* Posts by Philip Storry

70 posts • joined 28 Nov 2007


The 'new' Microsoft? I still wouldn't touch them with a barge pole

Philip Storry

This is why I've still not bought a personal/home O365 sub.

I'm not a huge fan of Office (except Excel), and use OpenOffice.org's products for the most part. But I have a Windows VM with Office 2010 in it, all legal.

Mostly just for the very rare occasion when I may need to have 100% compatibility with an Office document.

Of course, we're now two versions on. And most idiots who bleat on about 100% compatibility with Office will always forget that Office itself isn't even100% backwards compatible. So at some point, I'd like to upgrade. And O365 looks like a good way to do it.

On the one hand, around £60/year seems like a reasonable price for the whole of Office. On the other hand, I've not actually needed it for months - so it's definitely a luxury purchase. I can't justify it, and the only way to justify it is to use Office more and lock my data into it. Not likely!

If I ran my own business, I'd probably have my hand forced. But as it stands, I'm sure I'll manage without...


Music's value gap? Follow the money trail back to Google

Philip Storry

Oh dear. What a poor metaphor!

Andrew, Andrew, Andrew...

Such a poor metaphor. It's the 14th of April, 2016. Not the 1st of April. And definitely 2016. So can we please stop trying to equate intellectual property - the ownership of an idea or a record of the expression of that idea - with physical property?

Because it really doesn't help. At best, it muddies the water, and at worst it makes people write simplistic comparisons that actively mislead people.

Let's try a different metaphor. One less stuck in bovine faeces than the wellies you struggled with here.

Imagine that you are a writer. And your writing has value. It can entertain people, inform people, even enlighten people. And you're proud of the results of your efforts, and want a simple exchange - that people give you money in order to have access to the fruits of your efforts.

Which seems fair.

But now imagine that there are only two ways you can get your work out to people. The first is via small-scale printing, locally distributed. It's messy, the end result is a little ugly, and it doesn't scale very well. Only people within a few miles of where you live will ever get the opportunity to see your work. The second is to sell your work to a big national publishing of newspapers or periodicals. They have the scale in both production and distribution - and they'll help you with editing and have access to stock images too! Unfortunately, the downside is that they pay pittance and they insist on the right to re-use your content whenever they like, however they like. And you lose editorial control.

It seems that there's only one option - take the pittance, and make up for it in volume of works. Hopefully you can grow an audience, then demand more money from the publisher. Meanwhile, your growing body of work is being owned or licensed to a company that may not share your values, and merely views you as a line on a profit or loss statement. But hey - in a way you're one of the lucky ones. There are plenty of talented writers who never got the chance to reach as wide a public, because these publishers are quite conservative in their editorial policies - - unless it's "hot", they like to avoid controversy, seeing it as a risky investment. And new things are often controversial...

But you suck it up. Because, after all, there is no other game in town. There's no technology that can fix this for you.

But wait - what's this? A technology that interconnects networked computers! Let's call it the conwork. Or internet. No, conwork is better. Let's use that.

Well, you have loads of fans. And now you could take your work to them on this new frontier!

Except your publisher doesn't care. They're too busy selling physical books and periodicals - which is profitable, and has an existing and well tested supply chain - to bother investing in this risky new technology. And you've signed away your rights to your own work - past, present and future - to the publisher, so you can't take your work to your fans yourself. Which is crazy, but who could have predicted the conwork, eh?

Meanwhile, your most dedicated and most technical fans are starting to transcribe your works so that they can enjoy them on their conwork'd computers.

And there are new, smaller publishers popping up that use the conwork technology. They may not have the big artists, but the ones that they do have aren't constrained by the editorial policies of the big traditional publishers. They can write stuff that their fans really enjoy, and they're less fussed about being banned from vendor conferences. The world is changing, and these smaller conwork sites are getting big readership.

Except for your publishers, who still refuse to sell your works on the conwork... For them, the world is static.

Finally, the publishers - after much negotiation with a company in the technology industry - get round to selling your works to people over this conwork.

But it's too late. People have spent so long trading your work on the conwork for free that the value of it has been changed. They'll never pay what your publisher wants. They're also now used to just getting the article that they want, without a load of lesser articles packed around it and cranking up the expense.

Also, your contract with the publishers still only pays you pittance for each work sold, despite the fact that the publishers now add less value than ever and how much lower overheads than ever.

However will the publishers defend this? Why, by attacking the customers on behalf of the writers - the writers will hopefully not realise they're being ripped off, and the fans won't be listening to the publishers anyway - only shareholders and the artists do.

So you tell yourself that just as soon as your current contract is up, you'll renegotiate a better one. If they'll let you. And if not, you'll have to go to one of those smaller labels, I guess. Maybe. Seems scary though. After all, they still control the old media, so you'd be losing that.

Maybe you'll just stick with the big publisher. They love you, after all, right?

Hang on. My analogy seems familiar... It's almost exactly what the movie industry, the book publishing industry and every other IP industry has been trying NOT to repeat ever since the music industry really missed the boat.

Seriously, your analogy sucks because it misleads people. Conflating physical goods with IP won't work. You could have told a decent story here. Instead, you put out something that's barely fit for this new-fangled conwork thingie...

(And ironically, you did it on one of the new-fangled conwork thingies. I'm still unsure whether it was genius satire, or genuine idiocy.)

I'm not even going to talk about how DMCA takedowns are being filed in bad faith by automated machinery, or how the big music companies believe that they have some divine right to own everything and anything, and fair use be damned.

I'm all for artists getting a better deal. But I know where they won't ever find it. And I'm not going to attack fans or technology companies for the mistakes of an industry. That, it appears, would be taking your job...


Whatever happened to Green IT?

Philip Storry

Re: The bottom line won, green just road its coat-tails...

I have no idea how it became "road on its coat-tails" - I'm going to blame autocorrect! Regardless, apologies to those that it offended...

Can't disagree on what you've said about power generation, by the way!

Philip Storry

The bottom line won, green just road its coat-tails...

It's touched upon in the article, but in an odd way it's now very expensive not to be green.

At work, if I need a new server a VM is spun up. Speaking to friends in other companies, most infrastructures have gone the way of "you need to justify hardware" these days - the default is a VM, on the grounds that it reduces power consumption/rack space/hardware costs.

And then there's the cloud. Ever built a SharePoint farm? So many machines! But if you're using Office 365, then that's Microsoft's problem. And at the scale of their O365 SharePoint farms, you can assume that they want to eke every saving out of them that they can - so it's probably pretty green.

But even aside from that, at a machine level the cycles not spent serving you are probably spent serving someone else. I'd wager that the sheer scale of the various cloud services makes it far more energy efficient than using your own infrastructure, even if you have a virtualised infrastructure.

Lastly there's the hardware itself. I'm struggling to think of a recent time when I replaced something with a new bit of kit that was less efficient than the previous one...

Eco-warriors should take heart. As the technologies developed and scaled, it rapidly became too expensive to be anything but green unless you really needed local performance.

Now if only we had the same kind of cut-throat competition in power generation - then we wouldn't have people clinging on to big coal-fired stations to eke out the last of their lifespan, instead of moving to something that was newer and cheaper.

(My point being that the new technologies for power generation are close, but don't seem close enough or compelling enough yet to force replacement as we do with IT kit.)


'Just give me any old date and I'll make it work' ... said the VB script to the coder

Philip Storry

Re: VBA date handling has taken at least five years off my lifespan

The UK tax year starts on the 5th of April because of our transition to the Gregorian calendar from the Julian, doesn't it? We skipped days in the calendar to make the transition, and merchants rebelled against the idea of being taxed for non-existent days... So the end of year date was moved back to placate them.

Computerphile/Tom Scott made a lovely video on handling time zones, which is relevant to this:


I'd tend to agree - if it's at all possible, rely on the libraries that already handle this stuff. As you found, if you have to handle this yourself it rapidly becomes a very deep rabbit hole...


My devil-possessed smartphone tried to emasculate me

Philip Storry

Reminds me of the Orange nk502/Nokia 8110

My very first mobile phone was a Nokia 8110, branded as an Orange nk502.


Yes, we had aerials on phones back then. That was normal. It was also a very advanced model - it did this new-fangled SMS thing, for starters.

But it was commonly known as the "banana phone", due to a lovely curve that the unit had. It looked great, and was very comfortable in a trouser pocket.

Until you sat down.

Because the curve means that the phone moves towards the horizontal in your pocket, over your thigh as opposed to running up it. And can you guess what the aerial is now pointing directly at?

Trust me, the pointy corner of a modern smartphone is NOTHING compared to the searing unendearing spearing that aerial would give your gonads.

Nokia provided a version of the phone for Neo to use in the film The Matrix - albeit with a spring-loaded cover that they were experimenting with. Virtual reality Kung Fu? Being faster than a computer? Humans as batteries? Floating squid machines? I can accept all that. But Neo not being stabbed in the balls by that phone is pure Hollywood bullshit...


The paperless office? Don’t talk sheet

Philip Storry

Killing paper may well happen, but not quickly

I was working with faxing until 2014 - it's still in some banks. Legally, a fax is a contract no matter where you go in the world, so many trades (in particular Securities) are finalised by fax.

Many of those faxes were never actually paper though - it was simply a transmission medium.

People I know are always amused that I was working with faxing in 2014, and even more amused that I know ex-colleagues still working with it in 2016.

So I'd say look at where the law has its precedents. Banks, councils and so forth like paper not because it's cheap or simple - it isn't. You have to pay for expensive, annoying humans to handle it.

And usually they minimise that human requirement, paying for expensive scanning systems to turn them back into digital documents that they can route and process accordingly.

So I suspect that paper will survive as a transmission method for quite a while, as it's a lowest common denominator and allows for legal mechanisms like recorded delivery.

However, that's just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to reasons. Personally, I find proofreading much easier if I change the medium - these days that can mean loading a PDF onto a tablet, but nothing really beats scribbling marks on paper. But will kids who are growing up with tablets want to do this, or will they just rotate their device for a different layout?

Everyone will have their own reasons. But the fact that some children use little paper outside of school does mean it might yet happen in our lifetime.

Philip Storry

Re: Number 11

In the future, old people will reminisce about the smell of a freshly opened iGroin attachment that they were going to use for their iSexy sessions.

These new direct neuron influence generation helmets* are better, but they lack the physical sensations of the old technology.


* Commonly known as the D-NIGH standard of virtual reality. You're welcome.


Cybersecurity is slowing down my business, say majority of chief execs

Philip Storry

Re: If you can see it, you're doing it wrong

Kind of.

We're trying to change a culture here.

At first, IT was a strange thing in big offices with big expensive kit that worked miracles.

Then, it came down to the desktop, and allowed anyone to perform smaller miracles.

Next, we connected those desktops and gave everyone the benefits of sharing files, emails and so forth.

Recently, we interconnected all the separate business networks via the internet, which was a huge boon but also a security bane.

Security shouldn't be invisible, it should be normal. It should be part of every project, of every procedure, of every technology. But as IT became so ubiquitous that it entered everyone's personal lives as PCs, MP3 players and smart phones IT also became something that people regarded as a commodity - something that "can't be expensive" and "can't be difficult".

Here in IT, we're kind of young. This is a cultural challenge we've never faced before. So let's look at another industry where they have a similar issue - the construction industry. There, safe working should be part of every worksite. Every access point, every construction phase, every job, every bit of equipment - they should all have the safety of the workers in mind. Workers may well be available, but they should not be regarded by the construction companies as a commodity - they require protection.

So every building site has a big sign at the worker's entrance, declaring "no hat and boots, no job".

Health and Safety is still visible, and in a big way.

But it's also just normal. That's the way it is in the construction industry.

Why? Because the law states that if a Health and Safety breach occurs, people can go to jail. It's not just fines. It's potentially their liberty. In the 1970's we got tired of workers being treated as a commodity, and dealt with it accordingly.

You want the attention of these idiot CxOs? Easy. If they get compromised and they can't show that they took security issues seriously, then as well as the company being fined they get the joy of going to court to defend themselves from jail time.

Just like health and safety issues, we probably won't get any traction until we focus the minds of our "best and brightest" CxOs. After a few have gone to prison, companies will take this seriously and then it won't be invisible, but it will become normal - which is what we actually want.

But until then, good security will just be a cost to be shaved as thin as possible.


It's 2016 and a font file can own your computer

Philip Storry

Re: How did this ever become a problem in the first place?

(With apologies if you know all of this already.)

In the case of Windows, this all goes back to Windows NT 4.0.

Windows NT 3.x was stable and had lots of advanced features, but it required a pretty big machine at that time. 3.1 (the first release) was huge, 3.5 was better, and 3.51 was - by comparison to 3.1 - faster than a greased rat up a drainpipe. Sadly, when compared with Windows 95, Windows NT 3.51 was still slow.

Microsoft was running out of optimisations that they could feasibly make, and hardware wasn't catching up quickly enough either.

So Microsoft decided to move the GUI into ring 0.

Ring 0 is where the kernel lives. Intel CPUs had two "rings" where the code runs, each with different levels of privilege. In ring 3, the memory and I/O that the code has access to can be restricted to ensure a process can't affect other processes. Ring 0 has unrestricted access to the whole machine. (There are also rings 1 and 2, but earlier Intel processors didn't implement them so we're stuck with just the two rings.)

Moving the GUI code into ring 0 made window painting/repainting faster, so it was a significant improvement. Windows NT 4 felt livelier and nippier than Windows NT 3.51, so in that regard it was a success.

It was also controversial at the time. Windows NT was advertised as the secure version of Windows, and plenty of people were aware that this might not work out so well.

However, at the time there were no practicable exploits. Machines were only ever connected to what we'd now regard as trusted networks, video card drivers came on floppy disks and updates to them were hen's teeth, fonts were things we installed only if an application wanted it. And so on, and so on. Therefore only geeks and academics cared about the possibly impact of the move to ring 0.

The world is a little different now, and we're paying the price for past naiveties....

(In Microsoft's defence, X Servers usually run in ring 0 too, for performance reasons. I wouldn't bet against the Mac OS X graphical stack doing so as well. People like faster, and the customer is always right because he votes with his wallet.)


VMware axes Fusion and Workstation US devs

Philip Storry

Re: Will be interesting to see how this pans out

I agree with you.

But there's no column on the spreadsheet to fit all that in.

And the spreadsheet disagrees with us both.

And the spreadsheet is God as far as senior management know.

Therefore the spreadsheet wins.



That one weird trick fails: Google binned 780 million ads last year

Philip Storry

You've obviously not visited Buzzfeed/Answers.com/$timewastingsites.

Last week, I clicked on a link that took me there. I'm pretty sure I did half that number just on that one visit...

(Note: I just went to my Facebook feed to find some other such sites to pad out the list, but thankfully couldn't find any despite scrolling back a whole day. However, I now worry that some kind of disaster may have killed all of my less intelligent friends and relatives...)

Philip Storry

Re: So they're cracking down on some scumbags...

Whilst Scientology are classed as a religion, rather than correctly classified as "a cult designed to extract money from people", they probably qualify for some kind of discount from many businesses.

I'd like to see Google refuse to do business with them. But Scientology would probably just start a shell game with many new companies in order to get what they want. Let's face the simple fact that Scientology is the evil here, and Google is - at worst - the lesser evil.

Also, I'd question the source. Scientology makes lots of claims, many of them somewhat distanced from reality. But even if they provided evidence, would you really take it at face value? This is an organisation that has planned to forge government documents in the past, after all...


Eighteen year old server trumped by functional 486 fleet!

Philip Storry

Windows not running for longer than 49.7 days.

As far as I recall, that was Windows 95. And the actual figure was 49.7 days - or, suspiciously, around 2 billion seconds. Yes, the bug was caused by the fact that the system timer didn't wrap around - when it finally hit the maximum value of the DWORD, the machine just hung.

The bug actually affected both Windows 95 and Windows 98, meaning it took almost three years to get enough samples to diagnose the issue.

Thus leading to the joke "Even during their testing, Microsoft couldn't get a Windows 95 machine to stay up for more than 48 days..."

To be fair, most Windows 95 machines that did run as servers were doing either print services or file sharing (often a file share for Microsoft Mail) on a workgroup style network. So most of them were unlikely to be powered on for longer than 5 or 6 days in a row anyway.

But I don't think that should make anyone feel bad about sniggering at the bug. It was, and remains, a dumb mistake.

Philip Storry


“Igor” told us about a pair of IBM e x235 servers that have run since 1997, each packing four Pentium III CPUs, 4GB of RAM and eight 72GB Seagate SCSI HDDs.


Nope. The Pentium III wasn't released until 1999, so he must mean a Pentium II or has his dates wrong.

The amount of RAM is also a little luxurious for 1997, when the average PC had 16Mb and the average server had 32-64Mb. Not necessarily impossible, but dubious. I'd expect 1Gb of RAM tops in an x86 based machine in 1997.

And 72Gb hard disks in 1997? Not that I recall. Not even with SCSI bypassing the ATA limit of 512Mb. Maybe in pixie-la-la-land, but not on any site I worked at. The standard size around then was around the 400Mb region for a desktop, and servers might stretch to 2Gb per disk - but you were more likely to see an array of 1Gb disks.

Everything about Igor's story seems suspect. Those specifications are just too early. I respectfully submit that he's misremembered, and apologise to him for being the one to have to point it out.


El Reg mulls entering Robot Wars arena

Philip Storry

And from the website The Register, their entry is...


Wait. This plan may not work as well as we'd hoped...


Microsoft releases major PowerShell update after long preview

Philip Storry

A shortsighted view


To say "no UNIX shell even comes close" is both accurate and grossly misleading. You didn't give anything to measure by, for starters - close in what regard?

Both have their problems. Object orientation is wonderful, right up until you're doing something with AD and Exchange and find that (for example) the distribution members have a different type to AD accounts so you can't directly compare them without doing some type conversion. That type conversion is a hassle, and a great example of the extra verbosity PowerShell constantly seems to require to accomplish something.

Objects are indeed more powerful, but require more work - plain text definitely has its advantages on occasion.

And what are you comparing as a "UNIX shell"? Just bash? Nobody would dream of using any UNIX shell without also having a copy of cp, mv, rename, grep, awk, sed, sort, and so forth. And for more power, you can always fire up Perl or Python. (And Python is a standard part of most modern distributions, so it's not like you need to install it. Perl used to be, but I think it's now missing from some more modern ones.)

I like PowerShell, but its verbosity gets to be tedious after a while. I like UNIX shells, but the plain text thing clearly has occasional limits that it takes Perl/Python to fix.

Frankly, what makes PowerShell inferior in my day to day work is Remoting. That's such a classic "Microsoft Developer Solution" - nobody bothered to consult anyone who would actually use it. With no decent persistent sessions, it's a PITA to use except in scripts. (WinRM? Ugh. Thanks, but no thanks.)

Want to improve PowerShell? Give me SSH and a tmux/screen equivalent. That'll be just peachy. (And yes, I'm aware SSH is coming to Windows. So it's just tmux/screen we're waiting on.)

Funny thing is, that shows that - just like on UNIX systems - it's not just about one tool. Decent administration requires many tools, working in harmony. PowerShell's almost there...


HPE: If we don't give Deutsche Bank right contracted outcome, we'll lose money

Philip Storry

A more accurate headline...

"HPE - Deutsche Bank still haven't understood the contract they've signed, we're going to shaft them".

Because that's almost certainly what's actually happening here...


Outsourcer didn't press ON switch, so Reg reader flew 15 hours to do the job

Philip Storry

Re: External IP KVM or DRAC?

Because DRAC/ILO/IPMI look very expensive, so the bean counters dislike them.

When you're building any infrastructure that has quite a few servers, the additional cost of DRAC/ILO/IPMI soon adds up to a hefty bill.

Everybody here knows that when you factor in the potential costs - longer outages, and time saved when called out - they're actually pretty good value for money. Not wasting time having to go to the data centre to deploy the Mk I Finger O' Doom is pretty handy. An IP KVM was a useful alternative, but the lack of the power feature made it very much an inferior solution - which was reflected in the pricing of the two technologies.

But try telling that to the guy who doesn't understand, and is wondering why every server is more expensive by a three figure sum...

The drive to virtualisation has often been justified solely just on the basis of shaving that cost off each server (and having standardised drivers/devices on your servers). As you scale up, it becomes a significant saving.


Child abuse image hash list shared with major web firms

Philip Storry

Oh, goody! MD5!

It's lucky they chose an up-to-date hash algorithm that's got no known weaknesses.

What's that, Carnagie Mellon University's Software Engineering Institute? As of 2010 you consider it "cryptographically broken and unsuitable for further use"? Oh, that's unfortunate... MD5 has been known to have collision issues since 2004? My - that is poor.

Seriously, MD5 is fine for some things. But for important things - like anything approaching censorship or criminal justice, perhaps - I don't think we should be using MD5. SHA-2 perhaps?


Web server secured? Good, now let's talk about e-mail

Philip Storry

People attempting proper SMTP TLS is terrifying

As soon as Let's Encrypt can get me a certificate, I'm going to get one. My website should be HTTPS-only by mid-December with a little luck. (The hard work is just content checking, to make sure all embedded content is also HTTPS and therefore doesn't trigger mixed content warnings.)

But SMTP? That terrifies me. I was a messaging administrator for 15 years before I switched to another technology this year. I've done that in healthcare, banking, and other sectors - I've got plenty of experience with doing SMTP+TLS, yet it's still deeply scary.

And it's not the setup of my systems that's really the issue. It's other people's systems. Which are often badly set up and badly maintained. If Blackadder had continued on to do a series in which he worked in IT, the conversation would go something like this:

Junior BOFH - "I want to see how an email system is run... so badly!"

Blackadder - "Well, you've come to the right place. An email system hasn't been run this badly since Hillary Clinton's campaign manager found a cc:Mail CD and a spare half hour..."

In theory, it should be fine. Very few people verify the certificates' signature chain. Or that the hostname matches the certificate. Or the TLS version, the ciphers, or much of anything else. They just use TLS opportunistically to ensure encryption over the public network.

Although it is odd that the only reason it'll be fine is that SMTP+TLS is almost always so badly set up it's actually very insecure.

But I know how complicated this is, and I recall what happened whenever a commercial partner's security team decided to try and enforce proper security in this area. Those were the "interesting days". Very long and very interesting...

And that's what terrifies me about this. The part where everyone else has to learn what I learned years ago - nobody wants to do this properly, they just want to do it well enough that it ticks the box marked "email to partner organisations is encrypted during transport".

Basically, it'll be a right mess.

I'm glad I'm out of the messaging game!


Chrome OS is not dead, insists Google veep in charge of Chrome OS

Philip Storry

Let's be honest here - the WSJ is not a particularly technical publication.

So when someone from Google said "we've been working for a couple of years to merge them", they heard "only one product will survive".

When in actual fact, the Google representative probably meant "we've been working on getting ARC (Android Runtime for Chrome) for two years, and in 2017 we think a Chromebook will be able to run Android apps so well it'll really blur the boundaries".

WSJ in "knows nothing and doesn't do research" shocker!


Big mistake, Google. Big mistake: Chrome OS to be 'folded into Android'

Philip Storry

Re: So what's your point?

I think his point is that it's not the underlying technology - it's the applications.

Windows NT4 was unsuitable for home use despite having the same interface as Windows 95. That's because it had to ensure security and process safety (amongst other demands).

Windows 95 was backwards compatible with a LOT of software. There were some exceptions - for example Delrina Winfax Pro didn't work - but that's because it replaced the COM port driver. The actual application would load and show you your old faxes, but it couldn't send or receive, due to that COM port driver. That's actually pretty impressive - only specialised software that did odd stuff didn't work, and even then it often partially worked. The rest of your Windows and DOS software would run just fine.

Where Windows 95 was impressive in its backwards compatibility, Windows NT 4 wasn't as impressive. Sure, it had a Windows on Windows 16-bit machine and a rudimentary DOS box. But most Windows software wasn't written with security in mind. A lot of 16-bit software did stuff that Windows 95 could allow, but the strict process limitations in NT wouldn't. Hell, Microsoft's own Office suite had a bunch of "this feature doesn't work under Windows NT" and "this feature requires local admin rights to work under Windows NT" issues until about Office 97 or 2000. If even Microsoft's developers couldn't get it right, what chance did others have?

The solution was actually pretty simple. It took two things - time and patience. Over time, most of the software became 32-bit and the compilers wouldn't allow stupid coding behaviour as easily. And software gradually became a little more security aware. But most importantly, users moved to software that was compatible as they either upgraded or switched to other applications.

It wasn't perfect, but after five years or so the world was just about ready to migrate to that new NT kernel. Some software wouldn't - couldn't - work on it. But most did, and it was just like the Windows 95 compatibility situation all over again.

How is this relevant to Chrome/Android? Well, there's an Android Runtime for Chrome. At the moment it only works with (and therefore allows) specific, vetted apps. It's quite possible that Google's plan is to run a "virtual device" on your Chromebook, where you'll be able to have your Chromebook as another Android instance, possibly even with app data synchronisation and the like. Android lends itself well to that architecturally, and it's far easier than trying to get lots of Android apps replaced with Chrome web apps/extensions.

But like those early Windows 95/Windows NT migrations, there will be edge cases where apps do unexpected and stupid things that the Android Runtime guys never anticipated. And there's issues like the notification centre (do they unify it between the Android instance and Chrome?), what data to synchronise, and so forth. It won't be perfect. So Google have some work to do to get it "good enough", and there may be new APIs in both Android and ChromeOS to help developers get the best out of this integration.

In this sense, I see strong parallels between the first two big Windows upgrade/migrations and this one. It's about application compatibility more than anything else - nobody runs an OS just for the sake of running an OS.

(Well, nobody with a life...)


Time Lords set for three-week battle over leap seconds

Philip Storry

Re: And we have...

His name was William Willett.

You're a bit late to kick him in the crotch, as he's been dead for just over a century.


However, there is a memorial to him in Petts Wood. I've been past it a few times, and was astonished as to how free of vandalism it is, all things considered.

I just read the Wikipedia article, and discovered that the man is also the great-great-grandfather of the lead singer of Coldplay.

It really is a ***ing miracle that the memorial hasn't been blown up by now, isn't it?


Laid-off IT workers: You want free on-demand service for what now?

Philip Storry

Re: "I've forgotten how to do that"

Before you leave, send an email to ask if you can take copies of all the {documentation|source code} with you, to help fulfil this requirement.

We all have a good idea what the answer will be.

If they call, then remind them that you asked for the resources you'd need to assist - and they declined to provide them. As such, you're working somewhat blind and feel it would be unprofessional to take such a significant risk with a live system. You're happy to help, but feel they need to be reminded - in writing - of the significant risk that this represents.

Of course, if they want to send over the latest {documentation|source code}, you'll happily read it to get yourself back up to speed, and then assist.

Oh, and when you've got that {documentation|source code}, don't forget that all of this is at your current employer's agreement. I'm sure they'll schedule time appropriately - you'll probably get through it all in a month or so, maybe two - that's OK with SunTrust, right?

Cue a few questions occasionally over the coming weeks to show that you're reading the {documentation|source code}... Some people might accuse you of delaying things by asking questions, but you're actually just ensuring you have a full understanding of the system. Very professional of you, and good mitigation of that risk.

I reckon you could easily spend a full three or four calendar months doing that. The word "risk" is a magnificent motivator in a paper trail...

Now, naturally, they'll probably decline this request for {documentation|source code} anyway when they call. But now you have a paper trail, established from before you left. You can remind them that any changes you make are naturally more of a risk than ones done by those done by the new owners of the system. Keep reminding them of this, in writing, before you make any change.

Congratulations. You're now highly unlikely to be called more than once, and there's no way they can say you were unprofessional or unhelpful. After all, the paper trail shows that they were the ones being unhelpful...


Mobile first? Microsoft decides to kneecap its Android users instead

Philip Storry

Exchange tasks? Rich?

"Business users don't get Tasks support, despite very rich Task support in Exchange"

Very rich? Come off it. Exchange's Task support is about as rich as a second hand car dealer with a lot full of Volkswagens.

A dedicated task service like Remember The Milk, Wunderlist or Todoist could be described as rich. Exchange's Tasks are best described as "you'll get a priority field, and you'll bloody well like it".

OK, perhaps that's a bit of an exaggeration. But what do you actually get? Priority, Start Date, Due Date, Status and "% Complete". Because everyone here would be willing to be a tenner on ever having seen "% Complete" being used by a real-life user consistently...

You can assign tasks to someone, which is nice. And you can set a reminder or set a task to repeat. And that's your lot.

In task terms, that's pretty much the basics.

What are we missing?

No tagging. No assigning to projects (although you could use Outlook's woefully badly integrated Categorize feature, I suppose. If you're a masochist.) No location field, or goelocationary features. No time estimation. Minimal postpone features. No filtering of tasks by anything worth a damn except the date and priority. No daily digest delivered to your inbox. No subtasks or task hierarchy.

Oh, and as we're talking about clients here - no browser integration at all. No, OWA doesn't count - I mean bookmarklets and browser add-ons that make your task list usable from any web page. The closest Exchange gets is if you use OneNote - a rather heavy sledgehammer to crack this nut.

To be honest, I could say the same about the Exchange Calendar or other areas. Microsoft keep buying tools like Wunderlist and Sunrise, but if they attempt to bring them into a monolithic system like Exchange they're doomed to fail. They succeeded because they were focused on being excellent within their own domain, rather than merely another component in Outlook.

They need to be running as little web services on top of Exchange, that can be accessed by https with a simple API, and that can therefore concentrate on having a couple of good clients and a decent service. Let the Outlook team figure out how to ruin the experience in Outlook, but at least you'll still have a decent underlying service and standalone client that does the job well...


If you absolutely must do a ‘private cloud’ thing, here's how

Philip Storry

Re: Business Critical Data out there in the cloud

Tell me more about this JCB going through the whole of Shoreditch. It brings me a warm fuzziness for some reason...

Could it be sent to Hoxton afterwards? That would be just superb.


Google's new squeeze: Brotli compression open-sourced

Philip Storry

Deflate predates 1996 by about 6 years...

PKWare patented it in 1990, and first used it in PKZip 2.

It was soon found that the algorithm could be done just as effectively without using the patented methods, which is why it was used so widely - hence the RFC.

I'll happily admit that I had to go and check Wikipedia for the details, but did so because I was sure it predated 1996 due to the PKZip connection - I'm pretty sure I had PKZip 2 in 1993ish, on my trusty 8086 based computer. Not that I used it to create many archives, as LHA was often better at compressing and I soon found ARJ, which spanked everything else comprehensively until the arrival of the early DOS-based RAR archiver and solid archiving. It was a good time for compression then - plenty of different solutions, lots of competition...

Ahem. Sorry - got off topic there. Anyway, Deflate - older than you think, by around six years...


Twenty years since Windows 95, and we still love our Start buttons

Philip Storry

Ah, memories...

My first job was supporting Windows 95 for Microsoft.

Not actually working for Microsoft, I should point out - in the UK they outsourced their support. I actually worked for ICL Sorbus in Footscray, near Sidcup.

We spent from March to August training on and supporting the Public Preview of Windows 95, then Microsoft picked the two best performing companies from the five that they'd managed to con into doing months of free telephone support for them in the guise of a tender.

The two best were ICL Sorbus, and DEC.

Yeah. I know. I have no idea what criteria they used, and frankly I don't wish to know. But I was there, and that's my recollection of events...

Anyway, I suppose I should now say that I was there on the day of release, answering the support calls from hell, battling the stupidity and cursing the bugs.

But no. I may have only been 18, it may have been my first job, but I'd read BOFH via Fidonet and I knew a thing or two. I'd booked the whole damned week off as annual leave back in April, before management thought to ban such applications. I then kept very quiet about it, lest my colleagues get any similar ideas. (And gathered blackmail material, as a backup plan. The building was only three stories high, so sadly the lift shafts weren't really an option.)

Still, I did spend quite a few months supporting Windows 95 by phone, so I'm going to go for the pity vote here. PITY ME! PITY ME AND MY WINDOWS 95 MEMORIES!

Oh, and a quick note - back in those days, 13 floppies was pretty close to the definition of Bloat. Only Windows NT, OS/2 and perhaps a full install of Office 95 could make you do more floppy swapping! Oh how we rejoiced at CDs...


Windows 10 is FORCING ITSELF onto domain happy Windows 7 PCs

Philip Storry

Re: You will be assimilated into windows 10!

This Dilbert comic - from January 1997! - seems highly appropriate here:



UK.gov issues internal 'ditch Oracle NOW' edict to end pricey addiction

Philip Storry

I laughed

Oracle brought this upon themselves with opaque and over-priced licensing, and I wish the government good luck in moving to something cheaper. Perhaps gold-thread-adorned monks carving on platinum slabs with diamond-tipped drills?

(Or maybe just PostgreSQL.)


UK.gov loses crucial battle in home-taping war with musicians

Philip Storry

Re: How music got free

I shall add it to my reading list, but the review does leave me thinking it's an incomplete source at best.

Skimming the review, it looks to me like it focuses on three things:

1. An organised group of leakers

2. Music industry's long delay in embracing digital

3. The technical experts behind the MP3 standard

But in the review it keeps saying that the only people being hurt in the music industry are the musicians. For example:

"Partisans of 'sharing' sometimes liked to say that they were hitting back against fat-cat music executives. In fact, all they were doing was hurting musicians. The bosses continued to do very nicely, thank you." - it then goes on to explain cutting of artist rosters etc., as if the downloaders were causing this rather than it being an ongoing trend in the industry that dated back to the early 1990's (at least) anyway.

Nowhere do I see the fourth part of the story - the business practices of the record labels themselves. The "record deals" that are actually loans with strings attached. The ludicrous expenses that are encouraged by the labels, knowing full well they will bill the artists for them in the end. The promises of marketing support that turn out to be empty. The enforcement of exclusivity clauses long after the company has given up on the artist(s).

Without that, I think this is an incomplete account. Either there should be a fourth person, or all of this is in the details of the record executive and the reviewer inexplicably skipped it.

Yes, I see that this is a book about how music went digital. But the digital side is the least of the music industry's long-term problems. Their entire business structure has been exposed, and new artists are avoiding them for as long as possible...

Philip Storry

So where do I apply for my free "Greatist Hits" albums?

This seems quite fair.

In the same way that I should be able to apply for a free copy of any "Greatest Hits" album that comes out, providing I can prove I own all the original albums that the hits came from.

After all, I've paid the royalties for those songs already. All the compilation does is put content I've already paid for into a more convenient package. So I should have it for free, because nobody's losing out here.

So where are the vouchers for the refunds on all these Greatest Hits albums I've bought?

And don't fob me off with "bonus tracks" b***shit - they're almost all B-sides to singles or single mixes. And I have those singles too. I'll take some pictures, send them to along, and someone can send me the refund cheque in the post. Ta.

(Only semi-joking. This is a complete failure to understand that copyright is about a right to copy, not a right to profit. There are social benefits to copying that we should be willing to accept a loss of profits for - fair use, time shifting and format shifting are the main ones. At the heart of this ruling lies a blind ideology that copyright should be "profitright", and that this is the sole light in which the law should be interpreted.)


It's OK – this was an entirely NEW type of cockup, says RBS

Philip Storry

Re: du -sh

I respectfully disagree. The management gobbledegook filter clearly states "ingest", so they had the file. What you've described is a failure to "transfer" a file.

No, the word "ingest" means, quite clearly, that the file had some kind of unexpected content.

And we're now ALL thinking the same thing.

"The CSV file had a comma in the wrong place."

Because decades of experience, billions of pounds and ever-improving technology STILL can't defend itself against a comma in the wrong bloody place.

Such as it ever was, is, and no doubt will be.


BOFH: Step into my office. Now take a deep breath

Philip Storry

It's the damnedest thing, but I have this strong suspicion that Simon's recently been at an El Reg staff do and found himself sat next to Dabbsy...

Am I alone in this?


Microsoft spunks $500m to reinvent the wheel. Why?

Philip Storry

Outlook's no gem

"Neither Wunderlist nor Sunrise support a fraction of the sophisticated feature set that Exchange and Outlook use. Outlook allows you to apply categories to both email items and tasks, assign single-click shortcuts, and create rules – the building blocks for complex workflows."

And there lies the rub. You talk about Outlook as if it's a highly polished bit of software, but only the email part is. And even that has its dull corners.

Yes, you can categorise email items and tasks. Categorisation is semi-useless though.

It's mostly a manual process. Oh, you can create a rule to apply categories automatically - but that rule won't run on the server. So if you log off overnight or your PC suspends to save power, then your rules won't run. And if you move an email from the Inbox into a folder via your mobile access or webmail in between your Outlook sessions, then the categorisation never happens (because the rule never sees the email).

So in practice, you'll end up not using categories and just filing emails in unique folders instead. And don't start me on searching - yes, it can be done, but you have to prepend the name with "category:", so very few people bother. (As opposed to just using a #tag style tagging system as most modern web apps do - the hashtag succeeded because it's more intuitive for both input and search.)

Categorisation should be a wonderful thing. But in practice, like many non-email parts of Outlook it just doesn't feel finished. I get the feeling that any feature which isn't either Exchange integration or core email just doesn't get much development time...

Tasks? Yes, I can flag an email and it appears in my tasks. But it only appears in All Tasks list, so the integration is quite limited. So why bother? And yes, tasks also appear in your calendar. But only on the due date, which is sometimes too late as the task may require more time than you have that day. You might as well have a decent implementation separately rather than the anaemic and half-finished Outlook implementation.

I've used Wunderlist (but don't anymore, and not due to the Microsoft purchase - I have something that meets my needs better.)

If I were given the option of departmental Wunderlist or just using Outlook's tasks, I'd go for the Wunderlist option. It may not be integrated, but it has the essentials for task management - views for starred to-dos, today's due (and overdue) to-dos, this week's tasks, and so forth. Its list management is decent, it does tagging, and its sharing features are good.

Not that Wunderlist is perfect - but it's certainly better than Outlook's aneamic efforts.

I sorely doubt that the Wunderlist developers will ever be let near the Outlook client - it's too risky. I do wonder if some new collection of web-and-app services might not be on the horizon though, ready to take over from Outlook in the long term... It certainly seems that having teams dedicated to each functional area has produced better results than one team trying to prioritise three areas. So long as they interoperate and have a common look and feel, who cares if it's actually one product or three at the server side?


'Modernise' safe harbour laws for the tech oligarch era – IP czar

Philip Storry

Safe harbour is doing fine. Takedowns are broken.

Safe harbour isn't broken. It's doing its job fine - protecting those who run infrastructure. It's just like we wouldn't prosecute the Royal Mail or a printing company for the distribution of libel - the blame lies with the author.

The idea that big copyright holders have that they must attack the infrastructure is both disgusting and disturbing. The infrastructure is simply targeted because it's easier. But we should be very wary of this - if we want a diverse media, we need infrastructure that has safe harbours.

Paul Resnikoff says "And usage patterns show that everyone goes to those videos if the official video isn’t uploaded fast and first."

Well, I have a radical solution to that. It may well tax the tinier of brains, so brace yourselves:

As the person who created the content, be the first to upload it.

If you haven't made it yet, engage with your fans and get them to help - both in advertising and in policing. Amazingly, they'll probably help. Fan is short for fanatic, after all. If they don't help, ask WHY - it's likely that they have a demand that you're failing to supply. Welcome to economics 101... it really isn't that difficult.


Dear departed Internet Explorer, how I will miss you ... NOT

Philip Storry

IE 4. Oh gods, no...

For those of you who weren’t around in 1997, this was the year that Microsoft went mental. IE 4.0 was batshit crazy. It took over all your software, wormed into the file browser, it infested your very PC desktop, and it was Proprietary City. I specifically recall the unforgettable Peter Jackson returning to the office after a Microsoft technical preview of the new browser, telling us that the company had gone mad. His published review of IE 4.0 called it “insane”.

Oh, it was beyond insane. It was absolutely batshit-nuts-with-sparklers-and-celery-in-its-ears.

Having turned up late to the party, Microsoft then binged on the heady broth that the internet offered, in order to try and catch up. The result was a drunken mess that could only be matched by giving a house full of medical students a ten thousand pound credit line at Oddbins and instructions to spend it all over the weekend after their finals...

This was the version of IE that gave us Channels, which were like RSS but designed for media luvvies. I always wondered how much money Disney, CNN and Reed Elsevier must have wasted on creating infrastructure and content for that godawful idea.

The problem with Channels wasn't just the odd interface and the complete lack of anyone explaining what they were and why you'd want them. It was that they tried to download the content - all of it - so it could be displayed offline. This was a noble goal in the days of dial-up, as phone connections were initially pay-per-minute. But because it went via traditional media companies, they went a bit nuts and filled their channels with big images, so the end result of the developer's good intentions was that every time you dialled up, the first five to ten minutes of your connection time was dog slow as channels updated. The few people that did ever try them quickly abandoned them because of this.

Microsoft finally killed Channels when they released IE7. Yes, you heard that right - they survived about 9 years of disinterest and neglect.

But if Channels were a bad idea, nothing matches Active Desktop.

"Hey guys, I've had a great idea! You know that desktop that users hide by maximising their applications all day every day, so they only ever see it just after starting up and just before shutting down? Let's make that DISPLAY LIVE CONTENT!"

The idea of Active Desktop was just dumb. But the implementation was terrible. The IE rendering engine was a bit RAM hungry, and was famously buggy - so it basically made your machine slower and less stable, in order to allow you to see content that you won't see anyway because you're doing some actual work.

It was the perfect blend of weapons-grade-stupidity and pointlessness.

And, of course, because there had to be consistency between desktop and server, if someone had installed IE 4 on your servers (and if they did, no jury would convict you - so go right ahead) it sucked resources there whenever you logged on to them. And when would you probably log on? When there's a problem to be looked at. When you can't really afford to lose 8-12Mb of RAM to an instance of IE that you didn't want, and would never want.

And these are just the most visible failures of IE4. Inconsistent rendering across its many service packs, instability, that truly awful "one click instead of double click" option that tried to make Windows Explorer more like a browser but actually just made it useless... Imagine if a release that bad came out now. The net rage would eclipse all previous episodes!

I'd like to close by apologising to anyone who read this far for the memories I've brought back. If you were affected by the issues raised in this post, then please get yourself to a pub. That'll make it all better. Hopefully.


Google, Amazon 'n' pals fork out for AdBlock Plus 'unblock' – report

Philip Storry

Paying to bypass an ad blocker is fine by me, so long as the ads meet appropriate criteria.

I stopped using AdBlock recently, in favour of µBlock, But have used some kind of content blocking for years now - since Opera shipped with a built-in content blocker.

When switching to µBlock, the first thing I did was disable the ad-blocking lists. Content producers need ads to survive.

But some adverts are just obnoxious. Animation or even auto-playing sound are a definite no-no for me. I block those manually when I come across them. Depending on how easy that is, that may mean an entire ad network gets blocked. Oh well - that's their loss, not mine. If they had better quality control over their ads, then they'd still have my eyeballs available to them.

But it's such a shame that the advertisers have managed to be so incompetent that they've made some people completely anti-advertising to the point of militancy.


Would you buy a domain from Google? Industry weighs in on web giant's move

Philip Storry

Re: Yes.

I'm not going to name them, as my experience may be atypical. The plural of anecdote isn't data, I just wanted to state that things could be improved (from my experience).

Although I will say that their name is quite similar to this website's... ;-)

Philip Storry

Re: Yes.

I did read the T&C's, a decade ago when the domain was registered.

They've no doubt changed since, though.

However, I don't think your analogy holds. My issue isn't with the automatic renewal as such - it's that it's hidden from you, and that the domain in question was clearly flagged in their web portal as "expiring soon".

Even on the last day, there was no mention in their interface of an automatic renewal, and it looked very much like the domain was not going to renew. And there was no provided way to cancel - the interface allowed you to renew, but not to cancel. No "don't renew" option, and plenty of emails telling me I should renew - so the implication is that if I don't renew, I lose the domain. (Which is what I wanted.)

That, combined with the repeated renewal rate rises, makes me know exactly how valued my custom is.

My mobile phone contract, for example, does indeed just renew after each term. But the bill doesn't go up suddenly because I took no action to renew and instead just let that happen... (At least, it hasn't in the 18 years I've had a mobile, across two providers.)

Philip Storry


Given my experience with another big registrar recently, yes - I'd buy a domain with Google.

My main problem with the other registrar was the lack of an obvious way to not renew a domain.

I got plenty of reminders to renew before my domain expired, "to get the best rate". Worse rates as you approach expiration of the domain, which wasn't pleasant but also wasn't a problem as I wasn't going to renew. I didn't want the domain anymore, and I'd decided to let it expire.

Only to get an invoice for an automatic renewal on the day of expiration. At a silly rate, of course!

Apparently, they have an "automatic renew" option buried deep on the many links of their busy, badly layed out admin portal... And you can't turn it off except by calling a US number. (I'm in the UK, so they can get stuffed on that one.)

They then had the cheek to point out that my credit card details had expired - which I'd noticed a month before, and chose (wisely, with hindsight) not to update.

I took it up with their customer services via email. To their credit, they got it sorted without prompting and I now no longer have the domain. So a win there for them. But if the only thing an ex-customer respects about your business is that customer services made leaving painless, you probably have a long-term business problem.

To be honest, it all smacked of shady business practices to me. Renewal rates creeping up has little justification given that it's a DNS entry & a credit card payment. The lack of a "don't renew" option was odd. The automatic renewal that isn't mentioned and you can't turn off without calling someone is dodgy, given that you can change everything else about the domain whilst logged in to the admin portal. (Don't tell me it's for security to prevent domain hijacking - with my admin credentials, they can just point it at another IP address anyway.)

So why tell me it's expiring on $date and do the hard sell when you're going to renew anyway?

This was the last domain I had with that provider. I'll not be using them again. (I have a bunch of domains with two other providers, so I do have other experiences to compare them with.)

I'm pretty sure Google's offering will be better. Based on my previous dealing with buying things from them, I'd expect clear and simple portals for administration, and more transparency in the way they handle the transactions.


Are you running a Telnet server on Windows? Oh thank God. THANK GOD

Philip Storry

Re: Please help a penguin

You're right, telnet has no place on modern systems unless you have a need to leak credentials.

The actual bug seems to be that the telnet server on Windows doesn't validate input. Specially crafted strings can cause remote code execution - I assume that this means before the login process of the telnet session, and therefore running under the same account as the telnet service. But details from Microsoft are rather sparse here, so I have to admit I'm guessing.

Telnet isn't used much on Windows boxes. It's as unsecure on Windows as it is on *NIX boxes, and was only introduced to provide POSIX compatibility (if I recall correctly).

At the time, it was difficult if not impossible to administer a Windows box from the command line unless you'd written one heck of a lot of VB scripts, and most people therefore didn't bother with it when they could just use an RDP session instead...

Powershell has changed that somewhat, but it doesn't use telnet - it has its own remote connection methods (called "remoting" IIRC) that create an authenticated secure tunnel to the target machine, more like SSH (except predictably more fiddly and less useful).

So basically, telnet's a historical curiosity on most Windows machines, often only enabled because a badly architected bit of software has decided to use it... This vulnerability is like finding out that the British Army's cannon carriages can't be harnessed to some breeds of horse. ;-)


What's Jimmy Wales going to do with $500k from the UAE?

Philip Storry

An admission...

I'm just going to have to admit it - when I saw "UAE" I thought "Unrecoverable Application Error".

I know I shouldn't do. I think it's contextual - on El Reg, I'm thinking in technical terms not in geographical ones.

Still, it did make me wonder how a crash got them half a million dollars. If that's the way it works, I should be a billionaire by now...


HTML5 vs native: Harry Coder and the mudblood mobile app princes

Philip Storry

An odd change of focus in the article...

I get that this is about web technologies being used outside of the web browser. (And that's not new - on Windows, embedding IE into an app to cheekily render content has been going on for at least a decade. Hell, I've seen installers that did it, let alone the actual programs.)

But I find it odd that Apple are being lauded for finally improving their lamentable embedded browser, and there's no mention of Google unbundling their WebView component from the OS in Android 5 (Lollipop).

http://developer.android.com/about/versions/lollipop.html - scroll down to "Chromium Webview".

It seems to me that's much more relevant than Google flagging websites as mobile friendly in their search results. In fact, it's pretty much Google doing in Android 5 exactly what Apple did in iOS 8, surely?


Radiohead(ache): BBC wants dead duck tech in sexy new mobes

Philip Storry

Maybe not quite as pointless as it seems...

I already listen to digital radio, via the BBC iPlayer app or the TuneIn Radio app and any number of IP steams - DAB is dead as far as I'm concerned.

That having been said, I like the abstraction idea. If this could be put into an OS, it would be pretty cool. Having a "Radio" app that aggregates all possible sources would be nice.

It looks like it would be fairly cheap for Google/Apple to do as well, and it allows the vendors/networks to make money by pre-packaging stations - so should be popular there. And customers find it easier to listen to radio. Everyone wins, it seems.

(Well, except for Apple and their customers maybe, as Apple are a bit touchy about such customisations.)

On that basis, I wish 'em luck.


Google Glass faces UK cinema ban: Heaven forbid someone films you crying in a rom-com

Philip Storry

So are they planning on making some films that would be worth pirating then?

Something that's not a sequel or a prequel or a remake? Or a comic book adaptation or a young adult book series adaptation?

Something... new?

Something people might actually want to pay them money for, rather than just pirate so that they can at least be disappointed for free?

I think they have bigger problems than Google Glass. And the problem is on the supply side, not the customer side.


10 PRINT "Happy 50th Birthday, BASIC" : GOTO 10

Philip Storry

BASIC is under-appreciated

There's the famous quote about how BASIC ruins programmers.

Personally, I think it probably brought more people to IT than any other programming language ever has.

Almost everyone I know in IT "of a certain age" used BASIC as a kid. Whether they're now a developer, a systems administrator, an architect, a hardware engineer or a support engineer. (Or whatever other IT roles we can think of.)

And through things like VBA, BASIC continues to be very much alive despite a plethora of newer options.

Maybe, over the next few decades, Python or Javascript will eventually supercede it. But it'll take one heck of a lot of work, and we'd lose BASIC. And deep down, I don't think people working in the industry actually want that...


No sign of Half-Life 3 but how about FOURTEEN Steam Machine makers?

Philip Storry

Re: Very few decent games for linux on Steam

Define your criteria for "decent games"...

If you mean that there are very few big ticket, big budget games that get TV adevrtising slots and ads on bus shelters - then you're right. "Call of Battlefield Volume 17638 - Easter Edition" isn't available.

Although I'm not sure that's a bad thing, as many of those are bad ports from consoles anyway. The Steam Box has a controller which maps the keyboard to a console controller. So you'd actually be playing a game that was badly ported for controls on a PC, but on a platform which then attempts to port those controls back to a controller... *shudders*

There are some surprising titles. Serious Sam 3 BFE, for example. Niche, perhaps - but if you like that classic Doom style first person "possibly more enemies than you have bullets" kind of rush then you're sorted there.

And there are loads of excellent indie games. I've been steadily losing time to FTL: Faster Than Light. And Solar 2. And Gratuitous Space Battles.

But let's be honest, what will really convince you about gaming on Linux is playing Valve's own Hat Fortress 2 - the world's premier hat wearing simulator. I hear the next update adds the ability to shoot stuff too... ;-)


Samsung hauls in chiefs for 'CRISIS awareness' confab – report

Philip Storry

Re: but then Sony launched the Z1

Not quite just you. After the music CD rootkit debacle, I also swore off Sony.

However, I can't swear off a company forever if they seem to have improved. And Sony have somewhat improved. They're still not perfect - their motion picture side is as nutty as the rest of the industry - but they seem to have given their consumer electronics side a *little* more autonomy, and are less and less in the "everything in a Sony stack" mode. (Memory Stick? No thanks!)

I did some basic research on the Z1, checking for issues with DRM etc - nothing came up.

I think that's one area that Android has had some success in which people overlook - the Android platform is so much richer than a desktop platform in the APIs it provides, and pretty much stops some forms of lock in.

So for example you could go off and write your own music library code, but there's not much of a point - other apps want access to the music library as well. If you go your own way, then you're just going to have people complain that their exercise app or game can't see playlists.

So I do feel a little protected against Classic Sony Dickery by Android...

And Sony seem to be leading the pack in build quality and specs at the moment, which is why they're in the lead. That having been said, I'm sure I saw something about a new HTC One model with an SD card slot. That could complicate matters! ;-)