3327 posts • joined 18 Jun 2009
Re: And yet we're still to believe...
Like I say I fear that this is just the tip of the iceberg and the good ship SS-Bittanic is heading for a massive crash.
I think you've got that a bit wrong. But with just a bit of re-ordering, we should be able to correct it.
The SS-Bittanic has in fact hit the iceberg (and not just the tip of it). Now it's just a question of how long the pumps can keep up with the incoming deluge. And who gets to the lifeboats first - and therefore who there isn't room for, and gets to go down with the ship.
Would you trust a bank with your cash, without a government deposit guarantee? I suspect that many people would have said yes 10 years ago. Not many would now. Now add in the far smaller resources that BitCoin exchanges have - which means they're not really equipped to fight off the hackers, let alone their own staff.
I guess this is what happens when amateur hour hits the big time - and there's real money involved.
I saw a comment from someone recently who said better to get ripped off in EVE Online, at least that's got spaceships.
Oh dear. Looks like Mt.Gox is no more. The site has disappeared and the cat appears to be out of the bag on their long-term hack / losses. Or possibly internal scam, but that might just be the ex EVE player in me talking...
I think I disagree with you on Facebook though. They make substantial profits and have the sign ups of the parents of all the teenagers that may be thiking of leaving it. The parents could well stick around. So they might well end up with 20 years of life.
Of course, the valuation might go down. $100 billion for a company that's making single-digit billion profits is somewhat over the top. I can't see it growing all that much. But the only thing likely to kill it is Zuckerberg going nuts, and bankrupting it buying other companies. He's un-sackable, as with only 20% of the shares, he's got over 50% of the voting stock. I suppose that's entirely possible. He doesn't look like good CEO material to me.
That's a lotta coins!
I didn't realise there were quite that many thingycoin things going now. What exactly would motivate someone to expend scarce computing resources and electricity, in order to mine junkcoin? 'Tis very strange. Also odd to assign monetary value to them, as I bet you can never actually find a buyer.
On the other hand maybe some, or all, of them will work. It's a free market out there - so if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Therefore I propose that El Reg get off their arses, and get busy coming up with all their users really want. No, not spaceplanes or better forum software. We want none of such flim-flammery. Give us VultureCoin!
Re: "Get back here and explain your actions to us"
What I mean by bailouts, is something that'll work. Not a short-term sticking plaster to keep the Euro going.
In my opinion the Euro is still doomed at the moment. Not that it won't survive, just that without massive amounts of luck, they're going to have to do something new to make it work. Otherwise Italy, Spain, Greece, Cyprus or Portugal is going to be forced to default/leave.
The Cyprus bail-out was the most shocking. The Eurogroup deliberately destroyed the Cypriot economy to make a point, and all over a paltry couple of billion. Not that the Cypriot or Greek governments come out of this well. But the Greeks were given loans and no cash. Because of which their economy is now 25% smaller. If they'd been given loans to keep them from defaulting, and about €5-€10 billion a year for 2-3 years, they'd have had a bad recession, instead of virtual economic collapse and depression. But the electorates in Germany, France, Finland etc don't see Greece as us, but as them. I don't think you can share a working political system under those circumstances. That's why Scotland may be better off independent. The discussions about 'our oil' that I hear, lead me to think that many Scots now see the rest of the UK as a separate entity in competition. If that's the majority view anyway.
Re: "Get back here and explain your actions to us"
but...... Our government agreed to the reduction in veto powers
That's rather the point Cameron is trying to make. His government didn't agree to the largest reductin of veto power, and yet there may be nothing he can do about it. A big chunk of vetos went with Lisbon, under Labour. Another lot went under Maastricht, in Major's time, but the Conservative party of 2010 would probably have voted that treaty down.
The EU is fundamentally undemocratic because of this. The saying is that no Parliament can bind a future Parliament. So if you didn't like ID cards, you could have voted Conservaite of Lib Dem at the last election, and got rid of them. Even if the scheme had already come into force. Whereas if you don't agree with QMV on banking reform in the EU now, you're shit out of luck. There's absolutely no-one you can vote out of office to get it replaced.
That would need treaty change, and every EU government has to agree to get that, so even if something so pissed off the 500m voters of every EU country that they voted out their current governments - if Luxembourg were happy, they could stop it (with a population of 100,000).
Obviously it's hard/impossible to make the EU democratic. Basically because it's a bunch of separate states, with a necessarily odd institutional structure. But the more it gets involved in everyday politics, the worse this will seem - as the voters realise they have no power to do anything about it. Which is why public support for the EU has collapsed across Europe during the Euro crisis.
I think it's also becuase the electorates don't feel they've got anything in common with each other. Which is why there's been no proper bailouts in the Eurozone - just loans to keep the ones in most trouble from having to leave. German taxpayers for example, don't see why they should pay for Greek welfare.
The UK worked becasue our taxpayers mostly do see each other as all in it together. However we're probably over-centralised - and if the Scots really feel that they can't control the UK government they may vote to bugger off, and get a more local one that they can.
On the Competition rules, I don't know when they went through. The Parliament is no longer the rubber stamp that it was before Lisbon. It's got quite a bit more power now. But pretty much any EU rules from before 2007 had minimal input from the EP. It was all stitched up by the Commission and the Council of Ministers.
Re: Oh my dear god no.......
This is nothing to do with Microsoft.
Just like Google can offer whatever browser they like with Android or Chrome OS. Or Ubuntu for that matter. This is because they haven't been ruled a monopoly, or accused of abusing said monopoly.
In search on the other hand, Google have a monopoly, and are being accused of market abuse. Where MS aren't. Hence the deal with the Commission, as the alternative is going through the process of being accused, and maybe convicted.
Re: "Get back here and explain your actions to us"
I don't think you really understand the EU. It's a lot more complicated than that.
Some things (many more than before) are now decided by majority in the Council of Ministers.- so the UK does not have a veto. On a few key areas, all countries still have one, and can exercise it.
Secondly I don't think the Parliament has the power to do anything about this decision. They can quiz Commissioners, but they often can't overrule them. They can't sack individual commissioners, for example, but they can sack the whole lot at once. The whole commission does get a vote, so they can overrule this decision, but neither the Parliament nor the Council of Ministers can stop it.
It's an odd structure, for an unusual organisation. Most of the power lies with Council of Ministers still, but the Parliament is getting more power. It has a veto in serveral areas now too. Only the Commission can propose legislation though. And the Commission gets executive power in various areas, so that it controls Competition policy for example - and has a pretty wide brief on what it can do, and no-one can overrule it, except the European Court of Justice.
Re: As Nelson Muntz says
My brain insisted on reading that as Nelson Mandela.
I was confused for a few moments, until sanity re-asserted itself. One of these days I really must learn to read...
I suspect this is a big problem. Companies have been using the same people for years to keep the stuff maintained. Probably paying them quite well, as when they threaten to leave, it's suddenly realised how much of the system documentation is in their heads.
But not bothering to renew the resource by taking on anyone young. You can always poach a greybeard from someone else. So why bother getting 20 year-olds in, who you'll have to pay to train? Now they're finding out the answer.
Sainsbury's tried to outsource all that messy mainframe stuff a few years ago. It was a horribly expensive mistake they had to reverse. The problem is that your stock control and POS stuff is complex, interlinked and totally vital to a retailer. If you're out of stock of the thing someone needs, they'll often go to a shop that does have it - and then buy the rest of their shopping their too.
A smaller retailer I used to work for went for the worst of both worlds. All the COBOL type people were contractors. Great for the headcount, but I suspect it meant that there were no permanent employees with a picture in their head of what the mainframes were actually doing. Which is madness. It seems pretty brave to have no in-house control of systems that if they fail would destroy the business in a month.
Does it still talk after they've cooked it and rolled it up in a tortilla?
Indeed it does. It says, "after eating this, you're going to feel Ruff!"
Re: Did I miss something?
No. You'll find this is just the increasing Morris-isation of news at work. Later there'll be a TV report from Barbara Wintergreen, which will explain the whole thing.
Another gin & tonic sir?
When I click on your username, I only see 324 posts - joined Feb 14 2013.
So I suspect you changed your username on Valentine's Day last year.
Also upvotes for anonymous posts don't count. Neither do ones for a different handle.
Re: @diodesign - "This topic is closed for new posts"
Don't trust them! Their logo is a vulture. It's all the clue you need, that they plan to devour you. There is a conspiracy - they're just trying to lull you into a false sense of security, so you'll take your tinfoil hat off!
And The Register never landed on the Moon either. They faked it in Playmobil, and it was only because the camera was so blurry that no-one but me noticed.
Why will no-one believe me!!!
This is partly a market failure. The problem here is 'free' stuff. Lots of stuff on the internet is 'free', because it's being paid for in a different way. Often by advertising. This leads to market distortions - and can cause problems with innovation. It's hard to charge for a service when others give it away for free, cross-subsidised by another part of their business.
Google have an massive monopoly in search, and a lesser monopoly in advertising. Which then makes it hard to decide what the market is, who the competitors are, and how to balance harm to the operation of the market against the benefit to the consumer of getting free stuff. For example Google have used an advertising monopoly in order to out-compete other software companies on selling a phone OS. They've then cleverly leveraged that to make themselves an income in selling books and music, taking a cut of app sales, continuing to improve their mapping service, building an international WiFi location database, improving local search, getting traffic info etc...
What someone has to be watching is that they're not abusing their dominance in one market, to screw over competitors in another. For example the search monopoly gives them a dangerous amount of control of the internet.
So in an ideal world the Competition Commissioner is keeping a beady eye on them. Keeping them a bit nervous and careful. Trying to come to rulings quickly, so the competition aren't dead before the remedy happens (MS lost €1bn, but that did little good to Netscape). And hopefully not screwing up, like Sky and the football rights. Where the EC did something to 'protect competition', which meant that the customer ended up having to shell out £10 a month extra, in order to receive a service they'd already been getting - but now from 2 different suppliers.
Re: Care-o-meter: LOW <-----------------> HIGH
Destroy all Monsters,
Google have a monopoly in search. That gives them massive power. Which they can very easily abuse. Which means that competitors might get strangled at birth, denying us shiny services that might make society better.
Therefore, Google have to be watched. Which is the job of the EC Competition Commissioner. They may decide that vertical search and general search are so similar that they're really the same market. In which case Google have the search monopoly from being just plain better. In which case, nothing to see here, hooray for Google, carry on chaps.
However they may decide that specialist search engines are useful, and are a separate market. In which case, hold up Google - you're abusing your monopoly power. Stop it, or get fined to buggery.
It's technical, difficult and messy. There's probably no perfect answer. But it's bloody important that the question gets asked!
Foundem may or may not be crap. That's down to the market to determine.
The point at issue here is that there are several markets in play here. And that Google may be able to use its dominance of one (vanilla search) to control others, mapping, local search, price-comparison, specialist search, etc.
We know from earlier cases that although Google used to say that their search engine was purely automatic (that it was a set of algorithms and nothing else), that this isn't quite true. That Google can and do make manual adjustments. Obviously they also use user-feedback now, so the better sites should get more clicks, and slowly move to the top of the list. So to take the example of Google shopping, how do we know that Google don't have a sneaky little bit in the code somewhere that says, if the customer searches for price comparison on something, make sure the Google shopping comes out top? Even though Googles shopping thingymajig has been rubbish for years, from back when they brilliantly called it Froogle onwards.
So if you decide that price comparison is a different market to general search, then Google aren't legally allowed to use their monopoly in search to advantage their product in price comparison. That's what anti-trust/anti-monopoly laws are for. And is why Microsoft are about €1 billion poorer (and the Commission up by the same), even though Internet Explorer was free.
This is really important in an area where network effects are so important. The more people who use mapping software (with GPS and traffic jam tracking), the better it gets. Not that I'm saying Google maps isn't good, but it may be that by pushing people to it, Google gained an unfair advantage. I don't believe that, I think it was by investing large amounts of time, doing a good job, and creating a smartphone OS and giving it away free.
But Google's shopping service is unloved, uncared for and rubbish. Or at least it was last time I looked at it. And yet it also appears at the top of searches.
You might spend a lot of time and money creating a specialist hotel search site. Only for Google to come along and destroy your market, by denying your traffic. The problem here is that it's very hard for legislation to tell who's an SEO-abusing, link-farming parasite, and who's a brilliant company getting screwed. But the law has to do something to protect the market from Google dominance. So a balance has to be struck. Which is very hard if there are 5,000 hotel search sites - as it would be a bit unfair to force Google to put theirs on page 17 of the results. Equally it's an abuse of market dominance for them to put theirs top.
Google do have a point on relevance though. If I search for a particular local restaurant, I don't want to be redirected to a local resto search site that doesn't have a listing for the place I searched for. On the other hand, there might be a local resto search site specific to the city I'm in, that doesn't currently have the resto I'm looking for, but would be highly relevant to me if it were good. So I'd want the perfect search engine to flag that up for me anyway. So there's no right answer here, whatever the EC (or Google) do.
Re: But the move has stirred up criticism among high-ranking EC officials
Given the kicking that the EU recently handed Microsoft, that's a rather unlikely conspiracy theory you've got there.
The charitable interpretation here is that Almunia wants the deal done before the commission gets replaced in a few months. Hence he's in a hurry. I don't really know why, as a settlement in a pretty technical area with Google hardly strikes me as a great legacy. But who knows...
Re: The Old Man Of Hoy
Mr C Hill,
Thanks for posting that Old Man of Hoy link. That was absolutely brilliant.
Watching people broadcast live, on shonky equipment, in a roaring gale, on a vertical cliff face and sounding so relaxed is amazing.
This is one of the great things about the BBC. Every so often, somone has a really stupid idea. Which is usually either insanely difficult, or right at the technical edge of what their equipment can achieve. And then they wander off and do it
Admittedly the equipment is so much better, cheaper, lighter and more versatile now - so probably nothing is as hard as those early days of TV.
It's funny, I didn't remember McNaught-Davis at all when I read the article. But I clicked on the link anyway, because of fond childhood memories of the Adventure Game. And knew his voice. Although I'm sure they cheated. I thought you were only allowed to use the green cheese buns once...
Re: Bubble has burst ..... ?
nor does it have anything to do with tulips, which don't share any useful properties of a currency
in April the bubble burst to around $60, but now it's at $600. I'm not convinced how an increase of 10x in less than a year is a bubble bursting
Which is it? Is Bitcoin a currency or an investment? If it's an investment, then a cycle of oft-repeated price spikes (bubbles) is no issue at all. Jus invest wisely and take your profits when appropriate.
But you also say that tulips share none of the useful properties of currency with Bitcoin. Bitcoin has very few of the useful properties of currency. It does however share many of the non-useful properties of weird bubble investment with the stories of tuplip mania.
I can't give you timescales and values. I do think Bitcoin will fail. I may be wrong. It's certainly proved pretty resilient so far. I also don't think it will go mainstream. It's too hard to use. And you can already move your money around with credit cards and banks for less cost and hassle than Bitcoin causes. But it's too volatile and deflationary to work very well as a currency.
Re: Bubble has burst ..... ?
Only on MtGox. Because people are presumably selling cheap to get cash out - as they can't get the Bitcoins out. The other exchanges seem to be pricing around the $600 mark.
Not that I'm saying BitCoin isn't a rubbish idea, or supporting it or anything. I had a look at one of the stats sites yesterday, which indexes multiple exchanges. And it looks like a transaction of 0.1 BTC can change the global market price by about 0.5%!! Sticking 1,000 transactions through in an hour, rather than the more usual couple of hundred, can move the price down by 5%.
If you get a zero loaded for foreign transactions credit card, then 0.5% spread over the current market exchange rate is probably more than you'll pay. For much larger transactions than 0.1 of a BitCoin too. And I certainly never paid 5% on transactions between my UK bank account and my Eurozone one, when I used to live over there.
So given BitCoins are a massive risk, and are crap as a way of dealing across foreign currencies, I struggle to see what the point of them is.
Re: This is all well and good
I think the relevant parts of Dodd-Frank haven't come into force quite yet. But it also may be that it won't work anyway.
So this system will be the bit that mostly works. And the Dodd-Frank one will be the vast paper-shuffling exercise, where the bad guys manage to bribe the right people to get the required stamp on the right form, and so pass Dodd-Frank. And then hopefully still fail to sell their stuff, because of the smelters.
Re: I made the Forbes list !!!!
Ooops-oh-dear. Whooosh! *ahem* Nothing to see here!
Re: I made the Forbes list !!!!
So own up then. Was your password, "password"?
No. Don't get into that arrogant, childish, thing about how the IT literate are an elite, and everyone else is stupid. It's not really what Don Jefe said anyway. Admittedly the IT literate are an elite, when it comes to IT - those are the skills you've chosen to have after all.
The problem is that most users don't give a fuck about computers. It's not that they can't understand, it's that they're busy doing other stuff with their lives. Also they come up against a particular computer problem maybe once a year, so are bound to forget the answer. Skills you don't regularly use get rusty.
I have a friend, who's the perfect candidate to be good at computers. He's got good maths and engineering skills - a decent memory, and an organised mind. But he's a designer. He likes to think in terms of space, aesthetic and colour. He can look at a problem from unusual angles, and is able to translate a client's vague, inexpert ramblings into a stunning piece of hand-built furniture. Or re-design the interior of a house. Last time I fixed his computer and tried to explain how to solve the problem he said, "don't talk to me about that technical stuff - I understand wood."
Yet, if you give him a complex, interlocking problem involving esoteric fixings, weird shapes and mechanical loadings in order to make his pretty wooden stuff work - he's up for the technical challenge. He's happy with plumbing, or fixing a motorbike. He came round to dinner at my new flat, and was able to solve the space problem in my kitchen / living room in about ten minutes of me failing to describe exactly what I wanted. Simultaneously coming up with the idea, describing it to me and sketching 2 new bits of furniture upside down, so I could read it from the other side of the table.
My Mum is similar. A dangerous incompetent in charge of a computer. Uninterested by why it went wrong, just wanting email to work now. But she has a masters degree in her subject and her skills are still in demand, as she's just started a new consulting gig at 75. Can she remember her password? Maybe, maybe not. Can she help solve the behavioural problems of disabled kids and pilot their parents through the hideously complex legal and bureaucratic minefield of the education, legal and social security systems? Very probably. Society is far better served by her spending her time doing that (or just being a granny), and me fixing her pooter.
Which suggests that some bore holes drilled into ares normally solid could act as safety vents and turn a Krakatoa like eruption into a a (very) large number of dribbles.
That's all very well. But I've seen various documentaries on both film and TV where people start drilling into volcanoes, or the centre of the Earth. And invariably, every such project ends in earthquakes, fireballs and megadeath, or the break out of demonic hordes.
So I'd prefer my volcanic eruptions to be left as nature intended. And to be very very far away. Which is why I choose to live in boring old Blighty.
If the peanut butter in your fridge is at 750°C, then your fridge has probably malfunctioned. It may even be on fire...
Also, biting into the subsequent peanut butter sandwich might be quite painful. It would be almost as hot as biting into a Pop Tart*.
* Or napalm covered in cardboard, as I once saw them described. To be fair, the cardboard is covered in sugar...
Re: domain name explosion
I can maybe see something like .bank taking off. If they do it properly. A TV adveritising campaign, funded by really high registration fees - and regulation of who's allowed to sign up.
Then you could get the message that if a website doesn't end in .bank, it's probably fraud.
But as I suspect that most people don't know how domain work, and don't know which dot the bank should come after, they'll probably happily click on www.scam.bank.ru/all-your-money-belong-to-us, thinking they're totally safe.
So I withdraw that. .cymru / .wales and .scot are probably fair enough. And given the weird way banks chuck their secure sites over so many seemingly random sub-domains, it'll make me feel a bit happier if there's a .barclays or a .natwest.
But this is just going to lead to confusion, or rather more likely, disinterest. The public won't notice. In the same way that paying millions for car.com did not a business make in the dot.com bust, I suspect that paying hundredds for something.car will fail just as badly. If more cheaply...
Re: Rise of the idiots
I have a regular email correspondence with a friend. About Headlines Chris Morris must have written. A few recent ones are:
Dead Recluse Eaten by Own House Cats
Helpful Badger Unearths Medieval Graves
Husband Dies After Rape By 6 Wives
WATCH: Decapitated Snake Bites ITSELF
Those last three are from the Huffington Post...
"the priests who say they need to pack a piece to keep the peace" - straight off The Day Today
Tearful skin-beaters say good bye to the BumChum - Low-end throb monitor now handled by BC Gigster
German shoppers slug it out with salami - Parmesan 'dagger' contributes to trolley-rage casualties
Thanks for those last 2 El Reg...
Re: What a load of old pony
Re: domain name explosion
The only people who win out are the domain registrars as companies run to grab their name in multiple places.
That comment is unfair to the poor domain registrars.
I'm sure the scammers will also gain from this new gTLD mess...
An email a week?
I've had an email a week from our domain registrar, for the last 2 weeks. Offering me the delights of new domains for the company. Each had 7 new ones on. We could have had .photo or .camera - not sure why the redundency. Well OK, I am sure why. FEES! Lovely, delicious, tasty, yummy fees! Bonus ahoy!
We do a lot of work in London, so I did consider that as a defensive buy for all of 30 seconds. We will have to get the .uk ones to protect our .co.uk names I think. There's a rival company out there with a similar name who might nick ours if not. So I guess the system is working as designed by Nominet... Bonuses all round!
I must confess I did briefly toy with getting a new personal email address though. Who wouldn't fancy Iain't@Spartacus.guru?
Re: Nicely timed
What will happen to the .scot / .scotland domain if Scotland does go for independence? Suirely they'll hav ea proper country code then, making the whole investment pointless.
In as much as it isn't pointless already of course? But I can see people going for these regional/national new gTLDs. .cymru ought to do OK for example. I have very low expectations of .camera and .photo.
Re: What a load of old pony
Albert Bridges... Fridges?
I couldn't find a rhyme for embankments sadly...
There must be a pretty small community of people who all know each other. Or they're putting a lot of trust in what are by definition other criminals.
Even in a small group of people who know each other online, some people can build up trust over time - but if the motivation is right, might decide it's time to leave the community. With a big pile o' cash...
Back when I played EVE Online there were many banks - and an EVE stock market. I believe this is no longer true, due to the repeated scams and failures. I knew (online and voice only though) one of the medium-sized bankers. Who I think ended up stealing several tens of billions of ISK. I think he decided the workload was too high, and/or fancied a change. Paid back all the investors he knew in-game or was in an Alliance with, then kept the rest. I think 1 billion ISK buys you about £30-£40 of subscription - so reasonably serious monetary value. At the time there was still a market on eBay, I'm not sure if that's true anymore.
Anyway the fun and games over Silk Road looks very familiar. Silk Road 3 gets dubiously hacked.
That's all where there's no comeback though. If the cyber-crims are tied in with scary types with guns, things might be different. At least if their real-world identities are known, or can be found out.
Stealing virtual money (with some realy mometary value) from gamers is rather different to stealing virtual money from criminals.
Tee hee! Thanks for this one: "Non-core business" (Areas we’ve failed in)
I've always liked 'we plan to execute on this area going forward'. As it basically means 'we've run this area like drunken chimps for the last year or two, but have now shouted at the regional manager / vice president in question, in hopes that the useless spanner will pull his finger out next year.'
'Our customers are important to us' - which means "hand over the money scumbags!"
'We continue to invest in our people' means - "Right John. Hire another 1,000 monkeys on minimum wage. I'm just off to treasury to bung another nought on the end of our bonuses."
I keep one treasured spam
It will hopefully stay in my office spam folder for eternity.
This is as much a mockery of myself, as the spammer in question.
It's one of those your bank's been accessed, fill in this form and send it back to us urgently ones. The form is probably going to be a malicious zip.
However in accordance with Murphy's law, the stupid spammer has forgotten to attach the file to the email. So I have visions of his servers churning out a few million of the buggers, only for him to spot the next day what he'd forgotten.
My record was sending a form out at work to 40 people to be filled in, with delivery and read receipts (as the buggers never returned them). I'd had about 70 emails ping back into my inbox already, in under 5 minutes, when I got the quick call to tell me I'd forgotten the attachment. Doh! About 150 emails later...
Re: "Next week, I’m going to the office in a pink-and-blue jumpsuit."
I did wonder if Mr Dabbs felt that the hairbrush scam was a bit of a cruel joke, given his apparent lack of... need for one. So Clive James would also be more appropriate than Anneka there as well.
Thanks for letting us know what was in the safe though.
Why not code?
Education as giving kids basic skills for business is a fucking awful, drab way to try to bring people up. In this it's also very hard for politicians. They're trying to get to grips with what needs to be taught, and fighting an educational establishment that often has different views entirely. Sometimes self-interested, sometimes genuinely held beliefs. And then both are fighting the teachers on the ground, who all have their own ideas of what to do, and different skills.
Then we add in the voters' opinions. So you Andrew seem to suggest in your article that calculus is basic maths. I venture to disagree. Maths is compulsory up to GCSE. I've never had to use calculus. Or even half the algebra I was taught in maths. So some of the harder stuff can safely be left until A-Level.
We're all forced to learn at least one foreign langauge, even though very few of us will become fluent at it, some will never use what they do pick up, and English is currently the global language of choice. However this exposure is a good thing, and useful for various reasons. Including the grammar that we don't seem to get in actual English lessons. I was forced to do latin, german and french - which have all been useful in their various ways.
Surely education should be doing 2 things. Firslty there's basic life skills. So the 3Rs (that aren't). Literacy and numeracy are obviously vital things to have. I think we'd also benefit from some kind of home economics / cookery as well. And I personally think we ought to have some kind of civics / PSE / whatever it's called this week. But done properly - and actually taken seriously as a subject. I think we really ought to be learning something about politics, basic financial education (what's a mortgage / what's a pension), how society works - oh and media studies (i.e. how not to get misled by the Mail/Guardian/etc). Plus some PE / sport. Maybe some sort of woodwork/metalwork/plumbing?
Next you've got 'tasters'. You don't learn how to do 'proper' history before A-Level. Even then you can probably pass the exams without doing history justice. But if you have a decent teacher, then the only difference between A-Level and degree level is how much research you do for each essay. And how many words it is... But you can still learn about the past, and how are you going to know you want to try it later on, if you don't have a go first.
So that gives you your history, geography, economics, french, biology, chemistry etc. You do them to get a bit of a basis for how the world works, and just for the general value of being educated. But also to see what's available and what you're interested in, so you can then do further study. There is an argument for specialising less - even up to first year of degree, so you keep narrowing your academic choices - but not nearly so much as we do. Until you finally end up specialising as late as the last 2 or 3 years of a degree course. That's an argument I often read, and I'm not sure what I think about it.
This is also where english and maths go. They start as core subjects, but then wander off into areas like literature/drama/criticism or calculus. Which are probably not for everyone, and become areas to specialise in at A-Level or university.
So why not coding? How will you know if you like it, if you've never had a go at it. There's a good argument that computers are now so important that computing/technology ought to get added to the 'core skills' side of education. If not, it should at least be taught to everyone as a 'taster' subject - to attract people into later study. There needs to be some spreadsheets and word-processor stuff, and some how to use the internet. But a bit of how computers work would be nice, and surely that includes some basic idea of what coding is? I don't see why you're so dismissive of this. It's a subject (like languages and science) that education doesn't do well. Because there aren't enough teachers who know it. The BBC had a computer built back in the 80s in order to push the subject. Why not a year of coding now?
While I'm typing out my education wall of text... It would also be far better not to teach everything in isolation. Surely learning about bakery for example is a good skill to have, and involves biology, chemistry and basic numeracy. Or learning about healthy diet / exercise, which is biology and PE - as well as going into economics understanding marketing and society, and how to avoid getting manipulated into eating shit ready meals when you can make something healthy, delicious and nutritious in under ten minutes - if you're pushed for time. We got a tiny bit of the sports science side of PE in sixth form, and it was far more useful and interesting than GCSE geography.
Also we really need to drop this obsession with academic study. Yes, we should be sending peole to university to study english. So an A-Level is a good use of their time for 2 years first. The same is true for history, maths, the sciences etc. But we should also be teaching plumbing and electrics to 16 year-olds. That choice should be available too! Not everyone wants to study in an academic way. We need technical colleges again. I can imagine that computer courses of various types would be taught at those, as well as the more academic, theoretical stuff, that leads on to university courses.
Re: Another brick in the wall...?
Surely this is a good thing.
I'm no massive fan of Google. I've been quite rude about them. In fact, about this very issue, since the days of Android 2.3 being a year old and devices still being released on 2.1 - while Google did nothing.
This doesn't stop people forking Android. Since they're already not allowed to use Google Play. People are still free to do that. Although there's a separate argument that Google are moving more and more services out of the open source bit, and into their closed source apps...
What Google seem to be doing here, is giving the manufacturers a gentle kicking. While still giving them time to be slow and release stuff on old versions, they're now saying please stop taking the piss and shipping stuff which has software that's more than 9 months out of date.
Now if they can also get the manufacturers and networks to start passing on security and bug patches (even if not actual updates), we'll really be getting somewhere.
Geek's Guide to brown-nosing
While I'm on the subject of crawling to El Reg - thanks for the Geek's Guides articles.
I've enjoyed them all, including some quite weird places. And I've even planned a trip with a mate up to Bletchley to see the National Computing Museum because of one. Let's hope all the shennanigans going on there don't bugger things up. Bravo!
Order of the Brown-Nose
I've decided to launch a new thread. Which I hope people will post on every-so-often. Just because this forum is full of 'why don't you do this?' posts, complaints and general grumpiness. As is to be expected. The unhappy customer is apparently 5-10 times as likely to spread the bad news than the other way round. And to be fair, there's a lot of constructive suggestions.
But I'm currently feeling all warm and nostalgiically glowing, after reading Tony Smith's piece on the Amstrad C64. Ahhh. Happy days. And so I find myself in benevolent mood.
So anyway, I thought that I should say that article was nice. Time, research and effort had been spent on writing it, and it was about a subject bound to interest some of us. So I was considering pinging a quick email to El Reg saying thanks, but decided to do it publicly.
Obviously our vulture overlords have logs,but I decided it would be nice to have a 'well done' thread. Positive feedback is also good.
So thanks for the Amstrad anniversary article. And all the other 80s micro articles and 'This Old Box' stuff. I've enjoyed reading it.
There were some interesting games.
I've just remembered a World War III game I played on the CPC464. It was called Theatre Europe. You had to fight off the Warsaw Pact hordes, or destroy the imperialist capitalist pig-dogs - depending on your taste.
I remember that when you decided to go chemical or nuclear there was a fake teletype screen, and it told you to wait for launch code authorisation. Then a Birmingham phone number came up, which you were supposed to call for your launch codes. Then the nukes flew.
I once plucked up couraget to dial the number, and was rather shocked when it actually rang. All courage deserted me, and I quickly slammed the phone down. I hope that was the software firm's number, and not some random house, or cab firm. I'm assuming the Prime Minister has already got access to his launch codes, and doesn't have to ring up ABABABABAB Cars in Brummie, in order to get them...
Many happy hours wasted. As well as the arcade style games popular at the time, I'm remember there were quite a few innovative ones, that were a lot more complex. Aliens was probably my first go at a first-person-shooter. If you didn't get to the control room in time, then the lights went out, and you were a sitting duck for the face-huggers.
Re: History often comes with rose-tinted specs
The quote I remember most about Sugar is that home computers weren't magic, they were just boxes filled with chips.
So Sugar knew his niche. His niche wasn't 'best'. Or state of the art. His niche was affordable. The CPC was that, and ran pretty nicely. It had decent sound and graphics, for the time. And didn't have to use the family telly. You could also use it for more grown-up stuff. Ours was just a toy, but my friend's family had the CPC128 with disk drive. Which also got used for games, but did the family paperwork - and I think his Mum used it to word process. She was a freelance translator. Did russian. I've no idea if you could do cyrillic on the thing, but I'd guess a lot of her work was russian to english anyway.
Price can be its own innovation. The PCW was innovative. Not becasue it could do anything special, but because it was so damned cheap, and was good enough to run a small business on. In a way that the earlier micros barely were. The PCW could do office work, came with screen and printer, didn't take up much space, and was dead cheap. I think under £500 - with some softare. It was also reasonably easy to use, by the standards of the time, and had a brilliant user manual.
One of the comments Sugar made in the manual for the NC100 Notebook (PDA thingy) was that he was rubbish at computers, and he insisted on it being made easy enough for him to use. Now that may just be marketing blurb, but it did have a really good UI, and came with a thick manual - that was well-written. It was £100 in about 1990. My PC at the time came with a similar sized manual, that was much, much worse. And that cost £1,200. I haven't seen a manual on a PC since. Whereas the 3 Amstrad computers I've had - have all come with well laid-out, well written and therefore expensive, documentation. That's clearly down to Sugar. Price and ease of use are pretty good things to aim for, in my book...
If your parents also had the Amstrad Hi-Fi, you could use the twin cassette decks to do your copying too.
How could I forget Elite on the 464. I wasted far too long failing to be much good at that game. Don't think I even managed Dangerous.
Re: I remember those 3" Floppy disks
As I recall, my friend had one of the early Amstrad IBM 'compatibles' - well almost compatibles. And it had 3" disks and a turbo mode, or something odd like that. Running Windows 3.0 or 3.1.
Their next model went to 3.5" I think, because I was looking to buy a PC myself at that point.
Although one thing I will say for them, in the 3-4 years I used my PCW, I didn't have a single disc failure. Which I definitely can't say for the decent quality 3.5" ones I had for my later PC.
Re: History often comes with rose-tinted specs
He may be a git on the Apprentice. And I don't think Tottenham fans recall him all that fondly either. But Alan Sugar did a lot of good stuff back then.
I know people were sniffy about the sound quality of his Hi-Fi kit. But I don't think my parents could have afforded anything better. So the kit I got to use as kid with twin tape decks, radio and record player in glass cabinet was good enough. My brothers could buy a cheap-ish CPC464 that I got to play with. It would have got a lot less use if it had needed to use the main TV. I never did any proper programming on it, but I learned to like computers, and not be worried by them.
Then I got my first computer. A PCW. With CP/M, Locoscript and Mallard Basic. Plus Locosoft Logo and Graham Gooch's Test Cricket. Weirdly if ever you brought Gooch on to bowl, he always got a wicket...
Anyway this was great for school work, and probably set me on the road to being decent at computer-y stuff. No internets, and it didn't even occur to me to see if there was a weekly PCW user magazine to subscribe to - so I had to learn to use it myself. But that was OK because they shipped it with a really good, spiral bound, manual. This is the first machine where I gave tech support to a mate.
I even had an Amstrad NC100 - a little AA battery powered PDA thing, that was a mostly full-sized keyboard with a 3 line LCD screen. Rather neat actually.
All this stuff came with really good manuals, decent amounts of software, and all the required peripherals and cables. Plus upgrades available if you needed them. At a time when the industry was full of cowboys, who'd sling any old thing out - finished or not.
Plus I've heard a few stories that YouView was a nightmarish competitive-vendor-argue-fest of backstabbing and horrifically complicated ideas that was still many years from market when Sugar was brought in. And he did a lot of pruning, and by all accounts quite a bit of arse-kicking, in order to come out with something that both works - and seems to have a decent user interface.
He also gave us the Emailer and The Apprentice. Ahem! But despite that, I've still got a soft-spot for the old beardy git.
All Hail Tony Smith!
Thanks for that. You really got my nostalgia flowing. Ah happy days of youth. The tape machine was incredibly reliable on the old CPC464, compared with my friends with Speccies and the like. It wasn't often that it let you down. Although on about level 87 of Gauntlet it did just that to me. I still remember that game really fondly - but never got past 50 again.
Also played a rather good wargame about Operation Market Garden, the parachute landings around Arnhem. Roland on the Ropes, something with Grand Prix in the title and Ace of Aces. That last one was good because if you didn't shoot the enemy down fast enough, but managed to survive air-to-air combat, it did you no good as they'd bombed your runways. So you just had to fly around until you ran out of fuel and crashed. Don't remember much else now.
Now I have to work for a living. Booo! But computer games start almost insantly, and I can play things on my iPad that make the CPC464 look like a pocket calculator.
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