Paw Prints: Writings of the maddog

Clear-text Passwords In Web Sites

Apr 05, 2010 GMT

 Recently I had forgotten what password I had used for a web site, and I politely asked them to reset the password so I could log in and change it. Instead the site sent me my old password, in clear-text through email. After I got over the shock of seeing the current password in my email I went onto the site and changed the password to a not-very-flattering noun which had something to do with a combination of excrement and the flabby pieces of nerve endings in the website manager's collective craniums. Then I proceeded to make sure there was nothing on that site of any value. I did consider just deleting the account, but I was curious as to how this site operated and how it...
Microsoft To Distribute Their Own Version of BSD/Linux

Apr 01, 2010 GMT

NEW YORK — April 1, 2010 — Today, CEO Steve Ballmer announced that Microsoft would be releasing their own version of the Linux operating system in twelve months.After years of calling the Free Software movement “communists”, threatening them with patent suits, deprecating Free Software and coercing foreign governments to ship useless, broken Microsoft software packages with hardware programs aimed at helping poor people get access to the Internet, Ballmer actually used a copy of GNU/Linux and said, “Hey, Free Software is really pretty darn good, I think Microsoft could really make a lot of money with it.”Ballmer was particularly impressed by the ease of use of emacs, and said...
Happy Re-Birthday, CERN!

Mar 31, 2010 GMT

I picked up the paper today and read about the CERN Large Hadron Collider and its successful launching, so I had to write a blog about it to congratulate them!It was many years ago that I was at a Linux conference in Wurtzberg, Germany. It was a great conference, held in a medieval fortress at the top of a tall hill. Each day you would walk down the hill into town, and the biggest decision you would have to make was whether you were going to have really good beer or really good wine. I met a friend of mine, Martin Michlmayr for the first time at that conference.At the end of the conference I got a phone call from a Digital Equipment Corporation salesman in Geneva, Switzerland. He told me...
Document Freedom Day - March 31st, 2010

Mar 31, 2010 GMT

 Today (March 31st) is Document Freedom Day, and I encourage everyone to talk about Document Freedom with all of your friends, and even your enemies. In 1973 I worked for Aetna Life and Casualty, at that time the “largest commercial user of IBM equipment in the Free World”. We did not know what the government was using, and we did not know what the Russians were using, but other than that, Aetna was the largest. Aetna had an on-site tape library of 500,000 12 inch diameter magnetic tapes, with another 100,000 stored in a salt mine someplace in Idaho for “long term storage”. The tapes were labeled starting at “1” and went sequentially up from there. When the...
Quality In High School Students and Their Teachers

Mar 30, 2010 GMT

A couple of weeks ago I went to Souhegan High School in Amherst, New Hampshire to vote, and while there talked with their computer technical person (they are mostly a windows shop, but also have MACs) and offered to do a presentation to the students and faculty on FOSS and free culture. They asked their Community Service Coordinator, Ms. Maggie Paul to arrange it. Ms. Paul arranged for 16 students, selected by their teachers, to come to a classroom at lunch time and hear my 45 minute talk. Also attending were Ms. Paul, the Community Service Coordinator, the technical person from Souhegan and a coordinator from another school in the area, since that schoool had just gotten an application...
Quality, Not Quantity

Mar 29, 2010 GMT

Many years ago I was working for Digital Equipment Corporation as a software engineer in New Hampshire.The marketing people and product managers liked taking me to customer presentations because I could often take very technical subjects and explain them in terms the customers (and the marketing people and the product managers) could understand. I was gifted.One particular time Digital's sales people on the west coast had put together an “event”, and we were told that there would be “over 300 Unix customers” to listen to the presentation.So three people (one marketeer, one product manager and I) got on an airplane and flew across the continent to present Digital's Unix...
A 60-year love affair: Model Railroading, Hackers and Free Software

Mar 22, 2010 GMT

It was a love affair that started over sixty years ago between technology and model railroading.In 1946 a group of students at MIT banded together to form the “Tech Model Railroad Club” (TMRC) in a gigantic old “temporary” building which itself became famous for the large number of projects started there, “Building 20”.For TMRC, model railroading was more than just paper-mache scenery and tin-plate tracks. The real challenge was to develop the control circuitry and programming to run the trains, switch the switches and capture the realism of railroading.Computers were just being invented. At places like Harvard, just down the street from MIT, the Mark I was donated by IBM on...

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