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Creator of Relay On BITNET, Predecessor of IRC, Dies ( 26

tmjva writes: Jeff Kell passed away on November 25 as reported here in the 3000newswire. He was inventor of BITNET Relay, a predecessor of Internet Relay Chat using the REXX programming language.

In 1987 he wrote the following preserved article about RELAY and here is his obituary.. May this early inventor rest in peace.

Comment Don't go Alienware (Score 1) 234

I've had a couple of Alienware PCs over the years. They used to be pretty good, but I wouldn't touch them these days. The "headline" parts (CPU, RAM, graphics card) might look ok, but they cheap out like crazy on everything else. Even their highest-end PCs tend to have fairly nasty motherboards and the storage drives will be the cheapest and most failure-prone around.

As others above have said, self-build is the optimum choice if you have the time, expertise and confidence. But if you don't have any of the above, there are still decent pre-built options, though some of them will be highly region-specific.

I decided I couldn't be bothered with self-build for the latest machine and went to a UK company called Novatech. They let me choose the parts pretty much down to the last screw in the case. When it arrived, I whipped the side off the case and did some fiddling; I wasn't 100% happy with how they'd arranged some of the cables and did a bit of tidying, but it was basically a well-built machine. The price was maybe the equivalent of $100 above a self-build (for a very, very expensive PC).

Now that's a UK-specific vendor, but I've found that there are lots of regional variants on that theme around the world.

Comment obvious and not-so-obvious answers (Score 1) 184

The most obvious are the serial, parallel, and PS2 connectors used for mice, keyboards, printers, and the occasional device that in the past would have used some variant of the RS-232 serial port.

Less obvious is a reduced reliance on video connectors and special-purpose buses like PCMCIA, eSATA, and MIDI.

USB-based cabling has also replaced the old-school "Laplink" cable connectors for connecting two computers directly to each other, although Ethernet and WiFi long ago reduced the need for such connections.

Comment Depends if you want to support it (Score 4, Informative) 234

That really is the big issue with a self build: If something goes wrong, you have to track it down and handle all the support. If you get a pre-built from a good vendor, they'll handle it all. Say what you want about Dell, but all you have to do is run their diags (baked in to the UEFI) and call them with the code, they'll send a dude with the parts needed.

So that should be the major thing you think about. If you don't want to do support, then buy it from a vendor that will provide you with support to the level you require. I tend to recommend Dell because their hardware is reasonable and they have support available everywhere. They subcontract it, but it all works well. We use it at work all the time.

If you are willing to do support yourself, then building it gets you precisely what you want. I build my system at home because I have very exacting requirements for what I'm after and nobody has that kind of thing for sale. Like I don't want a "good large power supply", I want a Seasonic Platinum 1000, nothing else.

Also you'll find that generally at the higher end of things you save money building a system. For more consumer/office range stuff it usually is a wash: They build the mass market systems around as cheap as you could afford to. However when you start talking higher end gaming stuff, you can pay a large premium for things.

As an example I just built a system for a good friend of mine. He wanted some very, very high end hardware and pretty specific requirements. Origin PC would get him what he wanted... for about $9,000. I put it together for around $6,000. The gamer stuff often commands a hefty premium.

Comment Re:This is *SO* unethical ! (Score 1) 241

Butte is a union town where the union's demands killed the economy. There's probably more to this than meets the eye... I haven't kept track of Butte politics in a long time, but would guess there's been anonymous pressure in directions that didn't suit whatever's left of TPTB.

But yeah, it does break the implied contract with existing commenters, and which of my real names would you prefer?? there's no law that I have to use the one on my birth certificate; so long as I have no intent to defraud I can call myself anything I like. I'd suggest a spate of posts by ... oh, say, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson.

Submission + - Air Force hires civilian drone pilots for combat patrols - legality questioned (

schwit1 writes: For the first time, civilian pilots and crews now operate what the Air Force calls "combat air patrols," daily round-the-clock flights above areas of military operations to provide video and collect other sensitive intelligence.

Civilians are not allowed to pinpoint targets with lasers or fire missiles. They operate only Reapers that provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, known as ISR, said Air Force Gen. Herbert "Hawk" Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command.

Comment This is a business decision - possibly a fatal one (Score 1) 241

I can't blame the paper for going the cheapest route. I can blame them for believing patently false info fed to them by their content-management software experts and going with what they THINK is the cheapest route.

I assume their goal is to have a non-anonymous content system going forward, keep their existing comments, and keep the "comment history" of non-anonymous commenters intact and so future comments are connected to past ones made by the same person.

I also assume they want to have all of this done by a certain date and under a certain budget.

Given the short time-frame I assume the remaining work, if any, is expected to take less than a few months.

Their options are:

* Stick with their existing configuration (does not meet the criteria above)
* Dump their existing comment system and start over with a brand new one, possibly losing their entire comment history (does not meet the criteria above)
* Dump their existing comment system and NOT replace it (does not meet the criteria above)
* Keep their existing comment system as an archive but not allow any new comments (does not meet the criteria above)
* Pay $BIGBUCKS to "do the impossible" and get a system that can keep historical comments anonymized but give them what they want going forward (likely does not meet the time and budget criteria above, by a longshot)
* Pay $BIGBUCKS in direct, measurable costs of lawsuits and lost customers and $MOREBIGBUCKS in lost goodwill (likely does not meet the budget criteria above, by a longshot)

The question is, which criteria are they willing to sacrifice? If they continue on their current path, they are choosing to sacrifice the "budget" criteria. I hope they have good legal insurance and enough capital to survive the public relations nightmare that lies ahead of them, or they may wind up needing to hire a good bankruptcy lawyer.

Comment Is there a truly similar payment before 8/11/1994? (Score 1) 48

I would love to know the first cryptographically secure e-commerce transaction outside of a testbed environment. If something similar to the August 11, 1994 https: transaction occurred prior to that date, that would be worth contacting the author about. By similar, I mean a transaction in which the buyer used a cryptographically secure method to provide payment information directly to the seller, vs. using a non-secure method like email to provide payment information, using an intermediary like CompuServe or the Post Office ("cash on delivery") to manage the payment, or providing direct payment through some other means such as via telephone-voice-call/dialup-modem-direct-to-the-vendor/dedicated-data-line-direct-to-the-vendor/fax/mail/in-person/etc.

The article includes some important disclaimers not found in the summary:

* The 1971 ARPANET transaction "technically didn't count because money wasn't exchanged online: they only used the network to arrange a meeting place."

* The 1984 Videotext transation didn't count because the customer "paid for them in cash [at the time of delivery]. That's not exactly e-commerce."

Thanks to those who have already pointed out that you could buy things using Compu$erve (sorry, old habit$ die hard), Quantum Link, etc. and even via a telnet server before 1994.

Those mentioning buying things over BBSs (well, most BBSs anyways) and USENET are probably talking about using the network to arrange a purchase, not to actually conduct the purchase.

Comment Re:Oh, really? (Score 1) 218

Samsung has sold hundreds of millions of phones with OLED screens in.

Samsung manufactures OLED screens. They don't have to worry about a supplier not being able to meet demand, because they are the supplier. If they have to throw more money at it to bump up production, they will. If the yield is too low, they can make up for it by cranking up the price of OLEDs disproportionately for everyone else that they supply panels to, or by cutting off those other companies entirely.

A company buying panels from somebody else doesn't have that flexibility.

Are you having fun yet?