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* Posts by Pete 2

2313 posts • joined 10 Jun 2009

Granny's Guardian: Acorn BBC Micro hero touts OAP watchdog kit

Pete 2
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Re: Cheap at half the price

> Why didn't you just use the Raspi and RAMFS

Because in my impetuousness, I bought a very early (yes I was up at 6 a.m. on release day, trying to order off the website - won't do that again) Model B that only had 256MB. I think I've isolated almost all of the write activity to RAM, so hopefully NAND lifetimes won't be a limiting factor. Nor will mechanical connections to the n/v storage.

I also wanted the Mk2 to have audio input capabilities and the Olimex SBC also comes with a LiPo interface so it will run off an outboard battery (6600maH - the size of 3 * AA jobbies: good for over a day) thus making RAMFS viable. It also has enough GPIO for aforementioned 800x480 touch screen. But this is getting to sound a bit like an advertisement and I'd hate to make the Bulgarians blush.

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Pete 2
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Cheap at half the price

> It costs £225 for the goods,

Yikes!

The one I built for an aged relative, last year, amounted to the cost of a RPi + Wifi card + PIR, DHT11, loudspeaker + amp and a light sensor. Including the (tastefully varnished) wooden box the total was < £100.

It also had some additional features that proved to be the unexpected highlight, so far as A.R. was concerned. There's nothing quite as comforting (apparently) as entering your living room in the morning and hearing a cheerful "Good Morning" from a familiar voice.

Sadly, the SD card soon got tired with the constant writes to /var/log and gave up the ghost after a few months. But the Mk2 learned from that, runs from an Olimex A20 that has NAND on board and holds all the sensor data in RAMFS - and has lots of other added features.

Now, if I can just get the Kivy interface going on the touchscreen ...

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Behold! World's smallest 3D-printer pen Lix artists into shape – literally

Pete 2
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3D ink blots

> outputs solid lines as you move the pen through the air

My hot-melt glue gun has been doing that for years. Crikey! I have a 3D printer and I never even knew it.

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Today's bugs have BRANDS? Be still my bleeding heart [logo]

Pete 2
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GOTO be GONE?

> Because nobody uses goto in real code, right

Actually EVERYBODY uses goto's - they just turn a blind eye to it.

Look under the safety-blanky of your favourite compiler and you'll see the assembler which is produced is absolutely infested with goto statements.

I think what is meant is that nobody (again, incorrect) writes GOTO statements in their source code. The problem isn't actually the goto statement: which is so useful there would be no practical software without it. No: the issue is partly mere fashion/snobbery, but mostly the problem of documenting it: the lack of a complimentary, high-level, COMEFROM statement to tell the poor little debuggerer how the program-counter ended up at a certain point in the code.

Though if you debug your stuff with a logic analyser, or trace/emulator, working out where the GOTO came from is generally quite easy. There's nothing about a GOTO to sneer at or to be scared of.

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Chinese iWatchers: Apple's WRISTPUTERS ALREADY in production

Pete 2
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Off the cuff

I wonder if Apple will bring out a range of attire with especially shortened sleeves, so that everyone will be able to see that you have an iWatch?

What's the point in having Apple gear, if nobody else knows that you have it?

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BBC hacks – tweet the crap out of the news, cries tech-dazzled Trust

Pete 2
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Re: Populism and the Licence

> university education is - a reward for being 'clever'

I think the OP is a little behind the times. These days (according to The Guardian - ooops!) about 50% of school leavers go to university. So maybe a "university education" (or 3 years of beer, brainz and bonking as it was recently explained to me: how times have changed) is now just a "reward" for being academically above average. If that's the new "clever", then so be it.

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Pete 2
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Re: Populism and the Licence

> audience share - 30% to 40% - because it was paid for by the universal licence

The logic is inescapable: what right does an organisation have to require a payment, if it provides nothing in return?

However, the idea that the BBC should cater for the masses falls into the "give a man a fish ... " category. If all it does is make itself accessible by adhering to the same standards of taste, intelligence and popular, faddish programme content as the commercial channels (and scheduling them head-to-head, then calling it "choice") then it's valid to ask: why have it at all, if it doesn't provide anything different or apply pressure to raise the overall standard?

For most people (well, most people here at least) the BBC has two unique properties: Dr. Who and no advertisements. Oh: and the silly notion that it's "free", just like the health service isn't. Given that the vast majority don't watch the programmes that have otherwise been tagged as "upper class" and "elitist", maybe the time has come to dump the licence fee and the ITV-esque (matron! he's using complicated words again) channels and simply have BBC2 & Radio 4 paid for by and only accessible to, the 40% tax-payers or those with a masters degree?

Or is it a case of: you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone?

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Pete 2
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No news is good news

When something momentous happens: some fool starts a war, the Martians land, a plane flies into a building then the whole country thinks "Hmmm, I should find out more about that" and accesses a news service - for big events and the BBC still seems to be the source of choice.

However, we live in an era where there aren't any wars (at least, wars in any timezone that are likely to cause us to flee our homes), the Martians have seen our TV programming and decided to stay away and there aren't that many crazies in control of aircraft. Under those circumstances, where most of the events that will actually have a material affect on most people are either political (new laws) or economic (no money) - both of which are abstract, complicated and out of our control, is it any surprise that most people don't actually care? It's not like the (good old) cold-war days, when the news programmes could dangle the threat of nuclear annihilation as a carrot to watch, and "big up" the fact that some foreign leader hadn't been seen in public and the new guy might press the button.

So what do the news people fill all these empty hours, on channels too numerous to mention, with? Stories about minor celebrities and who they snog, marry or avoid. Lurid, voyeuristic footage of suffering in far away countries and the random doings of sports "personalities" who can't string together a coherent sentence to explain themselves - if you know what I mean (harry).

In short, we have news broadcasts coming out of our ears, 24 hour rolling news channels that have 15 minutes of stories on a loop (and that hardly ever change at weekends as the news staff aren't working - but when most people would have the time to watch) for most of the day - and most of the night, too. Channels that are so desperate to cheaply fill their air-time and website space that they have descended into trivia and celebrity instead of going for depth and analysis. And using the televised, in-your-face, suffering of genuine victims, used merely to attract viewers: sitting on their couches shoving crisps down their necks, as people watch their houses being destroyed.

It is any wonder that most right-thinking people reject this form of "news" and only care about whether it will rain today, or if there are traffic jams on their way in to work? Having bigger or flashier graphics and tweets won't make any difference here, guys. The basic problem is one of quality and relevance.

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Google forges a Silver bullet for Android, aims it at Samsung's heart

Pete 2
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Rooting for Silver

Isn't this the "experience" that most people who root their Android phones are doing it for?

Dumping the bloat-ware and getting up-to-date versions. I guess the differentiation will now come from things like hardware features: cameras, 3D on screens, number of cores and amount of memory and maybe even some "killer" accessories that no other manufacturers will have.

They may even play the security card and demonstrate a widening gap between themselves and the (explicit or covert) entities that monitor and collect data from Android phones.

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Cuffing darknet-dwelling cyberscum is tricky. We'll 'disrupt' crims instead, warns top cop

Pete 2
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Re: A better solution: better defences

> the "eternal vigilance" problem

You're quite right. However the goal should be to design intrinsically secure systems. Not ones that require people to be vigilant, as we know they simply can't be trusted with secure information. No, the security has to designed in as the default option - and designed properly to not impact usability, so that users/owners have neither the need nor the ability to disable it.

I should add: I have absolutely no clue how someone would either design, or enforce the use of, such systems. Though I'd hope that the big internet players: the ones like Google, and FB who have the biggest investment in internet use - would be working on this problem as a "giving back" for all the wealth the internet has thrust upon them.

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Pete 2
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A better solution: better defences

Let's assume for a minute that all this "cybercrime" is actual crime: taking stuff that doesn't belong to them. Whacking law-abiding citizens with a large stick (or whatever the "cyber" equivalent is: tweeting that their mothers smell of cabbage, maybe?). Possibly even persuading online sellers to give them stuff in return for no money?

Rather than going through a public wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth as they bewail the fact that these criminals are doing the online equivalent of wearing a mask with two eye-holes, aren't there other ways to use their time and budget to better effect? Such as stopping crimes from occurring rather than running around - Keystone Cops style - trying to catch them afterwards: once they have their swag, or have tweeted vaguely insulting things about someones mother.

Obviously it's not as sexy: going from online business to online business and saying "did you know, that there are lots of bad people who can persuade you to give them your money, unless you do X, Y and Z". Given the lack of any visible deterrent on t'net, placing the onus on the e-tailers (e.g. refusing to insure them unless security holes were fixed) and using the existing cyber-cops to uncover those weaknesses, might get "cybercrime" down in a more efficient way than their current activities.

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Brit IT workers are so stressed that 'TWO-THIRDS' want to quit

Pete 2
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Oi! less of that talk, if you please.

> I did a weeks worth of work in an afternoon by ... looking at the problem and then automating it.

Don't give away all the secrets. Yes, we know about automation and how it can do all the tedious tasks, while allowing you to do the work of four people (I could give you their names, except for the confidentiality clause) AND keeping abreast of developments, new languages and skills AND being able to do the crossword while waiting for the clock to strike 5.

But there are lots of IT workers who's only skills are tedious cut'n'paste: data from one spreadsheet into another. Who will see what's presented on one screen and dutifully type it, manually: new mistakes 'n' all, into an application's form and who STILL print out data and then highlight fields in yellow or pink, depending on whether they are above or below some fixed limits. One assumes it's these people who are in the two-thirds who want to quit and who feel the stress.

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Pete 2
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Re: 40+ hours of overtime

> in reality you haven't got much of a clue as to who I am, or what I do.

En contrario, mi amiga!

I can assume your gender, that you wear high heels for an IT job (which leads to conclusions of it's own - but let's not go there). I know that you are IT-literate and I know where you are going on holiday and roughly how much you earn. I also know that you have a lot of time on your hands, right now. That's as well as feeling stressed and overworked (which leads to yet more conclusions that I'm too polite to dig in to) and that you feel very, very defensive about your work: which leads to more conclusions, too.

And all that is only what you've divulged to the world in a few posts on a single morning. Who needs to go snooping when people volunteer so much personal info without even being asked?

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Pete 2
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Re: @msknight

> I've got to stop reading the reg and get on with some work (published an hour ago, at the time I write this)

same person wrote this, 39 minutes ago:

> @larsg @bearden - actually I started in programming ...

So what happened to the work?

Newsflash! and again, just now:

> @Caaaptaaaain kick arse - in my case

So is that you done for the day?

And yes: this IS a case of "I've been watching that (insert job title of manual worker here) for the past half an hour and he/she/it hasn't done a stroke of work". But then again, I'm sitting here in a sunny Andalucia: the birds are tweeting (mostly inane comments about food or nests), not a cloud in the sky and the bells on distant sheep can be heard wafting across the countryside. Bliss.

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Internet of Thingies bods: Forget 3G, let's go straight to 4G

Pete 2
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The internet of cars

> a "connected" car sending significant data – both telemetry and perhaps video – might need the bandwidth of 4G.

This might sound like a good idea in isolation, but even a 4G network would soon collapse if presented by a whole motorway-full of cars, all streaming video - mostly of the cars in front and behind: all of which would be streaming exactly the same views back again - and engine management telemetry and all the other stuff that is unquestionably *possible* even if of questionable *worth*.

From my understanding, the IoT is more suited to being a "below the radar" network of small devices sending bitsy little packets on an infrequent basis: the comparison with tweets being not just the size, of the records, but their value, too. It's not meant to turn every road-borne vehicle into a Formula-1 racer, complete with live video feeds and EMU/biometric data. That would never scale (but would make a fortune for 4G carriers).

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Chap builds mobe based on Raspberry Pi

Pete 2
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Re: Newsworthiness

> Perhaps we could have some balanced coverage of pi alternatives?

Nope.

The embedded "revolution" of SBCs is proceeding quietly behind the scenes (just waiting for the 8-core SBCs to appear). However the Pi is the sizzle, not the steak.

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Pete 2
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Re: LEGO for the modern era @pete @Daniel

> It's projects like this that teach, and inspire.

Inspire: yes. Teach? definitely not.

As we have all been told: a crucial part of learning is the mistakes. Hence a project (and the author, to be fair, of this piece of work makes no claims for its educational validity: only that it was fun to do) that contains no information about the problems encountered and solved, nor the dead-ends, nor how to recognise and deal with errors, nor why one solution was chosen above any others will teach very few people and discourage many, many more. If all of that knowledge requires "reams of doumentation" then so be it. it's that "reams of documetation" that others will learn from: not from seeing one example of anything, presented fully realised as an end result. It would be like writing a cookery book and only having photos of the food you're prepared with no recipes or discussion of technique. Lovely as food-porn, but useless to anyone who wants to make their own.

So it's wrong to dismisss "reams of documentation" as not necessary for the learning process. For most people. it's vital - and it's lack in most OSS applications makes them little more than app-porn (to coin a phrase). Great if it works out of the box, and for the tiny minority who have the skills, inclination, tools and time to fix or adapt it: who disingenuously say "the code is available for anyone to use". But as "productised", as that was the essence of my comment, piece of work: ready for the full spectrum of talents who would wish to use it, undocumented stuff fails as an educational tool. Big time.

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Pete 2
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Re: LEGO for the modern era

> Yes, it has been done before, in other ways by other people. Apple, Samsung, Nokia would be prime examples

And the lesson we learn (at least: those who have tried / failed to productionise something electronic: or even been rash enough to put some of our work up for scrutiny on a website) is that getting the prototype to "proto" is often the easiest part of the process. The really tricky bit, as almost every OSS project is proof of, is the human interface, the support documentation, the standards compliance and the 100% perfect, works-under-all-circumstances reliability.

And when I see all of that in an amateur project, then I really am impressed.

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Pete 2
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LEGO for the modern era

> Apparently some people are way too easily impressed.

Yes, they are. But what more should we expect? The crucial aspect of this project, in the author's own words, are:

... where’s the fun in that. I got a great kick out of the first phone call I made with this thing. And it wont’s stay in one piece for long, I’ll be using those parts for other projects very soon!

So no-one is saying it's a practical solution. It was meant to be fun, nothing more. And power to his elbow for doing something that he enjoyed. CERTAINLY no-one is saying it's supposed to be educational (for the children - what an insult to adults who like playing with Leg Pi's) and the creator himself says that it was only meant to be fun and that it will be torn down (or "recycled" if you prefer) to another project later.

However, so far as ease is concerned - and being impressed. The referenced article does point out that all the parts are Off-the-shelf, hence the LEGO analogy. However that GUI looks a bit handy, I might just use that code myself, when it comes out.

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Facebook preps ad network to TARGET YOU WHERE YOU LIVE

Pete 2
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Selling to the sellers

> expand into location-based mobile advertising

An advertisement is an advertisement. Most people have seen enough of them (or soon will have) to become totally immune to their powers. Either that, or the more impulsive and impressionable people who will forever be influenced by them will go broke.

Either way, the point of new advertising technology is not to sell more stuff to the consumer: we either ignore them, block them or would buy whether the ad. appeared on a mobile phone screen or on a billboard. No, the point of wizzy new technology is to convince those people who want to advertise their products to buy advertising space. That's the only real sale (as anyone who's watched Mad Men will surely have worked out) that ever takes place in the advertising world.

So add adverts to apps. Add location awareness, with local discounts, "today only" offers, e-vouchers, wowchers, "likes", groupons and all the other stuff. It makes no difference - I'll still ignore them. If I want something, I'll still search for the best price and most trustworthy vendor: not for whatever pops up on my screen as I walk past a coffee shop. If vendors want to spend their money, it would be better spent on improving the product and lowering the price.

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Brain surgery? Would sir care for a CHOC-ICE with that?

Pete 2
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Re: Wot IT shortage?

What I was hoping to convey was that any shortfall in the number of staff that management feel they require can easily be mitigated, to some extent at least, by better leadership and a clear vision of what they are wanting to achieve. Which would lead to greater efficiencies: including less techy-time taken up with non-technical issues - ones that are dumped on techies but that don't require their specialist (and we are told: scarce) skills.

Also that given a management layer with better technical skills and organising abilities, there would be less workplace stress, less wasted effort and that everyone would be a lot happier. There is a saying:

There's never time to do it right, but always time to do it again

which seems to summarise the waste and poor leadership that IT (and other technical careers) seem to suffer from.

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Pete 2
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Wot IT shortage?

So why is it then, that every time we advertise a vacancy there are dozens of applicants?

Sure, some of them can't even submit a CV without it containing disqualifyingly egregious style, grammar and spelling errors [like that last phrase ]. And some appear to have just listed whatever buzzwords Google threw up when they searched for the published job description.

However, there are *still* more qualified applicants than can practically be interviewed in any reasonable amount of time (esp. when you have a proper job, with its own deadlines and targets to juggle)

So, I call bullshit on this IT shortage. What there does appear to be is a shortage of talent that is able to understand technical issues their teams need to solve, that has little clue how to organise and marshall its resources and has no idea whatsoever what it they actually want to achieve from their IT departments. Fix those management issues and a lot of the workplace stress would simply evaporate. Hell, they might even be able to hang on to the IT talent - instead of it (us?) forever seeking employers who don't make headless chickens look like Mastermind contestants.

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List prices mean zilch. Remember that when buying from upstarts

Pete 2
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Dance together, but don't get Tango'd

> Array lifespans of four to five years seems to be the minimum

The key thing about storage is to not buy too much. That's where a partnership can be helpful.

Few companies will have small or zero growth requirements. They will know that their organic data growth will be X% per year. They will also know that the price of storage is ever-decreasing. That both gives them leverage and puts them in a spot.

On the one hand, it permits a buyer to dangle the carrot of long-term sales in front of a storage vendor: knowing that they will need a certain number of TB every year can be as attention-focussing as having their nuts in your fist. However being beholden to a single supplier for upgrades over a 2, 3 or 4 year term can lead them to (mistakenly) think it's they who have you by the short'n'curlies. And extricating yourself from what seemed like a good deal, when it all goes sour, can be an expensive and career damaging chore.

There is also a danger from dealing with the "Upstarts": those storage outfits who have been going a few years, but haven't joined the hallowed ranks of the "established" vendors. Apart from the obvious: them feeling the heat if the market turns nasty, there is also a big question of how they will support customers who are not in their mainstream marketing area. Will a U.S. based Upstart be ready, willing and able to provide excellent service to an EMEA-based organistion: or will you find yourself subcontracted out to the lowest, local, bidder? And at the back of the queue where feature requests and bug-fixes are concerned? There's also a consideration that a lot of Upstart's "growth" strategy can be summed up as: race for growth and sell out at the top. In which case you find your storage strategy has quickly become a dead-end business for one of the major players - who only bought the Upstart to get their customer base, or their tech. You will have gone from being a profitable fish in a smallish pond to being an annoying sideline in a sea of enterprise players.

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DeSENSORtised: Why the 'Internet of Things' will FAIL without IPv6

Pete 2
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A solution looking for a problem

> There's always NAT, of course, to keep IPv4 alive, but we're told that's rather 20th century:

IPv4 has one enormous advantage over IPv6: it's here already.

The v4 vs. v6 situation strikes me as similar to 3D-TV. Yes, it might well be better, but the old system is good enough. There are a few early adopters who have, well, adopted it early - but there doesn't seem to be much interest in the other 99.99% of the world tossing their perfectly good, functional, tried and tested systems merely on the say-so of a few "leaders".

NAT was brought in as a workaround for the impending filling up of IPv4 space and it's been very good as a workaround or that problem (much as Intel's arcane x86 architecture allowed them to back 16-bit addresses into an 8-bit world. It wasn't as pretty as the 68k linear space, but it worked well enough.) . And as far as the IoT is concerned I would be quite happy if my personal IoT was contained fully within a NAT'd environment - with little or no external "discovery" possible: or that *my* IoT be accessible only through a protocol gateway that was under my personal control: much like a router's firewall is, today.

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Bank of England seeks 'HACKERS' to defend vaults against e-thieves

Pete 2
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I hope they're not *too* good

> the Bank of England's “ethical hackers” will attack 20 major banks and other financial institutions

One of the things that old consultants tell young consultants is:

Teach them everything they know, but not everything you know.

So one should not be surprised if the "ethical hackers" don't hold back one or two of the juicier holes as a sort of pension plan. Maybe the plan needs some extra-ethical hackers (one's who've already made their pile) to watch over the merely "ordinarily" ethical hackers?

Oh, and don't have the penetration testers stationed too close to any international airports.

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95 floors in 43 SECONDS: Hitachi's new ultra-high-speed lift

Pete 2
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Re: Top Floors

> the top floors will be a bar or a restaurant ...

Given the speed of this lift (one assumes it goes down as fast as it goes up), then I think I'd pass on the prospect of taking the elevator down, after a meal. Just in case my lunch wasn't traveling quite as fast as the rest of me.

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Tooled-up Ryobi girl takes nine-inch grinder to Asus beach babe

Pete 2
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How many of those to the pound?

Not a bad price, but why does the Amazon advertisement specify the price per kilo, too?

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'Maybe I'll go to Hell, but I think it's a good thing' says plastic Liberator gunsmith Cody Wilson

Pete 2
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A better alternative

> The western world slowly has become less violent in everyday life, and that is because the ability to destroy your neighbour due to rage or stupidity or drunkenness or greed has been curtailed

I would suggest that the reason for less violent crime as "civilsation" improves is that people now have more alternatives for redress (and due to better laws and better enforcement, less need to "do it yourself"). In past times if you had a quarrel with someone there wasn't much you could do about it without it getting violent. You could possibly appeal to a higher authority - if one could be found who was neither biased nor easily bought: by either side. However, that would have been a time-consuming, costly and unreliable activity, as pretty much anything would come down to one person's word against another.

The reason that people neither want, nor need to "defend" themselves: either from baddies or from injustice is that hundreds of years of effort (not all of it good, it must be said - and with no suggestion that we've reached the ideal position yet) has produced a justice system that most people have confidence in. Further, most people are also reasonably sure that if they transgress, they will be caught.¹

It seems to me that Cody Wilson is preaching to his particular choir here. There is always a proportion (larger in some countries, smaller in others) of the populace who are socially disconnected, terminally paranoid (man!), feel both powerless and threatened and/or are permanently afraid of whatever mostly imaginary evils their national media report fixate on, sensationalise and hugely over-exaggerate the incidence of. In the USA this appears to be guns and gun-related crime: as so many people have guns, it feeds on itself. Hence in America, it is easy to exploit the fear and promote guns as being both necessary and "liberating".

It's my experience of westen europe that we don't have these basic fears of violence and armed threats and have much more faith in our system of laws and detection/enforcement. I would therefore expect that "gun nuts" [ to use a not entirely inaccurate term ] would have a difficult time gaining traction over here - and I sincerely hope that they fail.

[1] although it's interesting to note that law-abiding individuals have been shown to over-estimate their chances of being caught, if they do something bad. Whereas "crims" or people who are likely to become criminals have a much more optimistic view: that the chances of getting nicked is very low. Both sides are wrong.

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Ubuntu 14.04 LTS: Great changes, but sssh don't mention the...

Pete 2
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The narcissism of small differences

> If such tiny UI refinements don't impress you ...

What does impress me, when I see it, are new features: things that I wanted to do in Version 1.0 that are now possible in Version 2.0. If they are things that I didn't even know I wanted to do (until I tried it), then that is a true improvement: real innovation.

But so far as Ubuntu goes, as a full-time user since version 8, I'm still waiting. Though to be fair, I'd probably say the same about any other O/S release, including OS/X or Windows. That WinXP still has such a large user-base would indicate that there are millions of other people who regard an O/S in the same way: unless there is a new killer app or feature, why change?

But so far as GUI design is concerned, the best thing it can be, is (like a good butler) completely invisible, yet indispensable at the same time. It should "know" what I am going to want and have it ready for me - with the minimum of fuss, time and keyclicks or mouse movement. Anything that comes between me and what I want to achieve is unwelcome.

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Is tech the preserve of the young able-bodied? Let's talk over a fine dinner and claret

Pete 2
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You can sell anything to the young

> Nobody makes things that bad by accident, surely

They don't (it takes years of practice). However, if you make something truly bad, then you can still rely on the young, callow and stupid (meant in the nicest possible way, of course: let's call it trusting, open-minded and willing instead) to queue for hours to buy it. Provided of course you pitch it as being the latest thing that all their friends will have. Be the first on your street ... etc. etc.

For oldies however, it's a much harder sell. They (we?) tend to ask difficult questions, such as "yes, but what does it actually do?", or (case in point the up-coming Ubuntu LTS release) "but what will I be able to do with it, that I can't do with the old one?". There's also the not insignificant point that after some years, one tends to have all the stuff, clothes, gadgets and media that's useful, decorative or beneficial, already. After that it's more a case of just replacing worn out or broken stuff.

People with life-experience tend to be a lot more skeptical about novelty. Maybe it's a once bitten thing. Maybe it's a case of the money I have, I've had to work for (rather than being given an allowance, that just drops into my pocket), so I'm more cautious about what I spend it on. Whatever the reason, it's difficult for a wet-behind-the-ears sales person to sell to someone who can ask relevant questions, often based on experience, than it is to someone who just thinks "ooooh, shiney".

What that means is that all the marketing mulah will go on persuading the persuadable to spend their cash in one direction, or another. And not on the lost cause of enticing those who carefully read reviews, weigh up the pros and cons and then go off, in search of the best deal. What use is a full-page glossy ad, or 60 seconds of Superbowl publicity to those people?

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Batten down the hatches, Ubuntu 14.04 LTS due in TWO DAYS

Pete 2
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Long term support - provided you don't change anything.

> Mint LTS. Install it, get everything working then look forward to several years of stability.

Unfortunately it doesn't work like that (is there a smiley missing?)

LTS releases are fine, provided you want a system that's frozen in time - or will only have whatever applications the LTS team deign to (back)port to that particular software base.

However if you want a new application, or even a more modern version of an old application: maybe one with a must-have feature or bug-fix, then LTS is no help. You often find that these, desirable, updates are only available from the application provider or from their specialised suppository (!). And that *that* new release requires the latest version of a whole slew of non-LTS libraries and maybe other dependencies. So you end up veering off the "true path" of an LTS release and having to add all sorts of other new stuff. And all that other new stuff can very easily break the old stuff in the LTS release.

So in theory it's a nice idea, for the suits. But in practice I've never had an LTS release that was much use after 12-18 months.

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LOHAN's Punch and Judy show: The big fat round-up

Pete 2
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What's in a name

If you're going to call the "space port" Baconur, then surely the rocket launch vehicle should be renamed Blue Streaky. Or would that be a bit too rash - errr.

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Feast your PUNY eyes on highest resolution phone display EVER

Pete 2
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Pixel wars

People will buy this simply because the numbers are bigger than on competing phones.

They do it with phone camera resolutions (and PnS cameras, too) - bigger is better - even though no phone has a lens that makes multi-megapixel cameras worthwhile (nor do they have screens that are capable of displayng such images).

However none of that matters in the uncritical, see-want-have, mine's more expensive bigger than yours, specification and useless feature-driven world of mobile phone marketing.

If a manufacturer wanted to really revolutionise the world of tablet and mobile phone screens, they'd make non-reflective ones. Ones that could actually be read on anything approaching a sunny day.

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Did a date calculation bug just cost hard-up Co-op Bank £110m?

Pete 2
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The immediate and the important.

> A programming blunder ... were sent out late – specifically, 368 days after the previous annual statements

Surely you mean a TESTING blunder: that the code (or more likely: the integrated environment in which it was run) was not put through a sufficiently realistic set of test scenarios. Or if it was, then nobody looked at the results.

A more interesting possibility is that the code was tested AND the bug was found. But t'management thinking was: "it won't affect us for a year ... there's plenty of time to sort it out later". But somehow that never happened.

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Audio fans, prepare yourself for the Second Coming ... of Blu-ray

Pete 2
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Re: Cuing the obligatory audiophile discussion regarding sample rates...

> Thing is, signal phase accuracy is very important in producing a realistic stereo sound-field

And let's not forget that at a frequency of 10kHz, the audio wavelength is about an inch and a half. So even slight head movements will affect the phase relationship. Therefore to get optimum listening pleasure, it's vitally important to staple your ears to the back of the chair.

Real audiophiles recommend you use nothing less than gold-plated, oxygen-free staples and a hardwood chair - preferably 1,000 year-old, organically grown, english oak: to remove any possibility of unwanted reverberations.

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Pete 2
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A good whine

So Blu-ray players can provide ultra-high quality sounds (and pictures that aren't too bad, either).

Big deal.

We know from everyday life that apart from a very few, who live in complete silence / solitude, that decent sound quality and reproductive apparatus (!) will never get used to its full potential - or anything close too that. When was the last time that any city-dweller had a moment of perfect quiet? With no sirens, passing trucks, passing aircraft, pissing toilets a'flushing, fridges humming, other occupants talking, playing computer games and people in the flat above with their trendy (and utterly selfish) bare wooden floors, or even the death-watch beetles chomping through your joists?

Having the ultimate in signal to noise ratio emanating forth from your speakers is pointless, if the ambient SNR is lower.

It's like video. We are constantly told to buy bigger screened TVs, ultra 4K resolution - yet so many people watch most of their video content on a tiny little phone or tablet and listen to highly compressed audio through Poundland's ear-buds. As for Youtube: how can something soooo lo-res be so popular? If the claims for HD (and other) TVs are valid?

So yes, have your FLAC formatted music if you live in an anechoic chamber, or your 4K TVs if you have a perfectly darkened room. But for most people, these things are wasted on us. Just like most of us couldn't tell the difference between Dom Perignon and Lidl's cheapest.

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Misco Shared Services Centre drone brands customer 'insane'

Pete 2
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Not your average customer

> ordered ... in November and received confirmation it was on backorder and due to ship on 3 March.

So the guy was prepared to wait 3 or 4 months for something he could have bought off Amazon, from stock (well: in stock today - maybe not then) and presumably from any number of other companies.

He then goes "Mr Angry" on them (OK, that might be reasonable, if they'd sent him a power cord instead of some sort of headset) and starts quoting the ins-and-outs of british law to a hungarian customer services person.

Given the disparity between the two sides' stories, there does appear to be more than we're being told here. But this won't put me off buying from Misco - though I'd never wait that long for a backorder.

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You'd better get out before the sync 'n' share bubble POPS

Pete 2
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Free to fail

> Have you ever tried to build a business case which competes with free?

Yes, thank you.

As the next line alludes, you invoke the fear of uncertainty, the downside of the lack of indemnity (yes, it's free: but who can you sue if it all goes wrong?), and the small matter that the exec who signs off isn't spending his/hers/its own money - so "free" isn't that big a deal and can make them look amateurish if they are proposing a merely "domestic" quality product.

In the past, you could also invoke the lack of standards, ISO-ness, SLAs and all the other foundations upon which an IT empire could be (shakily) built.

However, as of now one can look at the financials of the suppliers:

> Those valuations are going to plummet

and the impending shake-out in the industry as some major players disappear up their own internet connections. Who'd be the one to recommend a free/cheap/low-cost supplier that could easily be out of business in a year, or less?

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It may be ILLEGAL to run Heartbleed health checks – IT lawyer

Pete 2
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Trusting trust

> I don't necessarily trust them to come clean

Yet you trust the results of some website's online scanner - that checks a third party's website and tells you it's clean (or not)?

The basic problem is that you can never tell what someone else's scanner will actually do. If it does find a vulnerability, will it truthfully notify you, or will it say "yup, that's fine" and as soon as you log in, run the hack and snarf your login details - or add that site to a list of known vulnerable sites and then sell it on?

The only people who have a genuine interest in securing a site is the site owners. So provided they can supply the requisite credentials to demonstrate they are "clean", there should be no reason to run your own tests. Especially when you cannot be sure the tests are valid, or legitimate.

as Alan Parsons once wrote:

If we call for the proof and then question the answers, only the doubt will grow

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Mad Raspberry Pi boffins ripped out its BRAINS and SHRANK them for your pleasure

Pete 2
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Re: A bit like the SimmStick

Yes it does. Or (my favourite from that era): the TINI. That was a SIMM format with everything on board - except USB (it wasn't around then) and video. It had I/O serial, ethernet, n/v memory and RAM and a 100MHz 8 bit processor. And you wrote code for it in Java.

Whaddayamean you've never heard of it? It *should* have been a success, but it wasn't. Just like this proof of concept won't be. The reason: it wasn't picked up and integrated into "stuff". And neither will this version of the Pi. There simply isn't the need for it in industrial systems.

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Pete 2
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An old dog

... see it's latest trick.

I really can't see the point of this. The Pi's processor is slow, limited and obsolete - why would people want to use it in new designs? Why would anyone expend time and effort in redesigning such a board when they could have done the world a favour: tossed it and come up with a modern design, using contemporary components and with an up-to-date specification?

Now I know that people get attached to their first car, their first computer and old valve radios. But the only reason I can think of for people to still have some lovin' for the Pi is because they haven't raised their heads up and seen what 2014 has brought in terms of new designs with so much more usability. if they did, they'd never go back.

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The Great Hash Bakeoff: Infosec bods cook up next-gen crypto

Pete 2
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Having a cracking time

> attempting to break them over the next 12 months ... attacking all submissions in every way possible

One would hope (but not expect) that these attempts would extend into the world of social engineering and coercion - just as they would in the real world.

Password security has technical integrity as only one part of the whole regime.

The ideal password security system would contain features that would be unknowable to, or unusable by, people to whom the security credentials did not belong

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Rumour: Next Apple iThing to feature 65-inch screen. Four-limb multitouch, anyone?

Pete 2
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watching them watching you

> iWindow, to block out all the nastiness of the real world and replace it with shiny happy vistas

Hmmm, and then have little webcams in them so your windows can watch you.

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Technology is murdering customer service - legally

Pete 2
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The support that never was

> the slow but steady death of customer service

In truth, we've never had good customer service. Sure, some owner-run shops may have "the guy" who knows the in's and out's of all the limited range of stuff they sell. But that is the closest you'll ever get - and you're paying high-street premiums for their over-the-counter stuff you buy. Not exactly 21st century, chasing the cheapest price no matter what, do everything online, way of making purchases.

The biggest problem is that so much of our "stuff" is too complex, too cheap to have been designed and tested properly and too mass-produced to have spare parts available, or for every single item to work perfectly (even the first time).

So yes, it is annoying when you have to call an anonymous call-centre. While I'm not trying to defend them, they do have their own problems: such as the utter, mind-boggling, ignorance of most of their callers. People who neither know what they have bought, are aware of its limitations nor sometimes even realise it needs batteries for it to work (confession time: I was, once, firmly convinced that the TV had gone "phut" until another person, who shall remain nameless, confessed to having removed the batteries from the remote control as the ones in her torch had gone flat). It's these sorts of problems, which must account for the majority of a call centre's enquiries that their systems are meant to deal with - not the geek who calls up to know how to change the dynamic dns settings on their router.

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Why won't you DIE? IBM's S/360 and its legacy at 50

Pete 2
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Come and look at this!

As a senior IT bod said to me one time, when I was doing some work for a mobile phone outfit.

"it's an IBM engineer getting his hands dirty".

And so it was: a hardware guy, with his sleeves rolled up and blood grime on his hands, replacing a failed board in an IBM mainframe.

The reason it was so noteworthy, even in the early 90's was because it was such a rare occurrence. It was probably one of the major selling points of IBM computers (the other one, with just as much traction, is the ability to do a fork-lift upgrade in a weekend and know it will work.) that they didn't blow a gasket if you looked at them wrong.

The reliability and compatibility across ranges is why people choose this kit. It may be arcane, old-fashioned, expensive and untrendy - but it keeps on running.

The other major legacy of OS/360 was, of course, The Mythical Man Month who's readership is stil the most reliable way of telling the professional IT managers from the wannabees who only have buzzwords as a knowledge base.

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Amazon stuffs games into Fire TV box: Soz, rivals... WE don't need to make cash on hardware

Pete 2
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Pump the Primes

Judging by the specs and what the advertisement promotes, this box appears to be the "front end" for Amazon Prime users.

Although it can play android / phone style games, it's not going to supplant a hard-core gamer's platform and most people will have whatever other games they like on their phone or tablets anyway. Most of its other features and attributes appear to be aimed at content consumers: specifically the content that Prime users can get for free - if you leave aside the small matter of paying £80 a year for "free" content.

(And given that Amazon Prime costs $79 in USAland and £79 over here, what's the betting that the hardware will exhibit an equally usurious price-translation, too?)

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USA opposes 'Schengen cloud' Eurocentric routing plan

Pete 2
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Data is like oil

A lot of (western) countries dislike being reliant on countries that they consider less stable, or not idealogically aligned with their views, as their only source of oil and gas. What Snowden's security leaks have done is to make a lot of (western) countries think about their data security in the same way they think about their energy security. And for the same reasons.

What we learned from the story of the Natwest Three is that one party in the UK can strike a deal with another party in the UK, that is legal in the UK. However if the emails which make up that deal touch american soil, then american laws are applied and - since the UK government is about as useful at looking after its citizens interests as a Rottweiler is at guarding your sausages - you're banged up : Jim. Unless you can personally afford to foot the bill to defend yourself against the might (and drawn out proceedings) of the US legal system.

Sp apart from not wishing a foreign power to know everything you ever committed to email, phone conversations, downloads or Dropbox, there is the not insignificant matter of legal hegemony, which is just as wide-reaching and just as insidious.

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Where the HELL is my ROBOT BUTLER?

Pete 2
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Re: It's already here (and has been for years)

> I understand Trevor to be talking about generalised robotic help

Yes, I got that, too. However we'll never get there.

The reason is simply that as soon as we get a new level of automation, we'll fill all our excess free time, not with sleeping - as that needs no robotic help at all, but with other trivia. Then we'll complain that it is taking up all our leisure time - and wouldn't it be great if we could automate it away .... and so on

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Pete 2
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It's already here (and has been for years)

> something that automates away some tedious bit so that I can sleep more

Pop the bread in the toaster - go off and do something else.

Drop your laundry in the washer then go to the shops

While you're there, buy a prepacked sandwich for lunch - and a readymeal for later

On the way home, pop the motor through the car wash in a couple of minutes

Have to talk to someone in Dusseldorf, Raleigh or Wellington? Surprise! you can just pick up the phone,

We have so many time and labour saving devices - and have had for so long - that they are fully incorporated into our lives. To the extent where they are invisible and just taken as normal. However, we don't have a single robotic slave that does all of the tedious chores we are too lazy, or don't have time for (which amounts to the same thing: prioirities). No. Our "robotic butlers" are distributed through the home and our daily lives and show up in the form of gadgets and as the service industries which are such a large part of our lives - and a massive (if low paid) part of the workforce.

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Newsnight goes sour on Tech City miracle

Pete 2
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One good thing

That must have been the first media discussion of british IT entrepreneurship for a long, long time where nobody mentioned the Raspberry Pi. Maybe there is some hope after all.

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