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* Posts by Lee Dowling

1188 posts • joined 28 Mar 2007

Assange needs to get some sunlight and fresh air, say Ecuadoreans

Lee Dowling
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Re: He's the first person...

If a lawyer alerts their client to a possible arrest pending, and they then flee on the basis of that information, I instantly lose all sympathy for both the lawyer and the client.

The whole conspiracy theory rests on the idea that Assange is SO vital to the Americans that they would encourage and gain the support of multiple, independent nation states just to get hold of him, even risking illegal arrest in those countries by the countries own police forces (overseen by the EU).

Or they could have just extradited him direct from the UK.

If anything, it makes the US look even more powerless than necessary, because they haven't managed to do ANYTHING yet and the "link" between the US and Sweden has been broadcast all over the news.

Seriously, if they *really* wanted him, we'd have handed him over long ago. The still haven't managed to try Manning properly yet, the person who thought Assange was his "friend" (with friends like that, who need enemies like the US?), because of their own internal legal wranglings and he DEFINITELY did something wrong and in military service which is a whole different ball game under the law. Given that the US are still detaining people without trial in a foreign country over 10 years after their alleged crimes, that the US are trying to impose their laws on foreign countries to the points of dawn raids with property seizure with zero legal basis (MegaUpload, etc.), Assange has got off extremely, extremely, extremely lightly if they really wanted him.

Or, he's just a narcissistic moron.

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Lee Dowling
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Re: He's the first person...

If the law forbids that action in Sweden, then the law in Sweden forbids it. It's as simple as that. They didn't go making up new laws that day just to get him and, as you point out, haven't actually CHARGED him with that (and could quite happily do so in his absence). He's wanted for questioning. That doesn't mean he can't be extradited for that questioning.

The teacher who run off with the kid to France? Depending on the circumstances, not technically illegal, if she's over-age. But they still put out a Europe-wide APB on him, got him, brought him back to the UK for questioning and that's where formal charges were filed. This "you must be able to prove your charge immediately before arrest" pseudo-culture among people on the Internet that's popped up lately is new and has no correspondence to the laws of arrest. Just how often do you see "X is wanted for questioning by the police" or "X was made to appear at a police station to answer questions" (e.g. recent Saville enquiries, etc.). You can be extradited AND arrested AND put in a police cell for a couple of days AND questioned just on a hunch. Always have been able to, always WILL be able to, because otherwise law enforcement is useless. What you *can't* be is sentenced and put into a prison without a trial (*cough* other countries please take note *cough*). And you can be "dearrested" at any point without charge. Charges and arrests are two ENTIRELY different things. It's a European ARREST warrant for questioning on suspected CHARGES.

The US thing? That's stepping on an awful lot of international laws (not all of which the US are signed up to which makes a lot of their requests and promises meaningless anyway), of which many will trump a one-time say-so on an international arrest warrant. It's like saying "I'll let you arrest me, so long as I'm allowed to go free if a goose lands in my prison cell". You will never, ever, ever get a judge to agree to that in a million years, even if it'll never happen, because there's a chance that you could be let off if someone promises you something that stupid and is then required to keep to their word.

And that's *all* besides the point because after going through the law system in this country, and several layers of appeals, and everything else, and the UK police SENDING BACK his arrest warrants several times to make sure they were actually above board, he STILL had no legal basis that he could find to refuse to go to Sweden or to skip bail. That's game over. And the bail things makes him a direct, provable criminal, in the UK for no other reason than breaching a court order requiring bail. You can *disagree* with the court, but you cannot avoid the law because of that. That's why the bail should have been spent on smarter lawyers (who probably would have said "shut up and hand yourself in, you idiot") rather than him not doing a runner.

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Lee Dowling
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But surely there's nothing stopping him having medical treatment?

Anyone with the ambassador's permission could come in and treat his (self-inflicted) condition, no problem at all. And the government are unlikely to play dirty tricks there. All he has to do is phone for a doctor.

If it's a serious medical condition, though, then after suitable examination, if it were necessary, any doctor in the world would say that he required hospital treatment. And *that's* the part that gets really interesting. A criminal (skipping bail makes him one, whether you believe anything else or not) on the run, saying he needs medical assistance and asking for, what? Some sort of amnesty of his crime while he gets treated and then taken back to the embassy? Unlikely.

If Ecuador still haven't extradited him it's because we're not going to let them to do so (which we're actually perfectly entitled to do, just because of his skipping bail, before you even get into any other alleged crimes - the only *alleged* crimes, the skipping bail is now permanently-recorded fact). If he is making himself ill, there's probably even more of a case for the Ecaudorian ambassador to give him up, or for him to give himself up. Hell, if he's deliberately choosing to make himself seriously ill, there's probably a good case for medical intervention anyway, for his own health (which would make an interesting law case in the case of a holed-up criminal in an embassy, but sadly less interesting headlines). If you tried, you might even be able to get him sectioned for refusing urgent such medical treament.

Or he could, you know, open a window, take some medication, call a doctor.

Or he could, you know, give himself up. He's been unlikely to "go missing" since long before the embassy thing started.

Personally, I think it'll be good practice for when the Ecuadorian embassy gets sick of him and the associated diplomatic deadlock, and hands him in, and he spends time in jail (for skipping bail if nothing else).

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Six of the best Nintendo Wii U games

Lee Dowling
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Given that the previous Wii console also put some sounds through a "tinny" speaker on the game controller, I'd guess you were equally disappointed with that too, so you wouldn't really be the target market (and I don't know of anyone who complains about the noise through the controllers, to be honest - that's there for secondary sounds related to that particular player usually, not the main game action).

And the number of people with a £2000 7.1 amplifier setup AND who like playing Wii are probably lost in the intersection of the Venn diagram rather than a huge portion of the market.

Similarly, when I buy a laptop, the sound quality on it is pretty much irrelevant so long as it's loud enough. There aren't many people who hook up their laptops to the hifi either because that tends to be the audiophiles only anyway. And my TV has speakers on the back that are good enough that I don't even *OWN* a hifi or amplified speaker any more.

Never forget: Most people are happy with laptop speakers, iPod headphones, integrated TV speakers, and the little cheap plug-in iPod "speakers" that run on AA's. You are in the minority here, seriously.

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Boffins BREAK BREAD's genetic code: Miracle of the loaves

Lee Dowling
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Re: Colour me unimpressed

How many can't eat rice? You probably won't know unless you live in a culture where rice is served for everything. Same for anything else.

And, hell, there's a percentage of people who can't touch water.

We can't cater perfectly to everyone with one single, ideal food. Not only that, it's INCREDIBLY DANGEROUS to do that because it would only take one crop disease to wipe us all out. But if we can increase wheat yields, that means more (or cheaper) food for 99% of people on the planet. That's hardly a bad thing.

Vegetarians, vegans, gluten-intolerant (which is something that, as you say, takes YEARS to diagnose, which suggests that it's a) not a common problem, b) not a life-altering problem - or you'd already be dead by the time they diagnosed it and c) highly likely to false diagnosis just to shut patients up), diabetics, nut-allergists, all these people have different dietary needs that aren't going to go away. But getting more wheat (and, after that, more rice, maize, whatever else) will pretty much solve an awful lot of "what the hell will we do when" problems for the vast, vast, vast majority of the world.

That said, the word "intolerant" to me is enough for me to switch off because it's SO over-used, you have no idea. I'm currently in a school and about 10-20% of the pupils have an "allergy" or an "intolerance" to something or other, rarely diagnosed fully by a genuine doctor. What they mean is "they don't like it", or even "it might have given them a little tummy upset once, when they picked it up off the floor and ate it anyway". Also, maintaining the internal medical information wiki, I can tell you that within two years, most of those cases will be found to be either not true, or just outright wrong. Hell, I've had to take people off the "could die if has nuts" lists before now because it's been found to be a load of rubbish when the parents are chased up for not filling their allergies forms in the next year.

The people who are intolerant to things in wheat, are most likely so because of over- or under-exposure (nut allergies are generally under-exposure in modern times because of stupid advise to not eat nuts while pregnant, not to give them to kids, and similar) or complete random chance. Similarly, any other food stuff in the same proportions can suffer similar consequences if you were to scale it up to the same level with enough people eating it.

That's part of how evolution works, you know. We all react to the environment in different ways and the little bird that, by random fluke of the genes, finds it can eat the worm that its friends don't eat because it tastes bad to them will end up evolving a whole tree of species that can eat that worm just fine. Or dying out because that worm is poisonous. That's how it works.

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'Boson' Higgs: Yes, CERN has seen the coming of the God particle

Lee Dowling
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There aren't many people who can say "I was right all along", referring to 40+ years ago, and sound both despondent and humble about it.

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Windows 8 launch outdoes Windows 7's, says Microsoft bigwig

Lee Dowling
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Re: "Sold"? Not quite

I bought an upgrade for my machine, which came with Windows 7 Home Premium, and since then the only place that the version of Windows 8 Pro with Media Center that I got from the cheap upgrade has been installed is a virtual machine that I haven't turned on and still has one, maybe two icons on the desktop for it.

I got it (because it was so cheap and that's X amount of years of extra updates MS will have to give me if the time comes that Windows 7 gets phased out) and got upgraded with it, and got free keys for Windows Media Center from MS for it, and still can't be bothered to actually USE it. It's just too much a drop in productivity for me and does NOTHING that 7 couldn't do on the same hardware.

I'll keep it in the VM, on the basis that disk space is pretty cheap nowadays and VT instructions in processors make it "free" to run, but only really for the Pro features that let me manage a network I might stumble into without having to fight for licences or use another machine. ANd if there's anything I really *need* from Windows 8 (unlikely at this stage), I can run it in VMWare's Unity mode and get the Windows 8 windows showing on my Windows 7 desktop.

I have no doubt they sold a BUCKET of upgrades at one-tenth the cost of a newer, more featureful copy of Windows (the MS store keeps giving me some ridiculous prices to upgrade this Windows 7 Home Premium to Windows 7 Pro, for example). Of course. But that doesn't mean it's a success.

I'd probably lay money that in the YEARS it will take to kill off Windows 7 (hell, we've only just barely managed it with XP, haven't we?), that Windows 8 VM of mine will become increasingly irrelevant and never make it onto bare hardware.

It's easy to get huge sales figures for a turkey of a product, by just lowering the price to some ridiculous value that most people will fling on just for the hell of it. What would be more interesting is development and distribution costs vs that income, which of course MS are unlikely to publish until they have a Windows 9 that they really want to push by "recognising" that nobody was using 8.

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MIDI: 30 years old... almost

Lee Dowling
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As someone not musically gifted, I pretty much ignored the MIDI ports on my ZX Spectrum and the variety of hardware that superseded it.

What never escaped me, though, was that, twenty-plus years later, those same ports were still present on soundcards and USB adaptors. I was actually quite shocked to research and find that 30-year-old MIDI equipment would work today and modern MIDI equipment would still pretty much work the same on 30-year-old machines. That's pretty unheard of in terms of computer interfaces.

And though I have a MIDI keyboard now, and my talents still lie elsewhere for the moment, it's still the most simple, obvious, genius, and complete protocol - purely through it's simplicity and forward-thinking and not-unreasonable limits. I have recorded short snippets of MIDI in the MIDI equivalent of Wireshark and the amount of data conveyed is pretty diverse (there's a lot of timing and synchronisation info, for instance). And the reproduction has always been pretty much spot on, no matter the hardware. In fact my worst memory of MIDI was trying to load a soundfont into an old soundblaster card on a Linux machine yonks ago (back in the pre-ALSA days) and the problem wasn't the MIDI, just the stupid way the card loaded its firmware.

MIDI should be an inspiration to us all. A simple interface that can do everything, and still brings together instruments and machines that are 30 years apart without problems.

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Bash Street bytes: Do UK schools really need the Raspberry Pi?

Lee Dowling
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Re: @Lee Dowling

The latest boards do not include my board. I would have to buy again. That makes early adopters, second-hand boards, and even boards from an unofficial supplier, a lottery. Ignoring that, I don't *have* power problems, because the second I noticed the specs I put it on a supply that gives a regulated 5v, 10A if necessary. But others still will because it's not about just a small tweak to fix all power problems - the board has too little voltage regulation and relies on the (not necessarily supplied or approved) adaptor to provide it. And worse than not working, it is more likely to die under load while otherwise appearing normal.

And these are not teething troubles (and if they were, my "teething" on the device was months ago now). The latest kernel does not fix the USB problems. It skirts around them by playing with interrupt rates and the SD card controller so they are not as swamped (in fact, there's little code change in terms of C code, you're just scaling back the options sent to the controller on initialisation - this "fix" was previously available as a kernel command-line option though I believe the defaults are just changed now). I, and a whole forum thread since the day of release, still have demonstrable problems with USB on simple devices. Basically, you have to sacrifice USB and SD performance to make the thing work reliably and with heavy USB bus usage you can't always sacrifice enough to make things work. And it took months of flat-out whinging to get the problem recognised and partially resolved against a background of reproducibility and wanting to fix the problem myself. The problem is not the problem, the problem was the complete lack of testing and a bad design and, up to a point, total denial and ignorance of the problem (the initial thread reporting USB problems went unanswered for months, the kernel git "issue" tracked the same, etc.). With the early adopters, testers, and people who were trying to put this device into schools and get it doing what it should do trying to help. Same with SD card problems (though that's resolved in the same way as, and was basically caused by, the same problem!). Same with training material problems.

Supply issues? Agree. Pretty much sorted. Discounting the "what version of the board have I got" question, but you can get them from all sorts of places now. Good for my casings, I'll give you that, because there are much cheaper options available now. P.S. schools, generally, shouldn't be using the devices uncased and it won't be long before some H&S fanatic picks up on that, especially if you have to have a hefty PSU to keep the power stable.

I have one, ordered before I even knew they would ever exist for real, so I was in support of the project and the ideals behind. I was basically intending to push it inside my school and get them to buy dozens, if not more, and teach "real" programming for once. But since release it's barely become nothing more than pushing hardware into schools with no thought, which is my main complaint in this thread (see: iPads in schools, too - great idea, with correct use, completely misguided to just assume schools won't just buy them and expect them to do what they read about automatically). There is no material, no training, little staff involvement, which is what I had threads about on the forums before the thing was even released. The usual answer was "we'll worry about that later", and there still hasn't been much movement in that way.

There *are* still problems. You are still going to get people plug in a USB thing and have it die mid-lesson because of power / bus bandwidth / interrupt rate problems that you can't fix (and which are down to a shoddy design of that section, but hey, that happens everywhere). It's pretending that the thing is perfect and works that gets me, and silently ignoring problems until they become major issues attracting exactly my sorts of comments on them (bad PR if nothing else).

I will be visiting BETT in the New Year. My guess is that if I even find a Raspberry Pi stall on there, it will be run by some educational supplier - because selling the hardware is one thing. There won't be training on it, which means it's dead in the water. Claiming that it's aimed at education, receiving government and media attention by claiming that, and then not doing anything to put them into schools beyond selling a board is another.

To be honest, I was prepared to buy a dozen or more and run my own lunchtime club in the school I work for - purely because I would love teaching programming. I've done it before for maths clubs in other schools and I'm not even a QT. Not a chance since I bought the device, that I still own (and still hope to get working for personal projects some day). And if I was to be given money to do so, I'd base it off something else now anyway. It's not the product but the attitude to fixes and genuine, real-world concerns about exactly how the product is pushed that worry me. Hell, when resolved the SD problems, I was basically told that the people in the UK had no idea how the drivers worked and it was only the Broadcom employee in Taiwan that would be able to hack on the SD driver to spot any differences, and that only in his spare time, and that only when granted by Broadcom. Pretty much the same answers hit for things related to the GPU ("the first completely open-source drivers" and such headlines, for an OpenGL -> RPC call wrapper? Again, that's just not true and headline-garnering at the expense of the truth).

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Lee Dowling
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I started on a ZX spectrum and we often soldered the thing back together if we broke it when I was a kid (Daley Thomson's Decathlon was banned after the fourth time).

The RPi is *not* aimed at families (though it's not "not aimed at them" either), read any news article and it mentions education and getting them into schools almost exclusively. All the big educational suppliers have them on their catalogues and all the push is towards schools, not home users.

And, again, only the geek families with the geek dad who's willing to work out how to get all that gear and cobble it together in order to provide what a £200 desktop or a £300 laptop already provides *TIMES TEN* would be doing this stuff anyway (the same as you need a geek teacher to teach it and there are surprisingly few of those, even teaching ICT etc.). The article is about education and whether the RPi is necessary or would make a difference. In the same way that there will ALWAYS be a handful of geeky kids, there's always someone who will use the RPi in a geeky way and get something out of it. But nothing they wouldn't get if the RPi didn't exist, and certainly nothing helping those who *aren't* geek-oriented.

I *was* the school geek. Immensely so. I was performing network exploits, stealing network administrator access (with very silly permission and, later, programming defences to my own techniques for the network manager!), getting the computers to do my homework, was the first kid in school to receive an email complimenting my software before teachers even had HEARD of email, was wishing for an electronics club and nearly forming my own (put on a backburner by my running of an early paper precursor of Wikipedia sourcing information - for a price - from my own private library of encyclopaedia). For Art, I managed to write 100 pages on the typography of computer systems because I couldn't bear to do anything non-geeky for even a creative subject. Hell, even my maths work I was using computer algebra systems to do things that got me an A for sheer effort, without even coming to an answer (actually, I was scored higher by recognising that all my work was far too complicated an analysis of the problem at hand to produce a simple answer). That's pretty much why I ended up in the job I did.

And I can't justify my own purchase of a RPi, let alone any school I work for.

Hell, they're still struggling with Logo and Lego.

A school of any decent size will throw out dozens of desktops every year, fully working and blanked off ready for installation. I end up sending them to waste recycling every time and can only ever manage to palm a few off for internal projects or staff with enough know-how that they'll turn them into personal computers without any help anyway. A RPi does not fill the niche you talk about because it barely exists. And where it does, an old Wii is actually infinitely more useful.

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Lee Dowling
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I work in schools. Have done all my adult life, from primary through to sixth form college through to private schools.

I had one of the first Raspberry Pi's out of the factory. It's gathering dust in my loft. First, there were technical problems (admittedly not ones that affect everyone, but they took months to fix). Secondly, the "£25" computer is a myth. You have to buy cases, SD cards, highly-regulated power supplies, plus something for it to plug into (like a monitor for a start). PER DEVICE. Then, it does nothing that a basic distro of Linux cannot do. Hell, if it came to it, I could run all the RPi distributions in a virtual machine on the ordinary ICT Suite computers. The expansion to, for example, control devices? Well that's in the realm of hobbyist electronics and as such either you're already doing it without the RPi, or you can't do it anyway (like a lot of schools, including my own back in the day, electronics requires a teacher who knows what they are doing and schools don't always have them).

Even then, even if you love it, and the PTA splash money on it, and you have no technical problems, and you don't have an ICT Suite to do these things and you have a good teacher teaching it (most of the ones I've met who were in charge of ICT would be all keen to get this thing and then, when they realise there's no £1000 day course to teach THEM how to use it all and give them free lesson plans, they will consign it to the bin) - even then, you're going to be doing Scratch on it and a few other things that you could have ALREADY been doing years ago if you wanted.

There's nothing special about the RPi for a school. For a hobbyist, sure. For a geek, definitely. But for a school, only the geek kids will love it and the rest will use it as a "practical" lesson (which in recent years has come to mean "a mess-about lesson where we don't get much done but we enjoy it and it keeps us under control").

My school were keen to trial the RPi. It never got past stage one - being able to get enough of them, with the required kit to the point that even a test would be worthwhile (I had problems which involved sending off a perfectly-bog-standard SD card because it would never work and the RPi team had ZERO idea why - my card went off to Taiwan, I believe, to Broadcom employees themselves, there's also problems with power, especially if you want to use USB and there are STILL major USB problems because it conflicts with the SD card access and you often can't get devices to work if they need high-speed - my 3G modem still doesn't work on a RPi and there's nothing unusual about it). Instead, we downloaded Scratch and it's been sitting idle on the network ever since because the teachers don't understand it well enough to teach it.

Putting something into "modern" schools is nothing to do with the name, or the capability. Like I told the project from the start, you need to have the training and the support infrastructure there to handle things. Sure, test schools and those with money and those with excellent staff will tinker with it, but they are tinkering with ANYTHING they think useful. In most schools, the teachers would open up a box of RPi's and have trouble getting them to boot even from a pre-made SD card, let alone teach with it.

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Belgian finds missus was born a MAN after 19 YEARS of marriage

Lee Dowling
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Re: Does ? have a Y chromosome ?

X/Y, male/female is not the binary choice you think it is. As with EVERYTHING you were taught as a child, it's just not true, genetically, mentally, or even in the heads of others.

There are numerous "intersex" conditions, there are many (sometimes conflicting) genetic markers, and no one marker is enough to determine a binary answer. Hell, when it comes to sportswomen in the pre-Olympics news, it's almost impossible to say that they were 100% born a woman or a man, for example.

You were taught biology by the age-old precept of "lies to children". In the same way that Pluto isn't a planet, chameleons don't change colour, Newton wasn't hit by an apple (but close!), brontosaurus never were, most bee species don't gather honey or even live together and atoms are not "the smallest thing" by a long-shot, the X/Y chromosome thing is, although correlated, not definitive on the issue of gender. And we don't just mean you can be a little effeminate/masculine if other things are tweaked but that you can be the polar opposite of what gender your X/Y dictates and healthy and reproductive and "normal" (whatever that means in this context).

Hell, it's not unheard of (or even that rare) for humans to grow feathers or horns, so saying that someone's DNA will indisputably give you a binary "sex" is so wrong as to be ridiculous. And exactly the kind of prejudice that forces people to hide "secrets" like this - this is what makes people bring up their child to "be a man" when they have deformed genitalia and are actually female, and then people wonder why they rebel later and actually turn out to live a "homosexual" life (because it's not, to them, biologically speaking!). This is exactly the kind of thing that make some intersex / confused / deformed / not accepted children who would have lead a perfectly happy life were it not for other people to commit suicide and similar.

My girlfriend works as a genetic scientist and if you have a relative with cancer in the London area she's probably the one who did the labwork to determine whether it was cancer or not, along with a range of other genetic ailments. She will happily tell you that you can get perfectly everyday samples where it's actually almost impossible to tell the sex of the patient from the DNA alone, or that you can find female patients who have no history of gender reassignment who have certain parts of "male" DNA. It's a handy guideline and nothing more.

And drawing a line in the sand between male and female is no more ridiculous than drawing a line in the sand between good and evil. There are clearly people on both sides, and clearly people who should be in one category or the other at some time in their lives, but there's no way to definitively categorises people binarily without coming up against something that will really stretch your credibility to pigeonhole.

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Lee Dowling
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Re: Eh?

I have to agree here, all I took away from it was that some bloke was obviously so infatuated with someone that he "came to blows" with them when it was realised that a factor that had *never* played a significant part in his own experience of that person whatsoever was brought to air.

Sure, the secrecy might be enough to be angry at the *secret* of not telling someone, but somehow claiming to be "duped" or bringing up the whole immigration thing over it, and even admitting to domestic abuse (just the "push" was enough for me to think "Woah, that's probably enough to get you arrested if you're not careful", let alone the later admission it "came to blows") was a bit too much.

The lady (or however that person wishes to identify themselves) in question, I feel quite sorry for. Some elements of this story you can't even be sure of - I mean, presumably they volunteered to become a lady after a period of adult reflection on the topic, but that's not necessarily so (certain times when genitalia are involved in accidents / deformities, the patient is asked if they'd prefer to have themselves restructured into something that *does* look "normal" even if it's not for their gender). And even if they chose to change, does that mean they can never marry and never be with someone without telling them straight away?

The man? He's an abusive, intolerant husband who didn't care while he didn't know and was presumably in love with her enough to marry and live with and have sex with and help emigrate.

Like calling someone "gay" as an insult, the greatest affront to some men is to have the suggestion that they might be homosexual, to the extent that they will happily beat someone they were in love with if there's the suggestion that others might think that. And we wonder why we can't stop homophobia.

And, yes, in the traditions of meaningless sentences, I have gay and transsexual friends. I even know someone who is transsexual but identifies as a homosexual in their "new" gender (so their sexual preferences in partners never changed throughout their transition). You know what, I see no problem with that at all. It's not like they are making me change the arrangement of my own genitals.

I'm disappointed that the article made news, and even more disappointed over the tone of The Reg's handling of it, but mostly disappointed that idiots like that still exist (but that's a chronic disappointment and not specific to this article).

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Troubled OCZ brings forth consumer SSDs with Vector

Lee Dowling
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Re: reliability

Reliability.

Capacity.

Speed.

The bottom one's been a solved problem for many years with SSD's now. Just waiting for the other two to catch up. Not entirely sure of the wisdom of getting yet-another-controller with little testing and real-world use put in front of my data, but that's at least a problem that can be solved quite simply but just *not* relying on it.

Kind of a block to desktop use, though, as is the capacity in my opinion (others disagree, but I'd rather have a drive that wasn't quite so fast, had an older, more reliable controller - at least one where the bugs are known - and had twice the capacity advertised (1Tb is about the minimum now for drives intended for storage) than just about ANYTHING else in the world of IT equipment). Sure I can RAID or install multiple drives for networks and servers, but that's not where SSD's will actually have the most impact, or make the most difference to my life. Whereas a 1Tb SSD with the write speed and reliability of a 5-year-old SSD controller would be worth what they are asking for the 512Gb model.

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Android users: More of them than fanbois, but they don't use the web

Lee Dowling
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First, I use Opera Mobile so I'm not sure you can tell I'm using Android at all. It strikes me that Android users are more likely to use alternative software.

Second, it just means that Android users use their phones for other things than shopping. If you're selling a device on the basis that X amount of customers will go shopping on it, you're in the wrong business.

Additionally, if any particular company sees X amount of visitors ask for an Android app or Android compatibility, it's good sense to provide it if you can afford to, whether it gets used or not.

But really, the question is probably more one of damn lies and statistics - iPhone users are more likely to have more disposable income from the start. Android is probably more popular because it is just so much cheaper to obtain and does pretty much the same things, and more. It's also sold a lot more so it captures a lot more of the market, and skewed more to the lower end, which means that the statistics stated are more like saying "Jaguar owners spend more at Waitrose". Entirely true and also completely useless and potentially misleading.

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Amazon's secret UK sales figures revealed by Parliamentary probe

Lee Dowling
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Question:

If Amazon only gave the VAT figures, and Amazon is primarily a bookseller, and books are basically VAT-exempt, just what proportion of overall profit is reflected in publishing their VAT figures?

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Google parks panzers on Germany's lawn over 'link tax' plan

Lee Dowling
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Does the media company in question own a search engine?

Because the only logical outcome is that eventually Google will be forced to just delist all German domains from certain sections of its site, which begs the question of what people will move onto after the initial screaming and outrage, if there isn't an immediate backstep among the law courts.

The next-biggest search engine, perhaps? Or one owned by the news outlets? Or one that's negotiated to kill off a rival?

There is no logical outcome to the problem that benefits the person suing otherwise. You'll either lose Google-views and end up wondering why people don't want to pay you in order to link to the page where they could read a story for free / pay for the full story, or you'll end up basically turning all of the search engine's "news" pages into a paid-advert page devoid of independence, subject to massive tax issues, and linking to the lowest-bidder in preference to you.

I can only think that the people suing think that Google will swallow throwing a few million their way for the "privilege" of sending them some traffic which is the only thing that keeps them propped up and relevant in the modern age, forever, and not be bitter about it, which seems incredibly unlikely. Much more likely is they just say "If you don't want us to link to you, click here to remove your entire domain from our search engine" (which is the argument already in court - if you don't want googlebot indexing you, disable it from robots.txt and you'll also lose all your random Google traffic along with it).

It's just far too dangerous a road to rule that Google (and everyone else, don't forget) need to pay or remove the listings. I'd much rather just never take the risk of being sued by Company X by never, ever citing, snippeting, or linking to any articles even remotely associated with them ever again.

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One in 10 Brit smartphone owners 'can't afford' to pay for apps

Lee Dowling
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I pay for apps that are worth it. Currently, that's limited to a handful of games that have decent demos and that I couldn't put down and things like Torque (a car OBD app that works with a cheapy Bluetooth device I have that has helped me avoid MOT failures in the past by letting me see what's wrong without a mechanic asking me to pay for the privilege and so been worth its cost).

Apps, generally, won't be bought. The whole app-store concept is, I feel, a short-lived one. Sure, I bought a couple of apps from the Wii Store a few years back but I haven't touched that store in ages. I bought a few apps for my first-and-only Android smartphone when I first got it but stuff that was useful or, literally, cost pence. Over and above that, everything I use is free and I actually get more value out of them than the pay-for apps.

I bought my 4-year-old (who lives with her mother) an Android tablet and loaded her up with freeware. Also gave a £15 Play store credit that came with it which I could have used myself but thought I probably wouldn't spend it (and thought there might be something she wants and pre-paid credit was better than my credit card on there!). To my knowledge, that money is still on the account and hasn't been touched but she certainly has a lot of new apps on there.

About the only "app-store" that works is Steam, because it's not so much an app store as a way to purchase commercial games. There's always a bit of freeware to do any job you might need and, on phones and tablets, there's not much you *need* beyond casual entertainment and the occasional basic utility (memo-writing or calculator or similar). Hell, my smartphone is mostly emulators and network calculators. About the only really-well-used app is an SSH client, and that's hardly the type of thing you go out and pay for. I'd probably pay for a bubble-popping game before that happened.

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Heroic Register reader battles EXPLODING COMPUTER

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Re: Offboard PSUs...? - printers

I'll post my most-verified one so as to not make a mistake concerning manufacturers, etc.

Samsung CLP-300 series, including the Xerox I-can't-remember-the-model that's a rebranded version of it in a white case, also including the "300N" versions that are networked and the CLX- derivative with the flatbed scanner attached. (all use the same internals on different machines).

Have, in the past three years, consigned ten or more of those to the scrap heap because they allow the paper exit area to block the paper (when someone puts something on it / paper gets jammed normally / people just print too much and don't collect it from the exit tray), which then allows the paper to REFOLD back into the paper exit area roller. You end up with a circular tube of paper that sits right on top of the heater elements, which DO NOT SWITCH OFF and allow the paper to first char (to the point the paper you get to remove is crispy and the lettering burned off), then smoke (which is the point at which users usually phone up) and AT NO POINT SHUT OFF (because the heater element isn't actually overheating, it's just the paper above it that does).

I have personally removed AT LEAST ten burned circular tubes of paper from printers that jammed or had their paper exit area blocked, and subsequently smoked to the point that users noticed before anything dangerous happened (P.S. I work for schools, and printing unattended is fortunately very, very rare!) but which private tests confirm would happily go on until the risk of ignition was more than significant (especially if the paper exit area was blocked by something flammable like... paper). Additionally, at no point was any vent blocked because they are on the side but that MAY cause a thermal fuse to trip if you did that, but it wasn't necessary to cause a hazard. They didn't trip in any of the cases I witnessed and the only "stop" was when the user switched it off (the printer itself tends to just keep on printing and putting more paper onto the roller until the unit jams or the roller stops turning, which in itself raises the risk because the paper goes from being on a heater rotisserie to being directly grilled). In some cases, this was literally MINUTES later when they had witnessed the smoke, thought it strange, sniffed, checked, found the source, called me, I'd screamed at them to power it off and when I ask, the printer was STILL smoking and still feeding paper right up until they'd turned it off.

Very popular model from a few years ago as it was the cheapest "big name" colour laser and takes very cheap toner "pots" rather than huge cartridges. Now "discontinued" but not, from what I can tell, because of those problems. We've replaced them now, because of such problems and their discontinued nature, but I know a lot of places still use them.

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Lee Dowling
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Re: Offboard PSUs...? - printers

Would you like a few models of ordinary desktop laser printers that don't, in fact, do this? And I don't know of any reasonably-priced laser printer models that actually have fan control beyond "on/off".

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Lee Dowling
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Re: Offboard PSUs...?

And so expose it to the outside, via high-powered cables that have to run external to the box (and thus subject to wear and tear), outside of the nice largely-inflammable, and properly-earthed box it's already in? Yes, you can if you want. Mine will stay where it is.

And on a side-note, I have just taken delivery of 25+ all-in-one touchscreen PC's for my workplace. They use 19V external power adaptors, the same as a laptop, but have pretty meaty CPU's in them (their graphics are pretty dumb and basic). They get incredibly hot and connect via a single 19v DC cable to the computer itself, which is liable to pulling out, yanking, tearing, etc. and then has to be stepped down to the internal voltages of a normal motherboard and SATA drive inside the machine anyway. They also arc if you don't push the three-leaf-clover cable into them fully. And that's before you even get into trying to make them for high-end gamers PC's where 500-1000W isn't unusual (good lucky getting at least 500W of DC down a single cable that's exposed to users - that's about 5 times your most powerful laptop PSU). And then the step-down circuitry would mean either a huge PSU in the machine anyway, or a huge one in the external PSU and a very thick cable to transport them all, correctly isolated, to the machine itself.

The number one cause of power problems with laptops that I get are: broken cables, "dropped" power supplies (i.e. knock them off the desk, usually knocking the coils off the internal boards and killing them outright), and overheating power supplies (because they tuck them down the backs of sofas / desks without thinking.

The PSU is NOT anywhere near the most dangerous PC component. Go look at your printer and the vents on it, then wonder what happens when you block the vents with stacks of paper, on a device designed to print on stacks of paper by automatically feeding large amounts of said paper through a heating element that runs hot enough to char paper if it stops mid-way...

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Lee Dowling
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Damn, you must be having some seriously cheap hardware there.

First, I've managed probably thousands of PC's, 50% of which I was supporting rather than specifying and most of which have been 3-5 years old or even more. I've sometimes inherited the most cheap networks, with the most horrendous repairs/bodges known to man (how about a major UK educational supplier who advise you, when the caps blow on a motherboard, to buy PCI cards in order, because they know what order the caps will blow and what functionality you will lose over time as they do so?!).

In over ten years, I have had precisely one PSU do something a bit odd (and also the closest experience I've ever had to "fire" from a PC - by my statistics, NiCd battery chargers are about 10 times more dangerous). A PC was reported to have a "burning" smell that was present whenever the computer was turned on and, undeniably, was coming from the PSU. No smoke, no flame, no boom, no pop, hell the computer just kept on working. But the PC was nearly 15 years old and only used because it ran some ancient piece of software that only run on Windows 95.

And, to be honest, a PC is a sealed metal box. Sure, if you have things close enough to block the vents then a fire could be a severe hazard to your health (and I was concerned enough about the burning smell to instantly condemn the machine above) but otherwise, it'll just burn to the point that the fuse blows in the plug (you *did* have a fused plug and outlet?) or the PSU, and then pretty much stop. The only source of ignition is the electricity, the only fuel a flame-retardant motherboard and some plastic on the cables / fans (which, by dying, take out the main source of oxygen), the only way to escape out of the vents at the rear which you should be keeping WELL clear anyway if you don't want a fire to start.

Out of all the electronics I use every day, and all the office equipment I see used, the PC's and their PSU's (even if replaced with ones from 10-year-younger PC's, etc. when they go wrong, which I have personally witnessed) are probably the least risky things. Hell, block a printers vents and you have an instant fire hazard as several call I've received in my office will testify to. Lovely heated element, little ventilation, huge temptation to stack paper over the fans and vents and, believe it or not, a huge fuel source that gets fed through the device by an automated process. Just lovely. (Yes, I have received at least two calls along the panicked lines of "The printer is smoking, what should I do?" - SWITCH THE DAMN THING OFF AND GET AWAY FROM IT, MAYBE?).

Hell, much more of a risk than anything else I see are probably things like extension leads, dodgy cables that have been run over by office chairs (though regular PAT testing tends to eliminate such problems over time), electric heaters and printers. And I'm much more personally worried about UPS's than PSU's. Those things scare me. Some of them have car batteries in them, provide lethal voltage, and they DON'T SHUT OFF. If one of those goes wrong, you'll find me pushing the fire alarm, not faffing about trying to get it outside.

P.S. Picking up a metal case that's on fire, and throwing water on a metal / plastic / electrical fire probably isn't the best thing either. Probably would have done better just switching it off and covering it with a blanket.

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Phone with Facebook hardware button lobbed out by Nokia

Lee Dowling
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What?

"The new handset also has a bump-to-send feature, called Slam, which sends a file to the nearest Bluetooth device on request, a nice feature which should work with any Bluetooth device."

What could POSSIBLY go wrong?!

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BOFH: The Great Patch Mismatch

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Nearly, but SIMS isn't the only MIS that suffers these issues.

Hint: Private school software a company in the West Country.

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Lee Dowling
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Re: This brings me happy memories

I never got the point of halon.

Let's prevent deaths from smoke inhalation by killing anybody who might be in the room wanting to breathe.

Sure, halon leaves your equipment undamaged, but if you're important enough to worry about that, you have redundancy elsewhere anyway. Just install a separate sprinkler in those rooms and insure the servers if it comes to that. And then no H&S and legal nightmares, no extra equipment like masks and breathers, and no special installation and precautions necessary.

I never got why computers, of all things, should take priority. *Especially* if those computers are supposed to save lives themselves (e.g. 999 datacenters) - then they should be highly redundant and distributed anyway.

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Lee Dowling
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Just had to update an update of an update of an update that "would fix our issues".

Turns out the expensive Management Information System that our school runs needed an update ages ago. We didn't apply it because we didn't need any of the changes it had. The next week, we were issued with an emergency update that fixed the corruption of the main databases caused by that update. We applied it weeks later when we had heard it was safe. Surprisingly, the new update backs up the old database before it touches it now (seemed kind of a big omission in such a large piece of software, but what the hell do I know?).

So we do that, but that needed us to install IIS and ASP on the server that runs it, because the update-to-the-update also migrates you to their new "web-based" infrastructure even if you don't actually use it. Given that that server runs NOTHING else, we let it happen. Then we updated again to test the new HMRC PAYE tax notification system which was touted as a feature and we were on the trial for. Turns out that just gives SOAP errors because some silly sod forget to make the update-to-the-update-to-the-update actually activate ASP functionality (and given that the update came with install instructions that don't mention anything but installing IIS in its default config, that was kind of an oversight). We just had them log in to work out WHY it didn't do that and apparently there's going to be an update-to-the-update-to-the-update-to-the-update to fix that issue.

I wouldn't mind, but we didn't have any issues to start with, only narrowly avoided complete database corruption by being stubborn and refusing to update, and we ended up losing the functionality to submit data to HMRC. Luckily nothing important until April but that's a pretty damn unusual testing procedure they have there. Oh, and in the process we annoyed the guy doing school reports because every update wiped out any school reports that had been taken offline and he was testing them for later in the year.

Years of experience have taught me: Never update automatically. Never update immediately. And, if nothing's broke and it's not a "frontline" machine, never update. And certainly never update with a way to get back to EXACTLY where you were before the update.

Applies to everything from modem / router / switch firmware up to and including network-wide application software.

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Samsung SSD 840 series storage review

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Re: Halve the price of the 512Gb model

Let's take, then, for example: Video editing. Needs high capacity. Also benefits miraculously from stupidly fast random access speeds. However, cannot ever be fully happy with a cached drive (not even close).

Or ordinary file servers. Need large storage capacity. Lots of (VERY!) random access. Not fulfilled by a cached drive for anything but the most simple of things (and most of that, if present, will actually be better off using uncached drives and an operating system cache anyway).

We're not talking huge, esoteric uses here. I'm telling you what bottlenecks I hit on my own machines (including at work) that I would happily buy an SSD for, where any kind of hybrid of specialised cache-only drive, or hybrid drive is either totally unsuitable, or won't be as good as just a nice, cheap, large SSD. It's not even a budget problem - If they produced them, I'd probably buy a few dozen - for redundancy, spares, etc.

But the advantages that SSD has (speed of random access, top transfer speed) are dwarved by the capacity in which home users can buy a £50 hard drive from Maplin's for. It's not a mutually exclusive (or even very unusual) requirement to want fast transfer speed from a large drive. I'd much prefer a device from 2-3 generations of SSD ago, but with a decent capacity. Because not much has changed in the speed stakes, they still would wipe the floor with HDD, but they would actually be usable on a mass scale (i.e. any laptop, PC, server I can fit them into) rather than some niche device that's pricing itself out of the market for the "extra" 1% they give over their (identical capacity) SSD predecessors.

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Lee Dowling
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Halve the price of the 512Gb model

Halve the price of the 512Gb model and I'll buy one. Or give me a 1TB one for that price.

Still, until then, any amount of performance improvements, power reductions or fancy "kits" won't make me touch them.

I don't care about SATA 3Gb/s or 6Gb/s, they still wipe the floor with any hard drive. What they *don't* have is capacity. I want a "faster than hard disk" SSD of the same size as a hard disk, for a reasonable price. Been waiting several years for those prices to come down now and STILL the upper limit is really "256Gb or buy a hard drive".

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Galapagos tortoise 'Lonesome George' might NOT be last of his kind

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Re: What they really need...

Actually, the only real definition of species, even back then, was that they were able to interbreed. If you can make a child with another animal, you were the same species (but not necessarily the same animal) as them. Hence dogs are all one species, even if they look vastly different. Technically, there's nothing to stop a chihuahua impregnating a Great Dane successfully.

That definition, though, still isn't "perfect" because things change as we discover more about animals. You are not one species. Just you. You contain probably hundreds to thousands of distinct species, genii, etc. of life. Similarly, even down to a cellular level, your mitochondria (without which you would have no decent way to give cells energy) are "captive" parts of a complete different organism inside your own cells. They can even have different DNA to you. That's before you even GET into what's in your stomach from birth and (we believe) replenished by your appendix in the case of a stomach illness. None of them have even remotely similar DNA to you, are the same species of you, etc. but without them you would die (even "boy in a bubble" cases have stomach bacteria etc.).

So any definition of species will be long, like Wall-E trying to categorise a "spork" into his collection of kitchen utensils. But the longest-standing, easiest-to-categorise, easiest-to-observe, most common-sense definition is "what you can successfully mate with, is your species". Let's not get into the complications of the other groupings within species, etc. because then it gets horrendously complicated.

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Why you need an interactive file archive

Lee Dowling
Silver badge
Mushroom

Use Opera.

Multiple account, huge storage of every email in a single SQLite database that you can prune at will and that can do in-browser full-text "as-you-type" search over the entire archive without even struggling.

Currently have all my emails for about 10 accounts going back to, the earliest, 2002 - and that's only because before then I wasn't sucking stuff into Opera or didn't keep emails. I have another computer somewhere with everything pre-2002 stored in UNIX mailbox format that I could import if I could be bothered.

Tagging, Bayesian spam-filtering, insta-searches over Gigabytes of email through multiple accounts, IMAP integration (folders, tagging, etc.) and a lovely interface to browse just one account, just unread, just ones that fit a criteria, etc. without having to work out how to do it.

But, saying that, haven't needed to bring pre-2002 archives out in the last ten years except maybe once to get some ancient password that I could have just re-issued if necessary anyway.

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NHS Trust ditches in-house servers, chucks 15TB into the cloud

Lee Dowling
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Re: %15 short term saving now

Moving stuff out of internal departments is usually nothing but madness.

You're basically going to be paying an outside company to do the job your IT guys were having to do (including buying all the same, or better, equipment) *AND* then make a profit on top from you. Short of some economy-of-scale (which doesn't tend to happen with such software, storage and availability requirements), you are always going to end up paying more than just doing it yourself. Those IT guy pensions you save money on this year? That outside company is now paying the same or better to their IT guys and then charging you 10-50% on top.

Now this is a lot of data and connectivity to have, but I still fail to see why they couldn't just, for example, rent a load of servers with a similar SLA and have their IT guys run it remotely? Same thing and you get internal oversight by your own people, and to have your own "backup" on-site without relying on a third-party company? And you don't have to pay for someone else's profit margins.

Just about every decision I see to get outside people to do the job of former inside people ends up the same way. Unless there are economies-of-scale which you absolutely cannot take advantage of any other way (or, say, you get the software for free like my workplace - a school - which now use free Google Apps For Education for their stuff rather than paying 1&1 to hold our email for us) then you're just paying for someone else to do the same job with the same hardware (or worse) AND take home 20%.

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Why did Comet fail? Hint: It wasn't just the credit insurers

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Indeed. It's not just a question of a pound or two, either. That's, what, 36% saving? And the guy who sold it to you still has to have had made a profit, set up a website, kept stock, posted it to you, paid taxes, tracked customers, etc.

If it was a few pounds difference, Amazon and a lot of web shops would see an awful lot less custom. But when something is esoteric, rare, or just plain stupidly expensive for no good reason, they go elsewhere. Shocking that.

It's not even like it's a Tesco-style "let's make all the little guys nearby suffer by taking a loss while profiting elsehwere", this is a one-off purchase of an item specifically within their product range that I can get cheaper from smaller outfits selling the exact same product who I will probably only use one a decade, if that.

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Lee Dowling
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Re: The Comet Syndrome

I remember the Maplin of the past too, but in some places it's still there. The problem is that selling one NE555 a month isn't profitable to stock such things all separately or even the time it takes the assistant to dig one out.

I can understand their shift in their physical stores (stuff that people are likely to wander past and get, rather than go hunting for obscure component X and hope they have it), but they still like to pretend that they can do the technical side too. The mail-order side handles the more esoteric orders pretty well, but the pricing for small orders can be a problem.

I do remember when most of the Maplin catalogue (which used to be free!) was circuit diagrams and specifications rather than disco equipment and toys. Maplins moved with the times a little though - not perfect, but they realised what would happen to somewhere that was *just* a niche electronics supplier in the high street and adapted. You have to give them credit for that, though how long they can keep it up remains an open question.

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Lee Dowling
Silver badge
Stop

- No stock on site.

- Unhelpful, and sometimes just plain incompetent, staff.

- Pushing warranties that have "con" written all over them (sometimes costing more than the product you bought over the first year, let alone anything else).

- Nothing of an anywhere near reasonable price.

When I only visit your shop because I have to (my ex- was a mystery shopper and we use to audit such places for correct stock / pricing on occasion, as well as the normal "buy something, return it next day, then tell them you're a mystery shopper" job), and when I spent most of my time in that shop listening to the incredibly atrocious lies that you tell customers in order to sell them everything you can, that's when you're going to start to disappear if you don't do something to fix it. Honestly, most of the staff in the shop wouldn't know what a random feature you picked off the product description was if you trained them for another year just on that.

To be honest, I'm not surprised Comet is the first out of all the big names, but I will be surprised if it is the last. Soon to follow: Currys (already absorbed Dixons), PC World and - maybe - even Maplin (though they usually have someone on site who knows what they are doing, most of the sales staff are Comet-rejects, and their prices are basically "price * random * 2" from what I can tell, and their biggest saving grace is a half-decent online store). I haven't been in a phone store for years, but I suspect that most of those suffer the same problems.

If you own a shop, I need to be able to walk in, feel comfortable, find someone who can convince me I can trust them and that they know what I need, find such suitable products, pay a decent price for them, and walk out with the product same-day if I want (or schedule delivery for some reasonable time-frame for much larger items). That's pretty much 99% of retail. Comet failed on almost all of it, and some other stores are not far behind.

The fuss about credit insurance, VC, etc. is really just the problems that occurred *AFTER* they got into trouble, when people stopped relying on the local electrical store for all their white goods etc.

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London Underground platform Wi-Fi set to cost £2 daily for many

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Re: It's *complementary*

I once pointed out that exact same spelling error in the brochure for a large school and sixth form college. Apparently the facilities they had were "complimentary" to your child's education (I can only think that the computers must tell the pupils how well they are doing, etc.).

Shame that by that time it had already gone through several rounds of proofreading, through the English department and head of English for verification, and then some very costly glossy printing of thousands of copies. And then they still tried to argue that it wasn't a mistake, basically because I was only a lowly IT technician at that point and they wanted the English department to save face.

When you have to get out a dictionary to prove your point to the Head of English, in a school, you know it's time to move on...

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Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Pay for wifi access? How quaint and 1990's.

To be honest, I don't pay for Wifi when I'm up in the Highlands, with no 3G or any other sort of connectivity, and the local pub is the only place that offers it, and it's a reasonable charge and a good pub. Because five minutes away there will be free, legitimate Wifi if I really want it and there's nothing on the Internet so vital that I have to have it then.

I certainly wouldn't be paying for it in the middle of London when I'm just minutes away from complete 3G access that I've already paid for. And certainly not £2 a day.

Next you'll be telling me they will supplement their income by inserting their advertising on the pages you download, like back-in-the-day.

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Mighty 4 Terabyte whopper crashes down on the desktop

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Re: Anyone know...

They have far too much money, and far too much time, and far too much space in their house. ;-)

In my (English) house loft, you'd be lucky to get a full tower case standing upright anywhere but the centre of the house in amongst all the rafters and it would die in a week from all the dust up there.

Hell, I think twice about putting anything bigger than a laptop in the house because I know it'll stagnate and end up staying around forever, I won't use it to the full, and won't want to replace it with something smaller.

A couple of PC's is usually the limit for most people, hence STB etc. projects are more common that 60Tb RAID's.

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Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Wow, a disk that breaks another barrier in terms of filesystems / partitions, etc.

Having been through several such limitations, including everything from 138Gb down to even just 1G being a problem, that's quite impressive in such a short time. Sure, you've always been able to RAID things to break them, and 2Tb was the last "real" barrier to anything, but that's still good progress there.

Pity SSD's are stagnated around the 256Gb mark still.

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Can supermodel minx Heidi Klum SAVE Windows 8? NOT SO FAST

Lee Dowling
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Re: Personally

The problems aren't VM-related - they are just Windows 8 no matter what hardware/flavour you have. You have to download an "msu" file. Those won't install from a network share (even a mapped network drive) but WON'T tell you why (error out with junk or just die quietly). Copy to C:\, they work. You can't install RSAT without en_US language packs installed (they now tell you this on the relevant MS KB article in TINY writing in a huge block of text). If you try, no errors, no install, it just dies silently. To start to install the language pack you need to have Windows Search enabled (or the language window shows languages but no language packs - again, no error or any useful information, just a blank window and no way to progress). To actually complete the install, you need Automatic Updates turned on and working (again, no errors or useful information). Then it will install, silently, into the Windows Features option under the Programs & Features dialog in control panel and you can enable it to get the menus come up.

Pretty sure that in Windows XP they were "just there" on the appropriate versions of Windows and didn't even need a separate install, let alone one so convoluted. That's also not the only convoluted and horrendously undocumented problem that I've had with Windows 8 but it's certainly one of the easiest to explain and worst example.

And dual-booting went out with the Ark (I am not going to reboot to get into an OS to do one thing and then have to reboot again to get back to how I was). VM's install quicker, snapshot easier, migrate between machines, work just as fast (if you have VT extensions on your processor and enough RAM) and are more flexible and can be migrated to disk if you ever decide to keep them. So glad I VM'd Windows 8, whereas Windows 7 would have slipped onto my disk eventually if I'd bothered to VM that first, without any help.

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Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Personally

Just received my "official" Windows 8 physical CD from MS that I ordered as part of their £14.99 upgrade plan for Windows 7 computers. Needless to say, in the month it took to arrive (luckily they *do* give ISO downloads, but a lot of people on that offer must have had to wait a month to get an install disk that they didn't know how to use, methinks) Windows 8 Pro itself hasn't managed to work its way out of a VM and onto my actual computer.

In fact, in anything, it's probably sleeping quietly inside the confines of its quarantine, waiting for the day that it sees light. Bear in mind that on the machine I installed the VM, it's a brand-new Windows 7 machine and the first I've personally had running that OS (I've trialled it and tested it and done lots of work with it, but never on my own personal machine which has been XP for YEARS). It would have been a cinch to ditch the fresh Windows 7 Home Premium install and then put Windows 8 on and skip Windows 7 entirely.

The Windows XP -> Windows 7 migration? Pretty smooth, given that it's still on there and I haven't needed to exorcise it yet and the computer gets 16 hours of use a day for everything from work to games. Sure, I needed to polish it up a bit and plug some holes with freeware and its far from perfect but it's certainly usable without major hindrances.

But Windows 8? I spent a day getting a "Active Directory Users & Computers" icon on my menu - so much bad software installation and dead-end error codes that it was unbelievable. Got there in the end (apparently it's my fault for installing from a VM network share, using en_GB as the system language, and wanting to disable automatic updates and Windows Search, which are obviously the FIRST things you look at when the install program for RSAT just crashes with random hex codes that mention none of the above).

I could never get the file management windows to be vaguely productive for me and I'd get more done using a third-party shell than I would windows explorer now.

If it wasn't for the fact that it was only £14.99 and that gives me "8 Pro" which I can use to manage networks if it comes to it, and I can keep it snoozing inside a VM until I actually *need* it (which is likely to be very infrequently), I wouldn't have touched it. The same tricks applied to 7 don't apply to 8 and there's some things that you simply cannot do and I couldn't get it to the point where I could actual feel productive using it. Even the "Server Manager" junk I'm dreading having to use, and when I do, I'm likely to use VMWare's "Unity" feature so that I get the Windows 8 Pro windows from the VM overlaid into my Windows 7 desktop as if they are native apps.

Seriously - I have a "free" upgrade any time I like, I'm fresh off of XP and thus mentally prepared to put in the legwork to get to a productive desktop, I have the software installed, properly licensed, an "edition" upgrade to give me more features, even a free Media Centre key for it (not that I'll use that feature for anything except the DVD codecs), entirely compatible hardware, and still I can't justify actually *USING* Windows 8 over Windows 7 (or even over XP).

And still I haven't figured out how to lose the Language menu on the taskbar (which is required because I *have* to have the en_US language pack for the RSAT tools to work), or the "Touch Keyboard", both of which come back after a reboot no matter what options or registry entries you tweak. It's just like a bad, untested Windows 7 service pack that no-one wants to touch - it's exactly like installing Gnome 3 on top of your perfectly-working system - the underneath is the same but the interface is just too horrendous to use even if it comes "for free".

Windows 7 gets used 16 hours a day by someone who stuck with XP up until this October (quite glad I left it that late, because without the existence of all the freeware and tweaks I want to do to it, I wouldn't have touched it).

Windows 8 gets used once a month to do a Windows update on it, from inside the Windows 7 VM host.

You could offer a free Heidi Klum blue movie with every copy, and still you'd have problems shifting it.

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NASA SECRET DISCOVERY ON MARS: Meteor offers possible clue

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Re: Water on Mars?

Fluids all follow pretty much the same physics. And fluids, scientifically speaking, include gases. A hostile atmosphere on a remote planet can, after enough time, grow features that look exactly like a river, etc. has run through. As can any number of natural phenomena.

Hell, it's like seeing that photograph of "desert sand struck by lightning" and saying that it can "only" be caused by the sand coming alive and trying to grow into a tree. From a scientific perspective, without any evidence, we can't say what those features are caused by.

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Microsoft's OWN tests on Kin 'social phone' foretold its doom

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Re: This was the problem with my last Windows Mobile phone

To be honest, all problems that even modern PC's have been able to replicate if you slag them hard enough with things to do.

I work in schools and still hear the occasional keyboard "beep beep beep beep" as some computer has 90 copies of Word loaded on it because the kids are leaning on the keyboard, then it gets a full keyboard buffer and doesn't know what to do with it, and the replay of the keyboard buffer after it catches up still affects just about every PC in the world.

The problem is not the exhibited behaviour, but the cause. The only way to have that be a problem (and not have the keyboard / touchscreen input buffers just keep up in real-time) is to have a vastly overworked processor that just can't get round to processing input in time. With MS, I'm not really surprised, they've never really taken the "embedded" space seriously in terms of programming and just try to shoehorn portions of the desktop product into a smaller, powerful device (even the XBox was just a mid-range PC in a box).

There is no magic solution to the input problem that others are using. You can either buffer input, or throw it away, and if you buffer it you have to have a limit before you start throwing away. And getting to the point that you are throwing away input means the machine is just trying to do too much and can't get around to dealing with that input. The problem lies in not checking input often enough, with enough priority, and at the expense of other processes. Something that a lot of programs and OS get right is to just give user input the absolute top priority possible - there's nothing so frustrating as a small pause between input actions and their response. I want the computer to start deleting the damn files I told it to, or move the cursor across the screen smoothly AT THE EXPENSE of the background process actually removing those files from disk. That's how it should always work. If I can't get to the damn icon in the first place, it doesn't matter how multitasking the OS is or how fast it deletes those files, I still suffer a drop in productivity where I could be giving the computer MORE instructions that it can perform for me.

But if you program without consideration of user input, if you don't prioritise it but prioritise other uncertain benchmarks, or if your processor is just THAT damn busy, you end up with those problems. Optimise, rethink, upgrade. And the third option is REALLY expensive if you're building a phone. Methinks they just couldn't get the software down to the point where it didn't bring the whole processor to a grinding halt and have "forgotten" how to optimise things for low-end systems, as a company.

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Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Sigh.

2010, and the developers hadn't realised (or bothered to do something concrete about) not being able to type numbers into their new phone.

I know that testing can pull out issues you never considered, things you didn't think to try, and problems that only certain people would ever run into but why bother to even test with a product still in a state that you can't interact with it properly at all.

I find it more laughable they *bothered* to put it through testing without realising that's what was going to happen, rather than that testing revealing such serious issues.

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Malware made which can share a smartcard over the internet

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Re: Compromised Windows PC

You have to install an unsigned driver. Game over before you even start, and requires administrative privileges on just about any modern system (or vast warnings which allow the ordinary users the chance to offer administrative privileges to said malware if they click Yes, which is the same thing).

And I think you're confusing hardware keyloggers with just-about-any utility that can sniff the keyboard / USB transactions. This software is really doing nothing different to quite a lot of malware, just that it directly intercepts a specific piece of hardware (that's nothing new in general, all the recent virus stories discuss SCADA hardware attacks and similar, it's just new to this particular piece of hardware).

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Lee Dowling
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And?

Shock - software which runs with administrative rights on an Internet-connected computer could send data collected from peripherals to an external computer without your permission.

Next!

(P.S. how is this different from a keylogger reading your USB keyboard? And USBoIP software has been available for years - I was looking into it on Windows 98, but it was all too expensive and low-compatibility back then.)

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Astronauts (or other 'nauts) could find life on Mars quite healthy

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

100% Oxygen atmosphere

I did a bit of Googling and ended up with:

"The astronauts in the Gemini and Apollo programs breathed 100 percent oxygen at reduced pressure for up to two weeks with no problems. In contrast, when 100 percent oxygen is breathed under high pressure (more than four times that of atmospheric pressure), acute oxygen poisoning can occur"

I believe in comparison, it's not an insurmountable problem to find a substitute gas for breathing given some source of oxygen.

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Lee Dowling
Silver badge

I agree, in part.

But send one with power sufficient to do the job - the cost will be enormous, the energy gotten will be unmatched, yes, but the second it goes wrong and we contribute to laying waste part of another planet will be the death of the whole thing. That's if the greenies would even let you do it ("What if it crashes on take-off?!?!?!").

Nuclear is better, but has the same economic problems in terms of getting it (and nuclear material) onto Mars safely, and maintaining it for the time necessary. If you want to get like that, you'd probably have a better case for solar on Mars (nearer the Sun = more W / sq.m.), and even quite a good case for things like geothermal, space-based microwave etc.

The fact is, the power is only the start of your problems. The infrastructure to get the power, by whatever means, and keep it going mean that it'll cost more to do than you'll ever save by using local water as rocket fuel.

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Lee Dowling
Silver badge

I love the way that simple water is the thing we hope most to find on a remote planet. It's amazing how much of life is geared to that little simple molecule and how much use you can get out of it.

But I do wonder about the "we can get rocket fuel from water" line. Water is hydrogen and oxygen, yes, but you need to use energy to collect and filter the water in the first place, more energy to split it apart, compress the gas into storage (into liquids, no less), huge amounts of materials to store them safely, etc. And for "rocket fuel", you need an awful lot of it to get back to Earth. So the investment of energy required to make a single return trip is HUMONGOUS and may literally take years, lakes of water, fields of solar panels and heavy metal machines and containers to make it a reality.

And then you're left with the problem that H2O is 2 H's and only 1 O, which leaves you with a lot of highly-volatile chemicals just sitting around surplus right next to a huge source of oxygen (which can be more dangerous than an equivalent amount of petrol in the case of an accident). And we probably want a lot more oxygen than we do hydrogen, if we're going to be breathing it, and fuelling from it, and whatever else with it, so that means even more venting or storage of H that we've paid a lot to get and then won't be using (and to use, we need to use O with it in some form!). Sure, we can probably capture it and burn in the native atmosphere for heating, etc. somehow but that's even more expense to get it working and just as dangerous.

I'm not saying we can't use it, but it seems a bit of a pipe dream to suggest that we'll ever use it as a method of fuelling rockets - by the time you get all the equipment to use it there, and a sufficient source of energy up and running, and the plant operational and safe, then you've already used so much "other" technology to get to that point that it's probably a waste of time to be messing about with sticking a couple of electrodes into a puddle of water for the next hundred years to fuel a return journey.

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Windows Phone 8 reboot woe causes outpouring of forum misery

Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Re: Reboot culture

My last XP image went through 4 computers, and nearly 8 years of constant use (so I still had the drivers from the very first computer still present on the disk when I broke the last laptop this year!). Hell, it was on the exact same hard drive for most of that time.

I suspect that with virtualisation etc. my current OS setup will actually last longer without any kind of reinstall (I already virtualise my copy of Windows 8 Pro because my workplace are looking at moving to it as their primary desktops and I'll need to support it - the machine actually doing the virtualisation DOES NOT run on that heap of junk).

But saying that, I still have Linux machines with a direct archaeology back to Slackware 3.1 and kernel 2.0.38, if I want to get pedantic (1996, I think).

People seem to forget that hardware comes and goes but your software SHOULDN'T. Upgrades, yes, clean-ups, yes, even complete hardware replacements - but you shouldn't be formatting your drive unless something incredibly drastic has gone wrong and you have no suitable backups.

Now, in terms of professional setups, I am a bit the opposite and will happily re-image a PC from a known-working image or use a clean image for a new base on a new model. But that's because I want those machines *pristine* and to eliminate the current disk data as a source of the trouble. That's totally different to a home user.

And I make a point of correcting anyone who pulls out the "computers get slower the more you use them" line. It's a load of tosh. It's like saying a car gets slower if you don't put any oil in it... of course it does! But if you did a little bit of maintenance every now and again on probably THE most expensive electrical appliance in your house, then it can go at the same speed it always has until the hardware itself dies.

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Lee Dowling
Silver badge

Reboot culture

Is it just me that detests the "reboot culture" of tech support?

Sure, it fixes the immediate problem (i.e. my computer is inaccessible) but it doesn't solve the actual problem or its causes in any, shape or form.

I've heard it for every problem known to man and if a reboot gets you to a working machine then it's "problem solved" according to the support lines and off you're supposed to trundle. ISP's are particularly mad on this and I have just moved to a leased line at work because the line we have CAN be fixed by rebooting the modem - but we have to reboot it 10-20 times a day. And now its creeping into daily life when your phone needs rebooting, or your media player, or you Blu-Ray player, or your games console or even your car (OBD etc.). Fix-by-rebooting is like saying "Well, if you start your car and it doesn't show the same 'I have no brakes' problem that you just experienced at 70mph on the motorway when it restarts, then your problem is solved".

And not just that, but incessant reboots to do trivial tasks are the bane of my life. I can't count the number of forced reboots I have to endure throughout the working day for NO GOOD REASON.

When tech support anywhere tell me to reboot, I pause for a minute, say "Yep, done that" and then hope they'll get on with actually solving the damn problem.

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