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* Posts by Nigel 11

2418 posts • joined 10 Jun 2009

WORLD temporarily FREED from BURDEN of TWITTER!

Nigel 11
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IT Angle

Why ...

Why are people who Twitter not called Twits?

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Support for RHEL 3 ends one year from … now!

Nigel 11
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Meh

Idiots who pay for RHEL

I've always assumed the idiots want a multi-billion dollar company to sue, when they can prove that it was a known long-standing fault in the operating system that wrecked their business.

Yes, there are at least two huge holes in that argument, but the suits can't see them. And we should be thankful for these idiots, because they keep Red Hat in business.

If you don't want to pay, check out Centos or Scientific Linux. Or if you like bleeding edge, use Fedora, and help make RHEL8 better than RHEL7 by doing so. Yes I know, RHEL 7 isn't out quite yet.

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You thought watching cat videos was harmless fun? Think AGAIN

Nigel 11
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Unhappy

Re: And yet ...

Because rats beed as fast as rabbits. And rats hide down holes too small for cats. And rats are astonishingly intelligent for smallish rodents. (Some of the rat stories I've heard, there must be significant intelligence overlap with humans. There again, some of the dumb human stories I've heard ...)

Cats do catch rats, but they have to hunt carefully because a rat can seriously injure a cat. So the cat has to be hungry to bother, and the rat species isn't in any danger.

If you want a lot of rats killed quickly, get someone in with ferrets and/or terriers. But a week later, you'll still have rats. Smarter rats.

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Nigel 11
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Linux

Re: "Domestic cats"

Out of interest are IT people more cat or dog inclined?

Don't know, but cats definitely have hacker personalities. (Dogs are like suits).

Remember the man who was prosecuted for animal cruelty because his cat was riding on the passenger seat of his motorbike (with its claws firmly dug in)? He was able to demonstrate it was that cat's choice to be there. Indeed, the cat was extremely reluctant to be left behind and came running at the sound of the bike being started. A biker cat.

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Hard Glass Spinner Technology: HGST's new 2.5-incher

Nigel 11
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Boffin

Re: Full height drives

Why not go to a 10lb bag and go back to full height drives

Because a disk drive is an example of something that works better miniaturized. The smaller the platter, the faster it can spin without disintegrating or distorting. The smaller the arm carrying the head, the less it flexes and vibrates, so the faster the settling time after a seek. Both mean that a 2.5 inch datacentre disk has intrinsically lower latency than a 3.5 inch one.

It's like how a flea can accelerate itself at 300G, whereas it takes a lot less to make a human go squishy.

Also you don't need so much energy to move smaller head assemblies, so the drive generates less vibration to upset its neighbouring drives. With tens or hundreds packed close together, this is yet another advantage. I've heard tell of homebrew servers with four desktiop drives bolted into a single metal cage, that degraded quite atrociously under heavy loads. Those rubber drive-mount grommets in the better full-tower cases are definitely not just for show. They provide vibration isolation between drives.

Vibration is also the reason why a big stack of many tens of platters in a full-height enclosure wouldn't work well, if at all.

I wonder how long before we see the 1.8 inch datacentre drive? The one disadvantage of a smaller drive is smaller capacity, but 1Tb is more than enough in many applications.

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Nigel 11
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Boffin

Re: Glass platter

Does nobody else remember Pilkington's corporate-image advert with the glass hammer being used on a nail? And even more strikingly at the end, the glass claw of the hammer being used to lever out the bent nail?

My candidate for best corporate-image ad ever. Sadly, it couldn't save Pilkington from the French.

Glass, even the everyday sort, is very strong but brittle, meaning if a crack gets started it will spread catastrophically. A disk platter is of necessity perfectly polished, and installed in a very benign environment where there's nothing to scratch it (which is how cracks get started), meaning glass is an ideal substrate. In passing, it's metals that crack up after repeated flexing. Glasses don't. Flexing glass either breaks it first time, or not at all (provided it's perfectly micro-crack-free to start with and there's nothing to scratch it in service).

Tempered glass isn't deliberately weakened. It's cooled in a way that builds in a compressive stress to its surface (strengthened) at the cost of tension in its core (a disintegration waiting to happen). A tiny scratch or crack in the compressed zone won't spread in response to everyday flexing or temperature changes. But if a crack is ever driven through that zone into the core, the object instantly tears itself into small (and desirably un-sharp) pieces.

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Microsoft blasts PC makers: It's YOUR fault Windows 8 crash landed

Nigel 11
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HP

Everything they do, be it hardware or software, is absolute sh*t.

Except printers. Which is probably the last hold-out of the old pre-Compaq HP, but for how much longer?

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Nigel 11
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Re: Windows 8 FAIL

"a fair portion of the existing market for office migrated to libreoffice or openoffice"

Not the paying market.

Give them time.

A thing Microsoft doesn't (or won't) understand about many corporate customers is their desire for stability, upward conpatibility, and a quiet unexciting life on the IT front.

These customers are likely still be running Office 2007 (some, 2003), often on XP. Upgrading may well mean paying to have all secretarial and non-technical staff sent on an Office 2010 course, on top of the hardware, licensing and IT staff costs.

And if that's going to happen every 3-4 years (2003 - 2007 - 2010 - ??) maybe 2003 or 2007 - Openoffice starts to look attractive?

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Western Digital leaps out of a plane, forgets to pull the 'chute

Nigel 11
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Re: That chart on profits

I can't convince myself there's any trend to be seen. A better breakdown might help.

How does it break down for smallest-size disks (<500Gb these days moving to 1Tb soon) versus the big ones? How would it look for server-grade versus desktop-grade?

My guess is that sales of smallest desktop-grade disks are in terminal decline, because of the advance of solid-state storage (and probably, the PC market changing from an expanding one to a saturated one). Smallest desktop drives were doubtless the volume product, though also almost certainly the least profitable.

Server-grade should be less affected, and multi-Tb drives should be safe for the forseeable future. Question for these, is just how many Tb does the world want to store?

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Samsung set for compensation talks over staff death claims

Nigel 11
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Re: Were the 'new town clusters' similarly caused?

Clusters have also been found in small rural communities. AFAIR the first was spotted near Windscale, but a nationwide study found lots of clusters with no detectable correlation to nearby nuclear industry.

My personal guess would be that it's a legacy of historical in-breeding. The upper classes were rather keen on marrying their cousins, to keep their wealth all in the family. In villages, especially remoter ones, before modern transportation, the gene pool was naturally restricted.

Or it might be an infectious disease with negligible symptoms: one or more viruses as yet unknown, that trigger leukaemia in some individuals or circumstances.

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Nigel 11
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IT Angle

Ultra-pure water??

Please tell us more.

BTW pure heavy water (D2O) tastes oily.

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Red supergiant Betelgeuse heads for SMACKDOWN with 'dust bar'

Nigel 11
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Re: Betelgeuse.

If one had a life-span measured in billions of years, one's next thought might be "Whew! That really was a bit close for comfort!"

ISTR a supernova within 100 Ly presents a serious hazard to our biosphere. Some of the mass extinction events in Earth's history might have been so caused.

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Nigel 11
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Re: What has this got to do with a Supernova?

Probably not connected.

OTOH a supernova happens when the star can no longer generate enough radiation pressure to balance the inwards pull due to gravity. Any additional mass might do that if the star is close enough to its tipping point.

For a REALLY spectacular tipping-point event, find out about hypernovae (pair-production catastrophes).

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Intel to leave desktop motherboard market

Nigel 11
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Go

Opportunity for AMD?

It occurs to me that this might be an opportunity for AMD. Establish AMD motherboards as the ones you choose when you put stability and reliability and good documentation ahead of loads of fancy features. Maybe hire some ex-Intel motherboard people to make it happen. Above all, make sure there's good support for non-MS secure boot. Ship all such boards with all widely-used keys pre-loaded, and a bios menu to "enable [xxx] secure boot key", "disable MS-Windows secure boot key", etc.

I'd switch from Intel boards to AMD in a jiffy, if this happened. Even if AMD never again manage to compete in the CPU performance stakes. How much CPU do most business users need, in any case?

I'm probably dreaming.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Intel are struggling

Was Rolls-Royce struggling when it withdrew from manufacturing automobiles? (Rolls Royce aero engines, that is: they still license their name to a car company for historical reasons).

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Nigel 11
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Devil

Re: Oh dear..

duplicate motherboard GUIDs

Hah! I raise you duplicate MAC addresses. Until you've experienced it you can have no idea how much "fun" two PCs on the same network with the same MAC address can cause!

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Nigel 11
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Re: Oxymoron?

Not such a silly analogy, nor such a silly business plan. Witness Rolls-Royce. They make engines for aircraft. (They also license their name to a car manufacturer, because for historical reasons the brand has value). Or witness IBM getting out of HDD manufacture. Or ARM never getting into chip manufacturing in the first place.

Intel are primarily a silicon chip designer and manufacturer. Much as I wish they weren't getting out of motherboards, I can understand the reasons why they might be doing so.

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Nigel 11
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Business?

The conventional PC (in broad terms - regardless of OS) will be around for a very considerable amount of time in businesses. It costs too much to change platform. If doing so causes serious disruption to business function, it can be fatal to the business!

As I've pointed out many a time, any job function which requires user input in significant quantities requires a keyboard and a mouse. Until tablet manufacturers work this out, they'll make no inroads in such areas. Pure tablets are data-consumption devices. They may have business applications, but only ones where very little data is being fed in.

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Nigel 11
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And Asus is probably "best of the rest"!

However, you do well to avoid the most feature-packed of the Asus boards. Go for one that has only the features you actively want. It'll save you money, and it may well be more reliable. That's because it'll be the same or similar to the ones that they are supplying to large PC manufacturers, rather than one that sells in low volume to "enthusiastic" end-users. Less likelyhood of BIOS or hardware screw-ups, and more chance that BIOS warts will get fixed if a major customer demands such a fix. Avoid the very cheapest, though. The cheapest is likely built down to it's price.

Viglen, who we buy our Intel-board-based systems from, use boards made by Asus (to Viglen spec? ) for their lowest-priced systems. Will have to ask what their future plans are!

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Nigel 11
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Linux

Re: Intel Desktop Mobos

A great shame. They were rock-solid reliable. Even more important, you were absolutely certain that if you ordered another one a year or two later, the hardware on it would be exactly the same as the first one you ordered. (You'd have thought that was universal, but it isn't. Some manufacturers stick a small v1 v2 ... suffix on the part-number, which many suppliers drop. Some PC vendors feel that they have carte blanche to supply any hardware they feel like, whatever the stickered "model number" says!

Intel were also the most linux-friendly motherboard manufacturers that I know of.

Sigh. Maybe they know that there's a shit-storm of epic proportions on the way, because of secure boot and (non-)support for non-Microsoft keys, and they don't want to be making motherboards at all when it arrives so they don't suffer accusations of guilt by association?

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Engineers are cold and dead inside, research shows

Nigel 11
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FAIL

Re: Doctors caring & empathetic?

Screw up a bloodwork culture and/or misdiagnose something serious, and you can start (fail to prevent?) an epidemic which wipes out the human race / kick-starts the zombie apocalypse. Car mechanics don't build nuclear weapons, so they are far less capable of that scale of destruction.

No, you still laven't thought this through, even at the extreme. Suppose those screwed-up brakes are on a vehicle carrying the zombie plague blood samples to the path lab? In any case, it's not usually a doctor doing the path lab work that can distinguish the merely individually lethal cases from the imminent global pandemic cases. Certainly it won't be a surgeon.

As others have pointed out, cool and detached may be necessary for a surgeon because (a) he can't afford to get emotional while things are going badly for the patient and (b) sooner or later he will make a mistake that causes a death, and if he's too empathetic that's the end of his career. Highly empathetic doctors will go into other branches of medicine. General practice for example, or geriatric care, or psychiatry.

in fact thinking about it, a surgeon is very close to an engineer working on a human body. He needs to be a self-motivated perfectionist. He dosen't need to be empathetic, in fact it may be a handicap if he is.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Engineers often simply lack understanding of emotional situations

comparable in empathy to either cockroaches or starving wolves

An apology to wolves, please! They are extremely empathetic creatures, and not only to members of their own species.

A remarkable documentary I once watched showed what happened when scientists flew into the remotest wilds of Northern Canada to study wolves that had never before encountered human beings. What happened in one season was remarkable. The Wolves were neither hostile nor frightened. They were curious. Within a few months they had co-opted the scientists into their pack, and the alpha female was leaving her cubs for the humans to watch over.

A wolf, and man's best friend the dog, are the same species. It's very obvious how that got started. I'm afraid that it's my own species that too often comes up short on the intrinsic empathy score-sheet.

By the way, many large cities in both Europe and the USA now have urban wolves as well as urban foxes. AFAIK children eaten by urban wolves to date, zero. (Ditto urban mountain lions, which are potentially even more of a nightmare!).

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Nigel 11
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IT Angle

Why?

Kind of alarming, when you think about the fact that the mental attributes that you are born with are likely to decide the general course of your entire life.

Why alarming?

Most people, I suspect, "go with the flow" and do something that takes advantage of whatever natural abilities they discover they posess. Innate ability AND determination, that's a path to the top.

A few will choose to do it the hard way and succeed by sheer determination. Fine if that's a free choice. A recipe for terrible unhappiness for all concerned if the path is imposed by others (typically parents).

It's another facet of the old nature / nurture debate.

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Nigel 11
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Linux

I'll bet engineers are a lot more empathetic than what I'd call the uncaring professions. Lawyers, bankers, politicians ... the usual suspects. You don't have to be a psychopathic narcissist to be in that crowd, but it surely helps.

Engineers and programmers are far more commonly INT[JP]personality types than mere chance would suggest. Whether or not you feel that classifying personalities into sixteen groups has any more merit than IQ testing, the correlation is quite striking. These are quite rare personality types. (The rarest? I'm not sure).

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TSA to pull backscatter perv scanners from US airports

Nigel 11
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Happy

Re: For frequent flyers it

All frequent flyers should note that the (cosmic and solar) radiation dose from hours at 40,000ft considerably exceeds the radiation dose from a scanner. So those who are paranoid about radiation shouldn't fly frequently, if at all. BTW airlines avoid flying too close to the Earth's magnetic poles, not because it screws up compass navigation (which they don't routinely use these days), but because the radiation levels are far higher there than elsewhere during a solar storm.

The fact that aircrew don't have notably higher levels of illnesses that can be induced by radiation leads me to the conclusion that there is no significant risk to any passenger, even a frequent flyer.

There's also some research that suggests that low ionising radiation doses may be *better* for one's health than *very* low doses. Our immune systems may be evolved to deal with radiation up to the upper reaches of naturally-occurring levels (for example life above a naturally radioactive granite bedrock). It's hard to actually prove, since the statistical signals are very weak.

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Intel: Everything is absolutely fab-u-lous, particularly in servers

Nigel 11
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Re: Ostrich Corp

IF it's still the Intel of old, I expect that they have a plan B. Remember when it looked as if AMD had stolen the server market from Intel? The Opteron outperformed the Xeon at virtually all levels, and on top of all that AMD invented the 64-bit X86-compatible CPUs.

But Intel came out on top, because they'd never actually stopped developing the Pentium-3 architecture. They'd just mostly stopped selling it. And when the P4 architecture disappointed, plan B came to the front.

Plan B today might be "if you can't beat them join them". Pay license fees to ARM for the CPU design, but use their fab technology to make the fastest lowest-wattage ARM cpus in the marketplace.

Only the paranoid survive ... but also every corporation that reaches the top has no-where to go but down, and usually doesn't know how to descend slowly and gracefully.

INTC stock is remarkably cheap. The bankers are writing them off ....

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Swartz prosecutor: We only pushed for 'six months' in the cooler

Nigel 11
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Mushroom

Lesson for UK to learn: scrap extradition treaty with USA

What happened in this case is almost certainly what would also have happened to gary McKinnon, had our home secretary not suffered a last-minute attack of commonsense.

the US "justice" system is designed so that prosecutors can and do put innocent people in jail for several years, because the alternative is something like risking incarceration for life with no prospect of ever being released. We should not extradite anyone to the USA, until a UK court is satisfied:

That there is prima facie evidence of a crime and of the accused person's guilt

That the correct jurisdiction to try the case is the USA not the UK

That the alleged "crime" is criminal under "natural justice" or UK law, as well as US law

And IMO, that the accused person is not and will not be threatened with any punishment that is in the opinion of a UK court, grossly excessive. Because that's how they persuade innocent men to plead guilty, or to kill themselves.

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Security audit finds dev OUTSOURCED his JOB to China to goof off at work

Nigel 11
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Lesson to be learned?

Perhaps the lesson to be learned is that outsourcing can work well, IF AND ONLY IF the project manager is a darned good programmer in his own right.

If he is, then it's quicker to do the desining and quality control oneself, and hive off the actual coding to sub-contractors on Chinese wages. They can't get bad code past him, and will soon know not to try. If they aren't up to scratch, they don't get any future work.

The usual outsourcing disaster starts with managers who make up for in arrogance what they lack in ability. The subcontractors soon work out that they can leave the coding to their weaker colleagues, improve their margins by skimping on the debugging, and so on. (Much the same thing if the coders are still in-house, of course). Also, since the manager can't code, the designing and specifying is also likely to be insane.

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The Spherical Cow lands, spits out Anaconda

Nigel 11
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Devil

Re: Debian user here...

Hmmm.

Spherical Horse: a contaminated version of Spherical Cow. Someone starts with cow, adds the non-free repositories, and re-ships with a default install set including copyright-encumbered codecs and suchlike. Lawyers wouldn't sue someone with no money ... would they?

Spherical Beetle: like the above, but also feeds everything you search for to Amazon, so you can be bombarded with appropriately targeted adverts. (Beetle ... bug ... )

Spherical Rat: the sometimes-rumoured Microsoft Linux.

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Nigel 11
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Meh

Re: GNOME 3

So don't use it. the time for shouting and screaming because they took away the familar Gnome 2 interface is gone. You can now have Mate (Gnome-2 derived, but moving to Gnome 3 libraries underneath), or Cinnamon (layered on Gnome-3 in the first place). Both are now stable enough to use. Both are close enough to desktops as we know them that no-one should be too unhappy.

You can also choose Scientific Linux or Centos 6.x which still use good old Gnome 2 and offer at least five years' future support thereof.

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Nigel 11
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Linux

Don't forget Centos and Scientific Linux

To complete the distro-ology of the free Red-Hat flavour, you have to include Centos and Scientific Linux. These are both very close to the corresponding non-free RHEL version. Of the two, Centos tries very hard to be *exactly* the same as RHEL. Scientific Linux has a different kernel, but the differences are slight. Basically, if CERN needs it to do something that Red Hat don't support, then CERN patch their kernel.

As far as ordinary users are concerned, these are both almost identical to RHEL, and the most conservative option you can find. Rock-solid-stable, and still running Gnome-2. The latter is no bad thing, although I've made friends with Fedora + Cinnamon of late. I feel you can be more sure that SL will continue into the future than Centos, because CERN needs SL to stay working.

RHEL 7 is coming soon (months). It will be intersting to see whether CentOS ans/or SL are able to release their 7.0 within 2-3 months, or whether there will be more collateral damage as a result of Red Hat having to protect their commercial interests against Oracle.

BTW, for whoever was berating Fedora for not shipping with non-free software: Fedora is closely linked to Red Hat and therefore has to be VERY cautious when it comes to possible copyright infringement and lawsuits. There are repositories of all the non-free stuff that work well. You have to add them yourself, because Red Hat can't afford the risk even of shipping with them in place.

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Nigel 11
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Re: MATE is the future...for me anyway!

Give Cinnamon a whirl before you make up your mind. And remember to check again in six months or so, because both Mate and Cinnamon are moving fast. A few months back when I tried Cinnamon it crashed far too often to be usable. Now it seems quite stable. Nice once again to have a choice of desk-tops that behave like desk-tops!

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Intel bets the farm on touch-enabled 'convertible and detachable' Ultrabooks

Nigel 11
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WTF?

Re: Have you ever tried 'alternative' keyboards?

Even human beings have trouble with voice recognition! (Try going somewhere where people speak your language with a different accent. I'm totally baffled by Glaswegian and find Brummies hard going. Others have told me they can't understand folks in Devon, though I have no trouble with that one. That's just in the UK. Regional variation within Italy, say, or even that tiny country the Nederlands are much greater. Or so I'm told ... I'm no linguist.

Can you imagine what an office full of people talking to their PCs would be like? A call centre? Except if they were programmers trying to talk code. yum install es cee i pie meta delete pee i dash seven point two doubledash meta delete-two-char SPACE doubledash enablerepo a pill FUCKIT meta delete-three-words ee pee ee ell ENTER AAARGH <throws PC out of fifth story window>

Anyway, a good touch typist can type faster than most folks talk. If speed really is of the essence, there are chording keyboards that are much faster than QWERTY ones, although the learning curve is much steeper and not many people bother. After all how fast can a human think what to type or say? A pianist will tell you that the first stage is training one's fingers to play the notes, and only after that can you start to think about the actual music.

Keyboards are here to stay, at least until a direct interface to our nervous system becomes possible (if ever).

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Nigel 11
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WTF?

Re: Have you ever tried 'alternative' keyboards?

Even human beings have trouble with voice recognition! (Try going somewhere where people speak your language with a different accent. I'm totally baffled by Glaswegian and find Brummies hard going. Others have told me they can't understand folks in Devon, though I have no trouble with that one. That's just in the UK. Regional variation within Italy, say, or even that tiny country the Nederlands are much greater. Or so I'm told ... I'm no linguist.

Can you imagine what an office full of people talking to their PCs would be like? (A call centre? Except if they were programmers trying to talk code. yum install es cee i pie meta delete pee i dash seven point two doubledash meta delete SPACE doubledash enablerepo a pill FUCKIT meta delete-three-words ee pee ee ell ENTER AAARGH <throws PC out of fifth story window> ) (and that example didn't even involve any of the well-known Intercal splats and rabbit-ears).

Anyway, a good touch typist can type faster than most folks talk. If speed really is of the essence, there are chording keyboards that are much faster than QWERTY ones, although the learning curve is much steeper and not many people bother. Also how fast can a human think? A pianist will tell you that the first stage is training one's fingers to play the right notes, and only after that can you start to think about the actual music.

Keyboards are here to stay, at least until a direct interface to our nervous system becomes possible (if ever).

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5.6TB helium disks could balloon, lift WD onto enterprise throne

Nigel 11
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Re: you need an "air bearing"

I think one party balloon is about twenty HDA-fulls, so not nearly such a waste!

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Nigel 11
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Re: Perhaps a Full Vacuum is the best Hard Drive environment then? (Patent Pending)

There's no way you could maintain a precisely defined tiny gap between the head on the end of a two-inch arm and the spinning disk in a vacuum. The head quite literally flies. It's the dynamics if the gas between the head and the disk that keeps it at the constanrt correct distance.

BTW what about Methane? It's about two-thirds the molecular weight of air (CH4 = 20, O2 = 32, N2 = 28), it's not prone to leaking through nano-pores like Helium is, it's not prone to reacting with metals like Hydrogen is, and although it's flammable it's hard to see how an HDA-full of methane could cause any sort of serious problem. Lighting a gas cooker burner probably lets more than an HDA-full out into the air and then deliberately sparks it.

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Ten affordable mid-sized Full HD monitors

Nigel 11
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Re: Once you've had 27 inches you never go back...

More like an extra £300! The question in my mind is whether I'd prefer one 2560x1440, or two 1920x1080 plus ~£120 still in my pocket. (There's also the miser's option, one new 1920x1080 for £150 and keep the old monitor as a secondary display).

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Nigel 11
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Alert

Upgrade??

These monitors have been affordable for a couple of years now ... serious screen-users probably have a pair of them by now. State-of-the-art is 2560x1600, but they don't come cheap! (Personally I really wish you could still get affordable 1920x1200, the extra vertical pixels make a lot of difference ... but I understand why PC monitors have converged on HDTV format. They probably sell ten HDTVs for every high-res monitor. )

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Nigel 11
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After-sales service critical for me

My choice is greatly influenced by past experience of various manufacturer's after-sales service. I'm prejudiced towards Iiyama and Philips. With Iiyama, warranty service has been completely hassle-free on the rare occasions it's been needed ... and I've never yet had a Philips monitor fail in warranty, and very rarely even many years after.

YMMV? Any other good recs or war stories about warranty service?

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Ofcom looks at contract opt-outs as users rage over price hikes

Nigel 11
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Re: They already have right to walk...

Do you mean to say that there are people who will sign a contract without obtaining a copy of what they have signed? ALWAYS get such, and always keep it for the duration of the contract. If it's a web-based sign-up, download the T&Cs that apply and print them, or e-mail them to yourself (the latter probably better because it creates a time-stamp maintained by a third party that they'd find it hard to argue about).

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Nigel 11
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Alert

Unfair contract terms are not enforcible

For far too long companies love to put clauses into their contracts which pretty much mean 'we can do anything we want to to, and if we amend you're contract, however detrimental it might be to you, you shall have no rights to complain or get out of the contract'.

Google "unfair contract terms".

Then tell your service provider that you consider whatever terms of the contract that they are using to increase your charges to be unfair (in the legal sense). Offer to continue to pay at the original rate. Tell them to take you to court if they won't accept that.

An RPI-linked increase is probably fair (if mentioned in the contract you signed). An increase caused by a new government regulation might be fair, if they can justify that the increase is merely passing on increased costs imposed on them. I very much doubt that anything else would hold up in court. Most people are too easily intimidated!

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Nigel 11
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WTF?

Re: Yuck, 2 year contracts

It's also damn near impossible to get a personal loan for less than £1000 that can be paid off over 12 months or more. 12 month loans for £500 are available but at interest rates that make them impractical for phone purchases.

Boggle

Provided you are credit-worthy there are many credit cards you can apply for that have 0% interest on purchases for 13 months or longer. Tesco was offering 16 months last time I looked. Just don't forget to set up a standing order to make the minimum repayment each month, and a savings account to acquire enough cash to clear the debt when the interest-free period ends.

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Brit boffins build projectile-vomiting robot to kill norovirus

Nigel 11
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Thumb Down

Re: Cure for cancer?

What's an unpleasant but passing experience for most of us, is not so for the infirm or the elderly whom this bug can kill. Incidentally one of the vulnerable groups is people being treated for cancer. Chemotherapy weakens one's immune system. (It also often damages one's mucous membranes, which may create an infection pathway). So a way to protect against this bug might well reduce mortality amongst people fighting a treatable cancer.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Don't read whilst eating

My thought also. Nothing much one can do to avoid infection, so stop worrying. If it's going to happen it's going to happen. From experience of both I'd prefer the vomiting bug to real flu. At least one recovers quickly!

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Search engines we have known ... before Google crushed them

Nigel 11
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Re: Ah the good old days gone by...

The first sealed head/disk assembly I saw was 80Mb (and roughly the size of a washing machine). Before that disk platters could be lifted out of disk drives. I've still got the disk, extracted from the plastic cassette, that stored just over one Megabyte. It became obsolete about the time I started working with computers.

Any, er, retreat, on 1Mb disks? (I mean disks, not 180kb floppies! )

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North Korea's satellite a dud, say US astroboffins

Nigel 11
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Re: Yeh North Korea - you stupid stupid.. place..

I think some people here don't know just HOW bad a place NK is.

It's not just a country that has adopted the hereditary principle for absolute dictator. It's also one that has adopted the same for "enemy of the state". When someone gets sent to an extermination camp ("re-education" camp), his family goes with him, kids and all. Once there, if they are lucky they are just worked to death. If they are unlucky, they are used for germ warfare research.

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Nigel 11
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Working ICBM?

Or maybe not. Tumbling uncontrollably presents considerabe difficulties to re-entry without burning up. (I really hope so).

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Happy birthday, Transistor

Nigel 11
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Don't forget Neville Mott

I've always thiought that the real father of the Field-Effect transistor was Neville Mott (much later Nobel laureate Professor Sir Neville Mott), who sorted out all the theory back in the 1930s. It's a shame that no-one at that time thought to try to make a solid-state valve based on that theory. I think it would have been within the technology of the day.

Instead technology went a very long way up what turned out to be a blind alley, using current flows through bipolar junction transistors to represent bits, rather than packets of stationary charge on the gates of field-effect transistors. Although it's not impossible that this too will come to be seen as a blind alley once Moore's law has finally hit the limits. The long-term future may be spintronic (ie, the bits stored as the spin states of electrons).

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Stroustrup on next-gen C++: I didn't want to let go of my baby

Nigel 11
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In defense of FORTRAN

Firstly, one has to specify which FORTRAN. 77? 95? 2008? The language has evolved a great deal, possibly even more so than C++

Secondly, people who attack it fail to realize that even FORTRAN-77 had two huge advantages over its competitors.

One was for the scientist/programmer. The compiler could/can autogenerate code to check array subscripts at runtime. Given the declaration REAL A(100,200) then any reference A(I,J) is invalid if I<1 or I>100 or J<1 or J>200. With the compiler generating subscript checks, many bugs immediately crashed the program, rather than randomly corrupting random data elsewhere. C compilers couldn't do this.

Note also that (say) I=101 and J=1, or I=2000 and J=-1, are detected as programming errors even though in both cases the result of blind address arithmetic will be within A

And when the program was debugged and ready for use in anger, you recompiled with checks off and other optimisations on. Which meant that number-crunching code in FORTRAN could be faster than in C, the second huge advantage.

In particular, a FORTRAN compiler is permitted to assume that in a subroutine

SUBROUTINE FRED( A, B, M, N)

REAL A(M,N), B(M,N)

there is no memory overlap between the arrays A and B, which allows for many optimisations of statements like

DO J=2,N

DO I=2,M

A(I-1,J-1) = A(I-1,J-1) + B(I,J)

...

IN C-style languages A and B are pointers to chunks of memory, and the no-overlap assumption can't be used in nearly so many contexts.

Since F77, FORTRAN has advanced so that now many operations on arrays can (and should) be expressed as a single statement with no sequencing specified by the programmer. The compiler is free to perform whatever sequencing and parallelisation it thinks will work best. Your FORTRAN 2008 code is hardware architecture-independant. Your compiler generates a realisation that best exploits whatever it's running on, be that a pair of Intel Xeons with four cores apiece and a single RAM address space, a top-of-the-range or a cluster of a few such beasts, or tens or hundreds of them, that you wish to use in parallel.

Automatic parallelisation is a big and hot topic and probably still in its infancy. Recent FORTRAN languages have at least freed the compiler from arbitrary constraints accidentally imposed by a programmer who previously had to specify an arbitrary sequence and who couldn't indicate that he really didn't care about the ordering of this or these loops.

That said, I'd stil choose to write the outer parts of my programs in Python (using NumPy, SciPy, and suchlike) and call from there to number-crunching codes written by experts.

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Nigel 11
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Re: The best language hasn't been written yet

There will never be a best language. Languages are tools, and we use the right tool for the job. Or sometimes, the wrong one, for lack of a choice, or out of familiarity and/or prejudice. "If the only tool to hand is a hammer, all problems look like a nail".

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