15. Oktober 2017

The Speaking Modem

This is an old story. To be honest, I don’t recall details any more, not even the exact circumstances. Researching I read that telephone modems had been officially introduced in Germany in 1966 as Übertragungsmodem D 1200 S (“transmission modem”); S meant serial.
ESK relay, see https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/ESK-Relais
   At that time I studied Electrical Engineeing in West Berlin. Computer Science hadn’t been in­ven­ted yet. After having soldered over thou­sand little ESK (Edelmetall-Schnellschaltekontakt-Relais) relais into a system to register phone calls I switched to software.
   A later model was the Einheits-Postmodem (“standard postal modem”) D 200 S. Here you see a “D200S 03” with the handwritten remark “300 Baud”*), sized about 60 cm × 30 cm × 20 cm – 60 cm being today’s standard dishwasher size. The 200 and 300 baud came from an extra hardware plugin to clock for a then asynchronous transmission.
To dial in as human you didn’t want synchronous transmission. You must have had asynchronous traffic, as you type character by character with your human ten digit’s (finger’s) irregular timing. And you needed duplex traffic, so as to get achnowleged what you typed character by character. The speed of just up to 30 cps, characters per second, sufficed fully. Your teletype could print just 10 cps.
Harald Schummy, Signalübertragung, p 350, 2013
*) Don’t look up Baud in Wikipedia. For us it used to be roughly equal to bits per second, bps or b/s. An asynchronous byte having ten bits (start, 7 data plus one parity or 8 data bits, stop) 100 baud meant 10 characters per second, 10 cps or 10 Byte/s.

That said, here comes the story. The Technical University of Berlin’s mainframe ICL 1904 back in in 1968, when we were allowed to use it at night, had a dial-in modem. I’m 80 percent sure. If that’s wrong you must transpose this story to the time of time sharing Basic systems (60s, 70s) that we supported at HP, or to private mail boxes like Zerberus – which I used – or Fido, both 1984. For more on Berlin’s ICL see my “listening to computer bugs”.
   When you connect an analog modem to a computer you hear strange sounds at the beginning, while the modern modems agree on a mutual speed and transmission type. Of course you can record this sound on a tape recorder.

This recording includes the initial American tone dialing.
We only had pulse dialling at that time, but in principle: That’s the sound – with its optimistic high key ending.
   With the Hayes command M2 you cuuld tell a modem to leave on its loudspeaker. So you heared it doing its job all the time. Our system had a command to the operating system to print a message on the console, like machine room to bridge on a ship. Today that was the Windows net send command. So I could dial up the mainframe from outside, and for example ask the operator to return my phone call. I tape recorded this short digital dialogue.
   Playing back the sound track into a telephone’s microphone – without a local modem attatched – I got the message through equally easy, naturally giving just the one callback number I had recorded. It worked. (Young reader: Ask yourself, why I didn’t I send a SMS?)

For more about “our” ICL 1904 read Listening to Computer Bugs.   
Another story: https://blogabissl.blogspot.com/2017/10/how-i-tried-to-trick-computer.html#retention

Permalink to here: https://blogabissl.blogspot.com/2017/10/the-speaking-modem.html
Link directly to the story:

14. Oktober 2017

How I tried to trick a Computer

To say it right away. The computer, a large mainframe ICL 1904 back in 1968, took revenge when I tried to fool it with a wrong date.
   You know – or people without a smartphone knew – those everlasting, perennual, forever calendars. Today even those are computerized, see for example the months display here or the “everlasting calendar” here. For some hundreds of years they came printed on paper, and I had one in my little appointment calendar. They looked like this:
Click to enlarge. Source https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Datei:Immerw%C3%A4hrender_Kalender_S1.png
Find the year in A. Go down the colums to B and select the month. Then take the day of the month and find the weekday in a table C – which I don’t have, sorry. Try https://www.unet.univie.ac.at/~a8727063/Kalender/wochentag.html instead. 
   Or continue here. The Schlüsselbuchstabe, key character g is the Tagesnummer, day number 5 there, so 
                                 a = 1, 
                                 b = 2, 
                                 c = 3, 
                                 d = 4, 
                                  e = 5, 
                                  f = 6 and 
                                  g = 0
So I guess you can take the day number (0 to 6), add the numeric calender day, and try your luck in the Nendwich’s Tabelle III below. 
   Example. The year 1941 in table A is in the fifth column, go down to November of 1941 and you get an f, corresponding to 6. Add say the 30th of this November to 6, you get 36, a Sunday.

Tabelle III

1 8 15 2229361 Sonntag
2 916233037 2Montag
310172431 3Dienstag
411182532 4Mittwoch
512192633 5Donnerstag
613202734 6Freitag
714212835 0Samstag
ErgebniszahlR7 Wochenta

That said, finally, here’s the story.

My friend Ulrich Bosler and I worked night shifts at the University of Berlin’s largest computer, an ICL 1904, back in 1968. We made an Exapt compiler, all in Fortran II, some 7000 punched cards. As students had to pass a little exam to be permitted to use this room full of computer and peripherals alone. But just as Adam and Eve were not permitted to eat apples from a certain tree, we were strictly forbidden to reload the executive, as the operating system was called. Normally it didn’t crash, but eventually it did. No blue screen at that time, no screen at all, they weren’t invented yet. The operating system was controlled by a teletypewriter in the middle of the room. When it stopped hacking along with its ten characters per second typing speed, we knew: sudden death had occured. 
   Should we have gone home, at two in the night, with four hours more computer time all for us? We didn’t want to. So we decided to “illegally” restart the computer.
   This was done by reading in a bootstrap tape – not a magnetic tape, behold, but a paper tape roll as big as a frisbee (not invented yet). The system had a special optical reader for that, a luxury, and we carefully run the tape, and restarted the system all right.
   Next thing was – just like later with the first PCs – that you had to enter time and date. I was nervous. After all, the next day everybody would see on the end of the log paper roll that we had tried to restarte the system, if we didn’t cover it with numerous lengthy log entries during the rest of the night. Finally the system asked me for the weekday. And then it didn’t accept that! Over and over again it insisted on a correct date. I typed it in all sorts of formats, with two digit year, with four digit year, with separating points or slahes or dashes, and got ever more nervous and confused. 
   My friend came to help me. He spotted the mistake right away: I had entered the wrong year, in my confusion. With the right year and the right weekday the ICL mainframe was satisfied and started to work.

Apparently the system had a perennual calendar built in to check the dates. This part of the startup program was later overlayed, a higher ranking assistant told me later in confidence. 
   But I thought of revenge!
   Next time we had to reboot a crashed system, I took out my calendar – see above table A at Schaltjahre, leap years – and entered a year with the same day pattern long before the mainframe’s birth, like 1940 instead of 1968. Computers hadn’t even been invented then … The ICL 1904 didn’t know that, no Wikipedia there, and accepted the date. So we worked the final hours of our night shift back in the year 1940! Before leaving we corrected the date. 
   I had fooled the system. Triumph! Man wins technology. Computers are dumb, the human brain is unsurpassable. Artificial intelligence a misnomer, at that time not named yet though.

Final act. Destiny hits. Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall (ante ruinam exaltatur spiritus), Salomonic proverbs 16:18. Next time we were on at night, when I loaded our tapes – we had four of them, the compiled program, the input data with Exapt, machine tool output and one for overlays I think – the magnetic tape stations pulled in the tape, read the label, and instead of waiting patiently for the first read command, ate the label again and scratched it. After the second tape I realized that something was wrong, very wrong. My tapes were officially scrapped, made unreadable, were reformatted as you’d say today. Why? The tape’s “retention periods” of some five years were long gone since we had last written onto the tapes, back in fake 1940.
   Magnetic tapes when wound up slowly, very slowly copy content from one tape round to the adjacent rounds. Correct reading is disturbed. With audio tapes you hear an echo, digital tapes just don’t read exactly any more. So tapes have to be re-written periodically, or at least rewound, to preserve their content. That’s why the retention period is checked.

For more about “our” ICL 1904 and the first story read Listening to Computer Bugs.  
Another story: https://blogabissl.blogspot.com/2017/10/the-speaking-modem.html#modem

Permalink to here: https://blogabissl.blogspot.com/2017/10/how-i-tried-to-trick-computer.html
Link directly to the story:

13. Oktober 2017

Listening to Compter Bugs

We’ve lost the ability to listen to information – by ear, by hearing. Helga Rietz describes that in her article «Die Temperatur nach Noten» (“The temperature by musical notes”) in my preferred newspaper, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, on October 6, 2017. She writes about the sonification of data, of “science music”, and gives numerous examples with astronomy, with science, and other patterns that were discovered just by listening. Find the (German) article online here and the paper copy at http://bit.ly/2ylIwqP = https://zeitungsarchiv.nzz.ch/neue-zuercher-zeitung-vom-13-10-2017-seite-9.html?hint=19743452

An ICL 1903 around 1965 – still without disc (often spelled disk at that time) in Holbeck, England 
 I have my own experience with hearing technology at work.
   In the year 1969 in West Berlin my friend Ulrich Bosler and I were allowed to use Technical University’s mainframe during nights for our engineer diploma program. The largest computer in Berlin then, a ICL 1904 that had just gotten the newest gadget, disc drives, the size of American washing machines. Magnetic tapes were standard to store programs and data. We kept our program, an Exapt compiler written in in Fortran II for portability, on some 7,000 punch cards, so as to be able to quickly correct the program. To write our thesis we used another computer, less in demand, in another building, a Digital Equipment PDP 10 as line editor. At that time texts usually were written “offline” on purely mechanic typewriters.
   The ICL 1904 had a disc operating system (to be started by loading a sizeable punched tape), and was able to run four programs at the same time (“multiprogramming”). The disc was used for swapping, if necessary (called overlaying by Wikipedia). As we typically were all alone on the machine, there was only one program running (if at all …), ours.
Paper Tape Rewinder,
the later cordless model
originally for $ 150.
HP Computer Museum
   The operating system was controlled by an American electromechanic teletypewriter or teleprinter. As there were no “displays” like today, these 7 bit ASCII typing machines from the standard “four row” 110 baud telex service by Western Union (TWX) (110 characters per second), were the normal “keyboards” for all computers at that time, except for some European models using local 5-channel telex machines (see Baudot code) and Control Data, using six bit bytes rather than eight bit bytes. Incidentally a US teletype needed a sizeable 220-110 Volt stepdown transformer. But it could be used for the usual paper tape winder as well, derived from standard electric American erasers, mostly from these. (In Europe we still manually used a piece of india rubber to erase.)    
Teletypewriter to control computers.
Price advertized $ 1450. More here.
We used those with an adjustable mono
loudspeaker in the front cover.
Other example here.
So we had a loudspeaker in the console typewriter, with a little knob to turn volume up or down. Like a radio receiving electromagnetic interference by spark plugs, this litte “radio” reproduced the switching operations of the computer’s CPU, central processing unit.
   You could heear the computer at work.
   What you heared was reassuring – most of the time. You could hear loops, notice interrupts (peripheral devices bringing in some fresh data), and when an error stopped the program the sound stopped as well, at least it’s melody.
   The computer sound indicated program errors as well: You could hear a program looping indefinitely, when it repeated a sequence over and over and over again without change. Normally you are afraid to maually stop a program, to forcibly “end a task” as you’s say today. It might still be productive, progressing, just slow. With the ICL’s loudspeaker we could hear progress – or kill the program, dump a bit of memory, and find out in what loop it had hung. Even then, finding the place in the source program where we had stopped the program, was difficult.

Today the operating system of an ICL 1900 can be run on a Raspberry PI, more here.

Memories and specifications of the ICL 1900 by Brian Spoor. Very readable!
How I tried to trick the ICL 1904
• Another old story: The HP 3000 in Geneva 1972
• Another old story: A modem message via tape recorder

Link to here: https://blogabissl.blogspot.com/2017/10/listening-to-compter-bugs.html

11. Oktober 2017

Test blog for encryption (https)

The Internet has gone crazy about security, in this cas about encryption. For e-mail that might make sense – though even there I assume that the mails are opened into the clear at all sorts of relay stations, for example to scan for viruses. Today even public, open picture albums are encrypted, say
   Well, I can’t change that.
   If I finalize this blog entry here (this “post”) at this point, I get assigned the address http://blogabissl.blogspot.com/2017/10/test-blog-for-encryption-https.html. Note that this is a http, not a https address.
  When I now add a picture into the post, like these clouds …

… the whole thing works just as before with plain http.
Videos are fine too. 

This page contains HTTP resources that may lead to mixed content. These effect security and user experience, if the blog is viewed via HTTPS.Solve problem – close – further infoormation.
I remember however earlier cases where adding something like a link to a picture gave a red error message before storing, see above, as the content seemed not to taste well to blogger. I clicked the middle choice, close, and then stored without any bad efects. To know more read here.
   In some cases I got a https addresses, like 
http://sarnerblog.blogspot.com/2017/10/william-basil-wilberforce.htmlBlogger knows why.  
   Apparently you can select that. I had never done that willingly. How to encrypt or not encrypt is expained here.

• Firefox (Mozilla) sends messages with links, that at the user’s end won’t open: 
A cutout with the link to the discussion on top in small print.
The popup says: Links have been deactivated for security reasons …
So I manually copied the link

Passwords for Firefox. You can log in to Firefox, for example (I guess) to get synchronization between your Firefoxes as to the stored passwords or bookmarks – I guess …
   Yesterday I strugled with the requirement of a new password with at least 12 (!) digits of different types, 
   Today Firefox lets me know that the new password …
 … must have at least 8 digits. Source.
   Elsewhere a lot of password details are given, but no minimum length, see here
Synchronizing Firefox search settings. Here you see my search box preferences, primarily Google US (for the better picture display), then a couple of Wikipedias, German, French etc. These settings had been “synchronized” between my PCs, until some Microsoft service destroyed them and entered bing, dick-duck-go (or similar), Yahoo, Amazon and some more alien stuff. 
   Now what do I do? I hate synchronizing: You never know what’s being copied to where. 

Obsoleting plug-ins. See this. 

And now read this. And then try to use another browser. That might be easier than keeping up with Firefox … I have no single plugin compatible with the future. 

Bad Request Your browser sent a request that this server could not understand.
Don’t panic. Try the competition, like Microsoft’s Internet Explorer or Microsoft Edge. If you get to your wanted URL with them, then Firefox is messed up. A quick and brutal cure is to delete all of Firefox’ stored cookies, though you loose all stored passwords there as well. I’ll let you know when I find a more specific cure (like deleting only yesterday’s cookies?).

10. Oktober 2017

Youtube-Video löschen

Man kann nur eigene Videos löschen, also solche, die man selbst hochgeladen hat. – Ich hatte auf Youtube zwei Konten, ohne das zu wissen, folglich zunächst Probleme. 
Erst einloggen auf youtube.com
Ist man dann »drin«, oder wird man automatisch eingeloggt, so sieht man rechts oben in einem runden Kreis seine »Identität«, etwa so:
Jetzt kann’s losgehen. Man klickt sich dort oben im Kreis an und wählt im Klappmenü das “Creator Studio”.
Bissl warten, und man sieht ein paar seiner Videos. 
   Irrweg – Man wählt das zu Löschende aus und klickt dort auf Bearbeiten. – Irrweg!
   Man wählt links den roten Video-Manager und sieht viele seiner Videos übereinander:
Erst jetzt findet man durch Klicken auf »Bearbeiten« ganz unten das »Löschen«, wie hier oben gezeigt. Man löscht und fertig.

Link hierher:

9. Oktober 2017

Ist Katalonien in der EU?

Wie selbstverständlich nahm gestern ein Diskutant an, bei einer Abspaltung von Spanien trennte sich Katalonien zugleich auch von der EU. Ich widersprach. 

Katalonien in oder an Spanien?                                                                                                  Grafik ARD

Heute schreibt Niklaus Nuspliger in der NZZ unter der Überschrift  »Europa enttäuscht Kataloniens Hoffnungen«: »2004 entwickelte der damalige Kommissiospräsident Romano Prodi die Doktrin, wonach ein Gebiet, das sich von einem Mitgliedstaat abspaltet, nicht mehr Teil der EU wäre. Die Prodi-Doktrin gilt bis heute … «. Dann präzisiert der Autor: »Rechtlich aber ist der Fall weniger klar, als die Kommission suggeriert. In den EU-Verträgen sind Beitritte und Austritte geregelt. Die Aufspaltung eines Mitgliedstaates oder die Fusion zweier Länder sind nicht vorgesehen.« 
   Persönlich meine ich, selbst wenn die »Prodi-Doktrin« bindend wäre – demokratisch legitimiert war und ist sie, wie so vieles in der EU, meines Erachtens nicht. Doch selbst wenn dergleich in EU-Verträgen stünde: Die EU setzt sich im entscheidenden Moment über eigene Regeln bequem hinweg, etwa über die Nicht-Beistandsklausel im Fall von Griechenland oder über Schuldenobergrenzen.

Permalink hierher:

PS. Zugleich präzisiert ein Leserbrief von Ueli Haenni zum Thema, dass »Autonomie« in Spanien – ähnlich wie bei Südtirol – eine erhöhte Eigenständigkeit im Gesamtstaat bedeutet. So hat die Region Baskenland (País Vasco) eine Finanzautomie, die aber Katalonien verwehrt bleibt. Man müsste also noch etwas genauer hinsehen! Etwa hierhin. Genau hier steht’s

• »Sezessionsrecht«, ein Thema für den »Staat im dritten Jahrtausend«

5. Oktober 2017

Windows 10 unusable on HP Pavilion X2

I have a nice, beautiful, fine, small, red HP Pavilion X2, bought last year for 400 Euro, quite some money for a piece I got to hate. I added a sizeable little SD card to store my Microsoft Office and all the data, that would not fit on the meager internal 32 Gigabyte “disc” storage, see details below.

That’s how good it looks in HP ads

Now it tells me that the Windows Update wouldn’t fit.

“You cannot install updates”
“Windows needs more storage space”, it says, and asks for 5 GByte on the interal drice C:\. Another drive won’t do.

I tried everything, deleted as much as possible, moved all I could to drive D:\, the large SD card plugged into the side. I spent hours. As journalist I got the very top support by Microsoft involved (which I try to avoid), and they couldn’t help and asked me to contact HP. But how about making an operating system, that needs no “security updates”? That stays as large as it comes, and does not blow up like a man getting ever fatter and fatter? Or runs from a stick or SD card? (Microsoft says, you can install from a stick, but not to a stick.)


I’d lovingly go back to Windows 7. I like that, a lot. And as linux_guy5 says in https://www.cnet.com/forums/discussions/windows-10-november-update/: “I’m 71 years old, and—morbid thought—maybe I’ll be lucky enough to pass away before Win7 is totally finished. What is it; in 2017 it goes the way of Windows XP?”. 
   I myself am 75 (see www.Joern.De), and I run all my PCs happily on Windows 7, one on XP, only this red one on 10. In the endless discussion fora of HP, where the frustrated world may guess and ponder and debate, because there is no clean support by manufacturers any more, no responsabilty for the stuff they make,
   I found a way to install Windows 7 on the X2. On my X2 as well?

 The procedure sounds horribly complicated, and so far I’m not willing to try. 
   Anyone who made it to the end, and got Win 7 running on an X2, would she or he please show a hand!

HP Pavilion x2  (22.2.2016 € 399 Media-Markt) Pavilion AC135NG  I5-6200U15  
Product-ID 00325-95895-03173-AACJEM, 2 GB RAM, 32 GB eMMC, Seriennummer CND6012XQ4. Dazugekauft Mini-SSD 32 GB

Link to here: