* Posts by Lee Dowling

1188 posts • joined 28 Mar 2007

Graphics shocker: Nvidia virtualizes Kepler GPUs

Lee Dowling
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Re: I call bullshit

Although you can see an easy measurement of ping, you can't see the other "hidden" lag.

The ping is just the time for a single packet (maybe not even a game packet but an explicit ping packet) to reach the server you're playing on (and return, I assume).

You almost certainly lose 1/60th of a frame no matter what anyway, because of screen buffering and game programming techniques. That's 16.7ms. Then your mouse is probably optical and USB - that could easily add on the same number of milliseconds between you moving it, it being sense, processed and got to the main CPU for it to act on it (but only when it next hits an event loop which could be half the above quite easily - so another 8ms or so!).

Then the time to send the image down the HDMI cable and the HUMUNGOUS time the LCD might take to process it (even a 5ms full-dark-to-full-bright time means nothing as a lot of modern LCD's "buffer" the screen updates even further inside themselves so although technically true, you could be 2-3 frames behind what you're think you're supposed to see - yet another 35+ms!).

There's more to responsiveness than ping time. A lot more. But ping time is easily measurable without any human bias at all. The rest aren't. There's no way to reliably measure just how long it takes you to respond to a screen change without taking a reaction test. And there the greatest error contributor is your brain processing and nerve response, which swamps all these other factors anyway.

I have run game servers (CS 1.6 etc.) for years. I consider 100+ ping unacceptable personally, and 200+ unacceptable on anyone entering the server. But my reaction times in even the quickest test of pressing a mouse button when you see a dot swamp anything that my PC could be waiting for from the network. What they are saying with the "150ms" measurement is that there's an awful lot of other stuff other than ping that affects perceived responsiveness in the average gamer's setup. But it still doesn't mean that they have solved those problems themselves or that their system isn't liable to that same 150+ms "technical" latency.

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Why GM slammed the brakes on its $10m Facebook ads

Lee Dowling
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My experience is not so much of a puppy following me from site to site as advertisers wasting money on me.

I have a server with Tagadab (good company, don't get me wrong). I visited their site to log in to the control panel.

Three months later, every website with advertising I go to is still advertising Tagadab to me, including LWN.net and lots of big-name sites. Same advert, no special deal or anything, just a link to their website.

I know who they are. I'm a customer. But they (or, more likely, their ad campaign managers) are wasting their money by advertising to me again and again despite the fact that NONE OF THEIR COMPETITORS advertise to me in that same way. I only ever get Tagadab adverts. Similarly for when I bought a GoDaddy SSL certificate. I get advertised WORSE offers from GoDaddy than I can get just by going to GoDaddy's website and logging in. And I only ever see GoDaddy adverts for SSL certificates (and not, say, server hosting).

Similarly, I clicked on a picture of a garment (not even an ad) from Milanoo to show my girlfriend something. Now interspersed, I get the same 3-4 Milanoo adverts all the time on loads of different sites (and how they think I might want to buy a Zentai suit or a "Lolita" country-style dress, I don't know, given that I clicked on a pair of men's trousers). I have no intention of buying clothes online (hell, I can't remember the last time I bought clothes full stop!), but there's no way to stop them throwing their money away on me.

Seriously, given the amount of sites I go to, the length of time its been going on and the amount of advertising I see (I don't block it unless its obnoxious - some of those sites have to pay the bills), I must be costing those companies a significant amount for someone who's never going to be "swayed" by their advertising to do anything they weren't already going to do. Targeted adverts are really anything but targeted. And targeting an advert seems silly - surely the people who deal all day long in server hosting already know about server hosts, but may not know about, say, SSL certificates from you, or something completely unrelated to IT?

Facebook's ads are rarely relevant as it is. Even if you spend ten minutes going through their "all ads" page and marking the ones you're interested in and the ones you're not, you still always see the uninteresting ones. If I'd BOTHERED to tell you what sort of adverts I'm not interested in, at least take note, especially seeing as I took the time to mark individual adverts and not just "Not interested in anything".

In over 15 years of using the Internet, I've never once clicked on a single advert. I don't even mind adverts particularly because I can mentally turn them into whitespace even while speed-scanning a page and they keep some of the smaller operations running (my brother's Scout group gets a couple of camps a year and their hosting paid for by adverts on his Scouting website). But if you want me to actually click on them they have to be not only relevant, but interesting, offer me some incentive to click (not just "I can buy your product" but, say, "10% for me today because I clicked the advert and didn't just visit the site), and not spam me with adverts I've told you I'm not interested in, or adverts sent to me because I'd visited the page of a company that I'm already a customer of.

Adverts are about brand-building and getting people onto your site. Without some sort of incentive, it won't happen, and the brand-building can happen in a million other ways.

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Pints under attack as Lord Howe demands metric-only UK

Lee Dowling
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Re: Also, does it matter ...

Though there was certainly a lot of misinformation, there was also a lot of legal calls to make sellers sell things only in metric.

The "Metric Martyrs", I believe they were called, of whom the owner of Trago Mills stores in Cornwall was quite vocal (my favourite shop, especially the Falmouth one!), used to put up posters to raise awareness of the issue years ago, and went to court for refusing to sell things in only one measure. I don't know the outcome but given that I can still buy spuds by the pound, they probably won or at least won morally.

There's nothing wrong with selling me 500ml of water, or a kilogram of potatoes. But there's also nothing wrong with selling 568ml of milk and advertising it as a pint, or 2lbs of potatoes and stating the measure in metric too, is there?

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Lee Dowling
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Sorry, but pints of milk quite clearly state their "ml" value and have for years. All foods have their metric values on them.

There's a difference between showing metric units and FORCING ONLY metric units. The former is good sense. The later is just going to create hatred and alienate people and confuse who WERE brought up with the old system.

Nobody will reasonably object to you (as has already been done) putting "568ml" on your pint of milk. Or selling it in 500ml lots. Or selling potatoes by the kilo. Or any of the other measures. So long as you don't FORCE that to be the only way to mark it. What harm does an EXTRA marking of the imperial measurement do in a time of middle-ground between two measures? All children's exams nowadays - metric. All food measures - metric. All dimensions in the Argos catalogue - metric (and sometimes imperial as an indicator too). All rulers and measuring tapes have had metric on them for DECADES now.

About the only thing that hasn't changed over in any way is the roads. Every car advert has km/l (or more likely litres/100km) now as well as mpg, but you can't go through the roads and change the signs to km/h overnight. The best you can do is has a transition where you mark BOTH speeds with the appropriate units on all roadsigns.

And then? To be honest, nothing much else happens. Once the roadsigns are dual-format, anyone can understand them in any age of car (which are also all dual-format on their speedos) so there's no need to go any further. Will it stop people speeding, or stop them comparing fuel efficiency? No.

So you have to ask, what advantage do you get exactly from the changing last bastions of imperial measurement as opposed to merely adding the metric equivalent clearly next to them? And the answer is: NOTHING. Just a waste of public money from that point to make everything "metric-only" at further expense.

Nobody cares about metric or imperial. What we care about is not having to deal ONLY in metric if we don't need to. There's no reason for me to HAVE to buy milk that's only printed in millilitres when they could put both units on it. And I don't even care - if I ever do measurements or conversions, I do it by using metric equivalents because they are slightly easier to work with - I was brought up a metric child by my schooling, even though my parents are strictly imperial. But what I do care about is little old grannies trying to do 220mph on the motorway because they misread the sign, or alternatively 70km/h because they misread their dial.

Nobody sensible objects to metric units, metric signage, metric measurement or teaching metric (as has been standard since, what, the 70's?). What we object to is removing a perfectly useful piece of information for no reason at all instead of just complementing it (and, hell, put the imperial in small writing next to a big bold metric measure if you want, who cares?).

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'Catastrophic' Avira antivirus update bricks Windows PCs

Lee Dowling
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Re: Nice testing procedure

I agree that most operating systems don't. But that's no excuse if you're supposed to be making a "world-beating" operating system that's focused on security - because there's no barrier to making it work properly at all.

And MS is supposed to have their "system protection", etc.. How hard is it, precisely, to prevent certain files being deleted without being in a "system maintenance mode", or requiring an actual human's permission to do so (that was the whole POINT of the annoying UAC wasn't it?).

I'm really waiting for the day where your computer can be in either "usage" or a minimal "maintenance" mode and only in maintenance mode can you do updates, change bootloaders, play with critical files, etc. and only in usage mode can you log in as other users, browse the web, move files around, execute programs etc. And having NO PROGRAMMATIC WAY to switch between the two modes at all, and not have any processes survive the transition.

We have a sort of fake pseudo mentality that almost does this ("no running as root normally", "safe mode", etc.) but they never quite cover that the two modes of operation are distinctly different beasts.

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Lee Dowling
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Nice testing procedure

So they obviously:

1) Don't test their updates against a single Windows PC before sending them out.

2) Don't have a whitelist of known-good checksums of critically important, unchanging and pretty prevalent Windows system files.

3) Don't have a way to safely undo mistakes.

4) Don't put out an update that only touches the minimum of what it needs and lets USERS flag stuff as bad or not because it knows better.

and Windows, apparently, doesn't have a way of stopping programs from bricking the operating system by deleting critical files. Nice to know. (And, no, I don't care if you ARE an administrator user or not - you shouldn't be able to do this programmatically without at least warning the user first!)

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75,000 Raspberry Pi baked before August

Lee Dowling
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Re: Optimist!

"As also that the product would ever be ready for mass educational deployment in September (which actually means having everything in hand by June/July). This really was never on.

To think so says something about you. I don't think I would want you running my IT shop. Sorry .."

Er.. This is my point. I never expected them to but they kept saying that they would and that was their target. And if they expected to and that was unrealistic (as I've posted on their forums in the past), then they should have revised their estimates or done *SOMETHING* about it.

They will barely manage to supply first-day pre-orders in time for the Summer, let alone anyone else. The number of schools (outside of those "specially selected") who will see a Pi this year is going to be near zero. And evaluating even what I consider the "prototype" device that I've been sent shows you have another good year of development before anyone will see them as an actual product.

That's not to mention encasement, packaging, shipping, board revisions, SOME SOFTWARE (other than a plain debian image), and - working in schools - most important of all: Some fecking staff training, or at least people trying to tie the device into the curriculum somehow rather than dump-and-run on the teachers. They're just dumping a Linux distro, GCompris, Python, Scratch and TuxPaint (which seems to be as far as they'll get at the moment) on people and saying "get on with it" which won't wash in schools except as a fad project, and all of the above they can do on their machines NOW - faster, cheaper (because they already have those machines) and more reliably.

A user-developed product is not necessarily a failure - but if there are next-to-no users and even less developers among them, then there's not going to be a product. There's no focus on that. There's no focus on schools. There's no focus on SELLING the product to schools. There's no focus on tying it into schools. It's a complete bandwagon device to hang on the coattails of the Government's "we need more proper IT" stance with nothing to actually help kids.

I don't care about the IT side as much (though I'll certainly find uses for it in my own projects) as targetting education with a dump-and-run scheme. When you spout off on BBC News, BBC Breakfast, Slashdot, The Register, and just about every tech-site, news outlet and newspaper about your marvellous release and what your plans are, you should make damn sure those plans are realistic, IT project or not, and certainly educational IT. And they didn't. Because airtime seems more important to them than actually fulfilling the educational side of this venture, and more than anything else.

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Lee Dowling
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Put it this way - they can only get faster.

My order was put into the RS website as soon as was technically possible (their website basically folded before the release time even arrived). I have *just* got a note from the Post Office that my order (number 4401 from RS's "half") of the release minute (I would say release day, but really if you didn't order in the first few minutes, you were stuffed) has finally arrived.

The release date was February 29th, by the way. March, April, May. So they just about delivered those orders from the first few minutes of release in 2 and a bit months after "release" (which is really a pre-order that I got suckered into because they kept telling us it was a "release").

The forums are pretty quiet on actual content - everything is either a two-line port from Debian archives, or some Hello World knocked up in Python. Sure, you can run Quake on it, but I didn't expect anything less given the specs. The troubleshooting forums describe myriad power problems which, yes, technically people should read the specs on but that's only going to get worse on public release. There's a couple of broken units (bad solder joints on things like the Ethernet port that had to ALL be redone because of a manufacturing cockup, broken SD card readers, HDMI compatibility problems, etc.) but there's no way to gauge how many are actually in the wild and being used at the moment (already people are just selling them on unopened). And the amount of people who say "I want it to do X" - media centre PC, emulators, etc. - and the answer is basically "It won't" show that it's being regarded as some general purpose device instead of a small embedded unit that's not suitable for most things a smartphone can manage.

So they still have a LLOOONNNGGG way to go to get to their goal of having these things just thrown into random schools. Sure there are Scout groups and schools posting about using them, but those are the geek-teachers anyway who do infinitely more interesting things than I ever did at school. But I think it's going to be way past this September, and maybe even the next, before they actually get them near to schools in general except as a fad item. Give it a couple of years and maybe some real educational company will pick them up and package them into something more useful but at the moment they are nothing more interesting or special than, say, a GP2X (and the GP2X was designed and used educationally in Korea, and has a successor already, and could do everything I've so far seen thrown at the Pi).

I'll be unpacking mine tonight to give it a run-through but, if I'm honest, the only thing I can see them used for is my own projects whereas I originally ordered on the hopes my school might be able to find some use for them (I was expecting there to be educational software, cases, etc. available on general sale by now but it's still just a bare ARM board at the moment).

Being on BBC News, all the tech sites, etc. and becoming a new buzzword is actually just annoying because hardly anybody's done with them what they were originally intended for, and hardly anybody's even been able to get one yet. It's not a release day, if people can't buy and get it sent out for delivery that same week. It's going to be a while before they're able to do that and even then, three-four months late, there's not much in terms of their original plan that you can use them for. Sure, you can boot Linux and play around in Scratch, but you can do that on any PC anyway like schools have in droves in their ICT suites.

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Virgin straps on phone masts for the flying upper classes

Lee Dowling
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Sigh

The equipment isn't now, nor has ever been, the problem.

The problem is the cost to the end-user. Just what are you intending to charge me for it? Because if it's expensive, I'll wait until I get off the plane. And most people run scared of roaming anyway - there's a reason for that that's nothing to do with worrying about using foreign airwaves or interfering with the plane, or the slight delay in voice traffic. It's simply the cost.

So every time you equip a plane, you're expecting people to fund its installation by using it and making you a proportion of profit after you've connected via a satellite and talked to a (now foreign) mobile operator to terminate your calls. And then you price it so extortionately that the only reason people REALLY turn their phones off on a plane is because they're scared they'll hit roaming charges while they're not looking.

Seriously, people. Sod all the fancy stuff. Let me send texts and browse the web. You can cache that locally, send it at your own leisure, don't care about slight interruptions, can route via the cheapest method transparently (wireless / 3G while on the ground, switch to satellite once high enough in the air) and not bother me with people shouting "HELLO!" down the phone while I'm trying to sleep. Then you can price it more sensibly and shock, horror, people might start to use it. While things are still priced in pounds per megabyte, nobody is going to EVER touch the service except by accident or curiosity.

Nothing else, absolutely nothing else, matters but the cost to the end-user. If you charge me 5p extra to send a text message that you then relay over some hugely-slow but viable link back to a base in the UK that then sends the text message onwards from there, that would be useful. If you let me have available-but-slow wifi, that's worth a couple of quid per flight, maybe, if I need it. Anything else and no matter how much a captive audience you have, nobody will touch it. Real-time voice just isn't necessary - we're only amusing ourselves until the plane lands when we THEN do all the important phone calls anyway. Give us the most basic of data services at a *decent* price and you'd have an audience.

Mobile networks need to realise that mass volume of customers * a couple of pence profit is infinitely better than no customers * huge wads of profit each. This applies to roaming, data, data roaming, and airplane use. Drop your prices, see a rise in profits. Increase the prices to these stupid amounts, see a continued absence of customers afraid to even turn their phones ON abroad and instead buying a foreign SIM, thus netting you 0p profit.

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Monty Python and the Holy Grail on Blu-ray

Lee Dowling
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Re: Tell me...

Yes.

Did you read the final score again? 80% if that IS your conclusion?

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Lee Dowling
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Re: Tell me...

That's like giving Windows ME 80% because if you don't already have Windows 3.1/95/98/2000, it's great.

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Lee Dowling
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Tell me...

Did you used to work for a video games magazine?

80% for a grainy film, with pointless and bad extras, that you admit has awful sound, just because it ties-in with a pay-for app? And they can't even link the online content correctly?

Isn't this back in the realm of "pay me money, I'll give you a 90% rating"?

Someone please bring back proper reviewing, where "scores" can go down to 0 again rather than starting at 80, and people aren't afraid to say that a product is junk or you're probably better off with the previous releases unless you're an absolute collector freak.

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Hyundai Veloster coupé

Lee Dowling
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Modern Cars

Can someone please explain to me:

£19,690. For a quite, bog-standard, ordinary car. The USB/iPod stuff? What's that? A £5 chip nowadays stuck into just about any radio you buy? Hell, the digital photo frame I got brand-new for £20 can play MP3's, navigate my folders, etc. on a 7" screen, so the entire kit can't be worth more than a £100 or so?

And then you get stuck with weird doors, a 1.6 engine, cramped legroom, no bootspace, stupidly tiny rear windows, and - just about - 45mpg.

Last time I fired up Torque OBD on my 1995 1.8 Mondeo, it got 40mpg on average everywhere I went. Now, sure, that difference adds up over time but this car cost me £300 and I've probably spent less than that again on it in three years, and mostly for worn tyres! Call it £700 to get the in-car entertainment to the same level, and that's still never going to make the money back in its usable life based on an old scrapheap of a car (which has passed the last two MOT's with "zero comments" first time). And yet I can put a shed into my car (I have done, and a lot more besides), seat 5 passengers comfortably (and 4 of them get a door to themselves), have total vision on the rear of the car, and have no more difficulty parking it than any other.

And yet, still some people call THIS a cheap and nasty car. The amount of money being urinated away on cars in this country must be phenomenal, not to mention the "4x4 to go 100 yards makes my kids safer" crowd.

What, precisely, is the attraction in a new car? No repair bills (I'm no mechanic myself)? Lower road tax (Seriously? Averaged over a year of use?)? All you seem to get is more and more expense (god knows what a dent costs on that thing, or a smashed tail-light, or the insurance, or the service costs to keep the warranty, etc.). What am I missing about cars that makes people want to buy junk like this?

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Study reveals high price of smut addiction

Lee Dowling
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Re: looking for a good time ? call ...

Try dating women in real-life.

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At last! A use for Blighty's phone-boxes: Free Wi-Fi hotspots

Lee Dowling
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Because the postal service is rubbish most of the time.

I do all my Christmas shopping online but I have to inform my neighbours that I'm sorry for the hassle in advance. I work during normal working hours, thus all my parcels go undelivered, especially if it needs a signature. The postman will bother everyone on the street rather than leave it (because that gives him/me liability for it, depending on who decides he can do that) and I end up with 2-3 red parcel collection leaflets a day in December between the various members of my household.

If the neighbours have taken it in, I have to chase round them all to find out who and where and hope they're in. In one case I had to initiate a lawsuit because Three said they'd delivered my new contract phone and tried to charge me for something I'd never seen (and try to hold me to a contract that I'd never signed because it was in that lost parcel!). If it's gone back to the depot, I am graciously allowed to collect it from there between the hours of 8:30-4:30 on weekdays (so, that's a "never" then, to anyone who works) and up to 1pm on a Saturday, from a depot that you cannot park anywhere near. Near Christmas, on a Saturday, if you're not there at 7:00 am to start queueing, you won't get your parcel. And I won't risk parking near it because you stand a good chance of getting a ticket if you ignore the markings because the traffic wardens appear out of nowhere on a Saturday when they know it's easy-pickings.

If you do manage to get to the front of the queue, it's a 50-50 toss-up as to whether they currently are trying to redeliver your parcel while you're there. If they are, you're stuffed and might as well come back tomorrow because you won't see them if you rush home, and you won't be able to queue again, and you can't wait for them to return because the customer service bit closes before they do. So, in effect, you just better hope that you get it before they send it back to the sender.

Do I live out in the sticks? No. I live in a large well-known town inside the M25, and the Royal Mail depot is only two minutes away (fortunately).

That, of course, is all assuming your parcel was sent by Royal Mail. There are myriad other companies who all do the same tricks, with depots in different places, one of which is miles from me through busy London streets (Hangar Lane Gyratory! GAH!). Last time something was delivered by them I ended up forcing them to phone the delivery driver and get him to drop off the parcel I'd come to collect by appointment that he'd taken out for delivery. I had to sign papers and argue like mad to get them to drop it over my garden fence so that it would be there after driving back (which took 45 minutes).

Then, of course, you have the times that things DON'T go according to those courier's plans anyway (lost parcels, customs charges, "we forgot where we put it but it's here somewhere", etc.) . About the only reliable company to order from is Amazon who seem to employ a company that consists of ordinary people in their cars who drive around at convenient times to deliver their parcels. They also operate a decent returns service that involves popping to a local newsagent who takes your parcel for them, so obviously they trust the Royal Mail and large courier companies as much as I do.

Online ordering is perfect. So long as you have a mail system that works, or are ordering things that are large enough for them to pre-arrange delivery. Otherwise, it can be easier to walk into town and get the damn things yourself. I've done my entire shopping for Christmas online for every year since 2000. It's steadily getting worse, to the point where I'm considering not to bother for some things. And it's nothing to do with the online stores, the payment, or anything else - it's to do with overworked, understaffed, useless, inconsiderate delivery companies that assume everyone is off work all day long every day and won't take responsibility for putting a parcel in a half-safe place (I have run one parcel over because they left it hidden on my driveway, and I've had one just left - with hundreds of pounds of IT equipment - on the doorstep for 18 hours in plain view with the name of the company visible, with even a "signed" delivery note shoved through my door that would cost a fortune to contest if it had gone missing).

Online ordering only works so far as mail-ordering works. When I have to catch my neighbours to warn them of an expensive parcel coming, mail-ordering is severely lacking.

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Lee Dowling
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Re: Don't knock the old phone boxes!

What's a landline?

BT publish 0800 numbers for reporting faults (which will soon be free from mobiles too). Brand-new PAYG phones can be picked up for under £10 in any Tesco.

You're hardly *LOCKED* to a landline any more. The fault on your landline won't be vital any more. And reporting the fault is easier than ever because I can almost guarantee you that you have a mobile in your pocket right now, or are standing next to someone who does.

And how do you find those free fault-reporting numbers? Try any operator. Or Google. Or directory enquiries.

And, let's be honest, the situation's been the same since, what, the 90's? I can honestly say I've never used a telephone box in my life, and I'm only 30. Hell, when I move house, the only reason to have a landline is if I want ADSL or it comes free with the package. I couldn't tell you the last time it actually *RUNG* (and certainly not the last time it was rung by someone I actually wanted to speak to!).

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Mozilla and Google blast IE-only Windows on ARM

Lee Dowling
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Re: Apps for Android can be served from anywhere you can download an APK

No.

The device might not be "supported" (so boo-hoo if it doesn't work), but the only real restriction is that you have to do it on an "Android device". This device was Android, branded with the Google Android logo, or otherwise I wouldn't have bothered to install an app store for Android on it.

And given that it's incredibly easy to spot if someone's installed the app on something they shouldn't, I'd think that Google would have blocked it in a second otherwise.

"This license granted to you for the Licensed Application by Licensor is limited to a nontransferable license to use the Licensed Application on any mobile devices running Android OS ("Android Device(s)") that you own or control."

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Lee Dowling
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Re: Apps for Android can be served from anywhere you can download an APK

Indeed.

An Android tablet that I bought cheap from Maplin's did make my heart sink a little to see that it had no Google Play app store on it, but only some proprietary nonsense that wanted you to pay in "coins" for free apps. I was *this* close to taking it back to the shop to complain that it wasn't "proper Android", when I decided to take the challenge (MS had earlier been peeing me off that day by some ridiculous hurdles on installing a game that wanted GfWLive - and needless to say there was a little victory punch when I did indeed manage that on XP SP2 which isn't officially supported at all - so I was quite in the mood for some technical wizardry to bypass silly restrictions) .

I was quite disappointed to find out that all I needed to go was google for the Play store app APK file, download it, run it, and voila! Mum could buy and play Cut-The-Rope and Angry Birds. I didn't even need to use a PC or anything - I did it all from the tablet and hardly did anything technical at all.

Moral of the story: Restrict me and I'll send your product back or make it work anyway. Don't restrict me, but just configure things a little oddly, and I'll pay for the product and put it the way *I* like it anyway. Same with browsers. I don't care what comes pre-installed, but if I can't get my favourite browser on a level playing ground, I won't touch it.

I think MS are leading themselves to trouble here. This *STINKS* of deliberate anti-competitive behaviour and the EU still haven't forgiven them from the last time yet. Either IE has to stop using those API's (and thus shows itself up as being junk) or everyone else gets to use them (and thus IE shows itself up as being junk). Either way, all they've done is make themselves look evil when they could have just chose either option and merely looked incompetent.

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Did dicky power supply silence climate-change probe Envisat?

Lee Dowling
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Re: recycle

1) You can't capture a lot of this stuff. That's why we plan to de-orbit it before its even launched. The speeds involved don't bear thinking about (one screw in orbit can tear through the Mir Space Station like it was butter - how so you capture that?) You'll notice that it's incredibly rare that we ever dock with a satellite or other orbiting thing unless both are fully-working and we can use both their propulsions and PLAN IT METICULOUSLY. One wrong move and you kill yourself, de-orbit the satellite or add to the space junk ten-fold.

2) There's no value in them. Their biggest cost is launch, yes, but the actual satellites would cost hundreds of times more to capture and even more to repair than just binning them an launching another. Again, this is why we just de-orbit things into the atmosphere and let them burn up.

3) "Refuelling"? Seriously? Most of the "fuel" is either highly radioactive in the old ones, or solar in the new ones. The power isn't the problem. It's the cutouts, safeties, orientation to the Sun, etc. that kills off a satellites power, not it running out of juice. The Voyager spacecraft are still running at something like 50% power while on the outside the solar system 40 years after launch.

4) Who owns that stuff? Who will fund you to repair that stuff (much cheaper to just launch newer kit)? What if you touch a Chinese satellite by mistake? You could seriously start a war by just touching someone else's satellite, even by mistake, or causing debris from your operation to interfere with their kit.

5) Where would you repair it? In space? Via a spacewalk? The single-most-expensive venture that one man ever performs? You know the greatest risk while you're on a spacewalk? Getting hit by space junk that's so small and fast we can't track it. Are we repairing random bits of kit that were fabbed in semiconductor labs with the latest technology from inside an astronaut's spacesuit? Or would you take it to an in-orbit space station that would cost more to build and operate than it would ever cost to relaunch all those satellites put together? Or would you bring it back through our atmosphere at huge expense and risk only to be told that the technology was obsolete and that if they were going to have to launch it again, they'd rather do it with a new model or one that hadn't already broken once?

There's a reason all that space junk is called junk. It effectively is, because of the content, accessibility, and cost of going near it. It's like saying that 80% of the world's gold is in the ocean. It is. It will be. Until we work out a cheap way to drain and search the entire ocean for less than the difference between the total price of all gold on land and the total price of all gold in the sea.

The safest thing to do with space junk, even with politics and cost aside, is to push it into our atmosphere. But only to get it out of the way so the next launch doesn't hit it.

3
3

Keep out of the Olympics' way, earn a haircut from TfL app

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Re: Re:Route sucks?

An out-of-context quote but certainly not a misleading one.

An app with "route" in the title, for planning routes, that can't plan routes. And the bit it does show is pointless. And that's assuming it works when you take that route. And, I assume, the coupon-led bit requires you to "check in" along the route to show you've taken that route at a slow speed (otherwise they're just giving away coupons), so it not working is pretty critical to the function of the app.

A coupon-giving route-planning app to avoid carbon release that may not give coupons, can't plan routes and actually advises worse ways of travelling.

The Government IT slogan should be: "You couldn't make it up."

3
0

Carmageddon coder seeks gamers' cash for revamp

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Post I made on the Steam forums about this:

Can't say I have much interest. They "invested" $333,333 (according to their page) just to buy the naming rights and are asking for more than that to actually write the game. That, in their own words, was all their profits from all their previous ventures.

They could have wrote that game with "the in-house tech that’s been in constant development at the studio for more than a decade" for that money and called it anything else (literally, anything else at all), but they've not even managed to get to prototyping the game because it *HAD* to have the same name. Half the entire game budget blown on the name alone doesn't inspire confidence. I assume they think "CoolGameX by the makers of, and in the style of, Carmageddon" would confuse people who wanted to buy it.

They've got a basic engine going (Really? That's all? Physics / 3D engines are ten-a-penny nowadays, the cost of the game is actually in the assets - level design, 3D texturing, etc.), they have minimal game assets ("start creating the initial game assets"!), they only have half the original dev team (Which half? What did they do? Have we got the people who actually made the game, or a couple of people who wrote a few lines in the prototype engine of the original Carmageddon?), but they do have 40+ hangers-on which weren't around back then ("We’re a modest-sized indie developer (around 50 trapped souls)").

Seems to be confirming the stereotype of all Kickstarter projects that I've seen so far. Throwing money at a poorly-managed dev-only project who couldn't get funding through other means and seem to want me to compensate them for the money they've already thrown away on tat.

I'd kill for a proper Carmageddon sequel. But this won't be it. And if it is, it'll be that sequel without my help (or anyone else's) anyway.

I only wish I could sit on my bum for ten years trying to negotiate the sale of a name and then slap it on absolutely nothing that I hurriedly knock up and make money from the whole business. It's a damn sight easier than actually creating a good game and then selling it no matter what the name.

2
5

Advertising prefect spanks Virgin

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Re: Bored of this product bickering...

Why would you need to store anything if it takes seconds to redownload the whole thing again? It would actually be quicker to stream it live, in that case, than save it to disk!

Sure, there's an argument for having your own independent copy of the data, but the more incentive for storage (i.e. lots of data and fast download), the cheaper it gets. Fact is that most people don't even use the 100Gb hard drive in their laptop any more. When I image people's computers onto their new laptops etc. it's rarely more than 30-40Gb and most of that is Windows, photographs and applications. People don't even save their email onto their computer any more, really. It's all done "live" with IMAP.

But with decent home broadband comes the incentive to provide decent networking gear for business (links across a whole factory site can easily have been Gigabit since 1999 and 10/100 since 1995, with self-installed cable, hand-crimped connectors and commodity hardware - so why does the exchange which is across the road to me barely get 8Mbps?), higher speeds, faster datacentres, faster international links, larger storage, more applications (video, VoIP, etc.), etc.

The bottlenecks determine the current technology. My drive isn't faster because I can't get enough data to put onto it that fast. You might fill an SSD once but you're not going to be running it at SATAIII speeds all day long. My drive isn't larger, not because we've hit physical limits (or I'd have options to put two-three drives into a laptop already, and although they exist, they are stupidly expensive rather than standard) but because we don't store that amount of data any more (a couple of Tb will more that satisfy more people at the moment, and that's a £100 Maplin's job to fulfill) and can't download that data even if we wanted to. My wireless isn't faster because it has to plug into a 10/100 Ethernet cable most of the time. Same as my optical media drive isn't SATAIII because the disks can't spin that fast anyway!

But home broadband bandwidth is a serious hurdle, especially upload, whereas any datacentre you choose can throw unmetered 100Mbit connections at you as standard. Increase that, and you get a boost in all the other computer specifications too. There's nothing stopping a gigabit-ethernet-to-the-door service providing those sorts of speeds except the costs of laying the initial cable. With that suitably rolled-out and planned, you can even go up to 10Gb without struggling once the time comes. It's a question of investment in something worthwhile, rather than still running new houses with manky old 2-core copper to an old exchange with nothing more recent than ADSL or so, and not even a "throw money at it" style problem.

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Lee Dowling
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Re: Bored of this product bickering...

The day BT are nationalised or otherwise removed from the market, and made to do their job - sell connectivity to others and not hoard and price access to 50-year-old copper cables like they are gold-dust.

Hell, I always assumed we'd be all-fibre by now (2012, ffs!) and not bothering with anything over copper at all. USB over fibre is in the works, Ethernet over fibre has been around for decades, fibre-to-the-door is available if you're lucky with where you live... and none of it has any value to thieves.

But, apparently, no. We're still using the same cables that I ran my 56K modem off (and in some cases you could easily have used the same copper to dial-up at 9600bps right to ADSL2+, the only difference being the middle conversions and street cabinets).

ADSL standards were finalised in 1999. I was still at uni then. The same time before that: (1999 - (2012 - 1999)) was 1986. The progress change that ADSL would have been to ZX Spectrum users should have happened AGAIN by now. ADSL of 1999 was, say, 8MBps (ideal conditions, I know). ZX Spectrum modems were 1200 bps. By rights, with only LINEAR improvement (not exponential as normally would happen in a thriving tech market), we should have: 55Gb/s connections to the home by now (if my maths is right). With at least 10Gb/s usable in a typical installation. You'd hit your "traffic limits" for the month in a handful of seconds.

Instead, we have ADSL2+ (if you're lucky) which is ADSL at a slightly increased speed (2-3 times increase instead of nearly a 7000-fold increase) and available hardly anywhere, and the fastest connections are, shock-horror, fibre where it's been bothered to get installed.

2
0

Cloud data fiasco forces bosses to break out the whiteboards

Lee Dowling
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Re: Hang on a sec...

Agreed, multiple storage failures, your cloud provider exploding because of the Large Hadron Collider or anything else are not an excuse for LOSING data.

Possibly making that data temporarily unavailable but the words "data recovery specialists" really translate as "whoops, we have no backup".

Even if the whole rack exploded - where's your backup from last week, last month, last year?

High availability and redundancy are no substitute for backups. I hope all the listed companies just cancel their contract and ask for a complete refund.

1
0

Hated Visual Studio 11 beta in HIGH-ENERGY colour blast

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

So while they were performing their usual routine (Windows Start Bar, VS colouring, etc.):

1) Break something deliberately obvious and stupid for no reason

2) Wait for everyone to shout.

3) Change back to what it was already "based on customer feedback"

in order to make you think they are actually doing something, what have they actually stripped out of the program or incorporated that people were too blinkered by the "it's grey" setting to find?

3
2

Java jury finds Google guilty of infringement: Now what?

Lee Dowling
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Re: Misleading

"Groklaw's views always favour Google. You may want to read the other sources as there are there are other views."

If you'd read my comment, I do. Few of them link to entire court transcripts of the events as they unfold, and those that do - strangely - all have the same facts in them! After that it's just interpretation. I can ignore Groklaw's interpretation (the "we were right, aren't we wonderful" thing always gets on my nerves, actually, because anyone with a brain could tell they were right when they said it originally, etc.)

The problem here is not the interpretation (personally, I think Google are home and dry here and Oracle are facing a minor SCO-style slide into oblivion if they don't react quickly, others think otherwise and there's a whole spectrum of opinion on the matter - not black and white), it's the facts. Which this article, like Oracle, conveniently ignores in order to make their "case" sound better.

Copyrighting an API destroys large parts of IT. You couldn't do it, at least not sensibly or without everyone fleeing that particular country who has any interest in doing serious IT work. It would literally kill WINE, Android, Linux (POSIX API's remember!), Samba, every instant messenger program, etc. every Exchange connector, anything that "resembles" or works with SAP, etc. all overnight. But given that even Samba's use of API's, for example, is basically an enforcement and endorsement of the EU courts, that would be extremely tricky to resolve such a paradox and either such a ruling would have zero square metres of jurisdiction, or have to not exist at all.

Not copyrighting an API means Google have done nothing wrong WHATSOEVER based on the judge and jury's rulings and decisions so far. In fact, they have been pushing for motions to dismiss and mistrial BECAUSE of that fact - i.e. Oracle knew it never had a leg to stand on and it's only red-tape that's keeping the case going. Even a basic decision in this are is win-win for Google. But some people are interpreting that as "THE WHOLE IT INDUSTRY IS GOING TO DIE BECAUSE OF GOOGLE!" whereas, in fact, things are the opposite and the only one trying to apply for exclusive ownership of anything even vaguely resembling, replacing or interoperating with their kit are actually Oracle. Yet, their predecessor was more than happy about such things (as they should be).

Oracle here are on shaky ground. Shouting the odds about how a wonderful success has been achieved sends the wrong message. They just got their backside kicked, hard. They are looking at a bleak, empty, expensive lawsuit that only damages themselves. They are looking at shareholders taking a close look at what went on and where all that money went and why. They are looking at having to deal with copycat-Java's popping up everywhere and making them obsolete JUST BECAUSE of what they've done with this lawsuit (would you touch Java API code now?). A bit like they did with OpenOffice, but with real, legal implications - buy it, break it, try to crush the opposition when they make a replacement, end up not having one iota of influence on the entire product from that point on because everyone avoids working with you.

Much as I hate Oracle and don't-mind Google, this is a really-skewed opinion piece based on a poor reading of the case and the court transcripts. You can't stand in the way of facts. Oracle are gonna hurt on this one.

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Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Misleading

At the risk of being called a fanboy, you obviously don't keep up with Groklaw coverage or even looked at the case in question. To steal the summary from Groklaw's latest update:

"Recap of the day: Google won everything but the one issue that the judge has to decide anyway, the API SSO issue. The jury found, as they had been instructed to assume for the purposes of deliberation, that APIs can be copyrighted, the structure, sequence and arrangement of APIs, but that is by no means established. The same question, in a b) section, asked if fair use excused any infringement if found, and the jury couldn't resolve that issue. But the judge has to decide whether or not that is true, that APIs can be protected by copyright. That comes later this month. Meanwhile, Oracle prevailed only on 9 lines of code that Google admitted prior to trial to have included by mistake and then removed from current Android. Oracle's own expert, the judge pointed out in court, valued those 9 lines of code at zero. This is 9 lines out of millions. So that means, if we are looking at damages, that so far Oracle has won nothing. There is no liability. You can't have infringement without considering fair use, Google asserts, and there will be briefing on that. Somebody has to decide that fair use issue. And then the judge has to decide about the API copyrightability issue. If he rules that APIs can't be copyrighted, as the EU Court of Justice just ruled, then fair use is moot. And Oracle takes nothing at all from the copyright phase of this litigation, and this was heralded far and wide by Oracle people as the big ticket item, if you recall."

I don't claim to be a big Groklaw fan, but I do read their coverage to get a balanced reading on the issues at hand, like I did in SCO vs IBM, et al too. Basically, Oracle won nothing. Google stuck to their "fair use" argument (which is fair, because all they used is the API interface - which is DESIGNED to be "copiable" - and the "9 lines" are really worth nothing even if they came with comments that said "HAHAHAHAHAHA! WE STOLE THIS FROM ORACLE!" all over it).

But, strangely, so far BBC, Slashdot and now The Reg are somehow writing articles that claim it's the end of the world for Google and game over and Google were naughty. I can't really see that side myself at all, but I haven't read *EVERY* court transcript there is. There are strange parallels to the SCO vs IBM argument that "this standard .h file which you need to interface with POSIX applications has very similar 'code' (i.e. numbers corresponding to a list of constants) in Linux for the purpose of POSIX applications using it!).

I don't think this will do anything to the industry or Google at all but someone, somewhere, somehow, has managed to turn it into something that will dent Google's share price when, actually, Oracle - and anyone who parrots their claims - is looking extremely dodgy to me.

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3

OCZ flexes its Flash guns, predicts further embulgement ahead

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

You got conned. Import duty and VAT shouldn't apply to product returns, warranty replacements, etc. I don't think, in either direction. They "sorted it out" by telling the customs people it was a warranty replacement. Didn't cost them a penny over and above their own administration costs.

Does mean that they probably didn't label the product properly on its return journey, though, or customs wouldn't have bothered to question it.

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Lee Dowling
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Is it just me that looks at that graph and only pays attention to the "net income" line (i.e. profit) and thinks "Damn! How are they still allowed to trade?"

Looks like they are urinating money to me. Not surprising, given previous articles about their drives and customer service for faulty units:

http://www.channelregister.co.uk/2012/01/17/ocz_no_refund/

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Jolly rogered

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Re: benjymous

Filtering out images by skintone is like choosing which tanks to shoot at in a battle based on the average green colour of them.

Sooner or later, the "enemy" will start painting their tanks a different colour and/or spraypainting yours, or even just knocking up cardboards cutouts for you to fire at to your heart's content.

And the poor sod who just happened to be wearing the wrong colour shirt is going to be in for an awful big compensation payout.

Until we have a filter capable of human thought (and thus able to reason not only the contents of an image by something other than skintone / edge-detection / etc., like the entire computer vision industry has been trying since the 60's, but the intention, pose, provocative nature, age, gender, obscenity etc.) it ain't gonna happen. The only thing we have that does that is humans, and even they get it wrong so often that it's laughable.

---

IT Manager in schools. At a previous school, once had to report a site to RM's Filter people because, let's just say, it was not the "traditional" retelling of Little Red Riding Hood. ("My! What a big... you have!")

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Lee Dowling
Silver badge

I have to agree.

My 3-year-old daughter watched her little newborn cousin (I think, I can't be bothered to do the family-tree maths) have his nappy changed for the first time. You have never seen a child stare like that in your life, we were all in fits of laughter and she was transfixed, crouching over him "pretending" to help while actually she just wanted to see the thing she'd spotted straight away.

What would those parents have you do? Hush it up? Pretend it doesn't exist? Tell her off for being rude (she's THREE - how does she know that something she's never seen is considered "rude")? All courses of action that I guarantee you would leave her with a morbid curiosity about finding out what that thing is when Mummy/Daddy/Grandparents AREN'T around (and hence you end up with a pregnant 11-year-old or whatever).

To quote Kindergarten Cop (there's a line I never thought I'd say!): Boys have a penis, girls have a vagina.

What the big deal is in that, I don't know. Get over it. Your daughter could have called it a lot worse and at least she KNEW what it was. Now imagine how your friend's daughter is going to cope when she gets to secondary school where there's talk of sex and all sorts and she gets pressured to tell her friends that she knows what it all means, or to confess that she doesn't know at all.

Nudity is on page three of several papers, and you can spot nude women as soon as you're old enough to look up in a newsagents. Sex is a natural human function that, okay, maybe you might not want to discuss in public (at least, any more than other natural functions like the operation of your stomach and bottom on food, which is what my three-year-old is obsessed with at the moment and wants to share with the world), but there's nothing scary there and they WILL teach her it in school (unless you WANT to pull her out of that class and make a laughing exception to the rest of the class). Pornography - that's something entirely different and you might well want to hide that from children but even upon discovery? It's just pictures of people who "love each other" and "are having sex", depending on your outlook and acceptable "lies to children" factor.

I don't expect fathers to be dangling their appendages around the houses, but for feck's sake, it's a willy. Get over it.

7
0

Microsoft ejects DVD playback from Windows 8

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Didn't this always used to happen with older Windows anyway?

I have a whole bunch of CyberLink PowerDVD install disks and keys because every time we bought an 2000/XP laptop or PC, they didn't include the MPEG2 codecs and the workaround was that all manufacturers bundled "something" that would play MPEG2 for no cost - either with the machine or the DVD drive if you were upgrading. That "something" usually cost them pence in bulk and consisted of some DVD playback software that you didn't even install most of the time.

I still have the pile for our XP machines here, still have the problem that Media Player doesn't play DVD by default on a clean Windows XP install (you have to install that bit of software first or - my solution that bettered my employer's - use VLC and just make sure you can prove you have the PowerDVD disks, and hence MPEG playback license, somewhere). Then the whole EU software patents things went a bit up the wall and basically the Fraunhoefer Institute's patents meant nothing any more so we could just use playback software at our whim.

Isn't this just a return to an earlier policy rather than some shocking new omission from the OS?

6
0

US, Euro e-car makers back 'standard' AC/DC jack

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Re: Anti tamper?

They'd be too busy sticking two pounds into a charging station and then finding ingenious way to blow it up like connecting it to a nearby lamppost, arcing them to each other, sticking their finger in it or whatever else.

Electric cars are a really stupid idea at the moment anyway. Charge time in hours is the cause of the problem you describe and one of their biggest downfalls. A tank-filling time in minutes means most people don't leave the car unattended while fuelling. A similar charge time would do the same but because of the sheer huge nature of the power involved (the equivalent of a tank full of petrol, which is extremely safe considering its energy density), it's not going to happen for a very, very, very long time and even then still be more dangerous.

Hopefully, we'll stop all this electric junk soon and come up with something that's likely to actually work better than a milk float (all-electric since the 1960's, I believe).

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1
Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Re: Connector design

And how does that help make the connector more complex (and the same connector is used for "home" fill-ups too - that's one of the stated points of the standardised, dual-power adaptor!)?

That amount of power, in a female socket means you have to jab metal objects into the end to short it. It will be suitably fused, but more importantly it will probably have contact-sensing (like any modern "jumpstart" battery - if you short the connectors at any point, no power flows - power is ONLY applied when it's probed the other end and found a load that's suitable for charging and operates on dumb principles because lead-acid batteries don't have any circuitry!). Failing that, the "keyed" connector should ensure that there's contact and could even be designed to relay correct physical contact of the connector back to the "pump" which only switches on when it's been told that the connector is mated properly (can be as simple as a spring-button lock on the connector that only operates when "latched" into the correct socket).

If it hasn't, I refer to my original point - what a crap, overcomplicated connector.

And I'd rather have two huge meaty inch-thick DC cables that do auto-sensing than all that gumph which just looks ripe to go wrong in the case of a sheared cable or damaged connector (you're telling me that little old ladies trying to force that into their car's port sideways for years at a filling station won't eventually break those plastic interiors and make the AC contact the DC?).

It just seems an incredibly ugly, overcomplicated and poor design to make dual AC/DC connectors and pumps and then rely on convertors inside your car (and your problem if they blow up and you can't charge your car any more) rather than just pushing ONLY DC and doing all the messy, expensive conversion before you shove things down a standardised, minimalist connector that needs as little as possible done to it afterwards and metering it from actual, usable DC power at the point of filling.

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Lee Dowling
Silver badge

That has to be the ugliest socket I''ve ever seen in my life. Even SCART and DVI were more elegant.

What was wrong with just putting a pair of DC pins side by side in a large-enough connector, and maybe one small one for some kinda "sense/data" pin that could also act to key the connector's polarity? AC pins are going to differ in voltage and frequency anyway and you're going to have them handle them in the car by, well, converting them to DC. Surely that's better done at the fuelling station AND home charger than anywhere else, otherwise they would just add weight to the car and be skimped upon (and be upgrade-proof!)?

Or is this is a drive to "sell" you 100 KWh of AC electricity that is only 90KWh once you have DC losses and only 80KWh once your battery gives you it back? Push the thermal / conversion losses onto the poor sap stupid enough to buy an electric car?

Still have yet to actually see anyone in real life top up an electric car, though, and I live inside the M25 and do an awful lot of driving.

1
5

Glider pilot 'swallowed camera memory' say plunge tragedy cops

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Re: What a fool

I imagine that the sentence on the "obstruction of justice" charges would actually be higher than anything he was facing anyway, and likely proportional to the underlying charge that he was getting in the way of anyway.

All this idiot has done is double his punishment, guilty or not. And if the evidence is unrecoverable, there's a very good chance he'll be convicted of the original offence anyway on the basis of trying to conceal the evidence in the first place. Nothing says "I'm guilty" more than eating the evidence when asked for it.

Without that stupid action, he'd probably only have had a negligence case against him, most of which would be covered by insurance. Probably wouldn't have had jail time at all. But now?

One word.

Pillock.

7
1

Black Ops II to take gamers to open worlds... and destroy them

Lee Dowling
Silver badge
Happy

Whenever I take a pill, nothing happens.

And there are 7,000,000 "Neo's" online (and isn't he supposed to be "The One"?). And not one of them could use nmap, let alone hack into anything.

Besides that, no intelligent computer would ever design a world with Boris Johnson as quite a good London Mayor. That would be too crazy, and nobody would ever believe their programming, and they'd "lose entire crops". It'd be like John Major having an affair or something...

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Lee Dowling
Silver badge

- "non-linear storyline"

- new types of vehicles

- "branching plots"

- "open-world gameplay"

- "cleverer AI"

- "enemies that spawn and react differently according to the attitude a player takes"

- "greater re-playability"

I'm betting that it also offers a fully destructible environment, improved physics, more realistic visuals, more accurately-rendered water, and all the other gumph that EVERY FPS (and even other genre) game has claimed to offer for the last two decades.

Seriously. If every game that had ever claimed those things was actually telling the truth, the cumulative improvements would mean we'd all be sitting in the Matrix by now.

I'm guessing that the AI still won't suss that I'm sitting in the building that they just saw me run into, waiting to shoot them as they walk through the door one at a time over the pile of their own dead bodies from previous attempts to do just that.

8
0

GCSE, A-level science exams ARE dumbed down - watchdog

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Re: Maths and Science

Back in the 1990's (and even the 80's I think), there was a NatWest maths challenge. It was quite a big fuss every year they held it. My older brother and I had both entered it multiple times at some point on the recommendation of our maths teachers (we weren't exactly boffins, but we were top of our respective maths classes) along with the others from the "top-set" of maths.

It had been around for ages. Schools entered it (even though I don't think there was any "prize" as such). Motivated students wanted to be put into it. In lessons afterwards, I can remember my hastily-scribbled answers (we'd arrived to the even 20 minutes late) being pored over by my peers in class (and even laughing at the ones I had no time to answer at all and had scribbled funny nonsense on instead).

There's always been events and motivations to learn. In fact, I'm disappointed there aren't MORE now. Why isn't there some free, national, online competition for just about every subject in the world for every pupil who wants to compete, with some decent incentive for pupils/schools to enter candidates for it? (Probably because it would show up those who get A's but aren't even on the same planet in terms of ability as the people who would win. Getting "A-star" and then coming 5000th in a competition of 5000 is hardly confidence-inspiring in the pupil, the teacher or the grade).

Competitions don't provide 1% of the incentive of needing to get good grades that are hard to achieve when it comes to learning.

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Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Re: A tale of 2 chemistries

I'm not sure it is all that relevant except if you were doing a full scientific study.

Question 1 on the 1970's paper is a "real" question with no help.

Question *FIVE* on the "modern" one is a three-option multiple choice about whether a metal is harder than another or not, given to you by the only three possible answers, two of which are opposites and one of which is not a comparison at all (it could be "more" magnetic but that's not what it says) . It's like a baby question from primary school, if you were around in the 1970's. That shouldn't be worth any marks at all, really.

As everyone else says, that's really a question you can answer with zero knowledge of chemistry, only English, and "pass" quite easily if you're more than 5 or 6 years old and have ever come across steel or iron (and even stand a good chance to get marks by a complete guess and even more by an educated guess based on the wording of the question).

And although the more modern questions do get harder in actual A-level papers, so do the 1970's and the number of questions (and even marks) stay similar throughout. Hell, why does the student even get TOLD how many marks a question is worth? Surely they should know how much detail they have to give anyway.

I just went through some 2000-era Chemistry papers online. I know nothing about chemistry. I never took a single chemistry lesson over and above GCSE "Double Science" (which didn't even once do a chemical formula more complicated than salt-water, or any kind of "bond" diagram when I did it - disgusting in itself for that time). According to the marking scheme, I got myself about 30% of the marks just on complete guesses alone, even on the "essay-style" questions. That's skipping the questions that I could have answered properly based on my own study into chemistry, or that I could answer in a few minutes with a chemistry book in front of me.

According to some 2010 papers I found online:

"Define the term mass number of an atom. The mass number of an isotope of nitrogen is 15. Deduce the number of each of the fundamental particles in an atom of 15N"

is one of the highest scoring (3 marks of 70 total for the paper) out of 8 questions (2-3 parts per question) on an A-Level paper. 1 mark for defining the term. 1 mark for getting the electrons and protons right. One mark for getting the neutrons right. That's 4% of the entire marks of an A-level paper for being able to do something that I know already without ever having been taught Chemistry (and knew when I was 10/11, if I'm honest, without ever having studied it in school).

Yet, any paper I can find pre-1990 I barely understand the question let alone could stab at the answer.

Of course when making comparisons you have to take everything into account but, honestly, the comparison is easy (and scary) to make with a little research and backs up the OP's (slightly exaggerated and obviously not meant to be definitive) assertion. Finding online copies of 1970's exam papers is far from easy, though. Maybe that's why people don't try and compare properly, or think the 2000-era papers are "good".

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Lee Dowling
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Re: When I were a lad .....

Twelve of us, there were, all living in a shoebox in the middle of the street....

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Lee Dowling
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Re: Exams

Except A+, I assume, or do you want to confuse the marking scheme even more? How about something even simpler. A, B, C, and YOUFAIL.

The names of the grades mean nothing, the percentage of people achieving them means everything. People focusing on the name "A*" rather than something else are part of the problem here.

And I think you mean "overhauled".

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Lee Dowling
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Re: Exams getting easier

My university maths courses started with "Baby Maths". The lecturer would hand out papers at the end of each lecture and say that you should be able to do ALL the things on it before you'd even applied to university. He quite clearly stated that if you didn't know it now, you'd need to know it before you went any further.

The first question on the first paper he gave was literally 2+2 and the last on the first paper was something like "a + 5 = 10. What is a?". I kid you not. By the end of the ten weeks where he'd been handing these out, they had covered things like simultaneous equations, simple calculus and things like cross-multiplication. And by then, half the students had left the course (or even the uni). Most people were too embarrassed to hand them in for marking (they were optional), or to discuss them with other students.

A lot of people got a shock in that first month, I can tell you.

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Lee Dowling
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Not shocked, to be honest.

When I was in school and university (I finished uni in 2000), the physics papers were actually quite easy compared to even the past papers of ten years previous. I'm not saying I did well on everything (especially not physics, actually), but it certainly wasn't because the papers were too hard when I did them. I'd have been embarrassed to suggest that the paper was "too hard" in general, I just struggled with the topic.

And since I took my own exams, I've worked in lots of schools - state and independent. You honestly do not know the sort of tripe that makes it into an exam paper, and the marking schemes are a joke.

It reminds me of a cartoon that is in the staffroom of one of the schools I've worked in: Two cartoons, 1990 and 2010. On the 1990 one the parents are shouting at the child in front of the teacher "Explain these poor marks!". On the 2010 one, they are shouting the same thing at the TEACHER while the kid smirks at them. Just about sums things up nowadays.

My Italian girlfriend (a PhD) laughed at the grading levels for our exams. 50% can get you a B. A's could be had for as little as 60% at some points. That wouldn't wash in a lot of countries. And then we have the cheek to pretend that a UK education is something special when that person then goes to a foreign country. Students actually flocked to us for decades in order to get a degree from the UK. It still goes on but those students are finding out exactly how much that's worth worldwide only when they've wasted years chasing it.

In one student session she had with biology students in a research lab, she was asked what a neck was. It *wasn't* a miscommunication from poor English. She also despairs over PhD students who can't work out how much to dilute a sample by to get a certain ratio of the active ingredient (a simple cross-multiplication).

In one school I worked in, *I* took the lunchtime maths courses to bump students up to the next level. I'm an IT Manager. They *all* went up a level after starting the course. It makes you wonder what the teachers were doing with them.

UK examinations are shot. Unfortunately, going back to what you'd find in even a 1980's paper (let alone the 1960's - which were much harder - but have imperial units in them) would be such a culture shock that NONE of the current students would actually pass with decent grades and half the teachers would quit with the stress of trying to understand that material themselves.

There's a reason that the independent schools typically have students 3-4 years ahead on achievement over state schools. It has everything to do with proper teaching and qualifications and teaching the things they were teaching in the 70's and 80's and not the watered-down tripe they have now. Hell, most independent schools have already come out against GCSE's etc years ago and wanted to adopt other standards (e.g. International GCSE's etc.).

Go ask any student who studied somewhere other than the UK (and the US is going the same way but isn't quite as bad). Chances are you needed 90% to get A's, and the material was way above anything we teach here. I can relay stories of friends from Australia, Singapore, Italy, etc. that all experience the same hilarity when they see our actual exam papers and their grading.

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Moon at annual perigee this weekend

Lee Dowling
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Re: Any news...

Don't be a lunatic.

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Ten-year .co.uk domain names now available

Lee Dowling
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Re: Dangerous!

Or put old employees email onto your catch-all rather than having latent accounts hanging around and accepting email YEARS after they'd left?

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Lee Dowling
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Re: Maybe for thier next trick

Because a .co.uk was always intended for *CO*mpanies?

If you're a company, I believe you have a requirement to publish that information in other places (e.g. shops, offices, etc.). Not only that, you have to be on companies house anyway, and your website must contain valid contact details and your company number - how do I know? I stung a company that tried to screw me over and made them pay to replace all their stationery, website, and put up signage because they were never compliant with the law that says they need to do it. And seeing as all .co.uk's are supposed to be UK companies, it's really no big deal.

What you probably want is a .me.uk or an .org.uk (both of which allow you to do this on your WHOIS record:

Registrant type:

UK Individual

Registrant's address:

The registrant is a non-trading individual who has opted to have their

address omitted from the WHOIS service.

That said, the .co.uk's that I do own, are registered C/O my domain host (who just happens to be a major UK ISP too, and I've never ASKED them to do that), who has my full contact details. So although people can't get my address directly from a WHOIS, they can still find me if necessary.

But why not blame others for your wilful disregard of domain-naming policies instead?

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Lee Dowling
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Re: Dangerous!

If your company IT department doesn't know what domains it owns, and put them through WHOIS once a year or so to check registration dates and ownership information, you're ALWAYS going to have had problems. At least now you'll get 1/5th of the problems you would have before.

If companies want to argue that a domain is their intellectual property, they should damn well look after it and not "forget" that they are leasing it in 2-year (or, now, 10-year) terms.

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Want to be a better marksman? Play shooting games

Lee Dowling
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Re: Well bugger me sideways

If you added the disclaimer "better on your first attempt than someone who HASN'T played any sort of simulation" (which is what this study really shows), then I'd actually say:

Yes. You probably should (be better).

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Now on Freeview HD: Olympic arts channel that's tough to watch

Lee Dowling
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Re: Uh ho...

Well, judging by recent experience, ANYTHING has to be better than "The Triplets of Belleville".

I honestly think I'd rather watch the light going on and off.

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