Desert island hacking

If you’re ever on a desert island, and all you have to compute on is an old IBM system/36, here are instructions on how to break in if the island’s prior occupants didn’t leave any login information on a yellow sticky on the back of the console.

Soon available on a handy wallet-size card. Well, hey, you just never know.

Hot Wheels

Andy Rubin has a bit on hacking the Segway. Remind me not to steal one of these: settings that “pretty much guarantee broken limbs” ’cause the thief is going to be at full acceleration and won’t be able to steer…

IBM memory lane

Hercules is an emulator for the IBM 360 and 370. And, if you didn’t know, OS/360 is in the public domain. So go wild.

Shrieks, gibbers…

I spent about four months of evenings wayBackWhen mucking about at the IBM Federal Systems Division. There was a local computer literacy thing that some friends and I went to. Of the 20-30 kids who showed up, they realized that four or five of us (a) really knew computers, and (b) were trouble-makers, so they (our IBM hosts) decided that they’d let us use their mainframes.

Before they sat us down at terminals, they gave us a tour: Literally acres of machine-room floor, the “mass store” that held a terabyte or so of video tape and two robot arms that scurred back and forth, loading and unloading the tape into readers. Machine after machine after machine. The tempting orange panic buttons mounted on pillars everywhere that shut everything down (“You don’t press them, you yank on them. Hard. Then we spend days picking up the pieces. Don’t do that.”) The laser printer the size of a living room (“the paper goes ballistic inside.”)

There was a lecture on 370 architecture. I don’t think I really knew what a cache or a TLB was in those days (microprocessors didn’t have them yet). I forget a lot of the dog’s breakfast of software that they exposed us to; mostly we did assembly language, and my programs mostly just blew up. I was learning Emacs at the time [hell, I still am], and the “everything is 80 columns” editing environment was pretty awful. I was learning C and Unix, too, and when I asked how to open a file, expecting maybe to push a string and make an OS trap or something, I got a 20-minute talk that just scraped the surface of the assembler’s macro facility.

Once, one of my programs blew up; it had used its quota of CPU time (a second?) and had been killed. The phone next to my terminal rang. It was the system operator (they knew where you were logged in), and he said that I had 5,000 pages of output queued to be printed, and did I really want that?

[Possibly unrelated, but: Our school district ran on IBM mainframes. A few weeks later we had the district IT division beg us not to crash their mainframe any more. Sigh. I guess these days we’d go to jail or something].


This is the rather surreal notice that we found taped to our front door when we got home this evening.

will be conducted on Thursday, May 22, 2003
in your neighborhood

The Mountain View and Palo Alto Police Department’s [sic] will be conducting training in your area during the afternoon of May 22nd. Officers will be scouting the area and will be assessing a home for its layout and floor plan. This training is intended to develop and reinforce the SWAT team’s ability to make diagrams and tactical plans for residential buildings.

The home that will be used in your neighborhood is being used with the permission of the resident. Their activity should not disturb you, and their presence will be limited to about one hour between Noon and 4 p.m.

The officers may utilize tactical movements, and they may be crouching, running, hiding, or using other methods in order to find positions near the residence that aid in their concealment. A team of about 5 officers will be conducting the training. Officers will not be using weapons during the training, but they will be dressed in green camouflage utility uniforms.

We request the officers involved in the training not be contacted unless you require their assistance for an emergency. In the event you have questions or concerns, please feel free to contact Mountain View Police Lieutenant Max Bosel at (650) 903-6377.

In the event you see other suspicious activity, or would like to verify that activity is related to the police training, you can contact the Mountain View Emergency Communications Center at (650) 903-6395.

Thank you in advance for your support and cooperation.

More capacitor trouble

Via comp.risks, we have an editorial on the Great Capacitor Scare of 2003. For inter-corporate “terrorism” it’s an interesting idea: Spread toothy and maybe semi-truthful dirt about an entire industry segment, and watch scared customers come back to momma.

On the other hand, for existence proofs we have Lucas (“Prince of Darkness”) electrics from the UK, and anything from Italy that runs off electrons or gasoline….

Unix Archive

Here’s an archive of older versions of Unix, including version 6 (which is what I cut my teeth on, on a PDP-11/45 at the National Bureau of Standards).

Obligatory story: Version 6 was before automatic file system repair — when the system crashed (as it did, sometimes at the hands of not-very-experienced summer students like me or my friend Jack), more often than not it was necessary to repair the file system by hand, using ncheck, icheck and clri. When fsck came along, this wacko thing from Berkeley, none of us trusted it….

Errata: I meant dcheck, of course, what was I thinking?

Well, *that* was a big surprise

It’s been slashdotted, so I won’t repeat it here. Intuit has announced that it is removing the current copy protection scheme from next year’s version of Turbo Tax. I guess that all the bad publicity (and support headaches) didn’t make the paltry increase of sales worth it. (Plus, how many people defected to TaxCut?)

I’m happy with TT, and will probably buy it next year if its DRM technology has either been removed, or is simple and non-invasive. I was definitely prepared to jump ship otherwise.

Good move, Intuit. But I think I’ll save my official thanks until next year’s version is out. (“Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me…”).