* Posts by SImon Hobson

749 posts • joined 9 Sep 2006

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UK.gov pushes for SWIFT ACTION against nuisance calls, threatens £500k fines

SImon Hobson

> Postal services worldwide started refusing incoming nigerian mail in the late 1990s because investigations showed that more than 1/3 of the postage stamps on incoming mail were fakes and the amount of mail was frequently misdeclared - which meant they weren't being paid correctly for delivery.

Indeed, and that's where I'd start.

If UK telcos were required to refuse calls from "dodgy" (mostly foreign) telcos then the problem would soon reduce considerably. If a telco find that it can't terminate calls made by it's subscribers then it faces two choices - either fix it's problems or see it's customers leave very quickly. Since the latter means certain death, and probably legal action by the shareholders against the board, they will most likely clean up their act.

But what is "dodgy" ? I guess a system like the big mail providers use - if enough customer flag your mail (call) as spam then the sender gets blacklisted. Needs some oversight to avoid gaming of the system, but it would quickly weed out the bad telcos that are permitting this sort of thing.

Another clue - if the data received is shown to be bad, then the telco needs to up it's game.

Going back a while as there were valid reasons for a telco to not have the required data (old systems etc). I find it hard to believe that any of those are still valid.

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Caterham Seven 160 review: The Raspberry Pi of motoring

SImon Hobson

Re: Ohio Superboard II

Ditto, takes me back "a bit"

Great base for experimentation and modifications :-)

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Pssst. Want to buy a timeshare in the clouds?

SImon Hobson

LMFTFY

>> Google is ... so it can feed you ads and sell you stuff.

Surely that should say "feed you ads and sell you."

Google are not selling stuff to you, they are selling you to their customers.

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Marriott fined $600k for deliberate JAMMING of guests' Wi-Fi hotspots

SImon Hobson

Re: Harvey's law

> They weren't interferring with the radio signal, they were doing it on the data layer.

It's making a transmission with the sole function to disrupt legal use of a facility. So while you might not technically be interfering with the user's transmitted radio signal, you are deliberately interfering with another user's use of the band. In the UK this would be illegal :

Wireless Telegraphy Act 2006, Section 68 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/36/section/68

"A person commits an offence if he uses apparatus for the purpose of interfering with wireless telegraphy."

Good to see it slapped down. Now if only our UK bodies could stop spending all their effort on coming up with excuses not to deal with interference caused by Powerline adapters.

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Microsoft vs the long arm of US law: Straight outta Dublin

SImon Hobson

Re: What about...

> What about...

> ...companies that have a subsidiary in the US, are they vulnerable to US government pressure?

Potentially yes.

I used to work for a company that was part owned by a US one. While not in any way under US jurisdiction we had to comply with some US tax law (Sarbanes-Oxley) - because otherwise our US parent couldn't. However all that meant was having certain controls in place to ensure that accounts were accurate after (IIRC) the Enron and Worldcom scandals.

But that was different - complying with the US law didn't require us to break UK law.

Had our parent been required to hand over our (for example) customer data then that would have been another matter. I've no idea what would have happened as neither us nor the parent would have had the financial clout to fight it.

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SImon Hobson

Re: @ Robert Long 1

> A company is not a natural entity, it's just a bunch of people trying to avoid things - risk, responsibility, and so on.

That latter bit may well be true, but in law, a company is a "legal entity" in it's own right - in a lot of legal areas you can interchange "company" and "person". In this case, previous comments are correct - the legal entity which is holding the data is Microsoft Ireland - a separate entity to Microsoft US. Yes there is a relationship where (I assume) Microsoft (US) owns 100% of the shares in Microsoft (Ireland) - but they ARE separate legal entities.

Irrespective of what any US court thinks - it would be a criminal act for Microsoft (Ireland) to hand over (or allow to be taken remotely) any of the data. Given the profile, I cannot see the Irish regulators turning a blind eye - and if they did, the EU regulators would then start sticking their nose in.

Unless MS win their appeal, it's tough either way - they either get stuffed in the US, or they stuffed in the EU !

What would make things even more interesting would be if someone (especially the person who's data is being sought) with data held my Microsoft (Ireland) applied to a court for a specific injunction preventing the export of data. You now have two courts ordering complete opposites.

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Bono: Apple will sort out monetising music where the labels failed

SImon Hobson

Hmm, sounds like a big DRM sandwich - and I have to assume, also a closed proprietary format designed to keep existing users locked in and competitors locked out.

As to production/technical quality - well I have to agree. I'm no audiophile, my hearing isn't that great, but even I can spot something that's been heavily compressed to make it sound like it's turned up to 11.

As an aside, I once went to a gig at a small local venue. The music was turned up to 11 and the clipping distortion was just horrible. At one point I stepped outside for a breather - both from the noise and from the heat, and as it happened, from outside the volume was about right ! Someone else doing the same opened the conversation with "have you had your ears syringed lately ?" before quickly moving on to a recommendation for olive oil for softening up ear wax (it does work BTW). I have to admit that I've never heard such an opener before or since !

We then had a conversation on production/technical values, and having ascertained that I know how to solder plugs on and leave then still usable, expressed an interest in getting me involved in local events as there's a shortage of people who actually understand how the electronics stuff works. Really tempting but I was already overcommitted for my spare time.

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Driving with an Apple Watch could land you with a £100 FINE

SImon Hobson

Re: Speedo?

> I've always wondered how come it take longer to glance at the speedo than it does to check the mirrors.

It doesn't take longer to "glance". It does take longer to check your accurate speed. It also depends on how good (or not) your eyesight is and how long it takes to adjust your focus - yes, I used to respond to that one with "WTF ?" but as the old elapsed time meter rolls round, I'm realising that it is a factor (especially if there is a significant difference in brightness between inside and outside, and some cars have crap instruments in this respect).

TL;DR version ?

I can hold "about" any speed with only occasional glances at the speedo. If I were in Brunstrom* Country with a stupid policy then I'd have to spend far too long looking at the speedo to be sure not to creep a smidgen over some arbitrary number.

* Thankfully that dangerous idiot was hoisted by his own petard.

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Italy's High Court orders HP to refund punter for putting Windows on PC

SImon Hobson

Re: what about UEFI?

> Don't get me started on the "Why won't my old scanner or printer work with Linux??"

Vs the "Why won't my (not very old) old scanner or printer work with Windows??"

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SImon Hobson

Re: Getting a Microsoft Tax Refund?

ON the other hand, taking back a system that's been unpacked etc and asking for a full refund will cost the retailer a lot more as they can no longer sell it as "new and unopened". Either that, or it'll have to go back and someone will have to re-image and repack it which would cost even more !

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European Court of Justice allows digitisation of library books

SImon Hobson

Re: Creation and Duplication

> Does it really, really cost that much to that such simple typesetting?

Well no, if it's all text then it doesn't take all that long to munge the finished manuscript into a fully laid out file ready for printing - I've done it several times and once the format was defined it got fairly easy. But note that I said "finished manuscript" ?

When the author has finished writing down those words (which as pointed out may take years), there's still a lot of work to be done. The services of a professional proofreader & editor are essential - anyone who's done it will know that you cannot spot many errors in your own work as you "know" what is supposed to be there and your mind corrects on the fly.

And then there is editing to suit local factors - Mum had one of her books accepted by a US publisher and they ravaged it to suit their language (pity they didn't do it manually as "autocorrect" made some very interesting alterations to the text !

All this doesn't come cheap - and has to be amortised over the expected run. This means a high per-copy cost for most books.

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Smart meters in UK homes will only save folks a lousy £26 a year

SImon Hobson

Re: What about gas?

> ...but as I understand it they intend to make gas meters smart too.

Yes

> Does that mean 2 displays and when the heating is on on a cold night it indicates that I should turn the boiler off.

Dunno about 2 displays, but yes I suspect there may be an element of "making" you turn the heating off/down.

I say "making" as like electricity it's all down to rationing in all but name. As already pointed out, because previous governments (of all colours) failed in their duty to consider the long term rather than what's popular enough to get them re-elected in 5 years time, we have an impending shortage of *reliable* generating capacity. Late 2010 was a warning - demand was high, generation from wind was "not worth mentioning" and pretty well everything we had was running (even diesel generators at times). Over the next few years, a very significant amount of large plant is due to be shutdown - it won't be long before we do not have the capacity to meet the demand seen in 2010. Smart metering is all about being able to hike the price at such times (ie the price will be significantly higher than the tariff you signed up to) to "persuade" people to cut back. Of course, the people who will do that most will be the people most at risk - the ones who are already making the "heat or eat" choices. If that fails, then it allows more fine grained ability to turn off consumers - those of us who are old enough will remember the rolling power cuts of the 70s.

As for the argument that people will arrange (by wahtever means) to run the washing machine during cheap hours. Well thank you so f***ing much - I really want the neighbour's washing machine chugging away below me/above me/through the wall when I'm trying to sleep. Not to mention the increased risk of deaths from fire when they are run while no-one is around (and awake).

On the other hand, if they hadn't forced the washing machines to use more electricity (instead of using your cheaper gas-heated water) ...

> I guess a smart meter will need an electricity supply which I will have to pay for. If they use batteries they won't last long judging by the number of charges my mobile needs.

Dunno about that, but AFAICT they are talking about batteries - and yes they will need replacing eventually. I've heard mention of a 10 year life, but I too find that hard to believe once you add the mobile phone bit. But at least with gas they can store it, so other than having to size the pipes for peak flow, they don't have the same problems as with lecky.

> Also what happens when the hackers decide to have fun and turn the power off or screw up the readings.

We shall see. Might take a while, but how long until a "granny killed by hacked meter" story hits the red tops.

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Show us your Five-Eyes SECRETS says Privacy International

SImon Hobson

Re: I like it!

>> take a look at IAM, the advanced driving organisation. It is being corrupted by environmentalists and the anti-speed lobby to the point that many members are genuinely considering dropping their subscriptions. It was supposed to be about safe driving, not politics, the environment, or numerical tin discs at the side of the road.

Ah, not just me that's spotted that then. I actually wrote and told them that when I see "compliance with speed limits" mentioned (in the context of it being something to be improved/a measure of success) then I know the article is bull manure and nothing to do with road safety.

Funny, I don't think I got a reply !

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BBC Trust candidate defends licence fee, says evaders are CRIMINALS

SImon Hobson

Re: Main thing

> What I'd like to see hwoever, is somebody making a reasonably priced 'TV' only minus the transmission ability.

Don't plug an arial in - then you have a TV minus the broadcast reception bit. It's 100% legal. (assuming you don't have something else like a satellite receiver plugged in !). If you want to be doubly sure, short the inner and outer of an arial plug and put that in the socket.

When the nastygrams arrive - tell them politely that you do not have any equipment capable of receiving broadcast transmissions as defined in the Wireless Telegraphy Act. If they don't accept that, then I'd suggest reporting them for harassment (Protection from Harassment Act 1997). If everyone so affected were to report them, then eventually the Police would get fed up and ask for something to be done. And write a letter of complaint to your MP as well.

Moaning on the comments board of an IT news site won't change anything !

Oh yes, if they land up on your doorstep, refuse them access - and inform them that you expressly remove any permission they may have assumed to enter your property. If they don't leave immediately, they are then trespassing which becomes a criminal offence after you've instructed them to leave if they fail to do so (or if they re-enter after you've refused them permission). "Your property" includes your garden, path, and drive.

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Warrantless phone snooping HAPPENS ALL THE TIME in Blighty

SImon Hobson

Re: Strangely

> And since they were into criminal conduct the met had every right to investigate who they were contacting.

Yes, but the article doesn't suggest otherwise. What the article is pointing out is that the police (in this sort of situation) can effectively do what they want with no checks and balances. If they wanted to (for example) search your house looking for evidence, then they'd need to apply for a warrant - and part of that is showing that you have reasonable grounds for needing to search. They can't just decide "he's a likely perp" and search his house looking for evidence to justify the search (ie find something and then decide what offence it can be used to support.)

With comms data, the Police can effectively just go ahead with a fishing trip - there's no oversight to restrain that. *THAT* is the point that's being made.

I can see no valid reason that a warrant shouldn't be needed in the digital domain - so an independent person (judge) can tell them to sod off if their reason is "we want to see if he's been up to no good".

And in this case, it would seem that there would be no reason to withhold a warrant. But this case happens to come with a report that lays out what the police can do and do do - that's the interesting bit.

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KER-CHING! CryptoWall ransomware scam rakes in $1 MEEELLION

SImon Hobson

Re: "victim paid $10,000 for the release of their files"

Which is why any scheme worthy of the name "backup" includes offline (and offsite) copies. Perhaps not updated as often as the local ones, but all the same - if your house burns down then your in-house backups are as useful as the original files that also went up in the flames.

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Brit Sci-Fi author Alastair Reynolds says MS Word 'drives me to distraction'

SImon Hobson

Re: @ Fred Flintstone

> Where practically all WP packages go wrong is that they permit localised formatting attributes, which means a Godawful amount of work post production because you have to strip ALL of it out and replace the formatting attributes with styling markers before you can start working on the look and presentation of the content.

Speaking as someone who's done the process from writer's output to PDFs for the printer (all small run POD apart from the very first which was offset printed), I agree. It's OK where the formatting is sparse, but where there's a lot of (say italics for quotes) then it's a right PITA. Either going through searching for the styles and inserting markers before stripping it back to plain text to get rid of all the random font and size changes, or doing search and replace on styles until all the text is using the present style sheet - both take time and effort.

But I just let Mum get on with her writing - asking her to change would be hard seeing as after "some years" she still needs to search the keyboard for some of the letters !

But as many posters have missed, the problem is when interacting with editors/publishers where they want to be able to turn on "track changes" and start editing. Boy, the output from that was fun to work with the first time I came across it :-(

Plug, http://magpiesnestpublishing,.co.uk/ if I can get away with it ;-)

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Steve Jobs had BETTER BALLS than Atari, says Apple mouse designer

SImon Hobson

Nooooh, their balls were terrible

They used to use some very lightweight balls - so there was little grip on the surface and the ball would easily skid once a bit of crud built up on the rollers. Fortunately, one of our bits and pieces suppliers sold replacement balls with a steel centre which was a direct replacement - made the whole thing work so much better. In fact, with a heavyweight ball installed (and hence extra grip), the mouse would often still work when the movement shared a lot in common with riding a bicycle on a cobbled street due to the crud buildup on the rollers. Installed loads for customers - always kept heavy balls in hand stock.

I do recall having a trackball for a while. It was great, especially on a desk with no space to move a mouse around amongst all the rubbish various paperwork :-/

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The internet just BROKE under its own weight – we explain how

SImon Hobson

Re: IPv6 like OSI is far more complex than necessary

Actually, end users and the SMBs do care - but not in the way you think, and they probably don't make the connection between NAT and the "costs" they see.

I can tell that you truly haven't seen the full scale of the horrors NAT creates - and the costs that go with it. Just one example, any large VoIP provider has to provide a rack full of proxy gateways because SIP is well and truly f*cked by NAT. It may, given some favourable combination of stuff, be possible for the end user device to work out that NAT and work around it - but that really does mean "some favourable combination". Throw a Zyxel router in and it's all f*cked for good - been there, had to tell the customer "replace the router if you want <something> to work" thanks to their brain dead mangle all ports randomly approach to NAT. OK, that latter one is extreme but I've come across it. Eliminate NAT and the VoIP proxy requirement goes - and so does a chunk of cost to the VoIP provider - which means lower cost to the customer.

Really, the fact that NAT works now is simply down to a load of sticking plasters that "mostly" hold things together. It really does impose a lot of restrictions. Someone mentioned the need for Skype to provide a "man in the middle" to get a flow going - as in you and your mate can't just "plug something in and talk to each other" without either an outside assistant or manually configuring port forwards. A lot of the workarounds involve going through a third party - as in the "remotely controllable <IoT object>" that only really works as long as the provider offers you a cloud service to use it through - or you manually configure port forwarding. Obviously, a lot of vendors see that as an advantage as it means you have to use their service and in the process given them free reign to mine your data and sell you as a product.

TLDR version.

NAT costs big time - in monetary cost for all the infrastructure and resources needed to work around it, and also in loss of flexibility in that it makes it very very much harder to run distributed stuff.

Having said all that, I am inclined to think that NPTv6 would be a useful tool in many cases. It needs to have some standard tools to allow the application to directly get the mapping information from the gateway(s) and thus work out the global prefix it's mapped to - but given that, it is not half as evil as NAPTv4.

What I do worry about is that if made available, then pretty well everyone would implement it because "we always have NAT" regardless of whether they need it. Ie, too many people couldn't get their heads around not having this crutch to lean on.

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Brits STUNG for up to £625 when they try to cancel broadband

SImon Hobson

> Some ISPs are far better than others about badgering Openreach to actually fix duff lines

It's worse - some specifically pay less to get a worse service. Put another way, BTOR have multiple charging structures - if you want decent fault response times you pay more than if you will accept "when you feel like looking at it". Ever wondered why some ISPs can charge less than others ? There's one element.

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BT slapped down by BSkyB over O2 broadband 'switch off' porkies

SImon Hobson

Re: Standard Form Letter

> I always find that line funny - the damage has already been done and a lot more people will have seen the original ad than will see the "don't do it again" ruling...

Yes, funny in the "if only it wasn't so sad" way.

But nothing will change unless we the people force those who are supposed to represent us to change it. It's prompted me to write to my MP - I suggest everyone one else here who things the ASA is toothless should do the same.

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TalkTalk talks itself into trouble with budget broadband package fibs

SImon Hobson

Think of a phrase that includes the words "elbow" "a*e"

They clearly haven't got a clue, my SO is getting really peed off with their spamming. Every few days, around the same time in the morning, she is disturbed by a phone call trying to sell her a service she already gets from them. And every time she tells them not to call again. Last time, the phone rang (she could tell from the caller ID it wasn't anyone she knew) she answered the phone with "WHAT DO YOU WANT, are you from TalkTalk because if you are I've told you time and time again I don't want to be called" - and got a quiet voice that sheepishly said "yes" and apoligised.

I've told her that next time they call she should ask for her MAC which is likely to change their attitude somewhat :)

On my list of things to do is go through stuff like this and see when contract periods expire so I can move it to another provider.

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Home automation while it's hot: Winter warmth for lazy technophiles

SImon Hobson

Controlling TRVs

Can any of these projects (particularly ones that don't rely on giving all your home occupancy data to Google or anyone else) allow you to set profiles for TRV setpoints and read back the valve status ?

ISTM that the ideal would be room by room profiles for temperature needed - so setback rooms that aren't being used, and heat the ones that are, and allow for varying temperatures in bedrooms (warm when you go to bed, cool overnight, and warm again when you get up). This needs to be by controlling 'intelligent' TRVs to take advantage of their ability to modulate the flow rather than just on/off control.

Next step is to get feedback from the TRVs on the valve position and us this to control flow temperature - ie if all the TRVs are fairly well shut down then the flow temp is too high.

And finally, use this to control flow temp from the boiler.

On the last bit, and someone mentioned it above, there is in fact an open standard for talking to boilers - OpenTherm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenTherm However, I get the impression that few boiler manufacturers support it - after all, why support something open when you make more money from locking users into your expensive proprietary controls ?

Above, someone asked why on earth you'd let a TRV in close proximity to the heat source do the sensing as control. Well simplicity is one factor, but also a TRV is a modulating device - so while there is a hot water supply, it will modulate the flow to control room temperature. Using an on-off valve and stat means the radiator will cycle, and so will room temperature - and more importantly, user perception of temperature.

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SImon Hobson

Re: Owl intuition

Owl do not do *ENERGY* monitors - they call them that, but like many others thay have *CURRENT* monitors and apply a bunch of approximations (assumed voltage - it varies, assumed unity power factor - it varies as well) to infer power (and hence energy) used.

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Plusnet wants resellers' SME customers and is willing to pay

SImon Hobson

To be fair ...

And speaking as a customer for many years, it's hardly the ISPs fault if a customer's own equipment is either faulty/insecure/badly setup/whatever and causes *that customer's* traffic to get redirected.

Yes, they have problems - and I had *strongly worded discussions* with them over the deficiencies in their DNS and email systems (at the time it was impossible to use the included hosting but not have email go through, or rather got lost in, their broken servers). But their connectivity works fine for me, and unlike some ISPs we have to deal with at work on behalf of customers, you can actually get hold of support !

Not the cheapest, but they don't try to pretend that they don't do traffic management (they are open about that), appear to have enough backhaul for the service not to crawl to a halt in the evenings, have support staff that speak/write english and can be got hold of, and in my experience are reasonably reliable (most problems I've had have been Openreach issues).

Oh yes, and they don't charge extra for a static IP address - unlike BT who charge £5/month for one address !

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What kid uses wires? FCC supremo angry that US classrooms are filled with unused RJ45 ports

SImon Hobson

I find it interesting that the assumption is made that "network connection" == "internet use" !

Seems the concept of having on-site servers for ... ooh dunno, how about school email, course work/lessons, students' own work, etc. Then having a wired connection will most definitely get you better results than fighting with hundreds of other pupils (and staff) for a few congested WiFi channels. At least, assuming the network was built by someone with half a clue ... err, that might be something of an over assumption based on local observations.

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My work-from-home setup's better than the office. It's GLORIOUS

SImon Hobson

Re: I can rotate my widescreen TFT into portrait mode

> ... but I've yet to come across a desktop OS and monitor that automates the screen rotation ...

Guess you are too young to remember then. Back as far as the 80s and 90s, Radius did a Pivot display that did just that - A4 greyscale, used custom graphics card, but included a switch so it knew which way up the monitor way.

It was cool, but like most Radius gear, "inexpensive" was generally not part of the description !

Sadly, such things seemed to disappear in the 90s - and as you point out, modern hardware doesn't do it. It wouldn't take much to do, but unless the OS vendors integrated support, adding a monitor would mean installing drivers (to handle the auto-rotate) - how very 20th century !

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BT's IPv6 EXPIRED security certificate left to rot on its website

SImon Hobson

Re: They got their IPv6 site working then?

It was broken a lot more recently than that, last year IIRC. AFAICT there was simply no server on the address given by teh AAAA record. I did report it to them, but several months later it was still offline.

If someone the size of, and with the resources of, BT can't get it right ...

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Anti Gmail data-mining lawsuit hits possible stumbling block

SImon Hobson

Re: Who is behind this lawsuit ?

> A class action wouldn't seem to make sense from a user perspective, the actual value of one individual's data is going to be a few measly Dollars at best and simply not worth the time.

Perhaps it's not about the money, perhaps it's about the principle of "My emails with <some other person> are between me and <that other person>, not the whole wide world, and not Google's money machine". I don't use gmail - but other people do. I have not at any time consented to have Google scan emails, but since other people have, then that apparently means it's OK to do ?

I have to admit, at times it is tempting to blacklist gmail and just return an error message suggesting the person contact me from an email account hosted with someone who doesn't consider me as a product to be sold.

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Apple's Windows XP moment: OS X Snow Leopard left to DIE

SImon Hobson

> The license doesn't allow virtualizing that. You can't do it

Yeah, that's a crock, but with a little fiddling you can work round that - once you do, 10.6 will work fine in Parallels. There is actually absolutely no legal reason, the licence does not in any way prohibit it - but I suspect that once Apple have given their interpretation from inside the RDF* then no-one is (was) prepared to risk the wrath of jobs by challenging it.

* The infamous Reality Distortion Field that seemingly envelops Apple.

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SImon Hobson

Re: Last 'upgrade' failed for me

> But 10.9 was a no-no when they finally removed sync services

Ah, so not just me then.

I found out the hard way that it had gone, and boy was it a pain restoring a workable machine :(

So for now I'm stuck on 10.8 until either Apple relent and re-instate SS (no I'm not holding my breath) or software vendors come up with an acceptable workaround (which doesn't involved information going off my machine).

This isn't "old unsupported" software as was thrown at me when I mentioned this in another thread, this is current software (Missing Sync) for syncing my new Android phone. The fact that I was still using it for my old Palm Treo back then is irrelevant.

But of course, not wanting to share all our data with Apple is these days a heinous crime in Apple's eyes so I can't see them co-operating at all with this.

PS - I keep a working copy of 10.6 which I run via Parallels so as to be able to use Eudora to manage my old mail. If only I could fine a replacement that works in 10.8 and works acceptably like it - MailForge looks good on paper, but at present it's horrendously unreliable and clunky. Apple Mail is so horrible to use :(

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Energy firms' security so POOR, insurers REFUSE to take their cash

SImon Hobson

Re: Ewww! Informed comment!

> If companies can't make money out of generating electricity then the market clearly isn't working

Correct. It's not a market as you or I would recognise it.

It's like going into a shop to buy a bottle of whisky. You look and on the shelf there are loads of bottles at £10, some more of the same at £20, a few more at £50, and a couple at £100. Naturally you want to buy one of the £10 bottles - why pay 10 times as much for the same thing ?

But the cashier tells you that you can't buy any of the £10 bottles until all the £20 ones have been sold, and so on up to the £100 bottles. Apparently the only difference is that they came from different suppliers, and the £100 bottle supplier is really unreliable meaning they have to keep loads of the £10 bottles in stock "just in case" even though they can't sell many, and the supplier of the £10 bottles is fed up because he has to keep stopping and starting his production line as customers expect him to be able to supply when the £100 supplier doesn't, but won't buy from him when teh £100 supplier bothers to deliver.

Those £100 bottles are the wind farm output, down to the £10 bottles coming from coal and gas. The rules over here are that the energy companies have to buy all the output from the wind farms whether they need it or can even handle it - worst case they have to pay the windfarms to "turn down" their output !

At the other end of the chain, operators of gas and coal plants have to turn up and down (or on and off) to balance the grid - when the wind blows (but not too much) they lose their market, but when the wind doesn't blow (or blows too much) then they are expected to fill in the gap. All this is over and above the daily variation in demand.

Because of the extra stops/starts and power changes, maintenance/wear and tear on the plant costs go up - but because they spend a lot of time shut down they don't get to make as much money. Costs increased, income reduced, sometimes the profit margin is negative ! It's hard to make a profit when you have to pay the customer to take your product off your hand.

Of course, none of this is factored into the "aren't we cheap" numbers put out by the wind industry.

For a better view, try this link :

http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21587782-europes-electricity-providers-face-existential-threat-how-lose-half-trillion-euros

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Q&A: Schneier on trust, NSA spying and the end of US internet hegemony

SImon Hobson

Re: Why all the fear?

> You must really have an inflated ego if you think any spy gives two craps about you.

I don't think anyone gives two craps about me - at the moment. But do I think that no-one will ever give two craps about me ever in the future ? Who knows.

Lets take a real world scenario. Every 10 years in the UK we have the official census, in which we have to (under threat of punishment) list everyone living at an address together with age, sex, ethnicity, religious leanings, and a load of other stuff.

Is that a problem ? Well not right now. But rewind a few decades and pop across the Germany in the 30s. Was it a problem back then that they were "cataloguing" everyone with ethnicity/religious data ? Well no, it wasn't a problem at first.

But you may recall that a large chunk of the population later found out that it was a big problem when a later government was less benign and used that catalogue to round up and murder certain sections of the population.

Is that likely to happen again ? Who knows. Probably not in my lifetime in "the west", but it's clear that worldwide the issue is far from relegated to history. So the problem isn't "do I have to worry about who is doing it now", but it should be "do I have to worry about god knows who having access to that data in the future" - to which the answer is "yes - because I have absolutely no idea who I might have to worry about in the future".

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Mac Pro fanbois can rack 'em and stack 'em like real sysadmins

SImon Hobson

Re: Pah!

Ah, but there is another engineering use of the word "chuck". It can be a noun (as in the piece of a lathe that holds the part being turned), or it can be a verb (the act of mounting the piece in the chuck). Eg, "chuck it in a 3 jaw chuck" would mean to mount the piece in a 3 jaw chuck.

So actually, using chuck (n, part of a lathe for holding the piece being worked) would make perfect sense.

But so would "clamp"

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Broker accuses FAST of scaring users off secondhand software

SImon Hobson

Re: Unclear? Not overly

>> You cannot import a US license into the EU and sell it - as this is an infringement of their trademarks.

>> What am I missing?

I think most people think - why on earth should that be so ?

If I buy a Flurble Widget make by Flurble Inc, then it's a Flurble Widget made by Flurble Inc. No ifs, not buts, no "nut only in these countries". So Flurble charge $10 in the USA, but £15 in the UK - they're ripping off the market. If I buy one in the USA and import it - it's doesn't stop being a Flurble Widget, it doesn't cease to have been made by Flurble Inc. It's still the very same widget that rolled off their production line and could have gone to the UK or US market just by chance of which box got picked up and sent for export.

So why does a Flurble Widget, bought and paid for, cease to legally be a Flurble Widget just because I "use it in a way the manufacturer doesn't like" (ie taking it abroad) ?

Sadly, the court (and the lawmakers that made the messed up law) have confirmed that if I buy a Flurble Widget outside the Eu and import it - then Flurble Inc can declare it a breach of their trademark and so make it illegal (and liable to seizure and destruction by the authorities). So this Widget, that Flurble themselves put their name on, is not legal ?

It's a crock of crap, but that is the mess we are in !

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FBI offers $10,000 bounty for arrest of laser-wielding idiots

SImon Hobson
Facepalm

Meanwhile, over here in the UK ...

We introduced an offence of shining a laser at an aircraft which doesn't have the option of a custodial sentence ! So prosecutors are apparently reverting to charges of "endangering an aircraft" which does have a custodial option - and judges are using it.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-20087547

http://www.ilfordrecorder.co.uk/news/crime-court/ilford_man_jailed_for_shining_laser_pen_at_police_helicopter_1_1640696

On that latter one, if you are up before Tudor Owen for such a charge then you definitely can't expect any leniency.

http://www.gapan.org/press-pages/press-releases/flying-judge-becomes-master-of-guild-of-air-pilots-and-air-navigators/

Of course, it helps the arrest and conviction when the idiots are stupid enough to consider targeting the Police helicopter - hence the "slap face" icon.

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If you reckon Google will never tap into Nest's Wi-Fi thermostats, guess again

SImon Hobson

Re: Take your "connected homes"....

While I largely agree with your sentiment, just FYI coal fires stations can ramp up and down in power "relatively" quickly - ie matter of hours. SO they can do a significant amount of load following. They can take a couple of weeks to transition between operating and fully shut down (either way), but that's a different thing. Form cold to running they can take a couple of days, and from hot to running is a few hours. IIRC

it is nuclear that doesn't like load following. It's not that it can't, but the designs we have now (still, just about) really don't like it - it imposes thermal cycle stresses on them that they'd really rather not do.

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LogMeIn: We're stopping our free offering from, errrm, NOW

SImon Hobson

Re: free as in beer != free as in free speech

> Beer isn't free so I don't understand how something can be "free as in beer". Is the saying trying to make the point that something that costs money is not the same as being able to say what ever you want?

IMO the Wikipedia article doesn't really put it simply, but then that could just be me !

There are people who give away their software free (as in for no charge) but they restrict what you can do with it - eg no commercial use, no giving it to anyone else, no reverse engineering, or a myriad other restrictions. So it giving you something tangible for no cost (like giving you a free glass of beer), but it's still restricted in what you are allowed to do with it.

There are also people who are more interested in the "freedom of use" side. To them, the important thing is to be able to think, speak, use freely. So if someone writes a nifty bit of code, and you think "that would be great if I just altered it a little" then you are expressly allowed to take that code and alter it to suit your needs - and to pass on the unmodified or modified code to others. Also, you are free to look at the code and see how it works - to learn from others. And finally you can use it where you like, when you like, and for what you like. This is the "free as in speech" bit.

In many cases, the two overlap - so it's free (as in cost) and free (as in freedom to use, adapt, and share). And we are all familiar with commercial software which is not free in either sense.

In many cases they do not overlap. As an example, you can download the free PDF viewer from Adobe - but it comes with a licence agreement with a long list of things you aren't allowed to do with it. It's free (as in beer) but not free (as in speech).

And of course, thinking about security you can't look at (or ask someone else to look at) the code of this (or any other no-cost but not libre software) to see if it phones home with your details or any other such freedom/security infringing activities.

You might think it's not possible to have free (as in speech) without also free (as in beer). But that's not the case. It's quite allowable for me to take some software, adapt it, package it up and build a system to do/manage some task. Under the GNU public licence I am specifically allowed to do that. I am also specifically allowed to ask people for money - and some people may be happy to pay for the convenience of having everything packaged up into something they just "turn on and use". What I am not allowed to do is refuse to pass on the modified versions of the FOSS software I've used. I can keep other bits (eg scripts and stuff, web page designs, etc) to myself and paying customers, but not the modified FOSS software.

This is the RedHat* business model - a lot of what is in a RedHat Linux system is FOSS which they cannot refuse to let you have. However into the mix they have added their own utilities, configs etc. In effect, what you buy when you pay RedHat for a system is a bunch of FOSS that you can get for free, plus a load of RedHat proprietary stuff, and all packaged up into something you pop in and turn on.

* RedHat is just the one that comes to mind first - others do the same (SUSE is another, paying gets you their extras).

The confusing thing is that people talk about "open source" which doesn't automatically mean that it's free (as in speech). And people talk about free software - without specifying which meaning of free they mean.

Lastly, you'll often hear the name Richard Stallman (aka his initials RMS) when such conversations come up. He's a "hard core" free (as in speech) advocate and can be, ahem, quite blunt. Search around and you'll find a lot of comments that he's "quite difficult" to deal with. I've met him briefly at one of his talks, and he is - to the point where I think he diluted him message by turning people off. But IMO he is quite right in most of what he says - and if it weren't for people like him making the right noises I do think we'd be a lot better off.

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Apple fanbois make it 'official', hook up with Internet of Fridges Things

SImon Hobson

Re: INTRANET of things

Or more importantly, I'd like an INtranet - what I don't want is what Google is heading for with it's acquisition of Nest, and what Apple has been doing with various things* While Nest looked interesting, it's definitely off my list now as full detail of how the house is occupied is none of Google's business.

The big thing to remember in all of this is that we are not the customer. We are the product, and advertisers are the customer. So look forward to more "IoT" announcements that tie you in to sending more and more personal information to Google & Apple (and Microsoft who are late to this party having had to have Apple show them how to do it without a user backlash).

* EG, they've dropped local sync services from Mac OS 10.9 Mavericks. The official line is that they aren't needed (crock of manure IMO) now that everyone uses the cloud. In reality, they don't want anyone to not use the cloud (by default their cloud) to sync stuff between Mac and <whatever> as that makes it harder for anyone daring to use other than Apple iThingies.

And Tim Bates wrote

> Will your Apple certified Air Conditioner be of any use in 2 years time when you've bought a new phone or Apple's decided to change the APIs in a way that makes the control app useless?

That's why open standards are such a good idea. But open standards don't allow Apple/Google/Whoever to a) lock you in to only using their devices & services, and b) force you to upgrade your kit when they decide to "upgrade" the service they depend on.

And strum wrote

> Apple house or Android house?

Again, it's why open standards are essential. But those of us who realise that are in a minority and the general population "don't care as long as it's shiny". It'll only matter if it gets to a state where one of us goes to look at a house and states "I'll offer you £x, but it's conditional on replacing <long list> with open standards equivalents", or "I'll only offer £Y based on how much I'm going to have to spend ripping out all that crap you thought was a selling feature". Only then will they realise that it's costly to support closed standards/

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Techies CAN sue Google, Apple, Intel et al accused of wage-strangling pact

SImon Hobson

Re: That's the beauty of this

> First the plaintiffs have to prove they would have received the job that they were never called about.

Actually I don't think that's the case. There is more to it than "I didn't get a better paid job because company B refused to hire me because I worked for company A". IF there were free trade in employment, then if company B were offering better pay, they'd gain staff from company A. Company A would then either have to put up with losing all their good staff, or up their pay so thet people stopped moving to company B.

Thus these non-compete clauses don't just avoid the pay rises available for switching jobs, they also reduce the pay all round even for those that don't switch.

As an analogy. Imagine if all the big supermarkets colluded to keep the price of goods high. There's then no opportunity for you to shop around for better prices. But remove those non-compete agreements and they have to compete for your custom - with better prices, better quality, or better service (in other words, better "value" for whatever combination of attributes they decide to compete on). Even if you don't shop at (say) Tesco, just the fact that they are there means that ASDA next door has to keep it's value up (prices down). So without actually shopping at Tesco, you gain from them being there and there being no non-compete clause between them.

Put another way, ADSA managers have to look at prices and the equation is along the lines of "if we charge more than X then customers will go to Tesco". Similarly, employers will have to thing along the lines of "if we pay less than X then our staff will leave and go to <someone else>".

This is why collusion to control markets is illegal, and why these employees can claim damages even if they weren't planning to switch employer.

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EU gives Google JUST WEEKS to submit stronger search biz concessions

SImon Hobson

Re: Erm

> … they've got a near-monopoly because they're the best at what they do. If someone came up with a better search engine, there's nothing stopping us all from moving to it

If *ALL* it was about was the search engine then you'd be right. But it isn't.

They've used their massive dominance (not monopoly) in search to allow them to just step into any other market and dominate it too. I find it "somewhat suspicious" how they can introduce a new product and miraculously it leaps straight to the top of the search results - straight past existing (and sometimes good and well established) alternatives. They also give their own stuff special dominance - such the the way their shopping isn't "just another search result" like the other shopping sites, but it's own special section.

Unfortunately the damage is done, and short of dismantling Google I don't see how it can be undone. The logical outcome was plain to see (and some people can now say "told you so") a long time ago - but for a combination of reasons nothing was done when there was scope for preventing the damage (just as with Microsoft). The two main reasons (IMO) are that the regulators can't do anything until damage is actually done and someone complains, and when they do finally take action it takes years during which the players can further entrench their position and make it even harder to undo.

Google, Microsoft, IBM, Standard Oil, … All have used pretty much the same tactics over the decades.

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Why UK.gov's £1.2bn fibre broadband rollout is a bumbling FLOP

SImon Hobson
Stop

Clearly many of the commenters here are somewhat younger than I am

Thos of us who are old enough can remember what things were like when telephones were a "government" thing - back when they were provided by the GPO which was back then still part of the government. Like the railways, the modern privatised system may well be far from perfect, but it's a darn sight better than what we used to have when services were provided by a government department, and didn't need to worry about promptness or customer service as your choice was to use them or go without.

With the GPO there was none of this "get a phone installed in a couple of weeks" - it could take months, or if you were unlucky, years to get a phone installed. I remember the phone in our last house was on a party line for many years because the GPO weren't prepared to put in cable to support needs - they just adjusted needs to suit what they had installed.

If you wanted more than one phone then you had to *rent* it from the GPO. If you wanted sockets then you had to rent those (and pay GPO to install them) as well - every item had a cost to it. None of this "buy your own and plug it in" malarky.

And dialling took ages as it was all pulse dial, with rotary dials !

Go back to that, no thanks. <mutter to himself>Youngsters these days, no idea …</mutter>

No I don't have a suggestion for what to replace the current system with. It's not perfect, but it's better than pretty well all the alternatives that have been suggested.

Having an equivalent of OpenReach owned jointly by all the providers wouldn't help. The larger ones would be able to game the system (adjust charges) so as to put smaller outfits and/or new entrants at a disadvantage. Plus, with BT as it's largest customer by far, it's fairly clear which tune they'd dance to.

Have them independent of all providers ? Same problem - they'll sing whatever tune the largest customer tells them to.

Have them independent but all charges set by regulator ? That's not much different to what we have now, and we can see how well that works - constant arguments about whether the charges are too high or too low. Plus it's still an incumbent monopoly so not that much reason to change anything.

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ICANN posts guidelines to avoid gTLD mix-ups

SImon Hobson
Thumb Up

here it is

https://www.icann.org/en/about/staff/security/ssr/name-collision-mitigation-05dec13-en.pdf

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Fiendish CryptoLocker ransomware survives hacktivists' takedown

SImon Hobson

Re: backups and...

> So along comes ZFS and BTRFS etc.. so copy on write and snapshots.

> Am I mistaken in thinking that if the Linux box was managing the copy-on-write with

> snapshots (say every hour/day etc...) and exposing the filesystem as SAMBA (or

> whatever) to a windows guest, that cryptlocker would come in and mess up files

>(I am assuming users home directories), but since copy-on-write , the old version

> would still be around?

No expert here, but yes - that would be my understanding. As long as you keep a snapshot from before CL got it's paws into the filesystem then you should be able to roll back. You still need other backups as a filesystem corruption or disk failure can still lose you your data, as will a house fire if you don't have a backup offsite.

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Microsoft: C'mon, you can trust us... look at our gov spook-busting plans

SImon Hobson

> Euro-centric data centers are a damned good idea …

But won't help if the company is US based. Unless the data centre is operated by an outfit with no US control at all will it help - simply because if it's US controlled then the bosses can be told "give us the data or go to jail", at which point they'll slurp the data back across the pond and hand it over.

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I thought I was being DDOSed. Turns out I'm not that important...

SImon Hobson
Thumb Up

Re: @bob

I run my own mailserver as well. I first did it many years ago (when there weren't hoards of suitable services on the net) and I was completely peed off with my ISPs borked servers. It also means I can choose my own policies on spam management - including what is (to me) a priority constraint of "if you accept it for delivery then you deliver it", I absolutely do not accept any excuse for accepting a message and then not delivering it*.

It was also a useful learning exercise. It also means that when I use (for example) the multi-function machine to scan stuff and email it to one of us, it doesn't need to go out on my limited outbound bandwidth and come back in on what used to be also a very limited bandwidth (it's now just limited !).

It also means I can look at the logs - cf below about not knowing if stuff has been delivered. At least I can show that I sent stuff and if someone didn't receive it then that's their fault (either for setting up a broken system or using a broken external system).

More recently, it means my mail is IPv6 enabled :)

* Personally, I think the idea of building a whole system around the concept of "accept it, say you'll deliver it, then throw half of it away" is, struggling to stay polite, completely brain dead. It leads to all sorts of problems - notably the fact that these days (unlike the "good old days") you can have no confidence that when you send an email it'll either be delivered or you'll get a message back to say it wasn't. In other words, most mail service operators have deliberately broken their systems.

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Who will recover your data if disaster strikes?

SImon Hobson

Re: Not just a technical problem

>> - It's written by IT and thus only deals with IT. No handling of staff, media, buildings, business processes (looong list of "others" omitted).

Been on the other end of that, as a techie in IT, having management demand that I "write disaster recovery plans". I knew enough to know that I didn't know much, and was lucky enough to get on a good course at a "last minute, got empty seats, and the course works best when full" discount. After the course I now knew that I didn't have half the information needed, and also knew that my chances of getting buy in from management was nil - confirmed by the less than helpful responses to my requests for information such as recovery time objectives.

And I expressed my "concerns" about the situation.

And did I mention that this was to be a zero-budget exercise - so even if I came up with a 100% absolute requirement for something, there was no budget for it.

A few months later as we had a fire alarm in the factory - false alarm, but we were still stood outside in the rain. I don't think it was received too well when I asked of a senior manager "so if this were a real fire, and we weren't going back inside today, how would you propose to get people home (or at least out of the rain) given that their car keys will be in the office ?"

We never did get DR plans. We had plans to cover IT, but no DR plans. It was all forgotten before long - long most "buzzword bingo" requirements thrown at us by insurance inspectors or auditors.

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POWER SOURCE that might END humanity's PROBLEMS: A step forward

SImon Hobson

Re: Science

>> Do you really think that anyone is deliberately choosing the most expensive methods of obtaining energy when all factors are taken into account?

Actually yes - the politicians, in a desire to appease the green lobbies, are doing just that. The *direct* cost of wind power is something in excess of 30p/unit - that's only what's paid to the operators in direct payments for the lecky and subsidies (called a Renewables Obligation Certificate just so it technically isn't a subsidy). Then there are significant additional costs to the rest of the network in accommodating the intermittency - but that's OK, it doesn't appear anywhere in a way you can directly pin it on the renewables.

Meanwhile, people complain that the government looks set to guarantee new nuclear operators something like (from memory) 10.5p/unit - so as to get them to invest billions of private sector funding.

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Mandatory HTTP 2.0 encryption proposal sparks hot debate

SImon Hobson

>> If you're using something like blogspot then I would assume that the shared nature of the service will mean that only one certificate will probably be needed.

>> Something similar could apply to shared hosting in general.

That only applies if you are using a shared domain, eg user.blogspot.com. Once you start having your own domain name, then there is both a cost for the SSL cert for *your* domain, and the knock on cost of having to host each domain on a unique IP address. The latter is no problem with IPv6 - but it's certain to impact on anything still hosted with IPv4 (which means pretty well anything you want to be widely accessible at the moment).

AIUI, the only way round the shared hosting issue would be to redefine the protocols so that the site name wasn't encrypted - but that's a significant weakening of the protection.

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The micro YOU used in school: The story of the Research Machines 380Z

SImon Hobson

>> The printer connected was an Anadex

I'd almost forgotten about those, or more correctly, almost purged it's memory from my mind !

First computer I got to play on was the Exidy Sorceror we had at 6th form - I believe they had "a computer" at secondary school but I never got to see it.

But we had an Anadex printer - which looking back was an elegant design with it's spiral grooved cylinder to drive the printhead back and forth. The head had to do two full passes, even if you were only printing one character ! And for a bonus, as it got worn, the positioning got slightly out so characters printed on the left->right passes didn't line up with those printed on the right->left passes.

<sarcasm>And wonderfully quiet</sarcasm>

Still, better than the first print I had - it had a single pin (or rather bar) in the printhead, and a ridged roller behind the paper. So the bar hammered away while the roller turned to allow the bar to print a column of dots. And at the end of the print line, the print head returned to the left with a spring.

Didn't actually see a 308Z until I got to Uni (IIRC it was in the Physics Dept where the computer club met), and by then I was already into other things and never got to learn how to drive it.

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