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Comment Re: How about (Score 4, Insightful) 356

The trouble in this case is that it is frequently the armchair quarterbacks who are pushing the curriculum, and the teachers trying to pick up the pieces within that context. Letting that sort of thing pass without comment or challenge is allowing the armchair quarterbacks to mess with the teachers. There is obviously a case to be made that "so kids, let's do some proofs about computability!" may not exactly draw the middle schoolers in; but it's also the case that "everybody learns to code because the app entrepreneurs future!!!" creates a strong incentive toward 'CS' watered down until everyone can be shoved through it without too much hassle.

Comment Re:uh, what? (Score 1) 55

I think that it's a mixture of "preorder" and "hype mechanism"; along with a convenient way to test demand. Plus, if you can get suckers to loan you money for an indeterminate time without guarantee of payback or any expectation of return on investment, why not?

I find the process rather seedy; but It's hard to argue with the pragmatic-evil reasons for doing it.

Comment Re:To what extent is this actually bad? (Score 1) 267

I'd imagine that the big variable on 8-in floppy cost is whether or not any modern use requires a magnetic medium of coercivity close enough to be compatible: the actually-floppy floppies are pretty simple on the inside, just a casing made of die-cut plastic sheet, some anti-dust pads on the inside, and the 'donut' of magnetic medium. If you have to commission bespoke magnetic medium because all the modern stuff is too high coercivity to suit high density magnetic recording, that could get unpleasant. If there is some user of magnetic film of appropriate coercivity, getting appropriately shaped pieces of it punched out of sheetstock shouldn't be too difficult.

Even if (and it wouldn't be too surprising) the floppies or their drives are ultimately impractical to keep running, it still might be easier and less risky to build a floppy drive emulator that speaks the appropriate protocol but uses some more modern storage mechanism. That's an entire cottage industry in hobby retrocomputing, allowing you to replace scarce oddball HDDs and weirdo floppies with CF or SD cards; and given the relative simplicity of historical floppy drive interfaces I would strongly suspect that you could get an all-American engineering team to cook up a drop-in replacement without too much trouble.

That said, hardware is certainly the area where obsolescence is likely to become a real logistical problem first; so any attempts at modernization(incremental or wholesale forklift-replacement) should be aimed at trying to decouple the system from specific hardware as much as possible(the 'baseline' hardware profiles used by virtualization systems to accommodate guest OSes that aren't virtualization aware and capable of playing nice with virtualized devices, say, are already obsolete hardware; but will probably be just as available decades from now as they are today); but even where hardware is involved, the difficulty of replacing the system as a whole makes trying to incrementally replace the hardware(with well defined compartmentalization at various interfaces to make the future replacement of your replacements easier) a viable consideration.

Comment Re:To what extent is this actually bad? (Score 2) 267

I wouldn't necessarily take refuge in obscurity if running something important; a core IRS system or nuclear-related control systems would be the sort of targets where you'll get some fairly motivated attackers rather than just kiddies looking for soft targets. That said, it's not necessarily the case that old=insecure in a situation where you aren't dealing with software thrown together as fast as possible to secure a first mover advantage or win a feature race with competitors.

There have been a lot of advances over the years in the average state of low cost hardware and software, and in attempting to mitigate the results of running a hodgepodge of untrusted and mostly crap software exposed to a constant stream of hostile input from the internet; but that newer-is-mostly-less-awful trend is really most notable in the cheap seats, not in comparatively simple(if only because the hardware wasn't available for anything bigger) and very expensive systems built for justifiably paranoid customers.

I suspect that some of the now outdated 'COTS' based systems are truly horrifying: new and common enough that plenty of known vulnerabilities exist, old and dysfunctional enough that they probably aren't getting fixed; but the more unusual evolutionary dead ends, while not cheap to support, have at least a chance of being extremely good at what they do.

Comment Re:New Procurement (Score 1) 267

The tricky bit is whether anyone bidding for such a job would want the project managed as competently as possible, or whether it's one of those situations where having a risibly old(but functional enough that disasters aren't drawing attention to the slipping deadlines of the replacement) legacy system makes meandering in the vague direction of a solution for as long as you can as good or better than actually delivering.

If something like the 'CityTime' payroll system upgrade project can go as excitingly wrong as it did; I'd hate to see what a project of this magnitude would do.

Comment Re:Well... (Score 4, Interesting) 267

It was all pretty monochrome; but some surprisingly early GUIs existed. SAGE had them(with lightguns rather than mice, since it predated those by a fair bit); among various other flavors of 'it's actually pretty impressive what you can do with vacuum tubes if you have a lot of smart people and nigh-unlimited money' style tech.

Comment To what extent is this actually bad? (Score 3) 267

I'd be curious to know how many of these seriously outdated systems are egregious piles of failure; and how many are utterly contrary to any fad of the week from the last three decades; but where done right the first time and actually compare pretty favorably to the results of (the so often horribly doomed) 'upgrade' efforts.

Some flavors of outdated are fairly clearly bad; if you can't get replacement hardware without raiding a museum or reverse engineering and cloning/emulating quirky 80s gear all by yourself, keeping your systems running is going to be unpleasant and expensive. If you have a system whose security depends on an OS or other 3rd party components that have exciting known vulnerabilities and haven't had vendor support even under a thrillingly expensive special extended contract with the vendor in a decade, you have a problem.

If you have a legacy system that is merely retro; but well built and supported by hardware you can still get without much trouble, you will certainly get your share of snide comments about its dreadfully antique design; but you are taking a real risk in trying to modernize it. Those sorts of 'upgrades' don't always fail; but agonizing, wildly expensive, upgrade attempts that languish in development so long that the upgrade is obsolete before you've finished deploying it are hardly uncommon.

Sure, in an ideal world, we'd all get to implement from scratch with all the benefits of hindsight and absolutely no accrued technical debt; but we don't live in an ideal world. How many of these systems are old as in broken; and how many are old as in classic?

Comment Isn't that adorable... (Score 5, Insightful) 209

So, tell me, how exactly does 'the authority of a democracy' exist when dealing with a program so secret that even the bulk of the congress knew relatively little about it, never mind the electorate at large?

It is nice that his conclusion(and he doesn't think that he is being arrogant in assuming his carefully curated little field trip is sufficiently accurate and representative?) was that the NSA was mostly abiding by the rules they made up, rather than going mad with power; but it's simply smarmy nonsense to pretend that anything that clandestine has any meaningful relationship to democracy. On a good day, such an enterprise might be an unaccountable black box more or less attempting to do what they interpret a democratic society's mandate for them to be; but you could say the exact same thing about a hereditary despot who tries to govern more or less according to the interests of the population as he understands them: aligned with the objectives of a democracy only by their own preference, if at all.

Comment Re:ST3000DM001? In a DATA CENTER? (Score 1) 129

Their whole thing is a software-level redundancy arrangement designed to provide adequate reliability through redundancy on top of utter shit hardware. That's the company's niche. It does mean that they massacre drives like crazy; but their cost/GB is pretty impressive, so long as you are doing fairly cold storage, not something IOPS intensive.

Comment Re:they only run wd reds (non pro) (Score 2) 129

Probably price: Backblaze's thing is using some sort of software abstraction and redundancy layer to get away with providing storage on the cheapest drives that they can get their hands on.

Makes them a pretty good value among providers of offsite backup/cold-ish storage; but they have a very limited interest in paying for more reliability at the hardware level, since that would fairly quickly push them into the domain of traditional storage vendors who use more expensive hardware to provide fault tolerance for software that isn't designed to handle that itself.

They obviously have an interest in getting the best value for money, hence the gathering reliability data, and they'd presumably be willing to pay a nonzero premium if the reliability difference were large enough; but their whole approach is a 'paper over lousy hardware in software' strategy. It makes their storage designs a poor drop-in replacement for many applications(even if you are using a fairly clever filesystem like ZFS that has good tolerance for some drives dying, the sight of SATA port multipliers hanging off the cheapest HBAs they can find might make you a bit nervous); but it's pretty difficult to buy a storage system where a lower percentage of the total cost is non-disk hardware.

Comment Re: Why does this matter? (Score 4, Insightful) 129

Depends on your use case: the Backblaze people are operating a system specifically designed for cheapo drives that are expected to have a fairly high chance of falling over and dying(pragmatically speaking, that's part of why they are so nice and friendly about drive reliability data and sharing the designs for their 'pods': their real asset as a company is the software sauce that allows them to offer cheap, reliable, storage through software-level redundancy on top of a pile of low-end drives packed tight and connected with really cheap HBAs and SATA port multipliers: no fancy hardware RAID, no redundant-controller SAS, etc.)

If you are buying drives to use as the boot volume for computers that only get a single HDD, or even systems with small RAID arrays, you are going to be seriously inconvenienced by drive models that drop dead atypically fast, even if you save a few bucks upfront. Re-imaging a replacement drive or swapping out a failed RAID disk and rebuilding the volume take time and trouble.

If your purposes are very similar to theirs, then your sensitivity to failure is lower and getting a slightly better deal per GB might start to make sense; but you have to be pretty failure insensitive(or the price of reliability really steep) to be in the same boat.

Comment Re:Why does this matter? (Score 1) 129

You misinterpreted: this is a billion drive-hours worth of data, not a drive operating for a billion hours(given that that's a bit over 110,000 years, we don't really have that sort of reliability data, even if anyone cared).

And, when it comes to reliability analysis, that 'ridiculous amount of time' is enormously helpful. How else are you going to draw statistically significant conclusions about something with such an element of chance?

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