 2) 92

by Vlad_the_Inhaler (#47683841) Attached to: Apple Begins Storing Chinese User Data On Servers In China

It looks to be an obvious move.
Accept that various agencies in various countries are trawling for data. Storing data locally minimises the number of agencies which have access to that data. Once the Snowden revalations became public, keeping data within national boundaries became a selling point for (not just) ISPs in most countries. I suppose I was ahead of the curve, I avoided Cloud services for just that reason - and then suspicions were confirmed.

When the Chinese Government request (or demand) that users' data remain within the country it is more about keeping things away from the NSA than making sure they themselves have access to it. I can imagine that users in that country share some of those concerns, they certainly do in Germany.

Comment: Re: Murphy says no. (Score 1) 265

by Vlad_the_Inhaler (#47432651) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Unattended Maintenance Windows?

I have no idea if once a week is realistic, it sounds far too high. I have around 5-10 such windows a year, some are stuff I can do from home (with support from the guys on shift) and some entail me being physically there, so there have been none of the second kind this year.
Major Outages of one of our production systems have been featured on national news and Slashdot before, although it requires an outage of several hours to cross that threshold. Our windows are at around 02:00 to 03:00 depending on which system is affected.

Murphy has really bitten us in the ass a few times:

  • Someone making an update (on a test system) which meant that the system did not come up properly after the next reboot which was days later. The symptoms made it look as though the test "window update" caused the problems. It was an accident but very annoying.
  • A weird error on one switchable hardware unit rendered it unusable on our main production system. That unit was one of 32 and the allocation system automatically only used it on other machines, the next reboot would have cleared the problem anyway. Someone decided to use *that* unit for a critical update and brought it up manually for that purpose. The update failed and our main system was down. I drove in at 03:30 and (I thought) fixed things by falling back. Shortly after I left again, one application stopped working and dragged the rest down with it. I went back in again and did the original update cleanly - over initial management objections - after which things were fine.

There have been others but they were even more arcane. The absolute worst cases we had were with virtually everyone there. They made the news, two of them made it to Slashdot. Different causes in each case.

Comment: Re:Half a century (Score 1) 113

by Vlad_the_Inhaler (#47262995) Attached to: Unisys Phasing Out Decades-Old Mainframe Processor For x86

Sperry Univac was one company back then, probably formed by a merger or takeover in the 60's or 70's (I can't be bothered to look up Wackypedia).

What happened in 1986 was that Burroughs' CEO (Michael Blumenthal, previously Secretary for somethingorother in the Carter administration) launched a Leveraged Buyout of Sperry. Sperry fought it but lost, the resulting company was then renamed Unisys and had so much debt from the takeover that it had to divest assets to simply survive. Blumenthal himself did very well out of the deal, I don't think anyone else did.

Comment: Re:what's the point anymore (Score 5, Informative) 113

by Vlad_the_Inhaler (#47262905) Attached to: Unisys Phasing Out Decades-Old Mainframe Processor For x86

Speaking as someone who programs and administers computers on the Dorado line, that is total bollox. dreamchaser's post is also inaccurate.

Part of the Exec (= OS) is written in Assembler, the rest is in a proprietary language called Plus (a bit like Pascal) or C.
The same applies to processors and libraries provided by Unisys or third parties.
User programs can be in Fortran, Cobol, C or Assembler. Pascal and PL/1 were dropped a few years back, use of Plus in non-Unisys-written code is unsupported.

The key part of the article was Both the OSes will execute tasks on Intel's Xeon server chips through a firmware layer that translates the OS code for execution on x86 chips. Existing programs will work without recompilation, it is the Exec which needs to make the accomodations.

I don't know much (ok, anything at all) about the Libre lines but the Dorado machines have some very unusual characteristics such as 9-bit bytes which would render anything other than hardware compatibility a total disaster necessitating a forced conversion to another platform immediately.

Comment: Re:Kudos (Score 1) 157

by Vlad_the_Inhaler (#47072893) Attached to: Who Helped Kill Patent Troll Reform In the Senate

There was a recent article (here, I think) pointing out how utterly clueless a lot of legislaters are on what they are legislating on - especially technical subjects. Most of them have some kind of legal background and for this they need a bit of that along with a bit of the technical. Was this bill fundamentally misguided or was it withdrawn because of opposition (up to and including bribery) from special interests? My guess would be "yes" to both ;-)

Machines certainly can solve problems, store information, correlate, and play games -- but not with pleasure. -- Leo Rosten

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