* Posts by Nigel

158 posts • joined 4 Jun 2008

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MPs slap HMRC for lack of joined-up IT

Nigel
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I wonder ...

I wonder if they've ever considered something much simpler than constructing some complex, expensive, and almost-certainly-doomed-to-fail system for unifying all the taxpayer information (just in time for the next chancellor to introduce some wonderful new tax that the system isn't designed for).

How about rewarding taxpayers for paying on time? Maybe with a few free premium bonds (a few quid to the hard-up, but occasionaly serious money to those that hang onto them).

Carrots usually work better than sticks.

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Phorm gets £15m lifeline

Nigel
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Institutional investors

If any investors now own more than 3% of Phorm or more than 1% more of Phorm than they did before, they'll have to issue a market regulatory news item within a week. You can read such items here. (No such RNSs yet).

http://www.investegate.co.uk/Index.aspx?searchtype=2&words=phorm&Go=

Die, Phorm, Die!

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Microsoft takes hard line on Win 7 hardware

Nigel
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Abuse of their monopoly? (Again).

Any Logitech lawyers reading this? Time for you guys to do something, if you don't want Microsoft to eat your business. The EU court seems sympathetically inclined at present.

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HP OfficeJet Pro 8500 Wireless

Nigel
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Linux

HP head-and-shoulders best for Linux

HP is by far the most LInux-friendly of Inkjet and MFC manufacturers. HPLIP is a fully open-source project, being run with HP's blessing and support. It supports most features of all but the really cheap "throw-away" HP printers. It's bundled with most distros (and the source code is pretty easy to build as well).

Note that because HPLIP is open-source, you *can* trust that you won't be prevented from upgrading your OS for lack of a (closed source, binary) printer driver. Even if HP was acquired by Microsoft tomorrow, all the know-how to make Linux play with an HP 8500 and all the other current HPLIP-supported models is already out there and GPLed, so someone could and would pick up the reins should HP drop them.

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Nigel
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Duplexor afterthought?

I'm a great fan of HP Officejets for low-cost colour.

The duplexor is usually an option, i.e. there may be a cheaper model that is the same but without duplexor (which one could then decide to buy separately at a later date). In any case, having it removable makes clearing the rare paper jam from inside the duplexor very easy.

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Nigel
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LInux Drivers?

It DOES have linux "drivers". In fact, better than that. It's open-source supported by hplip. All but the very cheapest HP printers are, though sometimes not until a little while after the product launches.

For this one:

http://hplipopensource.com/hplip-web/models/officejet/officejet_pro_8500_a909a.html

You can also often get away with telling your system you have an earlier HP model that looks like the newer one. This can be an alternative to building the latest version of hplip on a distribution that isn't officially distributing it yet. Doesn't always work, a bit hit-or-miss, but takes little time to try.

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European 'standard' e-car power connector details emerge

Nigel
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I can't see the lock

It needs a facility for locking it in place (with a padlock or the car's key fob). Otherwise, some oik will unplug it for fun and you'll come back to an un-charged car. If both ends could be unplugged he'd walk off with the cable.

Also what happens when it gets dropped into a puddle, which also contains one of your feet, while your hand is resting on a piece of well-earthed ironmongery? Some very high spec earth-leakage detection and cut-off is clearly called for.

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Worldwide GPS may die in 2010, say US gov

Nigel
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A cultural problem?

It seems that there is something almost cultural that prevents Anglo-Saxon nations from being any better than crap at maintenance and incremental upgrade operations. GPS is just the latest in a very long list of technological triumphs that once complete, are then allowed to decay, sometimes to the point of complete collapse.

There is one big organisation that I can think of that stands head and shoulders above all others in elevating system maintenance and optimization to an art form. No, it's not IBM (though IBM deserves a mention). It's Swiss Railways. Only half in jest, I suggest that the USA enters negotiations with a view to sub-contracting all future maintenance and upgrading of the GPS system to these fine folk.

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More doubts on ID card readers

Nigel
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I'd like to tell them where to flick it ...

but you wouldn't print that.

But is it possible, somehow, to communicate to this bunch of dangerous idiots, that if they were merely all feathering their nests at the taxpayers' expense, we wouldn't be nearly as angry as we are. Twenty grand p.a. times four years times 600 MPs ... that's a mere 48 Million quid harmlessly spent. (Even some benefit to those in retail trades).

It's things like these ID cards that reallly make my blood boil, and constitute a reason why I won't ever vote Labour again as long as Jackboot Jacqui and her ilk are still party members. They are spending many *billions* of our taxes on a project that will make every last one of us hostage to the good intentions of all future governments. Our children and many future generations as yet nor even conceived as well.

If you haven't already worked out the full possible implications, find a German Jew (if you can) and ask him.

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Western Digital debuts 2TB power sipping drive

Nigel
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Wear levelling on a hard disk?

I'm puzzled by this. Surely the head never touches the data surface, and as far as I know, magnetic media don't deteriorate with repeated writes. If so, what is the purpose of pre-emptively moving the heads (or the data?) around? Presumably this does not refer to the once-every-few-seconds random idle seek that hard disks have been doing for decades to prevent contaminant build-up on tracks adjacent to a long-stationary head ... or is marketing just putting a new name on a very old feature?

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Asus Eee PC 1008HA Seashell

Nigel
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No access port?

Why is it hard to build a slim netbook with a back cover that can be removed, and a battery inside that can likewise be removed? Mobile phone manufacturers don't seem to have a problem.

I won't be buying anything with built-in dead-battery obsolescence.

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Linutop 2

Nigel
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Boggle

What a completely pointless piece of hardware. Why not just buy a netbook for £50 less with a much faster Atom CPU, and plug in a full-sized keyboard, mouse? That way you get a display for free, but if you want a bigger one, buy one and plug it in as well.

The price is plain crazy. If you can make profit selling a netbook for £200, this box shouldn't be much over £100. Might even have some point at that price!

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An unthinking programmer's guide to the new C++

Nigel
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Loops

The author says, "And you can make for loops in a style I last saw in CORAL 66" OK, I know it's supposed to be humour, but this is actually how loops are done in many (most?) modern scripting languages, such as Python . ( for i in [1,2,5,4] ) It's not a gimmick, it's the Right Thing. The list can also be an iterator (which is how you do the C-type loops, for i in range(1,10) ), and most importantly, instead of counting out an integer sequence and then de-referencing each element of an array or iterable structure, you just say "for x in array" . It's error-proof (of if it's calling the iterator method of an object behind the scenes, at least the right iteration thing is coded by the author of the object, not the user thereof, and debugged once and for ever).

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but I can't see the point of trying to do things in a compiled language that are natural only in an interpreted one. Write the high-level control stuff in Python (or Perl if you really must ... beauty versus the beast, but both work). Write the stuff that actually crunches data and needs to go fast in C. Scripting (interpreted) languages have huge advantages for rapid development and cool run-time tricks, and for the outer levels of the code, a threefold efficiency penalty is hardly ever significant. For inner levels where speed matters, vanilla C runs faster.

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Disk platter sizes vary with drive speeds

Nigel
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Boffin

Another meaningless indicator

Areal density is for disk drives, what Megahertz was for processors. Certainly , it is a measure of how far the product has advanced along one of the many possible axes of technological progress. But as far as measuring the utility of the product to the end user goes, it is meaningless.

I expect that the expensive fast small-platter high-RPM drives will be the first to get obsoleted by SSDs, in the very near future. It'll take much longer for SSDs to catch up with big slower cheap multi-terabyte hard disks (2Tb for £200 today means 2Tb for £50 three years hence). Maybe they never will. If hard drive manufacturers can work out how to squeeze tracks much closer together, the data density of magnetic HDDs will forever stay ahead of SSDs, based on the physics.

If we ever get them, what will we do with 100Tb disk drives?

5.25" full height hard drives? That wasn't where they started. A real old-timer can remember old "Winchester" technology hard drives. (Also eight-inch floppies). The HDA was about 15 inches across, stored in a unit the size of a dishwasher. Disk capacity? 80Mb. Yes, MB, not Gb. Before then the HDA was not sealed and the disks were in removeable cartridges. I've still got a platter extracted from one of those that was being scrapped. Diameter, about 15 inches. Capacity, just over one Megabyte.That's what was used before floppy disks were invented!

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UK gov squeezes 'best pricing' pledge from MS

Nigel
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If ... (@Gahhhh and others)

If the UK government wanted to save us money, it could mandate migration to Linux and open document formats as a long-term goal. Say ten years. That would put all suppliers of software on notice that if they don't produce a Linux version well before 2019, their biggest customer will cease to be a customer. It would also put all competitors on notice that if the incumbent doesn't move, there will be a large opening for a big sale. What chance that any significant software vendor would stay Windows-only in these circumstances? Small to vanishing, I think.

If Microsoft had a hissy fit and withdrew its special deals, that might increase costs in the short term, but surely would drive the migration process forwards at a faster rate! And UK govt should perhaps retalliate by instigating a few long-overdue monopoly investigations into Microsoft. WHY is it allowed to get away with the "Windows Tax"? I can't buy a new PC without Windows. And it's virtually impossible to get a refund on the Windows license, even if one never uses it.

The problem is that the UK government does not want to save us money.

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Missile data, medical records found on discarded hard disks

Nigel
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Boot and nuke them!

If you want to erase a disk and don't care that a national intelligence agency might be able to recover a fraction of the data, just download Darik's boot and nuke (www.dban.org). Free. Does exactly what it says to the data. After it finishes, E-bay the disk.

If the disk is faulty or if the data is REALLY sensitive, destroy the disk. A hammer is very satisfying, crushing it in a vice is safer, dissolving it in an acid bath is the ultimate secure erase.

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Windows 7: MS plays a Jedi mind trick on netbook owners

Nigel
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Windows 7/3

That's two-and-a-third applications crippleware to you.

Microsoft is, I think, aiming a gun at its feet and preparing to pull the trigger by Xmas.

The kids know someone with an XP netbook. They've asked for one in their stocking, and Santa has delivered. They are about to lose some of their childhood innocence, and discover in particular that Microsoft exists solely to shaft them.

What chance that these kids will ever ask for any flavour of Windows in any circumstances ever again? Get the Ubuntu handouts ready!

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Asus to launch Air-like Eee PC 'Seashell' next week

Nigel
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Screen resolution?

Anyone know the screen res? 1024x600 like the other EeePCs, or something better like the Mac it's imitating?

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Microsoft retires AutoRun (kinda, sorta)

Nigel
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Surely ...

Surely even Microsoft can work out whether a USB device is writeable, and if it is, then it can't be a CD or DVD, whatever it claims. Indeed, anything claiming to be a read-only device that is writeable should be regarded by the O/S as deeply suspiscious, and grounds for suppressing any autorun that it contains.

Andin this case, something like UAC is surely justified. Whenever any USB media is plugged, have the O/S pop up a menu of options like "Explore contents With Windows Explorer (safe)", and "Execute the Auto-run code from the device (unsafe)". Never run anything off removeable media without at least one user-supplied click. Software-installation auto-runs ought also to "prove" their bona fides with digital signatures ("Signed by the XYZ corporation" rather than "Unsafe").

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Adobe users imperiled by critical Reader flaw

Nigel
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Why ...?

Why do Linux users want to inflict a closed-source proprietary insecure bug-ridden mess, badly ported from Windows, on their systems? It's not as if Linux didn't have Evince to display pdf files. I've even used Evince to display (perfectly) a pdf file that was generated by Acrobat, yet crashed Acrodat reader on Windows. (And if you didn't know, OpenOffice can often perform the same magic on .doc files which MS office says are corrupt).

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Homer Simpson 'nuclear waste spill' panic at nuke sub base!

Nigel
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IT Angle

Even the Reg is scaremongering a little bit!

You say, "Tritium is absorbed by the body".

Actually it goes through your body like water. Probably, slightly faster than water. Tritium is double-heavy hydrogen. Living organisms selectively excrete Deuterium (heavy hydrogen) because it's ever so slightly out of tune with the molecular delicacies of biochemistry. I'd imagine, though I don't know, that the same selective excretion happens to a greater extent with Tritium.

But even if it were treated exactly as hydrogen, it's not bio-accumulative. This sets tritium aside from most heavy-element radioactives, which tend to get trapped in your body. With these, to a greater or lesser extent, once you have ingested them, you are stuck with them.

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Intel says new PCs will cost you nothing

Nigel
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Go

They didn't even mention the green saving

Whether or not it's got Vpro, a new PC will eat less electricity than a Pentium 4. Assuming 40 watts less, that's something like £8 p.a. if it's on 8 hours/day during the working week, and £35 p.a. if it's left on 24x365 (like the striplights in most city office blocks). 40W may be conservative.

Of course, the lower-hanging fruit ought to be those striplights!

If you don't need a performance boost, a "thin" PC with an Atom CPU and a SSD will save a lot more than 40W. For things that aren't CPU intensive, it'll feel a lot faster than a PC with a 3-year-old conventional disk. (But it won't run Vista and SMEs can't buy XP. Kick, kick.)

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Windows XP Mode: Certify like you mean it

Nigel
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Pleasantly surprised

If this XP mode actually works, I might come to like Windows 7. Perhaps Microsoft have been listening to the reasons that people hated Vista after all!

Where's the thumb-sideways icon?

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Hire your very own Fred the Shred

Nigel
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£20 per drive ?!

Here's the cheap but sane approach. Buy a large bench vice and a small battery-powered drill, a bucket, and (to keep the Elf and Safety mafia happy) some safety goggles. To destroy a disk drive, crush it in the vice. That alone should defeat anyone short of an intelligence agency. But if you want even greater security, before crushing, drill some holes in the disk cover. Crush, then dump it in the bucket and pour a corrosive liquid over it. Leave to soak for a few days. Coca-Cola is probably effective, and won't raise any safety flags. (Even though it kills keyboards in seconds and dissolves teeth. Safe to drink? I'll leave that for another day). A solution of ferric chloride, as used for etching printed circuit boards, is even more agressive (and pretty safe. It's murder on clothing, but splashes won't do human skin any harm. Think concentrated essence of rust).

If anyone wants to pay me £1000 to come and destroy 50 disk drives I'm quite happy to oblige. In fact I'll do 100 for the price of 50. Fun day out here I come.

(Anyone know the Curie temperature of modern magnetic media? Baking for an hour at gas mark 10 might also be very effective)

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Liquid crystals - Display genius no match for petty politics

Nigel
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How it goes

This sort of corporate malaise is all too common, in fact it's a rare company that doesn't go this way.

It's worth remembering that the Rank in the (former) Rank Xerox is the same as the one in the (former) Rank Hovis McDougall. The baking came first. Someone invented and patented the Xerox copier process, and was trying to commercialize it. Rank (the baker) was the first company willing to invest in it, after many rejections from more obvious sources of funding. The rest is history.

Xerox went on to become the source of many of the key inventions in today's computer industry. Read up about Xerox PARC. But this company was also past its prime and largely failed to capitalize on any of its inventions.

Digital Equipment is another once-great company that lost its passion for innovation, filled up with people playing politics, and went into terminal decline.

All rather sad. Probably an inevitable part of human nature.

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UK agent leaves secret drugs info on bus

Nigel
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Time for plan B

The "war on drugs" is lost. All it's doing is creating an artificial monopoly for the drugs cartels and an ever-increasing volume of drugs-fuelled theft (both at the taxpayers' expense), while keeping the street price of drugs high, to the ultimate benefit of the cartels alone. Time for plan B.

Legalize posession of hard drugs, and give them away to anyone who registers as an addict until he decides he wants to cure himself, or dies. Maintain (preferably considerably increase) the penalties for supplying drugs outside the legal framework, to provide some degree of protection against addiction for silly teens. Doing this would put organised crime out of business. Why engage in the risky criminal business of pushing drugs illegally, when your newly created addicts would turn to the state for free supplies of their substance as soon as they needed to? It wouldn't cost the taxpayer much, because the substances themselves are cheap, and there would be a huge saving of policing and insurance costs.

I can't say I like this much, but it's better than plan A, and nothing else seems to offer any solution.

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Microsoft names Windows 7 RC1 dates

Nigel
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Forced Migration @Richard Wiggins

There is a significant part of the market that has to migrate all PCs at once whether Microsoft encourages or not. It's education - schools and universities. A classroom full of PCs has to have all the PCs interchangeable, we can't put Vista or 7 on the new ones while still having old ones perforce running XP. If students move between classrooms, there is a very strong case for all the PCs in the department or even the institution to run the same.

And this sector isn't well funded - replacing all our PCs more than 3 years old in order to run a new MS OS just isn't going to happen. Especially not in the current economic climate. Methinks we'll still be running XP in 2012. Will students leaving school or uni suddenly love Windows 7 if they have learned on XP?

It could all be so different if MS structured its software like Linux. Here, the kernel is something deeply buried that most users aren't aware of just as long as it works. The GUI is something that loads when the user logs in, and one can maintain several alternatives on the same system. Why, why, are Microsoft hell-bent on inflicting all-or-nothing change on their users? Why can't we have a Windows XP compatibility GUI? Because they are still writing monolithic kluges rather than modular software, perhaps?

And even more baffling, why inflict change on us at all when it's clear that the world is fairly happy with XP? Why not do incremental improvements rather than blowing everything up and starting over?

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Councils to lose some spy powers

Nigel
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@Doggy Poop

You'll see from my above that I don't at all support the current situation, but here are some situations where LAs should be free to use surveillance.

To deal with fly tippers, for example. How would you feel if drums of unknown chemicals started turning up overnight in your local parks, or if punctured bags of asbestos waste were dumped on your doorstep? Similarly, to deal with with companies or individuals dumping toxic wastes down drains or up chimneys.

Or to deal with council tenant neighbours from hell. The sort who make life hell, and who then intimidate anyone who complains with (deniable but all-too-believable) threats and (unseen) bricks through windows or worse. Sufficient proof to prosecute or evict is hard to come by, especially if witnesses are too afraid to testify. Surveillance makes it un-necessary for them to do so.

Or to deal with rogue traders, selling fake or unsafe products, or taking deposits for products that they have no intention of ever delivering before pretending bankrupcy or just disappearing (and setting up under a new name elsewhere to continue the offense). The roofer who sabotages your roof elsewhere while fixing the fault you employed him to. The plumber who pees in your roof tank. The unqualified gas fitter who'll blow up half a terrace if he isn't stopped first. The self-taught acupuncturist who re-uses his needles over and over again.

All the above are true stories, if the reporters are to be believed.

Yes, all these could be police matters, but the police have limited resources. LAs should be able to respond to the well-founded fears of their electorate, and gain the evidence to support use of their own powers, or to force a proper police response.

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Nigel
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Smoke and mirrors.

This is going to be a smokescreen. They want people to think that they are on our side until after the election, while changing nothing at all.

If they wanted to fix it, it's easy for them to do so. Just amend the RIPA law in the next session of parliament. I'd suggest making it an offense to use these powers to investigate anything except a matter which, if proved, could result in someone serving jail time. Authorizing illegal surveillance should itself be punishable by jail time, and also by mandatory disqualification for life from holding public office.

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Q1 PC sales: Bad, but not quite awful

Nigel
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Real reason Dell down?

Isn't the real reason for Dell's woes the corporate contempt that they showed for their customers a few years back?

A long time ago, Dell used to have loyal customers. I once heard someone say that their customer support was "worth calling from another planet". Then, greed took over. Everything that wasn't a direct source of revenue got cut. People kept buying, on out-of-date recommendations. The bosses took this as a reason to cut even more.

Then the word got out, that although Dell machines still (mostly) worked well, the support when things went wrong had been outsourced to Elbonia. People told their friends, and started buying elsewhere. (HP may be a major beneficiary of this). Their previous reputation has now been replaced in many quarters by "anyone but Dell".

Frankly, I don't care whether Dell have fixed their problem. I'm happy with my new suppliers, and have no intention of sticking my hand back into the shark tank. When will the bosses learn, it takes ten years to build a good reputation, and ten days (sometimes ten minutes) to destroy one?

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Mac and Linux Bastilles assaulted by new attacks

Nigel
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Linux

@AC re Funny How

A trojan is executed in the context of a user account with a defined set of privileges.

On Windows it's common to be running in an account with privilege sufficient to install or reconfigure software. Whether that's Administrator or some other Admin account is secondary to the ability, which can be usurped to install malware and take over the machine, by a trojan, by exploiting bugs in unprivileged software or by social engineering. I always set up a system with (a) non-admin account(s) for the user(s), but there's an awful lot of "reputable" software out there that won't work without running under an admin account.

On Linux rooot is reserved for the the sysadmins, who know not to use it except when they need it. Executables used by privileged or system software are never alterable by ordinary users. Ordinary users don't have privilege to install or modify system software. Neither do most user-facing or internet-facing services. This is why Linux in intrinsically more secure. It was designed secure, whereas Windows was designed with more holes than a swiss cheese.

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US parkies in 'burrow-buster' marmot detonation campaign

Nigel
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Inhumane?

I guess they could use ferrets or terriers, assuming these critters are rabbit-sized. If I were a marmot I think I'd prefer being blown up suddenly without warning, to being torn to bits in a "natural" manner by a flesh-eating predator.

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NASA probes seek remnants of lost 'Theia' planet

Nigel
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@confused

It's showing the situation relative to Jupiter, i.e. in a frame of reference that is rotating around the Sun at the same speed as Jupiter. If it was shown in a non-rotating frame of reference you'd get a much less good idea of what was actually going on (and you would get dizzy trying to work it out).

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Nigel
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@anonymous coward

The moon would be slowly moving away from the earth regardless of how it got there in the first place. The cause is tidal drag. The rotating earth is dragging on the moon, and as the Earth's own spin is transferred to the Earth-Moon system, the orbit has to enlarge. It would end when the earth has one face permanently pointed at the moon, like the moon already has one face pointed permanently at the earth. "Would", because the Sun will go nova first, a few billion years from today. Slightly before that, it will have eaten the Earth-Moon system.

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Tesla Roadster runs for 241 miles in Monte Carlo e-rally

Nigel
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Expensive?

Any car that's produced in small quantities will be expensive. If it's also pushing the technology envelope, doubly so. So at this time, the Tesla is for enthusiasts with plenty of money. As is a Maserati, a BMW M6, or even, on a smaller budget, a Smart Coupe.

The real electric car problem is where to get the materials needed for batteries for a future fleet of a few billion electric automobiles. Whether you pick Lithium or NiMH as the right technology, both require a hard-to-obtain element. (The M in NiMH is a rare earth metal, such as Lanthanum). Then there's considerable additions needed to the electricity grid.

I think Tesla has proved that an electric car with adequate range and more than adequate perforrmance is possible. Kind of like early horseless carriages proving that one could do at least as well as a carriage with a horse. Things can only get better with time, but it'll take a few decades for the petrol age infrastructure to be replaced.

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The mobile phone as self-inflicted surveillance

Nigel
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Paris Hilton

Less worried than some

The key to me is that having a mobile is voluntary (and also, that nothing attaches "your" mobile to your person). It's intrinsic in the technology that the network has to know where the phone is.

As long as I can leave my phone at home or in the office (which I do quite often even though I didn't intend to), let the battery go flat, lend it to a friend, lose it on a train, I'm not too bothered about it. Unlike, say, compulsory ID cards, without which I'd be prevented from operating a bank account, buying a travel ticket, and possibly a few years later, prevented from buying food. The day they make a mobile phone compulsory or start saying that proof of mobile location equals proof of person's location, is the day I lose mine forever and hope that a few million other folks do likewise.

By the way, for anyone more paranoid than myself, I'd suggest tinfoil or a tobacco tin (if the latter still exist). Wrap the phone or pop it in the tin, and it's off the air even if it has been turned into a bugging device. Obviously such a phone would be useful only for outgoing calls at times and places of your choice. And incoming texts, which get stored until the phone becomes active.

Don't trust the off switch, and even removing the battery might not be all that you hope it is.

By the way, real criminals know how to clone phones. I hope that the police know this. Make sure that your defense lawyer does if it ever comes to that.

Does Paris ever put her mobile down and forget where?

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Obama science chief: Geo-engineer to save Gaia!

Nigel
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Boffin

Don't forget agriculture

I read some time ago about carbon capture by crops being a major uncertainty and variable in climate models, and a way to do geo-engineering. Chances are, humanity has been causing climate change for a lot longer than is generally realized. Since the dawn of agriculture, in fact.

Wheat, for some reason, produces silica nodules around its rootlets. The root within one of these nodules is protected from decay for many thousands of years. Some varieties of wheat produce many more silica nodules than others. It looks like a small effect, but we grow wheat on a vast scale. When you do the sums, the amount of carbon being trapped by wheat is significant. We could increase it many-fold just by growing different existing varieties of wheat, and we could probably square that factor by selectively breeding wheat varieties to capture carbon.

More generally, there's the root-to-leaf ratio. For any plant in any environment, there's an optimum ratio, when the roots are capable of supplying all the nutrients except for the carbon (which comes from the air as CO2). Plants do of course self-optimize. So as the level of CO2 in the air increases, they'll grow proportionately bigger roots. When the plant dies, it will have buried a greater amount of CO2, and deeper. This is probably how the biosphere remains stable, in the face of natural CO2 erruptions from supervolcanoes and continental splitting events, which dwarfed anything we've done (so far).

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Terry Pratchett cuts ribbon on Treacle Mine Road

Nigel
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But if you really hate the developers

I'd suggest feeding them "Perdido Street" and some others from that book, and hope that no-one spots the references until it's too late.

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Spam regains pre-McColo reach

Nigel
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@Mark - don't be silly!

Don't be silly (or if that's an April fool flamebait, it's not nearly silly enough). Gmail is a service that you choose to use. If you don't like getting targeted adverts, just don't sign up, and you won't.

And what' s infuriating about spam is that it is *not* targetted, it's a shotgun with a billion pellets (often poisoned pellets). If I get a limited number of adverts that are actually relevant to what I am interested in (and only those), it's at worst harmless and at best somewhat helpful.

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Germans announce: Revenge is inefficient

Nigel
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Linux

Obvious, really.

Tit for tat loses you a friend or other goodwill every time you retalliate for something that was not under the other party's control (which will be quite often). Vengeance means escalation, which is even worse.

A better way "never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence" (and not necessarily incompetence first-hand by the person or organisation you are dealing with). There's a lot more incompetence out there than there is malice. So tell the other party what is wrong and what they can do to make it right. And if that fails, and it's too small a deal to resort to lawyers, there are better things to do with one's life than adding another chip on one's shoulder.

Tux, because penguins don't have shoulders to carry chips on.

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Tesla unwraps Model S

Nigel
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Oh dear

Decent rear, pretty sides ... real ugly face. Why is that huge orifice on an electric car? There's no 30% efficient (or less) fuel-burner in there, so no need to gulp vast amounts of air, so that's a big black drag-creating me-too fashion statement. Yuk.

(And back when internal combustion engines were even less efficient, some cars had tasteful radiator grilles, so even oil-burners don't need that orifice).

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Leaked memo says Conficker pwns Parliament

Nigel
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I blame MIcrosoft, again.

Another bit of Microsoft stupidity, autorun.inf, which they are finally trying to kill off after a couple of decades of spreading viruses and malware.

Microsoft is to secure software what the Pope is to safe sex.

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Windows 7 RC download page reveals May ship date

Nigel
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Does anyone buy Vista by choice?

Are there really people out there who purchase Vista, by fully informed choice, more than once?

Most people are lumbered with it when they buy new hardware, get it home, find out that it's crap, ask about buying XP, and are told that it's not on sale any more, full stop. (Those of us with corporate licensing just "downgrade" to XP, but Joe Public can't do that).

What's wrong with Vista? It's slow, slow, slow. There are gazillions of other things wrong as well, but for anyone putting up with the slowness after being used to the speed of XP on 3-year-old hardware, there isn't any point mentioning anything else.

Most of these Joe Public types will buy a Mac next time, absent any other choice in the shops. Most of their friends won't make the Vista mistake in the first place.

I think that Microsoft has a lot in common with Sir Fred and fellow ex-bankers: arrogant, incompetent, believing in their own PR, and incapable of realizing just how much they have come to be loathed. If Windows 7 is not a vast improvement on Vista, Microsoft will be well on the way to the corporate graveyard.

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Melissa anniversary marks birth of email-aware malware

Nigel
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I blame Microsoft.

And whose stupid idea was it, to make it possible to embed arbitrary code in a Word document? Step forward the real villain of the piece, Microsoft, yet again.

If a doc file were incapable of anything other than causing representations of pages to be generated on screens, printers and equivalent interfaces, we'd have been spared a huge lot of trouble.

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Microsoft: Judge us by our deeds on open source

Nigel
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Watch what they do, not what they say.

So when is Microsoft going to publish a declaration (legally binding on itself) that it will not enforce its patents against open source projects, but only against competing companies that are trying to use MS IP in their own closed and proprietary products, or as retalliation against any company that brings patent infringement actions against MS?

I'll believe it when I read it. Heck, even a limited declaration with a list of patents that MS *will* seek to enforce, would be an improvement. At least programmers would know what to avoid, and which patents to seek to invalidate with prior art. But uncertainty is what MS profits by, isn't it? Pigs don't fly, and MS is the biggest pig of all.

Incidentally, the FAT patent would be nearly worthless if it were possible for manufacturers to format their drives with a different filesystem and still to inter-operate with Windows. I'd argue that MS making it impossible for any other company to write a filesystem for Windows to augment or compete with FAT and NTFS, is an abuse of a monopoly. The EU has busted their networking protocols monopoly, time to go for this one next?

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AMD migrates live VMs from Shanghai to Istanbul

Nigel
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LIve migration across platforms?

I don't think there's any chance that you'll ever be able to move a live VM (as in VMotion) from one hypervisor to another.

Most of us would settle for cold migration: being able to copy the folder of files representing a VM that's shut down, and reboot it under a different hypervisor. 20 minutes of downtime is a lot more acceptable than vendor lock-in.

Also note, if a system comprises two or more machines with redundancy and automatic fail-over, cold migration of machines, virtual or physical, allows migration of the live system, one machine at a time.

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ID cards not compulsory after all, says Home Office

Nigel
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Some new definition of "optional"?

I was recently refused access to the funds in a long-standing ISA until I had supplied my original driving license (not a copy) and a utility bill (not an internet download). "Money Laundering Regulations", they said. Send them by recorded delivery post. What a glorious government-mandated opportunity for identity thieves!

What, I wondered, if I had all my utilities and bank accounts on-line without paper statements, couldn't drive, and never travelled abroad so no passport either? They delined to answer. With things like this as of now, what are the chances of ever getting any of your money out of a bank without showing them your "optional" ID card, as soon as the accursed things are widespread? Be afraid. Be very afraid.

@Mikko - it's not the cards I'm afraid of. It's the centralization of everything that anyone needs to steal my identity, in one big government database, with easy access to just about every civil servant in the country. Not one of them will ever be corrupt, we are assured. The toothpaste will never get out of the tube. And if it does, the UK's government will put it all back like it was before. And all future governments will always act in our best interests. If you believe that, can I sell you the Eiffel tower?

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Sex crime 'lie detector' pilot could prompt wider use

Nigel
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Bring back the ducking stool?

In the middle ages they had the right idea, except that they used it on "witches" instead of paedos. Submerge them in water for a few minutes and see if the drowned. If they did, they were innocent, and God had accepted them into heaven, so everyone left was happy. If they didn't, it was time to build a large bonfire on which to send them to hell, after which everyone left was happy.

If you weren't sure, that's satire. Well, 90% satire. The other 10% of my brain is asking me to come up with a better suggestion for what to do about convicted paedophiles living amongst our children. Well, what should we do about a paedo who fails a polygraph test? Or come to that, one who passes it?

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Leaving PCs on costing UK business millions

Nigel
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The right answers

As many have pointed out, the economic cost of losing ten minutes work time each day closing, shutting down, rebooting and re-opening, is vastly higher than the wasted electricity. And much of the electricity isn't actually wasted, because 8 months each year it's heating an environment that needs heating anyway. And then there's the environmental cost of replacing a PC that failed earlier because of the daily power surge inflicted on it.

The right answers lie with the hardware manufacturers, some of whom are already making steps towards reducing power consumption. What we need, is a really good stand-by mode. Not hibernate or suspend, but a CPU that can slow down to say 5% of its normal speed, and reduce its power consumption by 95% when it does so. Also more efficient PSUs,that don't just burn power when the CPU isn't using it. Also solid-state rather than rotating disks that don't eat much power when not being accessed. Many of these things are beginning to happen, but a regulatory kick to make them mandatory on all new PCs would help. (Especially with the PSUs, where an extra tenner is a very hard sell).

But the worst offenders are not office PCs. They are much greater numbers of hi-fis, TVs, VCRs, DVDs, mobile phone chargers, microwaves, wireless phones, ... yes, and PC monitors, all sitting in standby eating a watt or three 24x365 when with a little bit of decent engineering and a small increase in cost, they could all be using mere microwatts. And traffic lights, most of which still use kilowatts of halogen bulbs per road, even though LEDs are perfect and would save at least 80% of the power. The ones that you can't replace by mini-roundabouts, that is.

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Worm breeds botnet from home routers, modems

Nigel
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Give us back our write-protect switches!

When are manufacturers of embedded devices going to give us back the write-protect switch?!

This is a consequence of penny-pinching at its worst. In the good old days, firmware always used to be protected. To re-flash a device one had to manually un-protect it, flash it, and re-protect it. With the switch shipped in "protect", any device-hacking could be un-done just by resetting or power-cycling the device. But the switch cost five cents and "confused the users". So to increase profits, and to make users who drool feel happier, they did away with it. Now, the pigeons are coming home to roost.

It's not just bankers who should have a retrospective 90% tax applied to them. Anyone who sanctioned the removal of an essential and fool-proof safety measure to save a few cents should be taxed into poverty. Or worse. And the legislators should mandate that any device with flash-able firmware should once again be equipped with a manually operated write-protect switch.

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