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Rocket Science

SystemD! And now a third of the readers have a stroke, while the rest are unaffected. What is it? Is an attempt at taking something that works quite nicely and re-do it from scratch because it's old and "not in line with the newest specification" (that means it doesn't have enough bling attached) and replace it with something that does more or less the very same things but is not compatible with the old system.

And if you think about it for a second it is exactly the same that is done by 90% of others "open source" project since the time Linux wasn't even capable of booting.

So, if your actual project is taking something that works fine and re-do it all over again to replace it with something that works exactly the same but differently, and you can't figure out an answer to the question "why?", don't worry: you're not alone in this crowded world. And we could also go back in history and see the same things happening over and over again.

And all this to talk about X400. What the heck is it? Something related with the X-men you ask? Nope. To explain what is it we have to go back to the beginning of the time, in the golden age of the '70s, when the top of the line in internet connection was a 900 baud modem.

It was in that age of spectacular invention that a group of well-intended engineers realized that the brand-new technology normally referred as 'e-mail' was affected by an orrible, orrible bug. A bug so terrible that you could ask how did it escaped even a passing check. A problem that absolutely had to be fixed. The problem was the following: if you write the wrong address, the mail doesn't arrive to the recipient.

...ok, pick up your jaw from the floor...

So, our group of engineers, decided that the best solution for the orrid problem was... to redefine the whole "mail" protocol from scratch. And the new "improved" protocol was named, you guessed it, X400. And the first step was to re-do the mail addresses.

The idea was to manage e-mail the same way 'normal' (paper) mail is managed. Now, what happens if you mistype the address of a letter? That it goes in the trashcan, you say, and you're probably right, but the original idea was that mail that cannot be delivered are supposed to be sent to a special office called "the dead-letters office", where a bunch of peoples (yes, humans, real humans, hired for that purpose) were looking at the addresses and try to "guess" what was the right one. The idea is that they would look at the scribbling and think "hummm... this looks like the name of a town, let's send the mail to the main post office of that town" and there somebody else would look againa and think "...this looks like the name of that road there..." and then "this could be the building over there"... and so on and so forth, until the correct recipient was found. It probably fails anyway, but at least they try.

Now, how do you replicate that for e-mail? And here is the idea: re-made the addressing system so it is as close as possible as a normal 'postal' address. So you have a structure with 'national' mail exchanger, then 'local' exchanger' and then 'company' ones and so on until you get the 'mailbox'. And the mail addresses were supposed to be things like "Name=D, Lastname=B, Region=NoordHolland, Country=NL, City=Amsterdam..." and so on.

And when this was published, everybody looked at it and as one everybody yelled HOLYFUCKWHATISTHATPILEOFGARBAGE?? Besides that, most of the criticism was that the addresses were way too long and complex (more error-prone then), write it down was long and convoluted (more error-prone), spell it at the phone was out of discussion... and in the end, there is not guarantee that the mail gets to the destination.

Obviously our hero-engineers listened to the criticism and pondered about it and decided that those were serious problems and it wasn't such a good idea and MWAHAHAHAHAHAHA... No, sorry I'm just messing with you. The geniuses behind this thing began to scream like hysterical princesses yelling insults and that none of those morons could understand the beauty and perfection of their system that was the best system ever designed. And to solve the problem of the addresses the best thing to do was... (here it comes).. a directory! Like a phone book, but with e-mails instead of phone numbers. On-line of course, so everybody could look up the person and pick the address from a list.

Now, let's ignore the simple fact that if you have a directory of mail addresses you completely bypass the "type the wrong address" problem and don't need a brand-new protocol for that, but it turned out that... a lot of people didn't liked the idea of having their e-mail address in some sort of public directory (yes, there was no Facebook at that time either...)

Ignoring all criticism and the mokery, our geniuses began to also define this "directory" system, that was named 'X500'. And if you looked at the mail address above and though "this look like LDAP"... is because IT IS. Yes, LDAP is one of the few things that came out from all this mess. That and X509, the way SSL Certificates are 'chained' to each other.

So... A protocol that is actually useless because it doesn't solve any of the problem that it should, complicated, incompatible with any other existing one that already do the same thing. If you see a similitude with Systemd you're not alone. The difference between the two, is that systemd has been actually adopted by most distribution, except the ones that really didn't bothered (gentoo/slackware) and some other that began protesting for no real reason, while X400 was mostly ignored by everybody.

Who actually went and implemented this thing? Well, think about it: complicated, incompatible and useless. Yep! Governamental organization, the military and banks. Who else? At such point that Microsoft Exchange in the beginning had that as standard.

Where is the problem? That even if you are fluent in klingonian, every now and then you have to talk with normal humans and to do so, you need an interpreter. That basically means you need a relay or a gateway that translate your gurgling from x400 to normal smtp and the other way around.

And now is time to introduce $x400hereweare, that was doing exactly this type of thing. Or better, they were trying to. Because the major problem of x400 is that has been developed up to 1992, at least, the latest revision is from '92, but nobody -really NOBODY- ever implemented it, so the latest version of the software is from '88. And this means that if you want to use it, you need to put up with stuff that is 30 years old and has never been updated before. And this means... SOLARIS. Version 8 even. Oh, and if you want a GUI, it's only for Windows '95.

And then there are their 'customers', that not only want to use this stuff, but they also require 'security'. That means they want to use stuff that is really old and they also need a vpn to talk with the rest of the world.

One of those 'customers', let's call them $x400wtf, was indeed using one of those things with a CISCO switch that did the vpn gateway between their mail system and the rest of the contraption. The full deal was that a message was genrated by ... something in their network, sent to their smtp gateway, routed through the vpn to the x400 gateway that translated it into x400 and then delivered to the final gateway that... did something with it. A really simple, linear and easy thing.

Until they realized that their Cisco switch was almost as old as the protocol and required a number of updates, that were not available for that model, so they decided for a replacement.

Now, you could think, ok, grab a new switch, configure it the same as the old one, unplug from one side, plug it into the new one, and it's done. Right? Yeah right...

Instead, they also decided to reorganize their internal network moving the gateway in a different subnet and... a lot of other stuff. That required a full reconfiguration of the whole thing.

And the major problem was that we didn't know anything about x400, what I knew, after risking an aneurism reading the docs, was that almost everything was managed by the 'gateway' that talked direcly to the other mail servers using an internal database (since x400 is also independent from the dns having its own routing tables).

So the Great Day arrives! Cl from $x400wtf inform us that they are ready to switch and if they can go, then he correct himself and tell us that the switch has already happened and now is our turn. Ok, doesn't take much to reconfigure the vpn and then is matter of changing the routing in that ... thing... And here cames the troubles.

Apparently, in $x400hereweare, there is ONE person that knows how this thing works (cl2) and today he is (guess what?) unavailable.

After a bunch of research, we can't found anything in the docs, there are a few references to a 'message manager center' but nobody has any idea of what it is and where should it be. From what I can assume, is a Win95 application that should... hemmm.. manage the ... message center... So I tell this to CL that has no idea of how that thing works and would gladly leave it to somebody else.

Me - when is Cl2 back?
Cl - I have no idea, it should be back tomorrow I think.
Me - And you can't leave it until tomorrow?
Cl - NOOOOOOO!!! It has to be fixed right away!
Me - Ok I think the best is to put the old switch back and restore the old config in the vpn.
Cl - What?
Me - The old one was working fine the new one ain't, so we put back the old one until we figure out how to make the new one work.
Cl - ...there is a problem...
Me - 'f course there is, what?
Cl - We don't have the old switch anymore.
Me - WHAT?
Cl - We gave it back to the supplier.
Me - ...without checking if the new one works?

Yep, the best way to be sure that everybody aim for victory is to burn all the bridges so there is no way for a retreat.

After some (a lot) of cursing, I found a note about a win95 machine in the network, I connect (username admin and same password, what did you expect?) and found this mythical "message manger center" that wait for me.

You do not realize how much handy the 'scroll wheel' is until you are on an application that doesn't support it.

Anyhow, in an horrid dialog window I discover what looks like the old IP of the gateway, at this point I can follow my istinct (and put the new IP and hope for the best) or ask. And I decide to ask. After a number of phone calls, I get the ok for the operation.

Put the new IP, click on 'save' and ... the whole thing stops dead... do we have a backup for this thing? Then, like nothing, this thing start working again and we can see the messages flowing towards the new gateway.

All this make me think about the Rocket Scientist. Yes, there is some 'science' and 'engineering' in Rockets, but at the end of the day what you do is to put the rocket on the launchpad, hit the button and hope for the best. Sometimes the rocket blows up, sometimes it fall down and then blows up and sometimes it shoots all the way to space... and then blows up.

Ah, and obviously now *I* am the 'expert' of this thing...

Davide
18/03/2019 13:48

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Comments are added when and more important if I have the time to review them and after removing Spam, Crap, Phishing and the like. So don't hold your breath. And if your comment doesn't appear, is probably becuase it wasn't worth it.

16 messages post new
WM By WM - posted 29/04/2019 08:50 - reply

complimenti al nuovo esperto :-\)

 

buona giornata (in attesa del 1mo maggio)

 

WM

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WM


Yarro By Yarro - posted 29/04/2019 10:03 - reply

Eccoti nominato a vita esperto di X400. Prendere o prendere (non esiste il "lasciare"...).

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Yarro


Thomas By Thomas - posted 29/04/2019 12:16 - reply

Grazie a questa Storia finalmente ho capito su cosa si basa il famoso DMS (sistema di e-mail "sicuro") degli apparati militari americani.



E ora ho i brividi.

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Thomas


SmixximS By SmixximS - posted 29/04/2019 16:00 - reply

I gran casini succederanno quando quella macchina Windows Pleistocene andrà fatalmente a gambe all'aria - e dopo, o ne virtualizzano una (e so' ddolori!) o ciao ciao X400.

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SmixximS


Davide Bianchi@ SmixximS By Davide Bianchi - posted 30/04/2019 08:05 - reply

I gran casini succederanno quando quella macchina Windows Pleistocene andrà fatalmente a gambe all'aria

La macchina windows e' solo per la GUI di configurazione, tutto il resto gira su Solaris.

 

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Davide Bianchi


Antonio Pennino By Antonio Pennino - posted 30/04/2019 12:19 - reply

Grazie per la lezioncina su X400 del quale non sapevo assolutamente nulla.

systemd a me non sembra tanto male onestamente, mi sembra una estensione dei servizi precedentemente noti.

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Antonio Pennino


Massimo m. By Massimo m. - posted 30/04/2019 12:29 - reply

qualche tempo fa eri favorevole a systemd.

ora qual è la tua opinione?

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Massimo m.


Davide Bianchi@ Massimo m. By Davide Bianchi - posted 30/04/2019 12:41 - reply

qualche tempo fa eri favorevole a systemd.

Non sono mai stato ne' favorevole ne' contrario, lo uso sulle distribuzioni che lo implementano, non lo uso dove non e' implementato. Non mi sembra molto peggio di quella ridda di script che si usa su SysV ed e' di certo meno incasinato di SVCD che hai su Solaris.

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Davide Bianchi


Zahl By Zahl - posted 30/04/2019 15:07 - reply

Un accrocchiosaurus maleficus basato su un misto di macchine vetuste con sistemi operativi ormai non più supportati da tempo immemorabile è destinato prima o poi a lasciare a piedi chi lo usa. Consigliare a questi fanatici di X400 di passare a qualcosa di più moderno, e magari standard?

(Sì, so già cosa ti risponderebbero.)

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Zahl


Davide Bianchi@ Zahl By Davide Bianchi - posted 30/04/2019 15:52 - reply

Consigliare a questi fanatici di X400 di passare a qualcosa di più moderno, e magari standard?

Stay tuned for part II !

 

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Davide Bianchi


trekfan1@ Davide Bianchi By trekfan1 - posted 01/05/2019 20:46 - reply

 

Consigliare a questi fanatici di X400 di passare a qualcosa di più moderno, e magari standard?

Stay tuned for part II !

Non vediamo l'ora!

 

 

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trekfan1


Anonymous coward By Anonymous coward - posted 02/05/2019 09:31 - reply

Bruciare i ponti dietro di sé ha un certa logica: Quando Cortes arrivò nel Nuovo Mondo, rese inutilizzabili le proprie navi (https://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hern%C3%A1n_Cort%C3%A9s), in modo che ai soldati rimanesse una sola strada: andare avanti, vincere o morire. Nalla logica del Conquistadores, l'azione era premeditata per un fine (dal suo punto di vista) più che giustificato.

Viceversa, in questo caso, dare indietro l'hardware funzionate prima di testare se quello nuovo avrebbe funzionato é pura e semplice idiozia.

nota per Zahl:

Per il "consigliare" "X" al posto di "Y" dove

Y = progetto del cuore del Cliente

e

X = soluzione rapida, razionale ed economica

Sapiamo già tutti, per esperienza personale o per lettura delle Storie che NON funziona, in quanto le soluzioni sono varie, ma sempre con svariati gradi di inculabilità per il proponente:

A. il Cliente risponde con una versione più o meno elegante di "sta' zitto, coglione" (ammesso che la proposta non si infranga addirittura quando tu ne parli col tuo capo, che ti dirà "sta' zitto, coglione" in un modo piu franco e diretto)

B. X viene accettato, dopo lacrime, piagnucolii e strepiti del Cliente. E qui si aprono due sottocategorie, come segue:

B1. il cambio da Y a X viene implementato, ma avviene una interminabile sequenza di imprevisti che ti obbligano a fare ore, giorni e notti di lavoro extra, col fiato sul collo da parte di colleghi, capo e Cliente, i quani urlano ogni 5 minuti "bruttostronzoe'colpatua" e "alloraquantomancamaledettofigliodiputtanasenonfunzionaseilicenziato".

B2. il cambio da Y a X fila più o meno tranquillo (che non significa che non hai comunque avuto la tua dose di sudori freddi, intendiamoci), per te nemmeno un caffè di ringraziamento mentre per Capo e/o Cliente festino a base di viagra e puttane bisex, e durante l'ammucchiata si complimentano l'un l'altro di quanto sono stati intelligenti, lungimiranti e manageriali nel permetterti di fare la modifica.

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Anonymous coward


Zahl@ Anonymous coward By Zahl - posted 03/05/2019 09:19 - reply

nota per Zahl:

Per il "consigliare" "X" al posto di "Y" dove

Y = progetto del cuore del Cliente

e

X = soluzione rapida, razionale ed economica

Sapiamo già tutti, per esperienza personale o per lettura delle Storie che NON funziona, in quanto le soluzioni sono varie, ma sempre con svariati gradi di inculabilità per il proponente:

A. il Cliente risponde con una versione più o meno elegante di "sta' zitto, coglione" (ammesso che la proposta non si infranga addirittura quando tu ne parli col tuo capo, che ti dirà "sta' zitto, coglione" in un modo piu franco e diretto)

B. X viene accettato, dopo lacrime, piagnucolii e strepiti del Cliente. E qui si aprono due sottocategorie, come segue:

B1. il cambio da Y a X viene implementato, ma avviene una interminabile sequenza di imprevisti che ti obbligano a fare ore, giorni e notti di lavoro extra, col fiato sul collo da parte di colleghi, capo e Cliente, i quani urlano ogni 5 minuti "bruttostronzoe'colpatua" e "alloraquantomancamaledettofigliodiputtanasenonfunzionaseilicenziato".

B2. il cambio da Y a X fila più o meno tranquillo (che non significa che non hai comunque avuto la tua dose di sudori freddi, intendiamoci), per te nemmeno un caffè di ringraziamento mentre per Capo e/o Cliente festino a base di viagra e puttane bisex, e durante l'ammucchiata si complimentano l'un l'altro di quanto sono stati intelligenti, lungimiranti e manageriali nel permetterti di fare la modifica.

 

Tutto vero, infatti ho già specificato a DB che so già cosa gli risponderebbero. Però l'opzione A, che sicuramente si verificherà, comporta un corollario: prima o poi il sistema dei tecnosauri con Insolazionaris 8 (o meno) e Finestrerotte 95 andrà fatalmente a gambe all'aria, costringendo tutti a un superlavoro per ricuperare i dati e mettere in piedi un sistema moderno, spendendoci il decuplo dei soldi che servirebbero per effettuare il cambio a situazione ancora stabile. Tanto poi è tutta colpa del sistemista, come al solito...

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Zahl


Anonymous coward By Anonymous coward - posted 02/05/2019 11:17 - reply

Ammetto che a un certo punto pensavo di leggere "Lotus Notes", poi ho realizzato che effettivamente è leggermente diverso, ma mica poi tanto...

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Anonymous coward


trekfan1 By trekfan1 - posted 12/05/2019 10:54 - reply

Apparentemente dalla parte di $x400siamoNoi c'e' UNA persona che sa come questo coso funziona (CL2) ed oggi e' (indovina un po') non disponibile.

Ma tu guarda, si rende non disponibile proprio il giorno del cambio eh, che combinazione.... ovviamente perché così se andava tutto a rotoli non era colpa sua (magari si è giusto un pelino dimenticato qualche dettaglio della configurazione....)

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trekfan1


Davide Bianchi@ trekfan1 By Davide Bianchi - posted 13/05/2019 07:57 - reply

combinazione.... ovviamente perché così se andava tutto a rotoli non era colpa sua (magari si è giusto un pelino dimenticato qualche dettaglio della configurazione....)

Non attribuire a malizia cio' che puo' essere tranquillamente attribuito a stupidita'.

 

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Davide Bianchi


16 messages post new

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