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Comment This was definitely not intentional. (Score 5, Informative) 40

It's just an unfortunate incident.

British Telecom has had an issue (which has happened a number of times) which led to a minor timing glitch in one of their systems. When this happens, the data reliability on the FARICE line to Iceland drops and you start getting corrupted flight messages. Shanwick was alerted to the problem and both sides consulted and decided that the best solution in the interrim would be something that had been done previously, disconnecting FARICE and thus forcing all connections through the backup line, DANICE, which appeared to be operating normally.

Unfortunately, the problem was even worse on DANICE. What appeared to be normal operation was only normal up to the data logger. Once it actually got to the flight tracking software, the messages were being refused, and corrupted messages being sent in the other direction. So while BT was working on getting their system fixed, flight control managers were being forced to basically manually dig up ATC messages and copy-paste them off to the air traffic controllers (as much was handled through voice as possible as well).

But it got even worse. A totally unrelated communications network, Datalink, decided to misbehave during all of this, which may or may not have been due to the Shanwick problems. On the Iceland side, the general solution is to force a switchover to the backup system. Which was done... except a critical component on the backup system immediately crashed. Repeated attempts to switch and ultimately switch back caused even more problems for the air traffic controllers.

Eventually the fixed FARICE line was brought back up, Datalink back online (with the switchover-crash problem postponed to be investigated during a low-traffic timeperiod)

It's terrible that there were so many delays, but these are extremely complicated systems with a challenging task, built up over decades with tons of computer components, protocols, lines, routers, radar systems, transmitters, and on and on, scattered all over the world. On a weekend. Everyone was scrambling and doing their damndest to fix it as soon as possible. It should also be noted that it was never a safety issue - even in the absolute worst case, air traffic control could go all the way back to the old paper-and-pencil method. What the systems give is, primarily, speed, and thus when there's big problems, there's delays.

And that was my weekend, how was yours? ;)

Comment Re:Axis of evil, again (Score 2, Insightful) 137

The US could turn virtually every major urban area of Iran into radioactive craters, could wipe out most of its navy and air force in 48 hours and likely most of its anti aircraft capacity in pretty short order as well.

When I think of major threats I think of Japan in WWII or the USSR during the Cold War.

Comment Re:Duh (Score 4, Interesting) 462

What if I told you I was the Emperor of Andromeda and that my farts didn't stink and every time I touched a dollar bill, it turned into a bar of gold?

Talk is cheap, mate, and even if, on the outside chance you aren't some stupid antivaccer trying to make your objections sound the least bit rational, then I'd say the weight of your fellow biologists outweighs any particular claim you may make, and it is them you would have to debate, and it is them you would most likely get used to.

Oh, and stay the fuck away from my kids, you arrogant asshole.

Comment Re:Good (Score 1) 393

We're still running mainly Windows Vista workstations at work. We are making a move to replace the last XP machines (about eight or nine of them), but other than that it's basically going to be playing the attrition game. Most of the computers are dual core processor systems with 2 or 3gb of RAM and 200gb hard drives, more than enough to run browsers and Microsoft Office. Most of my suppliers are desperate to get me to buy new systems, and one of their carrots is they'll ship them out with Windows 7, not exactly boding well for Windows 8 future.

On the other hand, I did do the upgrade to Exchange 2010 to get better support for all the iOS and Android smart devices the staff are using. I get more requests these days to set up smart phones and tablets than I do to configure workstations. It's not that the PC is dying in our organization. Quite the opposite, they're still getting used, but feature-wise they really all plateaued about three or four years ago, and short of a motherboard smoking, I really won't get any bang for our buck by buying replacements.

I know that the suppliers I usually deal with are pestering me a lot, desperate to get sales up. They're just not moving PCs in the enterprise market any more. Even worse, some of the manufacturers are literally competing against themselves. I can buy HP and Dell refurb Windows 7 machines that are a couple of years old for like $150, with Windows 7 Pro license included. The last three computers I bought to replace failed hardware were Dell refurbs. At $150, if they last a year, I figure I've done pretty well, and the oldest of them is sitting at about 18 or 19 months.

Where we once looked at about a three, maybe four year cycle of PC replacement, we're now talking of pushing well past the halfway mark of this decade. Notebooks and laptops will probably have a shorter lifespan simply due to the rigors they go through, but still, we have four year old laptops still in the field.

We can't be the only ones pondering such a replacement cycle, and that's just got to be freaking manufacturers out.

Comment Re:Good (Score 1) 393

I call BS on this. I highly doubt there has been a major push towards build-your-own PCs. Frankly, I think we all have to deal with the fact that smartdevices have kicked the piss out of PCs.

Case in point. We have a three year old laptop which we turn on maybe a couple of times of week. Both the wife and I have 7" tablets (I have a Nexus 7 and the wife has a Kobo Arc). These little critters do the bulk of the surfing and email at home.

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