Taken from "Computing Australia", 9th October: ``Missing zero blamed for aircrash Brazilian crash investigators have concluded that a data input error caused the Varig Boeing 737 disaster that killed 12 people last month. Pilot Cezar Augusto saved the lives of 54 passengers by ditching his aircraft in the Amazon jungle tree tops after running out of fuel. An investigating team from Rio de Janeiro believe Captain Augusto miskeyed his computer-controlled flightpath on take-off, omitting the first zero from his true course of "0270" when en route to Mexico. The computer navigation system directed the aircraft south instead of north without the crew realising until it was too late. The findings have been slammed by the Brazilian Airline Pilots' Association which says the true fault lay in the computer. A spokesman for the association said it had evidence that a flight course computer print-out had detailed the wrong course. The association is calling for a re-examination of Rio de Janeiro Airport's flightpath-mapping system to check on its safety.'' Dave Horsfall (VK2KFU), Alcatel STC Australia, email@example.com.AU dave%stcns3.stc.oz.AU@uunet.UU.NET, ...munnari!stcns3.stc.oz.AU!dave
The Washington Post has run an extraordinary three-part series on the development of the Stealth bomber and the subsequent political turmoil as the project faces increasing public scrutiny and Congressional skepticism. The article was written by Rick Atkinson and appears in the 10/8,10/9, and 10/10 issues of the Post. These two paragraphs are from today's article: . . . "Because of the unique, three dimensional computer design system, Northrop felt confident enough to skip the usual step of building master tools for a bomber prototype; instead, AV 1 [Air Vehicle 1, the first B-2 off the production line] would be a full production plane built with the same 'hard tooling' used on the rest of the fleet. Boeing and Northrop tested internal aircraft systems, such as fuel and hydraulics, on huge 'Iron Birds' that resembled full-sized bombers with their skins peeled away. Beginning in 1985, navigation and avionics equipment was tested in the air of NKC-135 aircraft flying out of Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert. "Northrop believed that it could reduce the number of construction man-hours from 3.5 million on the first bomber to 1 million on the 11th. New aircraft often are plagued with production gremlins; those hiding in AV 1 caused another six months of delay. A computer software miscalculation meant that electrical wiring had to be done over because the first set of wires was cut too short, according to a former Northrop executive; a pressurized line blew out an took two weeks to fix because it lay in an inaccessible cranny of the plane." ...
The AP wire service provides financial page tables for many newspapers. As part of the process, they filter out trades that are more than 3% off of the current price. That didn't work on Friday, when the market plunged; they were forced to adjust their filters to accept 50% differences. The data was manually filtered before the weekend editions to eliminate trades that were ``clearly reported incorrectly''. --Steve Bellovin
Could the current stock market crash have been initially triggered by a time-bomb type of virus, set to Friday the 13th ? Olivier Crepin-Leblond, Computer Systems & Electronics, Electrical & Electronic Eng., King's College London, UK.
One of the shuttle Atlantis' engine computers was replaced (on Friday the 13th) and the new one (230 pounds and $6M — or about $25,000 per pound) installed and checked out the next day. The launch is now scheduled for 17 October, a five-day delay. (A Federal appeals court may consider the challenge to last week's ruling that the launch can go on despite the risk of plutonium contamination in the case of an accident, the subject of the earlier case.)
Indian computers and Japanese software are about to be used in the first computerized voting in India. The opposition party leaders launched a protest, being concerned about how easily the party in power could manipulate the elections. They cited Ronnie Dugger's New Yorker article (7 Oct 1988) noted in RISKS-7.70 and 78, and displayed a list of some of the ways in which elections could be rigged electronically. [Source: NY Times, 15 Oct 1989, page 5. Also noted by henry@garp.MIT.EDU (Henry Mensch).]
Once again, the voices of Light and Reason have triumphed over those of the Press. It seems that speculation of large amounts of data loss due to the Datacrime virus has been unfounded. That being said, if you are not in the habit of backing up your computer's hard disk periodically, this would be a good time to start! Had Datacrime been widespread, and you had lost your system's hard disk's contents, where would you have recovered the information from? Backups cannot *prevent* malicious software from destroying or corrupting data stored on your computer's hard disk, but backups are *crucial* to recovering the data lost to such an attack! There is an undeniable risk in believing that your computer is safe from malicious software simply because you practice safe computing. Our defenses are only as good as the problems we have seen. If tomorrow a vandal writes a new application to attack a computer system in a novel fashion, or a system that has not been subjected to many attacks, your data is as vulnerable as if you used no or minimal protection. I am not trying to be an alarmist here, but the best strategy to safeguarding your data is a diversified one, and backups are a conerstone to any strategy. And besides. Halloween is just over two weeks away.
In RISKS 9.28 Earl Boebert suggested that a UK subscriber to RISKS might care to investigate whether the Synchronome Co. of Wembley, Middlesex, still existed. I have - to the extent of confirming that no company with the name and address he gave is now listed in the telephone directory. I was motivated to investigate because of the problems we have with a master/slave clock system that is installed in building in which my office is located - though on checking I find that this identifies itself as having been made by "Gents of Leicester". The Gents system is in fact an appalling example of a good idea gone wrong. It was selected and installed by the University, I would guess about 25 years ago, with the aim of assisting avoidance of synchronisation errors in lecture start/stop times. Unfortunately, it now has exactly the opposite effect! The problem is that individual slave clocks occasionally fail to receive, or react to, pulses from the master, and there is NO means of synchronising the slave clocks from the master. So, over a period of months, the various slave clocks gradually get further and further behind the master clock, and only get re-synchronised when a technician is sent to correct each of them manually - a job that in a building this size takes many hours if not days, and so is performed only rarely, when many of the slave clocks are hopelessly slow. The solution we have adopted in the Computing Laboratory has involved a unilateral declaration of independence from the central maintenance services. This is the replacement of those slave clocks which matter to us by ordinary quartz crystal-controlled wall clocks. These are quite cheap, far more dependable individually, and subject only to common mode failures which are likely to cause situations in which the clocks' accuracy is irrelevant, e.g. collapse of the whole building. Brian Randell, Computing Laboratory, University of Newcastle upon Tyne JANET=Brian.Randell@uk.ac.newcastle UUCP=..!ukc!newcastle.ac.uk!Brian.Randell
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