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Comment Out of Band Modems for router monitoring (Score 2) 410

I do managed security services, and we use modems to manage routers, firewalls, intrusion detection, and similar devices. It's not the primary management mechanism, but you need to be able to talk to the console when the Internet connection's not working, or when your box wasn't staged correctly so it doesn't have the right IP address, or when the box has gotten too hosed to do anything other than power-cycle it. At more permanent locations we'll install networks of terminal servers so we can get serial connections to the console ports without dealing with POTS lines, but usually at customer sites it's dial. And getting customers to connect the "line" side of a modem to the wall and the "phone" side to the router's console port has gotten a lot tougher the last few years.

I doubt it's still done this way, but for a long time the 4ESS phone switches had 56 kbps X.25 satellite connections as backup management. 56k was still tolerably fast, X.25 wasn't obsolete yet, and satellite was a way to get a connection when backhoes or floods had taken out land-based connections.

Comment Re:Mother-In-Law (Score 1) 410

My mom still uses dialup. Her vision's not good enough to do anything with the web, and dialup's plenty to collect her email, just as it always has been. Drives my siblings crazy when they go visit; they occasionally have to go out to Starbucks for their wifi fix. (My wife has a cellular wireless frob, so she's ok not having wifi.) Mom could get low-end cable modem wireless service without too much trouble, because she had to break down and get cable after the digital TV transition happened.

Comment 300-1200 transition was early-mid-1980s (Score 2) 410

At least for CRT terminals and Unix-capable computers (PDP-11s, Vaxen, and most of the Motorola-based machines), 1200 baud took over from 300 baud pretty quickly. We still had 300 baud paper terminals like the TI Silent 700, and people with Commodore 64s or TRS-80s might be using 300 baud, but otherwise 300 was mostly gone by the mid-80s. I last used a Silent 700 around 1991, dug out from the storage closet at the lab because I was working on a project with a company that wouldn't let us connect to the outside world from their LAN, but their security people were ok with a Silent 700 on their phone network, figuring it couldn't compromise anything. It was an old and clunky way to read mail, but it sort of worked.

There were exceptions - the Visa credit-card protocols ran at 300 baud, because it was much faster to sync up at 300 (3-4 seconds) and send less than 100 characters of data than to spend 45-60 seconds syncing up 1200/9600/14400 and send anything.

Comment Shoe Bomber isn't why you have to take shoes off (Score 1) 325

Sure, the TSA's "be afraid, be very afraid" and "be compliant sheep" commercials while you're waiting in line tell you that, but they were making people take their shoes off at lots of airports before the shoe bomber. Why? Because lots of mens' dress shoes have metal shanks in them, and they set off metal detectors a lot, so they were slowing down lines dealing with them. By making everybody take their shoes off before that, they could avoid the problem, just like making people take their belts off avoids the delays from large belt buckles setting off metal detectors. The shoe bomber was just an excuse to expand the rule to everybody.

Before they started doing it, I tended to wear Teva sandals, which are all non-metallic, and I've lived in places where lots of people wear flipflops, but the airports that had randomly started doing the "it's always been the rule" rule about taking shoes off would sometimes make us take our shoes off anyway, even before the shoe bomber.

Comment Alarm-B-Gone! (Score 1) 153

It's not much different from one of those TV-B-Gone remote controls that turn of TVs, except they're programmed to run through all the common TV shutoff codes and he figured out which one he needed for his particular device. (They're basically just a microcontroller, IR LED, battery, and switch.)

As far as "there's an app for that" goes, most of the TV remote control apps I've seen cost a few dollars, just because they can, and because Apple encourages you to charge money to use their app store.

Comment False Positives and Dogs (Score 1) 153

My downstairs apartment neighbor has a dog. Always barks when I'm going up or down the stairs, sometimes before.

I used to live in a house with a driveway that was right next to my neighbor's, separated only by a low fence and a few feet of grass. The dog was usually outside, and considered my driveway to be part of his territory, so he'd bark if I went out to the car or drove up and got out of it.

Comment Evil Things RDRAND Could Do (Score 3, Informative) 566

Yes, RDRAND could do evil things. It could go play Towers of Hanoi when you execute it. It could Halt and Catch Fire. It could email your MAC address to the KGB. So could any other instruction, if Intel wanted to be malicious, just when you thought it was safe to go back in the register pool.

If the NSA has convinced Intel to do evil things with RDRAND, the most likely one would be to hand out low-quality entropy when claiming that it's high-quality. It's still useful, and like any entropy source, it shouldn't be the only entropy source you use, and you shouldn't use it without hashing it together with a bunch of other hopefully-not-broken entropy. But it's still useful, and as somebody said, the NSA isn't your only enemy.

Especially when you're starting up a machine (physical or virtual), you really need good entropy and you don't have a lot of sources available yet. If you don't trust RDRAND, or even if you do, hash it together with some secret password and the clock and whatever else you've got.

Comment You missed the Golden Age Pulps, I guess (Score 1) 322

Somebody at Worldcon said that the circulation of paper magazine SF is down to something like 20,000 copies/month, from millions back in the day. Short stories work differently from books, and the choices are pretty much to do them in magazines, or in anthologies, or now the internet, but it's a tough market. (And short story writers are getting paid far less per word today, adjusted for inflation, than back in the 50s. The going rate is under 10c/word, while the 3c/word the old guys used to get would be maybe 30c-$1 in today's money.)

Comment Books also have better pictures and audio (Score 1) 322

There are exceptions - "2001: A Space Odyssey" was a better movie than book (even without drugs :-) and "Star Wars" (the original non-re-edited one) was too. But for the most part, the visual effects and sound are a lot better when you're reading a book and playing them inside your head than when some movie producer with a finite budget tries to interpret them.

Comment How can you not read a Wordstar 1.0 floppy? (Score 1) 440

All these mechanisms have their limitations, and if you've ever tried to do real-world data collection from a wide-ranging group of people who have data in random formats, it's a mess. People used to send me tapes in VMS Backup format, or with a duct-tape label indicating which tape it was and an Nth-generation photocopy of what some of the fields on the tape were, or 8" floppies in RSX-11 format. I've got useful data on Sun cartridge tapes, ZIP drives, and several generations of floppies, not that I've got readers for all of them (or ways to plug the readers into my current computers.) My department at $DAYJOB had the last 800-bpi 9-track tape drive in my building 20+ years ago; these days I don't know anybody with a 1600- or 6250-bpi tape drive, though I suspect there are some here in Silicon Valley besides the Computer History Museum and Digibarn.

Data formats rot. Hardware formats rot. The only way to keep the stuff is to keep copying onto newer media, and keep extensive documentation.

Comment X-Don't-Wiretap-Me-,-Bro!: (Score 1) 202

Yeah, that'll work.

Protecting your messages with crypto is a start, and using traffic mixers like Tor and Mixmaster to resist traffic analysis, but it's a hard job when the Bad Guys have Moore's Law on their side and unlimited unaccountable budgets and politicians who want to keep it that way.

Comment Big Government is a Right-Winger thing (Score 1) 202

Look, you right-wing trolls like to talk about how liberals and progressives want big government, but we're dealing with Bush's Homeland Security Mafia here, and the right-wing Drug War, and the right-wing Big Military-Industrial-Complex which goes conquering other countries on behalf of Big Oil and Hating Foreigners. And you guys talk about "Intellectual Property" like it's as sacred a thing as owning real dirt property that we stole from the Indians, so the Copyright Police are as much your fault as they are the liberals' fault. And if Obama were actually a liberal, we'd have some Hopey Changey Stuff and the warrantless wiretappers and Gitmo torturers would be in jail, instead of him telling his Justice Department to defend the Bush Administration policies.

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