* Posts by Peter Gathercole

1934 posts • joined 15 Jun 2007

BT broadband goes TITSUP - cripples Scots, Geordies, Northern Irish

Peter Gathercole
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Facepalm

Re: How did they tell their customers?

I'm sure that somewhere in the package documentation you got there was an alternative dial-up service that you can use when ADSL is not working.

What do you mean! You no longer have a V90 modem?

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Patrick Moore: Lived with cats, accompanied Einstein on the piano

Peter Gathercole
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Angel

On my way home this evening

I stopped the car at the darkest point on the journey (Exmoor can be really dark), and got out of the car.

The sky was a jewelled spectacle, and I said a farewell to Patrick with a heart both sad and joyous at the same time.

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Australian Police say don't use Apple's iOS 6 Maps

Peter Gathercole
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Flame

Re: Could be interesting

Google Maps and Navigation are only any good if you get a data service.

I recently had to go a long way out of my way to get home from work because of a combination of weather and several accidents. I turned on the data service on my phone and got.... zilch. And, of course, I had not maintained a paper map book in the car. As it turns out, the switch from Orange to EE was not as smooth as it was supposed to have been.

I reckon that I probably drove at least 10 miles further than I needed because of the stupid road signs that I had to rely on to get me back to somewhere I knew (this was in Devon, UK, where even major roads can be quite small, poorly lit and badly signposted), and I've vowed to never rely solely on Google Navigation again.

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'UK DNA database by stealth' proposed in £100m NHS project

Peter Gathercole
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BBC R4 Today program carried an article on this

In that, a representative of the NHS (can't remember who, and the summary transcript is not on the BBC Web site yet) stated that the genome of (specifically) cancer sufferers would be taken if the patient consented, with a view to try to identify what factors in a person's DNA make-up controlled how a cancer developed once they had the condition. The data would be anonymised so that summary data would be released to research organisations would not contain information able to identify individuals. The fact that it was going to be restricted to people who already have a cancer diagnosis makes the information less useful

to the insurance industry.

I know that collecting the data at all (and building the "data infrastructure" to hold it) could only be the tip of the iceberg, but it certainly did not sound like a wholesale sequencing of the entire population. I am as worried about this type of information becoming available to other parties as the next person who gives-a-damn, but from what I heard, it should not yet ring the alarm bells.

When you consider it, it would be perfectly possible for the NHS to sequence the DNA of any patient who gave any form of blood or tissue sample, but that is not what they were talking about. I'm not even sure whether that would be illegal, because I'm sure that personal medical notes probably contain blood-sub grouping and other information that could be used to identify an individual or their susceptibility to certain conditions already.

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Microsoft Windows Server 2012: Why Bother?

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Why bother? Because of graft. @AC 15:45

You know, being a sysadmin can be seductive. When I was faced with remaining a techie, or crossing the divide to become something else, I decided........ to go contract.

I've been calling myself a system administrator/system integration/support specialist (there is really not much difference if you are good at it) for 30+ years, and I still enjoy it.

What is one such as I to do. Where do I go and still expect to enjoy working? Certainly not into a a supervisory or management role. I possibly could have become a system architect, but the opportunity did not present itself.

I cannot see myself changing what I do before I retire, unless I have to.

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Peter Gathercole
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@zooooooom

Well, no. I don't think that IBM think that an IBM 795, the largest single Power system, is an HPC. They might regard several of them as such, but in IBM terms, a Power 775 Cluster, or a BlueGene Cluster, or an iDataPlex Cluster or a Power 755 Cluster are supercomputers.

I work with a couple of Power 775 cluster, and I can tell you that this is a cluster-in-a-box (or, in fact in several cabinets).

But you are right. They don't run Windows.

The report that was quoted somewhere else in these comments is a one-off Windows cluster that was put together by Microsoft. It caused a few ripples, but none of them lasted, and I've not heard of another Top 500 supercomputer running Windows since. There is only one Windows system in November's Top 500. Not really credible as a HPC OS.

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Peter Gathercole
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@Chavdar

Oops. I'm going senile, and I admit it. Thanks for the correction.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Licencing hell @RICHTO

I'll give you a clue back.

The PowerVM hypervisor that sits in IBM Power 795 systems (or, in fact all Power systems since Power 4) is Linux. And I'm damn certain that they can do the level of IOPS that you are asking, although I suspect that comparing the I/O rate with Windows is a bit like comparing apples with oranges and the comparisons would be of little use.

As all Power systems use this hypervisor, even if they are configured as single system images, any I/O benchmark run on those systems that can perform at that speed will use the hypervisor in one way or another.

But I'm sure that you will come back with a 'that's not on Intel' to justify your claim.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Some Obvious Reasons..... @RICHTO

On ACLs.

Proprietary UNIX has had filesystem ACLs of the type you are talking about since at least 1990. I am most familiar with AIX, and this was a major enhancement when the RISC System/6000 was launched in 1990 with AIX 3.1.

The Posix 1 filesystem permissions were a description of the original UNIX permissions model that was invented back in the 1970s before Microsoft even existed. At that time, the most sophisticated security model around was that proposed for Multics, many features of which made it into both VMS and PrimeOS (and it is worth remembering that Richard Cutler had some responsibility for VMS).

This is for a filesystem, I admit, but the basis of Role Based Accounting (acquired credentials used to control running processes and services) was introduced in AIX in 4.3.3, which IIRC was around 1998.

If you look outside of core UNIX, then DCE/DFS, which was a standards based enhancement which sat above the OS, and worked on various UNIX OS's, OS/2 and even windows NT provided ACLs for processes and file objects around 1994, and this was based on the Andrew File System (AFS) and Apollo's NCS which were earlier still. AFS, and DCE/DFS allowed credential management using Kerberos a long time before that support was integrated into Windows, and was provided by the OS vendors in most cases. AIX could build in a Kerberos based user authentication system from about AIX 4.2 in 1995.

I'm fairly sure that those people who were familiar with Veritas will also have something to say.

In terms of NFSv4, the Linux support may be experimental (which probably reflects more on the people doing the work than NFSv4 itself), but has been part of the core facilities provided by at least Solaris and AIX for quite some time (have to look up when it was introduced, but I remember reading up on in in 2005). Definitely not experimental on those platforms.

Having got that off my chest, it is clear that these arguments are pointless. This is because although I have a good knowledge of AIX and traditional UNIX, my knowledge of Windows is incomplete, so I so not make direct comparisons of capabilities. I suspect that there are actually very few people who are able to make a dispassionate comparison of these features between OSs, so just having a willy waving competition in forums such as this one is largely pointless.

That said, I do like the idea of a Windows Server that allows you to strip down the basic install to the minimum necessary to run an application. Seems consistent with KISS, one of the primary requirements to make any service functional and secure.

It is pointless to have more features than you need which may open up security or performance issues running on a server which has a specific defined function. This is where heavily (de-)configured Linux distributions have had a real advantage in the server space for years, because you could strip them down relatively easily to the bare minimum. It looks like Microsoft have finally learned.

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GPU-stuffed monster cracks Windows passwords in minutes

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Ironic but many Security “consultant” prefer NTLM + SSL over Kerberos + IPSec

Your point is quite well made, and I agree that in isolation, there should be no problem deciding which is most secure, but quite often there are other constraints.

I suspect that many of these security consultants may have to come up with solutions that are 'good enough' while not adding significantly to the cost and complexity of the solution.

When all is said and done, the security of any environment is a compromise between risk, cost and strength, and always will be until the strongest security is also the cheapest.

Of course, if the consultants you've known only suggest NTLM+SSL, then your scorn is probably deserved.

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TomTom for Android with hands-free kit review

Peter Gathercole
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I know I keep banging on about this

but I had TomTom running on my Palm Treo 650 with a BlueTooth GPS about seven years ago. I'd probably still be using it as a satnav now if TomTom hadn't retired the database format needed by Navigator 6. And out-of-date databases are a real pain in the neck.

I may try this. £31 is not so much to lose, and I really can't get on with Google navigation needing a data link any time it needs to re-route, and giving me directions just-too-late to get into the correct lane.

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Google buys parcel storage service for Christmas

Peter Gathercole
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Amazon decided that they could get a better deal

than Royal Mail offered and switched to whatever courier they are now using. I think they made the decision during one of the postal disputes a few years ago.

My worst experience of Royal Mail delivery is when the postman decided that the refuse bin was a good place to leave a parcel, with no card saying where he left it. It was a sheer fluke that it did not go out with the rubbish.

I have been sitting in a room next to the front door for a whole morning, only to find a card saying that they'd attempted to deliver a package and could not get an answer. I'm surprised that the postman was even able to put the card through the door without me hearing, let alone ring the door bell. And the dogs didn't hear it either!

This normally happens about 11:15 on a Saturday, with the parcel office closing at 12:00, and the card saying leave at least an hour before going to collect the parcel. Really gets my back up.

I did drive up to my house one weekend to see the postman filling out the card before he even walked up the short path to attempt to deliver a package. He did not get a Christmas tip that year.

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Tech titans lose our loyalty: Are fanbois a dying breed?

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Added value : more than downloadable apps.

Vic.

Congrats on your 22nd landing.

I agree, but only up to a point. I drive somewhere hilly and through small villages where there are speed restrictions (rural England is like that), thus momentum in a light car (a European Fiesta is what I believe you call a sub-compact in the US) cannot be maintained, and raw acceleration is what matters. My Fiesta is an old one, and does 0-60....... eventually (I think it's about 17.6 seconds according to the Ford stats). I know that on one part of my journey, I regularly get overtaken after a standing start by cars like Landrovers. There are plenty of BMWs, VW Golf GTIs etc. that drive at the same time as me that are much more nippy, and get right up my bumper!

So when going up a hill, or when leaving a speed restricted areas, momentum does not help.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Added value : more than downloadable apps.

Speaking as one who is currently driving a Fiesta (one of my kids need a vehicle to get some driving practice while they learn to drive, and I'm not paying to keep 3 vehicles on the road!) I will say that almost *ANYTHING* is better than a small-engined Fiesta for anything other than local journeys.

I am getting to work later (it is not fast enough and falls behind other traffic, mainly due to a lack of acceleration) and is significantly more fatiguing to drive than a larger car, and I certainly would not want to do long business trips in it. All of these issues are arguments for getting something a little better, merely to improve the ability of the driver to work at the end of the journey.

If you had chosen a Focus as the comparison, then I may not have bothered to reply, but a Fiesta is really too small.

I think that what I am trying to say is that there is a range of options between cheapest and most expensive, providing something that is good enough without having to go up to the premium end of the product spectrum.

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Ten badass brainy computers from science fiction

Peter Gathercole
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Re: The "Magi" of NERV

Neon Genesis Evangelion was a quite seriously messed up anime, on several levels.

The implication was that the Magi and the Evangelions themselves were or contained the conciousness and/or the brain of various family members of the main characters. In the case of the EVAs, it was necessary to allow the pilots to synchronise with them.

The only thing that I never understood was where Rei had come from. Shinji's mother was in EVA01, and Asuka's mother was in EVA02 (the scene where Asuka comes across her mother who had hung herself suggests that a trauma was also required, which is also distressing). I know that Rei was the prototype for the dummy plug (as shown in one of the last few episodes where we got to see parts of Rai in Terminal Dogma), but there seems to be no template for her personality, not that she had a lot.

But the role of the Magi was never explained, and I definitely don't think that they qualify as 'badass'.

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IBM insider: How I caught my wife while bug-hunting on OS/2

Peter Gathercole
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Re: vi on unix, teletype support...

ed was the primary editor on UNIX until ex and vi came in from BSD.

When I got my BSD 2.3 software tape in 1982 (we wanted to run Ingres on UNIX V6 and V7), I found that I could not compile vi up on my PDP11/34E because it (vi) was too large for a non-separate I&D PDP11. Instead we used a screen editor that was written for small UNIX systems by the Newcastle University Computing Department.

Later versions of VI used an overlay loader that may or may not have been related to the Keele Overlay modifications for UNIX, but Berkeley dropped support for such small PDP11s by about BSD 2.6 (after all, the PDP11/44 was a much better machine, and it and everything after it all had the separate I&D feature).

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Email address?

It depends how far back you go!

I was responsible for the ibm.co.uk mail domain for some time, and when I first used it, it was about the only way of getting SMTP mail into IBM UK. IBM was very Internet and open network protocols averse in the early '90s, as they were actively pushing SNA.

IIRC, we were only offered SMTP type addresses through ibmmail and NOSS in about 1992. It may have been there before, but we were told that the system that did the mapping could only cope with a limited number of users.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Email address?

NOSS/PROFS was an email system, it just wasn't anything like the other things that were around at the time, and until the middle of the '90s, it had limited connectivity to the non-IBM world. But then, neither did anybody else much unless you used UUCP mail.

In fact, I'll go one stage further. It was an office productivity tool which would do email, calendar and meeting management, document indexing, organization chart and telephone directory, and also allowed you to escape to a document preparation system using Script.

If you could put up with the 3270 interface (which was a challenge if you had used anything else beforehand), it was actually extremely functional.

When I joined IBM in 1990 as an already experienced UNIX support specialist (this was when the RS/6000 and AIX 3.1 was launched), I hated NOSS, RETAIN and EHONE with a vengeance, but once I bothered to learn how to use them they all became perfectly usable. Although it is archaic, RETAIN is still one of the best problem tracking systems around. Knocks REMEDY into a cocked hat, once you get past the layers of GUI and HTML crap screen scrapers that modern IBMers prefer to use (note- I'm working for IBM as a contractor at the moment).

I left IBM before Notes was deployed company wide, but now have to use it for all IBM related mail. I can't say that I like it, because I'm sure that there is a lot that it can do which I don't know how to use (here, take this Thinkpad and start using it - uh what was that? Training? Don't be stupid. Now get back to work!)

I'm sure that it is usable, but I find that I end up banging my head against the desk all the time.

Oh. OS/2? Yes, I did quite like that, especially the PMX X server that could turn it into a flawed but useful workstation in a UNIX environment. And that was a free download!

I still wear my OS/2 Warp launch tee shirt once in a blue moon for nostalgia sake.

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BOFH: The Great Patch Mismatch

Peter Gathercole
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Where I work they use an argon/nitrogen mixture

branded with the proprietary name argonite.

Supposedly, if the oxygen concentration drops below 15%, almost all fires are extinguished.

The system is calibrated to drop the oxygen content to about 12.5% by displacement, which will keep you alive if you are caught, but is probably quite uncomfortable.

I don't intend to try it, not after going through an oxygen depletion experiment at school many years ago (probably not even allowed now), where I breathed the same air over and over through a CO2 filter. You don't start breathing heavily (it's the CO2 that makes your body believe that it's suffocating) and you just can't think or do anything. I was told that I looked very silly by the rest of the class not able to answer even the simplest question. Fortunately, the teacher liked me enough to take the mask off before I passed out.

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Texan schoolgirl expelled for refusing to wear RFID tag

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Christ (oops!) bloody religion again??? @Richard 81

I'm not sure that you understand how much is lost in translation. I tried reading a translation of the Quran myself (I'm pretty much agnostic and was doing it to try to understand the background to the religious conflicts, in the same way that I've read the Bible and the Book of Mormon), and the mess that was the translation I was reading must be poor, because it was difficult to read, and contradicted itself within a few pages. I got about a third of the way through before losing interest.

I've been told by someone who can read Arabic that it is a very difficult language to translate without losing some of the meaning, because the structure of the language differs in several fundamental ways from European languages. I cannot confirm this from first hand knowledge, but I am prepared to believe it.

Thus, I believe that to get the maximum benefit of the Quran, it is necessary to learn and understand (grok?) Arabic, such that you don't need to translate to comprehend.

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Why did Comet fail? Hint: It wasn't just the credit insurers

Peter Gathercole
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Re: The one advantage that physical retail has..immediate availability

Being a person to whom if it works then it's good enough (form follows function), I've ended up getting most of the white goods I've needed to buy recently (mainly washers and driers) from our local Co-Op.

OK, you often only have a choice of 1 or 2, but they take are prepared to sell the display model if they don't have any 'out back', and give a discount and full warranty if you end up with the display model.

Walk in (even quite late at night), see what they have, check whether it should do the job, go to the till, get the duty manager paged, purchase, and take out to the car, often being helped by the manager themselves! It's that simple (helped by the fact that we've got an MPV).

You have to put up with a small choice, and the brands that they stock, but so far, we've always got something that will do the job! I know that will not suit everybodies shopping needs, but it works for us.

In reality, not having devices available in stock is a direct concequence of too much choice. As pointed out bu a previous poster, it is simply not possible to keep several instances of every item if you have a large range being displayed, especially when it comes to white-goods.

In some respects, I would prefer to have guaranteed availability in store of a smaller range flagged on the display, with other items on display carrying expected delivery information. This makes sure that immediate availabillity can be part of the customer decision up front, rather than making it something you have to initiate a dialogue with the sales person in order to find out that they have.

The other thing I find amusing when looking through the spare parts listings for white goods is how many of the different brands are built in the same factories using the same parts, and only differ in cosmetic detail. It would be so much nicer to not have the same device with a different brand confusing the potential customer and cluttering up the display in these sales-warehouses.

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Autonomy to HP: bollocks

Peter Gathercole
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Re: They've got previous...

DEC was bought by Compaq before Compaq was bought by HP.

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Ten Linux apps you must install

Peter Gathercole
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WTF?

Re: Linux with windows? Weird

What on earth were you running this on!

For it to need to install x11-common, x11-utils, x11-server etc must mean that you are using a Linux distribution that DOES NOT PACKAGE A GUI! AFAIK, unless you are running a GUI which drives a framebuffer device directly, X11 MUST be installed on your system.

What is this, some crazy hair-shirt hand built system? Or maybe your package repository is corrupt. Is the Linux kernel listed in the redacted portion of the list? Maybe again, do you normally use apt-get to manage the packages on the system, because I suppose that if you were using Yum or something rpm-ish, the repository may not be populated with a correct list of installed packages.

Anyway, in this day and age, 99.7MB is actually a fairly trivial amount of space. Your average Microsoft Patch Tuesday will be larger than this. I would hazard a guess that this is a system with Gnome as the GUI, and much of what is being installed are the KDE packages that do not normally get installed on a Gnome system. But X11 should still be there!

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Windows Phone 8 reboot woe causes outpouring of forum misery

Peter Gathercole
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Re: How much worse can it get?

What universe do you live in? Windows does not have support for all devices built in. That's why you need all of those shiny installation CDs whenever you add a new piece of hardware.

I suggest you try taking a disk from one vendors's system, and sticking it in another from a different vendor (although make sure that you do not switch from a 64 to a 32 bit 32 bit system if a 64 bit kernel is installed). I would be almost completely certain with a Linux system that it would boot(*), and as long as it has a VESA compatible graphics mode, that it would come up with something like a full res screen, with all disk and 99% of network adapters working without problems. I've switched my laptop disk between systems more times than I can count.

With a Windows system, I would give odds of only 50-50 that it will even boot except in safe mode, and if it did, the screen would probably default to 640x480 16 colour mode, with sound and network adapters not working until you stick the correct drivers on. I've had these problems every time I've changed a mobo in a Windows system, although I will admit that I've not done it since Windows XP.

The difference is that Linux treats almost all hardware as not being needed in the stock kernel, but has the hooks to allow it to install software modules for devices detected during the boot process. This means that unneeded device drivers do not get loaded into the kernel. This makes the kernel relatively generic. All you need is for the modules to be present in the boot volume, and known to the device configuration method. Of course, some devices need additional software to function correctly, but I would bet on any Linux distro from the last seven or eight years having better support for more devices out-of-the-box than Windows.

(*) The exception is 32 bit Ubuntu Precise Pangolin (12.04) or later on a system that does not support PAE, unless you've installed the non PAE kernel. Bad Canonical. Very bad.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Reboot culture

Yah, That "Keyboard nor found" error floors me every time, but unfortunately, it's a BIOS error, not a Windows one. It goes back to IBM PS/2 systems, I think, but may have been in the original IBM PC as well (I don't have anything that old to test on, I threw my wife's 5150 away when she got a Tosh T1000 laptop for £25 about 10 years ago).

My youngest son has a different problem. He has a Microsoft Sidewinder mouse plugged into a Windows 7 system, and after about an hour, it stops working. Unplug and replug, and it works again. Plug it into ANY other OS (not tried Windows 8, admittedly), and it works perfectly for ever. And this appears to be a well reported problem. Still, it's a bit off topic.

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Cashless Comet to close 41 stores, axe 500 jobs

Peter Gathercole
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I remember when...

as a student, I bought my first real HiFi (OK, it was an Amstrad seperates system with a Strathearn [who?] turntable, but was still listed as HiFi in the magazines) from Comet.

The reason I used Comet was the fact that at that time they were box-shifters, selling end-of-line kit at well below the original prices. As things had a longer lifetime then, it did not seem too much of a problem to me, and it meant that I got something that approximated HiFi at a price that I could afford.

That's how they made their name. I was very disappointed when they became a mainstream supplier, but I guess that is where the money was.

Come to think of it, that Amstrad IC2000mkII amp may still be in my loft, heavily modded after being used as an emergency PA for a small venue.

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Power to the people - if you can find a spare socket

Peter Gathercole
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Never come across this problem

Everywhere I've worked in the last 25 years has always had some (although to be fair, sometimes not enough) standard power sockets on their desks.

Where I am working at the moment does have some unusual power sockets, but that is because the workstations are on a central UPS, and the powers that be don't want other devices plugged into that supply. There are, however, at least two ordinary sockets per desk.

I do remember the bad-old days, however, when desks were free-standing pieces of furniture without a provision for power, and all that was available were wall sockets. But then, back in those days you were lucky if you had a phone on your desk. There was no desktop electrical equipment unless you had a printing calculator or a mains powered dictaphone, or a lamp! (BTW, these were the days of batch environments, with jobs being written using punch-card decks, and output on fan-fold paper).

At one place I worked, an office refit that was done for a building that was originally built in the '70s, and modern desk furniture was installed, but they didn't upgrade the floor electrical wiring. Once they started putting PCs with large CRT monitors on every desk, they found that the floor wiring presented a fire risk because of excessive power draw. Electrical engineers came around one day with spot temperature meters looking for hotspots, and then isolated about a third of the floor from the power until they could re-wire the whole floor. Caused havoc, as this was the floor occupied by IT support!

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Long-suffering Virgin Media victims see no end to vid PURGATORY

Peter Gathercole
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Unhappy

Re: Orange are the same

When I switched from Virgin ADSL to Orange (now EE, if you believe the stupid mailshot I got earlier in the week), the improvement was dramatic. Everybody in the house commented how much better they were finding it.

After about 3 months, the throughput started dropping, and even though I upgraded the line to ADSL2+ (which was strange, because when I switched, I'm sure I was sold 'the fastest service available from your exchange', but still had to upgrade to 2+ later), it is pretty poor. Pretty much any streaming service I have tried stutters, and not always at the times of day you would expect it to.

I must go back in my firewall throughput logs to see where it really dropped.

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Industry in 'denial' as demand for pricey PCs plunges

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Engineering and Scientific Software

Agree, but how many people run such software away from work?

I have one friend who does such a thing, but he is a computational scientist with few family commitments, and takes much of his work home with him!

Manufacturers just have to face facts that computing devices are going to (have?) become commodity items like entertainment equipment, and adjust their businesses accordingly, rather than trying to keep stuffing unnecessarily powerful systems into the consumer channel. And if this means that 'bleeding edge' systems for people like you become more expensive, that's just tough.

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Peter Gathercole
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@AC 15:52

Must of us here do tech in our day jobs. Unlike the stereotype, many of us have families that keep us busy when we are not working, and provide higher priorities for use of money than the Shiny.

Find me a home system that is cheap and I can keep running with minimal effort for a few years, and I, along with I think many of the other people here would bite your hand off to get such a system.

I have been running old kit for a long time. I have been using my current main laptop for about 5 years, and it was second hand when I bought it. I think that the end of the road for that system is neigh, as it will struggle running Unity on Precise (but may run Mint!), but if I stuck to Lucid, it would probably remain usable for most things until that runs out of support, or the memory slots finally fail.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: The Pi's have it

You not been in a large supermarket for a few years? Even in my small town (<9K residents well off the beaten track in the UK), one of the three supermarkets will happily sell you an Acer laptop today, and a few years ago (when Vista was launched), you could buy a computer from Tesco as well. Larger branches of Tesco always have PCs on the shelves.

You don't get much choice, but how much do you need for a consumer PC?

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US condom rules 'will cause nasty RED RINGS on porn stars' todgers'

Peter Gathercole
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Re: I can't imagine that this law will make any difference

HD, 4K HD and 3D maybe?

Although I've heard that HD makes it very difficult, as not only do they have to dress the sets better, the participants are wanting to have full body make-up to cover body blemishes that used to be too small to see.

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Google, Amazon, Starbucks are 'immoral' and 'ridiculous' over UK tax

Peter Gathercole
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In the US, they are mandated

The members of the board of a US company can be personally taken to court for negligence by the shareholders if they don't do everything reasonably possible to maximise the share-holder return. It's an aspect of fiduciary duty.

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'Perfect' INVISIBLE SHED stuns boffinry world

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Be careful where you leave it

If it were capable of bending light from all directions around itself, it would be a very boring place to be, because windows would not work, and you could not see out (hint, the light you NEED to enter the windows so you could see out would be diverted to the other side, and thus not available to enter your eyes.

You would need some form of photomultiplier to allow the full amount of light to appear on the other side, while providing some for you to see with inside.

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One in four don't clean their stinky old browsers - especially Firefoxers

Peter Gathercole
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Re: So can this be read as.... @ac 14:55

... and in doing so you leave yourself vulnerable to problems that have been fixed.

Turning off update notifications so that you are not bothered by the update requests appears to me like burying your head in the sand and waiting to get pwned.

And I suggest you look at my other posts. I've never been in the Microsoft garden!

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Peter Gathercole
Silver badge

So can this be read as....

"Browser vendors do not pay sufficient attention to code quality, and as a result need to update their browsers too frequently for their users to keep up".

I'm pretty sick of every other day being told that there is a new version or new patches of whichever browser I am using at that moment. I probably use as much of my home bandwidth updating my browser as I do on actually browsing HTML web pages. This surely cannot be right.

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Slideshow: A History of Intel x86 in 20 CPUs

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge

Re: Whilst compatibillity is one of the strengths of Intel centric computing

Oops. "Maximise the return on the R&D costs"

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Peter Gathercole
Silver badge
Unhappy

Whilst compatibillity is one of the strengths of Intel centric computing

I really miss the diversity of different manufacturers making radically different machines.

I remember in the mid '90s when all of the articles in the PC magazines were essentially describing the same machine (IBM PC compatible) with the only differences being the clock speed, memory or disk capacity, processor generation or case-colour. It was the point that I stopped reading the magazines on a regular basis as computing was no longer exciting.

I am not looking forward to the point where Intel have driven everyone else out of the server-processor market, and just hope that ARM can continue to make inroads into the desktop and mobile market. If Intel can achieve total dominance in all segments, then expect innovation to slow-down as the accountants try to extract more revenue out of each processor generation to maximise the R&D costs.

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A bitter spill to swallow, or 'how to smeg up your keyboard'

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge

Irn-Bru

is far worse than Coke. So much sugar, and I really don't know what gives it the orange colour, but I would not be surprised if it glows in the dark!

One of my kids ruined one of my beloved IBM model M keyboards with it. Despite soaking the keyboard, I did not get it working. Next step was stripping it down, which needed a log reach box spanner and side cutters as well as a screwdriver. I think that the reason why these keyboards last so long is that they are never meant to be dismantled.

Inside the plastic case is a huge lump of metal to give the weight, and 100+ buckling springs with plastic rockers that provide the unique feel. Once these are stripped, you are left with a sealed plastic unit with a membrane inside just like everyone else's keyboard (bit disappointing, really). Cutting the plastic heat melted rivets on this unit, and opening it revealed the membrane, which was so thoroughly stuck with orange gunk that the conductive tracks were pulled from the membrane even though I was taking extreme care and using water to dissolve the gunk. Tried conductive paint to repair the tracks with no luck

I wish I had tried the washing machine trick. I've now only got one model M left, and the kids are not getting anywhere close to that!

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Habitable HEAVY GRAVITY WORLD found just 42 light-years away

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge
Alien

Re: EE 'Doc' Smith? Larry Niven?

Having contributed in the comments sections about scientifiction, I disagree. The younger members of the readership should be reminded about the Golden Age of Science fiction, up to and including the 1970s and 80s popular writers when it was at its most popular (IMHO).

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Classic game 'Elite' returns … on Kickstarter

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge

Re: "sumptuous graphics"

3D hidden line graphics on a 2MHz 8 bit micro was eye-poping back in the early '80s. I remember someone bringing in the first copy seen at the BBC micro users club I used to frequent, and it drew a huge crowd.

I had been playing around with wire-frame graphics myself at the time and I quickly realised that they were using a very quick-and-dirty algorithm to draw the lines, but I never did figure out how they managed to work out whether a line was visible or not at the speed that it ran at.

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Peter Gathercole
Silver badge

Re: @dz-015 - Multiplayer game based on Elite?

@Mark 65

Even though when I started playing Elite I would BUY (no cheating here, except to make a copy of the disk - not a trivial task until sector-by-sector disk copiers for the BEEB came along) a docking computer, once I found the Bitstick worked as a controller (or indeed any other high precision joystick, I could do the same with one of the BBC analogue joysticks with an extension on the shaft made of a ball-point pen body), I completely ignored the DC.

At computer club events, I would quite often wow everyone who was watching by accurately lining up with the dock at a significant distance, matching rotation, and accelerating all the way in. There did not seem to be a maximum speed for docking. I could dock much, much faster than the DC, which often looked worse than a learner driver doing a reverse turn around a corner for the first time in a car with a faulty clutch. The only thing I found the it useful for was as a break to go and make a cup of tea.

I suspect that anybody who had any pretensions of becoming Elite would probably do the same.

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El Reg seeks hoardiest reader for crap-stashtic honour

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge

Not so simple

All of my stashed kit is, umm, stashed.

The significant other insists on me making my stuff invisible. She appears to have a pathological fear of anything that is either plugged into the mains or powered by batteries, so if it's not in use, it's in boxes in various hidey-holes around the house, and thus cannot be easily photographed as a whole. I've not seen much of it myself in the last 10 years.

Of course the same does not apply to her huge number of half-finished craft projects, her computer (only tolerated because of her genealogy work, along with it's A3 printer), her collection of pulp women's fiction (yes, I do mean Mills and Boon), and her menagerie of greater and lesser parrots (including 2 cockatoos and 2 other full sized parrots). I can provide plenty of photo's of those!

On the subject of throwing stuff away, when I picked up the Amstrad NC100 from a car boot, I found that I could have used the 4MB memory card I had thrown out earlier that month!

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A history of personal computing in 20 objects part 2

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge

Re: "the then vogue for Reduced Instruction Set Computing (Risc)"

Yes. I did think that while I was writing it. Maybe I should have said "If the processor now known as ARM had been a CISC architecture...".

Regards to Fred, Jim and Sheila from the 6522, 6845 and the rest of the chips especially the Ferranti ULA.

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Peter Gathercole
Silver badge
FAIL

Re: ZX80 [...] cased and equipped with a Qwerty keyboard

Dude. The Spectrum was not wedge shaped, unless you had an Interface 1 attached. I admit that it was lower at the front than the back, but that was because of a step in the case, bringing up the rear of the case to the same height as the top of the keys.

The ZX81 was wedge shaped, but did not have rubber keys.

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Peter Gathercole
Silver badge

"the then vogue for Reduced Instruction Set Computing (Risc)"

It was not just a vogue. It was necessary to push computing performance forward. If there had not been RISC architectures at the time, then I believe that computing history would have been different, and would probably not be nearly so advanced as it is now. Not that this is all to do with the ARM. MIPS, SPARC, Precision Architecture and POWER all had their parts to play in frightening the CISC manufactures into pushing performance up.

The transistor budget for the ARM 1 was, I believe, 25,000 transistors. At the same time, the 80386 had a transistor budget of 275,000. In these days of billions of transistors per die, it is easy to forget the fabrication limitations of the day.

If the ARM had been a CISC architecture, it would either not have competed with other processors in the market, or would have been too complex for a small organisation like Acorn to have been able to develop and produce. It's very existence was conditioned on it being a RISC processor.

The fact that it was a 32 bit architecture, used ridiculously low amounts of power, and still beat the pants off a 80386 processor in performance were the reason why it's descendants are still around now.

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Nationwide to perform IT equivalent of 'replacing jet engine mid-flight'

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge

XOS was a mainframe OS

but on Xerox Sigma systems in the late '60s and early '70s. I really don't think that the article writer is likely to have used XOS.

But it is clear that there are still mainframe class systems that are not IBM compatible. Unisys have their ClearPath range using intel Xeon processors and running MCP, which is popular in US Government circles. NEC in Japan also have Itanium based mainframe classs computers running an OS called ATOS, which has evolved from GCOS (nee GECOS - which should be a familiar term to any UNIX sysadmin).

Although they are classed as mainframes, they actually have Intel processors of various types in them, and could be considered as enterprise class rack based Intel servers rather than mainframes. For anybody working on these other mainframe systems, please note I'm not quibbling, I'm just pointing out that they are different from IBM z/OS based mainframes.

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Uh-oh! Kim Dotcom is back with a brand new Megaupload site

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge

Re: I had a similar idea...with a minor twist (but big data impact) -TLDR warning.

@ac 14:30 re XOR X,Y -> Z

.....except that XOR Y,Z will reconstruct X. Admittedly, whoever was wanting to retrieve X will need to know this is what you have done, and obtain both Y and Z.

XOR is just not safe unless you increase the number of keys and operation as you do in the later examples, but the more keys you have, the more chance you have that one of the storage companies go out of business, get shut down or just lose the data.

It would be better to use something like use a distributed set of symbols of Reed Solomon hashed data blocks. Doing this would enable you to reconstruct the data if one set of symbols is lost, but would make it necessary for someone to get most of the symbols in order to decode the data. The exact number of symbol sets needed, and the minimum number of sets required to decode the data would depend on the parameters in the RS encoding chosen. Each subset would not contain any usable data.

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Disney buys Lucasfilm, new Star Wars trilogy planned

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge

Re: Three trilogies

And the books are canon?

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