* Posts by Duncan Macdonald

233 posts • joined 20 Mar 2009

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All aboard the Skylake: How Intel stopped worrying and learned to love overclocking

Duncan Macdonald

Bandwidth starved

The DMI 3.0 interface between the CPU and the Z170 chipset has a bandwidth about the same as a PCIe 3.0 x4 link (just under 4GB/sec). If the high speed ports from the chipset are heavily used then they will be starved for bandwidth. This CPU and chipset combination is not suitable for more than a 2 way SLI or Crossfire configuration.

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ZTE Nubia Z9 Mini: The able Android smartie the company won't sell you

Duncan Macdonald

Menu button

Some apps still work better with a menu button as their alternative methods are clumsy.

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Intel left a fascinating security flaw in its chips for 16 years – here's how to exploit it

Duncan Macdonald

DMA device ? BIOS ?

Many devices have DMA access to memory - does the MCH block access to the SMM RAM area from DMA devices (eg a graphics card or a disk drive)? If it does not then there is a much bigger hole.

As the SMM code is loaded from the BIOS - any technique that allows the BIOS to be reflashed also allows the SMM to be reprogrammed.

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Radian ready to replace the flash translation layer

Duncan Macdonald

Reliability ?

With only a 3% overprovisioning, the life expectancy of this drive will be terrible. Once a few flash cells die (which they always do) the drive will end up underprovisioned. There is also a question (important for data centre use) about whether the drive can flush all out all outstanding writes (including metadata) in the event of a power failure.

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Secretive trade pact the TTIP: Death of the web – or a brave new horizon?

Duncan Macdonald

Re: Fundamental - Politicians

Politicians are like diapers.

Both should be changed often and for the same reasons.

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Google, Adobe barricade Flash against hacker hordes – we peek inside

Duncan Macdonald

Too complex

The biggest problem with Flash is its complexity - which makes bugs inevitable. A cut down version of Flash Player that could only play videos with no scripting ability would meet over 90% of user requirements and be far less likely to contain as many bugs.

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PLUTO FLYBY: Here's your IT angle, all you stargazing pedants

Duncan Macdonald

Re: "...approximately 2,000 bits per second..."

A laser link would not be effective - there is too much background radiation at optical wavelengths and the maximum size for an optical telescope is far smaller than the maximum size for a radio telescope so less energy would be collected by the receiver on Earth. Unfortunately the only way at present to improve the data rate is to increase the power received on Earth which means more electrical power for the transmitter and/or a larger transmitting antenna and/or larger receiving antennas.

Unfortunately the power is constrained for a number of reasons (not least the desire to limit the radiation release if the launch vehicle explodes!!).

The transmitting antenna size is constrained by the dimensions of the launch vehicle.

If enough money was available then it would be possible to construct additional receiving antennas - replacing each individual receiving antenna with 4 identical antennas linked together would allow for a doubling of the transmission rate

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Thinking of adding an SSD for SUPREME speed? Read this

Duncan Macdonald

Re: Don't bother

Agreed - a one tenth of a second difference in the time to load a game is not worth hundreds of pounds.

The only point where the price premium may be worthwhile is on a database server as local storage.

(For storage accessed over a network, 6Gbps SATA is more than fast enough as a pair of such drives can saturate a 10Gbps network link.)

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PeopleSoft p0wnage possible with a day of GPU brute-forcing

Duncan Macdonald

Insecure Oracle software

In other news - the ocean is wet.

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China's best phone yet: Huawei P8 5.2-inch money-saving Android smartie

Duncan Macdonald
Thumb Down

Overpriced

For comparison the THL 2015 4G phone is available for £160 (octa core 2GB/16GB + up to 32GB microSD) and the TECA N52W is at £166 (octa core 4GB/16GB +up to 64GB microSD).

(Both from commercial UK sellers on eBay).

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GM's cheaper-than-Tesla 'leccy car tested at batt-powered data centre

Duncan Macdonald

What a horrible paint job

It looks designed to ensure that there are no customers

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California über alles? Is MEP Reda flushing Euro copyright tradition down the pan?

Duncan Macdonald

Re: Limit the Term.

In any other field than IP - one job of work (Raising a crop, curing a sick child, piloting an aircraft etc) gets one payment - why should IP get payments for life (and beyond) ?

A 20 year term is plenty to reward the creators of a work.

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Duncan Macdonald

Re: Limit the term

Copyright - unlike patents - does not stop an idea being reused. (If it did then there would be very little fiction - all those reused plots.)

Patents - which do inhibit the reuse of an idea - already have a limited term (usually no more than 20 years).

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Duncan Macdonald

Limit the term

All copyrights should expire after 20 years from first sale or license. The current position where the copyright protection term gets extended anytime that Mickey Mouse is starting to run out of copyright is a gross abuse.

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Data AWOL? Thank God for backup. You backed up, right?

Duncan Macdonald

Tell the management

All too often the management do not see the importance of backups and very little resource is allocated. Tapes get reused until they fail (rather than being retired after a reasonable number of uses), the backups (when not automated) are performed by the most junior member of staff - as they cost less in overtime, DR is relegated to "we will think about it if a disaster happens", testing of backups is not done because it would cost time and money.

Then the managers blame the IT staff when it all fails!!!

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How much info did hackers steal on US spies? Try all of it

Duncan Macdonald
Mushroom

Politicians ?

Would the records include the current crop of politicians (Congressmen, Senators, President and VP) ?

If so then GOOD - see how they like being exposed.

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If hackers can spy on you all then so should we – US Senator logic

Duncan Macdonald

Re: What we need...

Good cyber security is FAR more likely than quality, honest, law abiding, ethical elected officials.

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Shouty investor Elliot trains guns on Samsung merger

Duncan Macdonald

What right ?

As (to judge from the text) they acquired the 7.1% stake after the merger was announced, what right do they have to sue to get the merger blocked ? They knew about the merger before they bought the stake so they should have no claim that it harms their interest as a shareholder.

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IEEE's prescription for med-tech crowd: preventing hacks is better than a cure

Duncan Macdonald
Mushroom

So of course they will do the reverse

Expect to see a pacemaker using XOR encryption, a hard coded password of PACEMAKER, coded in C++ (coding offshored to India), running with full root access and no security log.

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So why the hell do we bail banks out?

Duncan Macdonald

Make directors bear losses

If a bank needs to be bailed out (insolvency not insufficient liquid cash) then the directors should be required to forfeit all their income from the bank over the previous 5 years (salary, bonuses, stock options, pension contributions etc). Making this change to the banking laws would make them far more careful about getting into the positions that could make a bank fail.

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Why Joe Hockey's Oz tax proposals only get five out of 10

Duncan Macdonald

Abolishing a treaty is easy

Either party to a two way treaty can abolish it without need for cooperation from the other party (renegotiating it to change the terms however IS more difficult).

If the bilateral treaties were abolished then the taxation position would be determined solely by local law.

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Chill, luvvies. The ‘unsustainable’ BBC Telly Tax stays – for now

Duncan Macdonald

The BBC helps keep program standards up

As the BBC is free to watch (and listen to) and does not carry outside advertising, it puts some limits on how bad a pay-TV channel can be. If the program quality is too bad or the advertisments too intrusive then people will watch the BBC instead. The presence of the BBC stops many channels from being as bad as the US ones (40 minutes of advertising in a 60 minute program).

The BBC also carries good quality regional programs that would probably never be produced in a pay-TV system.

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Relax, it's just Ubuntu 15.04. AARGH! IT'S FULL OF SYSTEMD!!!

Duncan Macdonald

No thanks

Having seen some of the garbage from the systemd developers - I will choose a distro without systemd (and if possible without pulseaudio as well).

Systemd seems to have been designed by people trained in the Microsoft tradition of "Embrace, Extend Extinguish".

The one of the biggest problems with systemd is its reliance on binary databases that are far more difficult to analyse and repair than plain text files. Init files can be manipulated by any text editor and can easily be corrected by booting from an alternative device (eg a USB stick) if damaged so badly that even a single user boot fails. If a systemd database is corrupted then to repair it requires either a recent backup or the rescue system needs a compatible version of systemd to allow the damaged database(s) to be recreated.

I wonder if any group will produce a distro based on the most widely used linux system - the linux in Android.

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Australia cracks tech giants' tax dodge code

Duncan Macdonald

Use the initial pricing

For items like an iPhone that are produced by third parties, deem the maximum price that can be transferred out of the country as twice the cost paid to the third parties (to allow for R&D and other overheads).

For an iPhone 5s the BOM cost is estimated to be $199, Foxconn probably gets about $20 per phone in profit giving a price (from the third party) of $219. Doubling this gives a maximum allowable price of $438. The retail price before taxes less that $438 is taken as the profit (and is taxable at the local rate).

If a company refuses to reveal the price it pays to third parties then it is taken as ZERO resulting in profit tax on the whole price of the item. (Payments to related companies e.g. from Apple Australia to Apple Ireland are completely ignored.)

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Tesla reveals Powerwall battery packs for homes, Powerpacks for cities

Duncan Macdonald
Flame

Fires

These Lithium batteries are sufficiently large that they should not be kept inside the house - if a battery fails and goes into thermal runaway then goodbye house. The Heathrow 787 showed what a much smaller Lithium battery can do. For safety these batteries should be kept in an external brick or concrete structure far enough away from other buildings for safety.

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Rand Paul is trying to murder net neutrality. Is there a US presidential election, or something?

Duncan Macdonald
Thumb Down

No alternative ISP

The big ISPs (which are against net neutrality) have managed to buy laws that prevent many of their proposed competitors from starting or expanding. (The city owned local ISPs have been constrained by laws bought by the big ISPs.)

In much of the US there is only 1 or 2 ISPs - all of which are against net neutrality.

The ISPs should act like roads or railroads which allow anyones cargo to travel, instead the ISPs want to act like a protection racket - if your data comes from firm X then it will be allowed through but if it comes from firm Y then it will be blocked or delayed.

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NINETY PER CENT of Java black hats migrate to footling Flash

Duncan Macdonald

Basic Flash player

Much of the problem with Flash is due to its complexity and scripting capabilities. If a basic Flash player was produced that could only play videos (no scripting or ability to perform other functions) this would meet the needs of most users and be far more secure.

(The same is true with PDF viewers but thankfully there are good non-scriptable alternatives to the Adobe Acrobat Reader - Sumatra (Windows) , Evince (Linux) and a partially scriptable alternative Foxit (Windows).)

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So how should we tax these BASTARD COMPANIES, then?

Duncan Macdonald

Tax assets instead of profits

As it is too easy to manipulate the profits (as stated in the article), instead tax the gross assets at a rate of about 1%. (For a licensed deposit taking institution (banks, building societies etc) the deposits would be deducted from the gross assets before the tax was calculated.) Use the gross assets instead of the net assets as they are less easy to manipulate.

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SUPERVOLCANIC MAGMA reservoir BUBBLING under Yellowstone Park

Duncan Macdonald

Re: It's the end of the world as we know it...

However it would take a megaton range nuke - a few tens of tons of TNT would not be large enough to have any effect on either Yellowstone or La Palma.

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Google versus the EU: Sigh. You can't exploit a contestable monopoly

Duncan Macdonald

Most meta content tags are ignored

There used to be a lot of sites with invalid data in the meta content fields (an old spamming trick). It got so bad that search engines ignore or give a low weighting to most (if not all) of the meta content fields not backed up by visible text.

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Green your data centre – without ending up in the Job Centre

Duncan Macdonald

Use a big UPS

Having a small UPS in each server is not normally a good idea

1) Large UPS systems tend to have better power efficiency than a lot of small ones

2) Large UPS systems normally allow the batteries to be changed while still maintaining output - this does NOT apply to most small systems.

3) Batteries are much more temperature sensitive than modern computers - if you have the batteries close to the servers then the temperature of the servers will need to be much lower (with a rise in cooling cost)

4) Batteries are limited lifespan components - it is far easier to replace the batteries in one large UPS than in hundreds of small UPS systems.

One further point - make sure that the backup generator (if present) is tested frequently - and make sure that it gets up to full output in less time than it takes for the UPS batteries to drain.

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Want to go green like Apple, but don't have billions in the bank?

Duncan Macdonald

Low density data center

For many businesses the data center does not need to be packed like sardines. Using a larger building for the equipment can allow unchilled air cooling. If the power density is low enough then fan cooling alone can suffice. (Obviously this does not work for most mega data centers but for the size of data center in 5000 employee and smaller companies this can work.)

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You! GOOGLE! HAND OVER the special SAUCE, says Senate (of France)

Duncan Macdonald

Google's real crime

It is not paying as much in bribes as its would be competitor (M$).

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Chrome version 42 will pour your Java coffee down the drain: Plugin blocked by default

Duncan Macdonald

Goodbye Chrome

It only takes a few important (to the user) sites not working with a browser for users to switch to a different browser. The "We know best and you will do as we say" attitude of the Chrome developers is likely to kill Chrome (and Chromebooks if they do not have another browser loaded).

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Why are enterprises being irresistibly drawn towards SSDs?

Duncan Macdonald

Re: @Duncan Macdonald

If there is one or more seconds from motherboard powerdown to SSD powerdown then a very simple algorithm on the SSD could suffice - after 100ms idle flush all pending writes. This would still allow write combining for frequent small write requests and for infrequent small write requests the write amplification does not matter as the rate of page writes is low.

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Duncan Macdonald

Re: @Duncan Macdonald

One question that I have never seen mentioned yet alone answered - when the power to a computer fails - which happens first - loss of the power good signal on the motherboard shutting down the motherboard or loss of the 3.3v supply to the SSDs ? Also what is the time difference between the two ? Will the SSD power hold up long enough to flush pending writes ?

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Duncan Macdonald

Write buffering and coalescing can be done without supercaps

For example the Samsung 840 EVO and 850 EVO SSDs use part of the array in SLC mode which allows writes to be combined reducing the write amplification for the main TLC array.

Also a number of SSD controllers combine writes by initially buffering them in the controller RAM even without supercaps. (A major investigation into SSD power fault handling proves that this happens - see https://www.usenix.org/system/files/conference/fast13/fast13-final80.pdf for more details)

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Extensive 3D NAND drives very expensive to make

Duncan Macdonald

Is the yield very low ?

Looking at the steps in the diagrams - the only extra ones are the layer deposits - these are whole wafer deposits which should make the process fairly simple (in semiconductor fab terms!!). As flash memory can handle a number of defects (unlike a CPU) the yield of usable dies should not be too bad.

Also the fact that the more relaxed 30-40nm geometry is used instead of the ~ 15nm geometry for non-3D NAND should increase yields (as well as the number of P/E cycles).

Some evidence can be gained from current retail prices - a 1TB Samsung 850 EVO can be had for £295, a 1TB Seagate Barracuda can be had for £40 - a ratio of just under 7.5. If the yields were very low as the article suggested then the price would be much higher (as in the earlier days of SSDs).

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Can you recover your data if disaster strikes? Sure?

Duncan Macdonald

Second server room

For a company large enough to be in 2 buildings - put a file server room in each building. (With modern kit even a garage can house a fairy large backup file server without needing air conditioning.) Use a dedicated high speed link between the main server room and the backup file server. The cost of the backup file server and link will be far smaller than the cost of a cloud backup by the time that the network costs to the cloud provider are taken into consideration.

Examples:- Low end - 4TB effective storage - PC with 5 1TB SSDs in RAID5 and a 1Gb ethernet link - change from £3000. Medium level 20TB effective storage - Server with 28 1TB SSDs (25 in a 20TB RAID5 group and 3 spares to hot swap a failed SSD) and a 10GB fiber link - change from £20k. High end - dedicated building holding as many PB as you need - price HIGH!!

Use SSDs for the small and medium cases as they have better survivability (heat, water, vibration) and higher lifespans than most HDDs (e.g. 5 year warranty on Samsung 850 EVO)

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SPY FRY: Smart meters EXPLODE in Californian power surge

Duncan Macdonald

Re: Distribution architecture vulnerability

The UK network was mainly constructed by a government owned industry. It did not have to contend with penny pinching management and its engineering staff was good. Putting multiple voltages on the same pole was avoided (except for the case of a pole mounted transformer) as a matter of good engineering practice. Also in the UK most of the low voltage lines (240v/440v) are underground not the ugly overhead line jungle that you find in third world countries and the US.

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Snakes on a backplane: Server-room cabling horrors

Duncan Macdonald
FAIL

Underfloor can be much worse!!!

Where I used to work there was a computer room that had been in use for over 20 years holding different mainframes with their peripherals. When the room was finally emptied the cables were over 2 feet thick in the underfloor void. (Whenever a new bit of kit was installed, its cables went over the previous cables and whenever a bit of kit was removed its cables were buried under so many live cables that they could not be removed.)

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Bye bye, booth babes. IT security catwalk RSA nixes sexy outfits

Duncan Macdonald

Not worth going then

At all too many trade shows, the booth babes are the only things worth looking at. The collection of "me too" items, items that are well past their sell by date, horribly overpriced items and items that are not ready for production use makes many trade shows a boring waste of time.

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FAA speeds up drone flight approvals for firms that don't need them

Duncan Macdonald

Still sufficient for many inspection jobs

200 ft limit still allows inspection of most roofs, transmission towers and also allows easy crop inspection for farmers.

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Dark matter surveys turn up new satellites … orbiting the Milky Way

Duncan Macdonald

If dark matter exists

If the MOND theory is correct then dark matter need not exist.

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Google Chrome suffers brain freeze on Android Ice Cream Sandwich

Duncan Macdonald

Another good reason to use Firefox instead of Chrome

A large number of phones are stuck on 4.2 or earlier - thankfully Firefox supports 2.3 and later.

(In my opinion it is also a better browser.)

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Linux clockpocalypse in 2038 is looming and there's no 'serious plan'

Duncan Macdonald
FAIL

Testing is too expensive !!!

At least that is typical management thinking. Given the number of idiots in management and the amount of code that is produced by the lowest (initial) cost by cheap third-world coding shops, I expect to see code with this problem still being produced in early Jan 2038.

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Boffin finds formula for four-year-five-nines disk arrays

Duncan Macdonald

On site support

If you have a large data centre then the cost of one person on site who can swap disks is not going to add much to the costs. (That person could even double as one of the security guards - a high level of ability is not needed to swap disk drives.)

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Fedora 21: Linux fans will LOVE it - after the install woes

Duncan Macdonald
FAIL

As Gnome 3 requires systemd - NO THANKS

As long as there is a reasonable Linux distribution without systemd I will not use systemd.

The systemd/Gnome3 mess looks to me like a successful M$ attempt to sabotage Linux.

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'Turn to nuclear power to save planetary ecology from renewable BLIGHT'

Duncan Macdonald

Fukushima

The plant at was hit by a tidal wave almost twice the design worst case.

If the Japanese government had the slightest competence then the plant could still have been rescued after the tsunami. There was a window of about 12 hours in which if they had flown in (via helicopter) a 1MW generator then the plant could have been saved.

Even with the problems - the death toll at the Fukushima plant - 3 - 2 people were drowned and one was knocked off a ladder. Observed radiation deaths - zero.

The radiation level 1km from the plant is lower than the normal background level in Cornwall (where the average radiation dose is 7.8 mSv/year).

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Solar sandwich cooks at 40 per cent efficiency

Duncan Macdonald
FAIL

Re: Photovoltaics is a one time, one way molecular erosion PARLOR TRICK ! -IDIOT

The electrons leave the cell on one terminal and then re-enter on the other terminal - the thing called an electric current is a flow of electrons. It takes under a microsecond for an expelled electron to be replaced.

Even low grade solar cells can manage over 10 watts per square foot in direct sunlight.

Commercial solar PV installations in suitable locations produce far more electrical energy over their lifespan than was needed for their construction.

Try reading websites where the contributors have an average IQ above 50.

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