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* Posts by Lee Dowling

1188 posts • joined 28 Mar 2007

World Bank says world likely to warm by four degrees

Lee Dowling
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"The science is unequivocal that humans are the cause of global warming"

I stopped reading at that sentence. I'm not averse to the *hypothesis* that this is true, but I am truly averse to stating it as unequivocal fact.

And, again, assuming it's true the solution is? What precisely? Stop using energy? Which will be worse for the world (in terms of deaths, disease, technology, etc.) than not doing anything? And how do we *know* that the temperature won't just keep on rising even if we *do* do that?

Puff-piece, again. Gimme some data (that isn't disputed down to the individual datum), gimme some hypothesis about the cause of that data (that can reliably predict the next, say, year's data), gimme some solution that fits that hypothesis and hypothesise the result of that solution, implement that solution small-scale and predict (within a reasonable accuracy) the results of that solution (which should be for the better and not have major worldwide sacrifices liable to harm millions), and then maybe, just maybe, we can talk about pushing legislation through to change that across our country (and then, later, the world).

Realised that that's going to take 50-100 years to do, yet, even with all the funding in the world? People realised that 50-100 years ago, and not one prediction, not one hypothesis, not one solution panned out.

This is NOT a simple problem (if true), and the solution is even less simple and probably has MORE impact on us as a civilisation than a 4 degree rise in temperature (which we almost certainly have survived many times already and will survive again). And until you can prove, beyond some reasonable point, otherwise you're just being heard as political machinations with ulterior motives.

P.S. On a side-note, I watched my boss fend off a solar-panel company who wanted to blanket a large school in solar panels (at no real advantage to anyone except the solar-panel company) and also, as an afterthought, tried to sell us a "voltage optimiser" (which is a device that "lowers voltages to save power" with due disregard to the fact that 99% of the loads you put on it would just draw more current if you did that anyway). That's the sort of category I'm putting most of the "green" plans into of late. I'm sure back in the 60's and 70's they weren't quite so crackpot, just misguided.

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Long-suffering Virgin Media victims see no end to vid PURGATORY

Lee Dowling
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Guess which time ALL of the above downloads were referring to?

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Lee Dowling
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Last week, I watched an hour's program on iPlayer about cells, nothing unusual.

Earlier this week, I watched Bruce Almighty on iPlayer from start to finish, nothing unusual.

Yesterday, I caught up with a lot of the comedies I'd missed last weekend on iPlayer - and some in HD - nothing unusual (one stream took a little while to buffer, but F5'd and it worked fine).

On Virgin Media, with their Superhub (modem mode), on their lowest Internet tariff. So it's either not as clear-cut as a particular peer not working, or they are having problems related to their local back-ends and leased lines, not the main connectivity.

That said, they should really name-and-shame in order to sort it out. You're an ISP. If people can't connect to the largest UK Internet service, you're dead in the water. Sort it out.

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BOFH: Hasta la Vista... luser

Lee Dowling
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Personally

Personally, I find the amount of blackmail available given the usual contents of your average home PC is more than worth the user fulfilling the request of never darkening your door with that device ever again.

Worked on a teacher's home PC once, years ago, that they let their teenage son loose upon. Let's just say that in the two hours of cleanup, I learned why that particular teacher couldn't control a classroom - they couldn't control their own ten-year-old son.

Premium-rate modem diallers so great in number they were fighting for control of the modem (and, in a way, prevented a much worse phone bill than could have been possible with only one of them), all of them gained from pornographic sites. So many popups (pornographic) that you literally couldn't do anything without dropping to safe mode. An IE toolbar that was so deep it was unusable.

Months and months and months of recorded Internet history popping up on their virus scanner and being ignored by all users of the computer. It was so bad, it was embarrassing to be trying to clean it (but clean it I did) with a woman in the room.

Teacher's comment? "He's a scamp, isn't he?"

Shortly after, they asked for my help again. I gave them the details of the school disciplinary teacher and a copy of the school's behavioural and Internet access policies and told them to apply them at home.

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Credit insurance: The hidden data-driven force which killed Comet

Lee Dowling
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Re: 2k -> 10k credit card

When I was a student, Barclaycard gave me a credit card. Used it for years on a "debit card" (i.e. paying it off even before I'd spent the money) basis while they slowly ramped up the credit limit to some 3.5k. Strangely, years later and when I then needed it, they refused a £100 increase in credit limit (by which time I'd brought that limit down to £500).

Credit card companies WANT you to be in debt. That's their entire business - keeping you hanging around as a debt for as long as possible. When you don't use it, it costs them money. Business credit, on the other hand, wouldn't be so stupid. Offer 30-days of credits, then send in the dogs, and never let you have more than you can pay because you *will* just declare bankruptcy/administration and they'll see nothing of your money. People tend to avoid ever having to do that, businesses will do that the second they spot trouble.

I'm honestly surprised that the world even works on credit so much. Giving someone millions of pounds worth of stock on credit seems utterly stupid, whether they are a big name or not. If they fold, you will lose the stock and the money and have to pay more money to see anything back (if at all). Small businesses have small business loans from banks to buy stock from suppliers in "real" money. Once you get to the scale of having a branch in every town, I'm amazed that you still need to get credit from your suppliers and can't just pay cash.

Are you telling me that even places like Tesco aren't paying their suppliers as they order goods (or even on delivery) but months later? It's really no wonder that things are as fragile with the economy as they have been recently. And it's not even necessarily a sign of business performance. If your "credit line" drops for any reason (bad economy, lots of fraud with that supplier's other customers, etc.) then you're going to be in trouble and there's nothing you can do about it.

Just seems to me to be asking for trouble. Sure, you probably can't survive as a business without taking "credit" somewhere, whether from a bank or suppliers, but basing your business on some random-but-vital third-party not pulling the rug out from under you seems more than a little dumb, especially if you're making millions of pounds each year.

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Curiosity clears Mars radiation levels for fleeting human visits

Lee Dowling
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Gimme a small chest, about 1m x 0.5m x 0.5m, for DVD's, laptop, other little bits along the way. Pack enough food. Then try and stop me.

Seriously 18 months is NOTHING here. You can spend that planning a Arctic mission, or building the device to dive deeper in the ocean. In terms of interplanetary exploration, it's also nothing. Six months of a human on the planet is an unmatched amount of science capability that even 10 years would be worth waiting for. Don't forget, we've NEVER set foot on anything past the Moon, haven't even done that in 40 years, and we spent only a matter of HOURS there in total.

It's taken months for the Curiosity rover to pick up two bits of dirt and stick them in an analyser, and move a few hundred yards. It took years for the other Mars rovers to move a few miles and do a few scoops. A human could get equivalent science into equivalent sensors in a handful of days, and stand significantly less chance of mission failure (e.g. dying for humans, getting stuck or breaking things for rovers). Hell, if we had a human on Mars, the rovers would all be obsolete instantly (and that human would be able to get even some of the failed missions working again in a matter of days, with sufficient contact/training).

People seem to have this idea that Mars is "just another Moon", and that we actually managed to exploit the Moon for its full potential. Not even close. All we've done so far is, quite literally, put a toe in the water for the very first time. And in front of us is an entire ocean, completely unexplored and unknown. Even getting to Mars with a human and staying for 6 months would barely be ankle-deep paddling, but it's a damn sight more than we even done in the whole history of spaceflight. Historically, the whole of the space programme is like saying we "been to the Marianas Trench" or even "know all about it" by sailing a boat over the top of it. But 6 months on Mars, the largest manned mission ever launched, wouldn't be close to finding those weird white fish at the bottom, but it *would* be at least like getting a diving suit on and taking a few photos.

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EU standardises hamtagonistic powerline network tech

Lee Dowling
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Re: Wow

Then the people who pay for those licences should have been shouting DECADES ago, and it's entirely their problem to sort out. There is nothing I, as a consumer, can possibly do about perfectly legitimately-sold devices interfering on radio bands - I do not have and can not have an FCC / CE-style analysis of my devices done on a whim and then modify those devices based on their output characteristics.

Those people paying for those licenses should STOP, explain WHY, and/or SUE. Until they do, nothing will change. Until they do, nobody (in general) will know there's a problem. Until they do, people will KEEP BUYING these things totally legally and using them, totally legally.

But if there's NOT a law stopping it, or a guarantee enforcing clear bands, then there is NOTHING that *I* or *THEY* can do about it. The way forward is, was and always has been to get some legislation to stop those devices being sold. They're not doing it, they're not doing it effectively and it's arguable that they *CAN* do it at all now (too damn late for a start!).

This is not a problem I can solve. I can name 20 people with PL kit who rely it on for their home networks (e.g. where wireless won't penetrate). I can't name one that knows it's a problem for radio hams, nor one that would care so long as it was still legal to use/buy the device (and it is!).

This is a problem that licence holders should have analysed, reported, and had action taken back in the 60's or 70's. There's no difference between PL kit and any other in respect to the certifications it passes or anything else, and thus it's always been possible to do this kind of thing.

I have no sympathy for license-holders that pay for exclusive use of a certain band and HAVE NO WAY to enforce that band, and won't stop paying, and won't sue (or were silly enough to take a licence that doesn't give them a way to sue if it's not fulfilled), and won't threaten withdrawal. And, from what I see, it's not actually those licence holders who are most complaining, it's amateurs.

If this is a problem, those people affected need to do something about it.

If this was a big problem, those people would have done that and solved it decades ago.

Meanwhile, every second those devices are on general public availability, it will take longer and be harder to get rid of them (literally on the order of decades).

I can't emphasise it enough - penalising the USERS of those devices is nonsensical. You have to target the manufacturers and those certifying the devices. And there, there's NOTHING I can do to help you, everything should have been done YEARS ago, and you should have moulded a watchdog that works in your interest (I don't think allowing low-level FM transmitters in cars, etc. was in radio hams' interests either, but you let it go through). There is nothing the average consumer can do for you, and they will continue to buy these devices and make the problem worse. Not least, because they work wonderfully well and don't interfere with ANYTHING that I can detect or use in my average day.

Again, if the hams have a problem, they should have done something about it long ago, or they should at the very least do it now - but the amateur licence is stupidly cheap and comes with no guarantees and the larger users *aren't* complaining and if they are, they certainly aren't suing or fighting for refunds on their licences.

I cannot help you. The manufacturer's are pushing out firmware that does help you (thus acknowledging the problem) but nobody can force me to use it. Someone needs to take Ofcom, or the manufacturers, to court and get these things banned if they are that much of a problem. And if you can't get that far, or can't do it, or lose in court, then I'm perfectly happy to carry on using such devices as they will have been confirmed "legal".

Too little, too late, with too little proof of too little impact, and too little interest in doing anything about it.

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Lee Dowling
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Wow

Luckily, just bought a triplet of Gigabit powerline devices from Solwise for some ridiculously low price. Work great, and they have a firmware available that "avoids producing interference on certain radio frequencies" but I haven't deployed it because they work just fine. Or are we only talking about those PLT that involve sending data over the high-tension lines? I don't think we are, because nobody has those at all yet.

Though I kind of sympathise with the radio hams, the problem has always been there and is always going to be there. I don't believe the devices put out enough that it leaks significantly past my own home, and if it does, it's not *my* problem as a consumer of a (now confirmed) still-legal device. Sure, it's a pain, but failing to kick their own watchdog into touch and letting MILLIONS of such devices out into the wild, it's too late to "solve" that problem, even if all those devices become illegal overnight - it will still take DECADES to get rid of them. How many people are going to download a firmware for a working device and deploy it "just because"? How many are going to replace working kit for no particular reason?

But then, even when I was a kid, you could walk into a pound-store or cheap electrical store and pick up a device that (at the time) illegally transmitted, say, an input TV signal onto the FM range (or some other non-public range) and use it to blat TV around your house. Apparently it wasn't illegal to sell or to buy the devices, only to use them. That's a loophole right there that should have been quashed DECADES ago. And, in the end, what happened was that low-power devices were allowed to transmit all over FM anyway because they were already so prevalent (and hence I can now go and legally buy in-car FM transmitters that screw up EVERYONE'S FM within their range - and it's quite common to be driving along only to have THE most powerful radio station drop out and be replaced by someone's phone call or MP3's streaming in their own car as you drive down the motorway).

When you have an ineffective watchdog that you fail to make responsible for decades, this is what happens. AM is dead, FM will soon be, and it won't be long before other licensed frequencies are also hit. But since when has OfCom or anyone else actually cared about whether any particular individual gets reception or experiences interference? If they did, we probably wouldn't have been able to move to digital TV at all, because a huge percentage of the country just dropped out overnight or now get only half the channels they are supposed to.

Sorry, but you have nobody to blame but yourselves. You should have kicked your watchdog into touch, put in laws about this sort of thing decades ago and made sure they were enforced. Popping up only when they were already millions of problematic devices is pointless. Licensed bands are going the way of the dodo - apart from things like emergency services, aviation, shipping (which are enforced properly) and huge blocks for DVB and DAB. White-space gear will cover everything else and the few licensed bands remaining will be heavily enforced and eventually move to white-space gear that will be more reliable and cheaper by the time it all starts getting cramped.

Meanwhile, my Solwise adaptors are likely to stay in my house (and extras purchased as necessary) until someone with legal authority comes and removes them (which is likely to be never). I can't see that I've done any wrong in that, the devices are 100% legal at the moment and likely to remain so, the manufacturers must have complied with all relevant law to get the certifications necessary to legally sell them, so they aren't the real problem either. Failing to kick the ineffectual watchdog in charge, and the relevant legislations, into touch since at least the 50's / 60's is really the problem, nothing else. And it's now TOO LATE to do that without taking DECADES to clean up the airwaves and serving legal notices on people who bought devices that were entirely legitimate at the time they bought them (and hope they comply voluntarily).

My sympathy is limited. My Ethernet speed over my 1930's internal household wiring is great, though.

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Top IT bods bail out of new Universal Credit online dole system

Lee Dowling
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What about C) because they made the majority of the money they are likely to see from the project already, and if they bail now they can blame someone else for failing to complete their vision, get a bigger job on the credentials gained on that part-project, while still having made a pretty penny for a long time up to delivery.

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FalconStor brings in bankers after ELEVEN crummy quarters

Lee Dowling
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3 years?!

How can a company go nearly 3 years without making a profit at all? That's just ludicrous. What the hell were you doing? Rethink, revamp, or revolve (i.e. stop what you're doing and do something else).

6 months, fair enough, maybe just a blip. 1 year, hold on, let's look at this. 18 months, something's gone wrong, do something about it. 2 years, Gah! let's get the hell out of this business.

Seriously, even if you have ginormous bank account wodged full of money, after the second year what the hell are you still doing trying to even be in the same business? Give it up, find something else while you still can, move on.

It's like those Hotel Inspectors episodes where the hotel hasn't made money in the 8 years they've had it and they're 600,000 in debt. Just what the HELL did you think was going to happen, and why do you think you have a single say in how your business should be run any more after that?

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The GPL self-destruct mechanism that is killing Linux

Lee Dowling
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Re: Divide and conquer

A common misconception is that EVERYONE needs to contribute back. It's just not true. I have code in open-source projects out there, but it's pretty minimal to say the least, and I have several private patches that I wouldn't dare to pollute a foreign codebase with. But most of the people I know who are the largest users of open-source don't contribute anything at all, and yet it still thrives and grows every year (use Firefox? You're one of them).

The reality is that *I* benefit from other people being able to see the code and play with it. The usual argument is security, but it goes far, far beyond that. A single patch, approved, tested and posted to the Linux kernel will end up on MILLIONS of machines within hours. I benefit from that. I benefit from moaning about it not working too. I benefit from other people looking at code and saying "I can't understand that, it looks like complete nonsense" on any of the projects that I use. I even benefit when projects are forked or abandoned because of that (because otherwise *I* would have to fork myself, be left without support, have to start up a rival project from scratch, or go seek out alternatives on my own).

99.9999% of GPL-licensed software users push back exactly zilch. That's not a problem at all. Nobody really cares, but it's more than, say, the number of Microsoft users whose code ends up in Windows (good luck with that!). You're confusing users with developers, though.

As the barest of bare amateur developers, I have tested, patched and hacked the code I have available to make it work the way I need to. Everything from patching the rt2500 drivers on my private systems with a patch that I had to craft to get it to compile on a new kernel (pre kernel inclusion, something to do with the way interrupts were handled changing in that kernel, if I remember), to the patches I have to make to my own copy of Hylafax to get it to run the numerous fax lines in my workplace without forcing me to upgrade to the next version to get feature X (risking a hefty mid-cycle upgrade), to fixing TuxPaint (I work in schools, it's one of their most used programs) to juggle the menu items to make them easier for little kids, to providing a routine to OpenTTD that reduced the amount of bug reports they got where people were using hacked/unofficial datafiles (which has since stopped a lot of spam on their bug monitoring and provided several people with the knowledge that their datafile were unintentionally corrupted - who knows, maybe I found out for someone that their hard disk was corrupt by that patch!).

Those little changes are the freedom I pay for. If notepad doesn't want to open a particular file, there is bog-all I can do about it. But if *metapad*, the program I use in preference because it lets you do lots more, does it then I can work out why and change its behaviour, or lobby to have it changed. I don't expect a user to, but like some of the things mentioned above, after some time they may be able to do exactly what I've done without having to know how (the first person to invent the wheel was a genius, the people who followed after benefited from his genius, and now we all take wheels for granted).

Similarly, I just hacked Classic Shell because that open-source project refused to allow in a feature that I think it needs (an option so right-clicking the toolbar provides the "old" Windows context menu by default and the "new" Windows context menu if you're holding Shift, instead of vice-versa). So I hacked the code myself, added the feature, and *I'm* better off even if no-one else is. And I didn't require their co-operation at all (and received just the opposite). But how many people can actually go and tweak their *Microsoft* Start bar or put it back into Windows no matter how nice they are to MS.

The GPL, especially, gives users and developers the freedom to benefit from each other. It's arguable that the average end user ever really benefits from MS developer's wild ideas. But certainly, though your granny can't hack into the KDE source code, she benefits from it being available to others.

Think about the movie I, Robot:

Man (sarcastically): "Can a robot create a masterpiece?"

Robot: "Can you?"

Arguing that users don't benefit is like saying that air passengers don't benefit from someone looking into aircraft designs, their safety, effectiveness and room for improvement, from outside the industry, or even the general public provoking outcry when a particular type of plane keeps having problems. Of course they do. They just can't necessarily do it themselves directly.

The GPL's epitaph? "Someone better came along and replaced us. Mission accomplished."

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Lee Dowling
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Imagine if the first caveman to invent fire had hidden the secret away and not shared it with anyone and just produced a "fire shop" that you could buy some fire from. I don't think humans would have evolved as quickly as they did. Thus, copying (including academic "copying", which is different to blatant plagiarism) is actually the only real sensible way forward. "Copy, and make better" is the best mantra you can have, and the unstated business plan of many a corporation.

But "better" itself is subjective. A brand-new Honda is almost certainly "better" than my own car in many areas. But if it's "better" for me or not is a much more subtle question - my requirements differ immensely to those of someone designing the perfect car. For a start, I need to afford it, and I'd quite like one I can repair without having to send it back to the manufacturer each time. Of course, a "better" car is likely to cost more and actually be beyond simple repair. But that makes it *not* better for my needs.

BSD vs GPL vs proprietary is a similar argument. Proprietary does things that the others can't (i.e. run the programs I need to use for work and games I want to use at home, although that situation is in flux at the moment, support all the hardware in my PC, etc.). But equally the open-source offerings provide me with advantages that I can't get from proprietary software, like being able to hack into the source and change stuff (and, although I'm one of the few that can, this has saved my employers lots of money several times already on everything from fax systems to access-control systems to simple things like making use of old hardware), and being able to deploy as many units as I like without counting licenses.

And even, when it comes to it, making up for some proprietary shortfall with some knocked-together solution. A case in point? How about an expensive proprietary access control system that stores all its data in a Firebird database on the controller machine - think SQLite, the whole database saved in a folder and run locally but you can still do "database-y" things to it? We wanted a list of people who are on the premises when we click a certain button. Proprietary offering is another £x plus some more on top of software we already had to pay for and doesn't really do much. We can't hack into the program or fake a key to give us that feature without breaking the license agreement. But I can load a Firebird-compatible DB layer onto a Linux machine, probe the database remotely over Samba, throw in a couple of SQL statements and viola, my results - Samba is GPL, Firebird is MPL, my code was "who cares, only I get to see it"PL, and I get my solution. No doubt the proprietary software is "better" and would do a better, more accurate, more coherent job of that task. But in terms of the end result, my hacked-together script is "better" for my workplace (so much so, I had their reseller's field engineers ask me for it so they could use it themselves).

Open source isn't "better" generally because nothing is. And if someone doesn't understand that, then I doubt they understand how to argue their own system is better anyway.

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Lee Dowling
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And your point is?

I can't really get a handle on where the article is supposed to lead me.

Linux is running on more machines worldwide than just about anything else. Just Android smartphones, TomTom navigation devices, various set-top-boxes and smart-TV's outnumber the only operating system ordinary people have ever heard of (Windows). BSDs? I'd be hard pressed (apart from certain parts that made their way into things like the Windows TCP/IP stack decades ago) to name anything that's really come from them. So it's not really unpopular in either in-depth-hardware-geek territory (who most certainly would have heard of BSD, and would use it if they could - because it doesn't require them to expose their own code - but yet hardly anyone makes embedded devices that run on it), or even just general usage in homebrew projects (Raspberry Pi, various handheld consoles, etc.). I don't get the argument you're trying to present there by suggesting it'll all go titsup.

And Linus is preventing Linux forking by being unique - so if it forked, who would do Linus' job in the fork? Either someone would come along (and thus Linus wouldn't be unique), or someone wouldn't (in which case it wouldn't be forked).

I've lost the point there, apart from suggesting that the GPL (*the* most popular open source license) is somehow corrupting. I believe that was its intention, so people couldn't freeload from it for their own commercial purposes and not contribute back (for hobbyist purposes, it has no real hindrance because you only have to offer your code to the people who end up with the end product of your derivative work, which is probably just you).

And quoting Tannenbaum is really the last straw - his own progeny MINIX hasn't been touched in years, barely runs any of the huge amounts of code out there today and is unheard of outside of academia teaching operating systems. He operates in a world of perfect mathematical programs and no real-life OS would ever satisfy those criteria and always be "obsolete" (and, don't forget, MINIX predates Linux and Linux is basically the "I can do that better" version of it that Linus wrote - I think he proved his point).

I'm not a massive advocate for the subtleties of open-source, I avoid licensing wars like the plague (seriously, BSD, GPL, or proprietary is all I really care about - even the versions don't bother me much), and I don't care for the personalities and their opinions much. But this article is a rambling mess that somehow tries to sow seeds of doubt about Linux with no, actual, real point to do it with. It's the sort of thing I'd expect on the FSF website, not here.

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Windows 8, Surface slabs ALREADY need critical security patch

Lee Dowling
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Re: I just spat out my instant noodle

Have you been asleep since the 1990's?

Yeah, it's a stupid idea to let Office touch the Internet. And yeah, Office has done this since the first versions that ran on Windows 95. It's not hard to make Office run off to the web to collect some part of a file you've downloaded and it's only a short step to make it compromise itself from there (because there's ALWAYS a whole it how it handles or verifies that data).

Hell, I hacked the school network when I was a kid by using Office macros to bypass Windows explorer restrictions on drive letters and program execution. Was but the work of a moment to demonstrate to my IT teacher (who stupidly told us to "try to hack the network, it's good education, but you won't be able to") that the document he'd just accepted from me and commented on had actually used his credentials temporarily to upgrade my account to a network admin. It was only because I told him that he ever knew, and only because I was honest that I didn't get into trouble. And the next day, I was invited to the IT Office to show them what I'd done and the program I'd wrote to stop it doing just that.

It's probably not *that* easy any more but all you have to do is get Office to try to load remote data and you have the potential for an exploit by feeding it corrupt data. It does that for everything from clipart, to form-filling, to hyperlinks, to embedded images, to macros, to online collaboration.

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Gaping hole in Google service exposes thousands to ID theft

Lee Dowling
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Re: Blimey...

£4k isn't a lot.

I've been quoted nearly £2.5k in the past (obviously didn't touch it with a bargepole) to insure a £300 Mondeo with 3 years NCB third-party only, for a 30-something with kid, clean license, 20k miles.

Remember, it's a quote. That means they tell you what they want you to pay and then you decide whether to pay or not. In this case, not, but I'm sure there are people out there being quoted at least £4k quite regularly and even some people PAYING that.

God knows what it costs to insure one of those Porsche 4x4 monstrosities for a mother with a few fender-benders to her name, but I bet it's more than £4k.

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Comet staff should be for life, not just for Christmas

Lee Dowling
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Re: And good on the Dixon's group, a lovely gesture.

Why? I have no moral obligation towards a large corporation. If they can't make profit because people are measuring things up but not paying their atrocious prices they have two options - stop me doing it, or raise prices, both of which worsen the problem.

And if their prices were *anywhere* near sensible, or they had stock on the shelves you could actually *buy*, or could have delivered that day (which the others all had and which costs THEM to give me as a customer), I'd have been buying from them instead. Fact is, they're expensive, and manufacturers don't publish enough information. In absence of that, I will abuse their service totally legitimately to get what I want, of course I will.

And most of the places I bought from I couldn't go measure up - that's the point - but got a range of other services that Comet, Dixons et al DO NOT OFFER (like buying the fecking product from their GINORMOUS warehouses and taking it home). I'm not going to pay a premium for the privilege of knowing what I'm buying before I part with my money, and not going to reward Comet for not being able to stock product. This I abuse Comet to get the measurements and overall choice of model, Amazon to suck up product reviews, search engines to check prices (online and local), and local store's cheaper prices to take home the product I want.

Anyone would think I was nicking the damn thing, the way you talk. How dare I research the product I want in several places but only buy from the cheapest? Get a life.

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Lee Dowling
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Re: And good on the Dixon's group, a lovely gesture.

"Come on, how many of us have gone to the retail park, gone in to each of the electrical stores, compared prices and played them off against each other?"

Not me. I go through each of the stores, then buy the model I want online and save 50%, or take it from some small independent retailers who has stock ready to take away, on that day. Amazing how many of those shops just cannot sell you a freezer today (despite having hundreds on display, and it being a FREEZER - an item that you're unlikely to buy just on a whim, or because you've psychically determined your own is about to break).

Did that for washing machine, tumble-drier, dishwasher, fridge and freezer this year. I just used them as a showroom for the real item so I could measure up properly and see where the pipes came out, etc. and then spent half the total price they would have cost me by buying online (with free delivery / fitting) or going to a small retailer around the corner who knew every model he had in stock by heart and where the pipes went and whether the door opened/closed fully enough to be put into a cupboard, etc. and that I could also TAKE AWAY THAT DAY.

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Office for Android, Apple iOS: 'REALLY REAL this time' - report

Lee Dowling
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Bing. (Use that in a sentence.... Dares ya.)

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2.5 million trades a DAY: How ISE admins became Puppet masters

Lee Dowling
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This advertisement was brought to you today by....

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Virgin launches TV Anywhere streaming

Lee Dowling
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Re: All your eggs in one basket

Then you probably haven't used Virgin a lot.

The cable services are pretty independent. Sure, if you lose Internet you lose some of the VoD but generally the two operate (and fail) independently, even if run over the same cable to the local cabinet. I have lost precisely one VoD movie in 4 years (and they refunded and re-ran it for me) and not had 2-3 hours of Internet outage in total.

Plus, if you're that worried, don't take the Internet part. Take the TV package, combine it with your normal ADSL connection, viola. Still stream because you're a TV subscriber, still have (in your eyes) reliable Internet. And still be able to stream inside your own house even (the point of this service, like Sky Go, is that you can watch your Virgin TV anywhere there's Internet).

But, to be honest, the only company I've seen rival Virgin's connection for me was actually PlusNet, pre-BT takeover. And that's saying something, because PlusNet were fabulous and I think I used their free "fallback to modem" thing once or twice in ten years.

- A happy SuperHub user (in modem mode, obviously, because I'm not going to *ASK* for trouble).

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Theresa May DDoS case: Man cuffed by eCops

Lee Dowling
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Re: "Suspicion of assisting or encouraging the denial of service attack"

Actually, a DDoS would be more like blocking the entire road they use. Which could (and is likely to) impact on a lot more people than the intended target, and still could be perceived as harassment, obstruction and (depending on how you did it) even assault. Even discussing doing such a thing would also be a conspiracy offence in some cases (no different to, say, conspiring to harass someone, or using threatening language).

Just because it's on the Internet doesn't mean it's victimless. They have no idea how many other people and/or companies whose private business they may have affected by doing such things. Someone, somewhere was paying for that website to be up and the DDoS was preventing that contract from being fulfilled by, basically, force.

People are always on about the laws being "old-fashioned" while at the same time thinking that simple principles laid down centuries ago don't apply to modern media. The law doesn't distinguish, that's the only problem and works both ways. In this case, they harassed someone, blocked a service being provided, impacted on the business and personal lives of the person targeted and may have done so to any number of unknown people too (Never heard of a VPS? Or a datacentre whose main lines gets DDoS'd?) and cost people lots of money and prevented them doing business.

There's no difference between this and deliberately constantly ringing all the phones in the office of the victim until they can't send/receive any more phone calls. And that's been illegal for decades. It's also bordering on harassment as well. Just because a computer was involved, doesn't make it any less illegal.

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Lee Dowling
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Re: Cybercrime IS serious!

It is if you're trying even a single username/password combination that you don't have legal right to use.

I don't care about you opening a reasonable-amount of TCP connections to the services published (unreasonable amount = DDoS). It's what you do with them. And most of the stuff that connects to SSH servers will try a couple of username/password combinations on the hopes of getting in.

Which *is* illegal.

Spam email is the same. Connecting to a mail server isn't a crime. Trying to send falsified email through a mail server is.

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Lee Dowling
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Re: Cybercrime IS serious!

The key word is "denial of service".

The random SSH spam hitting your server isn't really denying service, just a nuisance. And, yes, it's also illegal. There's nothing stopping you reporting it but pretty much the answer will be "out of our jurisdiction" or even "not enough effect on the 'victim' to be worth bothering hunting down".

But if you take a website DOWN by doing it, and it's traceable in the UK, and they can prove you did it deliberately (and not just hit the wrong button when typing in an IP while "infinite retry" was on, or whatever), then you should report it.

There's a HUGE difference, though, between random SSH port-hits from known-spammy overseas servers and actually knocking a website offline through a deliberate data overload. Both are technically crimes, as is driving while phoning. You can report as many people as you like for driving while phoning (which I must see 5-10 times a day) but the chances are that even with all the evidence in the world, not much will happen (because the burden of proof is higher than the actual result you'll get and many times you'll spend so much investigating the crime and it will never get to the point where it can be prosecuted). Drive past a police car while doing it, or have an accident because of it, though and it's a very different matter.

Not saying that's *right*. That's just life. And our police already spend half their lives chasing things that they shouldn't need to, without worrying about your SSH pings. But taking down a public website of a politician (or even celebrity, or charity, or organisation, or company - no matter how small) through attacks and DDoS? Yes, that's something I would expect them to investigate, at least.

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Microsoft and Skype to axe world's most popular IM client early 2013

Lee Dowling
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Re: Folk still using IM clients?

I have Pidgin and it's possible to put Facebook IM friends on there too (with a little fiddling). But, basically, things like texting have killed off IM. If you're in some niche group with international members, they probably have their own messaging facility on forums, or some game, or whatever. Otherwise, it's personal contacts who'll be on your Facebook or have you Skype, etc.

Skype is killing off plain text IM, certainly, by doing what NONE of the IM networks managed to do - simple video/audio chat, no matter the OS or network in between. Hell, they even do IM too so you lose nothing by moving over.

And when MSN Messenger was rebranded Windows Live, I noticed a huge drop-off in people on there back then. And now Google Talk has hit hard too, because people are often logged into their GMail or similar anyway or collecting it from their Android phones. I honestly only keep AOL, ICQ, MSN, YIM, et al accounts on my Pidgin because it keeps things like my (unused) Hotmail/Yahoo accounts live.

Basically, IM has been attacked from all angles because it failed to evolve. IRC was massive at one time and though it's still around, it failed to evolve and is still stuck in the 80's (it's funny to still see no-IRC clauses in dedicated server policies). Similarly, the only decent reason to use Jabber was because it integrated lots of disparate servers and IM networks together but by the time it came it was too late (something that could have been solved with open standards arriving and being supported more quickly). And it doesn't generate money for anyone, so nobody ever invested in it. It was always a side-project to some marvellous scheme or software (e.g. Skype IM, AOL IM, etc.).

Skype was a breath of fresh air and solved the problem that (still) not a lot of people have solved in terms of audio/video. I've still never got a video-IM to go through a NAT yet, unless it was Skype or I set up outside servers to bounce off (and the standards change all the time, and the open-source clients can't keep up - hell, there still isn't decent video-IM integration for ANY of the huge networks in open-source IM clients). Skype even makes money, which is a shocker. I'm not sure I'd ever pay for it, even as good as it is.

IM is dying quickly. People use their phones more than their computers now and a lot of the time it's not even possible to use those IM networks from a phone (or you need N apps to connect to N different protocols!). And if you're holding a phone and want to talk to a friend? Use those thousands of free texts to just text them anyway.

This is actually one of the more sensible MS moves that I've seen. I was half-expecting it to go the other way and try to crowbar Skype into MSN. My biggest use of plain-text IM nowadays is to talk to the Google Translate bots over XMPP. It's so much easier to copy/paste the text than it is to load up the website each time. That's about it.

IM is dead. Skype will be too if they change the way it works (and they know it, and will be safe from competitors right up until they try that). And even Skype are having problems with their service over mobile data because of the competition (e.g. telecoms companies). Unfortunately, the replacements all rely on the telecoms services too. The FSF have a Skype replacement as one of their top priorities. Still haven't seen ANYTHING from that yet.

For years, I wanted Pidgin's functionality to be merged into Opera (which already does mail, news and IRC). But now all I want is video, audio and IM in one program (Opera would be good, but I can suffer a second program). Open standards would help. NAT-breaking is a MUST (even in this nearly-but-not-quite-yet post-IPv6 era). Multi-platform is essential (Android phone + Windows PC). Skype is the only thing even close to doing that, and is making a profit.

IM networks had 20+ years to get video or even audio going reliably, or publish their protocols so networks could integrate, and they could have cashed in on it too. They didn't bother, and in some cases still haven't, so I have little sympathy for them. My parents know how to "Skype" their granddaughter. That's after decades of having two IT-gurus available to them for free (called "sons") but nothing else got any use. And "skype" now means "videophone" like we intended in the 60's. Hell, you can even buy a "phone" to use for it.

IM? Killed off by telecoms and Skype.

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Prudential cops £50k ICO slap for giving customer's life savings away

Lee Dowling
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Re: Give your kids unique names

Yes! I will name my kids this too, so they are just as unique and will also never have a problem!

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WTF is... RF-MEMS?

Lee Dowling
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Surely RF-MEMS is just a stop-gap, then, until software-defined radio (SDR) takes over. SDR is basically just connecting a "good enough" antenna over a range of frequencies to a chip that does high-speed ADC and analysis of the data to simultaneously receive multiple frequencies. It's real, in use, and works now. You can even find website that let you monitor the whole of the radio frequency bands in their area at the same time as thousands of other people do the same, from a single device.

Not only that, they can transmit too, and they are eminently adjustable, and they work well with things like FPGA's to make them configurable. And there are already plug-in modules to read things like 802.11 wifi, Bluetooth, etc. and even DVB-T from the data they produce (i.e. effectively software decoders / encoders for those protocols given raw radio data). And the biggest software project for them in a GNU Radio project with open code.

SDR seems to have so many advantages of this technology, for instance no having to constantly "switch" between frequencies but just "hear" them all, all the time, that I can't see a real market for this. SDR's will inevitably come down in price and do more, so will only get used more. But this is a niche product that will only survive as long as something better doesn't come along (you don't get much better than an SDR).

An SDR is more than capable of receiving and transmitting FM radio, DVB-T, Bluetooth, Wifi, NFC, GSM, 3G, 4G, and whatever else comes along all at the same time, which is basically a phone's job. And when new wireless technology X comes out, it *is* nothing more than a software upgrade to support it (i.e. you can quite literally add support for "5G" with a firmware upgrade even if the standard didn't even exist when the phone was built). With SDR, the only limit is CPU-time - and that's something that's growing in the mobile market just as fast as anything else. Hell, the CPU's in modern phones would have been only a dream even 5 years ago.

Ignore this tech. Push your money into SDR. And then you can do whatever you want whenever you want and literally your hardware phone becomes software customisable to become anything from a TV to a FM radio to a CB transmitter.

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Nvidia heralds Steam for Linux debut with 'double-speed' drivers

Lee Dowling
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Re: The statement seems to imply the drivers were previously hobbled

If you know that operation X is slower on Linux than on Windows (or vice versa), then you can optimise by taking account of that.

It doesn't mean Linux or Windows is any slower than the other, it just means that they weren't optimising to all platforms when they wrote not only the drivers but also the games.

Say you shove a thousand models into memory and then try to use them. Maybe the Linux architecture / driver prefers them to be byte-aligned, or from a certain area of memory, or in a certain format, or below a certain size and if that's not met it kicks in some routine to put them into an optimal arrangement that can take some time (but is invisible to the user). But other platforms might have different requirements. Thus designing, programming and testing games only on Windows means that you optimise the paths you can SEE are the fastest. And then when you move that code to Linux, it slows to a crawl despite being THE SAME CODE.

This is more about choosing the right optimisations / settings that worst best for Linux rather than Windows (e.g. Windows might well require you to jump through hoops - which your code does - whereas Linux is quite happy to give you complete 64-bit memory access and not worry about how you align it, etc.). And these games were all made for Windows originally, so they squeeze the most out of the Windows routines. This is just a matter of finding out where Linux can do better by *NOT* pretending to be the same as Windows and telling the game (code-wide): "Don't be silly, I don't need you to babysit me as if I were Windows, just give me the damn data".

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Lee Dowling
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Re: Question

Refresh rate is the bottleneck that stops anything "updated" behind the card showing on the screen. So if your refresh rate is 60, you could have a supercomputer on the back end and will never see any difference.

People like to argue, like the whole "vinyl sounds better" or "oxygen-free gold cables" or whatever crowd, but that's the basic physics of it.

And, even then, 30fps is really not that different from 60fps to your eyes. Most movies and big-name videogames *weren't* 60fps for years and nobody complained. Nowadays we have faster games, larger TV's, better contrast etc. so it can notice a little more but we also have games that routinely use triple-buffering, vsync, etc. to compensate.

Basically, if you can't *tell* me the fps of a game within 10fps without having to actually bring up the display option in-game to show it, then you would never have noticed the difference anyway.

But the point is, a game that gets 212fps on a monster of a machine will get 60fps on a machine that was never capable of it originally. That's the point of the improvement - to suck in gamers who care about fps (even if they can't tell the difference), and those people on lower hardware (like the various Linux-based consoles that are in the works). If you can get games to run faster on Linux, you can save money on hardware by using Linux and those games instead, and thus boost Linux's credentials.

Actually, though, the only difference is having a tight integration between driver developer, operating system programmer and games programmer. If that tight integration existed on ANY combination, you could get improvements, and that's always been true. But it's no bad thing for Linux gaming to get the boost of not only having Steam available, but getting coding attention on its drivers, and convincing the gamer market that they run better on Linux. Game. Set. Match.

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Avira 'fesses up: Our software isn't compatible with Windows 8

Lee Dowling
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Would you have liked to spend half-a-million updating some huge piece of antivirus software that ties into everything from file-access hooks to memory-scanning for, say, Windows ME.

Because nobody was actually ever sure that 8 would be a success of out. To be honest, I think the jury's still out at the moment. Sure, there's no reason why you shouldn't *look* at the possibility, but to just suggest that every software manufacturer should be automatically ready on Windows 8 launch would only be Microsoft's dream.

In reality, if their software BSOD's on Windows 8 when using the same code as they had on Windows 7, that's quite a serious problem that might take forever to determine the cause of. For a start, the two OS are basically the same under the hood so something, somewhere changed and will require new code (not just patching of old), testing, deployment, etc. and then be checked to work with Windows 7, Vista, XP, etc. If the software had had some small tiny problems or "worked except for feature X because of Windows 8 feature Y", then I don't see why they couldn't have patched-and-shipped.

But a BSOD is pretty serious and probably means they are running driver-level hooks into the OS to capture file accesses etc. in a way nobody else does (or we'd all be BSOD'ing!). That's a deep level bit of programming that might even require MS certification if you want your program to install without horrendous security dialogs etc.

And all for something that might still be a total flop.

I can't blame them for holding out. And I know of nobody with any significant amount of machines that would be deploying or even testing Windows 8 for at least another year or so. And there are alternates available so people are quite welcome to vote with their wallet which might prompt more of a development spur than anything else.

I don't get the fuss, to be honest.

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Lee Dowling
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Re: lenovo

Hardware drivers I can understand.

But a software-only antivirus package should NEVER BSOD a machine. It shouldn't be possible at all.

Impressive that they can do it, in fact.

I have BSOD'd Windows 8 but that was just playing about with explorer (nothing tricksy, just file management) on a perfectly clean VM image - which shows that MS are maintaining their usual quality.

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Mystery robot-bringing UFOs sighted by Indian troops on Tibet border

Lee Dowling
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Yeah, I agree.

Sorry, but if you filmed it and it was vaguely convincing, you could have had it on the news the next night, governmental approval or not.

And if you filmed it but it wasn't convincing, lots of people will laugh at you (have you SEEN the resolution and zoom of a cheapy digital video camera nowadays? It's unbelievable! But you "couldn't zoom in" and we're left staring at a couple of blurry pixels of actual data which could be anything from lens-flare to a insect on the lens?)

And if you didn't film it, well we have to take you on your word and there's a lot of (even highly qualified) nutters around. A straw poll of even a table full of doctors and scientists will find 50% of them have seen something they couldn't explain (e.g. ghosts, ufo's etc.). You'll even find a small percentage who are certain it was a <insert supernatural explanation here>, despite all their training and expertise.

Film, or it didn't happen.

And high-quality, focused, blur-free, still film with proper focus on that amazing object that you couldn't believe was there. Because I fail to believe that if I was seeing a UFO or similar, I wouldn't zoom in and get as much detail from the damn thing as I can in order for ME to tell what it was myself.

It's like claiming that someone at a football match wouldn't use the pair of binoculars in their hand to see if it was a goal at the other end of not at the most exciting, critical part of the FA cup. Of course they would, if they had them to hand. They wouldn't peer through them at zero-zoom so the point of interest is some blurry half-a-dozen pixel affair, they'd be trying to check what they were seeing as clearly as possible.

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Sysadmins: Basically a happy lot, but frustrated and underpaid

Lee Dowling
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Apparently I'm an outlier, then.

Because apart from The Big Bang Theory, the only other things I've ever watched is ALF (admittedly a LONG time ago).

And *Aliens* (sequel) would be top of all the other movies and I can't stand Star Wars / Trek / LOTR (despite being a Tolkein fan).

From the game list, I haven't even touched Call of Duty. Mario? well, I've played it but after you complete it once, that's it, same for GTA (although I've not touched anything past 3 despite owning the entire pack on Steam). Not touched Zelda or WoW or Sims or Guitar Hero and would be ashamed of the last two if I had. Or Crysis come to that. Yet I have 500+ games on Steam that get a lot of play.

And "arguing about superheroes"? Though I accept the stereotype from The Big Bang Theory (and I have a bit of all three main characters in my persona, though not as much Sheldon as I'd like), I've never done that, even when I was a kid. I've always assumed the comic-book thing was an inherently US thing. Sure, I bought *comics* (as Sheldon is keen to distinguish) when I was a kid, but I have owned precisely one "comic book" which was a beautifully-drawn Aliens Issue 1 (which I bought because it was Aliens, basically), which has a minor character with my surname. And I was about 11 at the time.

And The IT Crowd? Please - it's horrendous and NOT FUNNY. Not one bit.

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Deloitte in the saddle at Comet, seeking stability - and a buyer

Lee Dowling
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Re: 5th Nov@Lee Dowling

Humour acknowledged and almost certainly true. It's hard for me to end a ramble.

Actually, in school I was always told off for my disgusting handwriting when I was younger. It was the cause of at least one "parent stomp" up to the school so they could shout at my teachers for letting petty things get in the way of my education. And because my hand hurt when I wrote too much, or too neatly, I learned to abbreviate everything I wrote - until the computer became an accepted homework device.

I also have a poor memory and speak too fast for people - too much data to output and not enough methods to store it at that speed. Someone overclocked my brain at some point, I'm sure of it.

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Lee Dowling
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Re: 5th Nov

And how has that ever differed?

Administration = corporate bankruptcy. It's like demanding the bankrupt give you the £10 back he owes you, while he's being chased for his house and other possessions. In terms of loss, a single customers means NOTHING.

At administration, the company is too far in trouble to recover. So the shareholders are already dead in the water in terms of seeing any further money. The staff aren't getting paid (from the boss to the lowliest employee) but they might still have a better pension fund etc. but there are NO MORE contributions to be made for anyone. It's not a question of favouritism but that the higher levels of management can ride it out easier because of their previous higher pay. Technically, they will be more out of pocket than any customer because they don't get paid and they were expecting to be paid MORE than anyone else.

In bankruptcy, the person you owe more gets priority. That's quite a sensible system because they invested more in you and trusted you more, and so should get more of their money back. You could say "We only have money to pay 50% of our creditors" and offer 50% of what everyone owes back, but that would mean suppliers having to massively increase their insurances against such things because 50% of £50m of stock is a bit more, and costs a LOT less to handle, than your 50% of the £5 cable you want to get a refund on. And the manager that led them into bankruptcy would still get 50% of his wages!

When a company goes bust, the only sensible way to handle it is to deal with the largest debts first. That's the conclusion that numerous courts have come to in numerous cases of corporate and personal bankruptcy. Because by the time you get down to the £5/10 range the chances are there will be no money left to even handle the administration of each case anyway, let alone provide a pittance of a refund. And those sorts of claims might even COST more money (which doesn't exist in the company and can NEVER be magically produced by that stage) to resolve than they would bring in. Courts cut their losses, or they would have millions of Comet customers suing them now and one bankrupt company could bring the whole country's law system to a halt.

Similarly, if *you* were going bankrupt, you wouldn't want to spend as long in court arguing about the £1.50 you owe your mate for the beer last week as someone trying to take your house away from you. One is infinitely more important, gets more priority, gets the bulk of the expenses of handling it, and when resolved probably means you have nothing worth £1.50 anyway.

You can decry the system as much as you want, it's really the only sensible way to handle it. And yes, the customer suffers. But the suppliers also suffer because they are unlikely to get all of their money back and one supplier might well lose more money than all the customers put together, if they have long contracts and invested in those contracts with new manufacturing, etc.

That said, those filing for bankruptcy (and especially commercial bankruptcy) should see MUCH harsher, non-financial, penalties. Personal liability in more cases (why didn't they know the suppliers were going to start denying them credit and scale back operations to give their staff decent redundancy and allow them warning to move on?), corporate penalties (not being able to run a company ever again, not being able to be a majority shareholder in a company ever again, not being able to ever be responsible for anything over X amount of money, etc.), and even more jail-time. Because once a company, especially, goes bust there's nothing you can do about it.

It was common in the 80's for software companies to hire programmers, put out a hit game, have the directors run off with the money, foist the company onto some unsuspecting victim, who have to declare themselves bust, sack all the programmers and then, next week, a new company starts up who cherrypicks from their old staff, and is run by the old director, and deals in exactly the same industry. It was so common that almost all software houses today, especially in the games industry, either came from those roots or their programmers did.

There needs to be regulation against that which hits those sorts of directors and others who mismanage companies hard. But in terms of handling a company that HAS NO MONEY to resolve its problems, you can't do anything but start with the largest debts and work your way down until the company literally has ZERO money in it whatsoever. You can't magic the money to hire staff to handle customer complaints once a company has gone bankrupt, and you can't not pay them or expect them to do it for free.

In terms of administration, the company itself is dead and only those who saw it coming could ever benefit from it (by selling off their shares early, cashing in their pensions, etc.). That's evidence for fraud, mismanagement, etc. alone so it doesn't tend to happen. It's not that the shareholders of Comet are all now lounging in the Bahamas and the director has his £1m retirement fund, they stop getting paid at the same time (and, if not, that money can be reclaimed from them personally). Now the shareholders are holding worthless bits of paper, the upper management are jobless and quite probably blacklisted from anything they might try to apply for ("Hire me! I bankrupted Comet!"), and the suppliers have given them millions of pounds worth of stock and not been paid. Sure, the upper echelons will survive it better and be parts of the old-boys-club, but that's nothing to do with the bankruptcy at all.

In bankruptcy, everyone loses but the company put in charge of administration (who make a profit from handling all those problems and deciding - independently of the company - who should be paid and how much). The problem is that end-customer are basically in the margin-of-error when it comes to their total investment in the company, even if they'll never see the £1000 laptop they bought.

And, to be honest, for anything significant, they should have used a credit card and then claimed it back. Anything less than that, and it's really not worth dealing with. Hell, even when Farepak went bust, the people who lost out most were suppliers not customers and that was national-news and had government intervention. Banks, maybe, would be a different matter because they don't really have "suppliers" as such, but the end result is still the same - you can spend £10,000 handling a £500,000 debt or £100 handling a £5 debt. There's only one sensible course of action that ensures the most money goes to debts, not administration.

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KDE 'annoys the hell of' Linus Torvalds

Lee Dowling
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I don't think there's much of a grammar problem there - maybe it's not perfect but it's certainly more than parseable. The problem is the jargon that you need to use to talk about the subject he is talking about:

If you strip the jargon:

"It still looks a bit too cartoony (pause) and the default ... behavior ... pretty much immediately showing the controls for (the widget) annoys the hell of me."

Sure you could throw in a 'which' or a 'that' but the most confusing thing is mouse-over the use of "it" quite late in the sentence so it loses context.

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Lee Dowling
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Re: Linus Torvalds

Because "Random celebrity likes feature X" is not news, it's verging on advertisement.

And he does praise lots, you just don't hear it on the news - jump on the LKML and such (though he used to be vocal on them a lot more often) and you'll see it. When the BitKeeper debacle was going on, he was quite on the side of BitKeeper and saying how wonderful the software was and had worked well for years and didn't need changing. But the licensing change forced his hand so he went and (all dues to him) made something that is generally regarded as BETTER for kernel management (not necessarily all of BitKeeper's clients) and used by many more kernel hackers than ever used BitKeeper.

So not only does he praise, he notes the value of functionality over political in-fighting, and he's more than capable of backing up his opinions of what works and what doesn't in the extreme of being good enough to make something that works better than an expensive commercial product outside his normal specialist field.

I don't think there's anything particularly controversial about Linus, when people want to hail him as a god or decry him as evil. He's damn good at what's become his career. Other than that, he's pretty human and his opinions aren't that important to matter much.

When he says "X is junk" it makes a headline. But when he says "X has saved me a lot of work and is great", nobody really listens (hell, he's on Google+ which most of us have avoided).

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BOFH: Tenacious B and the Printer of Destiny

Lee Dowling
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Re: Still using 2 LaserJet 4Ls

I have a Samsung ML-4500.

You can literally just refill the official toner cartridges with just-about-anything and they still work. The drums go after a while, but it's built into the cartridge, so you buy one once a year and then just keep refilling it from cheap toner pots (I buy stuff intended for an "IBM ProPrinter" which I always thought was a dot-matrix, but it comes in big bottles on eBay for a few quid and I just pour it in until the drum starts to wear out - which you can tell because the toner cartridge will be full up but pages will get fainter).

Haven't bought an official cartridge for it, ever. Haven't bought a cartridge in nearly 3 years. Have been using it for, what, 10 years, I'm not sure.

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Lee Dowling
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The school I work for suffer from all of this.

I've still yet to find a single model of printer that will take card of any non-flimsy value, or will print on labels or envelopes without spending more than it would cost just to start my own printing outfit.

And users don't get this. "I printed a label on this printer before" - yeah, but it's not supported, and these are different labels, and you've now stuck them all nicely to the internal rollers for me using the heat of the printer to set the glue. Thanks. Even had one do it with foil labels that turned out to be conductive. Ouch.

Printers stagnated decades ago and nobody can be bothered to fix them. My office has a Laserjet 4. It's actually BETTER than almost every modern printer in every way, except in terms of print speed (which hardly matters, really), and all the newer models are horrendous-looking, flimsy things that can barely handle a bit of paper, have horrendous custom formats and weird quirks and when they break you are stuffed. That's if you get that far without having to replace the drum, transfer rollers, etc. which cost more than the printer itself. And in six months, that model will disappear and be replaced with one with identical specs and completely different toners and drivers.

I'm really waiting for a Kickstarter project, or some 3D-printer take-off, so that we can actually have a large printer, that can print on just about any size or thickness of paper and can take literally a huge refill bottle of toner that's as big as a water cooler bottle and costs about £10 to refill. If we can get rid of the whole idea of drums and other consumables, even better.

The banner printer we have in school - can print A4-width "up to" 1200mm on their special paper. Completely useless and pointless and COSTS THE EARTH. Any old inkjet or even dot-matrix used to be able to print banners of A3-width as long as you could find paper for that length.

Printers have literally hit a barrier and then receded back in terms of features and quality, but not in terms of TCO over their lives. Hell, I know of a whole range of printers that I can crash by sending them a large image. The driver doesn't even bother to scale it down to printer resolution, it just sits and tries to send it direct to the printer for that to handle it. You can tie up the printer for hours.

A huge Ricoh model that we use also stops printing with a panel-error-message if you print Letter to it by mistake. The option is unskippable, you can't tell it to continue, and everyone else's job will just sit in the queue until you cancel the job (and, no, you can't tell it to pretend that the A4 paper in the tray is really Letter!) and after years of working with it I *still* haven't worked out how to reset it back from the manual-feed tray to auto-feed without just switching it off and back on. I actually installed PaperCut just to stop that damn printer from being fed Letter-size jobs (which are very common on PDF's, even those produced in the UK!).

Out of all the possible open-source gadgets we need, a printer is really top of the list. At least then I'd stand half a chance of fixing problems and being able to get "that odd little plastic arm thing that holds that bit down" from anyone for a matter of pence. And I could keep it running for DECADES just upgrading the interface / drivers each time they change.

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Apple must apologise for its surly apology on its website on Saturday

Lee Dowling
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Typo in the quote, or the retraction?

Court *OF* Appeal of England and Wales, surely?

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Debenhams cafes ban outré terms like 'espresso' and 'cappuccino'

Lee Dowling
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Re: No. I asked: you for coffee?

Latte actually means "with steamed milk" in coffee circles, Au Lait actually means "with hot milk" in coffee circles (though what difference that either actually makes is unfathomable to me), whereas white means "with room temperature milk".

Latte = milk in Italian (from Latin origin "lacte", from where we get "lactate", i.e. specifically milk).

Au Lait = derivative of lacte (thousands of years messes with words, "milk" is an entirely different derivation, only a few hundred years old meaning "to stroke").

They all come down to the same thing, etymologically, but latte is older in language and also in coffee use (come on, Italians and coffee - they invented it all... :-)

But I hate coffee, so I don't really care. And only a pretentious snob would think that the temperature of the milk makes any difference.

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Lee Dowling
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Though I agree that often we use unnecessary words ("ambient sausage roll" comes to mind), an espresso is called an espresso because most of the world refers to it as an espresso and knows what an espresso is.

Latte? Wouldn't happen to be foreign for milk, would it? Cappuccino means "little hat" or "little hood" in Italian. Guess that's because they invented it and it's inherently linked with Italy?

This is like saying "We're not going to call it a bagel, because that confuses people, so we'll call it a 'yeasted wheat dough bread product' instead".

Idiots. Are you honestly telling me, with the plethora of coffee shops inside everything from supermarkets to charity shops, that people are too thick to know what an espresso is and, if they are, don't bother to ask?

That's besides the fact that my Italian girlfriend guarantees you that virtually every coffee she's ever been served in the UK is bad, from over-burnt beans, to poor handling of the machine (including not cleaning it out for months on end), to the wrong kind of beans entirely, to just sickly amounts of junk thrown in, and she drinks espresso like an Englishman drinks tea. (I'm English, actually, and drink neither coffee nor tea! But that's besides the point).

Just don't get her started on ham-and-pineapple pizza. You'll never hear the end of it.

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Facebook trial: Tell everyone where you are, have a Wi-Fi peanut

Lee Dowling
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Doesn't seem too bad an idea from a business point of view.

Offer free wifi, get more people landing on your Facebook page, get people coming in just to do just that, get their friends seeing them being tagged in "at Gino's Cafe" or whatever. Maybe their friends will come along too to come find them.

From a personal point of view? Free Wifi is near-ubiquitous and I don't use it. I have no guarantee what's happening to the data and what's also trying to talk to me over that connection (e.g. compromised machine also on the same wifi trying to attack mine). I deploy the usual firewalls and restrictions, of course, but Wifi just isn't used when I'm out and about. I use 3G. Because although not perfect, it gives me a damn sight more control over where my data ends up, doesn't require passwords and logins, doesn't cost the earth, and gets me signal in more places than offer free Wifi (and on the road between them, for instance).

Even up in the Highlands, 3G gave me signal more often than I could find a Wifi hotspot that I could use. And the ones that offered free Wifi (like the pubs etc.) tended to be well-served by 3G anyway. And with any vaguely decent phone, you can share 3G that with all your mates over Wifi and they don't have to worry about the security of their data either. And you don't have to order yourself anything, or have the landlord glaring at you, or wait while they dig out the password, and you don't have to submit to Facebook and spam your friends with the locations of local businesses that you sit in.

Businesses will like it, but I don't think consumers will use it as often as they think. But, obviously, if you deploy this in a popular or trendy place in New York or London or somewhere, yeah, it'll probably work for you. But I'll never touch it.

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Virgin Media spanked for 'we've already cabled up your house' mailshot

Lee Dowling
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Re: recording calls

You are wrong.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telephone_recording_laws#United_Kingdom

Specifically things like "Businesses may record with the knowledge of their employees but without notifying the other party to provide evidence of a business transaction"

Always has been the case that only A SINGLE PARTY needs to give consent (so you can't just record a stranger's calls that you've intercepted). Otherwise 90% of the law enforcement out there would be impossible to provide in court, because it WASN'T obtained without both parties consent (and I'm talking specifically like evidence recorded by ordinary people subject to phone harrassment etc. and not police operations which presumably have separate warrants).

Not being able to admit evidence to court because you have to tell the criminal you're recording is the most stupid thing ever, hence why nothing approaching that is in law in the UK.

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EE 4G LTE review

Lee Dowling
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Re: I wouldn't put it past ISPs

100Mbps, yes. Pretty standard fare on a dedicated server now (and Gigabit isn't unusual at all - even unmetered gigabit isn't stupidly expensive for what it is anymore in a datacenter).

I'm suggesting they prioritise the speedtest traffic OVER other traffic across their own network. So your speedtest is actually given packet priority over the hordes of people using simple browsers and doing "everyday" Internet. It doesn't have to have an end-to-end prioritisation to make a difference. In the same way that they can throttle back torrents and iplayer and other bulk traffic (even HTTP), they are able to "not-throttle" speedtest so it gives a misleading number. I'm suggested they are running at least three tiers of content: unthrottled (speedtests etc.), normal (lower priority, but the bulk of their everyday traffic), low (torrents and other things that cause them traffic problems, including anyone who's passed their limits, etc.).

They don't "magically" make speedtest faster or affect the way the packets are dealt with outside their network, they just make sure the speedtest packets are NOT slowed in the same way as anything else and are pushed through their network as quickly as possible (and thus quicker than an equivalent download from, say, Facebook, Google, etc. would be).

But to be honest, I can't be sure *what* they do or *how* they do it, because I'm not them. All I know is that speedtest, and several popular testing sites, tell me that several unrelated broadband and other connections are faster than I can actually use to download day-in, day-out from unrestricted servers doing nothing else but serve me files from vastly-faster lines.

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Lee Dowling
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Re: I wouldn't put it past ISPs

Larger testing is a job for some journalist or other, preferably with IT expertise (dunno where we'll find those), but I've hit it several times.

A dedicated server in a proper datacenter, with IP access limited to JUST the connection I was coming in from (so, literally, nobody knew the computer existed and it was blocking anybody else's packets and doing NOTHING else), and a test HTTP download of similar size to the speedtest.net ones, repeated several times, was slower than the speedtest.net result. Consistently. Repeatedly. And I was monitoring IPTRAF on promiscuous mode on the interfaces to make sure no other connections were present (e.g. upgrades, etc.). A few seconds later, a test from ANOTHER dedicated server out in another datacentre doing the same thing? Full, top speed of the connection there being used, so not a capacity / delivery issue.

There's also several reports on the web that are similar and always have been (http://community.virginmedia.com/t5/Up-to-60Mb-Setup-Equipment/Slow-Web-Access-Speedtest-net-ok/td-p/983639 is top of my google search, but by no means a shining example).

Yes, it's anecdotal. Yes, it can vary based on Internet conditions. Yes, it could vary by Internet routes. Yes, the computers I were using could have been non-ideal (but they were clean installs and were doing only a single specific download). But a HTTP download from a random site under my control is a lot closer to a representation of HTTP download speeds from a perfectly operating server (e.g. YouTube, iPlayer, etc.) over a particular connection than speedtest.net could ever give me, and speedtest's result were always slightly higher. Maybe they have better infrastructure that can magically push more bytes down my connection than I can with dedicated servers the other end.

Or maybe someone is fiddling the numbers by invoking their "traffic prioritisation" clauses in their services. Hell, almost all ISP's now are capable of slowing down or blocking access to particular websites if you hit their usage limits, have negotiated contracts with people like iPlayer, Steam, etc. to boost traffic speeds and caching. And they have a vested interest in making sure their speedtests return as high a number as possible.

Mobile, fixed broadband, even dial-up (yes, that particular person really needed to upgrade!), I've seen these results repeat. Not all the time, not all ISP's, not always so obvious. But it's there. Test yourself, post the results.

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Lee Dowling
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So, basically, not worth the cost at all then.

Slight improvements in speed, sometimes, when you're lucky, and out and about (when you're least likely to need super-fast speeds) or right next to a window, and killing your battery to do so, and introducing pauses and confusing apps when you're moving around, and if you pay through the nose and then never bother to use it for fear of using it "too much". And the fallback is 3G, which we have, which is pretty much good enough for anything you might want to do, and is only artificially limited by the phone companies so you can't abuse it.

Where's the advantage again? Oh, a percentage increase in maximum theoretical speed.

P.S. speedtest.net and it's various nodes are often "prioritised" by ISP's because they know people will use it to see how good their connection is.

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Comet confesses: The receivers are among us even now

Lee Dowling
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Re: The writing has been on the wall for years

And I've never been in a PC World without being hounded constantly by staff.

I wouldn't mind, but I look more geeky than anyone from The Big Bang Theory - do you really think I need your help to buy a HDMI cable? (Not that I would - was once given a £5 voucher for PC World / Dixons and was unable to find a single product that it could buy - not even a pack of AA batteries or the things on clip strips near the till, nothing).

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Lee Dowling
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Re: meh

I only ever used Dixons, Currys, PC World, etc. to test things before I buy them. There's a variety of specifications that you can't publish accurately on a website and can only tell from looking at the thing in person.

Case in point, I recently moved into an empty house and had to buy all new appliances. I didn't want to spend a fortune and the kitchen is quite odd dimensions. So I was literally in those stores, measuring the bottom six inches of fridges to see if they'd fit over pipes (even if the specs say it's 55cm deep, it's how deep it is at the bottom that mattered - 50% of models "went in", 50% of models the bottom was the longest part), measuring the length of adjustable legs on tumble dryers, seeing what sort of angle doors open to to see if they'd fit in a cupboard etc.

And after I'd measured up the real product, got a model number, been talked at by a salesman, I would go online, google the model number and order it for £100 cheaper from somewhere else, with free delivery at my convenience and have it in stock that day (the amount of places like Currys etc. that DO NOT HAVE the things they have on the shop floor for you to take away - If you go to buy a freezer, say, the chances are you DON'T want to wait three weeks for it to arrive, you want to actually take it away from the shop that day).

To be fair, I didn't always go for the cheapest place online, and if the difference had been only £20 or so, it would be worth it to take it away that day. So Comet etc. had the opportunity to sell to me but had absolutely zero capability of doing so because their base prices were so ludicrous anyway. Sometimes it was cheaper to order the same model from John Lewis! I was literally in their store, measuring up, and they couldn't make a sale at a half-decent price or availability. No surprise they went bankrupt. And they weren't always like that.

Maplin - they fill a niche, like Tandy's used to. You can't pop into a shop and order one resistor, or a weird battery, or a PCB kit. You can in Maplin. And that's the sort of stuff that you don't want to mail-order because you'll invariably be in the middle of a job and need it there and then (like walking into Plumb Center and paying twice as much for a thermostat as you actually need - they work on the basis that local tradesmen need to do the job that same day). Their consumer stuff is generally overpriced but by the same token they do some good deals on basics, they do lots of odd things that you can't get cheaper anywhere else, and they do sales and vouchers all the time, not to mention their clearance buckets in store which I could spend whole afternoons digging through.

The biggest problem that's common to all these shops is, of course, their staff. Sure, there's probably one there who knows what they are talking about but the rest? They can't recognise knowledgable customers and dial-back the spin. They literally provide so much excrement in their sales pitches that, when my ex- used to do her mystery-shopping and audits on such chains and I was forced into them for hours on end, I would listen in purely as entertainment (and even had to steer customers away after they were given ATROCIOUS advice).

So I don't see what such chains had to offer in the last 10 years at least - no competent advice, no unique products, no better stock availability, no pricing advantage, constant harrassment by staff before, during and after purchase, nothing. I refer to them in work as my "demo" stores. That's where I go if I want to see a product in the flesh. But buy it from them?

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Somebody give BT a brolly: National telco blames RAIN for its pain

Lee Dowling
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So *BRITISH* Telecom don't deploy hardware that can survive rain and wind? Don't budget in replacement for rain-soaked equipment? Honestly?

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Big cell towers now outnumbered by briefcase-sized jobs

Lee Dowling
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Re: Get one at home?

The home pico-cells are actually locked down to only provide service to you anyway. They are literally that small that you load the numbers of your own phones into them and only those can connect. No security issue whatsoever.

The larger cells discussed are not "home use" at all - they are phone-company devices with land-leases, direct connectivity (no piggybacking on a private line etc.) and full responsibility handed to the phone company.

The article merges the two for reasons unknown.

That said, I'd kill for a decent picocell on the Virgin network at the moment - I have terrible reception in my new house and will gladly sacrifice some TINY Internet bandwidth (9600bps for plain GSM!) for the fraction of the day when I need mobile reception. Sure, I could use my Wifi, but that doesn't provide me with mobile reception which is what I need, without having to jump through VOIP hoops, number forwarding, etc.

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