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Comment Re:How many times did this happen? (Score 2) 157

> I hereby declare the 775 event a giant solar flare.

I can't remember if the article specifically mentions this (yes, I did read it), but you'd think that someone would have recorded the event. We have some half-decent written records from that period, from the Chinese, if nothing else. If it was a solar event, you'd think we'd have the Mother Of All Auroras in the sky that evening. Surely someone would have noted it?

After all, the Crab Nebula was finally declared as the probable result of a supernova explosion in 1054AD, primarily from Chinese, Japanese and Arab records. Those folks were carefully watching the sky back into antiquity.

Comment Re:Umm? How far away would it have been? (Score 2) 157

> Wouldn't it be possible to calculate where that black hole formed in the night sky at the time, and where it is located at the present?

I'm guessing insufficient data. The distance and bearing would need to be established with some precision.

As for finding a stellar-sized black hole 1,000 light years away, unless its effects can be noted, even its peripheral effects would be difficult to observe.

This is why we'll have to be careful once the scientists get off their lazy butts and give us hyperdrive. There you are, zipping along, and all of sudden, "chomp," you get eaten by an uncharted black hole. :)

Comment Re:93 million miles (Score 3, Informative) 157

> I've heard the 775 C14 anomaly attributed to a very large solar storm period too, even those these guys dismiss the idea.

The article claims that it would have to be 10 times more intense than any solar storm ever recorded. The article admits that it's a possibility, but (for various reasons) unlikely.

Comment Re:I Dunno (Score 2) 404

> If Windows is in trouble because of market shrinkage (and that's most certainly the case at the consumer level, not really at the business level), then how does decreasing Microsoft's diversification (which is what I always assumed the XBox division was all about) help things? Sure, it might make some quick cash, but then Redmond is still stuck with the same problems.


I would believe that Microsoft would start deemphasizing Windows and Office in favor of more profitable activities before I'd believe this article.

Comment Re:Yay! (Score 1) 133

> If he wasn't crippled, he wouldn't be an idol.

I respectfully disagree, at least in part. Sure, the public admires him because he absolutely refuses to give up, in spite of disease that would have made most people surrender long before now. I respect him for that.

But to be fair, Hawking had already made a name for himself long before he landed in that wheelchair -- starting with the Adams Prize for his doctoral thesis (back in 1966). He's not just winging it or banking on public sympathy. He and Roger Penrose first established mathematically that time was a property of this universe -- that "time" as we know it didn't/doesn't exist outside of this universe.

We lay-creatures tend to think only in terms of Nobel Prizes. No, Hawking has never won one. But there are plenty of other honors that, amongst physicists, carry just as much weight (if not more). Most of them you've never heard of.

If you want another great example of an absolutely outstanding physicist who has never won a Nobel, it would be Freeman Dyson. He is just as well-regarded as Hawking, and has never been near a wheelchair.

I think you (and some of the other complainers here) are way off base on this one.

Comment Re:About time but is it enough (Score 2) 53

As a patient involved in this mess, first, let me say that you sure are putting a lot of people in the closet. :)

(And I heartily agree.)

As a patient, what drives me crazy is that each health care provider wants you to fill out forms with the same questions. Each form is just different enough that I can't make a standard form and just take it with me. "Yes, I have high blood pressure (and you people are part of the reason, heh), yes, I've had surgery, my father had heart trouble and both parents have had cancer," and so on. Standardize the blooming form and let me fill it out once.

This isn't an issue for some people, but my wife, just to name a good example, is one of terribly unlucky people who specializes in conditions that are uncommon. We often have to explain them, over and over again.

Pseudo Tumor Cerebri, or Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension -- hope I spelled that right -- is the best example, though she was also one of the youngest ever to need hip replacement because of avascular necrosis; in that case, Blue Cross insisted that she HAD to have been in an accident, because it just didn't happen to people her age. The form just said, "give the date of the accident and the name of the responsible party." I had to cram on that form: "NOT AN ACCIDENT."

I have to be honest: I am NOT a fan of the Affordable Care Act, at all. I won't get into that here. But I'll agree that some form of standardization, and the availability of records, is badly needed.

Comment Re:This is why (Score 4, Interesting) 228

But I'll also add this condemnation of Microsoft. I haven't traced through their OS in many, many years, so to be fair to them, things like this may no longer be the case. But back in the day, they were *notorious* for repackaging the same code over and over and over. DOS was well-understood by that point and its vulnerabilities were well-known and easily exploited.

All because Microsoft couldn't even be bothered to reassemble or recompile key parts of the kernel.

For example, I did one of the first analysis (analysees?) of the so-called "antiexe" virus. DOS 5 through DOS 6.22 were so similar, the freakin' offsets in the kernel didn't even change(!). The entry point to the DOS kernel was in the same exact location in all. Antiexe simply looked up the DOS data segment address, then started poking in junk at the *fixed* (and known) offset of the entry point of the kernel. That way, it could bypass most current security software. (But not ours. Grin.)

Our system also addressed a killer bug (first discovered by Geoff Chappel) that Microsoft had known about, but had apparently not bothered to patch: if the partition table was recursive -- i.e., an extended table pointed back to itself -- the computer would hang during the boot. Even booting onto a floppy wouldn't work! As soon as the kernel on that floppy started trying to examine and mount the hard drive's partitions, it would loop forever. Hang tight.

I can't even imagine how many people carried their computers into a shop, only to have the tech tell them that their hard drive was defective. (I know of a couple of cases myself.)

So ... believe me when I say I'm anything but a Microsoft lover. Like I said, maybe they've improved now, but back in the day, they were making money hand over fist and couldn't even be bothered to address obvious stuff like this.

Comment Re:This is why (Score 4, Interesting) 228

I'm not surprised at all.

Our approach was to stop viruses before they got onto the computer. I remember Wolfgang(?) with Integrity Master (another system available at the time) complaining of the same thing we did: the "AV shootouts" focused entirely on scanners.

They were easy to test! Just turn them loose on a hard drive full of virus samples and see how well they did! But what about people like us that took a different approach?

Our ARF system not only "innoculated" the executable files, I can give away some of our secrets now. (Heh. Like it matters.) I actually became a DOS "guru" and figured out ways to hook into the OS itself. We watched the SHARE hooks, too -- an obvious vulnerability that everyone else ignored. We hooked all of the standard interrupts *inside the kernel* (we didn't just patch into the interrupt chain), we captured the "trace" interrupt to see if anyone was "tunneling," we did CRC "checksums" on the actual DOS code and other key areas.

I'm not boasting, but we never, ever found a virus that could get past us. The worst case, the system would get confused and hang, but there would be no infection. After reboot, the system was still clean.

Now ... how do you test that? How do you "shoot that out?" You don't. These so-called testers love scanners. SCANNERS! That's all they want to test.

That, combined with the fact that virtually no one registered it (and the additional fact that Windows 95 had come out), made us lose interest. I briefly worked on moving the blocker into a VxD, but it wasn't worth the bother.

Comment Re:Shady AV companies (Score 1) 228

> I am convinced there must be at least ONE shady AV company that creates viruses

Heh. We speculated about that all the time back when I was writing AV software. I know there were a few cases where "proof of concept" stuff magically sneaked out of the lab, but to be fair to the companies involved, they immediately sent full details to all of their competitors.

But you do have to wonder. :)

And if you consider those "are you sure you want to close this window?" online popup scams, they DO install malware. I guess it's just a question of whether you consider them a "shady AV company" or just outright bad guys. (I vote for the latter, myself.)

Comment Re:My response in 3 words (Score 3, Interesting) 228

> Microsoft DOS 6 with AV built in ... was defeated by every virus writer

That's because MSAV included the classic, textbook example of "security through obscurity." Utilities like FORMAT and FDISK would do the same things as some malware, which would cause false alarms. The users would be terrified by this, so there was a solution: a "secret" (wink, wink!) system call in the OS that their utilities used to temporarily disable the alarms. (!!!)

It was top secret ... so naturally, everyone knew about it. A call to disable VSAFE became one thing that EVERY DOS virus writer put at the top of his code. Naturally. Of course.

Ah, you're bringing back memories now. :)

Comment Re:This is why (Score 5, Interesting) 228

I'm anything but a Microsoft lover, but I have to defend them.

About a million years ago, back during the DOS era, a friend and I wrote an anti-virus suite (the ARF Antivirus, maybe you can still find it online, though I don't recommend that you use it!). It was quite effective; we used the file integrity approach, and stored the integrity information in the files themselves. (We were up front about it; some people don't like that, so we said, hey, you don't like it, just don't use our stuff. No hard feelings.)

Ergo, I think I can at least offer an opinion that's slightly above drooling moron status.

One of my biggest complaints about AV tests is that they're unrealistic. This has been years ago, now, so maybe it has changed, but back then, the folks who did the testing were arrogant and very hard to deal with. Your software had to produce a .TXT log file; it had to do this, it had to do that, or they would just fail it outright.

Once you made them happy, then they tested it against every virus they could find, including some that WERE NOT (and never would be) in the wild.

Bottom line, and to make a long story short: the people who were writing AV software back then were writing it for these tests, and not for the real world. I don't know if that's the case nowadays; I just don't know. (For that matter, maybe Microsoft's stuff really does suck. Given how badly their stuff worked back in the DOS era, it wouldn't surprise me. But I just don't know.)

But fair is fair. I ran from that circus after about a year of endless arguments with the pompous egotists in Compuserve's Anti Virus forum. I don't know if it's still that way, but I haven't used anyone else's anti virus stuff in years (I protect my stuff a different way, primarily by using secured Linux with good backups, and with periodic integrity checks).

Comment Re:but (Score 4, Informative) 71

> Don't electrical pulses along a copper wire go at the speed of light already?

That's not the problem, it's propagation effects and timing issues. As someone else here pointed out, these high-frequency signals are essentially radio waves and behave like radio waves. You have interference issues from other, nearby signals. The copper traces on your current motherboard must be carefully routed and kept at equal lengths (because they're essentially transmission lines), or you'll have some bits arriving later than others. Chaos. Using optical eliminates that problem.

(This is also why, if you've ever tried to repair a damaged motherboard, you probably weren't successful. Even if you could successfully identify all the damaged traces -- not easy, what with the "sandwich" layered design -- when you use little jumper wires to bridge the gaps, it just won't work reliably.)

By the way, these propagation effects are the reason why (counter intuitively) SATA and USB can more easily be made faster than older-style parallel connections. Once you get into the 100 megabit range, interference and the precise arrival time of the parallel bits becomes very hard to control. If it's a bit stream, even though it's several orders of magnitude faster, it's just easier to predict and control.

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