off topic: new car advice for senior

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<stuff snipped>

Haven't touched a mainframe since 19 -seventy something and then I really only fed it stacks of punch cards. Having punch card experience makes you an old fogey these days.
I *nearly* went to work for Sperry helping to design a traveler system for NASA parts. It was shortly after the "O" ring failure and NASA decided that every part that went into the space shuttle, even a piece of wire, had to be accompanied by a full chain of custody on-line. When the HR guy took me around to meet the team, they all scurried away like cockroaches.
It turns out the Sperry was laying off senior people and bringing in young pukes like me to cut salary costs. They had little interest in meeting the people that were taking their jobs and I can't blame them. I decided instead to work for an employment company that scheduled nurse visits and was using spreadsheets to do it. You wouldn't believe all the things that spreadsheets got used for until they grew too big. Then I'd get the call. (-:
After that I made my living converting spreadsheets to databases and taking on applications scheduled for mainframe implementation that had languished in the queue for a year or more. Doing PC software developing was really like being a cowboy on the wide open prairie. Conversion is a weird business to be in. Sometimes it's easier than developing software from scratch and sometimes you wish you had that option.

I have a good friend that was a little older than me who was a mainframe jockey like you <g> and a true believer that no PC or network of PCs could ever touch a mainframe for most large applications. I would always say "we're getting there!"
Looking at it dispassionately, there's actually convergence between PCs and mainframes in that massively parallel PCs are hooked together using multiple CPUs in much the same way. Clearly places like Amazon and Google have decided that PC server farms are far better tools for their transaction-based trade than a supercomputer. And transactions per second was the holy grail back then so I assume that mantle has passed.
I learned some pretty valuable things from a mainframe jockey in my PC user group. One was to document all changes as if someone else was going to have to work on the machine. Or more importantly as if you were being handed the system from someone else. As my memory fades, documenting what I do is becoming more and more critical. )-: Oddly enough, I can't remember the second, more important thing that he taught me. Sheesh. I can't even remember whether there WAS a second thing that he taught me. I'll wake up at 3AM shouting it.
--
Bobby G.





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Wrote mainframe operating systems for a bunch of years until the company (Unisys nee Burroughs) stopped new development in 1992. The last of the systems was retired in 2010 and now is a working exhibit at the Living Computer museum in seattle (although the card readers were long since retired).
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On 10/09/2015 11:08 AM, Robert Green wrote:

Back then if the IBM CE had to have access to the secure area we had to remove the printer ribbons just in case he was a Russkie spy with a lot of time on his hands to try to patch together the ribbon strikes.
iirc, the Iranians learned if you let people with thumb drives near your air-gapped system your centrifuges tend to rev up to 9 million rpm and go boom.
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<stuff snipped>

As I recall the Sovs built a device that allowed them to drop a used IBM Selectric ribbon in the machine and get a printout of everything that had been typed. The only problem is that spaces weren't recorded on the ribbon and had to be guessed at.
Soinalineoftypelikethisyouhadtofigureoutwheretoputthespaces.

go boom.
The Sovs learned something like that when one of their oil refineries exploded after they had stolen refinery control software that had been specially modified by the CIA to allow one of the holding tanks to be stoked to an 'impossible to contain' pressure. It was a huge explosion.
I saw a piece about how easy it is to get a company employee to insert a compromised CD or USB stick into the company's network. The people running the test just left them in sealed envelopes around the building at tables and in the restrooms that were marked: "Salary information for Company X executives."
Nearly ALL CDs and USB sticks so marked found their way to the company's network. It was well above 90%. Such information was apparently just too much for curious minds to ignore given the way some companies treat their exec salaries like State Secrets. My wife has to take classes every year now about how to recognize social engineering attacks because they have been used so successfully. It's thought the recent huge breach that exposed the personal data of so many Federal workers began as a social engineering attack.
The game just keeps goingm, though. It turns out that when they closed off the USB ports, snoopers just inserted keystroke recorders and picked them up later.
I'm always amazed at how many PCs I come across in the business and medical world that are incredible insecure and vulnerable to all sorts of attack vectors. I have to overcome my temptation to unplug card readers, printer ports, network ports, etc. Most PCs are not designed to offer any way to lock down input and output cables. I suspect somewhere in the country at any given time, a lot of information is being siphoned off by skimmers, recorders and various forms of vampire taps.
Speaking of recovering things from carbon ribbons, my Brother Fax uses a huge, page-wide roll of carbon film upon which every fax ever sent or received is immortalized in negative form on the ribbon. No (not very) complex reconstruction of keystrokes is required. Just holding the ribbon to the light will do.
--
Bobby G.



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Robert Green posted for all of us...

That is already extensively in use by the VA don't know the platform. I wonder if a "concierge" doc would have more info.
--
Tekkie

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On 9/30/2015 6:52 AM, rbowman wrote:

Most of the folks that I know who are into Macs "just want it to work". They tend not to use esoteric software (e.g., just a "productivity suite") so can live with the more restrictive offerings that seem to be available to the Apple world. OTOH, they don't want to have to spend an afternoon coercing a printer to interoperate with their computer. Or, deal with DLL hell, The Registry, etc.
A neighbor who frequently called me to sort out his "PC problems" bought a Mac about two years ago. I've not heard from him (wrt computer problems) since then! So, either he has decided he doesn't need all those programs and peripherals that he needed previously on his PC (doubtful!) *or* the Mac manages to make it easier for him to make it work without my involvement.
[He's a Republican, if that matters :> ]
Old (e.g., 68K) Macs were always BUILT much better than PC's of similar vintage. But, running MacOS was just impractical (for the sorts of applications that *I* want). And, they were terribly underpowered (esp for the price).
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Don Y wrote:

Mac is just for general consumers. Is there a Mac used as server? I had assembled a few PC clone to control mould making machine using laser beam. Using top quality power supply, memory, 3D capable high res. graphics card, enterprise class HD. None ever had trouble. This boxes run only specific application 24/7. Cutting a mould from special alloy block often takes for days. My SIL owns the shop. Always too much work to do. Even he makes helicopter engine mounts for military helicopters. Many things for oil field equipment, etc. He makes mould for something like RJ45 jack. He is mechanical engineer by training. Couldn't be happier quitting his desk job and starting his own business.
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On 10/1/2015 10:47 AM, Tony Hwang wrote:

Yes, there are several 1U Mac servers. Now considerably more practical as OSX isn't *entirely* geared to single users (as MacOS was)

PC's have come a long way since the early/mid 80's. And, applications are now largely prevented from diddling with specifics of the hardware as they could "in the old days". E.g., I have software that won't work with USB serial ports, USB parallel ports, etc. but, instead, requires *genuine* hardware ports. One early ecad program required a special mouse card and mouse! (the application talked directly to the mouse, not a "driver layer")

I've not regretted setting out on my own, decades ago. It let me decide how I wanted to spend my days -- instead of someone else TELLING me how they would be spent.
I *do* miss not having a "stationery cupboard" that I could raid for supplies without worrying about restocking it. Similarly, it would be nice to be able to have a technician order parts for prototypes instead of having to do so, myself. I.e., the "grunt work" that I can't pawn off on someone else as would be the case in a 9-to-5.
OTOH, the idea of having employees would be worse (to me) than having a *boss*!
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Don Y wrote:

What SIL did was gathered round some class mates to form core of the place. All employees participate in profit sharing. Still he says HR is always stressful. He just turned 40. His goal is to retire at 50. Move to small Alpine town where daughter can practice(rural family medicine). They are avid mountain people, trekking, rock climbing, ice climbing, skiing, etc.
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On 10/1/2015 11:34 AM, Tony Hwang wrote:

I would think it would be *moreso* because "everyone has a stake" ("You can't fire me! I'm a part owner!") and all are/were "friends".
One of the best things (retrospectively) in my career was NOT going into business with my best friend. We had complimentary talents, similar outlooks/goals, etc. But, in hindsight, he opted for security and profits while I opted for diversity and "adventure". I.e., this would have turned up sooner or later and soured our relationship.

I live in fear of "forced" retirement -- i.e., when my mind or body can no longer keep up with the goals that I set for myself. My current project has me taxed to the limits of my abilities -- so much so that, for the first time in my career, I actually wonder if I can pull it off!
I have no idea what to do *after* this as I'm sure whatever goal I set *would* be unattainable! :<
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On 10/01/2015 12:11 PM, Don Y wrote:

I did okay on my own back in the '80s. The one thing I didn't enjoy was selling myself. Fortunately I'd made a few contacts that kept me in work but there was always the feeling my eggs were in only a few baskets. The bookkeeping and so forth didn't do much for me either.
Some people really want to have their own business; I just wanted to write code.
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On 10/1/2015 7:56 PM, rbowman wrote:

Yup. I remember visiting accountant for my first tax return as a business. He looked over my records and said, "What the hell do you need *me*, for?" "<shrug> I dunno. You tell me?!"
My downside was that clients wanted "repeat business" -- but, that would just be "another project very similar to the one you just finished". There's no appeal in that, for me. Sure, LOTS of appeal for client as I am now a "proven quantity" -- especially for projects of that sort! But, I'm not going to LEARN anything doing "model 2".

Yup. I am a terrible manager! My idea as to "management" is that *I* should facilitate getting whatever resources those "under me" need. I shouldn't need to monitor their progress (they're PROFESSIONALS, right?) or track their attendance, hours, etc. This is contrary to what most employers consider "management responsibilities".
I also want to be "in the thick of things" -- pushing the technology in different directions, exploring what *can* be done instead of what *might*/should be done.
One of the most taxing projects I undertook was writing a user's manual for an existing device. I.e., I had no say in how the device was designed, how consistently it was implemented, how reliable it was, etc. Yet, had to codify all of this in a way that *seemed* intuitive to readers.
[I am NOT keen on writing/composition! OTOH, I learned a lot about how to organize material in a way that made it easy for folks to navigate and "recall" -- remember WHERE you found something is as important as finding it in the first place!]
I also developed ways of doing things that made "typographical errors" impossible. And, have extended those to other hardware/software design aspects so you defined something *once* and let the tools ensure that everything related to that is synthesized *from* that "gold master" (instead of transcribing things manually, etc.)
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On 10/01/2015 09:13 PM, Don Y wrote:

It wasn't all bad but I took one 'three month' project at GE Ft. Wayne that lasted for over a year. Indiana is a little short on mountains and trees, both of which are required for my sanity. A year later the guy called me up again to sort out some BASIC. While I was somewhat happy to find BASIC had advanced past needing line numbers unraveling somebody else's mess in a language you're not that familiar with was interesting. Paid well though and I managed to swing by Mardi Gras on my way back to New Hampshire.

I got drafted into being a manger a few years ago after avoiding it all my life. The 'junior' programmer has been there 15 years so mostly I just carry on as a working programmer. Especially with the guys working on the Android and phone stuff I don't have a clue what they're doing most of the time. I fix a few of the easier Java bugs every now and then to retain some familiarity with the code base but I really prefer languages that start with C -- C, C++, C#. And, no, I've never touched COBOL.
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On 10/2/2015 7:17 AM, rbowman wrote:

Yeah, I turned down a job offer designing televisions in Indiana. Didn't look like a place I'd want to spend much time -- let alone *live*! (apologies to folks there!)

Puzzles (for the sake of being a puzzle) have only limited appeal. I've had to reverse engineer projects from bare metal (draw schematic from an analysis of foils, decompile software from ROM dumps, etc.). The first time is challenging. The second is just tedious (you already *know* you CAN do this so a lot of emphasis goes on the "Why" you're doing it -- again!)

I prefer C to any of the others as it lets me imagine what code the compiler is *likely* to generate. I don't have to worry that some anonymous object is being constructed "between the lines" or some overloaded cast is burning hundreds of machine cycles between one arithmetic operator and the next, etc. (I do real-time embedded systems)
Presently using C, ASM, Limbo (C-ish) and SQL on my current project. Makes it interesting to keep track of what's "legal" at any given time! :>
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On 10/02/2015 11:28 AM, Don Y wrote:

It was different. There actually was a lot to do, buckskinner rendevous, all sorts of car racing, museums, etc. Fairmount had a big James Dean festival since that was his boyhood hometown. I caught Bill Monroe down in Beanblossom before the place went upscale. Auburn has a great car museum. Some people in a little town near Ft. Wayne restored a steam engine and some of the fancy old passenger cars, and would take it for a spin every now and then. I took it down along the Wabash to Peru where the Circus Hall of Fame is. There were a couple of tunnels and they'd pull through, let everyone out, back up, and come out again so the train nuts had a photo op of a steamer coming out of a tunnel.
Except for the southern part down near Nashville it was real short on trees and hills. I learned to fly in the Vermont mountains but Indiana really spooked me. You could land almost anyplace in an emergency instead of trying to land on the side of a tree covered mountain but there was just too much nothing.
I'll also mention in passing that it was the most Christian place I've ever lived.

Working with C and ASM has made me cynical. I look at syntactic sugar like try/catch constructs and my mind says 'there's a prettified goto in there someplace'.

I haven't used Limbo, but I know more about ODBC than i ever wanted to. We have a separate department that handle the records management heavy lifting but somebody had to populate the tables with the live data and that somebody is usually me.
We're looking at a web interface so I've also been playing with JavaScript in all its glory. There are a lot of ways to skin the cat, both server side and client side, and I'm trying to pick the method that isn't going to fade into the sunset like Silverlight.
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On 10/2/2015 8:44 PM, rbowman wrote:

They're "pitch" was the Indy. <yawn>

I grew up in CT so understand. Can't see more than a *block* down a ROAD in any given direction!

Ah! Definitely not the sort of thing that would sit well with me.

Limbo (and SQL) require a significant mental adjustment, for me. Limbo is C-ish (same pedigree) but also has built in GC, *no* pointers (being a hardware person, I rely on pointers almost to a fault!), lots of automagic behind the scenes, inherent support for concurrency (e.g., "spawn" is a keyword), communication channels, "tuples" (including use as return types!), lists, loadable modules, etc.
But, to do so, there is a fair amount of extra syntax embellishment! E.g., to implement a DTMF encoder, one might:
// declare function "encode" taking one "char" argument called "key" // and returning a tuple comprised of an error/success code (int) and // two "frequency" data types (obviously a user-defined type) encode(key: char) : (int, frequency, frequency) { // create some result codes as 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, ... SUCCESS, FAIL: con 0;
// declare a "result" variable as an int type (inferred from SUCCESS) // instantiate it and define it as having the value "SUCCESS" result := SUCCESS;
// declare/instantiate row and column variables for the DTMF frequencies // but don't assign any values! column, row: frequency;
// map specific keys to appropriate *row* frequencies (switch!) case key { '1' or '2' or '3' => row = TOP_ROW; '4' or '5' or '6' => row = SECOND_ROW; '7' or '8' or '9' => row = THIRD_ROW; '*' or '0' or '#' => row = BOTTOM_ROW; * => error = FAIL; }
// map specific keys to appropriate *column* frequencies (switch!) case key { '1' or '4' or '7' or '*' => column = LEFT_COLUMN; '2' or '5' or '8' or '0' => column = MIDDLE_COLUMN; '3' or '6' or '9' or '#' => column = RIGHT_COLUMN; * => error = FAIL; }
return (error, row, column); }
I.e., you can *guess* what is happening (with an understanding of C) but would get the syntax wrong without explicit knowledge of it (e.g., look at "var: int" declarations instead of "int var", "case" where you'd expect "switch", "* =>" instead of a "default:" case, etc.)

I don't deal with ODBC as everything is "my own" -- OS, sql interface module, etc. -- except the PostgreSQL RDBMS. As everything is "deeply embedded", I can't afford to let some sloppy piece of code gobble up resources carelessly without being intimately aware of it's actions (and justification for doing so).

Yup, same here. Being a hardware type, I love finite automata. So, most of my algorithms are table driven -- tweek the table to change the overall algorithm.
In this project, I decided to do away with ALL persistent storage (no file system, etc.) relying exclusively on the RDBMS for "persistence". This has the advantage of providing structure to the data (no need to "parse" configuration files -- just create a table with appropriately named/typed/constrained! columns and read it with a SELECT!).
And, it also lets me move all the "const data" that would normally drive my algorithms *into* the RDBMS! So, I can change a table in the RDBMS and effectively change the behavior of my code -- without having to RECOMPILE any of it!
E.g., if I want to change the rules that are used to convert a string of letters into a particular set of sounds, I don't have to alter the *code* that does that; just alter the *table* that it loads at run-time from the RDBMS and, voila! :>

*Everything* in my current design is C-S. My RTOS makes it easy for me to move big objects around quickly and easily (I can even move a "program" from one node to another with a single function call!)
Each "node" is nominally ~500MHz, 256MB FLASH, 256MB DRAM with a Gb ethernet port (loosely coupled/distributed... not SMP). As I can power up (remote) nodes at will, I can bring more horsepower on-line as my processing needs dynamically increase -- and, "move" programs to whichever nodes have the most "spare resources" at the time.
[It's opportunities like this that lead me to NOT stick with a "tried and true" client base!]
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On 10/02/2015 11:16 PM, Don Y wrote:

I tell people you get a lot more land for the money back east but it doesn't compute. In Montana you can buy a 10 acre ranchette, build your house on the centroid, and you still can't take a leak off the back porch without every neighbor within a mile observing.
I had the same problem in Indiana. I'd got out for a bicycle ride and once you got clear of the city it was all soybeans. A soybean bush isn't very high and a soybean farmer looks on anything that isn't a soybean as a deadly enemy and kills it. After N miles of soybeans you'd turn around and ride N miles back, the wind having changed 180 degrees of course, all without ever seeing a bush big enough to hide behind.
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On 10/3/2015 2:21 PM, rbowman wrote:

Understood. OTOH, when I visit East, I now feel disturbingly claustrophobic. Looking up into 100 ft oaks, through the canopies of all those Maples, etc. and wonder "Where the hell is the *sky*??"
Here, it's not as boring as it was in the Midwest (Chitown). We have mountains (southernmost ski resort is here -- an hour from MX!), *some* tall trees (mostly pine), valleys, etc. In Chitown, I would joke that if I stood on my roof, I'd be the highest point for hundreds of miles!

various landscapes, etc. (previously, my "visits" had been to airports and <wherever> the local client was located wrt that airport). When I got to Kansas (or was it Nebraska?), I remember saying, "Well, this is certainly different!" -- never having seen something as monotonously FLAT and "populated" with such a homogenous "ground cover" (crop).
After 30 mind-numbing minutes, I said, "OK, let's move on to the NEXT one, please!" But, alas, many HOURS of driving remained.
I joked to myself that I didn't *dare* pull over to take a piss, buy gas, get a snack, etc. as I would be fearful that someone would spin my car around and point it in the opposite direction -- and, I wouldn't discover this until I hit the (wrong!) state line!
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On 10/03/2015 04:19 PM, Don Y wrote:

I geocache among other things and when back in one of the Boston 'burbs for a training session I'd go hunting caches in my downtime. I had an afternoon flight out of Logan so I stopped by one of the town woods. It was an overcast day where the light is uniform and you can't tell where the sun was. I was having trouble with the GPS in the dense hardwood canopy but found a couple of caches. After finding the furthest one, the GPS gave out completely. I'd followed a number of twisty little trails that all looked the same to get there. I thought 'Great, I'm going to miss the flight and have to explain how my Dan'l Boone genes failed and I got lost in a 100 acre woodlot. Fortunately I had a real compass in my bag of tricks and could at least head south.
I still carry a compass and practice with it but it Montana unless you really screw up and get in the wrong drainage coming off a mountain it's usually pretty apparent.

When I did a NPE show in Chicago in the early '70s my wife flew out and we had dinner at the John Hancock. The Sears Tower was still under construction so I think it was technically the highest point you could get to without being a steel worker. It says a lot that after dinner for two with a couple of bottles of bubbly I left a $100 bill on the table -- and that included a generous tip. You'd probably have to stack a couple more on top of it today.

I had a little brain spasm driving from Georgia to LA. On I30 you cross into Texas at Texarkana and I was mentally computing the miles left. The only problem was I was on I40 and was not happy when I came to the Oklahoma border instead. My mind just wanted to forget 328 miles of OkieHoma. Of course countries are formed and decay in the time it takes to cross Texas on I30-I20-I10 too.
I've alway thought if you took a map of the US and did a little orgigami fold so the Rocky Mountain front lined up with the Mississippi it would be a much nicer place. Sorry, all you people out there in extreme flyover land.

One of the dimmer of my cousins did that somehow. He was trying for the Poconos, got turned around on the Thruway somehow, and didn't catch on until he got to Buffalo. Close though. He wanted to go to Pennsylvania and finally found it. He deserved a honeymoon in Dreary Erie anyway.
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On 10/3/2015 5:37 PM, rbowman wrote:

In Denver, it was always easy to get your bearings: mountains are west, prairie east.
Here, we have mountains in a couple of directions so, depending on where you are, you can confuse the wrong "range" and get turned around. (also, can't always *see* both ranges so you're left wondering: which are *those*?)

Best thing to eat in chicago is pizza, hands down. Second place would probably be Russel's (roast beef sandwiches).

I used to get screwed up in Chicago whenever I'd get on a "diagonal" road. I'd diligently make note of which way I'd turned (off of a N-S or E-W road) so I could remember which way I needed to turn to return to that original N-S/E-W heading. Then, get caught up watching street signs and forget what I'd tried so hard to remember. Invariably, end up traveling at right angles to my intended direction and kick myself: "Crap! Did it AGAIN!"
[Unlike the locals, I never bothered to memorize street names and their orders/hundreds]
Even here (20+ years) I bet I couldn't name the streets in my immediate neighborhood, reliably! I can probably tell you the names of everyone *on* each of those streets, but the names of the streets themselves would largely be a mystery!
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