2143 posts • joined 10 Jun 2009
Lofts and Altruistic non-hoarding
I rescued a sack of 1920's physics teaching aids from a skip outside my University and took it home. Brass and Bakelite stuff. Initial intention was E-bay, but soon discovered it wasn't old enough to collect.
I have thrown the sack into the furthest recess of my loft, with a letter explaining what the junk is, and that if it isn't 2170 yet, just leave it lying there hurting nobody, and some day after that date it'll make a future owner of the house very happy.
(Do you know how much lab junk from the 1850s is worth these days? Oh, for a time machine! )
Radiator bleed key
You checked they were both exactly the same?
I'd have guessed one was for modern Metric radiators and the other was for old Imperial ones. Like the connectors and converters in your plumbing kit, for 3/4 inch to 22mm (to six inches of 22mm pipe and back to 3/4, because nobody ever thought to hoard 3/4 inch pipe).
No plumbing kit??
A pipe hoarder???
Believe it or not
Some of us are still maintaining systems running NT or 98. Even 3.11 and MS-DOS 6.22 sometimes.
The usual scenario is that someone buys a piece of lab kit for £100,000 that came with a £1000 computer. The lab kit is still fine and dandy, and the computer interface works as well as it ever did. Up to the day that the computer expires. Sometimes, it's embedded so well they didn't even realize there's an ancient PC inside. (Screwed to metal brackets with self-tapping screws!)
At this point the manufacturer quotes you £100,000 for a new instrument that's so much better than your old one (but £98,000 more than you can afford). Or, £5000 for a "new" antique computer and an engineer to install it (plus labour and travelling time). That's if the manufacturer is still in business.
Cue a call to the IT geek, who hoards old computers ... with good reason. And yes, he's also hoarded a copy of the disk with the software installed on it. So easy these days ... 40Mb disk? 10Mb disk? But try finding a replacement disk small enough to replace it with!
Re: I used to have a cable box like that...
An easier solution is a freezer-bag tie.
At work I cut short lengths of scrap Cat-5E cable and push out the copper innards. Voila, four wire tidies. (Eight if you're the sort that enjoys untwisting twisted pairs).
Never use cable ties. Quite apart from the un-green-ness of it, you'll look a right Charlie when you deliver a patch or VGA cable to someone and forgot to bring wire-cutters.
Re: It may be scrap, but it's got memories associated with it!
Have you asked the National Museum of Computing (at Bletchley park) if they want any of it? I'd have thought that the AJ832 might be the sole surviving specimen by now. I once had an acoustic coupler in a polished mahogony box, E-bayed it for twenty-some quid more than a decade ago. If it was a collectible then ....
Eventually our scrap will be worth a fortune ... to our great-great-grandchildren, if our grandchildren don't pile it in a skip when they get to sell the house that we don't need any longer.
My disk platter is at least 16 inches and hangs on my living-room wall. I've been asked "who is the artist"!
Agonizing over my TV
It's a 1985 25" Philips Vacuum-tube model that still works perfectly (connected by SCART to a PVR, since digital TV hadn't been invented when they made it).
I really ought to replace it with a modern flat screen except
1. 25" 4:3 aspect ratio fits in my living room perfectly. A flat-wide-screen that fitted would either give me a distorted picture, or a smaller one with black strips down the edges. (Movies excluded ... but I'm not a TV or movie junkie).
2. I have huge respect for a piece of hardware containing 25kV and complex analogue circuitry, that still works perfectly 27 years later, and I can't bear the thought of throwing it away for no good reason.
PS At work there's a 25 inch Iiyama vacuum-tube monitor that prpbably also still works perfecty, but that hasn't been thrown out for a different reason. It took four people to get it up the twisty narrow stairs, and it would take at least three to get it down again for disposal. Easier to just let it lie in the bottom of a cupboard that no-one ever uses, until they decide to demolish the building.
If you buy your PCs from a decent vendor in significant quantity (20+), you tell them what model of drive you want and they'll build them. Ditto motherboard, graphics card, anything else you want to plug in.
Oh ... the beancounters say it's got to be Dell. Find another employer.
If you want to control it, surely VLANs are your friend.
Registered devices connect to internal VLAN.
Unregistered devices connect to "external" VLAN, and are thereby treated the same way as the rest of the internet. If you have VPN etc. arrangements for working from home, exactly the same procedure will then work with the home computer brought into the office.
Did anyone who was blocked from accessing Firstdirect online, pick up the phone to do their business that way?
I'd be interested to know whether the telephone service was also DoS'ed ("experiencing high volume of calls, please try later") or whether Firstdirect was able to handle the increased telephone traffic with aplomb.
Good publicity for that movie
The more these idiots do this sort of thing, the more all the sane people in the world will start thinking that there must be a good reason to find and watch that movie.
Definition of a fanatic - someone who redoubles his efforts when he's forgotten his aims.
Re: This whole tale
A beancounter once decided to save 0.01 cents per unit by substituting a glue, on an order that said "Non-Parametrically specified, DO NOT SUBSTITUTE".
The units were disk drives. About 100K units had to be replaced under a manufacturer recall, because they would all have failed in service within a year. (Something outgassed from the glue settled on the platters and built up in lumps until it crashed the heads).
Re: Obligatory UPS anecdote...
I can't remember why they weren't set to shut themselevs down
Mine are set to shut the servers down when the battery power reserve is down to 30%, about 5 minutes later. Usually the mains is back on before then so the server stays up 24x7.
Except for the time the cleaner unplugged the UPS to plug in her vacuum (in a room she shouldn't even have been in), and then found the UPS "Off" button on the UPS within the five minutes, and even worked out she had to hold it in for five seconds, all because she didn't like the bleeping noise while she was hoovering.
Re: There's no excuse for IT to bypass UPS issues.
Add to that, there are 5 racks around the factory with UPS protecting them; 3 of these have flashing red lights indicating a fault. These have been showing the same fault since I have been here. I'm told that a request for replacement batteries was submitted and they are waiting for details of when this will happen.
I saw what happens if you leave a battery in a UPS for ~3 years after it first complains that the battery is failing.
First, the battery gradually swells. Initially past the size of the aperture through which you are supposed to replace it. Good built-in obsolescence, that. So they needed a new UPS not a new battery. Then it swells past the size of the welded steel compartment it rests in, with sufficient pressure to bend the steel. By the time they'd procured a whole new UPS the old one was immovably wedged in the rack. But you couldn't actually see why it was stuck, until finally, one night ...
Not on my ship. Someone sent me the pictures.
Re: Secure, Reliable, Cheap pick two
Can't we have a third option: nonreprogrammable and reliable, like the ones they made in the 1970s and 1980s? Nothing to be hacked, short of opening your chest cavity. Completely secure, but by being dumb not by being "secure", like the unbreakable firewall known as an air gap.
Sometimes less is more.
Data Protection Act!
The moment they accuse you of something, all data relating to what they accuse you of becomes personal data and they have to supply you with a copy of all the personal data they hold if you make a data-protection act request. It'll cost you a tenner, but it'll probably cost them a lot more.
If they refuse and say it's not personal data, they have either committed a criminal offense or they've irrevocably lost the right to use that data against you. Ditto if they miss out anything that they later try to use.
If they disclose anyone else's personal data then you report them for that to the data Protection Registrar (and the third party if you can identify him).
If they accuse you of something that's not true and cause any damaging action to be taken against you, such as disconnection, then demand damages. They have libelled you. Even if you just feel the need to write a letter to put the record straight, try invoicing them for the cost of writing it (at £250/hour as your own legal adviser) and small-claims summons them for non-payment of your invoice.
What have you got to lose? This isn't even civil disobedience. It's just requiring them to be civilly obedient!
Re: Inquiring minds...
You forgot this. At 2W it is working on 900Mhz. It is at 33,33cm. So the radio wave it self is too big to harm you, your cells and your DNA. It just does not happen. It is also non-ionizing radiation. So no harm there.
Your physics is wrong. The wavelength being bigger than your head doesn't mean it cannot interact. It just means you need to use different mathematics to properly model it. (Were you right, holding a nail and sticking it into the live hole in a plug would be harmless ... a mere 50 Hertz! )
It is absorbtion of EM radiation that makes your ear get hot, at least in part. And the calculation is that the nearest parts of your brain may be warmed by a small fraction of a degree celsius by the same radiation.
Harmless? Almost certainly. Your normal body temperature fluctuates daily by more than this amount, and it rises by much more and at a greater rate in response to a mild infection. Nevertheless, "no biologic effects" is provably untrue.
There's also a putative mechanism whereby HF radiation could cause Zeeman splitting of energy levels in free radicals causing more of them to escape destruction by the body's anti-oxidants at the site where they are generated. They could then be free to cause damage to less-well-protected tissue further afield. Experimental proof of the effect would be VERY hard to come by, the effect would be small, the epidemeology proves mobiles are mostly harmless, but the physics is impeccable.
Re: Inquiring minds...
Teeth and bone contain piezo-crystals. They change shape depending on electric field. (Also vice versa, which is why evolution made it happen. A stress concentration in a tooth or bone, such as an incipient crack, generates an electric field that probably signals to osteocytes that a local repair job is urgently needed, and precisely where).
Anyway, this makes radio detection by a filling in the upper jaw very plausible, and I believed that it had been reported at least once. If it's an urban legend, it's several cuts above the average.
Re: I think we all know the cause of his symptoms
There was a reported case of a man whose mercury-amalgam dental filling created a resonant cavity and piezo-crystal detector in one of his teeth. (Teeth and bones are natural piezo-crystals). He ended up talking to a psychiatrist about being able to hear a local radio station playing inside his head 24 hours/day. When he said "if you put your ear on my jaw you'll hear it too" the psychiatrist did ... and did!
A visit to a dentist fixed his problem.
Never say flat-out impossible. You'll probably be wrong. (My head says a FTL star-drive is a rare exception, my heart still hopes otherwise).
Re: In princinple, what is the difference.....
And Voice of America, so I'm told, was once transmitting 10MW of short-wave AM aimed at the USSR.
Let's see. Inverse squares ... one mobile on max = 2W at 2cm = 10MW at a shade over 400m.
Re: Think of the Children!
Of course these days almost everyone has a TV, and it sometimes seems that the lower the household income, the bigger the TV will be...
Leading to another self-perpetuating bureaucracy that ought to be hit on the head.
Scrap the TV license. Reduce the income tax personal allowance by sufficient to generate the same income. People too poor to pay income tax get to watch TV for free without having to break the law. There is no collection cost. There might be a few esoteric religions that feel offended.
OK, put an "I do not watch TV" box on the income tax form, to claim back your allowance. Telling lies to HMRC is a really bad idea, especially since they now have a much shorter list of people claiming not to have TVs, and the ability to collect the fine when they catch you through your next year's PAYE.
Next for the chop, NHS prescription charges: a tax on the chronically ill to subsidize the acutely ill, that probably costs more to administer than it actually raises. You couldn't make it up ....
Re: Inquiring minds...
Actually an ordinary GSM phone *does* have enough power to have biologic effects. At maximum power output (one bar reception condition, 2 watts) it does actually raise the temperature of your ear. It's also slightly raising the temperature of your brain. I'd be unwilling to say that this is *categorically* harmless, though a simple epidemeological approach shows that it must be pretty close thereto.
Anyway, using a mobile for a long time in minimal reception conditions is unusual. More normal conditions have an RF output 100 to 1000 times less. As for domestic Wi-fi, the output is lower than a phone on minimum power AND it's not pressed to the side of your skull. Inverse squares: 2m instead of 2cm means your exposure is down by a further factor of 10,000.
And "leakage down mains cables" tells you that the complainant is a fruitcake. The last place GHz RF goes is down a directly or indirectly earthed conductor!
Samsung? Same rationale as HP, but maybe a happier marriage.
TSMC? If they fancied competing with Intel rather than just fabbing whatever someone else tells them to.
I also wonder if AMD isn't now so weak that Intel needs to throw it a few sops? Intel really needs AMD, because if it weren't for AMD then Intel would be a monopoly and regulated as such. Far better that it has an independant competitor that's more a terrier than a wolf.
Re: Pay or park somewhere else...
Quite. It's fair enough to complain about being charged for parking on the public highway that you've already paid to drive on. Especially when the motive is clearly to raise revenue rather than to help with traffic flow. But when it comes to someone's private property, he has the right to charge whatever he likes and you have the right to agree, or to go elsewhere.
Re: Confuse the system
Are you absolutely certain you know where the public highway ends and the private car park begins? Also it's not against the law to have a private camera taking pictures of vehicles on a public highway.
Re: Lego Brick parking
If the above report is true, then they are breaking the law. Certainly inform trading standards. Possibly inform the police, if they refuse to raise the barrier without payment.
In order to extablish a parking contract there has be a notice that's clear to read while driving in, with an escape lane or escape clause for those who choose not to accept the contract and wish to leave immediately.
Re: The March of technology, the creep of the surveillance state.
RFID'ed pigeons. Brilliant!
Re: Free parking should be the norm
Brent Cross is busy at week-ends, but if you are sensible and head straight up the multi-storey without trying to find a place on the shopping levels, it's not THAT busy. Well, not except in the run-up to Xmas in a good year for retailers, when the queue to get in tends to block the North Circular. (Not as bad as the one at Thurrock that causes a tailback on the clockwise M25 as far as the Hertfordshore borders on a bad day, but that's another story).
I don't mind paying for parking if the charge is not exorbitant. A good retailer ought to know what its car parking spaces are worth. A bad one will run out of fools to rip off soon enough, and go bust, so the problem is mostly self-correcting.
BTW if you are even slightly aggrieved by a retailer's car park operator, do draw the correspondence to the attention of the store manager woth the suggestion that this is likely the last time you have shopped at his store! (You may get some vouchers to lure you back, and the car park operator may get the order of the boot if enough folks do likewise. Definitely worth the stamp! )
Re: I see a growing market
Or you could get a plate like WM110MW and a single screw
Re: Not quite so easy
Have they changed the rules? Last time I had to buy a numberplate, I had to show the vehicle registration document for my vehicle, and was told that this was a legal requirement. (This was at a high street car parts shop). Of course, it wouldn't be the first time an on-line trader was operating illegally.
Arguments in civil proceedings are on "the balance of probabilities". If you've been filmed reading the contract, you can't argue that you did not understand it unless it's (deliberately?) misleading or unclear. (You might have a better case if you were a foreign tourist with minimal English). If on the other hand you did not read the notice, the argument will be over whether it was displayed sufficiently prominently for that to be an unreasonable action on your part. (Note - what's reasonable on a bright sunny day may not be reasonable after dark or during a snowstorm).
It can't assume agreement!
The private parking company has to establish that you had accepted a contract with it. This means it has to display its terms and conditions in a place where they cannot reasonablty be overlooked. (For example, un-lit notices at night fail this test, as do vandalized notices). They also have to comply with all relevant contract law, for example no unfair terms, and no small print that a person with driving-legal vision might be unable to read under the prevailing conditions.
They'll bully and bluster, but if the contract is not valid for reasons such as the above, take photographs to prove it, and tell them that you'll see them in court. "Honest John" in the Telegraph has examples of this most weeks! (There's also legislation concerning harassment, if they continue to pester after you've told them "see you in court" and requested that they cease harassing you.)
Incidentally penalty charges have to be fair. If you agree that you owe something for parking there, but that what is demanded is exorbitant, the best policy is to offer a smaller sum, or see them in court if they decline it . If the court agrees that a tenner was fair, they'll have lost a small fortune in legal fees. This applies, for example, if you overstay what you paid for by a few minutes, especially if you can argue that the car park was not busy and you deprived no-one else of a parking space.
Not quite so easy
It's not quite so easy to fake a plate with a paper print-out, given that it's a criminal offense to display a fake one and that policemen and traffic wardens are quite good at spotting fakes. You need a friend in the auto trade who will knock up a fake using the right hardware and no paperwork, or ... the big weak spot ...
The crim steals the plates from some other poor sod's car. They're often held on with nothing more than screws or sticky pads. Provided it's the same colour, make and model of vehicle, you get the hassle and he gets off scot-free. The crims do this already, to escape speed cameras and freeloading on your car's insurance (now there's something easy to fake - an insurance certificate to con another driver with after a minor accident!) Expect number-plate theft to become even more popular.
However, because of this it's quite easy to deal with a parking fine. You tell them that it wasn't you, and with a bit of luck you can also say where the car was at the time, many miles from that car park. If necessary you say "see you in court". If you have good character a court is likely to decide that there is quite enought doubt. Especially if you reported the theft of your plates to the police, and keep the crime reference number.
The impressive thing is that water didn't get in until the battery had run down. (If at all? ) Score +1 for "no user-serviceable parts inside".
As remarked above, it's not water that kills electronics, it's the electrolysis that happens very rapidly if you mix water and electricity. If ever someone tips (say) a glass of wine into your lap-top, IMMEDIATELY yank out the battery pack. You can then probably rescue it by washing it under a tap to get the wine out (sticky acidic residues) and then drying it out in an airing cupboard for a couple of weeks. Just make damn sure all the water is evaporated before you put that battery back.
Cola does kill electronics. The Phosphoric acid does much the same as water plus electricity, though you might get a few minutes grace to was it out. If you don't wash it thoroughly enough the acid concentrates as the water evaporates. Did I mention it also dissolves teeth and aggravates gout?
makes you realize how civilised (some) UK employers are
Someone I know tripped (no-one's fault) and ruptured a disk (badly), causing inability to drive for more than a few minutes (essential for the job) and serious back pain. It'll probably never get any better. End of career, and definitely nothing to envy.
The company's insurance has taken over paying his salary and pension contributions until he reaches retirement age (many years away). This even includes a new "company" car every three years and free fuel, because the car perk allowed unlimited use of the car by his wife when he wasn't using it for work.
I don't suppose all UK employers are this decent, but the story from China rather puts things in perspective. Hope people get to read this behind the great firewall.
Re: Couldn't they come up with...
You'd have to compare the relative efficiency of (a) direct solar-powered water evaporation and (b) solar-PV electricity generation followed by electrically-powered reverse-osmosis. I expect that the thermodynamics have been studied and the solution that they are using is the better one.
As to why they aren't scavenging energy from fossil-fuel plants for water purification, I don't know. Come to that, when you burn Methane one of the major outputs is pure water (two H2O from every CH4), and it should be trivial to condense it rather than pump it up the chimney, if water is a valuable by-product rather than "just steam".
Re: "...it’s rain-free about 80 percent of the year..."
It's an issue that needs to be addressed. Cleaning solutions with minimised water consumption are part of the design of these plants. (Not sure if they've cracked water-less yet). Obviously the availability and price of water for cleaning in the middle of a desert may be an issue. In some places there may be plenty of low-quality groundwater unfit for drinking or irrigation, because of salinity or Arsenic content.
Until there's enough solar capacity to remove the daytime demand peak from the fossil-fuelled generation plant, the fact that solar needs daylight is not a problem. Many parts of the worlh have higher day-time demand than evening because of industrial processes. In hot parts of the world air-conditioning demand is highest when the sun is streaming down (especially in solar-friendly parts of the world with nearby deserts and therefore low humidity, where it gets a lot cooler quite fast after sun-down).
Re: Well Done Those People
Don't know about "few places". Solar power is appropriate anywhere that has barren land and a climate that is sunny either most of the year, or for the parts of the year when the demand for power is highest.
That applies to pretty much any roof under which air-conditining is required on sunny days, especially if closer to the equator than the UK. It applies on a utility scale anywhere there is a desert within HVDC transmission range of a city. Most of Australia, SW USA, Spain, Arabia immediately spring to mind.
Re: Mini-ITX variant?
Thanks for the pointer to the ITX board. That's one heck of a passive heatsink! I'd assumed that these CPUs were slightly too hot to run with completely passive cooling. My current Atom gets pretty wam , and (from memory) it is about 10W less.
I'd still prefer a 4W CPU, though.
Anyone know if there's going to be a Mini-ITX motherboard sporting this chip (with a fanless heatsink). A quick Google didn't succeed.
I built my own almost silent always-on PC with a passively cooled Atom board a couple of years ago, but it's a bit slow. One of these looks like a perfect upgrade (along with an SSD to replace the HD). If I can get it as a board instead of a full tablet, that is!
Why do people find it so hard to see ...
Why are people finding it so hard to see that Tablet devices and PCs are two different classes of device, and that many folks will use one of each (plus a smartphone making three).
Apple gets it. That's why the UI on an iPhone is not exactly the same as on an iPad, and why the UI on an iPad is not at all like the UI on an iMac.
Touch devices are for data consumption, for output-mostly usage with small amounts of clicking and even less typing. There are some business applications that fall into that category. For these, going to tablets makes sense. I recently visited a sofa shop where the salespeople all had iPads. They could show you what any sofa would look like with any fabric, and then take your order while sitting on the sofa. Neat! (Pity the sofas were crap).
But for serious data creation you need a keyboard and/or a precise pointing device (mouse). For many classes of serious work you need multiple windows open at the same time nxet to each other, or overlapping. For 6+ hours/day working with the computer, you need a big vertical screen and ergonomically acceptable keyboard and seating. A company that expects staff to work those hours on a tablet, will soon be sued by staff suffering from RSI. (And even if they don't sue, productivity will be way down and "sickies" way up).
Two different tools. Why does Microsoft and half the rest of the world think that they should be forcibly merged? It's possible to build an amphibious car, but most people know that they need a car, or a boat, or both.
Re: Not far enough....
As with many such things a modicum of commonsense is needed. In the case of archiving e-mails that may in part also be personal, people need to have confidence that the archive is automatic, that reading its contents will never be a matter of routine, and that if personal information is uncovered in the context of an retrieval for proper business or legal purposes, then it will remain private. Some of this is already mandated by law, more of it ought to be, and a good business won't routinely be spying on its staff because that's very bad for morale once it becomes known or even suspected.
After all that is said, the bottom line is that if you are using your employer's hardware, you can't expect the same degree of privacy you'd have if you used your own. So don't post stuff that would cause anything worse than moderate embarassment were it to become public.
Most of us aren't BOFH's. I've more than once found embarassing user content while doing a sysadmin's job. I've never revealed information that was not intended for my eyes.
Re: Deliberate decision not to archive
However, if I were in business I'd worry that a dishonest customer might present a very biassed selection of e-mails that I sent to him in support of some dispute. Or even edit such e-mails. Would you want to be unable to prove bias - or fraud?
RAID for rockets
Disk drives are not supposed to crash either. As long as the failures are predictably confined, this design equates to RAID for rocketry.
Provided (big proviso!) failures are always non-destructive, it's more like you've got (at least) one spare engine. Think of a passenger jet. It's not unheard of for an engine to fail mid-flight, but it's usually no big deal. It's all but unheard-of for a plane to come down because of both engines failing.
Bad idea to put all your eggs in one basket if you can avoid doing so.
Re: Improved accuracy
Drop the water attached to a brightly-coloured helium party balloon by about 10m of nylon monofilament. Just as long as the lost person can still walk, he'll find it without much trouble at a distance of a kilometer or more. So accuracy not needed, just lateral thinking.
I'd be a lot more interested in realizing the "smuggler's mule" device in Bruce Sterling's "Heavy Weather". It's basically a self-navigating gas-powered pogo stick, or perhaps one should say a monopedal kangaroo robot. Bounces its way across just about any terrain in 30-ft jumps. One seriously cool idea, with the sole drawback that it's hard to think of a legal use for it!
Away from head
Until a bug replaces a plus by a minus, and the beam is directed straight at your head, and then the phone ramps up the power so a sufficient wattage emerges from the other side of your head.
So if the battery life suddenly drops by a factor of maybe 100 and/or the reception suddenly goes cr*p, you have been warned. It's trying to kill you.
Re: Headsets in the vertical plane.
Not sure I like being called a very "effificent absorber of radio signals", though. Makes me sound a bit fat. : (
It's the conductive (watery) bits of you that are the good absorbers. Adipose tissue is unlikely to be a major contributor to absorbtion of microwaves!
Re: "can save more energy than would be supplied by a battery occupying the same space"
Re increasing battery life, or not: It's the milliwatts needed to power the computation versus the milliwatts saved with respect to a conventional antenna. It may cost more to compute than it saves in transmission, much as a better compression algorithm may save less on transmit time (or cost) than it costs you in CPU time (or electricity).
For some reason I'm reminded of Vinge's "zones of thought" SF universe.
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