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* Posts by Ian

71 posts • joined 15 Nov 2007

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Snow Leopard kisses ZFS bye-bye

Ian

ZFS has value outside arrays

My laptop runs Open Solaris, and ZFS provides some real value. It makes upgrades incredibly safe: you take a clone, upgrade the clone (which only requires the space of the changed files), boot off it, run with it for a while and finally promote the new version to replace the old. By making filesystems cheap, you can put each lump of the system into a separate filesystem to include it in, or exclude it from, the upgrade process (I can boot my laptop on 2008.11 or 2009.06 and see the same home directory: yes, I know this is possible on other filesystems, but requires hard partitioning).

Plus checksums to guard against failing drives, compression selectable on a per-filesystem basis, snapshots for backup...

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Phorm boss blogs from a dark, dark place

Ian
Pirate

I've already banged in an FoI request

"The website managers at 10 Downing Street recognised their mistake in allowing a misleading petition to appear on their site, and have since provided assurances to Phorm that they will not permit this to happen again."

Can The Register get onto 10 DS and ask them if this really is the case? Or is this just more lies and spin from a company who are really doing a SCO when it comes to publicity.

I didn't couch it in ah-har, Jim lad, I be a privacy pirate, ha ha. But I was tempted.

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T-Mobile intros 'Pay Once' BlackBerry deal

Ian
Jobs Halo

Very much like O2's iPhone deal

Which also includes 12 months bundled data.

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Phorm moves beyond privacy - except when slating rivals

Ian

It's all old news

I went to the meeting last year, ranted at the speakers, and then went back to Simon Davies' flat and ranted at Mark Burgess (nice bloke) and his sister who is their marketing chief (nice woman).

But then I got a clue and just switched ISP to one that's not involved in the trials. Doing that flushed out a few ISP-dependencies in how I was operating, which mean that I would now find it much easier to switch again if I needed to. Well done BT: ditching you as an ISP, plus the opportunity to rationalise some other spending I do with you, chopped £350 per year off your revenues: how many Phorm users will it take to replace that?

So I didn't bother going this year. It doesn't affect me immediately, it's likely they'll run out of cash before BT stir up the hornets' nest of deploying and I now have the option of just running an IPsec tunnel to a suitable proxy if I have to. Duke Nuke'em will be released before it's a real risk.

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So, what's the f**king difference between a Netbook and an ultrathin?

Ian

Homophone Corner, Phonetic Spelling

formerly, not formally.

reckless, not wreckless.

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Government wastes £4.6m on mobile telly nonsense

Ian

Nathan Barley Ahoy!

Youtube that bitch to escape velocity.

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Google faces post-Fleetwood Mac comedown

Ian

Oh, bits of stuff

I've just this very day flown home from meetings in San Jose: it has to be said the traffic is very light. I measured the dot com bust by how long it took to drive from my preferred hotel by Palo Alto Caltrain and Sun up by the Dumbarton Bridge, and down in San Jose it all felt similarly screwed. Stanford Shopping Centre was empty yesterday, but there was a queue out the door at the Redwood City Fresh Choice. Google engineers may find themselves in a buyers' market.

On the Stevie Nicks front, the only `making of' documentary worth watching is the one that FM did for their recent reformation album. There's a Google Lesson there, which is that basically nice people (as they all appear to be) can have second lives.

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Birmingham drops the possessive apostrophe

Ian

Long finished issue

I've lived adjacent to them for more than forty years, and Kings Norton and Kings Heath have alway s been spelt without an apostrophe. The thought that Acocks Green (and would that be Acock's or Acocks', eh?) or Kitts Green might need an apostrophe has never even occurred to me, and I do grammatical pedantry with the worst of them. Druids Heath, Highters Heath...

Here's a photograph of Kings Heath station in 1957; fifty years ago the apostrophe was gone.

http://www.photobydjnorton.com/RailwayPictures/KingsHeathBoxClr.jpg

And more fun, are we now to worry about introducing a space into Kingstanding?

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Norfolk children get £310,000 of free laptops

Ian

Cheap laptops on E Bay Ahoy

It would be interesting to use the FoI Act to see how many of these laptops are ebayed and reported lost.

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Brute force SSH attack confounds defenders

Ian

Why allow password authentication?

``To access my controlled servers requires a nice long password and originating from a 'trusted' network.''

Surely to God people aren't running ssh listeners with password authentication exposed to the Internet? Under what circumstances couldn't you use a keypair and massively reduce the risk? The quality of the passphrase is a slight issue, especially if there are offline attacks, but that all presumes that someone has a copy of your private key. That massively reduces the risk compared to using a password for straight username/password authentication.

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Brit ISPs censor Wikipedia over 'child porn' album cover

Ian

Visible on BT Connection

The original album cover is visible in the wikipedia page from my BT connection this morning. Which is odd.

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Lord Lamont joins Phorm board

Ian
Gates Horns

Lamont's Influence Is What, Exactly?

This is the sort of nonsense that allows minor political figures to supplement their pension while giving conspiracy theorists (AC@1258) a field day.

Precisely what influence do people think Lamont has over the Tory Party in 2008? He's a chancellor from fifteen years ago who is regarded as a bit of a figure of fun (offlicenses, MIss Whiplash) if you're feeling charitable, the overseer of one of the most disastrous economic periods of recent years prior to the current troubles. Lamont is the person that the Tories, desperate to regain the reputation of economic competence, have been struggling to distance themselves from since 1997. Cameron giving the time of day to Lamont in 2008 would be like Tony Blair inviting Tony Benn to campaign with him in 1997: Lamont represents everything that Cameron doesn't want to be associated with.

The general idea of ``influence'' is crap anyway. Do people seriously believe that former politicians wield such influence after they themselves have lost any vestige of power that current politicians will do electorally or politically risky favours to people they've barely met? Sure, it suits the purposes of washed up politicians to trumpet that power, and it panders to the egomania of senior managers to convince themselves that they are now close to the wheels of power because they have the junior minister without portfolio in the Campbell-Bannerman government on their board. But the real power? Really?

A bloke who used to work at your company ten years ago who you met at a Christmas party once and now works for a no-hope re-seller phones you up to tell you about the product he's now selling: do you immediately drop your existing relationships and spend big bucks with him?

Bill. Because regular lunching with Blair and Brown still hasn't got UK schools moving off Office 2003.

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Gary Glitter expelled from GCSE paper

Ian

Hitler

``What's next removing Mein Kampf from the English Lit course because they've suddenly realised a Mr A Hitler might not have been a nice chap after all?''

In order to be removed, it'll need to be on a course to start with: could someone tell us where that's happening? I'd be surprised to find that any GCSE, GCE, CSE, CEE, School Certificate, Pre-U or other qualification in English Literature has studied Mein Kampf.

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Company That Can't Be Named slams critics

Ian

Better than mine...

I spent Friday at a regional development board conference, where I was one of the 20% that wasn't working for the public sector. And in a city where more than 50% of the population are from ethnic minorities, less than 5% of the attendees were.

The most inane comment came from a media bloke who assured us that his son, ten, didn't wear a watch because he'd far rather carry a more capable device, ie a phone, and therefore only old people would wear watches. Presumably that's so he can get twitter, too.

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NHS IT project pulled up by hiatus hernia

Ian
Paris Hilton

Actually, hi-def X Rays aren't the problem

``12 billion quid to work out that you can't build a big enough pipe to transfer thousands of high def xrays every day and that you can't get doctors to standardise their notes..''

As it happens, PACS, the system that handles medical imaging, has been up and running for several years without too much drama. Most X-Rays (and MRI and CAT and Ultrasound and so on) are used within the hospital that generated them, so only a small proportion are moved between organisations, and most imagining equipment made in recent years is digital anyway.

An acquaintance who was at the time a consultant radiologist was one of the early adopters, and she said that by sticking rigidly to the precise requirements of moving digital images from devices to displays and keeping copies where required, they brought the whole thing in on time and under budget.

As to the rest of your comment, however, it's all true.

Paris. Because she knows about distributing digital images of her anatomy.

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Iridium flares for another $500m

Ian
Paris Hilton

Atomic Number, not Atomic Weight

``design originally called for 77, the atomic weight of Iridium''

Number, not weight. Iridium has 77 protons, hence the atomic number is 77. The stable isotopes have an atomic weight of 191 and 193, with 114 and 116 neutrons respectively.

Paris. Because she should do A Level Physics, too.

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BT's secret Phorm trials: UK.gov responds

Ian

Goodbye BT

They phoned me up last week, ignoring the TPS, to ask me if I wanted to re-sign my contract at a two quid per month discount. I declined, citing the impending Phorm roll-out (had I been smart I'd also have complained that the much bruited Webwise phishing protection hadn't been delivered, but that might have been a bit too subtle). They said `OK' and moved on to the next mark.

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Hundreds queue for Doctor Who Hamlet tickets

Ian

Enjoy

It's a pretty good production. I saw it at Stratford --- sorry, no queuing, I just filled in my full member's form and received row C for my daughter and me by return of post --- and rather enjoyed it. It's been cut heavily to fit in three and a half hours, which is good --- compare Dear Ken's production in the early 90s, which was nearly an hour longer.

Tennant is surprisingly good --- remember, Hamlet is a young man's part, and his Doctor has been an audition for Hamlet from the off --- but Stewart steals the show as Claudius. He's old RSC, and can actually speak the verse, and that brings out of Maria Gayle as Ophelia (a name to watch: she did a great Miranda a couple of seasons ago and she's sensational here, and looks great in her bra and knickers too) and especially Penny Downie as Gertrude (again, old RSC: she played Lady Anne opposite Sher's Richard III amongst other things) fine, fine performance.

You won't come away having learnt something about Hamlet, either the man or the text, that you didn't know before, but you'll have laughed (a lot: it's _funny_, with Oliver Ford Davies as Polonius timed to perfection) and seen some great performances. The whole thing is slightly less than the sum of its parts, but it's a fine evening's theatre.

It won't be one of the great RSC things that's remembered for decades to come: my wife saw the Sher R3, we both saw the Stephens Lear and the Brannagh Hamlet and the Mendes/Russell-Beale R3 and the Juliet Stevenson Becket Shorts, I saw all eight of the Histories in four days over Easter.

But if you don't know the play it's a great introduction. I think the young might find it all a bit too angsty. My daughter, 12, isn't a Shakespeare neophyte --- to the amusement of people sat near us she was able to compare Patrick Stewart's Claudius with his Hamlet at Chichester and his Prospero in the old main house --- and she was happy to see Tennant, especially two feet away on the walkway. But she enjoyed the Macbeth more, the motivations being a lot clearer (and, to be honest, the production a lot better: Goold is a real rising star). And if you do know the play, it's light, it's fun, it's well acted, and at worst you'll be left with a slight feeling that there's more to be had from the text.

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Apple channels Pandora with iTunes 8

Ian

Headphones; Recommendations

It's hard to claim that recommendation-based systems are new enough to be copied from anything in specific. Wasn't the originator called Firefly, run out of MIT, and rolled up into the Amazon recommendations engine (which is actually rather good)?

On the headphones front, $80 is loose change. I paid about $120 for my Shure e3cs (they're meant as stage monitors, and they're an awkward impedance for little battery powered devices, but they're fine with an iPod so long as you don't want to operate at high volumes). Recently I mislaid them and, thinking I'd lost them, bought some some Shure SE420s which were about £170 (yes, pounds this time). They're fabulous, and because of the isolation they provide you don't need high volumes to overpower background and no-one else can hear your music at all. My 3cs turned up a few months later, so now I have a spare pair...

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World goes mad as Bill and Jerry eat churros

Ian
Jobs Halo

Adverts aren't revenue

``Whilst the series is unlikely to have the drama of a well known series of adverts for coffee''

Which got canned because they weren't, in fact, selling coffee (Nescafe, as it happens: that you used the generic name shows why they failed). For those of us d'un certain age, Cinzano adverts with Leonard Rossiter and Joan Collins. http://www.leonardrossiter.com/Cinzano.html --- Alan Parker may think they're great, but they didn't actually shift much in the way of Cinzao.

There comes a point where spending the ad budget on meeting your heroes becomes an end in itself. As Microsoft have just shown.

Steve. Because he's not spending the ad budget meeting Larry Sanders.

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Pillar rains on EMC's parade

Ian

When does spindle count, er, count?

Honesty in Commenting: I'm a happy Pillar customer, although I'm also very fond of my EMC storage as well, and Mike's one of the most engaging men I've had dinner with in recent year. However, what follows is my long-standing take on storage, formed more during my days as an Auspex customer.

Spindle count matters (ie you need more of them) when you either have a random read rate greater than the aggregate operation rate of your drives, or you have a sustained write rate ditto over a period of time longer than you can solve with array cache.

Back in the day, central storage took a pounding on the read side, because clients were mostly very memory poor. Read was hard to optimise away: if it's not in cache (and it usually wasn't) you have no choice but to go to spindle, and then you need lots of them. So my Auspexes used to be something like ~70% read, and most of those reads were serviced from disk. 84 x 36GB RAID5 seemed like a good way to provide ~2TB (or, for those with very long memories, 60 x 1.3GB RAID 0+1 seemed like a good way to provide ~40GB).

But these days, a not-dissimilar workload is write heavy. The clients have plenty of RAM which means that they rapidly stabilise at a point where the read load they impose is relatively small, and most of the central disk time is spent coping with writes --- the clients, properly, issue writes as soon as they have dirty pages. Write can always be reduced to a cache operation, so long as you have enough cache, and RAM --- even mirrored ECC RAM with battery back-up --- is dirt cheap.

So yes, if you have a burst of write which exceeds the capacity of your cache to the point that not even the portion that will fit into your cache helps, and not even the write re-ordering that the cache allows helps, you'll need more spindles. But my experience of sizing storage is that most people grossly over-estimate the scale of their problem in terms of duration: you may need oodles of random write performance over a few gigs, or perhaps a few tens of gigs, rarely more.

If you need to do random writes over many hundreds of gigs such that you can't re-order them in any useful way, then you're going to need spindles, and lots of them. Even then it's an open question if in that environment you're better off with N 300GB FC disks or 2N 1TB SATA disks short-stroked to 300GB. Mike would argue the latter, and he'd argue that you can probably get some mileage, if only for snapshots and long-term archive, out of the 700GB that are not part of your short-stroking.

So when I look at my arrays (fairly intensive Oracle workloads on some, Clearcase on others) I don't see the limiting factor being the spindles: I see it being the ability of the controllers to keep up with the shorter bursts. And the easiest way to improve that is to throw more RAM at the problem. Spindles may allow more operations to complete within 7ms, but they still won't improve the speed of any individual operation: if it's going to disk, it's going to take 7ms. RAM allows operations to complete (essentially) in zero time. 100 lorries can carry more goods up the M6 than 1 lorry, but it'll take just the same length of time for a given package to get from Rugby to Carlisle.

Now this analysis doesn't help for read. But if you can do your read in a reasonably sensibly ordered way (as, say, during backup or large table reads), then 100 spindles of 1800rpm ESDI is more than enough bandwidth to be going along with, never mind 100 spindles of anything remotely modern. If you're doing random reads, not so much, and then I agree you need the fastest disks you can get.

But those random reads are again going to be taking 7ms each, and I would seriously question the overall design of a production environment in which you need to sustain 10K random reads per second. Yes, 100 FC disks will do it, and 100 SATA disks will struggle, and yes the latency will be lower with FC, but still...7ms, 10ms, both are lifetimes in terms of CPU speed, and isn't it God's way of telling you to either put some indexes on your tables or just buy the terabyte of RAM you know you want for your application?

ian

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MPs lambast BBFC over Batman

Ian
Thumb Up

It's difficult

I'm a regular cinema goer: I see about fifty films in cinemas a year (I'm in my mid forties, my regular cinema going companion is in her mid fifties). And I have children of ten and twelve, so I'm in the zone where certification is an issue. I'm interested in certification issues to the point that I occasionally correspond with the BBFC and my r. c. g. c. is an academic who sees hundreds of films a year and has cinema as one of the strings of her publishing bow, so I/We are not naive observers.

All that said, I was surprised that Dark Knight was a 12A. The BBFC guidance claims it's clearly a mainstream 12A, which is at odds with their statement now that it's borderline. Certainly compared to Casino Royale, which was only passed at 12A with cuts, it's a different kettle of fish. Had I only read the guidance I would probably have taken my elder daughter had she expressed an interest, but having actually seen the film (opening night, natch) I wouldn't.

A few weeks ago I saw the restored digital print of Blade Runner. I muttered in advance to elder daughter that I couldn't remember why it was a 15, that it had been an AA (ie 14) on release, and if I were a bad parent I'd consider taking her (5 ' 7": they won't notice). But then I watched it, and its 15 certificate seemed justified. So, if Bladerunner retains its 15, how is Dark Knight less mature? And at the other end of the range, I took both my kids (as I say, ten and twelve) to see both ``Be Kind, Rewind'' and ``Son of Rambow'', and I just cannot see the certification parallel with Dark Knight. Short of expecting every responsible parent to see the film in advance, what can you do? Elder wants to see ``Man on Wire'' this week, which is also a 12A...

And of course there are idiots: at the first night screening I saw, a woman with hoop ear-rings and a room-temperature IQ had a three year old with her, who was petrified. Perhaps just bringing back the 12 certification, or making the ``8 minimum'' recommendation on 12A mandatory, would help.

Mind you, there's an air of ``films need to be censored to protect the poor people'' to it all. No-one turned a hair at my taking my then eleven year old to the Chichester Stewart / Goold Macbeth, which had enough blood to be going on with, she was happy enough as Martha knocked out ``Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole'' at a gig at the weekend, and it's likely you could argue that Hamlet (the Tennant / Goold thing at the RSC is next weekend's challenge) is hardly suitable for the impressionable.

But I found that child's terror spoilt the film for me, sentimental man that I am.

The thumb, because DK is pretty good. Not great. But I suspect much better than The X Files film will be tonight...

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Hard 'core'? Birmingham City Council's net filtering

Ian
Paris Hilton

Web Filtering: Say No

I've run an Internet connection for my employer since 1991, and a Usenet feed back into the mid-eighties at several sites. I've always had a `no filtering' agreement with the seniors, with an acceptable use policy we can use if we have to.

My logic has several strands.

Firstly, we're a big development shop, and a lot of our staff work all the hours God gives. Ergo, if we start limiting their access with the ``do it at home'' argument, they might it at home, which is bad for us.

Secondly, they'll find ways around it which means that instead of having clear accountability we have all sorts of malign security issues (outbound modems, remote proxies, etc) which we don't want.

Thirdly, it's so obviously silly as a policy that it brings the rest of our security posture into disrepute, and I don't want people going ``the web policy is silly and I circumvent it, so likewise...''

The issue about people wasting their time is a management issue. If someone isn't doing their job, their manager needs to deal with it, and it doesn't matter if the surface reason is Facebook, reading Tolstoy in the office or sitting in the canteen all day. It's not an IT function. The claims of exposure to lawsuits are wildly over-stated. And the filtering software is by and large set up for south of the Mason-Dixon line anyway.

In over twenty years of administering external networking, I've had a couple of cases which have crossed our radar as needing to be dealt with. Not worth some huge technical non-fix. And as my users don't believe me when I tell them there's no filtering on our web connections and assume we're watching everything anyway, it's self-policing...

Paris. Because her videos are presumably blocked.

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IT career virgins need a cherry on top

Ian

Handy things to know about

27001 and 25999. And if you've actually done a complete certification cycle in one (or better both), that's good.

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Doctor Who fans told to lay off Hamlet

Ian
Paris Hilton

@Chris W

``Nobody gives a toss about our production but at least we can make some money by allowing autographs only on tat you've bought from us.

To all thespians "HAMLET"''

Nobody gives a toss in that ``almost every ticket sold out on the initial member and associate member rounds, so there were almost none left for civilians'' kind of way.

And if you're alluding to plays that actors aren't supposed to name, and that rather find Blackadder episode, you mean ``MACBETH''. They're somewhat different plays.

Speaking as someone with a passing interest in Doctor Who, as a regular at the RSC (to the extent that I did the ``eight history plays in four days'' thing earlier this year) and as the proud possessor of a couple of front and centre tickets for my elder daughter and me, it sounds fairly promising.

My daughter's now twelve, and in recent years I've taken her to the Greg Doran / Malcolm Storry Dream and the Rupert Goold / Patrick Stewart Tempest.

Following on from the latter, which wasn't as good as the Nicholas Hytner / John Wood Tempest of blessed memory, but was extremely good --- and she's never seen or heard of Star Trek --- we trogged down to Chichester for the Goold / Stewart Macbeth. That was stunning, absolutely stunning.

Tennant was reportedly a fine Romeo in a weak Romeo and Juliet some years ago, she likes Doctor Who, Tennant's been playing the Doctor in prime emo student guise of late as though he's channelling reports of David Warner's Hamlet and my daughter's about ready for Hamlet. Oh, and the Courtyard is rather fine, so we should get to see stuff there before it's supplanted by the new main house.

Hamlet's not my favourite Shakespeare --- Tempest, Richard II, Richard III and Lear, probably --- although Dear Ken did a marvellous production in the early 90s (uncut --- 4hr30). But the omens are good for this one: Tennant's the right age and look, he's got the basic chops, the producer is sound, the house is good and everyone's the right age. What's not to look forward to?

Batman was great last night, too: as my wife pointed out, though, we were twenty years older than everyone in the cinema...

Paris: because she's stupid enough to affect contempt for Shakespeare, while I would have thought better of El Reg readers' intellect.

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HP packaging madness continues apace

Ian

IBM && Complexity Theory

``I once received several empty boxes from IBM. Ostensibly they were used to fill the spaces in a larger box in which was a couple of cryptographic cards, but the packing system was obviously clever in knowing how many boxes were needed inside the box.''

Good to hear that a classic NP problem (the knapsack problem) is affecting crypto people.

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Pillar pumps performance in Axiom array

Ian
Coat

Disk Reliability

``You're saying that in 2 years not one out of those 53-80 spindles has failed?''

96 spindles active, 104 once you include the hotspares. It's not that surprising: it equates to an MTBF of something over 200 years. The lower end of `server grade' SATA is often quoted as being a million hours' MTBF (that's the way Apple are sliding around the precise nature of the disk in the Time Capsule, for example).

A million hours is 114 years; that we should be getting a bit better than that in a machine room kept at 18 centigrade into enclosures that were powered on in 2006 and have never been powered off since is hardly surprising. Even if it is surprising, it's hardly the 10^-40 you suggest.

A cold machine room and stable power (batteries and a genny) makes quite a difference, by the way: we have around five hundred spindles in our server estate and we typically see under ten failures per year. This year so far we've had a new SAS disk fail within the first few months, a five year old FC disk in an EMC went and a ten year old 9GB drive in a Sun multi-pack decided to finally expire. The only drive that's failed in `normal' timescales was a two year old 36GB SCSI drive in a V240. So our experienced MTBF with the Pillar is better than our general experience, but not outside the bounds of expectation.

By the way, if you can find a spec of NLM (not NFS, not, but NLM) which actually covers the lock reclamation process in a way which is compatible with fielded implementations from Sun and the Linux community, could you let me know? NFSv3 works between vendors because there's a spec (RFC1813) which pre-dates released implementations. NFSv2 doesn't work well between vendors because there isn't a spec, and endless fun ensues if you (for example) attempt to do mutual exclusion by creating lock files: the differences between traditional Unix filesystem semantics and NFS semantics are a matter of experiment, and vary from implementation to implementation.

NLMv4 (associated with NFSv3) is a horror story because it's relegated to an appendix of RFC1813 which only describes the differences compared to NLMv3, which itself has a very limited semantic specification, and it implements the flock() mechanism which itself has subtle differences between vendors. Sun and NetApp quietly introduced and recommended llock, which you can use in a lot of scenarios and which completely bypasses NLM (ask NetApp why they recommend llock). Auspex simply used the SunOS/Solaris lock manager unchanged, and in their more successful boxes also used the SunOS filesystem. The Linux one was, last time I tried it, broken following client crash and restart.

Why? As the Wireshark page for it says, ``Keep in mind, there is no standard for the NLM protocol, the only thing that exists for this protocol is an interface specification describing the packet format. This is one reason why there have historically been so many problems with this protocol.''

I'm not going to fish around in our cacti instance for all the numbers, but as a rough guide our load is peaking at around 100MBytes/sec five-minute average of NFS activity, and over a (seven day) week we average about 25MB/sec. We peak at 4K NFS ops/sec, and average 1.5K/sec over the week. The usual response time reported by the clients (via sar and the like) is about 3ms, although write bound loads are slightly faster (going to mirrored RAM) and random reads are spindle-bound (as you'd expect).

Mine's the one with the ``I must not get engaged in fruitless discussions about fileservers.'' note in the pocket.

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Ian
Thumb Up

They're a company to take seriously

We've run our business on 40TB of their storage for the past couple of years, NAS flavour. The hardware's bombproof: we haven't had so much as a spindle fail, such is the love they wrap them in within the Bricks, and the electronics have been noticeable only insofar as we haven't noticed them. The volume management and QoS is likewise invisible `just works' stuff, and I'd extrapolate from our NAS experience to say the SAN products are probably plug in, beat with a massive workload and forget.

The NAS product is a lightening-fast NFS server, but obviously has a much larger software stack covering filesystems and the upper-layer protocols. The NFS works perfectly, and hasn't crossed our radar since day one, and the filesystem performance, snapshotting and the like all does what you'd expect.

We've spent a bit of time chasing around a couple of NLM issues, but that's a protocol that suffers from poor specification and our environment --- interworking between Solaris and Linux clients --- has a history of stressing even the native Solaris implementations on past Suns and Auspexes (Auspex never `deep ported' lockd, instead running it on the Solaris host processor at hideously slow speeds). The Pillar version is running on the slammers and has performance and resilience to spare, but has some corner cases where it behaves differently to the reference implementations. But the fixes have usually been rapid, and it's not really got in the way of production loads. We're supporting multiple Solaris Oracle platforms (primarily a couple of Niagaras) off it, plus 1000 users of Cyrus IMAP, home directories for those 1000 users, a 200-user Clearcase environment, and it's barely raising a sweat.

I'd be lying if I said it was trouble-free, because nothing is and we're at the right-hand end of the complexity curve amongst their customers. But of the new products we've brought into our network it's been one of the easiest. And when we have had issues, the company is one of the most customer-focussed we've dealt with, with top-quality people at the end of the phone directly and short, effective escalation routes. The management team are straight-forward and decent and the price / performance is great. If you're shopping for storage, they're well worth looking at.

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Two top posts at NPfIT are still empty

Ian
Gates Horns

The money's not that good

Because there's a strong chance that it's a career-ending move for someone with a history in health IT. You would end up hated by everyone: government (because you were the person who failed to deliver what they still, laughably, regard as an election-winning system), civil service (you won't make any friends as you stamp around the DoH trying to Get Things Done), NHS at large (they just want to install local PAS systems, keep PACS running well and, er, that's it), suppliers (you'll have to beat them up, pull a few contracts and refuse to sign such paltry invoices as they are able to submit under the contract) and then government again (as you make distress purchase deals with the suppliers to provide on-going support for what they _have_ installed after they walk away from the programme).

The point about government employees being able to leave the government and get jobs in industry is that they know where the bodies are buried and the presumption is that the bodies still matter. Being the leading expert in CfH is like being the world's best gas mantle maker: either Labour will put it out of its misery, or it'll wither away as foundation hospitals declare UDI, or as a backstop in two years an incoming Tory government will shoot it on sight and blame their incompetent predecessors for the size of the settlement involved. An incoming Tory government has to shoot CfH and ID Cards on day 1, because on day 2 it becomes their problem and they can't blame Labour any more.

So anyone good enough to run the NHS IT is good enough to do something easier, safer and more long-lived. Hence, no credible applications.

Bill, because he sweet-talked Tony and got us into this mess.

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Time to move on from Chinook to the real MoD cock-ups

Ian
Paris Hilton

Cargo is cheaper than ASW

``The Seahawk is a purely navy aircraft (used for ASW and SAR missions), and the Future Lynx is intended for our PBI to flap around in''

That makes Lewis' point stronger, not weaker. Naval ASW helicopters are chock full of exotic electronics. Transport helicopters aren't. A mixed fleet of ASW and Army helicopters should be cheaper per-unit than pure ASW, simply because of the wildly more expensive fit-out on the naval ones.

Paris. Because she could take over at the MoD and do a better job.

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Brits more fearful of ID fraud

Ian

Biased Language

``Four in five parents who failed to apply internet controls''

Failed to? Or just didn't? Or actively chose not to?

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Brennan JB7 Micro Jukebox

Ian
Jobs Horns

And this differs from an AppleTV how, exactly?

With an AppleTV I can compress the music using the muscle processors on my main computer, and then sync it to a disk in the living room to use with my hifi. And I can do that with SPDIF output and 802.11n networking. And it's cheaper. And it does video.

Yes, if I hadn't got a computer, the reviewed box would work. But then, I'd be better off spending 300 quid on a computer.

Steve, playing Devil's Advocate.

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Sun chum Oracle pushes database buyers to IBM

Ian

oracle of t2000 is fine for us

We're running all our Oracle on T2000, with (for extra points) everything in Solaris 10 zones and all the storage coming over NAS from one of Uncle Larry's Pillar boxes. All seems very stable, and plenty fast enough for our purposes. The power savings are non-trivial too.

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The web rip-offs nobody cares about

Ian
Pirate

Too Good to be True

This appears to be an extended riff on the basic idea that things that are too good to be true are too good to be true. Real price a grand, someone's selling it for 300 quid, and they turn out to be a crook? What an amazing thing that is, I'm as surprised as Mr Surprised from Surprise Street in Surprise Town, where bears wear funny hats and the pope keeps the trees fertilised.

I work on the assumption that everything on eBay is stolen or fake, and everyone dealing on eBay is a crook. That way on the odd occasions I buy something and don't get ripped off, I'm pleasantly surprised.

The scull and crossbones, because it's about time someone noticed that pirates aren't honest businessmen.

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Information Commissioner: Phorm must be opt-in only

Ian

Material Change to Terms and Conditions

``I assume the next step for BT is to make the opt-in tick box a requirement in the contract to access the service (or maybe they will just put you a higher price if you don't opt-in). BT is just beyond shame.''

They could try either of those things. They'd be hard-pushed to argue it's not a material change to the terms and conditions, though, which means that their hard-won long-term contracts for their customers are worthless. It's like cats in front of fires: hold their tail and they want to go somewhere else, irrespective of how happy they are where they are.

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Plugs pulled on satellite paedo tracking after pilot flops

Ian

I told 'em

I wrote to my MP when the ludicrous proposal was first made, and got a patronising ``experts say it'll work'' response from the hilariously named Paul Goggins. Nice to see I was right and they were wrong.

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Dave Cameron pledges to Open Source UK.gov

Ian

RMS at Number 10

The sight of Billy-boy, blinking away alongside Tony Blair, each unable to decide who was the more star-struck was moderately amusing. But having spent a week with RMS lo these twenty years ago, and having met ESR a couple of times, I am looking forward to seeing Cameron holding a similar meeting surrounded by Stallman, holding a recorder, and Eric, holding a .44 Magnum...

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Mobile phones global health menace, says top brain surgeon

Ian

Grauniad Sex Therapist

But for us men of a certain age, being able to read Pamela Stevenson's advice on anal sex has a certain frisson.

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Motorola to offload half its Birmingham staff

Ian

Former Sendo Site

I presume that this is the building on the A45 as you approach the airport. In which case, it's the former Sendo operation, so it's already been through one death and resurrection.

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BT admits misleading customers over Phorm experiments

Ian

How to fight back

One option is to change ISP. A more effective one is to boycott websites that pay Phorm: their main source of revenue. I'll miss the Guardian's website, but it looks like I'll be paying it my last visit.

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Ian

Remote Squid

I'm considering renting a Solaris Zone from someone like Sparsezones, or perhaps a similar operation not in the UK for extra safety, and just pointing all my home browsers at an https-ised proxy running remotely. End of problem.

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Top security firm: Phorm is adware

Ian

BT CEO Mail, @mark

If they really said ``I would like to assure you that the proposed service is an “opt in” service.'' then that's a massive change of position. If CPW and BT go for an opt-in scheme (ie default opt-out) and Virgin join them then the game is essentially over for Phorm.

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CPW builds wall between customers and Phorm

Ian

CPW: The Smart Ones

At the moment there are three classes of ISPs: those that are pimping data, those that appear to be saying things to avoid pimping data, those that are saying nothing. CPW are the only members of the second category: Phorm may claim them as a customer, but if there's no kit installed and they're already talking about an opt-in scheme (presumably Phorm offer a revenue split). So CPW are positioning themselves neatly to capture the diaspora from BT: unlike random ISP X who might sign their souls to Phorm the day after you switch to them, CPW are saying clearly (a) opt-in and (b) those that don't opt-in will be fenced off so their data doesn't hit Phorm's boxes.

Since the set of people who will opt-in is small, CPW have just for practical purposes announced they reckon recruiting Phorm refusnik's from BT is a better business model than taking Phorm's money. I reckon that's the end of Phorm, and BT's next move will be interesting and crucial. That BT have been caught lying about trials in the summer won't go well for them, either.

Stock price down 30%, one major `customer' distancing themselves and another being neutral means that BT are now the only major customer of a shareholder toxic, PR toxic spyware company. Not a nice place to be.

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Bill Gates chuckles at Google Apps

Ian

What are all the documents for?

``any company that uses google apps is heading down the bog''

Walking into any office today, you see desks from wall to wall occupied by people typing. Occasionally they hold meetings or use the phone. Most of the time they type.

Thirty years ago, perhaps ten percent of the workforce, if that, would have been an audio- or shorthand-typing pool. The rest would have held meetings, taken decisions, done real work. And gone home at 5pm.

Now they all type. And go home to a laptop and a blackberry, on which they type until they fall asleep.

Do you believe the problem is that the tools they are using to type aren't sharp enough? That they can't type quickly enough (because most of them type very badly, it has to be said)?

Or is the problem that they're typing at all? That what were once hand-written memos, taking a few seconds, are now beautifully produced multi-font structured documents with indexes and branded headings? That people seriously --- indeed, I was flamed on Slashdot for claiming otherwise --- believe that the formatting of internal documents has business value?

We've replaced thinking about business with thinking about word processing. The very idea that the brand of word-processing software affects the value of the work done with it is laughable. The competition isn't about Arial vs Helvetica or Calibri vs Frutiger; the competition is between profitable and not profitable. And pissing around all day with word processing of internal documents is Not Profitable.

A company that uses Google Apps just saved a few hundred pounds per employee, and reduced the turnover of computing equipment. What's the downside?

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Apple's Time Capsule: is its HDD really 'server grade'?

Ian

Disks are disks, in the end

I have a farm of about 200TB of disk in a variety of arrays, from EMC, DotHill, Pillar and others. The drives range from 7200rpm SATA, in the one of the EMCs, the Pillar and some OEM Adaptec storage, through 10K SCSI in the elderly DotHills and on through 10K FC in the remaing EMCs. We don't do 15K because an 8-way assemblage of 7200rpm is enough performance on the read side and our writes are bursty enough that the battery-backed RAM on the arrays isolates us from write performance.

The reliability appears totally unconnected to the brand and specification of the storage on the sample sizes I have. The Pillar has 100-odd 500GB SATA spindles, and (reaches for large pieces of wood) hasn't dropped a spindle in 18 months, for a truly awesome MTBF. It supports a large Clearcase environment and a whole bunch of Oracle databases, so it takes a pounding. The EMCs, on the other hand, have suitably fairy-dust sprinkled FC drives, and at one point we were on first-name terms with their maintenance people. That, and the hideous botch on Clarrions where the failure of one of the leftmost disks causes the write cache to stop working, made for some entertainment for a few months. We'd had a bad batch: of course you tend to get all the disks in an array you buy from a single batch.

The fun with the EMC SATA is that rebuilding an 8+1 RAID5 group to a hotspare with a centralised RAID controller is Not Quick: the Pillar improves on this (we've tested it) by having a RAID controller on each shelf to it can saturate the hot spare, but nonetheless rebuilding 500GB of parity is not rapid.

But for the Time Capsule, the whole thing seems moot. Unless you have 20 small laptops, the duty cycle for a Time Capsule will be a spin up, some writes and a spin down a few times an hour. In fact, a disk designed for 24x7xpounding may not be the best bet: a drive optimised for frequent spin down, like a laptop drive, might be a better fit. Six 120GB SATA 2.5" laptop drives in a RAID6 assemblage would be the thing, wouldn't it?

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How Phorm plans to tap your internet connection

Ian

Hard to see how it's not Interception

It's Interception, per RIPA.

There are immense data protection issues.

Anyone whose computer is taken in a police raid is subject to having the cookie in their browser correlated with the cookie in the Phorm cache.

There's also a copyright issue: if they're taking responses, any website for which I pay is having its content stolen by a third party. And if I'm paying for content, and it's modified in flight, who's liable?

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Gilligan's bomb: Is it time to panic yet?

Ian

The critical difference is...

...that the Tories had good old British stiff upper lip, not a few of them had been in the military, and dusting yourself down and being stoic was the done thing, even after the Grand Hotel. When Brown and Blair hear reports of things happening, their first reaction is to shit their pants, and once they've cleaned that up they run, screaming, into the nearest available bunker to huddle with the rest of the cowards that pass for our `leaders'. The Labour Party used to have the likes of Denis Healy, who was a beachmaster at Anzio. It now has people whose only contact with uniform is denying them money and then sending them to die overseas.

I was on a plane inbound to LHR when the IRA mortared it in the early 90s. We diverted to STN, got a bus back to the LHR carpark, and got on with our lives. I lived in Birmingham through the 1970s: after the pub bombings we just got on with things. New Labour: New Cowards.

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Armed police swoop on MP3-packing mechanic

Ian

DNA?

On what basis did they take his DNA, one wonders?

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Pillar adds 'application awareness' to Axiom arrays

Ian

The current stuff works well, so it's promising

We've got ~40TB on a NAS Pillar, and we're using it to serve everything from mail via Cyrus (lots of small files, mostly read) through home directories and Clearcase up to Oracle. The QoS stuff they offer does what it says on the tin, clamping the ability of the people that didn't pay for the box to impact on the people that did, and giving everyone predictable performance. There's a few matters of taste (for example, rather like contended DSL when there are few users, giving low priority users the whole system when no-one else is using it doesn't manage their expectations very well, so it would be nice to clamp their performance even when there's plenty spare) but the box basically does what it say on the tin.

Throw in stone-reliable hardware and a software architecture which means that problems --- and you don't buy startup NAS hardware without expecting and tolerating a few of those --- simply trigger a second or so of failover delay and it's a sound product. And well priced, too.

I'm fairly hard-bitten with NAS products, having been using NFS as my dominant storage technology since 1986. I've run Auspexes and NetApps, along with Sun on the front of EMC, Datacore and other hip buzzwords. But the Pillar has been at least as good as the best of the rest, and in terms of having one vendor to deal with for the whole stack harkens back to the heyday of Auspex (not surprising, given the number of Auspex alumni at Pillar, and standing an Axion next to an NS6000 is a hoot).

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Seven per cent of doctors are mad: Official

Ian
Paris Hilton

AC has been listening to the propaganda

Leaving aside the question of how they know who you are to look up the much vaunted information, you need to know how many people have something on their records which would affect their treatment at all, never mind enough to ``save many lives''.

The implication is that there are people who die in A&E, having been hauled in unconscious, but would live if only their records were available. Penicillin allergy? Rare, rarely fatal (especially if you're in an A&E unit already), and if you intend to ever travel outside the UK best dealt with with a medalert bracelet. Allergy to anaesthesia? Again, rare (about one in 10,000 anaesthetics, and 3% fatal), and again, best dealt with with a medalert thingie. And as tonsilectomies and dental GA are becoming rarer, the majority of the population don't know anyway --- my wife and I are in our forties, and not merely have neither of us had a surgical GA, we know few people who have either. [*]

And as the only way they could look up your records were you hauled in unconscious would be by getting your identity from the contents of your wallet, you could always write ``I am allergic to the following antibiotics and the following GA agents'' on a piece of paper --- in several languages, if you're smart --- and put it in your wallet as well.

We're geeks, right? So `use cases' are where the action is. What's the use case for records in A&E where you die without them but live with them, and why aren't the newspapers full of such cases now?

[*] Without my records to hand, oooh scary, I was given 50mg of IV ketamine by a full colonel in the RAMC. Which wasn't the end to my bike ride I was planning.

Paris, because she'd make a more convincing case.

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