* Posts by Martin an gof

346 posts • joined 27 Jan 2010

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Excel hell messes up ~20 per cent of genetic science papers

Martin an gof
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Re: Nice work if you can get it

Maybe 10% of what I do at work creates value, the rest just creates work for other people

You are Scott Adams and I claim my £10:

Dilbert, 14 August 2016

M.

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Martin an gof
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"formatted emails": there's your problem, right there ;)

Well yes. When I originate an email it's plain text, but when replying to an email it's invariably formatted, and getting rid of the formatting can muck up the "history".

You know, I still can't get used to top-posting and the way Outlook mangles / ignores signature separators...

M.

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Martin an gof
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problematic feature of Excel software

Reformatting affects all sorts of software, such that I usually find myself turning off nearly all 'autocorrect' features, just to stop the annoyances of having to re-type stuff. The one that's annoying me at the moment is at work, where Outlook insists on autocorrecting (in formatted emails) our postcode, which ends 3RD, to 3rd

And don't talk about the problems of writing emails with a mixture of langauges - in my case Welsh and English. Best just turn off all correction features.

M.

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A USB stick as a file server? We've done it!

Martin an gof
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Re: Slow campfire

backing up the SD cards from the digital cameras while on-the-go

This is becoming more of a problem, I think. A 1 week holiday we took back in May generated some 54GB of data between four children and two adults - yes there were videos in there too. Ignoring the video camera and the phones, there are six "proper" stills cameras in that mix. One has a 4GB card, four have 8GB cards and one has a 32GB card. The smaller cards, especially if video is taken, can sometimes last only a day or two of holiday, and you don't want the children to be forced to delete things just because they've run out of space (though there are usually some poor photos that can be removed).

These days I tend to take a cheapish laptop on holiday (also good for viewing the pictures in an evening), but have wondered about an independent device in the past. Thing is though that without an intermediary such as a laptop it would need to be able to read SD cards, so this particular stick wouldn't cut it. Might as well store the photos on the laptop. And I don't think this is the problem this USB stick is trying to solve.

It's all a very, very long way from a 10 day holiday I took with my parents back in 1980 - the first time we'd ever been abroad and the only reminder I have of it now are two dozen 110-format slides (bet you didn't know you could get Kodachrome in 110 size). Mum and dad think they didn't take a camera (and I certainly haven't found any photographic evidence that they did, and don't remember any), my sister didn't have a camera and I really must get around to asking my brother if he did. Not exactly a comprehensive record of the holiday, nor top quality.

BUT. I have to say that I do have to keep reminding the children that they won't get the best out of a holiday if they view the whole thing through a lens. I learned that myself when ma & pa bought a decent camera (OM1n - after the above holiday! I still miss that camera) and suddenly I could use it to take really good pictures, but not remember much about the trip.

M.

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Sysadmin sticks finger in pipe, saves data centre from flood

Martin an gof
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Re: location

I can never fathom the mentality of any company which puts their essential electronics/electrical kit in the basement or under the water tanks.

I've searched in vain for the reference now, but I'm certain that when the National Archive opened their new building near the Thames, there was a news story about the fact that they had decided to put all their "infrastructure" - building systems, IT etc - in the basement, below the groundwater level and at risk of flooding, because as far as they were concerned it was sacrificial and nowhere near as important as their physical records which remained firmly above ground. Presumably they had an offsite DR plan for the IT, and who cares if you end up having to mop out a comms room, but trying to extract the Thames from 500 year old unique documents is nigh-on impossible.

That said, at my current place of work, air conditioning units, heating pipework etc, directly above the racks. Who would have thought that a leak would even happen, much less cause problems? Just before I started here they had to deal with just such an event and as a result, the racks in each rack room now have "roofs", sloping to a bit of guttering and piped to... well... somewhere less vulnerable, and fitted with a leak detection system.

M.

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Scared of mobile banking

Martin an gof
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Re: The real problem is why it's only 36%

Last time I went into my local branch I was made to feel distinctly a problem because I wanted to talk to the teller and not use the machines. At least they still call me sir and do not (yet) use my given name.

My local Nat West has done this - got rid of a row of four teller positions for three machines (they had two anyway) and a couple of semi-tellers at a desk. Guess where the queues always are? The machines are only really useful for withdrawing cash or paying in small amounts of cash or cheques, and honestly it seems to take longer with the machine than it used to with a teller.

My local Co-Op, on the other hand, has three teller positions, a manager-type sat at an open desk, and not even a cash machine on site!

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: The real problem is why it's only 36%

Statistically and if you think about it, you are far less likely to have an issue with a [well written and downloaded from an official source] banking app than you are with using a web browser whether on a PC or a Smartphone or just from simple banking/cloning 2FA flaws.

Not sure why that should be the case. Statistically, if I use neither a mobile app nor a web-based system, but deal with the bank almost entirely in-branch, then I know that every email or text message or phone call I get 'from my bank' is absolutely, definitely a scam. Apart from some awkwardness with opening hours (and there are banks out there that are realising this now) I find it quite a pleasurable experience dealing with things in-branch. Shame they are all closing, and I know I'm fortunate to live in a small town which has a good selection of banks still.

M.

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Apple allowed to put up bit barn in the Fields of Athenry

Martin an gof
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Coat

Re: 220kVA?

Nah, you're looking at it wrong. It's 0.5kVA per cabinet. They're using special low-power ARM servers which use under 5W each, power down aggressively and connect to a similarly low-powered switch.

Or, second thought, perhaps it really is environmentally friendly and the 220kVA is the power needed from the grid, with all the rest being generated on-site from solar, wind, water, geothermal, wave, whatever :-)

M.

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London's 'automatic' Tube trains suffered 750 computer failures last year

Martin an gof
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Re: So what's the message here, then ??

Not just the grim North - we suffer the same - 142, 143, 150 all still present and correct here on the Valleys Lines. They keep promising us better...

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: So what's the message here, then ??

A brave politician and TFL head would take the bull by the horns and announce major new programs but this is unlikely to ever happen.

Or just sit down and be quiet and be thankful for what you have and distribute the money around the rest of the country where it will make a heck of a lot more difference:

IPPR report from 2013 (PDF)

See tables 1.5, 1.6 and figures 1.3 and 1.4 for example.

Some of the analysis is disputed though, and even the Western Mail is a bit more restrained:

Transport spending per person in London is twice the level in Wales

Note that this is in relation to an earlier version of the IPPR report, from 2011.

M.

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Tableau 10 is generally available, complete with visual tweaks

Martin an gof
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@allthecool...

Oh boy, that shirt, I can think of half a dozen people I could buy that for right now. Where's my list of birthdays?

M.

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Martin an gof
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Happy

While I can still read 9-pin dot-matrix printouts of source code faster than anything else, at work my boss's boss who is a big typography fan and once overheard me discussing the differences between Arial and Helvetica with a non-plussed colleague, before bad-mouthing Comic Sans, has kindly bought me a copy of Doves Type and now expects everything I write for him in this rather beautiful but slightly quirky (in a 19th Century kind of way) font.

It is amazing how not having access to an italic variant of your body font really concentrates the mind on what you are trying to communicate.

M.

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Facebook to forcefeed you web ads, whether you like it or not: Ad blocker? Get the Zuck out!

Martin an gof
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Re: Errrmmh....

The only ads I find annoying are the ones that pop up something over the page you want to see. But I have a solution to that, I never visit the page again.

Cutting off one's nose to spite one's face? As has already been mentioned: NoScript.

Auto-playing video ads aren't a problem as my audio is normally turned off

Noscript deals with these too, which are a problem even if you don't notice them - they are consuming bucketloads of bandwidth in the background.

It's all relative, I suppose. It's like the text -v- Word processor thing. A 2k plain text file instantly becomes about 10k of ODT, even when you consider that the latter is (I believe) data compressed.

What used to be 10k of HTML "back in the day" with another 10k or so of GIFs to brighten things up is now easily ten times that, even on fairly "restrained" web pages. As I write the big picture on ElReg's front page is over 220k. No idea about the ads, as most of them don't load...

I don't use ad blockers per-se, just NoScript. Seems to deal with the worst offenders, and the others aren't usually a problem.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: @Gene Cash -- Just one

Near Towyn?

't other side - Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant.

All I needed to do was get a message to my wife, who had gone to Oswestry. She was intending to contact our landlady while there - i.e. while there was a mobile signal - but I met the lady in the village while at the butcher.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: @Gene Cash -- Just one

You know, there is this thing called a telephone...

Or put a line in the Hatch, Match & Despatch column of a newspaper?

Sorry... coat's over there... the one with enough 50p coins in the pocket to afford a 1 minute call from a phone box.

M.

<rant>Would you believe that I found two working phoneboxes within half a mile of each other in a mobile-signal-less part of Mid Wales? They were both working, but neither took cash, neither had a card reader, and when I made a reverse-charge call (not easy as the keypad stopped working as soon as the automated system answered "100") my parents (who were the recipients) were charged NINE POUNDS and SEVENTY FIVE PENCE for a two minute call! Landline to landline!</rant>

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Windows 10 pain: Reg man has 75 per cent upgrade failure rate

Martin an gof
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Re: /home partition @CompUser

It will not create a seperate partition for the /home directory.

I have only installed Mint once recently. It was on an EeePC that has a 4GB and a 16GB SSD, so quite a tight setup. Having first wiped the whole thing (it was previously OpenSuse) it most certainly did partition the discs without intervention - it has given me an 8.2GB root partition and a 7.9GB home partition - though I may have tweaked the exact split, I can't remember. The 4GB drive is given over to swap.

I have much more often installed OpenSuse these days. It, too, will suggest partitioning the disc by default. The machine I'm using to write this has a 120GB SSD divided into 32GB root, 8GB swap and 79GB home. Since building this machine I've installed 2x320GB HDDs in RAID1 which I use for local media files (e.g. videos I'm working on) and /home/videos (which is a standard subdirectory) redirects to that disc. Everything else lives on a NAS.

I've used Linux a fair bit but I'm not an expert.

Ditto. When I first dabbled with Linux some fifteen years ago it was like stepping back in time to the 1980s - my wife was a Mac OS user and I had been used to Windows and RiscOS and even Windows seemed (from a user's point of view) much more "together". I stuck with RiscOS. Ten years ago things were better, but having taken the RiscOS path I no longer had suitable hardware, nor the money to buy any. Five or six years ago when I was able to use some redundant hardware at work to look at it again, I was stunned at the progress and then, of course, along came the RaspberryPi. My RiscPC was well past its sell by date (though I still use it daily even now) and even my wife's fancy Mac Mini was getting long-in-the-tooth, so I scraped the money together to build a machine capable of running OpenSuse. I'm glad I did.

It is by no means perfect, but there are several distributions which are both easy enough for someone with a small amount of computer savvy to install, and not so dissimilar to Windows or OSX that they are unusable "out of the box". I wouldn't give someone with no computer experience a blank hard drive and a bootable installation on a USB stick, but then I wouldn't ask such a person to install Windows nor OSX from scratch either.

M.

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Boeing just about gives up on the 747

Martin an gof
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Fastest trans Atlantic

I thought that record was still held by a VC10 - might have been mentioned on that City in the Sky programme? The ever-reliable Wikipedia seems to confirm it... sort of.

M.

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Flight sim records show MH370 captain practiced 'flight' near search area

Martin an gof
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Re: My personal contribution to "odd" flight sim behavior

I've not played with flight sims since the pre-VGA days, but like probably everyone else, one of the first things you do is try flying under a bridge

Talking about pre-VGA, in Aviator on the BBC Micro, flying under the bridge was a required skill - there's a picture of the bridge on the game cover.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: I'm a flight sim enthusiast

he was a trainee pilot who was practicing

I believe that the John Finnemore sitcom Cabin Pressure had quite a lot of storylines taken from reality (I believe his brother or perhaps his father is/was an airline pilot). In this case the episode Helsinki comes to mind - search for the words "flight simulator", they're about a third of the way down the the transcript.

M.

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No, the VCR is not about to die. It died years ago. Now it's VHS/DVD combo boxes' turn

Martin an gof
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going via RGB worked fine.

But you don't get RGB out of a video recorder.

The best way to get rid of Macrovision IIRC (where it did interfere with AGC) was either to find an old VCR which had manual gain controls, or to invest in a "Syncblaster". Or those into home video might have had a video mixer with a digital frame store which had the same effect.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: I think I was waiting for the VHS to be invented!

Mackross (sp) Cardiff

Maskreys on Whitchurch Road?

Image on Google Streetview (never tried to send such a link before - not sure if it will work).

I remember going in there in the late 1980s or early 1990s to buy a carpet with my mum only to find that the carpet salesman was the original owner of my mum's house. We had to be very careful speaking to him because the carpets he had fitted were absolutely dire 1960s turquoise/black/purple "Paisley" type pattern. Mum and dad had got rid of those as soon as they could afford to.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Ah...

When plus codes turned up programming got a lot easier and the machine was quite good at noticing time changes by itself

That was down to the broadcaster though - they had to transmit a matching code for every programme, which the VCR looked for and used to start / stop the recording. Generally speaking the BBC got this right, ITV sometimes did (I used to wonder if the codes had to be triggered manually at their end because they were often late or early or just didn't happen), but I had problems with S4C and Channel 4, though the latter was almost certainly down to a weak signal; you couldn't reliably get teletext from C4 either. Don't know about Channel 5; didn't get that until digital TV came along.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Stop making me feel old

turn any old VCR with a SCART plug into a tape drive for data storage

In the days before DAT and HDD recording, a similar device made by Sony was used by some recording studios to record digital audio onto VHS. We had one at the radio station I worked at. If I remember correctly it could do 16bit / 2 channel / 32KHz or 14bit / 2 channel / 48kHz. It worked well enough if you used good quality cassettes and stored them sensibly, but was obviously an evolutionary dead end right from the outset. Looked pretty on the monitor though :-)

We had people using tape right up to the moment the machines were retired, and long after HDD recording had become affordable - we had one of the first Soundscape machines, which was a 2U box containing some electronics and 2x IDE hard drives which used a bog-standard PC ('286 or higher I think) for control. It was a small fraction the price of competing systems which relied on fast computers with specialised sound hardware and SCSI discs.

The problem with VHS is that it is analogue. I had an interesting discussion with my 14 year-old just yesterday who had dug out some old Thomas the Tank Engine tapes (first series) and tried to play them. Yes, the VHS player is still working, yes I have connected it up correctly to the new TV we bought last Christmas, yes the sound works but no, the TV won't sync to the slightly wobbly signal off tape - the sound continues but the picture blanks every few seconds. Feeding the VHS output through an external re-sync device sorted that, but now he's talking about buying DVDs of all the tapes he has, and what I want to know is why can't a modern multi-standard TV lock on to a slightly wavery signal from an old VHS tape?

I think it's time I started transferring all those old Hi8 tapes to the computer. I have enough storage now, and I still have a working camera. What I don't have is a video capture device for my Linux machine. Any recommendations? My boss at work has a Blackmagic H.264Pro I could borrow, but it only comes with Windows and OSX software and as far as I'm aware it doesn't work under Linux, though I have only spent 30 minutes testing it.

At least my DV tapes are easier. With a working camera and a Firewire connection, it's as simple as an incantation to dvgrab.

M.

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Brit chip biz ARM legs it to Softbank for $32bn

Martin an gof
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Well I just read a story about this buyout calling ARM a "supplier to Apple",

And on Today this morning that was practically all they said in the news bulletins (the business bloke was slightly better). There was no mention of the absolutely vast range of stuff that has at its heart one or more ARM cores, just "iPhone and iPad".

Shoddy reporting.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Apple will never own ARM (again)

The fact that ARM's board are recommending this deal to their shareholders suggests that

it suggests that their legal obligation to do the best by their shareholders over-rides just about any other concern. This is such a large premium over the current market value that I don't think the board had any option but to recommend it, whatever their ideals may be.

Today was reporting this morning that they are promising to double the UK workforce in the next three years or something. I find that impossible to believe, and if it did happen I can foresee all sorts of organisational issues and cashflow issues that could ruin this almost lone-surviving jewel of British technology. I can see how ARM could do with a bit of a cash injection to accelerate their plans, but I can't see any reporting on how this might happen.

Bad news all around. Possibly even worse than the Cadbury's thing.

M.

P.S. slightly biased, I speak as someone who still uses an Acorn RiscPC (StrongARM) on a daily basis

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If we can't find a working SCSI cable, the company will close tomorrow

Martin an gof
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Happy

Re: Penknife. Pure and simple, basic Swiss Army Knife.

When are you ever going to need a Philips screwdriver these days?

When are you ever going to need a corkscrew? It's getting very difficult to find corked wine these days.

The advantage of the Philips is the T-shape the penknife makes when you open it. Although it's easier to unscrew rackbolts using the big flatblade, sometimes they're so stiff you need the extra leverage that the T-shape gives, just to get them started.

Oh, and a torch, as someone else mentioned. In my case it's a simple Petzl Tikka headtorch. I've had a number of others, but this thing is tough and the batteries last well. The light is bright, but not blinding and the beam is wide-ish, rather than the useless spot you sometimes get with cheap LED lamps.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Full marks for extra experience!

It might be worth getting a list of what bits of kit people carry with them 'just in case' and what bits have saved the day more than once.

Penknife. Pure and simple, basic Swiss Army Knife. Specifically one of these.

Ok, it won't cope with fibre termination, but it'll do just about anything else from emergency punch-down resetting to dealing with rack bolts to "field modification" of (say) ceiling panels. I won't pretend it's as good as the "proper" tools, but it stays permanently in my pocket and has saved me more times than I can say.

M.

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Linux letting go: 32-bit builds on the way out

Martin an gof
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Re: Fair Enough

My personal hope is someone will make a battery and screen that you can shove a RaspberryPi in...

Pi-top

HTH

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: Thinks Bubble

The first chips to support 64-bit were in 2003 / 2004. Do you really have chips older than a K8 or Pentium 4 running around in active service?

Replacement machines to usurp any machine of this era are literally junk-heap material now.

But as someone pointed out earlier - netbooks. Yes, there were netbooks with 64-bit capable Atoms, but the majority of netbooks produced in that short period when they were very popular are both 32-bit and usually limited to 2GB maximum RAM.

You would really struggle to buy anything looking like a netbook these days. "Replacement machines" are not "junk-heap material".

Obviously the reason you can no longer buy netbooks is because nobody wants to buy them so the manufacturers stopped making them. My EeePC may be eight years old, but it does well enough for web browsing and occasionally something more creative (I've used it for MIDI sequencing, Arduino development, writing essays) and it certainly has a more usable keyboard than most fondleslabs or convertibles. If there were a direct replacement I might actually be in the market within the next couple of years, but there isn't.

With the launch of Leap (42.1) last November my Linux of choice, OpenSuse, ditched 32 bit support and I moved to Mint for the EeePC.

M.

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Obi Worldphone MV1: It's striking, it's solid. Aaaand... we've run out of nice things to say

Martin an gof
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Re: Nagging works

A keyboard would be a deal-maker for me. I have been looking at the BB Classic, but at that price and with the prospect of the thing not actually being around for much longer, perhaps not.

What about a dual-sided phone with a proper keyboard and screen good enough for calls and texts on one side, and a larger (but not too large) touchscreen on the other for browsing etc?

Or a flipper or a slider or any one of a huge number of phone formats that seem to have disappeared off the face of the planet?

I don't care if it is a mm or two (or five) thicker than the current iPhone, and I don't care if it's a few grams (or tens of grams) heavier (it'll be easier to hold and less likely to be dropped). I don't even care if it doesn't have a dodecacore many-GHz processor, 3D graphics, so many screen pixels you can't see them even with a magnifying glass, or a couple of dozen megapixels in the camera, so long as it works. Throw in a decent battery and sell it for a sensible amount of money...

Perhaps take a low-end smartphone as a starting point and add the keyboard? How hard can it be?

M.

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Martin an gof
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I've just installed Cyanogenmod 12

on my original Moto G, which is by modern standards a pretty low-spec phone, to replace 4.4.4. This is (very nearly) the same version of CM as that shown in the screenshots. I've never run CM before, and getting it on the phone in the first place was a little fraught. However, a couple of observations:

Starting up was difficult as Trebuchet (Android launcher?) kept crashing. I managed to disable it, and then the phone worked. Trebuchet seems to have re-enabled itself but hasn't caused problems yet.

The Google App toolbar / search / voice thing can be removed. I think I just "disabled" the Google App.

I have found the standard Android keyboard to be sluggish (often typing two or three characters ahead of the display), even though I also used the stock keyboard previously and had no problems (other than a general dislike for onscreen keyboards). I think I've solved that one by turning off suggestions, which always got in the way anyway. Otherwise speed seems fine.

I have been unable to recreate the battery life I was getting before. By dint of turning most of the radios off and disabling a swathe of data-slurping apps, I was previously able to get between 7 and 10 days of use out of the phone on a charge. Since installing CM and doing the same things, the best I have managed is four days, which even if I might have been "playing" with the settings a bit more than I used to, is pretty awful.

M.

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Singapore Airlines 777 catches fire after engine alarm

Martin an gof
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Boffin

Re: A close call?

there was an engine fire on a FlyBE plane

Since we seem to be into links; AAIB Monthly Bulletin, June 2016 (PDF, 1.9MB). It's the first report.

Fascinating, detailed explanation of what happened, why particular choices were made and what have been the consequences.

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: like that's a good thing?

Links etc welcome

City in the Sky, episode 3, Arrival about 30 minutes in.

I'd imagine that the reporting isn't necessarily "real time", given the number of engines in flight, but could be close enough to real time to be useful. After all, even if it's only a few dozen bytes of data every minute or so, you could get some very useful information from that. Quite what the communication system is I don't know, but given that aircraft these days seem almost always to be fitted with satellite communications, and of course there's the ACARS system running constantly, it should be doable.

Also interesting to note that their monitoring system seems to be running on Excel ;-)

M.

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Time to re-file your patents and trademarks, Britain

Martin an gof
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Re: MD a Trade? WTF?

Plumbing can be a lucrative gig and is hard to offshore

But it is also cut-throat, undervalued and risky. I used to be a self-employed electrician (Part P) and while the hourly rate looks good the pitfalls made the job as a whole (i.e. single trader, domestic only) pretty tiresome:

  • Clients who expect free consultations and call-outs at any time of the day, night or holiday
  • Quibbles about the smallest things; "yes, I know I agreed to X, but now I don't like it"
  • Quibbles about the "making good" (always the hardest part of the job in my experience)
  • Constant, constant pressure to cut corners and "bend" regulations, particularly the amount of time it can take to make all the required tests, checks and peripheral updates before and after a piece of work
  • Keeping up to date with those regulations
  • Keeping testing kit maintained and calibrated
  • Professional body membership fees
  • Insurance
  • The ever-present "my mate says Y, so when you say Z you are wrong"
  • Late payment of bills
  • Difficulty getting lines of credit with suppliers as a small company
  • Ridiculous bank charges for taking credit / debit cards (when I was doing it, a portable terminal cost about a day's work in rent every month)
  • Customers who can now go to Screwfix and buy the parts at the same price as you can. When I started I was able to buy things slightly cheaper than "the man on the street", add a small markup such that they were still cheaper than B&Q or Homebase and make a small profit. When I finished, this was almost impossible and indeed I had several jobs where clients insisted on supplying all their own parts

There is still money to be made in the business, but realistically you need at least a two or three man team who can tender for jobs or contracts with housebuilders, landlords and housing associations. The odd-jobbing domestic electrician (and plumber I suspect) is under pressure and the only people who can afford to do it are those who are willing to work at the lowest rates, cash-in-hand and perhaps bend the rules slightly. It's possibly worse for electricians because people seem to understand "must be Gas Safe registered" and accept it much more than "must be certified by a Part P registered electrician".

M.

(rant over - I got out and got myself a salaried job some years ago)

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Martin an gof
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I think the Airbus thing is different - it's not an EU project, it's a commercial venture. The main problem will come if Airbus can't easily move people around the factories, or if tariffs intervene. They already deal with currency fluctuations...

...or if it just becomes too much hassle to put the A380 wings on a barge. I also hear that the runway they use for the other components is barely long enough and can't be extended. I'd think these two issues would be bigger drivers for a move (and that could be a move within the UK) than most other things.

M.

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Martin an gof
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any company producing goods in the UK may start looking to relocate - it won't be a sudden thing but it will certainly start weighting decisions on where companies invest in the future

Are you saying, for example, that next time Ford is deciding between (say) Spain and (say) the UK to be the production centre of the new model (say) Fiesta, Spain will get the work? Sounds about right to me.

M.

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Martin an gof
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And what about the Cornish Pasty?

With reference to a recent story, if patents are a potential problem, what about protected regional status for food items?

M.

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Martin an gof
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Re: "Never was so much lost by so many due to one stupid decision"

That would be to have joined in the first place?

You can argue that, but you must realise that it is an entirely different thing to say that we should leave now.

Had I had the vote in 1973 I may well have voted 'no', but then again with the mess the country was in and the raw memories of a war that had finished less than a generation previously, it probably seemed like a good idea at the time. It would have been a much more difficult decision.

This one was a no-brainer. Pulling out now is a much more difficult and fraught process simply because we have had 40-odd years of integration in the intervening period. On top of that, much as I really don't agree with the amount of power the "financial markets" have over us, the fact is that they do, and because of that we are probably in for a five to ten year period of stagnation at best with those of us still with large amounts of working life ahead of us struggling even to do something as basic as obtain a mortgage. However "broken" the EU is, and however slowly reforms happen (and they did happen) it simply can't be better to run the risk of returning to the UK of the 1970s at best, or the 1920s at worst?

Anecdotal evidence (i.e. a neighbour) from around where I live says that in the run-up to the vote people simply stopped looking at houses to buy. Estate agents' footfall fell to near zero. The evidence so far is that it isn't improving since the vote.

I know several people who voted Leave. Some of them are beginning to realise what they did. There is far less "crowing" about the result than might have been expected.

M.

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Raspberry Pi 3 tops SBC poll for self-brew hackers and Linux folk

Martin an gof
Bronze badge

Re: Meh

Or - and this one has hit me several times with Pis that I'm using to play videos on loops - it's simply out of space. Tab-completion stops working when there's no free disc space.

M.

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Fedora 24 is here. Go ahead – dive in

Martin an gof
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Sub pixel patents

Fedora 24 also features some revamped font rendering tools that put it on par with Ubuntu's font rendering even though, for patent reasons, it still doesn't ship with support for subpixel rendering.

I didn't realise it was so complicated. Acorn introduced "sub pixel font rendering" back in the late 1980s IIRC, though it wasn't specifically intended for pixel-accurate digital displays. I'd say it was maybe ten years before MS launched ClearType, and I well remember the hype around it and wondering what all the fuss was about. I doubt Acorn was first with the idea, but they were definitely years ahead of Microsoft.

I still run a RiscOS machine, partly because it is much "easier on the eye" than even the highest resolution Windows or Linux desktops, and I prefer to use it - when possible - for word processing for that reason. Is Acorn's "sub pixel rendering" different to Microsoft's and therefore not covered by the patent? Was it sufficiently dissimilar that it couldn't be used as "prior art" to invalidate the patent? Or is it just that RiscOS is too small a fish to bother the lawyers?

M.

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Apple pollutes data about you to protect your privacy. But it might not be enough

Martin an gof
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Happy

Re: The third way...

I assume, if my phone is on, my location can be inferred

The question is though, by who. If you have just the cellular radio on and have turned off WiFi, mobile data(*), GPS etc. then realistically the only people who have an idea of where you are are the telco and any government-sponsored spooks who ask them nicely. The accuracy of this kind of location data varies enormously depending on cell size and whether or not the telco makes use of triangulation data. If you are worried about your telco knowing where you are then it's time to ditch the mobile phone altogether.

Me, I use my phone as a phone. If I need data I will turn it on for the time I need data. Likewise GPS. I have never signed up for Google Play and have disabled all the data-slurping apps I can. This has done me reasonably well for a couple of years with the added benefit of a battery that lasts between 7 and 10 days in normal use. Turn data on and that can halve, halve it again for WiFi, and if GPS is active the battery barely lasts a day.

But I understand that lots of people actually like constant tweeting and suchlike. Just can't understand why :-)

M.

(*)an interesting side-effect of turning mobile data off - on my phone at least - seems to be that it then prefers 2G to 3G networks, which in some circumstances can lead to more stable connections for - you know - proper "phone" stuff like talking to people. Oh, and without data, MMS messages are blocked...

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Should we teach our kids how to program humanity out of existence?

Martin an gof
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Re: Re "Now the chips are down"

Now the Chips are Down at the BBC (1h20min).

The other big influence was the book The Mighty Micro, later turned into a series on ATV. I picked the book up at a second-hand stall some years ago and it's an interesting read.

M.

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Martin an gof
Bronze badge

Re: "Coding" ...

Gee, when I started programming they just threw me a manual and let me figure it out myself. FORTRAN 1, machine language, etc

Yes, but back then we were satisfied with barely-formatted output on a CRT or a dot-matrix and there was no requirement to have the thing interact with the user using little clicky boxes in a resizable window on an underlying complex OS, or host its own webserver so it could be fiddled with from afar.

When I did Computer Studies 'O' level, a bit of input validation and some clear text was all that was required for the programming tasks. The BBC BASIC manual was invaluable. Nowadays the "working" part of the task is almost secondary - the first objective is that it looks good.

And I am blowed if I am going back to low-level system calls to set up and decorate a window and deal with all the "events" that might happen to it, when I can just use some pre-written, pre-tested, nicely-documented library instead and concentrate on the stuff that matters.

In my first "real" job I wrote practically the whole operating system (if you could call it that) for a handheld device from scratch with no libraries other than a floating-point library. Frankly I could have done without the FP library too as I had about 24k of ROM to play with and a large part of that was taken up with the onscreen text. The screen? The "best" model of the device had a 2x16 lines of 5x7 dot matrix characters.

These days the thing would be expected to be a Bluetooth-connected device that sent readings to an app on an iOS or Android tablet, and rather than spending six months working out how to do clever things with the low-end hardware to give it the capabilities of devices costing five times as much, I'd be spending most of that time working out how to draw a pretty picture and wondering why the BT connection kept dropping.

Ugh.

M.

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Martin an gof
Bronze badge

Re: Programming or coding?

Were you a PE teacher in a previous life?

Sorry, no :-) I did teach (primary) briefly, but I was rubbish at it so I went back to engineering.

We had to do Gantt charts as part of my engineering degree (business studies!). I still haven't recovered, and I still haven't found a real-life use for them that can't be done more easily in another way(*).

On the other hand I did quite enjoy flowcharts and Boolean algebra and binary maths when I did my A-levels. It turned out to be the last year those subjects were mandatory in A-level computer science for that particular exam board.

M.

(*)That said, we're about to embark on a huge project at home. This is the sort of thing that Gantt charts are supposedly designed for. I might give it a go.

Or I might not.

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Martin an gof
Bronze badge

Re: "Coding" ...

How is the BBC Microbit thing doing in schools?

The MIcrobit was supposed to have been sent out to schools already:

Excitement Grows

Cip Olwg (Welsh)

(the latter, filmed in February, says the roll-out will happen "this term". My Y7 child hasn't heard any news yet and is getting worried that the school will decide to hand them on to next September's Y7 pupils, which he would be livid about.

Various suppliers have the thing available to pre-order now, which implies it's probably in a container on the way from China:

CPC

Pimoroni

The Pi Hut

M.

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Martin an gof
Bronze badge

Re: Programming or coding?

The problem I found with many IT people was that they could only think in serial steps

Hmm, good point. Perhaps I shouldn't have said "steps", but rather "units of work". If you can't identify individual units of work in a problem it's difficult to get the problem solved. Once you have identified units of work you can then work out which ones are dependent ("I can't do this until I've finished doing that") and which ones are independent ("These two actions can happen at the same time").

The beauty of something like Scratch is that each block of program is effectively independent and this sort of thing comes naturally.

For the rest of us who grew up with linear Z80 or 6502 assembler, awful Sinclair BASIC or the vastly better BBC Basic, it's a big step. Maybe we should be teaching combinatorial logic, Boolean Algebra and even Gantt charts at primary school...

M.

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Martin an gof
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Boffin

Re: Programming or coding?

I only wish the Blue flashy 'weapon' actually had real lasers

Never had a Bigtrak myself, always coveted one.

The boys, however, do have one of the (smaller) modern re-creations. It came with a Nerf-gun style accessory. There is nothing like a bit of wanton destruction to motivate an 11 year-old. Set up a Lego model or a pile of no-longer-used building blocks or a row of minifigures and see how much of it you can program the Bigtrak to destroy given just four "missiles" and a limited amount of program memory.

I agree with Mr. Dabbs that "logic" is the first hurdle that must be overcome, and children really seem to find it hard breaking problems down into steps, but the way to do it is to give them motivation.

In the case of the boys it was a Bigtrak and destruction.

In the case of my youngest girl it was the crushed-upon teacher at school who ran the afterschool coding club. Said 7 year-old came home from school one day, fired up a web browser and "programmed" from scratch (not with Scratch, but something similar) a "collect all the apples" game in about 15 minutes, complete with score, re-spawning apples etc. I watched her do it. The only things she imported were the images!

I'm re-doing the heating at home. How's this for incentive? Each bedroom will have its own heating zone and a thermostat, probably constructed from an Arduino. If they don't learn how to program it before the winter, they'll freeze :-)

M.

7
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Wales gives anti-vaping Blockleiters a Big Red Panic Button

Martin an gof
Bronze badge

Re: Strange Sign

Lead carbonate is, and has always been, more expensive than flour.

You're probably right - it was the first thing that came to my mind. The principle stands though, in the absence of regulation all sorts of things were added to foodstuffs:

Adulteration of Food. (see also link at the bottom of that page)

Here's a Punch cartoon:

The Use of Adulteration

Oh, and 'lead' isn't a proper noun.

Isn't it? Isn't Lead an element alongside Copper and Oxygen and Hydrogen and Neon and all the other things we usually capitalise? (Well, I usually capitalise, anyway)

M.

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Martin an gof
Bronze badge

Re: Strange Sign

do they actually just contain whatever shit some Chinese factory owner thinks might sell

Which is why I don't understand those who don't want them regulated at all. Some regulation is actually good. It stopped people bulking out bread flour with white Lead for a start!

M.

5
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Brexit threatens Cornish pasty's racial purity

Martin an gof
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Coat

Re: Heathens!!

- If the result of the referendum is a vote to leave, Cornwall should declare independence, become a nation state in its own right, then join the EU.

Which made me think.

Accepted wisdom is that Scotland, Wales and certain areas of England (parts of The North, the South West) are generally more pro-EU than the rest of England, yet the bulk of the UK population lives in the South East. An "exit the EU" outcome has been suggested as a possible trigger for a further Scottish "exit the UK" vote.

Why don't we Britons / Celts (don't lecture me on the history, I'm using them as shorthand for Cornwall, Wales, Cumbria, Scotland, Northern Ireland, peripherally the IoM) just club together and vote to leave the UK at the same time, forming some kind of commonwealth-of-ex-UK-nations and rejoining the EU? Much more sustainable than going it completely alone?

M.

Disclosure: my ancestors on one side are Cornish (though probably not him as there's no evidence he ever had children) and on the other side are Welsh. I have lived in Wales for about 95% of my life so far.

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