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Comment Hardware bugs (Score 1) 267

A colleague and I once found a hardware bug that affected ~2000 motorola modems that we were using for a (1990's) mobile app. The problem was the modem became "emotionally attached" to the first tower it found and refused to talk to any other tower even when its original partner was well out of range and other towers were within easy reach. Tough one to crack for a couple of software guys, took a couple of weeks and a trip to Queensland.

Comment Turn them all off, see who screams. (Score 1) 267

Yes, early days of MSVC (v1.52 on win 3.1 IIRC) was one of my most memorable bugs. It appeared in a new release of our app where a counter was incrementing by 2's and severely screwing up a job dispatch system servicing 6000 telco workers. Running the code in the debugger we watched as the counter jumped by two as we stepped thru a single line i++ statement. Sure enough when we opened it up in assembly we found an extra INC op? I rebuilt to binary using the same build tag and environment, the bug disappeared? It wasn't a particularly difficult bug to fix, but the fact that we couldn't reproduce it from source and never found a better explanation than "cosmic ray" or "Microsoft, pfft", is why it has stuck in my mind for 20yrs.

Disclaimer: I currently manage a large and ancient cvs repository, over the last decade or so I have constructed and maintained an automated build system for about a dozen active projects and a couple of dozen legacy versions that services a team of 25-30 devs plus offshore subcontractors. I have had similar head banging moments wrt compiler optimizations. What I have learned from those experiences is that optimisation often has no noticeable impact on the end customer, so unless a developer can convince me that a specific optimization is critical to an application's performance, I always have them turned off and ask our devs to do likewise.

Comment "Madam, we ate them" (Score 4, Insightful) 97

David Attenborough tells a wonderful story about his early days at the BBC. He had bought two pack horses on location for 30 shillings because he could not find a guide who had enough of their own horses to service the crew. When he was done with the horses he gave them away (to the guide I assume). Back in London he got a call from the BBC accounting office querying the two horses on his expense claim. The accountant was demanding to know where the horses were located because they were now "BBC property" and would appear as such in an audit. Attenborough responded with "Madam, we ate them", which as it turned out were the magic accounting words that turn an asset into a consumable.

The moral of the story is; if you are ever on safari and need to claim some pack mules, either bring them back with you or describe them as "breakfast" on the expense claim..

Comment Re:I'm not fooled (Score 4, Funny) 97

Depending on where you live the law usually makes room for justifiable assault, even justifiable homicide but the bar for "justifiable" is set usually quite high.

Anecdotal example: My brother-in-law arrived at the scene of an accident near his home, a car full of young guys had run a red light and t-boned his wife's car, fortunately nobody was hurt and the incident was caught on a red light camera. He approached the cop who was talking to the other driver and then without any warning 'king-hit' the other driver square in the face. The young man fell on his arse and started bleeding. Apparently he had been telling the cop how the "stupid old slut" in the other car had caused the accident. The cop's response was brilliant, he said something like - "I heard what he said, but you can't do that in front of me. Again".

Comment Re:Under what authority? (Score 1) 298

the law seems to be "whatever the fuck the police say it is until a court tells them otherwise".

Yes, it has always worked that way, an arrest is not a conviction, it's an unproven claim. Body/car cams on cops may weed out some of the bad apples but here in Oz the cops are on the whole are decent people doing a dirty job and it should be noted that the vast majority of the body cam videos show citizens behaving badly and cops behaving with self-restraint and caution.

Having said that, when the cop's political masters start outfitting police stations like they do a military base and promote the regular use of guerilla tactics such as "no knocks" and swat teams in a residential setting, you are a fair way down the road to a police state, which is an entirely different thing to a police force. As the Stanford prison experiments so vividly demonstrated humans very rapidly descend into a violent master/slave relationship if the environment they find themselves in meets certain criteria (eg: Abu Ghraib, Nazi Germany).

It's a very deep seated behaviour in humans, we all have a ruthless dictator and a cowering slave with us just waiting for the right environmental triggers to emerge. Religious people have called it "good" and "evil" for millennia but incorrectly blamed it on angels and demons (as opposed to the naturally evolved behaviour of our species). Other than being aware we are all susceptible we can't do much to avoid such behaviour in ourselves, but we can set up political and social systems that discourage such environments from forming in the first place. The fact the US still embraces the death penalty and has such a high number of prisoners compared to the rest of the planet, is IMO a 'canary in the coal mine' for the emergence of a police state, statistically speaking the canary is dangling from its perch by one leg.

Comment Re:Morse Code (Score 1) 620

Oh, wait, you didn't need to pass a test for that.

I'm just trying to think how that would have been possible. I think back then there was a medical exception you could plead for. I didn't. I passed the 20 WPM test fair and square and got K6BP as a vanity call, long before there was any way to get that call without passing a 20 WPM test.

Unfortunately, ARRL did fight to keep those code speeds in place, and to keep code requirements, for the last several decades that I know of and probably continuously since 1936. Of course there was all of the regulation around incentive licensing, where code speeds were given a primary role. Just a few years ago, they sent Rod Stafford to the final IARU meeting on the code issue with one mission: preventing an international vote for removal of S25.5 . They lost.

I am not blaming this on ARRL staff and officers. Many of them have privately told me of their support, including some directors and their First VP, now SK. It's the membership that has been the problem.

I am having a lot of trouble believing the government agency and NGO thing, as well. I talked with some corporate emergency managers as part of my opposition to the encryption proceeding (we won that too, by the way, and I dragged an unwilling ARRL, who had said they would not comment, into the fight). Big hospitals, etc.

What I got from the corporate folks was that their management was resistant to using Radio Amateurs regardless of what the law was. Not that they were chomping at the bit waiting to be able to carry HIPAA-protected emergency information via encrypted Amateur radio. Indeed, if you read the encryption proceeding, public agencies and corporations hardly commented at all. That point was made very clearly in FCC's statement - the agencies that were theorized by Amateurs to want encryption didn't show any interest in the proceeding.

So, I am having trouble believing that the federal agency and NGO thing is real because of that.

"In the face of entropy and nothingness, you kind of have to pretend it's not there if you want to keep writing good code." -- Karl Lehenbauer