Zoom thoughts…again

I feel my past thoughts about Zoom seem on track. Security expert Steve Gibson gave his thoughts about Zoom which seem to confirm my thoughts. Steve approaches the subject as an expert. My approached was based more on a feeling based on listening to the CEO and judging his sincerity. And my feeling about how stupid it would be for them to ignore this tremendous opportunity for growth. Also I felt that they were such a large target that it would be foolish for them to think they were smarter than the internet at large.

If they want to be tricky it would be better for them to wait until like Facebook they had such a large user-base that they had the ability to hire the best talent to attempt to be tricky with a huge user-base of largely inexperienced users! Then just deny any knowledge of a problem when they are found! Then fix that and move on to another tricky user exploitation!

I think at some point it will be too lucrative for them to resist the temptation. But for now, prove to your users that you have their best interest at heart, and concentrate on building that user base.

Thoughts on COBOL

Watched an interesting video about COBOL on YouTube called “The New COBOL” – Benno Rice (PyCon AU 2019). In that video he showed a quote

[COmmon Business-Oriented Language] (Synonymous with evil.) A weak, verbose, and flabby language used by code grinders to do boring mindless things on dinosaur mainframes. Hackers believe that all COBOL programmers are suits or code grinders, and no self-respecting hacker will ever admit to having learned the language.

Wow…such arrogance. I may have said much of this before but here I go again. I wonder how many of today’s programmers would have stuck with programming if this is what they had to use? If it wasn’t fun at the start? There were no personal computers back then to do your own thing. We didn’t have the luxury of choosing from an abundance of languages. We used what was available. You had to program because you loved to solve problems with code. In the case of IBM mainframes you had to debug programs by combing through page upon page (possibly hundreds of pages called dumps) filled with rows and columns of hexadecimal digits. You needed to do hexadecimal math to navigate those dumps. There was no Google. There was no interactive debugger pointing to your error. Even the lowly COBOL programmer had to know some Assembler to go through those dumps. Because a COBOL statement was comprised of many Assembler instructions. And the dump pointed to an Assembler instruction not a COBOL statement. And yes I said page of printed output…not a nice screen output with search ability on a monitor. And to fix your program you had to type or retype instructions on an 80 column card. No pulling up the source code in a nice editor. No cut & paste. Because computer time was shared and limited we couldn’t just change something and rapidly rerun it over and over till we got it right. We may only get 5 or 6 program testing runs a day. Because of this we often had to flowchart on paper more difficult sections of code and play computer, in order to minimize re-running a program over and over.

So “no self-respecting hacker will ever admit to having learned the language”. What a stupid point of view. Nobody says why did cowboys ride horses? What a inefficient mode of transportation. No self respecting cowboy would do their job without a 4-wheel drive vehicle. Well back in the 1800s you didn’t have much choice. There’s a very good reason code grinders didn’t use/choose C or Java or Python or Rust or Go…they didn’t exist! There maybe better programming languages today but COBOL is still reliable.

I’ll say it again. I wonder how many of today’s programmers (with their free compilers, IDEs, Google, books or websites of algorithms (but more likely pre-built libraries for most hackers) and YouTube videos would be programming today if they had to start out the way many COBOL programmers did back in the day!

The following is a very small COBOL program that has dumped. There are only 2 executable COBOL instructions so you don’t really need the dump to solve the problem. I caused the dump by simply dividing by zero on COBOL line 22. It’s been a while but the PSW on page 10 in the PDF is a pointer to the problem. There are all sorts of good/useful things in this dump, such as the registers. Maybe, but not sure at this point (it’s been a long time) around page 29 are areas of this program. For example you can see the string of pound signs that the program displays. The readable text looks like what many today associate with ASCII, but it’s not…IBM mainframes used EBCDIC. This is just a simple example of what COBOL programmers had to work with.

Program & dump

The program is on PDF page 6. The stuff before it is called JCL (Job Control Language). It tells the mainframe how to compile the program, kind of like a C makefile.


Copied thunderbird directory from Manjaro to Mint and Thunderbird on Mint gave this lovely message!

No a newer version did not make changes…at least not according to you! As you can see both Thunderbirds report their version as 68.7.0

Linux Mint

I really like and have tried to like Manjaro even when there were plenty of problems. But Mint based on years of reliability is what I can rely on. I basically can bounce back to Mint if I find a show stopper on Manjaro, except for one thing…Thunderbird. Right now I can’t move Manjaro’s Thunderbird back to Mint. I need to look at Manjaro’s downgrade which I think I used before.

Speaking of versions…and I was

Whichever way I query on the command line…is usually wrong. It Seems like it use to be prog -v or sometimes prog -V then somewhere along the way it changed to prog -version or perhaps prog -Version now often its prog –version or is it prog –Version? In the preceding sentence it’s hard to tell that preceding the option are 2 dashes. Out of edit mode multiple dashes look like one long dash. Oops did I say dash? Evidently to prove your technical ability today, somewhere along the line you now say tack. So prog dash v…total noob, prog tack v…experienced professional! After all isn’t tack much easier to say than dash? Ummm…no! In 50 years will it be prog ————version…many multiple tacks? One things for sure, it’s going to be the last possible variation I try : (

Light bulb moment. I should write a version script [version prog] that tries them all 🙂

Thunderbird version confusion

With the latest Mint 9.3 install Thunderbird reports version 68.7.0 (64-bit). My previous Mint 18.3 reported its version was 60.9.0. Current release notes say Version 68.7.0, first offered to channel users on April 8, 2020. Nowhere does it imply beta or testing.

Manjaro however reports Thunderbird Daily 68.7.0 (64-bit) So it appears to be at the same version, however it still says “Welcome to Daily” and also “The Daily release of Thunderbird can be unstable” This is the same daily message I mentioned on Jan. 12th.

More Zoom thoughts

When it comes to technology I’m not a very trusting person. And I wouldn’t trust Zoom or most any program with discussing anything sensitive. It’s possible that Zoom tried to be sneaky early on. Bit since it’s explosion my feeling is they (Zoom)…I feel, have tried to address these security concerns. It seems that many of the problems of Zoom had were more to do with the way people used Zoom with the defaults it was supplied with. There is no way they could have imagined how popular it would become. I feel that for the people I most often want to video conference with it is fine. I’m not going to discuss my startups trade secrets or embarrassing medical issues with this conferencing program.

I read that Google banned the popular videoconferencing software Zoom from its employees’ devices. Yes the highly privacy respecting Google who have their own conferencing software banned Zoom. OMG…it must be bad! Basically I trust Zoom like I trust email. Even though for most people it is probably safer than email.

Joomla developer?

Just looked at my LinkedIn profile and noticed it said I was a Joomla developer, WTH? I did one small project using that and would never say that…or even desire a job in that area! As a matter of fact on my personal web page I have emphasized for years my lack of web design abilities!

COBOL employment irony!

Being somewhat older than most programmers today, and desiring to reenter the computer field, over a year ago I decided that perhaps my best shot was to brush up on COBOL, because I had read that there are still a lot of COBOL programs out there and many older programmers, have or are going to…retire! If you do a search today in this log file, there are 5 pages with COBOL references, beginning with a simple COBOL compile in October 2018. I also have 6 small COBOL sample programs on my github placed there in 2019. So I definitely didn’t jump on the COBOL bandwagon. Recently, since COVID-19 there has been a lot of talk in the news about companies looking for COBOL programmers. Ironically now after preparing, I can’t even pursue any of these jobs.

My mother, who until about 2 months ago was living independently, has become very ill and needs watching. I’m not complaining or blaming her because she has, as usual, been my biggest cheerleader over the years. I can’t do enough to repay her. The only complaint I have is the irony of the timing. I didn’t recently decide to learn COBOL because of the resurgence of interest in it. I attempted to show proactively, my desire to, at some level, return to programming. I am a person who was actually a IBM mainframe programmer who also wrote many COBOL programs, and who has been brushing up on my COBOL, in hopes of getting my foot back in the door. COBOL syntax, is only part of the problem, because it also helps to understand JCL (on IBM mainframes) and the concept of job streams and batch programming. At least I assume that is still true. I myself could use more JCL experience. But I do have some JCL jobstreams that I put together recently to test my MVS programs. Of course that doesn’t take into consideration the advancements in z/OS. I also wrote CICS programs, but don’t claim to be useful in that area anymore, because I have forgotten too much! Also I’m a pretty healthy older person who over the last 2 years has lost 40+ pounds and walks everywhere. So I have the potential to be able to offer many years of mainframe programming availability.

Oh, the irony…oh, the humanity : (

Moms computer

Installed the latest Linux Mint Mate 19.3 on moms computer, was version 18.1. Since I’m sitting with her all day, I took the time to partition her hard drive, as I have mine, separating root ‘/’ from ‘/home’. Hopefully this newer version will be more reliable than the old which frequently…at times would lock up. It locked up on me 3 times a few days ago while playing videos on the vlc player. I didn’t have any stalling problems on her computer that I had installing the latest Mint Cinnamon on my computer a few days ago. However I did have to re-download Mate because Mint said my media was corrupt…or words to that effect. Since I already destroyed the existing Mint I had to do this using the 19.3 flash drive.