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* Posts by Nigel 11

2223 posts • joined 10 Jun 2009

Microsoft: Don't overclock Windows 8 unless you like our new BSOD

Nigel 11
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OT - skyscrapers

You might be surprised to know that most tall buildings have only one support, right in the middle. Everything else is cantilevered off this core. These days, the core has to designed proof against airliners colliding with it and large (I don't know how large) explosions.

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Nigel 11
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Boffin

Re: Bullpat @JDX

I don't believe that Intel or any other CPU manufacturer would knowingly ship CPUs where getting the right result from any particular operation was be design and testing only probable rather than certain.

Of course, there's a thermodynamically large set of states and they cannot test all of them. They do, however, have access to the CPU simulator, and the ability to probe the actual signals at the surface of the die to validate and calibrate it. They therefore know what are the speed-limiting transitions, and can design their tests to exercise these in particular. If they don't sell a faster version of a particular die, it is fairly likely that they *know* that for this chip and at that speed, at the maximum operating temperature and worst in-spec chip power supply, there is at least one instruction sequence that is very likely to fail.

Overclocking a game is one thing. Overclocking a financial, scientific or engineering model is quite another. Don't. It's more important that the results are right and the system reliable, than getting an extra few percent of speed.

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Nigel 11
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Boffin

Re: Laptops more reliable than desktops?

A laptop has a built-in UPS (the battery and charger) rather than crashing if the mains supply glitches. A laptop often has a slower CPU than a desktop, and a slower cooler hard drive. These may tip the balance, depending on what exactly is being measured.

The desktops last longer, but that's often because the laptop's RAM can't be upgraded enough to make it worth keeping, or because it's too expensive or too much hard work to replace its keyboard after something gets spilled into it. Laptop displays are also harder to fix (desktop: throw away the monitor and plug in another one). And of course, desktops don't get dropped onto a hard surface nearly so often.

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Nigel 11
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Linux

Re: And as for a Unix Server

I've seen that sort of reliability from desktop PCs crunching numbers. No unscheduled downtime other than those caused by the electricity supply, up until the day that it was decided that a newer system would make better use of the electricity. They weren't even required to be quite that reliable, they just were!

Running Linux, of course. And I'm sure that your IBM's disk subsystem was taking a much greater pounding.

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Nigel 11
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Boffin

Overclocked vs. Flat-out

An overclocked CPU is a CPU running outside its specification. It's been tested by the manufacturer (who knows the weakest spots w.r.t. timing) at a particular speed and may well have been found wanting at a higher speed. It's blindingly obvious that an overclocked CPU may not be working 100% correctly, and can only be recoemmended to someone who cares neither about correct results nor about reliability. A gamer, maybe.

Flat-out, on the other hand, should not reduce reliability. With modern CPUs there is a feedback loop to slow down the CPU when the chip temperature limit is reached. I work in an environment where desktop PCs are crunching numbers 24x7 most days of the year, and our desktop systems don't seem noticeably unreliable. By far the commonest failure is a PSU fail, followed by a hard disk fail. Failed CPUs are as rare as hen's teeth and failed MoBos only slightly commoner. In the old (Athlon) days when a CPU didn't slow down and could actually overheat until the heat crashed it, failed CPUs were also as rare as hen's teeth. I'd vacuum the heatsink, replace the fan, and the system would happily reboot and last as long as any other. Too high a temperature slows down the logic gates in the CPU, until it's the equivalent of a CPU that's overclocked one notch too far, and crashes.

Oh yes, and always run memtest overnight on a machine that's randomly unreliable. Low-incidence errors on RAM will do that. it's why servers (and serious engineering workstations) have ECC RAM. If memtest crashes rather than reporting errors, suspect your power supply first (you may or may not see the problem with a DVM).

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Leap second bug cripples Linux servers at airlines, Reddit, LinkedIn

Nigel 11
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Re: Its a kernel bug

Don't know the details here, but it's not impossible. Kernel documented to do X, actually does Y which is subtly different. Java is the only widespread app which does something noticeably bad as a consequence. Everything else "just works" much the same under X or Y.

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Sysadmins: Your best tale of woe wins a PRIZE

Nigel 11
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Headmaster

Re: Not a sys admin but...

The greater FAIL was whoever connected and configured it in the first place. With the right jumper on the D25 (or D9) connectors, unplugging the connector would have been treated the same as a modem hangup, and that should have terminated the logged-in session if the software config had security in mind.

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Nigel 11
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Simple things

A PC wasn't working, looked like PSU fault. Took it back to my office to check and repair. Plugged in. Pressed power button. Very loud bang. Small amount of smoke. Lights went out. Oops.

Outside office, also no lights. OOPS.

100 yards down corridor, still no lights, lots of people peering out of their offices asking WTF. OOOOOPS.

Somehow, the PSU fault hadn't taken out the 13A fuse in the plug (yes, it should have been a 5A fuse, but it did have the mandatory safety-tested passed-by sticker). Not the 30A breaker on the circuit either. Nor the 100A breaker above that. No, when the electricians finally located the fault, it was a 180A fuse in a box high up on a wall that had probably last been looked at when it was installed in the 1920s.

It took a lot of phoning to source such a monster fuse and they paid for a motorcycle messenger to bring it down to London from Leeds. As far as I know it's still there. Too much effort to schedule replacing it with something modern before the next time (in the 2060s? )

The PC was fine after a PSU transplant.

You don't need complicated things to make a FUBAR. The simple things are also out to get you.

I could also tell you about the exploding substation and the need do do a tap-dance to avoid getting burned by globules of molten copper pouring out under the door, but that's got no IT angle at all.

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Nigel 11
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Mouse problem

I was called in to fix a workstation in an old Victorian basement bit of the site. Quad 140W Opteron thingy. Expected to have a certain amount of fun sourcing a beefy enough power supply. But the lights were on and fans were whirring.

When I took the cover off, a very strange burned organic smell assulted my nostrils. A few seconds later I found a dead mouse with its head wedged between the fan blades and one of the heatsinks. I hope the poor wee thing's neck was broken in an instant. I fear otherwise.

After the mouse was removed and the CPU allowed to cool down, it rebooted without a hitch. The mystyery remains, how did a mouse get into the case? There was no hole anywhere near big enough anywhere in the metalwork that I could see.

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Nigel 11
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Muppet engineer

We once purchased a server with Windows Server pre-installed. By the time it was delivered plans had changed and it was reformatted to run Linux. Three months later it broke down. Looked like a simple failed PSU to me, but it was still on warranty, so we called for an engineer.

Some hours later he told us it was OK again and left at a trot. We were surprised that he hadn't left it powered up, and dispatched someone to the machine room to boot it. But it was booted ...

and once again running Windows! The muppet thought GRUB was a hardware error, so he reformatted the disk array and reinstalled Windows. Thank heaven for backups, and that it wasn't desperately mission-critical.

You don't have to outsource to India to get muppets.

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'Inexperienced' RBS tech operative's blunder led to banking meltdown

Nigel 11
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Unhappy

Cheerio RBS

My first thought.

My second thought was whether things are any better elsewhere?

My third thought is whether after a few months, they won't have learned something from the experience and done at least some of what's necessary to make sure that the lightning strikes somewhere else next time.

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Nigel 11
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Mushroom

Re: Astonishing

I suspect it's a multi-level FUBAR. Someone made a small not very serious error. Someone else got the patch-up for that wrong, and made the hole bigger until a chunk of masonry fell into it. And then someone carried on digging even though he *really* should have stopped, and brought the entire building down. "When you're in a hole, stop digging" is good advice, but these guys seem not to have known a hole when they saw one.

The person who really needs to be shot isn't any of the sods on the ground. It's the person who decided it was OK to get rid of all the experienced staff in the first place. Preferably also everyone upwards from him to the CEO, since it was mission-critical, and to encourage the others. Before we get to find out how much worse it might have been, by experiencing it.

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Nigel 11
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Mushroom

Re: Hmm...

Spot on. It's nothing to do with offshore staff per se. It's to do with replacing long-term staff with proven experience, by cheaper staff with no experience. Staff who quite possibly lied on their CV to get a job, or paid someone else to sit their exam.

It could be worse. I wonder if they're offshoring the control rooms for nuke power stations yet?

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Nigel 11
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Mushroom

Re: Investment in the backbone?

Fired is inadequate.

When an engineer wilfully neglects to design to the accepted standards of his profession and people are killed by the collapse of the resulting structure, he's likely to find himself facing manslaughter charges.

The manager responsible for this almighty F***-up ought to be personally liable for the losses. All of them. Bankrupcy is the least that should happen to him. Jail would be better.

Many Roman bridges and even buildings are still standing after two millennia of use including one of total neglect. This probably has something to do with the Roman approach to quality control. The architect was required to stand under the arches as the scaffolding was removed.

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Nigel 11
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Flame

Re: iSeries? @Spartacus

More accurately the equivalent of having your car serviced by a work experience sociology student who's there only because his benefit will be cut if he isn't, rather than an engineer of twenty years' experience who loves cars (who isn't there because the garage "let him go" to save a few pennies in the short term).

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RBS IT cockup: This sort of thing can destroy a bank, normally

Nigel 11
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Joke

Re: Incompetence

And I've just realized that there may be an explanation for the biggest wrong number in physics, that discrepancy of the order of 10^113 (give or take a few) between the observed energy density of the vacuum and the values predicted by all Theories of Everything to date.

The universe is the most successful Ponzi scheme of all time, but no-one has rumbled it yet.

Oh dear ... I predict the End of Everything starts about n

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Nigel 11
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Boffin

Re: Incompetence

Also Google "Administratium", which doubtless has a Quantum Bogodynamic explanation awaiting discovery

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Nigel 11
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as in Northern Crock?

The broken bank.

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Nigel 11
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Boffin

Too late

Google "Quantum Bogodynamics"

there's also a joke paper from CERN out there about Quantum Indeterminacy applied to banking. One observation is that it's impossible to know the precise ownership and value of anything at the same time. The value is certain at the time an entity is sold, but the ownership is highly indeterminate. On the other hand if it's been in the family for generations the ownership is near-certain, but no-one has much idea what it's worth.

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Nigel 11
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Re: @Graham Marsden

Santander make it very easy to put your money in. They are total bastards when it comes to getting it out again. Santander is a Spanish bank. Is that the sound of a penny dropping? Good luck!

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Nigel 11
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Meh

Re: Single sourced

I've always wondered why nature gave us redundant kidneys, very considerable distributed redundancy in our livers and brains, but only the one heart.

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Nigel 11
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Mushroom

If TS ever really hits TF, paper cash will become worthless. You'd need gold for large sums, silver for smaller ones, and I'd hazard a guess that fifty quid in pound coins would be worth more than fifty quid in tenners because small change would still be needed.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Closing accounts

Have you ever been asked by HMRC for an actual nil-interest certificate on an account with a negligible balance? If they did ask me, I'd say that the account had a negligible balance and that I'd happily surrender all money in the account to HMG if they could only accomplish what I could not -- persuade the bank to close the accursed thing.

I've never been asked for a certificate at all. I ask for or print, and keep, the ones representing significant sums of interest just in case, but I reckon even HMRC has better things to do with its time than ask for proof that I really did have all the tax I owe deducted from 55p or 5p or 0p of interest.

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Nigel 11
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Meh

Re: One tactic

I know, but the HSBC - Midland merger was over 20 years ago. Also prior to that HSBC had no UK retail banking operation, so I doubt there was a merger/ transfer of IT systems at the customer end, just a takeover of the management end.

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Nigel 11
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Uncloseable account

I have a credit card account which I cannot close (translation: the bank does not know how to close) because some ****up means they owe me 22p. I've on various occasions asked them to donate the 22p to charity, to send me a cheque, to just lose it in their error account .... They always say they've fixed it. Three months later I get another statement telling me that they still owe me 22p. I no longer have a card, so I can't go out and buy something and then get the balance to zero second time around.

The problem was latent for a number of years after I thought I'd closed the account, and only surfaced when a UK bank bought all the customers of my onetime credit card company which was closing down its UK operations. I guess that once an reverse-indebtedness of 22p was transferred from one database to another, there was/is no programmed mechanism for sorting it out.

I guess that on the bright side, my 22p means that the bank has contributed getting on for fifty times that amount to the Royal Mail, which needs all the help it can get! (Wonder what happens when I pop my clogs ... will they still be sending statements to "Executor of your truly, deceased" in the year 2200? Or perhaps inflation will finally cure the problem when the pound eventually becomes the smallest unit of UK currency?

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Nigel 11
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Meh

Re: "how many of those customers are sufficiently pissed off to move?"

Ever since I had savings, I always took the attitude that I should never keep them with any institution from which I had borrowed money or even with which I had a credit agreement. If you look at the T&Cs, they reserve the right to help themselves to your savings ("offset") if you're deemed to be in breach of your borrowing agreement. Who knows what definition of "in breach" is programmed into their computers? I wonder if even the banks do?

I felt this particularly strongly while I had a mortgage. If things had ever gone tits-up outside my control, the bank could not have siezed my savings without first getting a court order (which in practice would have meant bankrupcy proceedings).

You're probably right about moving your account being pointless. A bunch of tenners cached somewhere in your home is probably a better idea.

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Nigel 11
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Re: One tactic

So that's HSBC or Barclays, then?

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Nigel 11
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Re: Single sourced

Good advice, if you have savings.

Trouble is that two overdrafts cost more than one overdraft, and there's an awful lot of people living one unexpected bill away from bankrupcy.

Also if one bank suffered a CAUFU (which this was not), the effects would be systemic and (possibly) the whole UK banking system would be forced to a stop. Indeed, the whold global banking system might be forced to a stop.

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Nigel 11
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Mushroom

Too big to fail

It's another manifestation of the too-big-to-fail problem. Indeed if a majority of RBS's customers jump ship, then we've just gone from the big five to the big four and are just four more f**k-ups away from the big Zero. Gulp.

The answer might be for RBS to set up a new wholly-owned subsidiary with brand new state-of-the-art IT systems. Keep the fact that it is wholly-owned as quiet as possible. Milk exising customers for all they are worth (what's new?) while hoping that they jump ship to the new bank, along with disgruntled customers of their competitors.

Retailers and consumer-product manufacturers are forever doing this. Think Pepsico just makes Cola - probably not, but can you name all their brands?

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Natwest, RBS: When will bank glitch be fixed? Probably not today

Nigel 11
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Joke

I read that as an expired cat!

Have you ever seen the damage that mice will do to the wiring under the floor of the server room?

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Nigel 11
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"You know all those staff you insisted we let go last year ...."

<letters>.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Pro tip

It's fairly OK even if you are. Just make sure you're clear to overdraw the one that your salary *doesn't* go into (or, better, that it's a savings account, if you have any savings).

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Nigel 11
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Mushroom

Re: Just one more reason

No suitcase of money. A well-stuffed wallet will suffice while people still think it's just a glitch. Only gold will be accepted after it becomes clear that TS really has hit TF. And be very careful who you let know that you've got gold, because of the knives and the guns.

Pray it never happens.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Wait till the lawsuits start

A relative once had to pay a day's interest on the price of a house because the payments transfer system caused his completion to fail. The bank wriggled out of its liability citing T&Cs. The glitch was only a few tens of minutes, late in the banking day. Mercifully the person whose house he was buying did let him move in, even though he hadn't yet paid for it.

But I doubt that the bank could escape liability for *several* days' failure and interest. If they try, the lawyers sure as hell *will* be involved. Wonder if it affects hundred-M completions as well as hundred-k completions?

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Nigel 11
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Alert

Re: Out-sourcing is bad

Oh, as little as nine months? These things usually manage to run on auto-pilot for a bit longer than that. Long enough for the seagull-managers to trouser their bonuses and find their next jobs!

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Nigel 11
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Re: Out-sourcing is bad

Good documentation frequently requires the benefit of hindsight. A person with experience of a system will often quickly work out what's gone wrong with it after the problem arises. His knowledge is implicit, not explicit, and couldn't have gone in the documentation.

Outsourcing, bad. Check. All other forms of de-skilling, likewise. Monkey see, monkey do, doesn't work for what the monkey's never seen before.

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Assange: Australian neglect made me flee to Ecuador embassy

Nigel 11
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Re: Lack of comprehension from our Jules

Some time ago I suggested that the UK ought to obtain an undertaking from Sweden that Assange will not be deported from Sweden to any third country without first being offfered free passage back to the UK. I was told by another poster that we do not need such an undertaking, because it's already built in to the EU arrest warrant system. (Can anyone confirm?)

Draw your own conclusions.

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Surface: Because Microsoft does so well making hardware?

Nigel 11
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Vista?

The Microsoft Shills were all busy raving about how wonderful Vista was before you could buy it. May have helped con a few neophiles out of a few bucks, but couldn't save it.

In retrospect MS were very smart pretending that Windows 7 wasn't Vista SP1. They dumped a name that was irreversibly associated with crap, and got to charge the neophiles for another "new" OS. That's a trick they missed with XP, which we tend to forget was as borked as Vista until SP1 (and maybe SP2)

However, all of these pale into insignificance compare to trying to convince the world that the desktop is a tablet. That's a one way trip to corporate oblivion, if they don't pull back from the brink before they can Windows 7.

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Nigel 11
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Re: MS have a few problems here..

I've been very critical on Win 8 on the desktop, but on a tablet it may actually work. All MS have to do is realize that the tablet and the desktop are different environments and offer an appropriate UI for each. If Win 8 included an XP-like UI and you could flip to the other one if you really wanted to use Metro on the desktop, I'd stop complaining. (XP UI = Win 7 minus Aero if they want, but not completely flattened, and retaining support for multiple windows, start menu, multiple screens, etc).

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Nigel 11
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Re: "OEMs, please pay attention. This is how you build a PC.”

The mark 1 stylus flop was a specialized piece of hardware, expensive, easy to lose and hard to replace. These days it can be any generic not very pointy object.

On my (not very smart) mobile I usually enter texts using a biro with the cap on, because my fingers are a bit on the blunt side. The phone packs a stylus, but it's less ergonomic than a biro. Useful if there's no biro to hand, though.

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So you wanna be a Wall Street techie? Or anyway, get paid a lot

Nigel 11
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Boffin

Manhole covers

So they can't fall down their own hole - yes, that's one answer. I've never yet seen an equilateral triangular manhole cover (a shape which is even more proof against falling down its own hole). This answer may therefore be only part of the whole truth.

Minimizing the stress concentration at the corners (because there aren't any corners) is another possible.

"I doubt your premise" is also a possible answer. I see plenty of rectangular covers in the pavements I walk. Does it depend on the definition of "manhole"?

I'll get the job for showing that I can think things through, or not get the job for demonstrating that I'm a smart-ass. It's a crap-shoot. Except that in the latter case, I probably wouldn't want the job anyway.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Zen-like puzzles...

I love questions like these. They involve thinking, rather than regurgitation. I'm bad at the latter. I tend to carry only an index in my head, and know where to look up the fine details as and when I need them. (these days, it's often Google! )

If they are part of an interview process, I guess it all depends on the motivation and attitude of the people doing the interviewing. If they are sadists looking for their brand of fun, the whole process is pointless. If they are genuinely looking for someone who can think outside of his narrow specialism, then this is probably the best way to go about it.

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Can't watch Flash vids in Firefox? It's not just you

Nigel 11
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Re: Thread Hijack

See my previous post about 10.0.5esr. http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/organizations/all.html if you value stable more than new features.

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Nigel 11
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10.0.5esr is better

You'd do better to ditch 3.6 and switch to the long-term-support Firefox based on 10. (Currently at 10.0.5) http://www.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/organizations/all.html

I'm quite happily using the latest 13.0.1 but it's well worth knowing that there is an official version that's getting only bugfixes, if you're supporting an organisation or allergic to new features being dropped on you. (I am allergic that way, but so far Firefox hasn't done anything bad enough to annoy me back to 10).

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Nigel 11
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Devil

Adobe quality software

"Adobe quality software" has replaced "Microsoft quality software" in my lexicon. This is because for about two years now, the latest Adobe Acrobats have been incapable of printing some Adobe pdf files generated by Adobe's own software to a Postscript printer (possibly even an Adobe Postscript printer). The same pdf files printed to the same printer using Foxit or Evince work just fine. The same files printed using ancient versions of Acrobat reader also work fine.

Capable of writing software that works and works well? You decide.

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Nigel 11
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Re: Windows 7/Vista? XP FTW!

Read the linked help document, and Real player is implicated in some way - the first things to try are turning it off and un-installing it.

I'm no fan of Microsoft but I'd put them a fairly long way down the suspects list on this one.

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Fujitsu cracks 278-digit crypto

Nigel 11
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Thumb Down

Note that they cracked a 978-bit code. That suggests they matched the target to the available hardware. For any sensible cryptographic algorithm, the amount of CPU needed to crack it rises *exponentially* with the number of bits. 978 might be indicating that 1024 isn't enough bits to be safe against a government agency (don't know enough about the maths of this algorithm).

If in doubt add some more bits. The only trouble is that the time to encrypt and decrypt rises when you do that (but far less so than the time to crack! )

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Nigel 11
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WTF?

Re: That's some PC they use

Some might call it a workstation. But there's no exact definition of what is and isn't a PC (Personal computer). I'd say that if it's a system that can sit on or under a desk without making too much noise or heat for an office environment, then it's a PC. Maybe also require that it contains an Intel-x86-compatible CPU and/or can run MS windows if you want it to, if you want to rule out a Sparcstation or a Mac.

Out of interest, what do you call those souped-up gamer systems with overclocked water-cooled CPUs and humumgous GPUs? (Apart from insane, of course).

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Microsoft takes on tablets with keyboard-equipped Surface

Nigel 11
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Re: BAU for MS then?

Out of interest - why do you dismiss Macbooks (i.e. non-tablet portable Macs)?

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Voyager ticks one box for interstellar arrival

Nigel 11
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Head nowhere near hurting

It's less than a light-day out. Great engineering, but ...

The nearest star is about four light-YEARS away.

Our galaxy is amout 120,000 light-years across and contains around 400 BILLION stars.

The observable universe is tens of billions of light-years across and contains more GALAXIES than our galaxy contains stars.

Head hurting yet?

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