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* Posts by David Harper 1

68 posts • joined 12 Jun 2009

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Nationwide Building Society's services out for the count

David Harper 1

It seems to be working again now

I just logged in and it was working fine.

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ECCENTRIC, PINK DWARF dubbed 'Biden' by saucy astronomers

David Harper 1

Re: You can't name astronimical objects after politicians

The IAU rules (http://www.iau.org/public/themes/naming/) are quite clear about pandering to politicians:

"The names of individuals or events principally known for political or military activities are unsuitable until 100 years after the death of the individual or the occurrence of the event."

So Joe Biden can't have an asteroid named after him until he's been pushing up the daisies for a century.

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David Harper 1

You can't name astronimical objects after politicians

I very much doubt that the astronomers will succeed in naming it Biden, because the International Astronomical Union has a policy which explicitly forbids naming of astronomical objects after politicians.

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Reg tries out Google's Chromecast: Yep, we even tested smut sites

David Harper 1

Way better than Virgin Media TiVo for BBC iPlayer

I bought a Chromecast via Amazon this week to find out whether it would help me to escape from Virgin Media TiVo / BBC iPlayer hell. In short, VM's TiVo system cannot play on-demand TV using the BBC iPlayer. The video stream glitches every few seconds, making it pretty much unwatchable. According to the VM engineer who came to check our newly-installed TiVo after I complained about the crap iPlayer video quality, this is apparently a known problem, but neither Virgin nor the BBC will admit responsibility.

Anyway, I'm happy to report that Chromecast solves the problem. I can now cast BBC iPlayer video streams from my smartphone or tablet to my TV, and the quality is excellent. Thank you, Google.

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UK.gov recruiting 400 crack CompSci experts to go into teaching

David Harper 1

What about the kids who have no aptitude for programming?

Nobody has mentioned the elephant in the room -- not everyone has an aptitude for programming, just as not everyone has an aptitude for maths, or languages, or music.

Some years ago, Richard Bornat (a computer science professor at Middlesex University) and his graduate student Saeed Dehnadi did research which demonstrated that in their class of first-year computer science undergraduates, there were two distinct groups: those who intuitively understood how to write programs, and those who didn't. Worryingly, the performance of the second group could not be significantly improved by training them. This was published as a paper titled "The camel has two humps". (You can find it by googling the title.)

Now Gove wants to try to force school kids to write computer programs, when most of them will have neither the interest nor the aptitude for it. It's a recipe for disaster.

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What is thy bidding? Han Solo’s shooter goes under the hammer

David Harper 1

Han shot first

As anyone who saw the movies the first time around will tell you :-)

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Be prepared... to give heathens a badge: UK Scouts open doors to unbelievers

David Harper 1

And the IT angle is?

Curious to know why El Reg now has a theology correspondent.

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Amazon's weekend cloud outage highlights EBS problems

David Harper 1
FAIL

How ironic

It's a delicious irony that the ad surrounding this news article at the moment is for Amazon Web Services :-)

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Back up all you like - but can you resuscitate your data after a flood?

David Harper 1
WTF?

Re: You're not using MySQL's built-in replication???

"MySQL built-in replication just doesn't work unless you have a properly designed application. By "properly designed" I mean something that's aware of DB replication scenarios and which uses the database architecture for relational key tracking."

I'm sorry, Trevor, but either this is a troll or you really don't understand MySQL replication and you're just repeating what some bloke down the pub told you once.

Applications do NOT need to be aware of replication. I should know -- I've written large-scale applications which talk to MySQL databases that had replication slaves. Not once did I have to alter my code because of that. And these days I get paid to manage hundreds of MySQL servers, ALL of which have replication slaves, a fact that most of the developers are blissfully unaware of. And that's how it should be, of course.

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David Harper 1

Re: You're not using MySQL's built-in replication???

Are you talking about multi-master replication? <Shudder>

There are open-source solutions that allow you to avoid that kind of thing, such as Galera Cluster, as well as commercial products.

Thankfully, I don't have to support multiple primary sites, so I've avoided having to implement such setups.

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David Harper 1
Facepalm

You're not using MySQL's built-in replication???

You say "None of the databases for our public websites can be set up for live replication because that would require rewriting code to accommodate it." and in the next paragraph, you state that you're using MySQL.

MySQL has had built-in near-real-time replication to a remote mirror server for over a decade. I was using it as a data-protection solution back in 2002! It doesn't require any changes to client code, since it happens within the database server.

And there are robust open-source solutions for backing up a running server, such as Percona's XtraBackup.

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Mozilla devs plotting to put a stake in <blink> tag – at last

David Harper 1
Happy

Re: Haters gonna hate

Yes. And don't call me Shirley.

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Hold on! Degrees for all doesn't mean great jobs for all, say profs

David Harper 1
FAIL

What's even more depressing ...

... is that one of Scotland's ancient seats of learning is now handing out Ph.D. degrees in Human Resource Management.

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Rocket boffinry in pictures: Gulp the Devil's venom and light a match

David Harper 1

Why no mention of Sergei Korolev?

It's a pity that this otherwise excellent article fails to mention Sergei Korolev, who was as great a rocket scientist as Werner von Braun.

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Tablets aren't killing ereaders, it's clog-popping wrinklies - analyst

David Harper 1

Re: Dead boomers already?

IIRC, "baby boomer" is anyone born between 1946 and 1964, so some of us haven't even reached 50 yet.

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BEST reiterates ‘no solar forcing’ claim

David Harper 1

Re: Open Journals

"Will never have the endorsement of the scientific community as a whole."

The scientists who publish in the open-access, peer-reviewed Public Library of Science (PLOS) journals would be surprised to hear that. In the life sciences community, the PLOS journals have a strong reputation.

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NoSQL's CAP theorem busters: We don't drop ACID

David Harper 1

But is it web scale?

I wish these guys every success, but I'm reminded of the excellent "MongoDB is web scale" cartoon from a couple of years ago:

http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/6995033/mongo-db-is-web-scale

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Beep! NASA here, a 400 tonne spacecraft is about to buzz your house

David Harper 1
Thumb Up

Re: www.heavens-above.com

This is an excellent web site, and it gives predictions for lots of other satellites and assorted space junk too. I've been using it for many years.

The great thing about the ISS is that its orbit is at just the right inclination to the Earth's equator so that it occasionally passes directly overhead if you're anywhere south of Birmingham.

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Virgin Media STILL working on fix for SuperHub corrupt downloads glitch

David Harper 1
FAIL

SuperHub also drops idle TCP connections after a minute ro two

I occasionally work from home, logging in to work via SSH.

Since the July "upgrade", my SuperHub drops SSH connections after a minute or two of inactivity, which is a serious pain in the ass.

Fortunately, I'm using a Linux box, so I can tweak the kernel's TCP keepalive settings, which solves the problem.

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Why Java would still stink even if it weren't security swiss cheese

David Harper 1
FAIL

So, to summarise ...

At university, Trevor was more interested in getting drunk and trying to get laid than learning stuff, so he blames Java.

Lots of developers don't know how to test their code properly, so Trevor blames Java.

There's a word for you, Trevor. It begins with "pill" and ends with "ock". Hint: there are no missing letters.

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Don't download that app: US presidential candidates will STALK you with it

David Harper 1
Alien

Resistance is futile

I'm surprised that the Romney app doesn't automatically baptise the user into the Mormon faith.

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Doctor Who Sonic Screwdriver Universal Remote Control review

David Harper 1

Re: Repurposing the guts

It's "Expelli*AR*mus".

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Booth babes banned by Chinese gaming expo

David Harper 1

Re: virgin (but not the producer)?

"I am no virgin, I have a girlfriend and regular sex,"

I'm sorry, but inflatable girlfriends don't count.

Nor do the ones with four legs.

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Virgin Media nukes downloads after SuperHub 'upgrade'

David Harper 1

Re: Why oh why

I've never had any problems with the broadband hardware from VM, or with the service, which has been excellent for the past ten years. My original (NTL) cable modem gave me nine years of trouble-free operation, and when it did finally expire at the end of last year, VM sent out a replacement SuperHub immediately with no fuss and at no cost to me.

BT, on the other hand, failed repeatedly to fix a persistent fault on my landline, so I dropped them, and I never intend to use them again if I can possibly help it.

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Royal astro-boffin to MPs: Stop thinking about headlines

David Harper 1

The public might take scientists more seriously ...

... if journalists stopped referring to them as "boffins". You may think it's amusing, but it's not. It's a lazy shorthand for the tired old stereotype of the "mad scientist" who's not quite like "normal" people.

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Upgrade eliminates Atlantis from Google Earth

David Harper 1

There's cheese, Gromit!

You obviously missed the excellent documentary "A Grand Day Out" by that nice Mr Nick Park.

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Kindle Fire owners named keenest Android app users

David Harper 1
WTF?

Just which apps are these, then?

Could it be that the Kindle app is the one that's being monitored by Flurry's spyware, and this is skewing the figures?

Just curious.

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Met Office cuts off Linux users with new weather widgets

David Harper 1
Linux

There's a better solution

The Met Office should dump Flash, and use a platform-neutral technology instead.

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Hold on a sec - leap seconds granted a last-minute reprieve

David Harper 1

And let's not forget Idaho

The U.S. state of Idaho is in two time zones. The southern part of the state -- which includes most of the population and the state capital Boise -- keeps Mountain Time (7 hours behind GMT), but the northern part keeps Pacific Time (8 hours behind GMT), so you have to change your watch as you travel north/south, not east/west.

The reason is that north Idaho has closer economic ties to eastern Washington state (which keeps Pacific Time) than it does to the rest of Idaho, so the clocks in north Idaho match those in Washington.

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David Harper 1

The real reason why we're in this mess

The fundamental problem in the UTC versus TAI debate is that the length of the second in the SI system was defined in 1967 so that it matched the then-standard astronomical second.

That in turn had been defined in 1952 in such a way that it matched 1/86,400 of the length of the average day sometime in the middle of the 19th century.

So the SI second doesn't even begin to approximate 1/86,400 of the current day length, and this is why leap seconds are needed every few years.

It gets worse. The Earth's rotation rate is diminishing at a roughly linear rate, so the UTC-TAI clock error is growing quadratically. By the end of this century, we could be adding leap seconds every two or three months.

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Virgin Media broadband goes titsup for 3 hours

David Harper 1

No problems in Cambidge

I haven't seen any problems with my VM broadband service in Cambridge.

I've been with VM since the days when they were still NTL, and I find their broadband service very reliable. Like Alex Walsh, I've only experienced a tiny number of outages that lasted more than a few minutes.

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2011's Best... Premium Tablets

David Harper 1
FAIL

A satisfied Xoom owner writes ...

"I discovered it's nearly impossible to transfer files from my Linux box"

I don't have any problems with this. I run an ssh server on my Linux box, and an SFTP client on the Xoom. Job done.

"there's no charging over USB as you must use the proprietary brick"

USB provides power at 5 volts, but the Xoom has a 7.4 volt battery. Ye cannae change the law of physics, as a well-known Scotsman once said.

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Java tops for hackers, warns Microsoft

David Harper 1
FAIL

Oh, the irony

Microsoft taking others to task for shipping insecure software? The irony almost made my brain explode.

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Royal Mail fights to address website outages

David Harper 1
FAIL

Even more annoying

I tried to use the Royal Mail web site on Saturday to check on a delivery that I was expecting. The holding page had a list of telephone numbers for various services, including one for tracking deliveries, so I called it, and got a cheerful recorded message which told me that it would be much quicker to use the web site.

Eventually, an automated system asked me to read out the tracking reference, which I did. After a short pause, it told me the stunning news that "Your package is progressing through our network."

So, not only a FUBAR web site, but a truly useless alternative.

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Why your tech CV sucks

David Harper 1

That's a bit harsh on estate agents, don't you think?

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David Harper 1

One page, and make it count

The dreaded HR sift never gets beyond the first page, so you have to make your CV shout "HIRE ME!!!" in just one page.

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David Harper 1

Good point about foreign names

I wonder whether Dominic realises that anyone in the European Union is legally entitled to work in Britain, and they ALL have foreign names!

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Gas bill climbed £13,000 after correct online reading given

David Harper 1
FAIL

It's not just Southern Electric

It's not only Southern Electric whose web-based meter reading system can't cope with actual readings that are lower than the company's estimated reading.

A couple of months ago, I tried to enter my own gas meter reading into Scottish Power's web site. It was 20 units lower than the estimated reading on the bill I'd just received, and Scottish Power were proposing to raise my monthly payment by a hefty amount based on their estimate, so I was keen that they should get the true reading.

Their web site refused to accept my reading. It told me twice that I'd made a mistake, and on the third attempt, it told me to expect a call from their customer service department.

After waiting for several days, I called Scottish Power myself, and a friendly customer service person was happy to enter the correct reading. I suppose I should be glad that they didn't try to bill me for 10,000 non-existent units of gas!

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Put down the Java manual

David Harper 1

It makes better sense this way

I mis-read the by-line as "Dominic Connor is a quaint headhunter in the City".

The article makes a whole lot more sense this way.

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Memo to open source moralists: Put a sock in it

David Harper 1

Did El Reg just get invaded by Radio 4's Thought for the Day?

Next week ... Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks tells us why we should all adopt Agile, and the Bishop of Bath and Wells gives the Church of England's perspective on version control systems.

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SQL survives murder attempt by mutant stepchild

David Harper 1

If you think Java database apps are bad ...

... you've clearly never seen the havoc that Ruby on Rails can cause.

I recently witnessed a Rails application bring an Oracle database server to its knees because it wasn't using bind variables. Instead, the Rails app hammered the server with millions of explicit SQL queries that were identical except for the value of the column in the where clause. It pretty much killed the Oracle query cache.

The DBAs still grimace in pain when Rails is mentioned.

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David Harper 1

But ... MongoDb is web scale!

An amusing take on MySQL versus MongoDB:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2F-DItXtZs

(Some language in the clip is NSFW.)

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Sci/tech MPs want peer review, not pal review

David Harper 1

Public data release

In some areas of science, public data release is the norm.

When the Human Genome Project was launched in the early 1990s, the participants agreed to make all of their data publicly available. Organisations such as the Sanger Institute devote considerable effort into providing free public access to terabytes of genome sequence data through web sites such as ensembl.org

In astronomy, all of the major international observatories give visiting astronomers sole access to any observational data that they obtain for a very limited period, typically six months or a year. After that, it is automatically made public on the observatory's data archive web site, and anyone with an Internet connection can download it and use it however they want. That includes data from the Hubble Space Telescope, by the way.

But this does require a huge investment in storage hardware, software and network bandwidth, not to mention the personnel required to keep it all running. That places an impossible burden on small research groups, because they can hardly get adequate funding to do the science in the first place, let alone set up a long-term public archive.

It's only large, well-funded organisations such as the Sanger Institute or the Space Telescope Science Institute which can do this kind of thing, because they have sponsors (the Wellcome Trust and NASA, respectively) which support public access to data.

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David Harper 1

Scientists are human too

It's hardly surprising that there will be the occasional case of fraud or misconduct in the world of scientific research. Scientists are only human, and they are under enormous pressure to publish as many papers as possible by the funding agencies.

But we're in danger of castigating the entire scientific community because of a handful of well-publicised cases of bad behaviour. It's like saying that all journalists are lying scum, just because of a few bad apples at News International.

We should instead be celebrating the fact that the vast majority of publicly-funded scientists would never even think of committing fraud or misconduct.

We should also bear in mind that the few individuals who did commit fraud were found out by their fellow scientists, and were swiftly thrown out of the scientific community.

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Rebekah Brooks quits - Murdoch accepts this time

David Harper 1

How much was the payoff?

I'm guessing that she is going to get a seven-figure payoff from Murdoch, so I won't shed a tear for her.

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Google+ disk space cockup creates notification spam-storm

David Harper 1
FAIL

In the words of Nelson Muntz

HAAAA HAAAAAA!

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Mozilla eyes multi-threaded webpage rendering

David Harper 1
Alert

This is why you need a render farm to display web pages

The article we're discussing contains 2463 bytes of actual content, including the headline, by-line and publication date.

To display it, my browser had to download 507,673 bytes in 46 separate files.

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David Harper 1
FAIL

I remember the good old days ...

... when you could browse the web on a 66MHz 486-based PC, running Windows 3.1 in 16MB of memory. Using NCSA Mosaic.

Now, apparently, you need a freaking supercomputer to render a web page.

I blame all the Flash-powered adverts and JavaScript-driven pole-dancing squirrels.

What do you mean, you don't see the squirrels? How can you miss them? They're wearing hot-pink leotards, for Pete's sake! Oh, you've got the SquirrelBlocker plugin ...

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Psychology graduates remain poor for life, study shows

David Harper 1
Happy

At least they can look down on sociology grads

Graffiti seen above the toilet roll holder in a lavatory in the maths department of a Russell Group university, some years ago: "Sociology degrees - please take one!"

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NASA kills comms with deceased Mars rover

David Harper 1
Pint

The little rover that could

I shall raise a glass tonight to Spirit. What an amazing success story -- designed to operate for three months, it lasted SIX YEARS!

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