43 posts • joined Wednesday 13th June 2007 08:54 GMT
Celebrate the life and mourn the death
HH was one of the greats. Read the first few chapters of The Stainless Steel Rat and tell me that we are not heading rapidly towards the society described - though without the space travel of course.
I have also long appreciated his description of how robbing banks is actually a deeply philanthropic activity.
I was a Physics undergraduate at a decent university in the 1970s. I have no personal recollection at all of any "New Ice-Age" stories. I have no doubt that they existed because I have seen the evidence, but they certainly did not dominate the debate about human effects on climate and environment. The Club of Rome published "Limits to Growth" in 1972 and that was probably the most influential text of the period. It certainly didn't produce any kind of cooling.
Switched to Chrome
Tried Chrome on the Mac a year or so ago and wasn't impressed. About a month ago I got so annoyed with Firefox grinding my computer to a halt that I gave Chrome another go. It's improved in the interim as FF has gone backwards. I imagine I'll stay with Chrome until it starts to annoy me and the whole cycle starts again.
Stainless Steel Rat
Just agreeing with posters above. Would make a brilliant movie. Not perhaps the greatest novel of ideas ever, but a brilliant basis for a film.
Also agree that much as I would pay money to watch a film of any of the Culture novels I find it hard to imagine any director being able to do them justice.
In a word, no.
This agreement covers normal office automation functions. If a Virgin employee includes any of those data in an email then they will be held in the cloud. But Virgin's customer service systems (reservations, web booking, check-in etc) are completely separate. As it happens they use the aiRes system from Indian software house ibs, hosted in a specialist airline industry data centre.
You in Paracuellos?
If so the cross is dedicated to Francoists murdered by Republicans.
No question in my mind, the Republicans were on the whole the good guys and the Falange definitely the bad guys - but there were definitely atrocities on both sides.
No, I am sure nobody in the entire history of the airline industry ever thought that high availability systems might be a good idea. It's a good job there are people like you around to point us in the right direction.
In fact if the facts are accurately reported and both internet and airport check-in were down then it is likely to be a failure in the back-end passenger services system of one specific airline. In general these are airline-specific rather than utilities provided by airports (although there are exceptions). These back end systems have typically four nines availability or better although there are variations between the mainframe systems used by traditional airlines and the .NET based Newskies used by Ryanair and others. Life gets more complicated when check-in is being managed by a ground handler rather than the airline itself although that isn't likely to be the case here as a ground handler's system failing would not have affected web check-in.
It is also extremely unlikely that anyone at the airport would have been in a position to "reboot" the system even if they had wanted to as check-in systems usually live in vendors' data centres that are often not even in the same country.
Stupid Stupid Stupid
This "survey" shows nothing useful at all. If you confront people with a multiple choice list and they either don't know or don't care about the answer, they will select one of the choices maybe at random. So if you neither know nor care who Tim B-L is then you just pick one of the alternatives - which may well be "Head of MI5". If you allowed a "don't know" alternative AND people took the survey seriously, I doubt if you would get so many silly headlines. But then the PR company wouldn't achieve its objectives and the thing wouldn't be done.
@AC 1747. That was meant to be ironic, right? Sorry to ask but there are nut jobs out there who really believe that stuff. Wouldn't expect to find them in these parts though.
@Bazza. With you most of the way but if you think that we don't get charged for receiving calls you should see my Vodafone bill when I get back from a trip across the Channel. And Paris is a lot closer to London than Seattle is to Miami. The US phone system developed its charging systems differently to ours and has had free local calls for decades. Since they use local area codes for cell phones too that pushed them in the direction of charging for inbound calls. Not better or worse than what we have. Just different.
"It seems you are the one who does not know much about the tax system: VAT does not stand for "Value" Added Tax - how does that make any sense?"
And here's me sitting down and filling in my Value Added Tax Return that HM Customs and Excise have kindly sent me. Do you suppose I should write to them and tell them they have it wrong?
Not got such a good grasp of the tax system have we? All the VAT further up the supply chain is reclaimable such that the net tax take is that paid by the final consumer. Each business pays tax only on the value it has added. That's why it's called Value Added Tax. Geddit?
The reason it has more impact is that in general VAT rates are higher in Europe than are sales tax rates in the US. Oh, and the fact that prices in the US are invariably quoted net of tax while in Europe they are usually quoted VAT inclusive, especially for products and services offered to the consumer rather than B2B.
"To be fair to Windows, these issues haven't been a problem since the bad old days of Windows 9x/Me."
Well, my last Windows machine was XP and it still had both issues. Not as badly as 98/ME to be sure but I definitely couldn't leave it running for more than 48 hours or so without having to reboot or it would slowly grind to a halt.
All Good Fun
I sometimes think that El Reg would vanish in a puff off smoke if it were not for these periodic Mac vs Windows spats, with the penguins cheering on from the sides.
I use a Mac. My wife, my son, my daughter and my business partner all use Macs. I am very happy to be using a Mac. I am happy that I don't need to worry overmuch about malware (not completely complacent but the odds are in my favour). I am happy that a crashing app doesn't bring the O/S tumbling down with it. I am happy that my machine doesn't need to be rebooted on a regular basis to recover its resources. I am happy that I can afford to think of these things rather than looking for the absolute cheapest computing I could find.
If I were a hardcore gamer I would probably have stayed with Windows, but I'm not. In the event that I ever need to run an app that is Windows-only I have Parallels although I have never actually installed it because I have not yet hit that need.
But I don't feel the need to slag off those who stick with Microsoft. They can definitely buy cheaper hardware. They can play more games and there is no doubt a greater quantity of applications available for the platform. And so long as Windows remains the dominant O/S in the market the bad guys will probably continue their concentration on low-hanging fruit rather than trying to raise their game and come after me.
On the whole, life is good.
@Sean Timarco Baggaley
You may well be right in much of what you say but you must be very young or extremely old if you think the current £/$ rate is poor. It's well over the average for the last 25 years. Now if Apple were based in the Eurozone...........
Grow Up People
Every time El Reg runs a Ryanair story we get comment threads like this.
The whole airline industry has more capacity than the economy can sensibly support at economic prices. The reasons for this are many and complex but it's a fact.
As a result airlines are unable to charge fares that enable them to make a return on capital invested while operating a "normal" service. The rational response to this would be for airlines to merge or go out of business but in practice that hardly ever happens and the industry continues with over-capacity.
So in one way or another airlines try to make so-called "ancillary revenue" to try to bridge the black hole in their finances. Ryanair is the best in the world at the ancillary revenue caper. Something like 25% of its revenues are ancillaries (That's from memory. If I were wider awake I woudl look it up.) Other airlines look at Ryanair as a leader in this respect but they don't have the sheer brass neck to take things quite as far.
In the end Ryanair is just doing more of what almost all airlines are doing less successfully. It is the most profitable airline in the world so it's hard to argue from a shareholder point of view that what it does is wrong. From the consumer point of view there is always the option of not flying with them.
In my personal experience Ryanair's on-time performance is better than Easyjet but where possible I avoid flying either of them. It's usually possible to fly with a more "traditional" airline for a little more money. Then it's a simple economic decision. Is the extra discomfort and annoyance with the ten or twenty quid I could save? For me the answer is usually no, but I fully understand why others may come to a different conclusion.
If this carries on we are going to have to start lobbying for legal changes. I am with Vodafone on a contract. I can't have an iPhone, and now I hear I can't have a Samsung Android. That should be grounds for walking away with no penalties.
If you have tried it and don't get on with it then fair enough. I am perplexed by how that would have happened but you and I are different people and so I must accept that it has.
Yes, there are some apps that are only available for Windows. Games in particular. However my experience in the corporate world is that 99% of users need no more than an office suite and a browser plus access to the corporate back-end apps - to do serious work. If you are in the 1% then you may have to grit your teeth and run Windows. Good luck to you,
And on and on and on and on....
Naturally this debate will go on as long as there are computers and people who want to argue about them. But here are a few observations from a happy Mac user.
1. Macs are not perfect, especially the hardware. My last Macbook Pro was definitely a Friday afternoon model. I had endless problems with its sleep function and eventually the screen just died on me.
2. BUT when I took it in to an Apple Store they took it off my hands and fixed it for free, even though it was out of warranty.
3 BUT I was buying a new Macbook Pro at the time so they probably had an incentive to be nice to me.
4. OSX is so far superior to anything from Microsoft that the debate is hardly worth having any more. Any Windows die-hards out there who disagree, please just use it for a month. Interesting thing is that most Mac users have long-term experience of using Windows every day. Not sure the same is true in reverse.
5. I agree that using a Mac is far more likely to be a personal choice than using Windows and so people have more invested in the choice.
6. I know that Mac's market share is small - around 7% I believe. I suspect (but cannot prove) that if corporate IT departments allowed users a free choice the Mac's share would increase enormously. There is no reason that this could not happen. The extra cost of supporting two platforms would be offset by the reduced costs of security management and user bafflement. Possibly by more than 100%, but that's just a guess. Since my small company decided to go Mac two years ago we have had only one compatibility issue with our Windows-centric clients. And we spend a lot of time in their offices working on their networks.
7. The one issue is with the way Powerpoint handles images - oh and that's Microsoft software that's incompatible between the two platform versions.
8. And the price premium - for similarly specced machines - really is quite modest, in the laptop space at least. Maybe you can get a Windows desktop machine for nuxpence - I did once (from a major Japanese manufaturer). It exploded - quite literally. Now that was extreme but you get my point?
9. And finally, if in doubt cite your mother. My mum had a Windows machine that she could only ever use to play a bridge game. Anything else, including email, was simply too baffling. A year ago I got her an iMac and now you can't get away from the emailed photographs from her digital camera - and she books her rail tickets online.
James Lovelock is interviewed in the current New Scientist. He simply takes it as read that catastrophic climate change is coming and there is now almost nothing that can be done about it.
That may still be an extreme position but it's not that far from the scientific consensus as exemplified by the IGPCC - which has historically been extremely conservative in its assessments.
Now, I'm a physics graduate so I can understand the basic science (not that the degree is necessary - any intelligent human prepared to put in a bit of effort could do so). If I were able to put a bet on it would be with the scientific consensus and against the deniers, almost regardless of the odds William Hill might quote.
There is an opportunity to ameliorate some of the worst effects if we take it seriously, but we should still be planning for a world in which Bangladesh is under water full-time instead of just when a cyclone strikes.
Didn't do it for me
I still have one Windows machine that runs my mail server. Someday I will get around to finding the right mail server software to run on Linux or Mac but in the meantime I still have the one.
So, I tried the "fix" from Microsoft because this has bugged me for years.
"Windows cannot find the file gpedit.msc. Make sure you have typed the name correctly ...........etc"
There is probably a good reason. It's just that life is too short to go looking for it.
Sorry - what is this X-factor thing?
Oh Dear Oh Dear
The usual half-informed stuff here....
LH - If you have been getting on aeroplanes without boarding passes then you are more or less unique. They have not gone away. In many cases they look different to the way they used to. Lots of them are printed at home on A4 or Letter paper, complete with bar code. Others are printed from a kiosk using thermal paper. So, you may not have had your old familiar ATB2 mag striped boarding pass for a while - depending in which airline you use - but you most certainly have a boarding pass.
As to the main thrust of the piece, mobile phone boarding passes are not being introduced as a security measure. The airlines have wanted them for a long time because they expect them to increase the use of self check-in, which costs pennies, in place of check in at an airport desk, which costs dollars (substitue pounds, euros, zlotys or dongs at your preference). The security issue is that various authorities, including the TSA, have not been prepared to accept them until they could be at least as secure as printed boarding passes. Which is not all that secure, but as part of a managed process including searches and profiling and all the other "security" measures is deemed to be an acceptable risk.
And, to all the other Chicken Lickens, no airline that I have ever talked to has any intention to go for exclusively mobile phone boarding passes. All the Luddites, children, users of non-standard devices and all the rest will still have the option of old-fashioned paper.
Gate and Check In
Oh and another thing. Gate and Check In Systems are the same system in the vast majority of cases. Where there is a case for better integration is between the airline Departure Control Systems which include check-in boarding, baggage and a bunch of other stuff, and the security screening systems used by TSA, Immigration authorities etc. To some extent this does happen but there are some real issues of technological compatibility (which are largely soluble) and data protection/privacy which on the whole are less tractable, as regular Reg readers will be well aware.
In the years after 9/11 a couple of shoe manufacturers started to make shoes without metal stiffeners expressly for the use of travellers who had to pass through TSA checks. I had a pair of these and they were fine for about 6 months until one day I was told to take them off. When I pointed out that there was no metal in them and that they were specifically designed for the purpose I was told "We're not looking for metal - take them off". So I took them off and walked through the metal detector.
The checks have almost zero practical purpose and They are almost 100% about P/R and image.
Where is the icon for hyper expensive mega stupidity when you need it?
Still Flakey - and spams too
I just failed to get in to amazon.com with a Http/1.1 Service Unavailable. Seems to be intermittent. BUT also, over the weekend I have been getting spams with subject lines like "Amazon.com have some troubles" and other variations. Some connection surely?
"not many airlines I know announce which planes they will use on specific flights"
Actually, all airlines do precisely this. They publish them in various places but the most widely used is the Official Airlines Guide (OAG). From there the information is disseminated to the Global Distribution Systems that provide the information to travel agencies in both the real world and cyberspace. Some airlines provide even more information to GDSs and each other via direct data feeds but the OAG data is the base line. Even low-cost airlines that do not distribute via the GDSs and travel agents still publish to OAG.
Mind you there is always the possibility of a last minute change due to technical or operational issues that could mean a flight is operated by an aircraft different to the one planned. Even then though the overwhelming probability is that any substitution would be like for like in terms of aircraft type.
Just downloaded the "patches" and applied them. They included a keyboard firmware update.
Previously my Macbook Pro suffered from the well-known "doesn't register the first character keyed into a form box" bug that Apple has been denying for several months. Now when I am working in an Excel spreadsheet, about 50% of the time it only registers the first character typed in a cell. When I click on another cell then go back for a second attempt it's usually OK.
What is going on Steve?
Paris because she had some experience with cells.
What's happened to the language?
When I was a working programmer (yes, back in the dark ages kiddies) a patch was something you did at four o'clock in the morning because the system was down. It was keyed in at the console in a hex representation of machine code. Twenty or thirty bytes typically. 100 tops. Then next day you would fix the problem properly, reassemble the segment(s) and load it/them to the system. That's not a patch, it's a new version.
All this talk of "patches" being 100MB or more just bemuses me.
Mines the very very old one with the muffler.
Bring on the Satellites
I didn't know that the Beeb sends out its digital streams from Maidenhead. Who says El Reg isn't educational? Thing is, I live in Maidenhead and DAB reception here is appalling (TV reception is pretty poor too. No chance of Freeview without a rooftop aerial). I have a couple of DAB sets. One is connected to an external antenna and works fine. The other is a top of the range Roberts and works on its own antenna, in one or two spots in the house. Sometimes. And it needs to be on mains power unless you own Ever Ready.
So DAB provides a satisfactory service when tied to a fixed location. A bit like streaming IP radio. It does absolutely zero for me when I am moving between rooms, out and about, in the car or in the bathroom. Precisely the times when I most want radio.
I recently rented a car in the States that had satellite radio fitted. It was a revelation as I cruised up I-75 in Georgia listening to the BBC World Service in crystal clear quality. I could have chosen from roughly a gazillion other stations and I did try some of them out.
So my view to add to the debate is that DAB is a dead end. Bring on Satellite radio in Europe.
Fairly Sure it was U Thant
Didn't look it up though so I could be wrong
Mark, Spot on
Sometimes you just have to admit that someone has said exactly what you were thinking - even though you didn't know you were thinking it.
When I slid the Arcade Fire Neon Bible CD onto a shelf in the same room as my original 7" vinyl copy of Love Me Do (bought for me when I was very young), the whole of my musical life was stretched out between them. I knew there was a reason I still buy my music on a physical medium.
Apart from DRM, record company greed and the fear of being locked into an obsolete format of course.....
DAB is not ready for prime time
Not really a comment on this review, more a general moan.
Here in the heart of the M4 corridor my DAB radio (top of the range Roberts) will only get a signal in one very specific corner of the office - which happens to be the other side of the room to my desk. My kitchen radio at home is OK but only because I have it connected to a roof top aerial.
Until DAB can be used in the same way as conventional AM/FM radio ie carried around in a pocket, run on cheap batteries, used in the car and simply WORK reliably there should be no question of "shutting down" the analogue signal as I have seen suggested in some corners of the press.
Until then, this is a very pretty toy but will have no measurable impact on real-life radio use.
True but it does happen....
Look up the United Airlines Souix City DC10 crash. There's tons of good stuff about it online. They were down to throttle control on two engines (no aerodynamic control at all) and still got about half the passengers off alive.
Nothing new here
RFID tags only do what the existing bar coded tags do. The only justification for using them is if they improve the accuracy and reliability of reading them as they pass through the baggage sortation (I know that's a hideous word but it's the one they use) systems - at both ends of the flight. Which is one reason why implementing them in one airport only is of limited value (not completely valueless in a major transfer airport like Heathrow).
Most airlines are still very reluctant to spend the money on these systems as they are yet to be convinced that there is any substantial improvement over bar codes to justify the investment.
Deeply worried by this
As a widely traveled cricket enthusiast who spends far too much time in uncivilised countries, I have lost count of the number of times I have followed test matches via Cricinfo's unique (and free) service. The only possible upside to Disney's involvement would be if they let Pixar loose on the animated commentary. That might be worth seeing.........
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