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CASE NIGHTMARE BLONDE, Part 2

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I'm speechless.

Since the previous blog entry with this title (on August 28th, a scant 8 weeks or so ago) British politics has gone mad. The Prime Minister seized power so enthusiastically, that when he grabbed the levers of power they broke off in his hands. PMs are not supposed to lose Commons votes; in excitingly historic times it maybe happens a couple of times a decade. This guy is losing them weekly; in fact, it makes headlines when he actually gets a vote to go his way. When he arrived he had a narrow majority, but then he sacked 25 or so of his MPs, and now he's gone and pissed off the minor party that was propping his majority up so badly that the DUP has bailed on him (and are rumoured to be backing Labour's call for a second Brexit referendum). This is like having a skunk cross the road to avoid you because you smell bad. After the Scottish courts ruled his first Prorogation illegal on constitutional grounds Johnson has tried playing dog in the manger, culminating in his behaviour last night when, in response to the Benn Act requirement for him to petition the EU27 for a Brexit extension, he sent them an unsigned photocopy of the letter specified in the Act, with a handwritten request to ignore it. (We have a Prime Minister in full Petulant Schoolboy Meltdown Mode right now.) We have ... no, I can't go on.

Meanwhile on the other side of the Atlantic Preznit Shitrag (I love him really! No, honestly) tried to schedule the next session of the G7 at one of his own resort hotels, in order to line his own pocket. It's as if he can't spell "emoluments" and doesn't care that he's under investigation for impeachment, or something.

In today's Guardian, Nick Cohen has a column that makes sense of it all. In general, there are two rival schools of history: the Great Man theory (history is manufactured on the fly by very stable geniuses), and the movement of masses theory (aka Marxism, aka Economics, aka it's all about who's got the money). Cohen advances a third, highly plausible, theory, the Great Moron Theory of history, and manages to cite Norman Dixon's classic work, On the Psychology of Military Incompetence. Briefly: these political dumpster fires bear striking psychological similarities to the inflexible and incompetent generals who thrive in military institutions until they're challenged by the exigencies of actually having to, er, do military stuff. At which point they break, catastrophically: they confuse war with sport, expect their enemies to run inflexibly according to the strategy they attribute to them, and are dedicated to self-advancement above all else (including victory). This can work (for a while) when you're not at the top of the greasy pole, but when you're at the top there's no further scope for self-advancement: you have to deal, or else.

Anyway.

I am now waiting with bated breath for the EU27's reaction to BoJo's clowning about. Hopefully, if they've got any sense, they'll grant him a 12 month extension (way more than he asked for); that'd instantly provide us with enough elbow room for a People's Vote and/or a general election. But more likely the pain is likely to drag out until the opposition get bored pulling the wings off the upside-down-and-waggling-its-lets-in-the-air Boris, allow a no confidence motion to pass, and then try to form a government headed by ... who? Jeremy Corbyn? (Forget Jo Swinson.) If we're very lucky it'll turn out that Keir Starmer is running the show behind the curtain and Jezza will obediently do as he's told: but that's probably too much to ask for.

One thing is, however, now glaringly clear: if BoJo manages to push a Brexit through (any Brexit) it's curtains for the Union. Currently polls in Scotland show a 54-56% majority for independence in event of a no-deal Brexit; this rises to 70% or thereabouts among the under-34s. Boris's contempt for Scottish politicians is pretty glaring: he's grown up in the wake of Margaret Thatcher's abandonment of Conservative seats north of the border circa 1980 and doesn't seem to realize that it'll take actual hard work to convince Scotland (and Northern Ireland) not to leave—prevaricating over issuing a Section 30 Order to permit a referendum only makes things worse (for which, see Barcelona). His predecessors are worried, with good reason; it seems likely that Johnson's bumptious Little Englander pose is going to rupture the UK.

So. What next?

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denubis
8 hours ago
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Sydney, Australia
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Air Force finally retires 8-inch floppies from missile launch control system

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Pour one out for the 8-inch floppy, retired from the Air Force after 50 years of service.

Enlarge / Pour one out for the 8-inch floppy, retired from the Air Force after 50 years of service. (credit: CBS News)

Five years ago, a CBS 60 Minutes report publicized a bit of technology trivia many in the defense community were aware of: the fact that eight-inch floppy disks were still used to store data critical to operating the Air Force's intercontinental ballistic missile command, control, and communications network. The system, once called the Strategic Air Command Digital Network (SACDIN), relied on IBM Series/1 computers installed by the Air Force at Minuteman II missile sites in the 1960s and 1970s.

Those floppy disks have now been retired. Despite the contention by the Air Force at the time of the 60 Minutes report that the archaic hardware offered a cybersecurity advantage, the service has completed an upgrade to what is now known as the Strategic Automated Command and Control System (SACCS), as Defense News reports. SAACS is an upgrade that swaps the floppy disk system for what Lt. Col. Jason Rossi, commander of the Air Force’s 595th Strategic Communications Squadron, described as a “highly secure solid state digital storage solution.” The floppy drives were fully retired in June.

But the IBM Series/1 computers remain, in part because of their reliability and security. And it's not clear whether other upgrades to "modernize" the system have been completed. Air Force officials have acknowledged network upgrades that have enhanced the speed and capacity of SACCS' communications systems, and a Government Accountability Office report in 2016 noted that the Air Force planned to "update its data storage solutions, port expansion processors, portable terminals, and desktop terminals by the end of fiscal year 2017." But it's not clear how much of that has been completed.

While SACCS is reliable, it is obviously expensive and difficult to maintain when it fails. There are no replacement parts available, so all components must be repaired—a task that may require hours manipulating parts under a microscope. Civilian Air Force employees with years of experience in electronics repairs handle the majority of the work. But the code that runs the system is still written by enlisted Air Force programmers.

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denubis
1 day ago
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going from floppy disks to SSDs. Um. the level of technological complexity and room for error is so much bigger now...
Sydney, Australia
kazriko
1 day ago
Maybe they're calling USB drives, or SD cards their "Solid state digital storage devices"? SD cards often do have a tiny arm core in them, but there are other formats that are much simpler.
kazriko
1 day ago
(Heck, if they're only transfering as much data as the old floppies could handle, they could just use an EEPROM chip in a cartridge form factor.)
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10/17/2019

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10/17/2019

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denubis
1 day ago
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Sydney, Australia
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Neural nets are just people all the way down

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denubis
3 days ago
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Sydney, Australia
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https://screenshotsofdespair.tumblr.com/post/188399332219

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denubis
3 days ago
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Sydney, Australia
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IMF says Australia is caught up in global economic downturn

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The slowest pace of growth since the global financial crisis is being blamed on rising trade barriers and higher uncertainty from swirling geopolitical issues, which are putting a dent in manufacturing and global trade.

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denubis
4 days ago
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Sydney, Australia
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