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* Posts by Andrew Oakley

73 posts • joined 18 Apr 2006

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GCHQ protesters stick it to British spooks ... by drinking urine

Andrew Oakley

Why it could or couldn't

It will surely come as no surprise that the GCHQ building is Protected Site; I can't remember whether this is under section 128 of the Serious & Organised Crime and Police Act, or whether it's under some Ministry of Defence secret places ruling. There are notices every 50 metres or so on all the fences around the site and its car parks. You can't miss them, and any I sincerely doubt that any protestor bright enough to use a computer could be unable to read and understand those notices.

Therefore if you take a photo with the GCHQ building in the background, it's illegal, regardless of any innocent purpose.

Next up is the law around the intended use of the photographs. If it is reasonable to believe that the photographs might be of use to someone committing acts of terrorism, the photograph is illegal. It doesn't matter whether the photographer is a terrorist or whether the photographer knows any terrorists, it is enough that the photographer intends to publish the useful photos on a website where terrorists might be able to find them, for example posted on a website visible to the general public. Photos of GCHQ cryptographers posted to social media and public forums DEFINITELY count here.

That's where the "could or couldn't" comes in. It's down to the police, the CPS and the courts to make a decision on whether the photos might reasonably get used like that.

I'm at a loss to understand why the protestors don't get this. Maybe because I've lived around Cheltenham for twenty years I just assumed everybody knew this. However, there are notices on the fences, it's not difficult, just read the bloody signs and ask a policeman if you're not sure.

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'Stop dissing Google or quit': OK, I quit, says Code Club co-founder

Andrew Oakley

Nobody volunteered to push ads for Google

"ultimately, if somebody is paying you, you can't publicly slag them off and expect the relationship to continue" - well, there's the rub. Was she paid? I thought it was a volunteer job.

I'd be pretty annoyed if I volunteered my time for free only to discover that my work was basically providing cheap tax-dodge advertising for a megacorporation, even if it was an otherwise ethical megacorporation. And Google is a very long way from ethical. I'd imagine she's quite rightly pretty livid.

If Google want to employ someone of her calibre, then they should convince her to sign an employment contract and pay her a salary. Tax-dodging your way around employment law in the name of some horrible half-bred mutation of charity and marketing is not the right way to do it.

12
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Top ten car gadgets: Get your motor running with new shiny-shiny

Andrew Oakley

Brodit device mounts - seriously wonderful

Some solid ideas but not the best choices. For OBDII diagnostics, as others have mentioned, the "Torque" app is massively cheaper at 3 quid and does everything you'd ever want the iODB app to do for £60, including telling you exactly why your engine management light is on (I could have spent a hundred and fifty quid at the dealers to find out I simply had a ten quid brake switch in need of replacement).

For dashboard mounts, there really is only one best choice and that is Brodit, who will sell you a standard base/mount to fit the exact position you want on your exact dashboard on your exact car, into which screws in a variety of very slim and unobtrusive cradles to fit your exact device. For example I have the centre-mount dashboard base for my Seat Leon, plus the delightfully slim mount for my Samsung Galaxy S 4 Mini; meanwhile my wife's car has the right-hand mount for her Vauxhall Zafira, plus the larger but still svelte mount for her Samsung Galaxy Note Classic. Should we borrow each other's cars, we can easily swap the mounts over. And they are a billion squllion times less bulky than any generic mount.

For offline GPS, I'm quite happy with CoPilot at twenty-five quid for the whole of Western Europe, but I appreciate that it isn't as fully-featured - or slick - as Garmin (my old employer paid for the Garmin app on my old N95 and that was better than CoPilot; but it was also one of those "nice if you can claim it on expenses" kinds of purchases; you'd be daft to buy something so extravagant for yourself unless you were spending a *lot* of time driving abroad). I really have no idea why anyone with a half decent smartphone and a Bluetooth car radio would want a separate GPS device.

On the subject of Bluetooth car radios, basic generic non-DAB models come up in Aldi and Lidl frequently for under 50 quid, usually sporting AM/FM radio, SD card, USB port, aux-in socket and sometimes CD/MP3CD. I went for the one without a CD player - because who needs the clutter when you have SD cards? - and am mostly pleased, for the money. They're not amazing - in particular the MP3 file browsing and repeat/album play modes can be very poor, and AM reception prone to interference - but if your basic needs are Bluetooth + MP3 playback + FM/RDS and nothing fancy, they are reliable and offer great value for money.

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Ofcom snatches spectrum from SPIES for mobile broadband

Andrew Oakley
Black Helicopters

Not THAT Spectrum

This is not the Cold War retro Sinclair 50-year-rule story you were looking for. Move along.

0
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Security researchers uncover three-year-old 'RUSSIAN SPYware'

Andrew Oakley

Which OS?

Can't see where the article tells me which operating system this malware affects. Shall I just have a wild guess at Microsoft Windows?

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2

What's wrong with Britain's computer scientists?

Andrew Oakley

Re: Comp Sci degrees were sold to many kids looking for a well paid job....

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes.

I am seeing a lot of graduates with computing degrees who apply for software developer roles, yet are hopeless at programming. Their experience of computer programming seems to be limited solely to the exercises in their tutors' reference material; typically noddy sales systems (airline booking). They've learned only what was required to pass the module. Ask them to do anything outside that exercise, and they have no idea. It's not merely that they have to look it up (looking stuff up is fine - we'll buy you all the books you can eat and you'll have a web browser on your desktop), it's that they have no realisation that the language they're supposedly skilled in can do anything other than the one or two exercises they've tried.

If a primary-age child was given a box of Lego but three years later was only ever building the exact same model as per the set's instructions, we would think there was something developmentally wrong with that child. Yet that is exactly what we're getting with computer science graduates and we give them degrees!

Worse, they can recite theory about object orientation and several different software development methodologies, yet can't actually write an object skeleton for any set of requirements other than the one or two exercises they're familiar with, and don't understand the concept of dependencies.

Coding tests are fairly hopeless. They'll pass the multiple-choice questions and still fail to grasp the concept that they can use those little nuggets of code to build a larger program that can solve a larger problem.

It's quite clear to me that the current output of comp sci graduates have been taught to pass modules and pass exams and nothing else.

What I expect from someone with a comp sci degree, is a person with a curiosity about what computers can do, who are interested in commanding computers, and are interested in learning as many ways as possible to make a computer perform a variety of tasks. Instead I get a lot of people who have no curiosity at all, whose only interest is to get a job (any job) and can make one or two computers do one or two things.

It's almost like they've been brought up in a world of single-purpose electronic gadgets, rather than the "my computer can do anything, I just have to find out how" attitude of the 8-bit generation. I actually think the Raspberry Pi push has a better than 50-50 chance of solving this problem, but we won't see those kinds of kids coming out of uni for ten years yet.

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'I'm BIG, I'm BALD and I'm LOUD!' Blubbering Ballmer admits HE was Microsoft's problem

Andrew Oakley

I can't help thinking that mobile is an extremely poor strategy for Microsoft - the market already has two dominant players and Microsoft are far too far behind to ever catch up. And they were never, ever going to be big in mobile - Microsoft's bloaty kitchen-sink programming strategy would always have prevented them from ruling mobile even if they'd started at the right time; Microsoft make software for PCs not because they want to target PCs, but because PCs are the only devices powerful enough to run their feature-rich applications at a usable speed.

Microsoft need to concentrate on business desktop - business desktop is NOT going away any time soon, and it's good money. Switching to an entirely business-to-business model is highly profitable for many firms wanting to recover from the doldrums - ask the resurgent IBM. Domestic users may be dumping PCs for tablets and Steam boxes, but businesses are not (they may be supporting tablets in *addition* to regular PCs, but regular PCs are *not* disappearing from offices). Frankly with the amount of piracy rampant in the home market I sincerely doubt Microsoft ever made much money from the domestic scene anyway.

Microsoft's cloud-based Office 365 is *incredibly* successful; I don't know anyone who's used it and doesn't love it. They just need to make the best desktop operating system too, and that means ditching the half-arsed mobile and touch interface that is the Start Screen. They need to research and write a new set of desktop windowing standards; Office 2013's interface is a mess - it makes sense in the browser in Office 365 but as a stand-alone application UI, it's horribly confusing. They need to revamp, reinvent standards such as the Multiple Document Interface, which was possibly the most intuitive and greatest contribution to desktop computing since Xerox Parc, and research and create new desktop UI standards.

Businesses are currently delaying and delaying upgrading to Windows 8(.1) and Office 2013 because the UI is designed for mobile and browser. No office worker who lives on the keyboard wants to use an interface designed for a touch-screen. Nobody has got desktop right at the moment - Apple are all over the place with their on-again-off-again love-hate affair with skeuomorphism, the Linux desktop is more fragmented now than it has ever been, and former Linux leader Ubuntu is making *exactly* the same kinds of "we'll integrate our UI to combine both mobile and desktop" mistakes that Microsoft are making. Microsoft are already doing well in business cloud; business desktop is ripe for the picking. Microsoft just have to reach out and grab it.

9
3

Blighty's great digital radio switchover targets missed AGAIN

Andrew Oakley

Cost

A DAB radio costs 25 quid and eats a set of 4 AA batteries before 9 hours of listening.

A mechanically-tuned FM radio costs 3 quid and a set of 2 AA batteries lasts longer than 24 hours of listening.

A digitally-tuned analogue-signal FM-RDS radio costs 15 quid, has all the pushbutton/auto-tune functionality of DAB and still lasts more than 24 hours on 4 AA batteries.

A mechanically-tuned AM-MW/LW radio will last 96 hours or more constant listening on a pair of AA batteries!

If Kerrang was still on FM in the Midlands, I don't think I'd bother with DAB at all.

I do find myself listening to a lot of BBC World Service on DAB, though. But a lot less local radio - BBC Radio Gloucestershire isn't even on DAB at all!

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'Symbolic' Grauniad drive-smash was not just a storage fail

Andrew Oakley
Go

Re: And why aren't the Government using the law for these things?

>In what way does the *UK* Offical Secrets Act apply to Edward Snowden,

>a U.S. citizen, or indeed, to a Brazilian friend of the journalist that met

>and reported about the U.S.-sourced data and that journalist's employer?

The moment that data touched UK soil. The UK govt doesn't really believe it has destroyed every copy of the data. It just wants to make it a bit more difficult for the Grauniad to blatantly breach the OSA from within our own shores.

It's not a question of "What did the UK govt achieve by doing this?" Rather, the question is, "What would the UK govt be implicitly encouraging if it did NOT do this?".

Yeah, so the Graun can continue to run the story from overseas - keep doing that, and eventually they'll have to move the whole newspaper overseas. Be careful not to relocate to another NATO ally, because we all know that a secret here is a secret there too, so sooner or later you'll get your hardware trashed and your bum searched there too.

If you enjoy the standard of living in South America or Eastern Europe, then that's your decision to defect (and let's be quite clear; moving your operations to a non-friendly state in order to avoid your home state's security is defection by any other name). But don't imagine for one moment that you can blatantly spill NATO secrets and then expect to be able to walk in and out of NATO borders without a shedload of trouble.

4
9

ZX Spectrum cassette player lost? There's an app for that

Andrew Oakley
Happy

Works on ZX81

I've been using FLAC & WAV files to load stuff on to my ZX81 for years. Absolutely no reason why this app won't work for the Spectrum - and if it includes binary-to-audio on the fly, then that's impressive.

0
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Netbooks were a GOOD thing and we threw them under a bus

Andrew Oakley
Linux

Me too </aol>

I love my netbooks. My PC World Advent 4211 (rebranded MSI Wind U100) ten-incher has a surprisingly spacious keyboard for a netbook, and I've added various bits and bobs to make it fit my needs. The nice thing about the MSI Wind, other than being cheap (I got mine free off a relative, but they can be had in good condition second hand for under £100 if you look hard enough), is that it has a LOT of user-replaceable components that adhere to standards, that you can easily upgrade. If something breaks, or you don't like it, chances are you can replace that bit. You can even upgrade the BIOS to overclock the CPU at the touch of a function key.

First up, replace Windows with Ubuntu 12.04. Works much smoother. 3D accelerated desktop also works just fine, although I can't think why I'd need it. Free.

Second, swap out the awful R8187SE mini PCIe wifi card which is unreliable at keeping hold of a connection. Swapped that out for a nice reliable Intel one. Five quid. Two minutes with a screwdriver.

Next, the hard drive. Swapped the spinny-platter thing for a 60GB SSD. Super-fast boot and far fewer worries about receiving bumps when thrown into a backpack or briefcase. 35 quid. Two minutes with a screwdriver plus reinstall/copy.

Fourth, battery. Being second-hand the battery held only 4 of its original 8 hours. Swapped that over for a high-capacity battery that gives me TEN HOURS OF BATTERY LIFE including wifi permanently on and display brightness set to three-quarters. With wifi off it gives over 11 hours. Twenty-five quid, two clips and ten seconds work.

Finally, removed all remnants of embarrassing PC World Advent branding. Replaced BIOS with genuine MSI Wind BIOS (which gave an additional advantage of opening up the CPU overclocking settings) and covered up the lid branding with a Linux sticker. Job done!

It's a Proper PC with a Proper Keyboard. LibreOffice/OpenOffice is a joy to use on it. SSH sessions are perfect. The GIMP is, well, as usable as it is on any other PC. Web browser is a Proper Web Browsers, with all the search extensions and plug-ins that I demand.

Downsides? Would have liked HDMI (only got VGA for output to a real monitor) and a higher resolution (the default Ubuntu printer dialog spills below the 1024x600 screen, but that's easily worked around). And I guess I would have liked a better 3D card so that it could play Torchlight at an acceptable framerate (it manages 8-12FPS, which isn't).

And for those who say the Atom is underpowered... well, stop using Microsoft Windows. Ubuntu runs full pelt on it with all the bells and whistles turned on, no problem at all.

I also have three Asus EEE 901 netbooks for my children. Their childreny fingers make short work of the tiny keyboard, and the two tiny 4GB + 8GB SSDs can be joined into one small-but-acceptable 12GB drive using LVM under Ubuntu (plus there's the shared drive on the home network server). The 901 has the proper 1024x600 screen, plus wifi and Bluetooth. Battery life is 5 hours with a new battery, dying back to 3 hours after 5 years heavy use. The 901s seem to go very cheap on eBay due to keyboard failures (a new keyboard is only 6 quid and a doddle to fit) and Windows running out of space (firstly, don't use Windows on a netbook, and secondly, use LVM to join the two tiny SSDs into one larger drive).

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Biz users, hard-up punters: Nobody loves Windows 8

Andrew Oakley

Re: I really like Windows 8...

"Just how 'aging'?"

Intel Core 2 Duo E7200 (2.53GHz overclocked to 3.5GHz), 4GB RAM, Asus P5Q Pro motherboard, 500GB SATA HDD, ATI Radeon 5770 graphics.

Running on 1600x900 display.

0
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Andrew Oakley
Happy

Re: I really like Windows 8...

I agree. I'm a Linux user for everything except games. Windows 8 + Classic Shell provided me with a way of getting DirectX11 on my aging Windows XP games machine for 25 quid.

It Just Works. With Classic Shell it bypasses the Metro UI (which I neither like or dislike, because I've never used it for more than the 2 minutes it took to install Classic Shell) and gives me a Start menu.

Windows 8's UAC is pretty sensible. It's not annoying like Vista, and I'd say it's even slightly less naggy than Windows 7. And it seems fast and responsive; I seem to be getting about 5 FPS better performance in 3D games than I did on exactly the same hardware under Windows XP.

If the one and only thing this does, is to allow me to install GTA:V when it comes out, then it will be considered 25 quid well spent.

Even for the sole purpose of getting off Windows XP before it becomes unsupported, it's a good deal. Add Classic Shell and consider it a cheap way of getting Windows 7, if you want to think of it that way.

Will I still consider it a good deal when the 25 quid offer ends after 31 Jan? Dunno. Don't care. I've only got one Windows machine and that's upgraded now. For anyone else looking to upgrade from XP... fill yer boots, get in while you can.

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GCHQ boss: Crypto-genius Turing brought tech to British spooks

Andrew Oakley

Turing's lesser-celebrated eccentricities

No mention of some of Turing's lesser-celebrated "eccentricities", such as leaving classified documents lying around his unlocked study and inviting unvetted foreign street prostitutes to come and live with him, though.

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YouView: The long march to... er, where exactly?

Andrew Oakley

The interface IS the message

This article seems to completely ignore the convenience aspect. I already own Sky Plus but I watch hardly any of the pay channels. I continue to rent Sky Plus solely because the user interface is SUPERB, and because it is easy to distribute around my home; there are standard remote controls which I can pick up relatively cheaply which are EXACTLY the same no matter which shop I buy them from, there's a built-in RF modulator, there's an RF "magic eye" backchannel for remote controls in other rooms, there is a distribution amp in the loft, job done.

I've wanted to switch to some kind of Freeview Plus PVR + iPlayer solution for some time, but... Jesus H Christ they're bloody awful. No RF modulator on most of them. No "magic eye" backchannel at all, making it unnecessarily difficult to use remote controls in other rooms. Remote controls that you can only purchase direct from the manufacturer's "spares" department at a horrendous price (really, 60 notes for a remote?).

Sure, all these problems can be solved by daisy-chaining my own RF modulator, my own RF<>IR remote sender, a bunch of generic remotes... but it just ends up looking like a cobbled-together mess, which is exactly what it is.

Furthermore, Freeview Plus EPGs and recording library listings interfaces and iPlayer front-ends, universally SUCK. All of them. If Youview only does one thing, if all it does is give me a better front-end to an EPG, stored recordings and iPlayer, then I am willing to pay for that alone, even if I have to continue cobbling together a bunch of RF-boxen to do the multi-room thing.

I can count the number of programmes that I watch on pay TV channels on one hand, and still have two fingers left over. I almost exclusively watch Freeview content. But via Sky, because the user experience, the convenience, the interface.

And before anyone starts, no I do not want a Freeview PVR in every room. I want one central record+store box, and then to be able to play out on any screen in the house. Sky Plus does this very, very well.

0
0

Sugar content now to be measured in Cadbury Creme Eggs

Andrew Oakley
FAIL

It's worrying (for values of "worry" that include mild peeves) that the usually mathematically-strict XKCD should mix Old English with Metric measures, and worse, not clarify, in an article about British confection, whether the Old English units are British Imperial or American Customary Units. XKCD, hand back your maths-nerd credentials at once!

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How can family sysadmins make a safe internet playground for kids?

Andrew Oakley
Happy

OpenDNS Family Shield for typos + spend time with them, job done

What's working well for my five-year-old daughter so far, is OpenDNS FamilySheild to protect against accidental typo-squatting pr0n, and then just spending time with her when she uses her netbook (and by "her netbook" I mean my old Eee 901 netbook, only her login has a stripped-down Openbox desktop with only the launcher icons she uses).

One thing I don't let her do is use the netbook on her own. For example she can't take it into her bedroom and shut the door. Mostly we use it on the kitchen table or in the lounge.

Oh, and I wholeheartedly recommend getting a cheap graphics tablet for young kids. The Trust Flex Ultra Thin is less than 20 quid delivered and, after a bit of xorg.conf wrangling, has done wonders for her Tux Paint masterpieces.

0
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Smart meters: Nothing can possibly go wrong, says gov

Andrew Oakley
Black Helicopters

There goes the shipping forecast... and your power supply

Pundits wondering why they can't just keep their existing electricity meter, might want to ask BBC Radio 4. Many electricity meters use a longwave radio data service, carried alongside BBC Radio 4, to synchronise Economy 7 times, clocks forward/backward for summer time etc.

http://www.energynetworks.org/rts/

Which is all fine until the BBC's Radio 4 longwave transmitter blows a valve.

Because there are no more valves.

And nobody makes them anymore.

And the BBC have said that once one of the two remaining valves blow, Radio 4 Longwave becomes Radio 4 DAB. Which the electricity meters don't listen to.

But nobody has stopped to ask "what happens to the data service, and the electricity meters which rely on it?"

So, whilst we can argue all we like about exactly what the new meters should do, how smart they should be, and who should pay for them, what you can't argue about is that pretty soon we are definitely going to need new meters.

1
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OccupySF BOFH runs protest network on pedal power

Andrew Oakley
WTF?

Anti-capitalism but PRO-sweatshop?

So basically the anti-capitalism protesters are basing their campaign around mass-produced imported electronics made by sweatshop workers who have to pay their own employer for their mandatory food and accommodation?

I wonder how much a netbook or a smartphone would cost if the factory workers were paid a Western minimum wage?

0
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Glow-in-the-dark kittens to help produce cure for AIDS

Andrew Oakley
Mushroom

LOLcats overload?

Glowing kittehz AND an STD? I predict 4chan will melt.

2
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Ofcom Radio pokes at potential pirates

Andrew Oakley

Drug dealers on pirate radio

Okay, to answer the drug dealers question.

A big pirate operation will need funding. This comes from advertising, but in a roundabout way; event promotion, sort of like product placement. Local shops and services would be very, very dumb to advertise on big-name pirate radio because they'd get fined pretty much straight away.

For the larger pirates, how it works is that an organised crime gang will control the supply of drugs in particular nightclubs. Any rival dealers will get bounced out, man-handed to the polis or just plain beaten up, whereas dealers from the "in-house" gang will get waved through the door and overlooked by the bouncers.

The big pirate radio stations then get paid to promote the nightclubs controlled by the drugs gangs. Sometimes there's also negative advertising ("dissing") of rival nightclubs.

The gang control can be either directly through links with the nightclub management, or it can be done by, ahem, "persuading" the bouncers. Now the bouncers do get criminal records checks, but there's essentially a never-ending supply of clean-skin bouncers with no record. Drug dealing is incredibly lucrative so they have plenty of funds to tempt even the most saintly of broken-nosed weekend rugby wannabees.

You've got to bear in mind that even the big-name pirates will be essentially hobbies, labours of love by the DJs and engineers. It's their baby, they'll do anything to keep it going. And especially with the engineers, they tend to be geeks with not much common sense about how organised crime works. When faced with the need for a couple of hundred quid to replace a transmitter, or the need to have a bouncer guarding the studio door, they'll accept offers of help from strangers not because of the profit, but because that's what needs to be done to keep their station going. They're idiots, and they're still guilty, but they never went in to the pirate business to become rich or to promote drugs.

For the smaller pirates, the ones which don't operate regular or frequent hours, they'll generally have no other criminal connections and will be run by some independently wealthy electronics geek. Typically these will be teenagers with rich parents and a little too much pocket money or a lucrative part-time job, often from out-of-town country villages or posh suburbs. These lads will simply see the inner cities as places with lots of listeners and lots of tall buildings, the concept of crime won't even figure in their mind - they grew up in a place which didn't have crime, it's something they don't need to think about. For them, sure, you *can* just wire up an MP3 player to a biscuit-tin TX, shove the aerial up a tree on top of a rural hill and scarper until the battery runs out, but sheep don't have radios and tractor drivers only listen to Radio 2, so in all likelyhood you won't get many listeners and thus have nobody to brag to. Whereas an inner-city tower-block will have a power supply and thousands of keen listeners well within range. Then, at some point, an organised criminal ring-leader will spot some potential and make the lad a very, very interesting offer. If the lad is sensible then he'll correctly figure that if he just goes back to his home village and keeps out of the inner city for a few years, or even better buggers off to university on the other side of the country, he can just ignore the offer. Otherwise... he's starting down the path to real trouble.

0
0
Andrew Oakley
Grenade

Transmitters

You can buy a decent community-sized FM transmitter over the counter in various European countries for less than a hundred quid, so I find the argument that raiding their equipment is effective at keeping pirates off the air, is highly dubious at best. It's certainly cheap to do, but it's whack-a-mole. Pay a couple of hundred euros and you can get a high quality quartz-locked TX with RDS and all the bells and whistles, that won't wander all over the band and won't interfere with anything except stations on that specific frequency.

Previously the biggest threat was the DTI confiscating the DJs' record & CD collections. Now everything is on MP3 and backed up at home, that threat is gone.

The days of pirates blocking emergency comms is long gone. The emergency services moved off FM nearly three decades ago. The last pirate to block an emergency frequency was Radio Caroline in 1989, on 6215kHz, an emergency frequency that was so close to the 49m band used by the BBC World Service, Radio France International et al that nobody had used it to make an emergency call for well over a decade even back then.

What are valid arguments, are interference in other officially-licensed broadcasters, and health and safety. Health and safety, in particular.

Typically when the moronic surveyors turn up they inevitably find a tower block. Now their triangulation kit will easily identify a location on the horizontal - i.e. long/lat grid ref on a map - but it won't help them identify which floor the little bastards are occupying. So what they tend to do is trip the fusebox floor-by-floor until the signal goes dead, then they have found the correct floor.

To get around this, decent pirates take their mains power supply from something else. And this is where health and safety comes in. The AC's story about taking 3-phase off a lift shaft using a couple of nails sounds pretty typical. I've known a pirate in the West Midlands take power from a street light mounted to the side of the tower block - leaning out of the window on the 5-6th storey, disconnecting the bulb and attaching wires directly to the socket. A professional pirate will use a "cat and mouse" relay system, with the studio some distance from the transmitter connected by a HF link, and an early warning system (typically, one of the DJs' girlfriends monitoring the output) to tell the studio to scarper once the TX gets busted. You then get into a battle of wits whereby the pirates try to create an HF receiver that can't be broken into or the source studio identified without triggering the early warning system.

1
0

Mozilla's Skywriter gets Ajax treatment, emerges as Ace

Andrew Oakley
Coat

Wicked!

Am I the only one dissapointed by the lack of Sophie Aldred-flavoured late-80s classic Doctor Who content in this article?

1
0

Why Microsoft is Acorn and Symbian is the new CP/M

Andrew Oakley
Unhappy

Acorn, whatever happened to them? THEY BECAME ARM!

Um, the author of this article does know that Acorn went on to become ARM, the designer and patent-holder of the CPUs used in almost every smartphone and low-power device on the planet, right?

3
3

PARIS joins the 17-mile-high club

Andrew Oakley
Thumb Up

Superb

Just superb. A bunch of tech journos and backroom geeks put a paper aeroplane into space. That's an outstanding achievement, and all the better for being almost entirely pointless; it's great to do something this significant just for the fun of it.

For further reading into the field of boffinry and half-arsed over-achievement, take a gander at "Backroom Boys: The Secret Return of the British Boffin" by Francis Spufford.

5
0

Gov axes £35bn Severn Barrage tide-energy scheme

Andrew Oakley
FAIL

This would have flooded Oldbury nuclear power station

Whilst it's all very nice to talk about how abandoning the barrier plans has "saved" the wildlife sanctuaries along the estuary (notably, Slimbridge Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust), let's be realistic here.

The barrage plan would have flooded Oldbury nuclear power station, currently being decommissioned.

I really don't think the plan was a goer from day one. Nobody in their right mind wants to put a 1960s decommissioned nuclear power station underwater.

2
0

World's first pedal-powered ornithopter takes flight in Canada

Andrew Oakley
Thumb Down

Does pedaling/flapping add anything that gliding/car-tow does not?

As the video shows, the craft is launched by a tow-rope from an automobile. It fails to gain any significant height in the video.

I am really not convinced that the pedalling/flapping wings is really adding much here.

I suspect that a control experiment, of a rigid glider pulled by a car tow-rope, would achieve much the same result.

16
1

Sod hedgerows and fields, build more base stations

Andrew Oakley

Rural planning permission is totally broken

The main problem is that the planning system does not really distinguish green belt land - patches of fields bordering directly onto large towns - and the deeper countryside far away from any large towns or cities.

Contrary to popular misconception, the UK is not short of countryside, as anyone who has looked out of an aeroplane window on a cloudless day can confirm. Whilst green belt regulations are important in preventing urban sprawl, applying those same regulations to places which don't have any "urban" let alone any "sprawl" - say, Shropshire, Herefordshire or Gloucestershire - is a fundamentally flawed idea.

In Gloucestershire we have now got to the astoundingly stupid position whereby remote village primary schools - state schools - are taking out adverts in local rags to attract pupils, in order to prevent their numbers falling so low that they will close. They're asking parents in towns to drive their kids out to their remote primary school where they can enjoy "pupil to teacher ratios as low as 6 to 1" (this is Withington Primary). How has this come about? Because planning regulations and NIMBYs have prevented the building of new family homes or the conversion of other buildings into family homes. Because offices can't get decent cheap broadband so there are no office jobs for prospective parents. Because small factories have been told they can't move heavy lorries down those roads anymore so the factory relocates, and the families with it.

After living all 38 years of my life in the countryside, I finally gave up last January and moved to a suburban new development on the outskirts of a local town. My wife and I decided to have "just one more" child, it turned out to be twins, and that was it... we ran out of bedrooms. The price difference between 3 bedrooms and 4 bedrooms in our Gloucestershire village was 150k. That's insane. So the school lost another of its dwindling number of pupils, the playgroup lost not one but two prospective recruits, the pub, post office, garage, bus and village shop lost a whole family of customers. Our house was bought by some rich old lady. Can't imagine she'll make much use of the school, or the pub, or the garage... maybe she might use the bus, once a week. Oh wait, they cancelled the bus route already.

We are strangling our countryside to death.

And me? I now live in a massive Bovis box. It's got all the character of a concrete slab but it's big enough for everyone to have their own room. Plus the broadband is so fast I could actually run my own business from home. Mind you, I'm rather enjoying the shorter commute to work, especially as I can listen to streaming audio on my 3G phone as the frequent bus service shuttles me back and forth to the town centre.

1
0

FringOut phones home

Andrew Oakley

Fring == SIP frontend

I thought most people just used Fring as a way of making SIP calls on their handset.

It's nice that they've added some SIP credit to fund the development, but... this is essentially a SIP frontend. A very, very good SIP frontend.

For example, I have a SPA3102 VOIP gateway at home which routes incoming calls from the BT landline to regular BT handsets, but routes outbound calls from those same handsets to VOIP.

Fring allows me to make calls from my bog standard Nokia mobile phone using the same VOIP account.

Given the huge amount of inclusive call-time most mobile contracts allow, I use Fring almost exclusively to make international calls only. For example, calling back to the UK whilst abroad in a hotel which has WiFi.

1
0

Perseid meteors 'thrill star-gazers'

Andrew Oakley
Alien

3:16am Fri 13 Aug = International Space Station

If you were up at 3am decided to look skywards, then quite probably what you saw wasn't a satellite but the International Space Station.

Next visible tonight at 3:42 and 5:15am.

http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/realdata/sightings/

0
0

YouTube, iPlayer on a TV? Simples

Andrew Oakley

Wii already does this

I watch YouTube and BBC iPlayer on my Wii already. What exactly does this add that my Wii doesn't already provide?

0
0

Nine Inch Nails guy scores Facebook movie... bitch!

Andrew Oakley
Pint

Requiem for Pop Will Eat Itself

God help us. Trent Reznor has become the new Clint Poppie. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clint_Mansell

0
0

Beeb sends teaboy outside with iPhone

Andrew Oakley
WTF?

Now replaced with a Press Association picture!

You're not gonna believe this. They've replaced it again, this time with a Press Association image.

http://www.aoakley.com/misc/peston-pa.png

So that's two image royalties plus timewasting for the teaboy. Good to see the budget cuts working hard at Auntie.

0
0

I'm lost without Google Wi-Fi snoop

Andrew Oakley
FAIL

But when you take your WiFi router from one rural location to another...

I discovered that by taking my WiFi router from one part of the Cotswolds to another part of the Cotswolds, neither of which had neighbours with WiFi, resulted in... all WiFi geolocation tools giving my location as my old address.

It's driving my wife nuts. Even changing the SSID hasn't made a difference. I think I'll have to try to assign the router a new MAC address.

0
0
Andrew Oakley

Skyhook are dreadful at updating their database

I've submitted my address change and my WiFi router's SSID/MAC countless times in the six months since I moved house, and it still shows my location as my old house fifteen miles away.

0
0

Giving poor kids computers, internet makes them stupider

Andrew Oakley
Grenade

Makes them stupid...er?

I like El Reg's assumption that poor == stupid already, and that therefore computers must be making the children stupid-er, rather than perhaps being responsible for making otherwise intelligent poor people become stupid in the first place.

3
1

Government wastes millions on redundant cycle route planner

Andrew Oakley
Black Helicopters

DAMN YOU, disgusting FREETARDS

Surprised to see this Reg hack not adhering to the editorial line that FREE IS BAD, M'KAY? I expect John will be sent for capitalist re-education camp in the Arizona desert by the end of the day.

Don't these freetards know that almost half a dozen civil service contractor's girlfriends may be relying on the income from this two million pound government overspend nobody ever thinks of the henchmen's families etc. etc. etc.

1
0

Tesco Internet Phone rings off the hook

Andrew Oakley
FAIL

It's the handsets, stupid

The plethora of proprietary VOIP handsets is the problem. The way to make this work is to buy a Linksys SPA3102 (£45) plus a BT socket master adapter from Maplins (£5) and plug in your normal, existing, BT-compatible handsets into that. Hey presto, you can get VOIP on normal phones. Then just pick any of the gazillions of domestic/traveller-oriented VOIP SIP providers, such as webcalldirect, sipgate, budgetsip, justvoip etc. etc. etc. and enjoy free landline calls plus dirt cheap international and mobile calls. I wrote a guide: http://tinyurl.com/aovoip

3
0

Chinese gamer survives knife through skull

Andrew Oakley
Coat

wallhack =

wallhack = backstab + headshot

0
0

'Health and safety killjoys' kill cheese-rolling race

Andrew Oakley
IT Angle

A local writes...

The problem is the audience, not the participants. It's just a large local hill, there is no car park, there is no significant access for anything. It's densely wooded, other than the bit that people throw themselves down. The bits that aren't covered in trees are covered in mud. They put up a rope bannister along the side of the hill, and you haul yourself up the rope to watch assorted rugby-club veterans and peer-pressured teens injure themselves.

There is simply no infrastructure to cope with the increased audience. There's nowhere for them to leave their cars. There's nowhere for coaches to pick up / drop off people.

It worked fine as a local event for local people. But there is simply no way for this to work as a national or international spectacle.

Long/lat 51.831,-2.158 if you're interested.

1
0

Zero* welcome for 200 Welsh TV shows - in Wales

Andrew Oakley
FAIL

Shropshire - disputed territory

"Wales' Welsh-speaking community, and apparently a number of English speakers who have maladjusted TV aerials." - or English Welsh speakers from Oswestry and other parts of Shropshire where Welsh is the language of choice in the home.

0
0

Daily Mail commentard out-tw*ts the Tw*t-O-Tron

Andrew Oakley
IT Angle

He has a Facebook page

Top Google result for "Pritesh Hathalia" is a Facebook page with that name from Leicester. Could it be..?

0
0

Beeb deletes iPlayer app from iPhone

Andrew Oakley
Thumb Down

Always the bloody tube

What is it with El Reg and their presumption that the London Underground is the only place that broadband / streaming / 3G / WiFi is not available?

This app would be ideal for me, commuting across the Cotswolds. We get 3G in the larger villages and market towns, but in the open countryside, you're lucky to get EGPRS. And we all know (or should know) that 3G mast handover doesn't really work at anything over 20mph; try using 3G on an intercity train, even on a "posh" route like Oxford - Paddington, and it's a whole world of fail.

Stop wittering on about the damned tube as if it's the only disconnected place in existence.

(And yes, we get the Metro on Cotswold buses. It has theatre reviews for Bristol, for some reason. Dunno why the buses need flat-screen CCTV, though, given that the most anti-social behaviour we witness is some deaf old dear failing to thank the driver as she disembarks. And yes, we do actually use buses. Just because I own a 4x4 for scuttling around the countryside, doesn't necessarily mean I want to waste time driving it through Cheltenham or Oxford city centre traffic jams only to fail to find somewhere to park. A £70/month bus pass takes me anywhere from the M50 to the M4).

1
0

IEEE names 28-year-old woman its new 'Face of Engineering'

Andrew Oakley
FAIL

Bunny?

The IEEE pick a black female role model, and her employers describe her as a "Bunny"?

Class. You couldn't make this stuff up.

7
1

Echelon computers can't cope with bad lines

Andrew Oakley
IT Angle

Metadata, not data

Was Echelon really ever about real-time speech recognition? I doubt it. Most of the power would have surely come the enveloper - from knowing who was phoning who, from where and when. If a chap you suspect to be a religious fundamentalist phones a chap you suspect to be a passport forger, then that is surely already enough to flag up the communication as worthy of further investigation, without having to pick out key words or whole conversations.

2
0

Too fat to fly: Kevin Smith and OpenOffice

Andrew Oakley
FAIL

CPU grunt not storage space

I'd have thought that Ubuntu's decision to ditch OpenOffice on Netbook Remix has nothing to do with storage space (as El Reg suggests) and a lot more to do with processing power. Most netbooks are single-core 1.6GHz affairs which lack the oomph to run OpenOffice - which is not only already bloated, but also runs in Java. If Sun made a native X86 version of OOo then I'm sure it would be a much better experience all round. Sun could also cut down the bloat by moving much of the "features" into plug-ins (OOo 3 already supports plugins).

0
3

Weeny SIM Wi-Fi hotspot is here! But why?

Andrew Oakley
FAIL

Joiku

And this has an advantage over the existing, working, popular Joiku Spot app how?

0
1

Peppa Pig told to belt up

Andrew Oakley
IT Angle

Pigs ... In ... SpaaaaAAAAaace!

Strangely, the Peppa Pig space rocket toy *does* have seat belts, although the car toy does not.

0
0

Walking With Dinosaurs star goes walkabout

Andrew Oakley
FAIL

Can't believe you missed...

...the opportunity for a Peter Ustinov "One Of Our Dinosaurs Is Missing" headline

0
0

Mozilla lights fire under Thunderbird

Andrew Oakley
FAIL

After 8 years, still can't Print Selection

Given that in eight years, Thunderbird still hasn't fixed basic functionality bugs such as the inability to "Print Selection" ( https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=66806 ) I wouldn't hold out much hope. It's an excellent traditional SMTP/POP3/IMAP client, but it needs to concentrate on finishing off the basic bugs which have been around for nearly a decade, before worrying about webmail and modern frippery.

2
0

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