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Comment Not Defending Delta, But ... (Score 1) 145

Maybe they do need to upgrade their systems. And actually, Delta is making a profit right now. Maybe they have the money, maybe not. I don't know.

Final disclaimer: I don't know the details of what caused Delta's meltdown. But I'll share my own, much smaller-scaled personal experience to let you know why I shall at least hesitate before pointing fingers at the airline.

I work for the best company in US radio broadcasting. (Personal opinion, but there you go.) (Heh.) We are willing to spend the money on new equipment and systems to keep our radio stations on air. We have a backup generator at our studios and UPS units on all critical systems. They're tested and serviced frequently.

We've had severe storms in our region (I'm in Birmingham, Delta is in Atlanta) lately. We have had power failures where the AC will flicker on, off, on, off, rapidly, for several seconds, then finally die. Speaking from experience, this can cause all sorts of problems. (Don't believe me? Plug your favorite UPS into an outlet strip and toggle the AC on and off, on and off, while it's under load. Don't be surprised if it finally barfs.)

At any rate: our generator controller got confused and refused to crank the genset and a couple of critical UPS units shut off. I won't bore you with the details, but by any definition, it was a low probability event. We fixed it, we got back on air, and I designed a mod for our 10-year old Kohler generator controller. In fact, I'm ordering the parts now.

Here's the point: it's always something. If you lock the doors, the bad guys come through the window. If you bar the windows, they'll chop a hole in the ceiling. It's a never-ending battle. You examine the failure, do a post-mortem, then figure out a way to prevent it from happening again ... and THEN, wait for the next Big Bite(tm). :)

So ... maybe Delta mighta-shoulda spent some money to prevent their failure from happening. I'm not going to say that they've invested the money to ensure that what happened shouldn't have happened. But I'm also prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt. :)

Comment Re:Dumb (Score 1) 145

Didn't have time to look up the others, but Singapore Air is supported by the government of Singapore. They own over 40% of the airline, according to Wikipedia.

Not taking away from them, I know they're good and have a great reputation. But you're not exactly comparing apples to apples if you try to compare Singapore with, say, Delta or United.

Comment Hmmph. (Score 4, Informative) 152

The real reason for the cell companies to "offload" data is to ease the load on their networks. OK, I understand that ... and I realize that it could save me money. If I'm in a hotspot, why not use that instead of eating my limited data plan?

But honestly, Verizon has almost gotten ridiculous with it. Little beg screens ("are you SURE you don't want to connect to wireless?" -- it was a happy day when I figured out how to kill that one), refusing to open Web pages if I'm just beyond the range of a known hotspot, and worse.

Verizon is VERY aggressive about offloading.

Given how much it costs to build a new tower site nowadays, I can understand, but don't be fooled: the benefit of offloading is primarily for the cell carrier, and NOT for you. :)

Comment Oak Ridge National Lab's take on it (Score 3, Informative) 182

Really interesting reading, found the link at the Wiki article on NEMP.

I think, as usual, the truth lies somewhere in the middle (as the ORNL study points out). A few things to keep in mind:

1. Even a small nuclear weapon can cause a significant EMP. Larger weapons cause a more widespread affect, but even a relatively small 2KT weapon, targeted over a key facility, could knock out power to a large area.

2. The weapon needs to be detonated above dense atmosphere.

As far as electromagnetic pulses in general, shielding is effective ... and those who say it isn't don't understand that there are right and wrong ways to shield and ground. In my work (radio engineer), I have to do some odd-looking things to protect against lightning. A single loop in a feedline to an AM tower, for example, attenuates the lightning that comes back into my facility. Thus, I have big honkin' ball gaps at the tower base, but can get by with a smaller "horn gap" at the entry to my equipment.

Our grid could be protected with reasonable expenditures. We couldn't prevent all damage, but we could limit it. Solid-state electronics have to be protected two ways: overall shielding, and limiting/protection at the I/O points. For example, an old desktop computer in a heavy metal case, with a good ground, probably wouldn't notice the EMP ... *except* for induced voltages coming in on the video, mouse and printer cables. Those would probably send the motherboard screaming into the shrubbery. :)

Comment Re:Nations fear it, but they fear each other more. (Score 5, Informative) 221

> treaties override the US constitution as per precedent ...

No. Only in certain very limited cases.

From that article: "No agreement with a foreign nation can confer power on the Congress, or on any other branch of Government, which is free from the restraints of the Constitution."


"The concept that the Bill of Rights and other constitutional protections against arbitrary government are inoperative when they become inconvenient or when expediency dictates otherwise is a very dangerous doctrine and if allowed to flourish would destroy the benefit of a written Constitution and undermine the basis of our government."

Comment Re:AppArmor (Score 4, Interesting) 145

> the only reason no virus got around that is that no one bothered working around a blocker no one uses

At the time, we actually had thousands of users of the ARF Antivirus, and we received more than one report that there were indeed efforts to hack it. :)

What you say is true *technically.* And you should change your username to "Deja Vu," because I (and my friends with similar approaches, like Zvi Netiv with Invircible) had to repeat this over and over. I finally got tired of it, and given that out of those thousands of downloads only ONE person ever bother to register/pay, it wasn't worth it. Fuggedaboutit, just use your virus scanner and we'll still be friends.

Never forget this: it's theoretically possible to do many things. But it is not always PRACTICAL. In the instant case, using your example, a virus that tried to emulate actual DOS calls, essentially duplicating the code internally, would be very large. Remember, this was back in the day of dial up modems and bulletin boards. And a virus that emulated processor opcodes would be even larger.

(And *cough* ... we also kept encrypted copies of critical system areas, and compared what we'd stored with what we found -- both on disk AND in memory -- from time to time. That made it much more difficult for the "stealth OS" hack that you describe.) (Heh.)

But I'm not going to waste time rehashing this argument. What I WILL warn against is what I saw your attitude produce, too many times to count: "since we can't guarantee 100% that a system can't be hacked, why bother?" I'm not saying that's what you believe, but I ran across that attitude too many times to count.

Comment Re:AppArmor (Score 5, Interesting) 145

> it sounds like AppArmor

Or SE Linux, as others have noted.

It is possible to achieve high levels of security through integrity checking and behavior(al) control. It just costs a bit in performance and memory. And if you write something in very tight C, it's not going to be large.

I may have mentioned this here before; if so, I apologize. But a million years ago, back when MS DOS 5 came out, a friend and I developed something called the ARF Utilities. (To my endless amusement, you can still find it in a Google.) Our approach was integrity and behavior blocking.

One reason why DOS was so vulnerable at the time was because Microsoft kept rebuilding and reusing the same code. The entry point to the DOS kernel (the old INT21h interface) didn't change from DOS 5 through 6.22. Our integrity blocker did a simple search to find that in memory, then *patched* DOS to send all calls through the behavior blocker, which was resident in memory. We also hooked and examined a bunch of other stuff inside the kernel (including the INT 21h interface and the SHARE hooks -- the latter was a terrible security vulnerability and only the appearance of Windows 95, and the rapid demise of DOS, kept it from being exploiting widely and wildly.) The blocker was written in assembler and could fit in about 2K of memory, as I recall.

It also checked itself, and the integrity of an executed program's file, at startup, and each time a program was terminated. By "check," I mean it literally scanned its own code in memory, compared random CRCs taken of different blocks to generated values stored earlier and would instantly warn if DOS, the terminating program or itself had been tampered with. (You don't just do one "checksum" of a fixed length; you do different blocks, chosen at random, generated on the fly at system startup.)

We couldn't find a virus that could get around it. The worst we ever experienced was a hang that required a hard reboot. But the system wasn't altered. And yet, the Official Anti-Virus Community (which, at the time, was BIG business) rejected our approach, called us interlopers and marginalized us. Everyone back then wanted scanners, scanners, scanners. All of the tests were on scanners.

In sum: I have no idea if this particular company's code is snake oil or the Real Deal(tm). But don't just dismiss them. If you think outside the box, it is possible to find better ways to do something.

Just my opinion and worth every penny of what you paid for it. :)

Comment Re:Digital imitaing analog != Analog (Score 2) 155

> That's not analog strictly speaking. That is a digital device imitating an analog display.

Technically true, but I think you're missing the point. In fact, the arguments here about whether this meter is "true analog" or that one is "digital" miss what the original poster was trying to say.

Whether I play my guitar and record it directly, or use a digitized sample or even a modeled guitar sound, the end result sounds like a guitar. Likewise, it's entirely possible to emulate an analog meter with digital techniques. While I might prefer the real thing when recording (and I do), my eyes truly couldn't care less whether the meter that I'm looking at uses a magnetic moving vane, or is just a clever simulation done digitally. (The operative term is "clever;" if it's a bad simulation, that's different.)

On most of my transmitters, even the all-solid-state ones, the power meters are moving vane analog types. I actually prefer them. Nautel (the manufacturer) now does all-digital displays on its latest boxen, but you can also have analog-style bargraphs.

When we rebuilt a 50KW AM directional back in 1999, I installed a then-cutting-edge all-digital antenna monitor to measure current ratios and phases. At first, I was excited ... but when I saw how the displays jumped and toggled around, I found myself longing for an older analog-style meter. (Call me a dinosaur.) :)

Again: I wouldn't care if it was an excellent simulation done digitally. Something that gives me a smooth, "averaged*" response, is all I care about.

One popular audio meter nowadays is the Dorrough Loudness Monitor ( It has the best of both worlds: a little peak LED that flies off to the right, showing the instantaneous peak levels, and an "averaged" LED indication of the perceived loudness. Is that "digital" or "analog?" I don't care. It's blamed useful. :)

(* technically, I guess you'd say "RMS," but that's not really accurate for what we're doing, either.)

Comment My Experience With ATT (Score 2) 132

For years, I used a small ISP called Hiwaay Information Services here in Alabama. Great people, I was on a first-name basis with tech support and sales. ATT owned the lines, of course, but Hiwaay bought the service wholesale and resold it to individuals like me. It cost me a little more, but if I had a problem, instead of going through ATT's byzantine voice menus and slower-than-molasses "escalations," I called and they'd hound ATT until it was fixed.

Well worth it, in my book. I MUST have high-speed access at home for remote administration of our servers after hours.

Then ATT introduced Uverse. We received monthly offers to switch to Uverse; I ignored them and stayed with Hiwaay. But Hiwaay finally sent me a letter: sorry, ATT is no longer making these products available to us, so we'll have to cancel your DSL. I had no choice but to go with UVerse.

Right now, the price is less, but they could raise it in the future and there is no competition (unless I want to use dialup; forget that). They send me WEEKLY offers to use the UVerse "cable" television service. They can't stop DirecTV from selling to me, so I'm still with that. For now. :)

Now: you decide if the big-hearted folks at Comcast and Time-Warner will do similar or equivalent things. Add to this the service that our company gets from them in some of our other markets, and I'm afraid I'm just not quite as impressed with their protestations as I might otherwise be.

Comment Re:I share the opinion of a Wikipedia IP editor (Score 4, Informative) 349

In fact, I can't speak for the latest versions of Windows (because it has been a while since I've programmed), but even as late as Windows XP, a call to "get version" returns something completely different from the marketing version number/name.

For example, under Windows 95, GetVersion() would return "4.0." Under XP, it reports NT 5.1 or NT 5.2.

Comment Science Fiction (Score 1) 276

Those of us who love science fiction are used to this. It's fun to go back and read what some of the authors in the 1950's thought the future would look like. My personal favorite is that no thought it given to miniaturization; everything still uses tubes. Exotic tubes with magical abilities (like the power tubes in the Venus Equilateral series), but still vacuum tubes with filaments.

When it comes to computers, it's just as hit and miss. The way some authors handle artificial intelligence is by insisting that it won't happen. (David Weber, to name one -- in his books, the idea is that any true AI would quickly go insane.)

(But then, poor David has other concerns: in the Honor Harrington series, one key to Manticore's military superiority is the fact that they've harnessed "gravity waves" for faster-than-light communications ... and the physicists have long since determined that gravity propagates no faster than the speed of light.) :)

Likewise when I see anyone in a story "pressing a button" (even if it's a virtual button). We're already on the brink of direct neural interfaces. You think it, things happen. That's the future. But to be fair to these authors, it's hard to see what's coming in 10 years.

Comment Loser Pay Legislation (Score 3, Informative) 223

Loser-Pay Legislation would take care of the second one. Been saying it for years.

Eventually, those folks who oppose it simply because it seems too "conservative" for their politics are going to get their minds right.

The United States is the only major Western Democracy that doesn't follow the "british rule," where the winning party in a lawsuit is generally allowed to recover the costs of bringing or defending a suit.

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