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Comment Traditional delivery services evolved (Score 1) 417

When my mother was growing up, the ice man delivered ice for the icebox; they didn't get mechanical refrigeration at home until after the war (and that was in a medium-large city.) If you drank milk, it didn't keep very long, and most people didn't have cars, so delivery made sense.

When I was growing up, milk companies still delivered in the suburbs, and some bakeries delivered, as well as a few more specialized products like potato chips. Most Americans didn't have two cars, and they tended to do large grocery shopping runs on Saturday. My mom learned to drive around 1960 so she could haul us to pre-school, and my dad carpooled to work; they probably got a second car in the late 60s, and they switched over to supermarket milk around 1970, and supermarkets were starting to have enough shelf space by the late 70s to carry more variety of products like potato chips than corner stores could.

If I had had kids, they would have grown up around the time of the internet boom. Webvan and Kozmo briefly delivered a wide variety of convenience foods (and weed :-) and while I never used them, my mother-in-law was elderly and less mobile and found them really useful; they improved her nutritional choices just as AOL improved her ability to socialize (and she'd quit smoking, so she no longer had to go to the store a couple times a week to get cigarettes.)

Comment Refrigeration and plastic bags (Score 1) 417

Good bread can last just fine if you treat it well (and don't eat it all, of course.) Refrigeration keeps it from going moldy, plastic bags keep it from drying out in the fridge. And here in the San Francisco Bay Area (or up in Seattle), there's lots of choices of good bread, even if you don't like sourdough. (Maybe soft spongey breads don't last as long without preservatives, but I don't eat those.)

Comment Corner store products (Score 1) 417

Also lottery tickets and tobacco. In much of the US, mom&pop corner stores have been replaced by 7-11 or similar chains, but the functions are still similar. Ethnic neighborhoods are more likely to have mom&pop stores with a bit more specialized food varieties, but they're still selling the high-profit-margin goods that keep them in business.

Comment Linux? Windows? Newbs! (Score 1) 413

  • - I started with wetware, then books.
  • - The IBM 403 and 026 keypunch didn't really have operating systems.
  • -RSTS/11 and some similar DEC OS's.
  • - Some HP thing.
  • - Several IBM 360 and 370 OSs, including VM/CMS.
  • - Some HP programmable calculator OSs.
  • - IBM System/34 (first paid computing job.)
  • - PLATO
  • - Unix (finally!) V6 and V7 in 1978.
  • - A couple of things that ran APL.
  • - Some more IBM/370 OSs.
  • - Some more Unix flavors, including System III and 4.1BSD and something on an Amdahl.
  • - VMS
  • - DOS (might have been before VMS?)
  • - MacOS 6.x, 7.x
  • - More Unix flavors, including HP/UX, SunOS, several 4.x and System V versions, more BSDs, VENIX, POSIX, a few other vendor-specific ones, BLIT.

Eventually the 1990s rolled around and things like Linux, OS/2, Solaris, and Windows showed up, but it was a while before any of them became useful.

As far as actually porting software goes, my first software ports were between DEC and HP versions of BASIC, and between V6 (well, Mashey) and V7 shells, and I had some C code that I wrote on V7 that would still work today except it's either on 9-track tape or Sun cartridge tape, neither of which I have any way to read. My SIMSCRIPT code is lost to the mists of time (though I did port some of it from batch to TSO.) A lot of the software I wrote was for various application environments that aren't around any more, so there's no longer data to feed it.

Comment Rainbow tables are still useful, even with salt (Score 1) 80

The classic Unix password salt was 12 bits, and that was good enough to help protect a good 8-character password on a PDP-11 or VAX or even a Sun-3, back in the days when everybody could still read the password file. It did stop you from building a rainbow table that covered all 56 bits of password space, and even today there are very few (if any) organizations that can store that big a rainbow table.

But rainbow tables don't need to store the whole password space to be useful. A rainbow table of 1000 overly common passwords are enough to catch a non-trivial fraction of real-world passwords, and a table for 64K passwords with a 12-bit salt will still fit on a cheap thumb drive, though if you want to handle a million still-too-easy passwords, you'll probably want to use rotating disks. If you're trying to break root's password, hopefully root has more sense than to use a wimpy password. If you're trying to crack some user's email account to send spam from, or a blog account to drop comment spam, and don't care whose, there's probably somebody using weak passwords.

So if you're building a password system, and you're going to bother adding salt, please use at least 64 bits of it, or preferably 128 bits. Make the attacker do at least some per-victim work, even if the user's not going to bother.

Comment Bogus economic stats - speed vs. functionality (Score 1) 146

Doubling internet speed only gets you an economic advantage if it lets you do new stuff, or do old stuff better.

  • - Modems were transformative, and let people connect with the outside world, send email, use BBSs, read Usenet, read the early mostly-text web, access Wikipedia, get access to market prices for farmers and merchants, send greeting cards to their mom over AOL, and change the world.
  • - 384 kbps really was transformatively better than modems, mostly because it was always-on and because it let web pages have more still-picture content, so businesses and individuals could do commerce on the web, but it was enough to run corporate-quality video-conferencing, and codecs have gotten better since then (and even before that, you could run ham-radio-quality talking heads video over modems), and it was enough to do stock-market day-trading back when people thought that was a good idea.
  • - 1.5 Mbps was enough to let you watch cat videos on YouTube, which has been transformative, and lets you download Linux updates and pirated movies fast enough that they don't have to run overnight.
  • - 1.5 Mbps with a static IP address lets you actually distribute content from home instead of from a hosting provider like YouTube/Flickr. Oh, you don't have a static IP address, do you?
  • - 3 Mbps lets you watch higher-resolution cat videos, but if you don't have a static IP address, you're still just a media consumer. Yes, it's slightly better television, but it's still just consumer TV.

Yes, Old People In South Korea have 100 Mbps internet at home. What are they doing with it besides online gaming that they couldn't do at 1 Mbps?

Comment Is 1 Gbps worth $8500 more than 3 Mbps? (Score 1) 146

I'm currently running 3 Mbps DSL at home. It's been adequate for almost everything I do (though I've recently upgraded my TV, and might want to upgrade my internet connection to get a better selection of programming than the 750 Mbps cable company broadcast system gives me.) YouTube runs just fine on my DSL, since 3 Mbps is faster than real-time (if only YT had a play-faster choice like most PC DVD playing programs do!) I seldom watch live TV; the Tivo catches more programming than I actually get around to watching, though maybe Netflix download speeds will become annoying enough that I'll upgrade to 6 Mbps. The only thing I do that's really been limited by download speed is update Linux, and that's only a problem because I don't have enough RAM to leave all my virtual machines open in the background while doing other things.

Sure, there's lots of stuff you can do with extra bandwidth, but if all of it's "watching TV on a competing content provider", I don't see how that's a big economic advantage. 1.5 Mbps was a big step up from 384 kbps, which was a big step up from dialup. 3 Mbps was a fairly small step up from 1.5 Mbps, and mostly just improves my video watching speed (and means that I never bother running YouTube in low-res.) It hasn't been transformative.

Comment I used an IBM 403 in ~1970 (Score 1) 289

I used an IBM 403 to run a Boy Scout mailing list in the early 1970s. It's the successor to the 402, and has 133 vertical bars with the character set on them, which slide into position based on the program and punch card data and then get whacked with a hammer to print. The kids and most of the adults weren't allowed to mess with the plug board on the side, but we could do anything we wanted with the paper-tape driver and the keypunch and card sorter, so there was still a fair bit of hacking room. (There was one adult who knew what he was doing with the wires.)

Later, when I got to high school, the girls in the secretarial-track training got taught how to actually program the things (I think; they definitely learned keypunch typing and drum programming, but I think they also got to do the wires.)

Comment VPN +Firewall delays, and Savvis (Score 1) 558

I'm connected through my $DAYJOB VPN, so traceroute takes about 30ms to get out the door and over to ***.sfo.savvis.net. Traceroutes and pings from /. itself are running 80ms or so. Neither traceroute nor ping are necessarily accurate, because systems, especially routers, don't always prioritize them, and routers especially tend to use the underpowered CPU to respond to pings, but simple routed packets get handled by ASICs or at least line cards, so ping/traceroute times should be interpreted as an upper bound on the best route times.

Comment SDN is mostly a data center LAN technology (Score 1) 69

There's a lot of different and vague stuff running around under the name SDN lately, but a lot of it seems to be a replacement for the complex networks of expensive Cisco switches are used in data centers, instead of all of the different Spanning Tree Protocol variants that lead to inefficiency and long convergence delays when equipment breaks ("long" being defined as "more than a few seconds", often accompanied by a couple of minutes of BGP reconvergence.)

Telephone networks in the US had Signalling System 7, which ran over X.25 separate from the circuit-switched data, and one advantage of having a separate control plane for routing was that you could have a backup X.25-over-satellite network, so that the signalling system would work even if you lost the fiber or copper trunks between two or more sites.

Comment "Just Works" is boring; Borked Drivers aren't (Score 1) 181

Of course it's sort of boring. Having broken drivers, now that's exciting! You'd really hope that Dell would ship a machine where that doesn't happen.

And most people in the market for a Linux laptop have been running Linux long enough that they expect the operating system to let them do real work.

Comment Feeding off-topic troll (Score 1) 54

Actually, the Republicans got a few Democrats to join them in a filibuster, because they were too cowardly to let the actual bill come up for a vote. They would have easily defeated it in the House, but they'd rather not lose a vote to the Democrats, and the House GOP reps would rather not have to go on record for the vote.

I'm against the bill, but I think the Republicans should at least have the courage to do a talking filibuster if they're going to filibuster.

Comment Don't you go to the dentist? (Score 1) 363

Of course there are still magazines around - if you haven't seen the usual collections of Golf Digest, People, Ladies' Home Journal, Men's Health, etc., in your dentist's office, then either you need to get regular dental checkups or else your dentist has few enough patients that you haven't had to wait when you get there. That doesn't mean you actually want to read any of the magazines there, but they're a standard feature.

I started going to my dentist 30 years ago when he was the young junior partner stuck working Saturdays, and his office reading material was Zippy the Pinhead and Zap Comix, and the music was the loud rock station. Since then he's moved his office from the city out to the suburbs, had kids who are now grown up, replaced the sports car with a minivan and then replaced that with a sports car again, and the office has canonical dentist's office muzak and the Golf/People/etc. magazines, and he's now got a young junior partner stuck working Saturdays...

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