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* Posts by Lee Dowling

1188 posts • joined 28 Mar 2007

Megaupload master loses Call of Duty crown

Lee Dowling
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Happy

Neighbours? Really?

My neighbours on one side want to have a drunken row at the top of their voices every other night (and when someone yells "I don't love you any more, I'm leaving" - for the fiftieth time - and the whole neighbourhood thinks "Thank feck for that", you know it's true love), and regularly flood the downstairs flat resulting in screaming arguments about taps at 3am, accompanied by fire engines arriving to assess the structural stability (fortunately, they are detached). The only other thing I hear is them constantly yelling the daughter's name into the garden for ten or more minutes for her to come to dinner (rather than going and GETTING her, for instance, or punishing her when she doesn't come, or even better actually teach your 8-year-old child that they get two calls and then they go hungry). Other than that, we don't see them / hear them, even the child.

My neighbours on the other side just moved in and don't give a nod to me. Their predecessors did the same. Hell, even when they moved in and had their whole family there giving them a hand, they didn't even acknowledge my existence until I'd nearly parked on one of them with my car. We get a "Morning" if we're lucky.

My "neighbours" upstairs are nice enough but religious (my gf is a geneticist and I'm of a scientific mind, so we don't really have that much in common), and at least talk when they have the opportunity - the guy works nights for a delivery company and the woman is possibly the most ignorant woman ever (sends her kids to answer the door if anyone rings, who then relay the message to her back and forth etc., and I've never even known her to be supervising the kids when he's not there). I have seen her precisely once. And apart from their Sunday morning tramp down the stairs with their kids, or them taking in a parcel for us, we never really hear from them. I have not ever entered any of their properties, even for a cup of tea, let alone got to make friends with them.

This baffles my Italian girlfriend and her family because they come from a small village and expect everyone to know everyone and they try to greet these people and make friends and are offended when they get completely ignored (and/or never get past good morning).

My previous residence with my ex? Same sort of thing. The only time I saw the neighbours was when one ran round to tell us our garden was on fire (actually, we were only having a barbecue), and she was from across the street, not next door.

The previous residence before that? Two nice enough neighbours but similar amounts of contact. We hired a helium bottle off one because she was a wedding planner who knew where to get them cheap, that was about all the contact we had and she was reluctant to go even that far for us.

There are areas where you can get to know your neighbours (my previous neighbour to all of those actually drives about 20 miles each week to come and see my parents), but the chances of you actually getting *on* with your neighbours (beyond "Good Morning") seem to be remarkably slim nowadays.

When you don't even know their names (and those you do, only by overhearing screaming arguments), let alone their jobs, it's a sign that they don't really care about making friends, even if you have tried (surely their name is the first thing you would find out if they spoke to you?). And it's not at all uncommon in densely populated areas to not know your neighbours at all.

Compared to that, I think I'll stick with the Internet and non-neighbouring friends I've had for years, who care, who know about me, who tell me about themselves and don't cause firemen to be discussing brickwork outside my bedroom window at 3am.

Real people can suck in comparison. :-)

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ITV wrist-slapped for showing video game as IRA attack

Lee Dowling
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If you wanted marketing, suing ITV for stealing your copyright images, broadcasting them on TV and misrepresenting them by linking them to IRA terrorism sounds like a pretty good way to get a lot of publicity.

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Lee Dowling
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More importantly - having no watermark or copy protection marked does NOT mean you can just snag it and broadcast it on TV.

I've seen complete episodes of ITV shows online with no watermark or copy protection marked on them - does that mean I can just rebroadcast it as much as I like after downloading it?

It's double-standards like this that makes the pirates feel "justified" in what they do and hence encourages piracy.

Where's the lawsuit from the game developers for misappropriating and misrepresenting their copyrighted imagery?

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BT biz broadband staggers to its feet after 4-hour titsup

Lee Dowling
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WTF?

"Consumer" products don't tend to come with "Business" in the title.

Leased lines are no good for pure-download capacity and we have no need of upload capacity (beyond about 3 occasional VPN users, we have no external-facing servers, but 400+ downloading users during the working day). And have you SEEN leased line prices? The words fecking and ridiculous come to mind. We have 48Mbps download, and the equivalent in leased line would cost hundreds of times more than double business-ADSL2+ lines. I quote the top Google ad for UK leased lines: "Leased Line ****FROM**** £299 p/m" (and they barely start at 2Mbps). We pay about £50 a month at the moment.

The problem is not the technology, or the capability, or even the occasional disconnection, it's the service compared to their rivals offering similar products - but I've never seen something ADSL disconnect that often, consumer or not. BT are the most unreliable ADSL2 provider. And 99% of businesses will never be able to afford even the most basic leased line compared to a similar DSL line.

I can literally buy 12 ADSL2+ ***BUSINESS*** lines from different suppliers (or cable lines, or 3G connections) and load balance them for less than the cost of a 2Mbps line. I'd also get 12 phone lines thrown in for that, 288Mbps of download capacity (and, yes, you can load-balance most web access quite easily and effectively, especially with the right caching), 11 redundant lines and one heck of a cabling mess but hell, I'd rather have that than a 2MBps up/down line with leased-line service.

Not every business is made of money, and not every business has the same needs.

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Lee Dowling
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Had this this morning.

At first, it was the ADSL Authentication failing on two ADSL2+ lines we have. That went away quite quickly, though, and has been replaced by a completely useless authenticated session that won't shift traffic at all (literally, even a ping only hears silence). Both lines seem to be the same.

I switched us onto our emergency 3G stick which handles the traffic well for about a day before we hit limits, but the two business ADSL lines are still out of commission.

Shall I demonstrate how reliable BT are as a business provider?

My employers asked me to build a device that can automatically cut the power to the two routers we have, wait 30 seconds and restore power to them (and then restart networking scripts, etc.) at the order of a special text message (coincidentally to the same stick we use for emergency 3G access). It happens that often that our one-and-only VPN user actually "hard-reboots" the routers via text on a regular basis when his VPN software can't connect.

Our two lines aren't even stable enough to just run off one most of the time, I had to implement a very fancy failover / connection balancing system using a Linux router to get some sort of stability. Even then, about once a week the local exchange (50 yards away) decides to kill one or more of our sessions and we have to reconnect (via hard power off described above) for no visible reason.

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NASA shuts off Voyager 1's central heating

Lee Dowling
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Sigh

And how many of the engineers who worked on creating that superb device thought that it would just be winking out in 2011 with nothing even close to follow it, no men ever touching the Moon again, etc?

I always think about that scene from a movie (I forget which) which started with flying through space, past Voyager, and onto the main plot of the movie. Did anyone really expect that we'd never overtake it (or even send anything in that direction again) in the 30-something years after it left?

I think one of the big milestones of future exploration will be to image / recapture those devices as we overtake them. But at this rate, it'll take hundreds of years.

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Japanese cops cuff six smut-scam ransomware suspects

Lee Dowling
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Stop

"Using the new technology such as reputation and cloud can definitely help remedy this situation. But is there any real fundamental solution to stop this endless game of cat and mouse?

We think one possible solution is to stop producing one-clickware."

Er, no. The ONLY solution that will ever work is to stop using browsers that allow you to execute programs via one click on a rogue website - it simply should not be possible to do so without specifically saying "I want to break my computer". Thus ends "oneclickware" or even "fiftyclickware".

The greatest flaw with antivirus has ALWAYS been it's whitelist/blacklist nature. It has no way to detect a million and one variations of the same code, and the bits that actually MATTER (i.e. it can create a window that can't be closed, register itself on startup etc.) are the things that are supposed to be under the control of the operating system itself. If the OS didn't allow it, they wouldn't be able to do it, no matter how "well disguised" the malware was or whether the AV had previously seen it elsewhere enough to merit it being listed in their weekly/monthly updates.

Stop running programs that allow you to do this, stop saying Yes to everything, stop using OS's and configurations that make it possible for ordinary users to mess up the entire system instead of just a single user account.

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Teen net addicts pee in bottles to stay glued to WoW

Lee Dowling
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To an extent, you're correct.

But when it's your own child's time (and not "free-time" but sleep-pattern destroying, middle-of-the-night, hours-glued-to-the-screen-and-getting-RSI, 'must-do' gaming) then it's your problem as a parent. Free time is the afternoons, early evenings, not 3am unless you're working shifts.

Hell, when I was a kid, we had these things called bedtimes so that we got up for school in the mornings. Now I work in schools (not a teacher) and they have "breakfast clubs" so that kids actually get a chance to eat breakfast because their parents can't be arsed to provide the time for them by getting up 10 minutes earlier (they can personally drop them off to school by 8:30 - but no early because of school rules because the school end up with dozens of kinds at 6am - but they can't be bothered to feed them at 8:20 before they come out), children falling asleep in lessons and not having had simple things like breakfast, clean clothing, a bath/shower, etc. in the morning are actually becoming a big problem for schools (who are then obliged to provide said facilities in the interests of child welfare and chase the parents for years to make them do it). I've seen students having to be escorted to the school canteen at 9am because they haven't had anything to eat since lunch the previous day and you can *hear* their stomach rumbling. One school had to wash the child's clothes because the parent's "didn't have time", etc. They were reported, obviously, but it takes years for anything to happen about that.

Modern life does alter sleep patterns to a crazy extent if you let it, but nobody in full-time education (i.e. under 18 now) should be still up at 3am if they have school the next day on a regular basis, and not just to play a game, and certainly not to the extent that they can't be bothered to pee properly. One-off's, sure. Holidays, possibly. Insomnia, understandable. But it's not unheard of for kids to just not go to bed at all and the teachers to have to cope with that the next day because the parents are too disconnected to enforce a bed time.

There's always a certain amount of hyperbole with stories like this but they do point at an increasing trend. Children, in general, are *NOT* having their phones switched off at night. They aren't stopped from going on the computer at 3am and doing so unsupervised. They are sacrificing huge portions of their sleep for purely social purposes which is having knock-on effects on education, schools and their future careers. They are addicted to the games and social interactions to the point where they don't want to pee. And some parents are entirely ignorant of this and don't really care.

With sensible parenting, it's not a problem, even if the exact incident as described here happens. Who cares? But without sensible parenting, such things are an indicator of a child that will grow up at a severe educational disadvantage, liable to addiction, unable to sleep on a schedule at all, and over-working themselves in the busiest times of life for their brain. Nobody wants to be a nanny, but this sort of thing is an indicator as to what will happen to these children later, and what's going on at home now.

Nobody cares if your kid plays games until 3am. On a non-school night. Or on a holiday. With your knowledge and (appropriate) supervision (which can be zero if you trust them enough). But people do care if they are so addicted to the game that sleeping, or even a short break to relieve themselves somehow becomes less important than talking to their "friend" on the other side of the world.

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Lee Dowling
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My only comment:

There's only one thing to say about this:

Where the hell is/are the parent(s)?

Everything else is moot in the face of that question.

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Ten... laptop accessories

Lee Dowling
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Worse - there are much smaller printers, much smaller projectors (some stupidly tiny), much smaller USB hubs, much more efficient and smaller car chargers for laptops (even generic, multi-voltage ones), and things like the mouse are an abomination.

I was hoping to see a small USB scanner for a half-decent price. I can safely say I would never buy any of the products listed there (£700 USB keys? Buy a fecking external 1Tb hard drive, or even 10, ffs). Even the soundbar is just a nice way to put extra leverage on your screen hinges, and hardly any of it is "portable".

If you want something to be a "laptop accessory" I have to be able to reasonable carry it in an ordinary laptop bag with all my other accessories. I don't think any of those items except the stupidly-expensive USB key would fit that bill.

No TV-tuners? (just bought a DVB-T and analog dual-tuner - so can watch / record two digital channels simultaneously - model for less than £20) No scanners? No external hard drives? No fancy gadgets like, I don't know, some sort of joypad/joystick that folds away? No mention of things like the wireless presenter controls that can slip into an Expresscard slot for storage, etc.? Disappointing, and very misnamed, round-up of useless and expensive products.

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Virgin Media broadband goes titsup for 3 hours

Lee Dowling
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Weird

I went down for 10 minutes (3G sticks save your life). When it came back up, everything worked right through to this morning when it was still working.

Admittedly I rebooted the router quite quickly but it the router status page just said "Access Denied" on the row where it normally gets access, so looks like it only lost connection to some kind of authentication server to get an IP address.

Funniest bit was going on VM's service status page, being asked for phone number, account number or postcode and being told that both my postcode and my VM phone number attached to the same line as the VM broadband I was having problems with and my VM telly wasn't a VM customer.

Maybe it was just internal connections at VM nearer my end? It came back up and I carried on, though, (after realising that my 3G provider somehow routes 192.168.10.X IP's (where my VM router normally sits) but not 192.168.20.X IP's (where my own wireless router sits) even though it was allocating me something in the 30.0.0.0 ranges). Confused me for a minute until I realised it was stamping over my normal wireless route to the router.

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Microsoft raises 'state of the art' son of NTFS

Lee Dowling
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My first thought too.

Strange, though, that I'm sitting here using a browser/email client that lets me tag things to my heart's content, have multiple views on my tagged data, and not show any sign of sluggishness even if I do a full-text content search over 10 years and Gb's of email data stored in multiple accounts. Opera does it all using an on-disk SQLite database to hold all that info and even learns Bayesian-style what labels should apply to what messages.

WinFS was actually a good idea, and one that's never seen the light of day because of junk like alpha-blended clocks. The only decent thing that I've ever looked forward to in an OS and *nobody* has a working implementation on any OS that I've seen, despite evidence that it's more than do-able.

If I wanted resiliency, I wouldn't be storing my data on an OS that can take hours to copy a few Gb's of data because of all the filesystem hooks and security checks it does, or can blue-screen the OS just by tweaking the wrong bit of an NTFS entry. Stop developing the junk and deliver on your promises of over a decade ago.

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OCZ refunds punter for dud drive shortly after El Reg steps in

Lee Dowling
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Seriously, she got through three devices in two years? I've just had to go buy a USB->IDE adaptor from Maplin's in order to pull off some data from hard drives that have been sitting in the same (operational) computer since 2000, 2005 and 2008 respectively. These are obviously old-fashioned spinning disk (even IDE) drives that have been spinning for years at a time throughout their life.

After that computer went into semi-retirement last year (after many years of reliable operation), I was tired of having to keep turning that machine back on to pull a couple of files and the Wifi in it was pitifully slow for remote file access, so I needed to copy all that data onto the £60 1TB external hard drive I got for Christmas.

Let's put it this way - I consider it a pretty typical scenario in my experience that I had more problems:

a) Extracting the drives from the jam-packed desktop case.

b) Stretching the cables and plugging them all into a laptop to perform the copy.

c) Accessing ext3 under Windows.

d) With Windows XP out-of-resources errors because of the sheer amount of files on those drives.

than I did with not being able to access even a single byte on those (collectively) 1Tb and half-decade-old-or-more drives. Hell, I have drives dating back to the 80's somewhere. I have more problems cobbling together an interface and reading the filesystem than I ever do with data integrity even if they've been in operation or sitting in a dusty, damp cupboard all that time.

I understand that SSD's aren't quite as reliable EVEN IF they give ludicrous MTBF's for them now, but hell - a drive capable of standing 1000's of G's of shock failing after only a few months? Duff software and programming in the firmware and no excuse. I don't even care if it just say "Sorry, too many cell failures on the SSD to write that byte - going readonly", it should boot up and do SOMETHING that lets you try to recover your data, or at least be detected.

You have my data. That's more precious than the most expensive warranty and replacement service available, even if I have every backup in the world and my data is worth nothing. Gigs of data should not just disappear overnight unless someone has done the equivalent of thrown your PC out of a window or set fire to it. SSD's are supposed to be even more resilient (I saw one the other day that said 1500 G's, operational or not - that's a CAR CRASH, ffs).

I don't care if you can send me a drive as soon as I send one back - that sort of turnaround isn't even enough time to be certain of keeping a RAID5 alive at those failure rates. And their response time seems to be far from that (unless you get The Reg involved, apparently).

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Lee Dowling
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Translation

We got caught trying to escape having to give the customer what they asked for and what we'd promised. We knew she wouldn't bother to take it to court, so we just kept telling her that she wouldn't get a refund but just another probably-broken drive instead because that costs us almost nothing.

When we hit the press and might get some bad sentiment over it (with customers like ME now putting them on the blacklist for SSD's if they fail that bad - sod the refund or replacement, I'm trusting your drives with my data) we did what we should have done all along and that any court would have made us do anyway.

Cheers, OCZ, you just my future purchasing decisions easier by removing an entire company from my list of potentials.

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Arcade emulator MAME slips under Apple radar

Lee Dowling
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Ignoring all that

http://mamedev.org/legal.html says that MAME may not be sold, must include the complete source code (including all that required to build binaries - i.e. the Apple API's no doubt) and that the name is a registered trademark.

Apple should never have approved it in the first place and whoever submitted it and approved it are likely to get into trouble if MAME kick up a fuss.

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UK.gov imposes broadband deadline for councils

Lee Dowling
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Stupid name

I can just see the situation in a few decades.

"No longer must community struggle along on super-broadband speeds. As of today, BT are required to provide super-mega-turbo-hyper-fighting-edition-broadband-alpha speeds."

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The moment a computer crash nearly caused my car crash

Lee Dowling
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And there ABS is little better than pumping brakes on a non-ABS car (and can be worse on some surfaces which ABS has no way to detect).

The "everyone else is a pillock" mantra is quite, quite, true, but you can't modify their behaviour. Otherwise nobody would have side-impact bars because, in the normal course of things, most people would never have a side-impact unless SOMEONE was driving dangerously.

That said, the bloke in his driveway needs ABS too. So it's a no-win situation. Everyone has the same level of car braking, which is the same as all of us having cars with none of these safety features. We didn't gain anything here, because other people drive cars that are just as fecking dangerous as ours, even with our fancy ABS, airbags, SIPS and everything else.

The problem is that all those safety features DO also lead to complacent driving. Cars are advertised now with things that detect you nodding off, or veering out of your lane, for feck's sake. And I can name several people who genuinely believed that ABS meant Automatic Braking System, because they see that feature on SOME cars in the news (where it can brake to avoid collisions) and assume that's what ABS is (hell, it's even a trick question on the theory test now, it's such a popular belief!). I know people who speed because they have good brakes (what about the idiot behind you - his brakes have to be as good, if not better!), or corner fast because they have traction control, etc. Don't even get me started on the things I've seen on cars with cruise-control.

Yes, they can serve a purpose in the right hands. But in the wrong hands they make already-bad drivers much more complacent and deadly.

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Lee Dowling
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On ice, ABS generally performs no better than a skilled driver. If you don't know how to drive in icy conditions, you probably shouldn't drive on them. For a start, you should NOT be gliding into the vans in front of you (insufficient braking distance, ice or not, ask your insurers) especially if you know to release and reapply the brakes repeatedly in the absence of ABS (in the way everyone was taught to before ABS became standard - but DON'T try it on an ABS car unless you're in gravel or loose earth, where ABS fails miserably) rather than hold it down and hope for the best. Hell, even with ABS usually the best path is to not lock the wheels if you can help it but steer gently away. This pumping or ABS only allows the wheel to regain traction which you can then use to slow yourself further until the wheel skids again. ABS does nothing more than this, it just does it for you and slightly faster.

And, actually, I've hit black ice on motorways several times and watched everyone else careen off the road because they weren't watching in front where all the other cars did the same and either glided to a halt behind them (and ABS cars make a horrible grinding feel when you do that on such a surface) or driven calmly past them while holding the steering wheel for dear life. It's not fun, but it's also not entirely unpreventable in most circumstances.

Spot loss of control of vehicle, release throttle, MAYBE apply brake (depends on circumstances), MAYBE pump brake (depends on car and circumstances), steer ever-so-gently. But ice doesn't magically form on roads with no warning of outside temperatures - I'm not saying you'll *see* it but you're expected to take notice of the possibility of it.

Now, if you'd said "oil spill", I'd be much more inclined to agree with you.

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Lee Dowling
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More importantly - think how would you explain it to a police officer (which is always a good exercise in "Should I be doing this?").

"Sorry, officer, I know the car has a fault and even have a garage appointment for it, but I thought I'd drive it there, across 20 blocks of public roads in the ice, knowing it has a fault rather than get a tow truck out."

I doubt a grieving family would be any more sympathetic to that answer, either.

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Lee Dowling
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For an *UNRELATED* problem (i.e. oil change).

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Lee Dowling
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I think the point of the OP was that if you need ABS, you're driving too fast / close in the first place anyway. Driving skill and common sense trumps technology any time.

That said, ABS *can* outperform a top driver in braking, but not by much, and certainly not on certain surfaces (which it has no way to detect, like gravel). But then, so would just driving slightly slower.

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Lee Dowling
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1) Don't buy things without checking for things you won't like.

2) If something says SERVICE ME in big letters, get it serviced and don't ignore it. Especially when it tells you in the car manual what the hell it will do.

3) You can service Mercedes the same as any other car in any garage that has the knowledge. You don't need to be a Mercedes agent to turn the light off (at least, in the UK, because it would be illegal under competition laws) but you might need to buy an OBD adaptor or two (which is nothing for a garage). Also, you might lose your warranty with Mercedes but that much is obvious (and if you don't want to lose that warranty, you can ONLY have it serviced by Mercedes).

4) I very much doubt that a lack of acceleration could put you in any genuine danger unless you were actually *expecting* the car to accelerate and basing your safety on that fact (i.e. you were driving insufficiently carefully).

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Lee Dowling
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Driver Error

The computer was NOT at fault. You were driving a known-faulty car in icy conditions, at high speed, across train tracks and presumably in other traffic. You knew there was something wrong with the car and kept driving it. You knew there was ice but didn't mention it or give it a second thought. You couldn't even feel that your tyres weren't gripping on the ice you'd PARKED on or that you wheelspun a little. You continued your journey (from the sounds of it, after SEVERAL of these drop-out incidents and loud bangs from the car) with no care for the car's state and tried to negotiate a train crossing with potentially disastrous results. You were DRIVING TO A GARAGE for feck's sake - it wasn't an urgent appointment and you could have stopped and pulled over and called them to come get you at any point.

All because you were too fecking reliant on your car's technology to tell you there was a problem, ignorant of it when it did, and too stubborn to interrupt your journey for a potentially fatal problem that caused you to slow suddenly with loud bangs coming from your car. You do know that you can literally FIRE components out of a faulty gearbox / engine through the bodywork? You do know that your engine is quite capable of combustion? You do know that the car is made of extremely fast moving solid metal parts that can do untold damage to themselves, fuel lines, pedestrians, yourself etc.?

You're a bloody idiot, mate. The car was trying to save your life based on the little information it has and was unfortunate enough to be lumbered with a human operator that constantly overrode it to drive against its wishes, despite major warning signs of potentially ANY failure (mechanical or not), and had no concept of the driving conditions around him.

Take the bus next time, and do everyone a favour.

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OCZ wheels out lower octane SSD for Sunday drives

Lee Dowling
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How would that be different to any other hard drive or storage device?

If it lasts longer than the computer it's in, I consider that a success. If not, it's a failure. The chances of using even 5+ year old hardware are slim, let alone 10+ or more. Ten years ago XP didn't exist - now it's obsolete. I don't honestly expect my hard drive to last that sort of time, even though every one I've owned (with the exception of a 40Mb model decades ago) has lasted that long or longer.

Similarly, I do have computers that are 10+ years old running but I honestly don't expect their graphics cards, or monitors, or RAM, or CD Drive, or any of their components to not burn out at any moment. I won't replace them until they do but I don't expect it.

A drive that given 100,000 hours is more than adequate enough for any business or personal use so long as you're using your brain and backing up anyway, and almost all the drives I've ever bought that stated a MTBF in that range lasted at least that long. This has no moving parts and pretty predictable statistical decay of its components, so I can quite believe the MTBF to be accurate. With SSD's, I've often seen even 2m hrs quoted. Why not? I've seen EEPROM's last longer than that and still be perfectly functional. With SSD's you have all sorts of checksums and parity and spare sectors and everything else to cope with normal use.

My next purchase will be a nice SSD but I'll be more worried about controller failures and firmware upgrades of the damn thing than I ever will about it actually dying on me. And I'll *STILL* take every measure necessary to make sure I don't lose a byte even if they came with £10m of data guarantees.

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Ebooks must stay fat with VAT, blame the EU, MPs told

Lee Dowling
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Well, yes, because VAT is really only charged on "non-essential" or "luxury" items. Although books are classified as essential in order to encourage people to read (a skill which I can easily see the justification as being essential), a Kindle reader or a PC aren't and it's hard to class an ebook as essential if you require something "non-essential" in order to read the damn thing.

I see no reason to take VAT off it, either, whether we had existing agreements or not. If you classed an ebook as essential, then ebook readers of one kind or another would have to be VAT-free as well and that's just a silly loss of income. And although IT is pretty important in the modern world, it's far from "essential" at the moment because there's still whole groups of people who don't have computers at home. If IT is ever classed as "essential", then we generate a whole lot more problems like having to give everyone Internet access (and not being able to cut them off), having to subsidise PC's for the low-earners (parts of which we do already), more reliance on power networks, etc.

Seems like it wasn't really that tough a decision to make, or to see which way they'd go.

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Ofcom squeezes local TV into 20 cities' tight White Spaces

Lee Dowling
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Wait... so we've spent years clearing up frequencies to pave the way for digital TV (where we can literally have hundreds of channels and broadcast local ones only locally if necessary), only to fill up those frequencies we're now *not* using with local TV broadcasts that "shouldn't" interfere?

I'm confused. And we *have* to spend money to make local TV happen? What exactly is going to be on the "London" channel that's not on any of the other digital channels and/or isn't covered in the 5-minute "local news/weather" section of the normal news (Do TV channels even still have that? I haven't watched a news program in about a decade).

My concern is mainly that there's enough dross on TV to activate my internal spam filter without creating more and every channel I don't watch is one I'm paying for anyway. Is local TV really necessary when most nights the national news can't even do a decent broadcast without delving into celebrity gossip and finding a cat with 18 toes (which is one of the main reasons I stopped watching "everything" news broadcasts and started researching the things *I* found interesting instead)?

I don't want DibleyTV. Nor, I suspect, do most people in the areas mentioned. The Welsh are probably crying out for more Welsh programmes though - I'd rather they had them, so long as they get watched, than some local "reporter" telling me about a one-legged duck.

We don't have a shortage of channels. Those days passed the second Sky entered the analogue TV market and Freeview etc. followed. What we have now is too much junk, repeats, adverts and pointless programs that don't get viewers. I don't see how local TV will remedy that situation at all.

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OpRobinHood more likely to stiff punters than bankers

Lee Dowling
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PIty those striking in London couldn't see the same argument for their "cause" either.

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Brussels' statement of objections against Google is MEATY

Lee Dowling
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Yes. And Starbuck's should let me buy a Costa coffee in their shop, Visa should let me pay for Mastercard transactions with my card, and Argos' website should direct me to Ikea for furniture.

There's having a dominant position, and ABUSING a dominant position and they are two different things. I don't see Google-branded products stuffed into every website I go to except where the webmasters have CHOSEN to do that. I don't see Google MAKING you have them as their homepage, or stopping you going to another site.

It's the people who are too dumb to recognise that Google is a business and they have a CHOICE as to whether to use it or not that are complaining. Those who don't want to use it aren't using it, and they're not obliged to, ever.

Compare to trying to buy a PC without Windows on it, as of ten years ago. Now *THAT'S* abuse of a dominant position.

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Assange: 'iPhone, BlackBerry, Gmail users - you're all screwed'

Lee Dowling
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All devices are security risks. Millions of things are security risks. The point is not that they are a risk, but how to handle them and make yourself aware of that risk. If you wrote your email on a computer with a chip in it, or with certain toolbars installed, chances are that you're less safe than your smartphone anyway.

I use GMail, for personal email. I use a mobile phone, for personal conversations. I use Facebook, for posting select information. I don't have anything that I wouldn't show a court on demand, so it's not really a problem.

The simple fact is that almost all my emails are interceptable and readable, and not just by governments. I know that. I'm not stupid. My text messages are inherently insecure too. My phone calls. Faxes I send. All of them insecure and incredibly easy to be tapped by a determined entity. Worrying that GMail might be intercepted by a program on my Android phone is a little pointless in the face of that, even if it's by a commercial entity. If I was that worried, I'd not be using anything with that capability anyway (i.e. no smartphones at all).

But the stuff that matters, that's where you need to look at risks, not the stuff that doesn't. My credit card info is only stored at my bank and the vendors that I deal with. Thus it's not "high-risk" unless I'm stupid enough to email them my card number (or they do the same back to me). But even my bank transactions are not free from risk - credit card fraud is easy, key-snooping is simple, governments and law enforcement have COMPLETE access to my financial details if they want (not by my request, but just the way that things work). Anything in my email account may need to be produced to a court of law on demand. Even my computer isn't "safe".

That's the point here - you can worry about the stupid things that you can't avoid or you can worry about the important things that you can avoid. If you want to send some "super-secret" information in a way that your government won't know about it or be able to trace you, it's not easy but it is possible if you use your brain. If you want to send an email to your mate, it's not really that important who reads it.

However, if you use any device that you don't have the entire electrical specifications for, that hasn't been verified by you personally to meet those specifications, wasn't assembled in a clean-room with components that you've personally verified and watched all the way, doesn't have a completely open firmware with source code that you've compiled double with two different compilers (which you should compile each other with too) and compared the output to ensure rogue code isn't inserted, where you've verified every binary bit of the end product, then you *CAN'T* be safe. Basically, for all practical purposes, none of the above will ever happen for anything you buy in a shop. So it's game over unless you want to sit with your tin-foil hat hand-assembling transistors for the next decade.

And a government, or even a corporate entity, that reads my email, or even taps every byte of my home connection, wouldn't be unusual at all even in a first-world country (it only takes a suspicion of links to terrorism and a court order, even if you require them to do it legally) and they would get bored incredibly quickly. No, they shouldn't be doing it, but the point is that it takes seconds and you could be monitored now. Some crappy app on your smartphone is hardly the end of the world in comparison, and completely defeated by you a) not using it or b) at least not using it for anything you want to stay private.

Risk is a sliding scale of impact on me, consequence on others and chance. There's a risk that GMail will publish my entire inbox to the world next Tuesday and I'll be on the news. It would have virtually zero impact, but huge consequences for others and the chance is INCREDIBLY low. There's a risk that a smartphone is broadcasting my emails and location to a company in the US. It would have virtually zero impact, huge consequences for others and the chance is slightly higher. In terms of how you use those items (i.e. to communicate with people in foreign countries), there's probably no better way in the entire world though, than to trust GMail / smartphones.

That said, I don't use smartphones. Not for any privacy risk but because I really don't want to spend huge amounts of time managing yet-another-computer when all I need is a connection to a mobile network. Impact on my time to use a smartphone is high, consequences for others is zero, risk of something going titsup is high. It's a worse deal.

There is legislation in place for companies that abuse privileges (and these key-tapping smartphones aren't in Britain, probably because of our Phorm issues and the associated court cases) and that's the best you can do.

Everything's a risk. But not everything that avoids that risk is worth the time, effort and money to do so.

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Toshiba readies zero Watt standby mode telly

Lee Dowling
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Solution:

A cheap NiCd battery, like some of us used to have on our motherboards, that activates charging only when its nearing zero battery life, that the MILLIWATTS of power required to detect an IR remote signal and act on it can run off for months at a time without ever needing to charge (and can charge all the time when the TV is actually ON). Or Li-Ion. Or NiMH. Or lead-acid. Or, hell, just a couple of alkalines.

All standby NEEDS is a way to recieve an IR signal and turn on. Everything else is wasteful and we don't have the 100-second warm-ups that ancient CRT's could have (and they never had standby anyway) any more.

I had one PC with a NiCd battery running its CMOS (and charging whenever the computer was on) run for nearly a decade before it needed replacing (and then it was a two-second job). There's no reason for fancy capacitors (that WILL blow and be an unreliable and potentially dangerous component) when you could just stick a battery with an intelligent charging circuit in there.

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Lee Dowling
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Well

Erm... why has standby mode EVER taken more than a few millwatts anyway? 38KHz Infrared sensor, tiny chip to handle processing it (literally in the 10p throw-away chip category), and a relay. When the sensor sees the right signal (and ONLY has to worry about the power button signal) the chip activates the relay. You can even get "all-in-one" infrared modules that do just that (and Maplin's sell no end of kits that do exactly the same).

Those circuits? Milliwatts of power. Literally. Maybe you lose a little more for things like power-conversion from the mains to the circuit but easily solved with things like this - i.e. put a small rechargeable battery in your TV to run that circuit that charges from the mains only when necessary and you could run it for years so long as it powered the milliwatt circuit long enough to cope with your longest standby time (and it could be argued that if your TV goes to standby for more than a couple of weeks, it should really turn itself off anyway). We're talking about a pound's worth of the most cheap, easily available, reliable, replaceable, simple technology known to man - the sort of thing that even the most amateur of hobbyists could knock up for you in a day with bits from their junk boxes.

*THAT'S* what I don't understand about standby, not why it has to be "zero watts" standby at all (and if you want to be like that, my system could be just as "zero watts" as their capacitor system). If you can run it off a capacitor for that length of time, then why the hell is it pulling any significant amount of power from the mains socket at all? It's lazy engineering, maybe even deliberately "wearing" so you have to replace your TV, and there's never been any excuse.

Do you see people moaning that their car key-fob systems are so powerful they wear down the car battery? My Mondeo has IR-controlled remote central locking. What, precisely, is the difference between a remote IR-signal activating a door-lock/ignition that has to keep total offline car power usage WAY below 100mA at 12V (i.e. 1.2W at absolute maximum, and most of that is things like radio memory, LEDs, alarm, etc. and STILL doesn't hit that actual figure, that's just the maximum the manufacturer says you can trickle-feed from the battery at all times) and a TV standby mode? And my car is likely to sit for two-weeks unattended in an airport carpark, but my TV isn't (and I don't care if it has to switch off in that circumstance, whereas my car battery dying is a bit more critical).

Standby modes that take anywhere near 1W were always nothing more than incredibly poorly designed and built. That's why people got into the habit of leaving their TV's on standby back when people could build reliable electronic components that didn't suck power for no reason.

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Open-source skills best hope for landing a good job

Lee Dowling
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This is my experience too.

I work in schools and I feel a surge of pain every time I am asked to buy a license for something like SQL Server or Windows Server for some job that could more easily be done some other way (not just monetary, but technically too). Our fax server is a Linux machine running OS software for the task. Our IM server is a Linux machine running OS software for the task. Our web filter is a Linux machine running OS software for the task. Our firewall, our file storage server, our intranet, our website, some of our databases, our network scanning, our print management, our offline backups, etc. If I bought a Windows server for each task (and I would need 2-3x as many Windows servers as Linux servers at best anyway - all that runs off ONE machine that's doing a lot more besides) I'd spend thousands and thousands just on licences. When you *need* high-powered SQL, then it's worth paying for it. When you don't (e.g. your own website, intranet, other menial tasks etc.), then a MySQL instance is more than enough (and some would say even too much!).

The proprietary access-control software that I installed in work uses the FireBird SQL server - it's like SQLite and designed for use in programs running on all OS. Everything it does is queriable via SQL using the appropriate standardised tools but it saves in a simple small backup-able file on your normal filesystem (and thus you can easily backup, restore, have multiple installs, etc.) and is ideal for small database installs on Windows (or even Linux - it has Linux tools and the above Linux server queries the access control system every 30 seconds or so to make a primitive In/Out board). Firebird takes literally seconds to install from scratch. We really *don't* need an installation of SQL Server (or even Express) like the boiler-control software I have uses to store historical boiler temperatures that the software itself won't even let you query anyway but won't install without (and took 2 hours to reinstall after a server crash the other day).

Sometimes, you know, a simpler, smaller tool is better for the job. You can keep all your fancy grass-collecting drive-on lawnmowers when you only have 6ft of lawn to cut anyway because it's wasteful and unnecessary. If you told people that they would have to pay a licence for the shelves you fit in their house, they'd pop down to B&Q and learn how to fit one themselves. But when it comes to software, they will happily spend hundreds on Windows, hundreds more on Office, THOUSANDS on SQL Server and Exchange (and people to manage it), more on things like WinZip etc. and be no better off than if they'd replaced most of those components with OS software.

That doesn't mean there aren't places that benefit from that software but the truth is that 90% of small businesses wouldn't.

Linux as an OS replacement for Windows is a big step, it has to be said, but it's still perfectly viable for servers where you don't CARE because the only people to sit down in front of it and start fiddling with your database internals are going to be technical anyway (and probably don't care what OS it's on). But silly, everyday things don't all need stonking great CAL's for hugely over-complex programs all the time. Seriously, do I *really* need Windows and an SQL Server install to see that my boiler is running a little hot and lower the threshold? No. Do I need it to store the database of people and cards that can access the site? No. Do I need it to run a Mediawiki intranet? No. Do I need it to run most small-business databases at all? No. But people get told what to buy by other businesses and apply the advice literally without thinking. A small office does NOT need an Exchange server (where just a plain email server would do with some basic calendaring software), or a huge Windows Server to store files (when a small NAS box or Linux Samba share would do), or SQL Server for a database accessed by a handful of people (when a small MySQL or even flat-file databases would do).

And you have to think of ongoing costs. If your system rely on SQL Server, you need someone who can manage it. You also need to keep it running all the time. And you need to upgrade it when the software that "needs" it requires an upgrade. And you might need to install redundant backup servers that can take over that task from others, etc. The costs soon spiral ridiculously for something that wasn't necessary.

Disclaimer: I spent my entire adult career moving schools from RM to plain Microsoft systems (because, believe it or not, that was a huge step in the right direction) and have spent the last few years slowly migrating a private school to Linux where appropriate. I'd saved them my annual salary in licensing, extra hardware, etc. within the first few months with ZERO compromise of expected functionality, availability, reliability, backup, etc.

It's not for everything (anyone that tells you that Linux can do it all should be viewed in the same light as someone saying that a screwdriver can be made to do every job for every level of the service sector) but it can surely replace a lot of nonsensical, wasteful uses of technology.

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Think your CV is crap? Your interview skills are worse

Lee Dowling
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The author seems to have come down a peg or two since the previous article and now has some decent, if basic, advice. I'm still not sure I believe it all (Really? You want me to swot up on interview puzzles that might crop up? Are you hiring someone to work for Puzzler World or do you want someone who can actually do the JOB you're asking of them? Just because MS/Google have "weird" interview techniques that people think are cool, doesn't mean they apply in the same way to Joe Bloggs hiring a code-monkey - my favourite answer in an interview was "I have no idea, but if you give me an web browser, your technical documentation and twenty minutes, I'll find out that information for you, like I would if problems I was uncertain of cropped up during my job") but it's a mite more useful, even if completely contrived (Don't turn up late? Gosh, never considered that).

To the Author: An elitest attitude just makes everyone hate you - the people you're trying to help, the people doing the same job as you, and the people who employ you. This second article is much more within the realms of "This is advice from someone who deals with this a bit more than you do" rather than "OBEY ME, MINIONS, FOR I AM INFALLIBLE!"

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Go back to the future with Red Dwarf

Lee Dowling
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And if it's anything like Back to Earth, you can keep it and wait twelve years before you film another. Boy, that was a heap of junk.

The point of bringing a show back is to remind us how good it was. Not to make us cringe at the blatant money-chasing of a previously well-regarded British comedy brand.

Seriously - I will watch the first episode. If it's shit, I'm sorry but I won't watch anything else you push with the name, and my collection of Red Dwarf DVD's will never extend past series 8 for the rest of my life.

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Renault Fluence ZE

Lee Dowling
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10 years from now, renewables will make up just 10% of capacity if we even manage to stick to what we've agreed to (and that doesn't mean 10% of what we need - peak energy times are the problem - 10% of our power means NOTHING if it's delivered at the wrong time or only intermittently).

When fossil fuels run out, how do you think you'll be able to MAKE those solar panels, electric cars etc. and transport them? It's a much bigger problem than "Oh, we'll just move onto something else" - literally catastrophic. And that's why pissing about WASTING MORE ENERGY by having incredibly inefficient electric cars (how much coal do you need to burn to make them move a mile, including production and servicing costs?) and all their requirements is actually just making the problem worse - not to mention driving us closer to shortage in plastics and rare-earth materials (Lithium, etc.).

The options? Nuclear. Cheap, simple, well-understood, hugely powerful (makes up the majority of current world production) at the (current) expense of only a single material (which is estimated to last longer than the oil), which can be recycled several times and doesn't pollute the atmosphere, and whose next generation of plants won't even burn that up (fusion is scientifically possible today and has a virtually infinite supply of raw material available to us today too).

But, no, apparently we have to scrap all our nuclear and have things be sloshed about by the waves, gently blown by the wind and slightly heated by the sun instead. You know why? Carbon credits, which we have signed up to, and which we HAVE to now spend money on to make us look go at actual energy-production (and, ironically, the environment's) expense.

Alternative fuels are currently shite. They can't cope with 10% of current demand if you add them all together (which means one fairly-modern bog-standard nuclear plant could actually outpace the entire investment and deployment of all renewable energy in the UK for the last 50 years). They won't cope with any rise required for electric cars and other shite (and, yes, RISE in demand). They also provide more problems than they solve because nuclear plants can be turned on, shut down and powered down. Wind, wave and solar work on their own schedules which are almost opposite to peak demands and have inherently transport/storage costs.

The renewable energy market is currently a subsidised money-grab for private firms and nothing more. We'll meet our carbon targets and STILL not be generating enough electricity by those methods to do anything useful on a national scale (while demand will still rise, possibly exponentially). They aren't providing anything near the existing production methods which we

have been trying to scrap for 100 years.

Sod wind, wave, solar. They just don't provide enough Watts per metre to ever be practical on such a large scale, even with ideal components. Replace them all, and whatever coal/oil plants we have, with a handful of nuclear stations and not have to worry about energy for the next 50 years or so at all.

But apparently, that's not "politically compatible" (i.e. no-one wants to live next to a nuclear plant, whereas fields of huge, creaking, noisy, spinning turbines that can take out your house if their brakes fail are just fine overhead).

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Lee Dowling
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What do you think is being burnt to push 30A down a copper cable hundreds of miles long into your house so you can charge the car? Wind? That unreliable, extremely-low-power, subsidised because it's carbon-friendly (which makes us keep to some international agreements), waste of time? No. Fossil fuels. We *aim* to make fossil fuels provide only 90% of our electricity within the next decade. We're currently hovering at about 96%. If the fossil fuels run out, we won't have the infrastructure to even cope with electric cars at all and they'd probably be banned because of their inefficiency and the strain they would put on the grid.

Electric cars are possibly one of the worst ideas for "saving energy" possible. Yes, YOU save energy. For a little while. And pay through the nose to do so. And that's only until power prices rise because of the ludicrous power demands that even one electric car puts on a household (peak demand is what costs money, not how much we use in the middle of the night, but are you always ONLY going to drive 50 miles away, 50 miles back and then leave it literally all night before you can do anything again?). And until you work out just how much lithium and copper you've used to create the thing in the first place (and it's charging stations, etc.) and how often you have to have those replaced. Did you *hear* how much that battery pack weighs? And it's almost solid lithium and needs to be changed every few years if you don't want your range to be cut in half.

The problem with finding a decent, well-priced e-car is that there can be no such thing at the moment, and not likely to be for a long time. Almost all e-car batteries use standard laptop-size Lithium modules that cost something like 50% of the price of the car - and that's the stupidly heavy part that you would have to be constantly swapping for new ones with some sort of station set up to lift hundreds of kilos of lithium out of every car that visits and doing something with it (charging it or shipping it somewhere for recycling).

Electric cars haven't progressed beyond the milk-floats of the 60's that ran on lead-acid and solved most of the major problems of doing so. Don't rely on them to provide you any sort of future, especially when the subsidies start to disappear and the country's peak-energy goes mad because of those few people who DO need to charge them during the day (imagine every appliance, heater, cooker and bulb in your house being turned on *constantly* for hours and hours on end and you get some idea of what those cars pull when they are charging with the most efficient charger possible today).

Hydrogen-based cars were sensible, but still have problems of their own. Electric cars are really a green-fad item until people work out that, actually, they create more problems than they solve. Yeah, it sounds cool that you have an electric car, but the one that the milkman's been driving for the last 50 years is probably more environmentally sound.

And, like I said, if fuel becomes short, your electricity prices sky-rocket even faster and you probably would find an e-car even worse value than just putting some petrol in the car itself. And at least you'd get a good 450 miles out of it in one hit.

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Why your tech CV sucks

Lee Dowling
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Ever thought that those excuses you're given for not reading your CV were actually just that, excuses? And if someone genuinely did ignore you for having UNIX on your CV when they wanted UNIX skills, or told you off for calling them up, that's really their loss, isn't it? Would you want to work for someone who treats applicants like that or is stupid enough to hire someone who treats applicants like that?

More likely, though, those excuses are more plain and simple: "We don't like your attitude, so we'll make something up to get rid of you". In two posts here, you've come across as an arrogant arse. There's nothing "special" in those things you've done - it's called your job and I've done just about the same myself and it's nothing I'd crow about in a CV. If anything, you sound "jack of all trades, master of none" from here.

My job was actually titled "IT Technician" for years and I actually did ALL of the things you listed above as part of the job for up to six different schools at a time . Everything. UNIX, mail, debugging (proper GDB and assembly-level to find a poorly-written-library-on-ARM problem), building and running entire networks including every little detail necessary and no-one to whinge to that X wasn't compatible with Y - I just had to make it work, C programming, scripting (entire schools still run on my scripts and programs every year and even things like the door-control people wanted my scripts that tap directly into the (hidden, custom-format) databases that their software used to do more interesting things than their own software could), open-source, etc.etc.etc.

I was self-employed and some schools called me "IT Technician", some "IT Manager" and some "IT Consultant" because of the range of stuff that I did. Hell, I made a living because myself, on my own, for 3 hours a week for each school was doing a better job than an entire London Borough Educational IT Support Team on yearly-contracts and entire schools ditched their contracts and went with myself instead. You won't find 99% of that on my CV and details would only come up in interview if you bothered to ask. I don't need to tell them, and they don't need to know in order to hire me.

I don't find any of it remotely interesting to crow about on a CV - it was my job, and still is and the only thing that's changed over the years are my employers, what they pay, and what they feel they want to call me. There's nothing "special" about that at all. And yet am I suitable for 99% of the "C programmer" jobs out there? No. Or UNIX admin. Or application development. Or IT consulting. Or vast swathes of the field. Just because you've "done it" doesn't mean you're an expert that does it day-in, day-out. You can find people who've "done" those things absolutely anywhere, and they're great for filling junior positions and becoming trainees. They *aren't* good for just throwing in charge of businesses and their critical networks, especially if their attitude is "I've done all that, I can handle anything".

I once worked in a small IT team where one of my colleagues (an equal doing the same job as me) assured everyone he'd "done" Linux, Apache, etc. to the same level as everyone else. My boss got so pissed off with the assertion that he had the same skills as others who'd worked in datacentres that she (former banking IT manager who'd worked in South African banks and could put anyone to shame with her skills) challenged us both to complete the next project we had scheduled independently. It was deployment of a purchased PHP app onto a dedicated server that we had to build from scratch - totally free choice of what to use, how to use it and the "winner" - chosen by suitability, not speed of delivery - would go into production as soon as it was ready. Mine was a Linux server ready in 6 hours, and had all sorts of failover, OOM detection, security, etc. His never managed to show the rendered HTML to a single client after two weeks of work, then he tried to switch to a Windows Server install to do it, still never managed and it was left abandoned when he left three months later. As far as I'm aware, my machine is still in production 3 years later doing the same job without any changes except automatic software upgrades.

Now, my last employer (full-time) employed me because of this:

I got to interview because they read my 2-page CV that mentions none of this and only briefly states work-history and a personal statement (that explains I was self-employed and how I used to operate because if you just tell people "I worked 3 hours per week per school", it sounds shite, but if you can put across "I only worked 18 hours a week and earned enough to live comfortably", they get the picture). In the interview, they had a list of 12 projects they wanted to do and I had physical evidence on me of having completed almost-identical projects for other places - whether by being able to log directly into the damn thing that I built, or being able to show them an example of the software we'd use and where I'd deployed it before (and I think we complete all 12 projects within my first year of employment).

They weren't interested that I could do C, or Python, or anything else. They'd only heard of UNIX from their 30-year-old mathematics course. One of the things was CCTV related and they ummed and arred about just getting a CCTV company in to do it (which I was happy to do, but showed them I could do it if they wanted). They didn't have a clue what it meant to be open-source (though they quickly learned that having your IT guy be able to patch software that you're using on the fly to customise it to your needs is so handy, it's worth paying more than the equivalent proprietary software for). If they had, they wouldn't have considered it relevant at all. Even if they were looking specifically for a C programmer, do you think they'd be interested in the other junk? It just makes you sound like you spread yourself so thin in the hopes of being able to get work doing *something* in IT.

There are adverts off to my right now for a C# Application Developer. That's not me. One for a Linux Systems Engineer. Could probably do it but it's in finance and pays £500 a day, so it's probably not as simple as just whacking up some Red Hat instances or anything else that I'd touch in a normal working day. Chances are I'd never get it.

If you have skills, list them. Be prepared to back them up. But if you apply for the wrong jobs and your CV looks the same as the guy who fell out of university yesterday and has touched on all those same things, it will be indistinguishable. If you want a C programming job, you need to get to the point where you're virtually doing nothing BUT programming. If you want a UNIX admin job, you need to get to the point where you live and breathe UNIX all day long for every task imaginable. Why would you hire someone who'd only dabbled in the thing they would be doing 8 hours a day, every day?

"Tinkerers" CV's are all too common. Everyone's done bits and bobs, and almost everyone has done them as part of another job (but calling them jobs done "professionally" may not mean the same to an employer as to yourself). It doesn't mean you could throw me at an open-source C codebase for a huge multi-national who deals exclusively on Linux and ask me to do their consultant's job for them. Hell, I delved into the OpenSSL library code the other day and it scared the crap out of me. It doesn't mean I couldn't knock up an SSL library in C myself (I did Maths and Computing at Uni because of my obsession with cryptography) - it's just an entirely different kettle of fish.

And when the employers have something specific in mind, someone general doesn't fit the bill - and they're the ones paying the bill. You don't have to convince them you're Superman, you just have to convince them that you'll hit the ground running and they'll never have a problem with you doing that job. A tinkerer might be wonderful as a general overview, e.g. some form of middle-management, but only if the thing he'll be dealing with the most is his speciality. It's like employing a brickie who once did his house electrics to rewire the underside of a Cray supercomputer.

But, seriously, you're biggest problems are 1) Relevant in-depth experience, 2) Applying to the right job and I would also add 3) Attitude because you come across as you're somehow "entitled" to run the C programming section of a large UNIX supplier making network-card drivers, when in fact the things you say and (presumably) the CV you send makes you sound more like someone straight out of Uni who once typed followed a "Hello, World" C tutorial on a Linux machine.

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Lee Dowling
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A 9-page CV is great. Until you have to read it.

You SHOULD have a 9-10 page CV.... somewhere. Everyone who's been working or studying for a while should. But if you send that to an employer, it's doubtful that even 1 page of it will be interesting to them. Your CV is not a "This is Your Life" red book. It's an advert to sell yourself for that position in the shortest possible scanning time. Each CV you submit should be written to the person reading it - i.e. to that job and what they need from you ALONE with only side-mentions of other things they might like about you.

9-page CV's will end up in the bin. I've seen it happen. A 2-page CV with lots of stuff summarised and where details can be supplied later, that's much better. I hesitate the second my own CV for a job hits the third page and start culling. But I do that starting from a 10-page CV which lists EVERYTHING I've ever done (plus every paragraph I've ever put into a CV and have impressed people with, or been particularly happy with).

A 9-page CV is great copy-and-paste source material to start a CV. But it's NOT a job-application on its own because it's far too verbose. It's like over-documenting your code, or rattling on about how great your product is when actually, all I want is the code/product and how to use it. If I want to know that other stuff, I'd have picked you out of the 2-page CV's and brought you to interview where we would have all the time in the world to discuss it.

Your description of an Italian-English translation is of no interest to the CV-reader (who will probably NOT be the same person as the guy who will actually work with/above you, or even the same guy you meet in the interview) beyond "Can speak / write fluent Italian". It really holds zero interest and if you try putting crap like that into a bog-standard job application CV you'll start having it binned before you get further.

You can have a HUGE CV. Just don't submit it to jobs as-is. Use it as source material for your real CV, which should be just long enough for a HR bod to scan it and say "He fits the criteria" but not long enough that they get bored looking to see if you DO have experience in <insert skill here>.

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Lee Dowling
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CV writing is apparently more difficult than I imagine, not because employers are as picky and arrogant as this article-writer (please rule me out of any position in any company that hires such a self-congratulating pillock), but because people are *JUST THAT STUPID* when it comes to making a CV.

It's not hard: Have a document on your computer. Every time you change jobs, pass a course, or do something big and interesting, add it to the document. Seriously. Every time. If nothing else, do it to accurately record the dates so you're not caught out later because you said you worked somewhere for much longer than you actually did because you forgot that you left and returned.

When you next apply for a job, copy that document and RUTHLESSLY pull it down to 1-2 pages of A4. If that means you list employment history for two jobs in full (not necessarily the most recent, but the most relevant), a handful of others as one-liners and then "Various other jobs in the X industry, details available on request" for the stuff you did 20 years ago that wasn't interesting or relevant, then that's what you do. The majority of things should be bullet-points, bare facts and (well, I usually do it) some kind of personal statement which just covers the bits you can't summarise too well ("Project X, that I initiated, saved the company £300,000 a year in tax", etc.).

Don't make it pretty. Don't make it complicated. Don't jazz it up, adjust the spacing or enlarge your font because you have nothing to write on it. Nobody cares about the formatting so long as it's readable. If you don't have enough things to put in it, don't make up uninteresting crap to pad it out, and make sure that next time you write a CV you DO (by writing everything down and deliberately doing things that can be put in there). Don't include anything not relevant to the job at hand (unless you're REALLY struggling for content) and CHANGE IT for every job you apply to. Don't just have a single blanket CV, have one HUGE one that you never show anyone and from it sculpt out brief, job-specific ones each time you need one.

The most important piece of advice is: Have someone else read it. Really. You'd be amazed at what you miss. My wife had a "GSCE" qualification on her CV for years, and I spot at least one mistake or query that I'd have on every CV I've ever seen. Don't fear about people copying your CV (which seems to be quite common) - if someone wanted to steal my work history, they'd do a better job to just make stuff up than copying someone else's CV. Nobody's going to laugh at you for your CV unless - and this is important - an employer would also laugh at you. In which case, it's the CV that's bad and NOT you, and you need to get people to point out things that you need to change. You *can* probably ignore most of the "Well, I'd have this" kind of changes but you need people to check for the obvious holes more than the subtleties of what they think sounds better on a CV (they may be right, they may be wrong, you'll have to judge).

Failing that, send it to a proper CV expert who can craft it for you. They exist, and they're usually very cheap.

Nobody cares about the minutiae of your personal history. They want a brief, seemingly easy document that they can scan for the skills they want. If you don't have the skills, it will get binned. If you do but you hide them in pages of diatribe, it will get binned. A CV is like an honest advert - short, sweet, to-the-point, and giving ONLY provable facts that are relevant in order to sell yourself.

Your CV has ONE chance of catching the eye of the HR department. That's it. Just one. You don't want it to catch their eye in a bad way (fonts, colours, layout, etc.) when simple lists of facts will get through their checks. You don't want it to flag up warnings (everything from spelling mistakes, to unexplained employment holes, to bullshit-overflow when you could have just said what you meant). You just want a clean, simple, categorised, easy-to-read list of facts that fits in 1-2 pages and where any questions are answered before HR can ask them (that's what the small "personal statement" paragraph can do).

Address the envelope properly. Write your covering letter (which can be a lot more standard-template than a CV) properly, addressing the correct person in the correct way. Provide everything asked for in the format asked for (they *won't* chase you up for missing forms, etc.). Stick a nice stamp on it neatly, etc. Don't faff about with fancy paper when bog-standard white A4 will do. Hell, hand it in to their company if you can and BE POLITE WHEN YOU DO. You're asking these people to trust that everything about you is the same as the way you treated the CV - clean, tidy, professional, and lacking in diatribe and other waste.

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Nazi Star Trek episode finally broadcast in Germany

Lee Dowling
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"with viewers strictly warned that no one under the age of 16 should watch it."

And thus INSTANTLY attracting the attention of every under 16 year old in the country as to why these guys were so "important" that they couldn't be shown to children.

Talk about unintended consequences. If you'd just broadcast the damn thing in the middle of children's TV and parents *hadn't* made a fuss, nobody would care about it whatsoever. But by "banning" it and provide stark warnings about it not being suitable for children, you have just intrigued an entire generation.

I still say that Germany (and France) should have called all toilets "Nazis" and marked them on signposts / doors with the symbol of the Swastika across the entire country. Just how many Nazist lunatics do you think you'd get worshipping the name/symbol then, instead of how many you get now that you've "banned" it's use?

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Steam games forum down amid hack fears

Lee Dowling
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Er... actually:

"Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7"

And that's pretty universal for a lot of large sites (despite it's inherent insecurity). That's also several versions out of date, so it's hardly surprising if their forum software has been compromised.

I imagine they run the forums on completely separate machines and have decided to image, analyse and re-image the forums servers just to be on the safe side because they do have millions of forum users.

Still, they could at least make an announcement of some kind.

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Lee Dowling
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"The mortgage market would never have collapsed if everyone had just stolen houses by squatting in them. We should all steal houses!"

Now, it's not *quite* the same but it would make you sound just the same kind of pillock as you already do when you're talking about "stealing" your games instead of buying them.

Steam's "come back later" is more a function of how many users are *playing* or *downloading* games than anything else. That's why, when you go back later, it works. That message has been displayed since the first days of Steam and is unlikely to have anything to do with the story at hand. The stats pages show you how many people are currently running Steam successfully in real time:

http://store.steampowered.com/stats/

Nary a blip since the forums went down. That said, they really need to put out some kind of message because 4 days isn't exactly a "temporary" outage at all and they need to tell people what's happened (even if it's just "we don't know, we're looking into it").

P.S. Moving your Steam directory is a way to cause yourself lots of lost time and hassle. You should've just made an NTFS junction point pointing to a new copy of it on your other drive. Quicker, easier, simpler, invisible to Steam, no reinstalls, and you can revert it in seconds if it doesn't work.

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Mars, Moon, solar system could be littered with alien artifacts

Lee Dowling
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What, exactly, are the chances of something like Voyager getting even close to making it to another planet intact? Yes, it's likely to end up in some kind of orbit or some kind of Lagrange point but so is EVERYTHING else, including an awful lot of boring rock.

Not to mention natural decay, corrosion, irradiation, micro-meteorites, etc. smashing the thing to pieces, after a few light years it's going to be unrecognisable junk or it's going to get captured / destroyed by something far larger and heavier. The chances of us recognising a bit of smashed technology once it's been superheated, subjected to extreme pressures, smashed repeated by rocks and other debris, and whizzed a few light years to even the nearest star are almost zero - it'll virtually be a little muddy molten puddle of it's original makeup.

Ignoring the statistics of whether we're likely to find them or not (and this says "unlikely", and we already believe the chances of civilisations even being able to contact others across interstellar scales are so remote as to be effectively zero), when we do find them the chances of them being in any way recognisable, useful, or another other than a pile of mush are really quite slim. Also, sheer scale. If you had an Earth-size planet exhaust its entire metal supplies by launching probes in every direction for thousands of years, chances are that we'd never detect them even if they were the next star to ours.

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Gallery mulls 'damage' after cleaner scrubs modern art

Lee Dowling
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I bet there's a lightswitch in the gallery too. Is that art?

What about the flooring? The lighting arrangement? Is that still art?

How about the seat that the museum/gallery staff sit on while they watch you don't touch anything?

How about the staff themselves?

And, yes, at some point in time EVERY SINGLE ONE of those things may be considered art in a particular instance, but it doesn't make all lightswitches art, so it's not a defining characteristic (even ignoring the self-fulfilling prophecy of anything in an art gallery somehow becoming art, which would seem to preclude anything *outside* the gallery ever being considered art).

You can't define art by its location any more than you can define it by it's origin ("Oh, yes, Turner made this so it must be art", say the people gathered around a pile of his excrement), age, history, technique, size or anything else. There is no one defining characteristic, no matter how complex, that makes something universally "art". As such it's entirely subjective and has been for the last 100 years or so (interestingly, before that, pretty much everyone agreed on what was art and what wasn't).

If it's subjective, my own personal assertion that anything that doesn't take skill to reproduce isn't art is equally as valid as yours that a water stain is art. If you don't recognise that both assertions are equal, you're just being pretentious unless you can come up with a definition of what art is that everyone (or even a majority) accepts.

Mona Lisa? Art, in my opinion, because it would take immense skill to reproduce the item in question by hand with only a paintbrush and some colours (which is how it was originally made). There's no way I could do it in a hundred years of trying. Even a decent artist would be unable to capture the same magic. Almost all of the classical artists, for everything from chapel ceilings to sculptures to paintings, fit that profile.

"Modern art" doesn't. Any idiot can, quite literally, reproduce using identical techniques those "pieces" - hell, children often do a better job every day in school (see my example above about the Olympic posters, for example) - and there have been tests and trials where even the most experienced art-lover can't distinguish between a child's drawing and the work of some modern artist that they are familiar with. I think you'd spot a child's version of the Mona Lisa, though, against the real thing and if you *couldn't*, I think it's fair to say that child was a good artist.

You can be as pretentious as you like and the whole art world since about the 20's has tried to form a clique by the simple precept of saying that nobody else understands them, even when they are caught worshipping the scrawls of an actual child rather than the artist they think made it, and that anyone who doesn't understand these unwritten, unspoken rules is somehow stupid. In that instance, I'll be on the side of stupid, thanks, as will vast proportions of the world's population.

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Lee Dowling
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My first rule of modern art:

If you can't tell that it's supposed to be art, it probably isn't.

(This rule was formulated after years of personal endeavour, but solidified when I say the Olympic/Paralympic "posters" on BBC News here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-15593109

and genuinely mistook them for local schoolchildren's entries until I read the blurb.)

That said, if you work in a museum or gallery, don't touch ANYTHING - rather leave a patch of dirt than ruin something supposedly worth "millions". If they can't clearly delineate the artwork from the fixtures well enough, that says more about modern art than the fixtures, to me.

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Adventures in Tech: Dive on in, the IPv6 is lovely

Lee Dowling
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IPv6 is a cinch. It's the associated legacy from IPv4 that's the problem.

You can enable IPv6 transport with a handful of commands/clicks for any relatively modern OS (even Windows XP). You can ping6 websites and view them. That's the easy part. Any idiot can get that far in ten minutes.

What about your firewall config? You have to update all of that (whether it be iptables or Cisco commands or whatever) and make sure there are no holes. That's no small feat. Especially given that there are "ipv4 equivalent" ranges in IPv6 that, well, you should treat just like they were the appropriate IPv4 address. Your firewall scripts just got a whole lot more complicated.

What if you have custom scripts, hole-punching setups, SSH blacklists, VPN's, DMZ's, etc.? You just added a whole new layer of nightmare to your conversion (i.e. has anyone yet worked out how to use OpenVPN to tunnel IPv6 packets from Windows to Linux? You can do it, but it's FAR from easy in certain modes.) Or how you handle the intermediary conversions? Can you have IPv4 clients tunnelling IPv6 and vice versa and every combination in between?

IPv6-enabling your services? One line in the config file. IPv6-enabling your DNS records (don't forget that you'd need an IPv6-accessible mail server at some point too, etc.)? Easy enough. Making them *work* for users? That's the tricky bit. Are users getting to your site at all via IPv6 or are they just sitting at a blank screen their end? How would you know? Are their OS's just falling back to v4 because you don't have some record enabled at some point? Are your upstream DNS servers IPv6 compatible? Are your nameserver records for your domain available in IPv6 format at all?

Any idiot can *enable* IPv6. The question is: Have they done so sensibly, securely and so that it will work for everyone? And that's a much more important question. Enabling Apache to serve content over IPv6 is a cinch. Securing your firewall to the same standard as your IPv4 one so that it *can* serve that content safely is easily overlooked and yet a very difficult task.

And that's just the external face. What about the internal? Does your fileserver support every action from obtaining a lease, authenticating and filesharing over IPv6 for all of your clients, even remote ones?

IPv6 is an enormous headache. Sure, it's not insurmountable but it's not as simple as just throwing a switch in any way. I'm very disappointed that there's little-to-no mention of, e.g. appropriate firewalling of an Internet-facing server when it comes to IPv6 enabling it. Classic case of "do now, think about the consequences later".

And, for the record, I have IPv6-enabled all my domains and they do serve HTTP content over those channels and do so as securely as the IPv4 access on the same servers. But I still only ever use / login to it by IPv4 and have yet to see a single genuine IPv6 visitor.

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Alien city lights could be detected across interstellar space

Lee Dowling
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LIGHTING is a very short-lived phenomenon. A hundred years ago we didn't have "city lights" at all and what we did have were gas-powered and probably wouldn't have showed up in local orbit, let alone a distant galaxy. A hundred years from now, when we would have had to repair *everything* that currently exists on the roads several times over, not to mention thousands of building regulations, and you probably *won't* have lights visible from the sky.

If they think reflected shine from the Sun on the planet's face is hard to detect, how do you intend to detect a "light pollution aware" civilisation (we ourselves are still doing things like turning off streetlights in tests, fighting energy-saving bulbs, making sure that useful light is focused only on the lit subject and not random sky etc.) against all the others.

And two hundred years, hell, call it a thousand, is a tiny, insignificant portion of a race's evolution, especially on astronomical scales. Most of the places we look, the light takes longer than that to get to us, so if we spotted a civilisation just at the peak of its energy production, they've probably been long dead anyway and we'd never be able to see anything more interesting of them. Hell, if we invented a faster-than-light ship, zoomed over to them using all the money and production capacity we have, they'd be finished in it by the time we got there and outrank even us.

That's not to say that detecting a civilisation wouldn't be huge news - but detecting them off the tiny amount of light beamed from their planet into space for literally fractions of an astronomical second isn't really a sensible way to find them. Better to look for the civilisation that came a thousand years after them and who were able to modify planetary orbits etc. that are millions of times easier to detect.

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Pay-by-mobe app spells doom for impulse buyers

Lee Dowling
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Mr Problem? Ah yes, I heard that Mr Solution was looking for you. If you'd just wait here...

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Mars probe crippled by buggy SSD successfully jury-rigged

Lee Dowling
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Happy

So there solution is to swap it out to file storage? Pssh. Amateurs. Have they not heard of the BadRAM patches?

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World heading for massive jobs slump

Lee Dowling
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I'm not sure that's how any sensible business operates.

If you're a business, what the wider market is doing is really of little interest or concern when it comes to employment.

Either a) You have a need for more staff, and thus have to hire more staff, b) You don't have a need for more staff, or a surplus of them, or c) You have a surplus of staff that aren't adding value to your business and you need to let them go.

Of course, there's always a certain amount of pressure from budgets etc. that dictate you must let go of staff you need, or can't employ the staff you want because of market salaries, but that's merely detail - you can't do anything about it at those points.

If business drops off, you need less staff to handle it and they "cost" you more than the value you're getting from them. If business booms, you need to hire more staff to cope. If you can just cull staff and not affect the business, you really were employing people who were unnecessary anyway (read: bad business, one synonym of which is "public sector"). If you find your business struggling, then current worldwide staffing levels really don't mean very much - you have to preserve the business. If you *need* to hire someone, then you hope there's enough suitably qualified and willing-to-work-for-the-wage people out there, but if there's not you still have to hire *somebody* anyway, or you wouldn't be hiring.

Recent job losses are more a reflection of business stability. If you're culling jobs, it's because you were over-staffed or under-efficient. Sure, it can be a convenient excuse too, but businesses can't just go out and hire people to help ease a job crisis any more than they can keep people on when the business goes under.

A business's primary aim, as stated in all the legal jargon that you agree to when you form a company, is to provide a good or service at a profit. They *aren't* there to create job positions, that's just a side-effect of the way they operate, so they have little interest in the greater vision of a government trying to reduce unemployment.

Governments can try to create jobs as much as they like but where do you think the money / incentive for those positions come from? The taxpayer. We pay subsidies and other incentives to companies to create jobs in our particular area rather than somewhere else by giving them money (directly or indirectly through tax relief, etc.). That's not really a viable way to "create" jobs except temporarily. And it works, temporarily. But after a while, you realise that we're just paying people to do a "fake" job that can be put first on the culling list when the government needs money because it's valueless. While we pay the subsidy/incentive, they have value. The second that stops, they are removed.

With the exception of the occasional temporary incentive / boom in a particular area, jobs create or kill themselves depending on demand for the associated business. The problem is that so few places actually run themselves like a business until things come down to the wire. You'll notice that, since the recession, a lot of places still aren't selling what people want and then complain about not having any business - bank staff disappeared overnight in many branches to be replaced by faceless machines, telephone centres are all off-shore and virtually non-English-speaking, energy companies want to throw smart-meters into your home (and put thousands of meter readers out of work), phone companies won't give you less than 18 month contracts unless you want some cheap plastic thing with no allowances, etc. etc. etc.

In a recession, those who know how to do business continue on exactly as before and don't suddenly cull their staff. Kindle sales are through the roof - so people still have money to spend on the product that's right. It's all the people who see making profit during the height of business as the "pinnacle", which means they can splash cash on worthless junk forever after that. The entire dot-com boom was pretty much the same - you can make money but will you be around in 50 years?

Ask yourself how did Woolworths, which started in the US and is still running there and in lots of other countries, go bust in the UK when it was focused on selling cheap products (perfect for recession-hit customers), when individual stores were bought by their own managers and continued running at a profit, when the online arm continued running at a profit, when the stores were sold off to rivals who picked up the same staff and still made a profit, etc.

The current unemployment levels are really more a sign of worthless business management than anything else - whether that's sacking vital staff, cutting back in the areas that matter instead of the one's that don't (e.g. sacking frontline staff instead of expensive management), and getting rid of people that they never really needed anyway.

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