* Posts by Nigel 11

2973 posts • joined 10 Jun 2009

It killed Safe Harbor. Will Europe's highest court now kill off hyperlinks?

Nigel 11
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Re: An awful lot of books - or their content - are copyright

So, if I send a message that there is a juicy picture of page 125 of a slightly obscure book, and maybe where that book may be found, am I infringing copyright?

No, firstly because a physical book was presumably published with consent and someone paid for it.

OK, let's say where an unauthorized reprint of that book may be found. It's not obviously violating copyright - it's not a crude photocopy. The copyright owner contacts the person with this illegal book, he shreds it, and you are informed by the copyright owner that it wasn't a permitted copy and how to tell the difference in future. You then alter the document you published to tell people where to find another unauthorized copy, this time in the full knowledge that it is unauthorized. And repeat. And repeat.

I think that's a fair analogy to this case.

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Nigel 11
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This case asks whether or not you can link to something that wasn't published, or was published without the permission of the copyright holder.

Especially if you persist, after the copyright holder has made you aware beyond any reasonable doubt that the material is being made available without its consent.

Methinks there's an analogy to be made with stalking. A stalker doesn't directly break the law, but his (or her) actions which would be legal if randomly distributed across the population become illegal when persistently targeted at a single individual after being told to stop.

Stalking is intended to terrorize, and is therefore illegal. Publishing repeatedly updated links to copyright-violating servers elsewhere is intended to assist others to commit a form of theft. Legal? Seems a sensible thing for a court to consider. I hope that they get it right and restrict their judgement to this specific case rather than wreaking wider havoc with the internet.

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Leak – UN says Assange detention 'unlawful'

Nigel 11
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Re: We make our own prisons

I still do not understand why Sweden hasn't come out and guaranteed (governmentally, to Ecuador) that Assange will not be extradited anywhere outside Sweden and -- if cleared or after punishment served in Sweden -- would be free to travel from Sweden to Ecuador. At that point the Ecuadorian Embassy could ask him to leave, the UK police could send him to Sweden, Swedish law could take its course, and a huge amount of fuss and expense would have been saved. If he was scared that the UK might send him to the USA rather than Sweden, then a similar guarantee could be issued by our government that he would not be extradited anywhere except to Sweden.

In the meantime he has a little of my sympathy. I don't think that the USA should be allowed to lock him up and throw away the key, which is probably what the US government would do if they ever get their hands on him. His actions don't make a lot of sense if all he has to worry about is jail in Sweden. That's probably little more unpleasant than confinement in a small embassy in London.

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BT blames 'faulty router' for mega outage. Did they try turning it off and on again?

Nigel 11
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Rural broadband

There's only one answer for rural broadband, and it's independant of the future of BT Openreach.

Some time during the last century a telephone line went from being a luxury to an essential, and the Post Office (as it then was) was placed under a universal service obligation. Which inevitably made telephone lines slightly more expensive for everyone in towns and cities.

Around now, a broadband service of at least 4Mbps (I'd say 8Mbps) has gone from being a luxury to an essential, and OpenReach needs to be placed under a universal service obligation. And yes, it means that everyone's fixed line rental will have to go up a bit.

Until they are under a USO it is simple economics that they will concentrate on the 90% of the profit that comes most easily (ie folks in towns and cities) and pay lip-service only to providing folks living a long way away from an exchange with anything but the least good service that they can get away with.

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When customers try to be programmers: 'I want this CHANGED TO A ZERO ASAP'

Nigel 11
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Re: Customer always right?

Why edit it? Just quote it in full.

That might have had him looking for a scapegoat, and you might have been it. In general, do not try to put out a fire with petrol.

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Nigel 11
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Re: a week and 2 engineers

Do we now have an explanation of the bag with 59 sachets of salt and one crisp?

(I've twice found a solid chocolate Kit-kat. I don't regard that as any cause for complaint).

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Nigel 11
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Customer always right?

Surely in the first example there was a moral obligation to all other stakeholders in the company. An edited version of the comment (minus the "idiots" "fools" "morons" ad-hominem bits) should have been made available. "The full code contains this cautionary comment ... please confirm, in writing, that you nevertheless require the change which is so strongly cautioned against to be made".

Maybe the moron would have had second thoughts. And maybe you should even have tipped off his CFO, though you'd probably have needed to go up to board level of your own company to get that approved, and doing it without approval would take a lot of balls.

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Safe Harbor ripped and replaced with Privacy Shield in last-minute US-Europe deal

Nigel 11
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Neville Chamberlain

I might say that's unfair because the USA is not a fascist dictatorship.

For some reason the word "Yet" keeps surfacing.

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Europe wants end to anonymous Bitcoin transactions

Nigel 11
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Re: Numpties

You forgot to add that our own government inhabits the other wing of the same lunatic asylum as most of the commish.

In a nutshell, that's why I'm going to find the IN/OUT decision quite a challenge.

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I love you. I will kill you! I want to make love to you: The evolution of AI in pop culture

Nigel 11
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Self-awareness

We don't know an awful lot about self-awareness or how it can arise. In fact I'm not sure that we actually know anything. How do you prove to me that you are self-aware rather than just programmed to assert that you are? Or even, how do I know that I am self-aware rather than just something else's dream? The ancient Greeks and Shakespeare understood this. Occam's Razor is the only way out that I know.

Two good SFnal treatments of awareness arising unexpectedly: Greg Bear Queen of Angels and Charles Stross Rule 34.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Big Blue

And Vernor Vinge comprehensively outclassed the Berserkers with the Blight. That truly is a nightmare vision (and A Fire upon the Deep is a truly great book).

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Nigel 11
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Machines do not "make decisions" and are not likely to do so in the foreseeable future. They just follow a pre-programmed algorithm - albeit one that may be pretty complex.

Which differs from a human brain taking a decision how precisely?

A machine makes a decision when it operates with internally generated code or huge internally generated continuously modified weighting tables on equally huge internally generated tables of data, heuristically pruned to fit in available memory. It becomes impossible for a human to understand why any particular instance arrives at a particular point A or not-A. Potentially this, even if we can dump a Terabyte of internal state at the precise moment that the decision was taken.

When you are running and are tripped by something you didn't see, you'll try to regain your balance. Can you tell us the details of your last success, or what you would do next time to avoid your fall, or even whether falling was avoidable? Yet clearly we do learn to run. Young kids fall over a lot more than adults. And if/when we advance from building intrinsically stable wheeled and tracked vehicles to bipedal "mechas", I have little doubt that the same will be true of their control systems.

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Nigel 11
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Does the machine choose the greater good - or avoid a direct action that would deliberately kill the man on the spur?

A dilemma which the logic in self-driving cars will have to incorporate, unless we choose to refuse to incorporate any concept of "the greater good" which is itself a decision. Will it be explicit (programmer playing god, here's the algorithm which decides whether you live or die)? Or implicit (the AI has programmed goals and code that evolves in time as it processes more events, and we really don't know in advance what it will do faced with a choice between two different crashes).

I once found myself in a meta- version of this dilemma. Thanks to my own inattention, I was hurtling towards a give-way sign much too fast to stop and realized I might have to decide between a collision with another vehicle or going off-road into trees. I never got to take the decision, because the fates or whatever decreed that there was no other vehicle crossing my path.

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Nigel 11
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Re: "what it is that makes us human when computers and machines can educate themselves"

There was a computer program that "discovered" prime numbers all by itself.

It was not really AI. It was a goal-seeking algorithm that could apply the rules of symbolic algrebra. It had the axioms of arithmetic hard-coded, and its goal was to prove hypotheses with high values of interestingness, where interestingness was a heuristic based on the relation of a hypothesis to other hypotheses and theorems and their interestingnesses (ie, if we can prove this, then we get that and that and that ... )

ISTR it got as far as inventing and trying to prove Goldbach's conjecture (every even number greater than two can be expressed as the sum of two prime numbers). It failed to prove it, which is not very surprising ... the best human mathematicians of the last 250 years or so haven't been able to prove it either!

There's also the proof of the four-colour theorem which is too complex for any human unassisted by a computer to comprehend. So it it proved, and if so what is it proved by?

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Little warning: Deleting the wrong files may brick your Linux PC

Nigel 11
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Re: This is like BIOS flashing by Unix commands

I'm almost certain that if you can trash UEFI and brick your motherboard running as root on LInux, then you can trash UEFI and brick your motherboard running as Administrator on Windows. It may be harder to do it accidentally (though I doubt if that's by design, more probably by happenstance). Linux should take steps in the same direction of making accidents harder, like making the --one-file-system option a default for rm.

Any blame needs to be placed squarely with the implementors of UEFI on the offending hardware. Possibly also with whoever specified UEFI if it does not explicitly state that a missing or corrupt UEFI filesystem or any or all missing UEFI variables must be recoverable errors from an end user's perspective.

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Nigel 11
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Re: This is like BIOS flashing by Unix commands

So that you can 'safely' run rm -rf /

rm --one-file-system -rf / # safe, for certain values of safe ...

this will remove all files in your root filesystem, which is probably your operating system installation, hopefully not your /home files, and certainly not anything in sysfs.

Personaly I think --one-file-system should be the default, especially if you are running as root, with a --really-do-recurse-into-all-filesystems option for the suicidally inclined.

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Nigel 11
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Re: So, exactly...

EFI is part of the BIOS. It is intended to be accessed as a filesystem. It's therefore bad design if corrupting that filesystem results in the Motherboard being bricked, rather than offering a "reset to factory" option.

But rm -rf is not the right way to erase a disk on Linux. Assuming that you are not unduly concerned to erase data beyond the abiliity of a three-letter-agency to recover it (*), then the right tools are

boot something like SystemRescueCD off a standalone CD or USB stick

DISK=/dev/sda # or whatever

smartctl -i $DISK # double-check you are about to nuke the right device

dd if=/dev/zero of=/dev/$DISK bs=4M; sync #write all sectors to zero

This also forces relocation of any bad blocks at a time when that will cause absolutely no harm, and lets you then use smartctl -A to see whether pre-emptive replacement of the disk might be wise. If you are in a hurry add count=10 to wipe only the partition table and anything lurking at the top of the first partition.

(*) if you are worried about the three-letter agency the recipe is remove disk, drill several holes in its HDA, smash its electronics with a hammer, and immerse the disk in acid. Coca-Cola is probably an adequate substitute for hydrochloric acid or ferric chloride. Easy to obtain and no bothersome H&S forms needed. Solid-state disks probably require incineration though applying a Dremmel coarse grinding tool to all the big chips might suffice.

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Lawyers cast fishing nets in class-action Seagate seas

Nigel 11
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AFAIK every disk drive vendor has shipped some models that are lemons in its time. It is inevitable. Every drive in production is in effect a prototype. By the time any particular model of drive has a five-year track record of acceptable reliability, it is obsolescent and no longer manufactured. The manufacturers do do accelerated ageing tests, but they cannot catch all failure modes or guard against batches of faulty components from their suppliers.

If you are populating a RAID with mirrored pairs, the absolute worst thing you can do is buy two identical drives. One Seagate and one WD is a better bet than two WD even if you can prove that the WD has five times the MTBF of the Seagate (which you can't, see above). That is because if one drive fails because of a batch of faulty components, the others from the same batch won't be far behind. The one from a different manufacturer is least likely to contain components from the same faulty batch.

Airlines know better than to service both engines on a twinjet at the same time. (It's also forbidden by air safety rules, for the same very good reason).

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Nigel 11
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Mirrored hard drives, in a quality NAS box, with a UPS and alerting set up and tested, with a last-resort backup at a physically different location, is reasonably reliable. The details matter.

Would you go skydiving without checking every last detail of your parachute, at least twice?

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Nigel 11
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Re: Numpty is as numpty does

The other thing you see is people who think that because the NAS box has twin redundant disk drives, there are two backups.

They really should make small NAS boxes with software that activates a red light and an irritatingly loud beeper when one of the drives fails. Because many people think they'll be magically informed when a drive fails, even if they've never told either the NAS box or the warranty-registration form their e-mail address, mobile number, etc.

Not that some of the cheaper ones would generate an alert even if you had.

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UK govt right to outsource everything 15 years ago – civil service boss

Nigel 11
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Re: Do they think we're daft?

Until someone developing a billion-item million-transaction-per-second system for HMRC gets paid the same as someone developing such a thing for Tesco, there will be a flow of people from HMRC to Tesco.

And follow this chain of thought.

HMG outsources to $ORG. $ORG needs some more staff. So it advertises with a salary sufficient to cause a flow of staff from Tesco to $ORG. $ORG then bills HMG for their services. Plus a profit margin. Plus administrative overheads.

And HMG now has to employ a contract manager to keep track of whether things are going OK. And a lawyer, when they aren't.

And this is supposed to save money??

I wonder how many of the people responsible for the outsourcing are now working for $ORG?

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Apparently we have to give customers the warm fuzzies ... How the heck do we do that?

Nigel 11
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Re: CX, UX, or just plain common sense?

Why is it that if you stay with a service provider for a long time, your costs slowly increase while your benefits slowly erode. Getting a quote from a new provider, using exactly the same criteria, will nearly always get much better deals

In tech, because the state of the art advances and the cost for service X goes down. But there's no incentive to pass on the new deal to an existing customer who just renews the old one by direct debit. Benefits erode? I've never noticed that.

In insurance, just because they can boost your premium every year if you just renew whatever they tell you. Bastards.

I have always found that the best approach is to use a price comparison site and then call your current service provider and tell them that you are happy to renew a decent service, but only at the price you found on the comparison site. That price may be their own, or that of a competitor offering (as far as you are concerned) the same service. They usually agree. At the end of the day be clear in your own mind how much extra you'll pay for the devil you know, if they won't price-match.

Last year it failed for my car insurance for the first time in about 20 years. So I changed insurer. The old one wanted three times what the competition did, and wouldn't budge, unlike in the past. I guess they just didn't want me at all.

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Nigel 11
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Re: It's how you handle the customer

What they don't seem to get is that customers talk to their friends. Most especially they grouse to their friends. If you treat their customers like crap there will be lots of formerly potential customers who will now shop elsewhere. And you won't know that it's happening. They'll say in private what they don't dare post in writing in public. Eventually you'll run out of naive victims to abuse.

By the way, every initially negative customer experience can be turned into an overwhelmingly positive customer experience. If something has gone wrong, apologize by deeds not just words. Put it right as efficiently and promptly as possible! You have one and only one chance at this - use it!

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Nigel 11
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Re: How NOT to make your customers happy

White goods. There's a smallish company out there that does it right. Starting with proper specifications easy to find (L,W,D of a fridge that had to go in a triangular space under stairs). Also customer reviews that I felt I could trust, including the product's "warts". Then a straightforward ordering process. Then delivery in a two-hour slot mutually agreed. Finally delivery drivers with mobile phones who are allowed to use them. (Mine called ahead to say he was running early, would that be a problem? )

Mark's Electricals. I think they're Midlands only. Nationwide soon, if there's any justice.

Recently Worktop Express pretty much replicated that experience, with online specification of every detail of a custom worktop in place of easy to find specifications.

Screwfix deserves a mention for trade/DIY supplies by click and collect. The system works beautifully. It has to -- if they don't get repeat business they'll fail.

There really isn't that much to it. Make it easy to find what you want and to order it. Let the customer know when it might be delivered before he orders (if there's a long wait then he may prefer to order something else). Give the customer a short timed delivery slot, and keep him informed on the day. I'm perfectly prepared to accept that traffic jams etc might mean keeping to the arranged time is impossible - so phone me as soon as you know of the problem to rearrange the time, OK?

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'Unikernels will send us back to the DOS era' – DTrace guru Bryan Cantrill speaks out

Nigel 11
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What's the difference?

"The XYZ app's gone down" versus "The XYZ VM's gone down"

"Relaunch it!" versus "Reboot it!"

"A remote hacker could have executed his own code in the context of the XYZ account on the server because of a bug in the XYZ app" versus "... in the XYZ VM ..."

"Someone's rooted the server via XYZ" versus "Someone's broken in to the hypervisor via XYZ".

I think the main advantage of the VM is that you can migrate it from one CPU to another, even halfway around the world given enough bandwidth, without having to take it down at all. And that unlike the coding that would let you accomplish the same with an App running on a multi-site VMScluster, moving a VM is a purely operational matter that you don't have to code for.

(OTOH, when TS hits TF big-time I'd expect the VMScluster to come out on top).

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Brit censors endure 10-hour Paint Drying movie epic

Nigel 11
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Subliminals

I do hope that they spliced in a few minimum-legal-length subversive images? Phallic vegetables, maybe? Give them something to think about, or prove that they aren't doing their job thoroughly enough if they don't notice the added frames.

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'Here are 400,000 smut sites. Block them' says Pakistani telco regulator

Nigel 11
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Re: Eliminate pron

Who are they kidding? The internet grew up because of porn....

Will the internet also migrate to IPv6 because of porn? I'd like to see them trying to implement per-site blocking when the pornsters can have one IP address (and virtual server) per picture, if they want. Sigh.

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Cabling horrors unplugged: Reg readers reveal worst nightmares

Nigel 11
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Re: Neat wiring doesn't fail

The procedure "normally" was to yank out the de-commissioned wire before wiring its replacement, but after the build up you couldn't do it any more.

Cut the connector off both ends. It's easy to pull a dead wire through a bundle if it doesn't have a plug on the end. Not absolutely sure you are cutting the right wire? Get a cable tracer (above). Cables tied? Cut off the nylon ties and replace with velcro ties, one at a time.

OK I have never tried any of this on a three-foot bundle. In theory it works.

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Nigel 11
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Cable Tracing

Guys, buy yourselves a cable tracer! (aka "Tone and Probe" kit)

Plug the signal generator thingy in at one end, Wave the probe at the patch panel outlets or the cables protruding from them until you hear the warbling tone loud and clear. That's the other end.

With 100BaseT you can even trace a cable without breaking the datacomms for more than a few seconds, You inject the tone on the 7/8 and 4/5 pairs which 100BaseT does not use. 1000BaseT uses all eight wires, but much hardware will downgrade itself to 100BaseT if you disconnect 4/5/7/8, and most users won't notice the slowdown). You use one of those 2:1 network splitters as the injector. (You know, one of those thingles that connects 4/5 to 1/2 and 7/8 to 3/6 on the second outlet so you can run two 100BaseT Ethernet channels down a single Cat5e premises cable. Naughty but occasionally nice, compared to a two-week wait and a three-figure bill to install a printer).

Why? Well, there are nightmare undocumented spaghetti wiring tangles. And then there are anally retentive tightly bundled and tied installations that look like works of art, except that someone put the wrong numbers on the ends on one or more wires. Both problems easily solved.

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Eighteen year old server trumped by functional 486 fleet!

Nigel 11
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Re: Windows not running for longer than 49.7 days.

Yes, you can have fractional orders of magnitude. Its just use of logarithms. 10 is one order of magnitude ( log_base_10 of 10 is one). Half an order or magnitude is antilog_base_10 of 1/2, which is of course equal to the square root of 10 by definition.

sqrt(10) is 3.1622... but since orders of magnitude usually imply low precision handwaving, half an order or magnitude is a factor of three. I've never heard anyone use "a third of an order of magnitude", but the cube root of ten is quite close to two.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Power

OUt of interest - do you get a few years life out of a car battery? I've always understood that the gel-filled batteries in UPSs are deep-discharge-tolerant, whereas car batteries are not. So if you run a few times on the battery until the UPS decides it is time to give up, with a car battery you may find that it is knackered. But of course, three-hour power cuts are pretty rare.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Power

I wasn't a fan of the APC serial cables

Seconded. Label the heck out of that cable, or cable-tie it to the UPS with which it belongs, or both. It's not a standard cable. More recent ones also have USB.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Power

The mains is much more reliable than your average UPS.

Not even in West-end London, if the UPS is an APC SmartUPS. That's true even if I exclude the various times it was a premises fault(*) rather than a fault with the supply to the premises(**).

Now I'm out in rural parts, I see power outages or glitches several times per month. Sometimes the desktop clients keep going while the lights flicker, sometimes they crash, sometimes the lights go out for a second or two. Always, the UPS has kept the servers going as if nothing happened.

(*) e.g. I once plugged in a faulty PC to diagnose its problem, and the PSU went bang, and the lights in my office went out. Trudging down the corridor to the circuit breakers I couldn't help noticing that everyone else's lights were also out! The outage was traced to a huge fuse in a box high on the wall above the breaker panel that had probably been installed in 1920 and not maintained since. The electricians sourced a replacement in Manchester and paid a man on a motorcycle to bring it to us asap. Possibly that was the last fuse that big in the country, or even in the world. The alternative would have been a whole of site shutdown and major-league rewiring of the building. Oh, and the UPSs kept the local servers up for ten minutes and then initiated a controlled shutdown when their batteries were running low.

(**) Google "exploding pavement".

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Nigel 11
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Re: Power

Argh. You can't just post that without giving out the juicy details

To make up for not knowing those details, here's my small rack-mount UPS story.

Somebody ignored the UPS replace battery warnings, and the battery pack swelled up a lot. It forced the sides of the UPS case outwards a few millimeters which was enough to make it completely impossible to slide the UPS out of the rack on its runners, and also completely impossible to slide the very important server immediately above the UPS out of the rack.

The idea of leaving the UPS there "forever", turned off and disconnected, until the entire rack was scrapped, was given some consideration. But the thought of a high-pressure acid leak in the vicinity of much expensive hardware was too disconcerting. As was the (lack of) gravitational stability of a rack with many kg of UPS near the top and the chances of doing one's back an injury in getting it there.

It took several hours downtime. We had to poweroff everything in the rack. Then we had to remove servers one at a time, starting at the top, until the one immediately above the UPS was able to move a few millimeters upwards and unbind itself from the body of the UPS. Then there was lots of poking and twisting and prodding with various tools down the very restricted spaces between the UPS and the rack until eventually, it was made possible to extract it using brute force. Then we had to reassemble everything in the rack, this time with a 1U gap above the replacement UPS "just in case".

No, the old UPS didn't explode. Not even when a colleague was kicking it hard from behind to force it forwards a few millimeters at a time, while others held on to the rack.

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Re: Power

Argh. You can't just post that without giving out the juicy details!

I don't know the details. Just that the fire alarm went off, that after we got back into the building the servers in the datacentre were down, and that people I know were in charge of the things in there were shouting into phones and running around like headless chickens. Later I found out that the company doing the rolling maintenance on the big UPS got it seriously wrong.

Basically, the UPS went KZERRT and a tonne or so of lead-acid batteries makes for a really loud KZERRT, including smoke. Somehow they managed not to dump the Halon, and nobody was hospitalized (neither by the UPS nor by the management folks).

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Nigel 11
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Re: Power

Just read and follow the instructions which come with an APC SmartUPS 750, or every previous APC model that I have dealt with. There's a small quiet KZZRT when you connect the new battery, but you are warned to expect it and it's harmless. The wiring you are playing with is (a) low battery voltage and (b) well-insulated, unless you are the sort who feels an irresistible urge to stick a screwdriver into a battery connector.

The first time I did his I lacked confidence, so I arranged a scheduled shutdown of the server and substituted a 60W lamp for the server while I swapped the battery. Not a flicker.

This is one reason why I am an APC fan (although the company has been taken over since I last purchased one). The other is their longstanding open-source support of their Smart UPS protocol.

You do need to consider the slight risk of a power outage while the UPS has no battery. You have to consider "if anything can go wrong, it will", and "we need a scapegoat". Large datacenter-sized UPS battery banks are replaced on a rolling maintenance basis by the support company. I was there once when that went horribly wrong. I prefer the small stuff myself.

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Nigel 11
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Long-lived VMSclusters?

I should think that there are some large corporates with VMS cluster incarnations that have existed since shortly after VAXclusters went on sale. (From dim memory, circa 1990). This is of course a "Grandfather's Axe" entity. You can replace every part of a VAXcluster (now VMSCluster) many times over without ever requiring a new incarnation. Given enough bandwidth between sites you can also relocate a VMSCluster datacenter without having to create a new cluster incarnation.

Anyone care to post their VMScluster incarnation date?

As far as long-running single computers are concerned, Voyager 1 will take a lot of beating. Launched in 1977 and still working.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Does my Amiga 1200 count?

I still have my Grandfather's slide rule, and occasionally use it. It does not need sunlight. It will work in any light by which you can see it.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Power

Where do these people get an eighteen year supply of uninterrupted electricity in broom cupboards from?

From a (smallish cheapish shoebox-size) UPS?

If you live in rural parts short power outages are frequent and so are voltage excursions (sags and spikes). If you connect a PC direct to the mains, its power supply is likely to fail within a few years, quite apart fron whatever the crashes will do to its software and filesystem integrity. If you want a quiet life you insert a UPS between the PC and the mains. In my experience a shoebox sized APC UPS will protect the PC from all of these and won't be taken out by anything short of a nearby lightning strike (the sort which also fries most of your domestic electronic appliances).

Every few years it will tell you to replace the battery, which you do "live" without taking the PC down. (*Do* replace the battery when told to -if you don't it will swell up so you cannot get it out, and some time after that it may "explode": spray sulphuric acid all over its vicinity. )

And incidentally, the one I have will keep a small idle PC running for about half an hour, so only the most serious of power outages will take your PC down. So yes, I can believe 18 years. The last outage in excess of half an hour was the 1987 "hurricane", although of course, others haven't been so lucky in more recent years. And no, I'm not claiming uptime since 1987.

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Brit boffins brew nanotech self-cleaning glass

Nigel 11
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This glass for solar panels?

There should be another application; the glass in solar PV panels.

They need to self-clean as well as possible, so dirt does not block light from the panel. They also need to stay cool, because efficiency drops as they heat up.

The best place to put them is a desert, but deserts are typically hot, dry and dusty, and water in a desert is an expensive commodity. Desert panels need to be washed, and if this glass means they could use less water to wash them just as well, that's a big advantage.

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Nest thermostat owners out in the cold after software update cockup

Nigel 11
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Re: IofT

it might just take the rest of the evening to get back to anywhere near desirable temperatures

What do you live in? A mediaeval castle? Or are your radiators and boiler woefully under-specified? (Or you might find that your radiators are full of sludge and emitting heat at less than a third of their rated output).

I've always programmed the timer to turn the boiler off at the time I leave for work and on again about half an hour before I'm expecting to get back. Plenty warm enough when I get in. This in a Victorian solid-walls flat with draughty sash windows (albeit with the assistance of waste heat from downstairs who are always in)

Being able to turn it on using my cellphone, or even better to program my cellphone to turn on the heating when the GPS tells it that I have started my return journey, would save me significant amounts of money and CO2 emission.

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Nigel 11
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haven't ever seen a Tado but ... are you sure that your car hasn't worked out that if it jumps up the wall and bashes the thermostat often enough, the thermostat thinks someone is still in the house and turns the boiler back on? My parents' cat learned to ring the doorbell to be let back in. There was a cat-flap, but the doorbell was more fun. Another cat learned to open the fridge to steal food and then to close the door behind it, presumably because it did not like the draft of cold air coming out of the white box.

Cats are the opposite of Artificial Stupidity: well-honed Natural Intelligence, adapted to running on a smallish CPU with far too little RAM. (If they always rembered what they worked out yesterday, we wouldn't stand a chance).

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Nigel 11
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Re: I can handle this one

Yes, it does seem like an ideal Raspberry Pi / Python project.

The one thing I have not found yet is something like Honeywell's proprietary remote-controllable thermostatic radiator valve heads. Anyone know of an open equivalent (or how to hack the Honeywell ones? ) I really don't fancy installing zone valves and computer-controlled mains wiring on every radiator, the c/h plumbing is buried in the walls, and treating the whole house as a single heating zone is pretty wasteful.

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Server retired after 18 years and ten months – beat that, readers!

Nigel 11
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Re: VAX / VMS Clusters

Not years. Decades of uptime. It was the individual nodes that clocked up years. You could migrate the fscking architecture (VAX to Alpha) without requiring a new cluster incarnation. You could relocate the datacenter without requiring a new cluster incarnation (though that trick did require a really high bandwidth fiber link).

Oh, what might have been, if Digital hadn't been subverted by some idiot PHBs (running Microsoft indoctrination OSes in their crania, or possibly their colons).

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Nigel 11
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Re: power consumption nightmare

I have a G5 PPC in my bedroom. Last winter it provided pretty much all the heat I needed.

Also quieter than your average Chinese fan heater, I'd guess?

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Nigel 11
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I have to hand a Compaq 80286 system that still runs Windows 3.1 perfectly on its original hardware. To be fair, it's not a server, and has spent a good fraction of its life switched off. It was the control system for an expensive piece of lab apparatus that was (relatively) recently scrapped because it broke beyond our in-house abilities to mend it, and the manufacturer went bust many years ago.

I don't have the heart to throw it away. Will probably fire it up annually at Xmas party time until it won't boot, or until I pop my clogs, or until the National Museum of Computing or NASA wants it.

It has a 5.25 inch floppy drive.

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2015 was the Year of the Linux Phone ... Nah, we're messing with you

Nigel 11
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Re: Moving on up!

Linux will soon breakthrough from irrelevance to rounding error in the stats.

Ever heard of exponential growth? Not saying we've got it, but if you mean that we're grown by an order of magnitude, then world domination may be closer than you think.

At the very least we'll be ready for a big push when Microsoft follows Digital into self-inflicted oblivion.

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Nigel 11
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Re: No excitement here, please.

And the removal of the Euro symbol will be quite useful in sixteen years time?

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How to build the next $1bn tech unicorn: Get into ransomware

Nigel 11
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Re: Fool Them Twice....

Governments do pay ransoms, but they also employ assassins (another thing they don't publicise, Russia excepted). I wonder if any ransomware criminals have yet discovered that if they get too greedy, governments may unleash their "plausibly deniable" people.

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No escape: Microsoft injects 'Get Windows 10' nagware into biz PCs

Nigel 11
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Re: Linux, Linux, Linux, Linux,

It took a second to download and a few more seconds to install.

The Linux upgrade process these days is in a universe Microsoft hasn't even thought about visiting.

One should perhaps also mention that with a little forethought, you can snapshot your filesystem prior to applying the updates, and if you do not like the results you can revert to the snapshot in next to no time. This includes in the very unlikely event that it won't reboot - you just do the reversion from a standalone CD instead.

What do Microsoft folks do? How long does it take to "revert"? And do you get your disk back to the exact same state it was in prior to the failed updates?

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