[TUHS] Questions for TUHS great minds

Ron Natalie ron at ronnatalie.com
Thu Jan 12 02:25:48 AEST 2017

I give up on prediction.    I never thought UNIX would have lasted this long.    Personal computing bounces back and forth between local devices and remote services every decade or so.


I will offer a few interesting observations.    Back when I was still at BRL (somewhere around 1983 probably), one of my coworkers walked in and said that in a few years they'd be able to give me a computer as powerful as a VAX, and it will sit on my desk, and I’ll have exclusive use of it and be happy.    I pointed out that this was unlikely (the being happy part), as my expectations would increase as time goes on.

Ron’s Rule Of Computing:   “I need a computer ‘this’ big” (which is accompanied by holding my arms out about the width of a VAX 780 CPU cabinet.


Hanging up on the wall in one of the machine rooms I administered was a sign comparing the computer that had sat there (the ENIAC) to a then HP 65 calculator.     The HP 65 would have been an incredible tool to the ENIAC guys, but now It seems way dated.


A lot of computer discussion mentioned what would happen if a hacker had access to a CRAY computer.   Could he perhaps brute force the crypt in the UNIX password file?    Oddly, when BRL got their first Cray (an X/MP preempted from Apple’s delivery slot), I was given pretty much as much time as I wanted to try to vectorize the crypt routine.     It wasn’t particularly easy, and we had other parallel processors that were easier to program that were doing a better job at the hack for less money.    I actually signed for the BRL Cray 2 but it didn’t get installed until after I left.


Ron’s Rule of Software Deployment:   “Stop making cutovers on major holidays.” 


The dang government kept doing things like the long leader conversion on the Arpanet and the TCP/IP changeover on Jan 1.   It drove me nuts that our entire group ended up working over the holidays to bring the new systems up.    At one point when they were rejiggering the USENET groups, the proposal was to do it on Labor Day weekend.   I pointed out (this was the Atlanta UUG) that it violated the above rule AND was particularly bad because many of the USENET system admins were going to be back in Atlanta for the World Science Fiction Convention that weekend.


And finally, Ron’s Rule of Electrical Engineering:   “If two things can be plugged into each other, some fool will do so.   You better make it work, or at least benignly fail when it happens.”


Somewhere I have a cord that one of my employees made me which has a 110V plug on one side and an RJ-11 on the other (fortunately it is non functional).

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