* Posts by Peter Gathercole

2244 posts • joined 15 Jun 2007

The roots go deep: Kill Adobe Flash, kill it everywhere, bod says

Peter Gathercole
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Well, I can't be pwned from Word and Powerpoint....

Because Microsoft don't make them for Linux!

From other things, well, maybe.

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Apple Watch is such a flop it's the world's top-selling wearable

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Who actually wears a watch anymore? And why? @jake

This question seems seriously out of character for you, Jake.

Normally, you come across as a very conservative, relatively backward-looking person, so as a result, it's quite a surprise to read it, unless you've either dropped out to the extent of living by the sun, or have a pocket watch!

Even though I carry my phone around with me, having a watch (a relatively simple one, time, date, chronograph, alarm and dual time zones) allows me to read the time with a relatively simple and consistent twist of the wrist, any time, day or night (I very rarely take my watch off except to make sure I don't scratch the wife when, oh - you know. This means that it's not been taken off for a while!)

If I had to rely on other devices around me, I would have to first of all remember where the closest clock is where I happen to be or get my phone out of it's belt holster and unlock it, and then hope that the home screen is showing, and has the correct time, as it comes on showing the time that it was locked, and then updates about a second later. I run with the status bars hidden on my computer screen (It's only 64 pixels of vertical space, but I want to use it for content), so I don't even see that unless I move the mouse.

And on top of that, I've been wearing a watch since I was about 10, so it's perfectly natural to me, and it would take some time to adapt to not wearing one.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: They need to fix the bugs

Surely, you mean 'cheaper' one.

Even that's not cheap.

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Here's why Whittingdale kicked a subscription BBC into the future

Peter Gathercole
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DTV was all about the cost.

It all comes down to money. During the switch to Digital Terrestrial, TV consumers were being effectively told that they had to spend money in order to continue watching TV. This was never popular, but it was convenient that it coincided with adoption of flat-panel TVs that softened the blow by giving consumers larger screens and space in their homes back as part of the 'deal'.

It would have been possible to publish requirements that mandated more functional and thus more expensive devices, but if the minimum cost STB device was £70-100 rather than the £20-30 (or even cheaper for the supermarket specials) that it was, imagine what the backlash would have been.

I remember at the time I ended up buying freeview STBs for 8 TVs in the house (it's a big house with TVs in most of the bedrooms) and ended up paying a couple of hundred quid for the privilege. I would not have been happy if it had cost me £500 instead, just for the privilege of being able to use the TVs I already owned.

Of course, I don't think that any of the first set of adapters I bought are still functional (catastrophic capacitor breakdown took most of them out - with the exception of the very oldest - about 12 years old, which was still working a few months ago)

These old adapters have mainly now been replaced, along with the TVs they used to drive with TVs that receive freeview anyway. If I had to go through the whole exercise for 7 TVs (one bedroom is no longer being used as a bedroom), I would be pretty unhappy.

I'm getting pretty fed up of everybody, from the technology companies through government and down to people I know who seem to assume that everybody will be replacing tech on a 3 year cycle. It just does not fit in to many, many peoples lifestyles to replace all their tech over such a short time span! As a result, road-maps for at least the next 10 years are required to allow the public to decide whether to spend little and often or a lot, but less frequently.

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Run Windows 10 on your existing PC you say, Microsoft? Hmmm.

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Spring cleaning time

In my experience, apart from some kernel stubs for exporting a minimal API to the adapter, most of the code to drive the adapters is in the X Server modules, and thus run in user-space, not kernel space. You're mostly isolated by KMS in kernels from about 2.8.

I was assuming that the type of problem I was addressing was one where someone ran a normal 'apply some security fixes' upgrade, which as a result broke support for the adapter they had. With most distro's, this will not introduce a new kernel, and regressing to a driver in the same version will most likely work.

But you are right. I should have said "Another possible solution, assuming that the interfaces haven't changed.....".

I was mostly thinking about distro's like Ubuntu and Fedora. All bets are off if you do a dist-upgrade. I have encountered that sort of problem with a Ubuntu 10.02 to 12.02 upgrade on a machine with an embedded Nvidia 7100 display adapter (I don't need significant 3-D capability on this system), where I got absolutely no graphical display (text mode only) at all until I worked out what had happened. And then I moved the disk into a new system with an 8800, and things got quite crazy again for a short while until I realised that I had frozen the Nvidia packages to get the 7100 working! And don't mention cheap ATI 9250 cards! I really want to forget those completely.

I'm really not looking forward to Mir and Wayland, because I mostly understand how this works with X11. More to learn and more to get wrong, and probably whole generations of older graphics cards that will not work at all, no matter what you do.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Spring cleaning time

Ubuntu is sometimes it's own worst enemy.

It's actually very good at telling you that there are proprietary binary drivers available for your video card, and telling you what you need to do to enable the non-free repository and switching to the driver.

Unfortunately, it's not very good at telling you that the new binary driver you've just installed as part of the update has dropped support for your graphics card. The result, you put the update on, reboot the system, and hey presto, you're back in un-accelerated 640x480 16 colour world, or if you're very lucky 800x600 VESA mode, whichever is the lowest common denominator. But you should get some sign of the screen working, even if it's just text-mode.

The solution is to remove the nvidia or ATI fglx drivers, and install either the nv or nouveau driver for nvidia cards or the radeon driver for ATI cards. Nouveau and radion both provide some 3D function, although it's likely to not be as good as the binary driver (but still perfectly adequate for 2D work and even things like Google Earth).

Another solution is to work out which the last binary driver supported your card, and back-level the package to that, or even add the repository for the earlier release and back level, and then freeze those packages. But this later option can sometimes lead to strange booting effects, especially if the KMS support for the cards has changed.

BTW, a fresh install would probably just work.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Ha

But what are you counting as an obscure peripheral?

I've had problems with a Pinnacle PCI video capture card, but to be fair, there was no post XP drivers for that anyway.

And a slide scanner. Ditto, no XP drivers, and Linux support patchy, but I can run XP in VirtualBox to access it over USB.

I did also have some problems with a broadcom wireless chipset from around 2001, but it would not work with WPA in XP, even using the available Windows drivers.

But graphic cards? The open source nvidia and ati drivers work well (at least for 2D) with most old hardware, in fact much better than the legacy Windows ones once the proprietary windows ones have dropped all support. And the open source 3D support is getting better all the time, and for reasonably current hardware the binary non-free drivers actually work very well. There was some criticism of multi-head support, but it does work, although maybe not as easily as Windows, and again, it's getting better all the time.

Similarly sound, network, wireless, USB devices. I have far more problems with Windows drivers rebuilding older machines than I do for Linux.

Generally for older hardware, if someone wrote a Linux driver for it at some time in the past, it's still there and probably still in the repositories and the module stubs are still in the kernel, unlike Windows, where the old drivers more often than not will not work at all.

One word of caution for people with older Celeron, some Atom and some Mobile Pentium processors (like the Banias Pentium M that was put in many laptops in the early noughties) that either do not support PAE (Pentium Address Extension) or report it wrongly. Modern Linux distro's often do not come with kernels that support these systems. It is sometimes possible to work around this, but generally it's not worth the effort.

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HP tops HPC charts, former Big Blue biz not so super

Peter Gathercole
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IBM has given up on HPC IMHO.

IBM, having dropped the IH systems, and having sold off the iDataplex and NextScale systems, and there being no obvious successor to BlueGene/Q appear to have lost interest in HPC.

I know that there are supposed Power 9 hybrid systems in the pipeline for Oak Ridge and Lawrence Livermore in 2017, but at this time, these both look like vapour-ware, there being only limited details of either the Power9 processor or the Volta GPU. As we found out with Blue Waters, such projects don't always deliver.

Both the Top500 and the article are incorrect about IBM's market share. It's actually less than stated, as the ECMWF P7 775s at 108 and 109 are no longer there (and were actually turned off for the last time something like a year ago), and before the November list, the UKMO systems at 140 and 169 will also be decommissioned. This will drop IBM down the list still further, with no obvious real big systems in the pipeline for the next year or more to push them up the list!

For me, it will be a sad day when the UKMO P7 775 systems are turned off, because it also means that I will be looking for a new assignment.

Any offers?

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I cannae dae it, cap'n! Why I had to quit the madness of frontline IT

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Oh so true! @awhit

I don't think IT is as lucrative as IT (used to be) any more. Blame commoditisation, which incidentally also feeds security issues. Obscurity is not a substitute for security, but it does help!

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: @AC

Come on. How simple are you?

If Trevor were to write about this stuff, two things would happen.

1. He'd get sued for breach of contract (the NDA is a contract).

2. He's get excluded from this sort of information in the future.

In fact, he's probably on shaky ground even admitting that he's subject to an NDA, if they're worded like any of the ones I've been subject to in the past.

So if he did, he would be shooting himself in the feet, both of them.

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Flash HOLED AGAIN TWICE below waterline in fresh Hacking Team reveals

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Oh Adobe... @Chris 155

"Flash was first..."

First, unless you count RealPlayer, or possibly xanim.

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IETF doc proposes fix to stop descent into data centre 'address hell'

Peter Gathercole
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Nothing new?

This does not sound too dissimilar to the layer 2 heuristic bridges that I was using 20 years ago to bridge geographically separated networks over slower WAN technologies with some degree of optimisation. Of course the scope is different, but the concepts look very much the same.

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Call that a mugshot? Aussie model/fugitive asks rozzers for more flattering pic

Peter Gathercole
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Re: I am more concerned... @Chemist

Yes, of course the picture is still important, but if it was just the picture and manual appraisal, they would probably be less strict about the expression, background, glasses etc, as the officers would probably prefer to have pictures that resembled you as you normally look, much as they used to do before biometric passports came alone.

It's true, I don't travel that much. Do the immigration officers ask you to take off hats, glasses and comb back your hair so that they can make an accurate appraisal of whether you resemble the picture? If not, then the picture is of limited use.

But conversely, if you travel to a country that does have the equipment, the biometric data will probably be read off the passport and recorded in a database that LEOs have access to, so that if you are picked up dead, or infringing the law, they can make a more positive identification of you. Biometric data is less than perfect, but the basic map of the face can give useful information, and it is much more accurate if the face is not obstructed and in the same orientation as the picture.

BTW. If your wife's passport is a non-biometric one (and I'm making a big assumption that it's a UK passport), it is probably close to needing to be renewed.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: I am more concerned... @Chemist

The reason for the strict instructions is not to generate a picture from which a person can identify you, it's so that the computer generated hash of the salient features of your face can be encoded into the biometric data stored on the passport (things like the ratio of the gap between the eyes and the length of the nose).

Glasses, the direction you're looking, tilting the head, obstructive hair, and even the change in shape of the muscles in the face if smiling and the background can all make a significant difference to the hash.

And again, it's not about people looking at the photo, it's about you being positively identified by machine. It's much more difficult to fool a machine (with the right data) than it is a person.

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Behold the mighty Swiss SPACE JUNK NOSHER PODULE

Peter Gathercole
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How about calling SHADO

(Supreme Headquarters Alien Defence Organisation)

They used to have clean up missions (1.05 - Conflict)

And I think Thunderbird Three was recently seen cleaning up space junk!

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Space Wombles @Crisp

... But that was to Button Moon, in the Blanket Sky!

I suppose that the theme was composed by an ex. Dr Who, and Trillian from HHGTTG TV show (and also the voice of Grandma in 2015 Thunderbirds). Maybe that gives it some authenticity!

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Space Wombles

Surely the Clangers would be the people(?) to call.

Their music boat with Tiny or Small piloting would be just the ticket.

The Space Chicken might be useful too for the smaller items.

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Smart Meter biz case still there, insists tragically optimistic UK govt

Peter Gathercole
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Re: I had a smart meter fitted last week

You've just outlined pretty much all of the consumer benefits (you missed out remote meter readings).

You've not seen what the downsides are, of remote control of your power system, of remote hacking, which may allow other people to determine whether the house is empty, and even turn off your power if the meter is one that does this. If it's not one of those, it will need replacing again before the program is complete.

Also, from what I've read, you've also pretty much locked yourself into a single supplier, because they use different and incompatible metering technology. If you wanted to change to a supplier that used a different meter technology, then you may have to pay an additional meter installation charge.

You could have achieved much of the same benefit for electricity (sans remote meter reading) with one of any number of clamp-on external measurement systems (OK, they're less accurate, but still can demonstrate power use in real time) without any of the downsides.

I listened to the Radio 4 Today program this morning, and Roger Witcombe, chairman of the Competition and Markets Authority (a government institution), who was a guest on the discussion about energy companies and overcharging, mentioned smart meters as an aid to choosing supplier, but in such an apologetic tone of voice that it seemed to me that he was echoing an official line while not really being supportive of the devices himself!

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Cloud provider goes TITSUP? Will someone think of the data!

Peter Gathercole
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And remember

If you're also using your service provider's backup solution, unless you've got your backups stored to physical media outside of your service provider, even if they have separate tape copies, the physical media probably belongs to your service provider or upstream provider, and will be a tangible asset (and thus liable to lien).

This will be true unless you've got an ironclad contract that states the media reverts to your ownership in the case of your service provider entering insolvency, If you don't, you'll probably also lose access to your physical backups as well, and possibly any archival copies kept for regulatory compliance.

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NASA's New Horizon probe rudely fires its thruster at gnome planet

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Genuine question

I'm sorry. You've done it now. I can't resist.....

"... Late, as in the late Dent, Arther Dent. It's a sort of threat, you see..."

- Slartybartfast.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Genuine question

Remember that Pluto is in it's own orbit, and moving quite fast (4.67 Km/s), so late as in crossing Pluto's orbit after it has passed by. 20 seconds would have increased the closest distance, but probably not by much compared to the 7,750 miles distance.

But the answer is in the quoted article from NASA. "...[JHAPL] says without the adjustment, New Horizons would have arrived 20 seconds late and 114 miles (184 kilometers) off-target from the spot where it will measure the properties of Pluto’s atmosphere. Those measurements depend on radio signals being sent from Earth to New Horizons at precise times as the spacecraft flies through the shadows of Pluto and Pluto’s largest moon, Charon."

So yes, late.

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Cash-strapped Chicago slaps CLOUD TAX on Netflix, Spotify etc users

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Is it legal? @arrbee

Agree.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Is it legal? @arrbee

I'm not going to quibble. I appreciate all of your points, and I sympathise with the people who are caught in this trap.

I was just objecting to the use of the term "tax".

I would actually rather prefer to have a more realistic balance between living costs and wages such that things like housing benefit and other subsidised housing (yes, I'm including council houses and housing associations) were only needed by a much smaller number of really needy households, rather than those who just can't afford to live where they do, whatever the reason why.

For what it's worth, and for reasons beyond most of these people's control, they are forced to rely on the state and it's devolved institutions for support far more than is healthy for the nation's finances. I wonder if enforcing the living wage and reducing benefit paid, and then carefully change the tax and/or NI on companies by an appropriate amount to shift the money away from benefits and on to a more income and tax basis would be a reasonable first step? Possibly Tim Worstal cold crunch the numbers and comment?

I appreciate what you are saying about buy-to-let, but the right-to-buy, which is what caused the public housing to be sold off was intended to benefit the original purchaser. Some of them will have bought and then sold, making significant profit for the people taking advantage of the right, but when they sold, it would be at the market rate. The b-t-l landlords would have paid market rates, and the only benefit thy has was that the houses were available at all. But the house transferred to private when the original purchasers bought, not when they were sold on.

What has helped the b-t-l purchasers most is the mortgage guarantee and incentive packages that were introduced to try to support the first time buyer market, and thus the whole of the housing ladder. These were not sufficiently guarded to prevent b-t-l landlords from using the schemes. Other than that, it's the relentless rise of house prices that allows a landlord to borrow against their existing portfolio to fund purchases, and then rely on the price rises to provide them a capital gain so they can either borrow more, or sell in the future and make a profit far higher than commercial interest rates.

There's lots wrong with the economy, much more than the loss of public housing.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Is it legal? @Mage

Gawd. I'm going senile. Read Queue as Cue!

Can we have a bit more than 10 minutes as an editing period, please?

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Is it legal? @Mage

UK "Bedroom Tax" is not a tax. The media and opposition parties deliberately misrepresent it to increase the emotive impact of the issue.

It is actually a rebate on the housing benefit (a welfare payment) given to someone who lives in a house with an unused bedroom. (Rebate is used a little strangely here, because you don't normally expect it to be used to benefit state institutions).

If you do not get housing benefit, you are not affected at all by this.

Queue downvotes, but I don't think that the state should pay welfare benefits to people so that they can live in houses larger than they need, although I do think there needs to be significant exceptions for people with intermittent requirement for an extra room, for example if they need to house significant amounts of medical equipment, an occasional live-in carer, or children and members of the armed forces returning home for holidays and leave.

If it were a true tax, everybody would have to pay it, even people not receiving benefit and/or people owning their own house outright.

On the story, I thing Chicago are ill-advised to introduce a tax that is going to be difficult to enforce.

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What's black, sticky, and has just 8GB of storage?

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Thin clients on wifi

I still run a lot of stuff over X both at home and at work (obviously through SSH X forwarding).

My primary go-to system is a Thinkpad T43, 2.0GHz Dothan Mobile Pentium with 2GB memory running Ubuntu Trusty Tahr and Gnome-flashback. It runs very well as an X server connected to other systems, both more and less powerful.

What kills X is the appalling way that some applications, particularly Java ones, are implemented. Too many client applications render the screen locally, doing thing like all of the font handling locally, and then sending the rendered screen to the server.

Now I know that this is the only way that a client application can guarantee that certain fonts are available, and rendered as they expect, but it's seriously ugly in use, and it breaks the ethos of X11, where very efficient network primitive operations are sent across the network rather than the screen bitmaps.

Certain things, like video, are clearly not suited to X, but properly written X applications can be exceptionally snappy.

I think back over 20 years to running IBM X-Station 130s in a live operation (actually the IBM UK AIX Support Centre) from RS/6000 320H servers, about 10 X-Stations per server, over 16Mb/s Token Ring, and it was not X that slowed things down, it was the processing power and memory on the servers running the clients (isn't the X computing model confusing sometimes!). At the time, this was a very realistic proposition, and I'm sure that the increase in processing power and network speed could make thin-clients technically feasible again, but there is no cost benefit any more.

With the rising popularity of delivering apps. through HTML, I can see future thin clients being <£100 android tablets with keyboards (and maybe mice), possibly built into desks rather than sitting on them!

A stick like this could be useful in a scenario like this, but once you take into account the cost of whatever you are displaying it on, and the keyboard and mouse, the tablet option I described above looks much more attractive. The real benefit of these systems would be in a household that does not want to have a desktop PC, but may occasionally want more than can be done on a tablet.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Plenty of things I can do with 1G ram + 8G flash

I have a first generation Acer Aspire One (1.6GHz Atom N270, 1GB RAM and 8GB flash) which sounds like it's similar spec, and I have Trusty Tahr on it, and I still use it for basic web browsing, and playing some media.

I use gnome-flashback, partly because I prefer the interface, and partly because Unity is painful with slow graphics and only 600 vertical pixels. The other drawback is the SSD is seriously slow, possibly because it does not support TRIM.

The biggest problem is keeping enough of the filesystem free during updates. The update tool leaves a trail of downloaded deb files after they've been installed, and never cleans up old kernels.

If I did not make serious effort to clean up after every update, it would have run out of space ages ago. I hope that the version installed on this stick has been tweaked to do some of this automatically.

fwiw, ubuntu-tweak and computer-janitor are seriously useful for keeping this cruft down.

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Samsung/Cheil merger goes on: Soz Elliot, not this time, says court

Peter Gathercole
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Re: knobs

I suspect that it's not a case of them thinking they're going to lose money. Sam*eil (or Ch*ung maybe) will almost certainly make them more money than most corporate investments.

It's more a case that they think that Samsung on it's own will make more money, and will be easier to influence than the enlarged combined company, in which the individual investors will have a diluted share holding.

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Microsoft in Blighty reveals its 78 THOUSAND POUND Surface 3 slabloid

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Or just a dummy value...2 x mistakes = correct @Bob

I don't see a joke icon.

If this is real, let us all know whether they arrive!

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Beyond the Grave: US Navy pays peanuts for Windows XP support

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Windows for Warships

Ah, OK.

But even so, Microsoft may have to support XP for the DoD until at least 2018, so one wonders whether the same "Custom Support" plan rules operate for DoD as for other people.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Windows for Warships

I'm sure that I read somewhere that in part of the contract to supply the DoD with weapon, control or maintenance systems, there was a clause requiring a 10 year withdrawal of support notification.

This means that the supplier has to warn the DoD of the date that the kit would not be maintainable 10 years before the support was withdrawn.

That makes the 3 year notice rather abrupt, don't you think.

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Why OH WHY did Blighty privatise EVERYTHING?

Peter Gathercole
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Re: But public money... @Alan

It's interesting that you can see some of what you say in the deregulation of the bus network from the Passenger Transport Executive (PTE), run by Tyne and Wear around Newcastle and the immediate area (and probably the other PTEs from around the country).

The PTE ran a fully integrated transport system that included the bus services and the Metro rail system.

When it was set up, it was arranged around interchange hubs, and your journey would often be bus to a hub, Metro between hubs and bus to your destination. This was paid for as a single ticket via 'zone' pricing, so you could buy your ticket on the bus by asking for a Ticket to the zone your destination was in (that you could find easily on a map), and that would cover all steps. Public transport across the Tyne was mostly restricted to the Metro, and all of the zones were well served by a comprehensive bus network.

The result was that almost everybody used it. It may have been a bit slower than travelling by car, but if all you needed to do was get yourself across the region, it was a no-brainer. You just used it, like you use the underground in London.

Roll forward to 1986. The bus regulation the PTE ran was removed, and the PTE themselves had to divest the bus operations (although they continued to run the Metro). Suddenly multiple operators started competing for the lucrative routes and ignoring the less profitable ones. Buses started crossing the Tyne again. Road traffic across the bridges slowed to a crawl. People did not know how to price a journey, and had to buy several tickets from different operators. Use of the Metro started to decline, because it was no longer the common trunk to link the hubs together.

Eventually, all of the local bus companies ended up being bought by the national bus operators, which essentially stifled the competition, resulting in effective monopolies.

They are finally trying to re-introduce a common fare system AFAIK. I no longer live there, so I'm a bit out of the picture.

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Who wants a classic ThinkPad with whizzy new hardware? Lenovo would just love to know

Peter Gathercole
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Re: It is already there @naive

The T4X series, it was not the RAM slots, it was the ATI graphics chip that would come partly un-soldered. I've worked on about a dozen T40-T43 systems, and I've never come across one with the memory slots not working.

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Peter Gathercole
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Boffin

Re: Yes, I would purchase one (maybe 2 or 3) if... @picturethis

I've done the disk clone thingy with dd several times. I'm not concerned by it, although you can get a bit screwed by the UUID in /etc/fstab of some partitions under some circumstances.

The Windows side is more tricky, because moving the image to a new system will trip the Windows Genuine disAdvantage 'it's no longer the same system' in later Windows versions, and you have to change the license key to match the new system (believe me, I've done it several times). But I only keep a real windows partition going for those very rare circumstances when I can't do what I need to under Linux or in VirtualBox. It gets booted about twice a year!

The Windows drivers are not really an issue. It'll always come up with VGA graphics, and as long as the usb 1.1 drivers are installed or the optical media works, you can install the correct drivers (My Thinkpad history: 365X ->365XD ->380D ->T20 ->T23 ->T30 (multiple mobo's) ->T43, and I had an N33sx and an L40sx before the Thinkpad brand). During this time, I've gone through many disks, although for the last 10 years or so, I've only changed the disk as I've needed more space, not when I've changed machine.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Yes, I would purchase one (maybe 2 or 3) if... @picturethis

I think you're very lucky. The T30 was a bit of a bogey machine, the worst of any of the Thinkpads that I've ever had. Don't get me wrong, I kept my T30 running for as long as I could, but...

The T30 was the first Thinkpad that was completely made in the Far East AFAIK, and they got the mechanical design a bit wrong. They are notorious for the RAM sockets to break solder joints. Finding a T30 with both memory slots still working without some paper wedged in to put pressure on the slots is a very, very rare thing. I think that the designers recognised this, because there was no T31 or later T3X systems, and the T40 was launched not that long afterwards. I think the motherboard was put under some strain, because several of them I've had have had different types of foam pads to act as strain relief, but they never really worked.

I know Thinkpads are repairable. I had 4 different motherboards in my T30, and eventually resorted to re-soldering the RAM sockets myself, but I don't have a re-soldering station, and using a normal dry soldering iron to melt the solder already there eventually burns the surface mount pads off the motherboard.

I kept it running until I could no longer find any mobos on eBay, and the ones I had could no longer be re-soldered. I eventually decided to replace it with a T43 (this machine) when I could find one with a Dothan processor (and the cost dropped to lower than a T30 mobo, even one not guaranteed to work. But the hard disk (swapped out of the T30 to keep the 'machine' the same even though it's different hardware, is flagging SMART errors, and large IDE 2.5" disks (100GB+) are also getting rare. Core 2 duo T60s (with SATA hard disks) are beginning to look cheap on eBay at the moment, so I may switch again, but this swap will require copying between disks, not just a disk swap.

T30's also has a definitely silly bit of design. If you tried to remove the disk with the lid shut, you were guaranteed to break the top left corner of the bezel. It is such a common problem, that if you see a T30, it's almost certainly broken there.

If there was a modern Thinkpad, in approximately the same form-factor as the T20-T60 ranges, available at a reasonable price, I may just skip to a new one rather than a used one. But, unfortunately, I think Lenovo will take the interest as a sign that people would pay a high price, and they will introduce them at ultra-book prices. If they do this, they've not really looked at what people want.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Definitely as long as it's as good as it's predecessors

T20 running as a firewall. 700 MHz Pertium 3, 256MB ram and PC-CARD second Ethernet card.

Too slow even for a firewall really, but been on 24x7 for more years than I can remember.

I bought it second hand in about 2003.

Typed on a T43, my main workhorse, running Ubuntu LTS 14.04. Still fast enough for most day-to-day purposes.

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Killer ChAraCter HOSES almost all versions of Reader, Windows

Peter Gathercole
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Re: C @Dan 55

If you were using ISO standard Pascal (ISO 7185), it may have made for safer code, but in order to achieve that safety, you had to put up with a language that was so limiting that doing something like writing an OS would have been a virtual impossibility.

I mean, really. ISO 7185 Pascal does not have anything remotely like a pointer. It also does not have any way of addressing data objects that have not been declared. It's also pretty difficult to handle variable length records in data files, because of the inflexible nature of the I/O system.

So what happened is that you got things like Turbo Pascal and Delphi, which were not Pascal, and introduced enough of the methods needed to write systems, which also added some of the same vulnerabilities that C had.

You should have used something like Ada as a counter to C, not Pascal. Although Ada was a strongly typed language, it's very reason for being was to write correctly coded systems for such things as military application, so it had the necessary constructs to interface with hardware.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: C @James Cane

Unless you're prepared to have massive inefficiencies in your code (like surrounding all data structures with hardware write protected regions), it's always going to be a matter of trust.

If you use a language that does strong boundary and type checking for all data objects in software, you're trusting that the compiler and/or run-time is correct, and does not contain any flaws You're also always going to find that your code runs slower with these checks.

I'm not going to suggest that there are not sound reasons to stop using C, but using a language with better protection does not guarantee total safety.

C is still excellent for what it was written for, generating code that closely fits with the underlying computer architecture. But it's not a perfect language, by any means.

When C was first developed, it was necessary to have a language that would map very closely to the system ISA (and it did map to the PDP11 instruction set very nicely), because even minor inefficiencies in code size may have pushed the kernel beyond the 56KB address space on a non-separate I&D PDP11 (I used to run a PDP11/34A, and had different kernels to drive all of the terminals without a tape drive, or to have only some of the terminals working with the tape driver compiled in). IIRC, Sun 3 680x0 systems had to have a kernel less than 1MB.

That time is fortunately past, but that does not mean that in these days of a word-processor needing 100's of megabytes of memory just to load, that aspiring to produce efficient code should not be something to strive for.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Compared to this... @STB

The counter to this is that although you (and I, I will admit) may not have the skill to fix problems like this, we do have the ability to aid someone who does, with a formal or informal contribution of either money or equipment, and it does not even have to be the developer with the Open Source software model.

I suppose that you could give Microsoft and Adobe money and ask them to do the same, but I suspect that it would disappear into the general coffers, and not significantly affect the quality of the code.

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Why is it that women are consistently paid less than men?

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge

Re: I think the argument about shorter life expectancy for men @Tom 13

That's interesting, but I don't actually think that table is relevant to my post.

Firstly, all of the life expectancy figures in that table are actuarial, meaning that they are guesses based on historical figures rather than accurate predictions. And my point is that the assumptions that those numbers are built upon are changing because of really dangerous professions either disappearing, or becoming much safer. The only column that is relevant is the "number of lives".

Secondly, as I was commenting on differences due to work done by men and women, quoting a figure for children aged one is largely irrelevant, unless the US has found ways of infants working.

These figures for boys and girls below working age show something different, although I don't have a clue what it is. It can't even be misadventure, because (again) infants probably don't really behave very differently.

Thirdly, within the timespan of the table (1891-2010), there are two very major and several significant minor events that skew the figures in the US. These are the first and second World Wars, together with the Korean police action, the Vietnam war, the first and second Gulf Wars and the following actions, the US war in Afghanistan, and the actions in Balkans. All of these would significantly increase the proportion of male vs. female mortality, as wars are generally still fought by men, and even those who return may have had life altering injuries that persist in affecting the figures long after the events.

It's also interesting that the figures include populations living outside of the US, which probably include people living and working in much less safe environments than the US mainland. I would also contend that Europe probably has more job related health and safety regulation than the US.

We will not be able to see the full figures for the period I was talking about for may years to come.

I certainly wouldn't argue that the figures do show a shorter life expectancy for men, but my point is that recently, and on into the future, the differences due to the type of work people do (my post) will become less as time goes by.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Next question... @Rob 5

That's called society. Without it, there would almost certainly not be the jobs that you do that pay your salary.

It's one of the things that differentiates homo sapiens from most other mammals. Society as a whole provides what is required for society's benefit (there are other examples, such as wolf packs which have non-breeding members of the pack that contribute to the pack through hunting and nursemaid roles).

You, as a net financial contributor are paying for the next generation. Parents, as net care contributors, are 'paying' for the next generation with care. Some of the next generation in the future will 'pay' (with their care) for older people, whether they've had children or not. Society as a whole benefits from all contributions, and many I've not detailed. It's been this way, in one form or another since man started living in groups, although now it's expanding to a scale where it no longer looks like society any more.

I will admit that in the modern selfish world, where people just say 'what about me' all the time, that this could break down, but hey, nothing is forever.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Something missing @erkulas

I think the argument about shorter life expectancy for men, and them not reaching pensionable age is a severely outdated one.

It may have been true up until 50 or so years ago, but health and safety legislation and the changing demographic of work in developed economies have seriously undermined this line of thought.

It's true, there are still mostly manual jobs out there. Construction work is an obvious one, but anything that is mostly physical in nature. In these, anything that would seriously affect the health of the workers is now severely regulated in progressive economies, and professions like mining, steel work, and transport (I'm thinking of dock workers here) have almost completely disappeared either because they don't exist any more, or they have been altered beyond recognition due to mechanisation.

One of the other outcomes of this is that the historical actuarial rules for pensions have been broken, leading to most older pension schemes that assumed that people (esp. men) may either not reach pensionable age, or only have a fey years that need a pension before expiring now face paying 20+ years. This also affects the balance of the state pension (too many pensioners vs. the number of workers), as that is a non-funded pension scheme (workers today are paying national insurance to fund the state pensions of existing pensioners, not paying into a fund for their own retirement). This is one of the reasons why governments actually want population increase, through means including immigration, to provide a mid-term extension of the pensions system.

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RBS sticks it to customers once again as IT woes continue

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Consequence

Many years ago, Girobank once processed a cheque for £1000.00 (one thousand pounds) paid into one of my accounts as £10.00 (ten pounds), even though the cheque was correctly filled in, both words and numbers.

It took about two weeks for them to fix it after I spotted it, because they had to retrieve the original cheque from the document archive. In the meantime, £990 of my money was in limbo, having been taken from the source account but not appearing in the destination account.

They did refund all of the failed transaction charges, and fortunately, the mortgage company accepted that this was not my fault, and did not post a black-mark. Another fortunate thing was that this was the only direct debit from that account.

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NatWest IT cock-up sees 600,000 transactions go 'missing'

Peter Gathercole
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Mushroom

Re: Self-inflicted @boltar

What part of "about one in five households receive tax credits" that I said earlier don't you understand.

These are mostly normal people, often with both adults in work, challenged by circumstance. Some may be deliberately playing the system, but most aren't. They are just relying on the system to provide what they're told they are entitled to, and using this income to plan their expenditure.

I don't know what you expect these people to do if their circumstances change for the worst. Once, they may well have been able to easily support three children. If they've lost income as a result of losing their jobs and having to move to lower paid ones, or accepting pay cuts in order to keep their jobs, the family breaking up or any of a number of different things, their financial situation could have got worse since they had the children.

Are you an advocate of turning the kids out of the home if you struggle to provide for them? The Victorian foundling homes and orphanages? The work house? Or maybe euthanize them? Come on, let us know.

We don't know this woman's situation, so don't just brand her a chav. because you're a smug bastard who has never been in that sort of situation. She may be in work and still be entitled to these tax credits.

Oh, and by the way. In order to achieve a stable population, what with non-reproducing members, it is necessary for some families to have more than two kids. Three is not only quite normal, but absolutely essential to compensate for people who die having never had children. IIRC, the average number of kids per couple needed to keep the population stable is regarded as somewhere between 2.3 and 2.4.

If everybody was forced to enter heterosexual relationships and have two kids, the population would still fall as a result of natural mortality and infertility. IIRC, the last two or three UK censuses show that discounting people who come in to the UK from abroad who are often young and have children while they are here, the UK population would be falling. And this has serious implications on government finances in the future.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Self-inflicted @AC

I was thinking about why I was getting downvotes, and it occurred to me that there may be people who don't know what tax credits are in the UK.

They are basically part of the welfare system which is supposed to return tax to workers in low paid jobs, depending on their circumstances. This is supposed to encourage people to keep working in these low paid jobs, rather than giving up and moving to what used to be called unemployment benefit, now jobseekers allowance and income protection support.

The idea was that it would reduce the amount of money paid in benefit, but instead what it does is trap people in low paid jobs that they can't afford to give up, but which offer them no chance of improving.

In many cases, what this does, if treated at face value, is that low paid workers pay negative tax, meaning that not only do they not pay tax, but they get money back.

Something like 5,000,000 families in the UK receive some tax credits, according to government figures, and all households with children which do not have a higher rate tax payer will also receive child benefit.

It is part of the complex tax system that we have in the UK, as envisioned by that <irony>financial wizard</irony> Gordon Brown. I would prefer to see a system where people did not need this level of support (because it's regressive and unfair), and because what it really shows is that either wages are too low, or cost of living is too high in the UK for a significant part of the population.

So, as I said, tax credits are not a windfall, they are part of the regular income in about 1 in 5 of all households in the UK (based on the previous figure, and the total number of households in the UK). This is why it's important. Families rely on it's timely arrival for all sorts of things including food and fuel. That is why this woman is upset.

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Peter Gathercole
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Mushroom

Re: Self-inflicted @AC

Her tax credit payment is part of her regular income. As such, she, along with many others, will rely on it to plan their spending. If she's on part-time working or a zero hours contract, it may be one of the few bits of regular income she gets. Why should she not rely on being able to draw on it once it's been paid.

Don't think that for these people, a tax credit is a bonus or a windfall. It's (again) regular, weekly or monthly income.

What the hell do you think she's supposed to use it for? A holiday!

Go talk to some real people rather than guessing at their circumstances.

Oh, and if you want to be regarded as distinct from all of the other myriad of AC posters, why not set up a meaningless handle and post under that. El Reg will still know who you are whether you post AC or not, but nobody else will. That way we can differentiate from all the ACs who post similar sounding comments.

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Peter Gathercole
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Stop

Re: Self-inflicted @AC

Maybe she can afford them, but relies too heavily on the services of other people to be able to get at her assets. This is looking like a personal vendetta, AC. Do you know her personally?

Lots of people don't have credit cards because they can't get them. Mainstream lenders nowadays are very risk averse, and will not give credit cards to people they think may not be able to afford them (this is what they are being told to do by the financial regulators).

Why do you think there are/were so many pay-day lenders about?

Get off your hight horse and look at the real world!

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Peter Gathercole
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Mushroom

Re: Surely I can't be the only one worrying..

It may not be illiteracy. It may be circumstance, often forced upon them. For example, if you rent a property now, it is very likely it will have an electricity pre-pay meter. The utility companies don't like rental properties having credit agreements (which is what a monthly or quarterly bill effectively is).

Have you never been in a situation where you've been waiting for a credit into your bank account before doing something? Well, that's what these people are doing, but they're doing it for food and fuel.

Just because you have the means to keep a financial buffer does not mean that everybody does.

If my primary bank account became unavailable to me for whatever reason for more than a few days at certain times of the month, I could be embarrassed by mortgage and other regular payments bouncing. Hungry, maybe not, but definitely unhappy enough to complain, especially when Twitter makes it so easy!

I think many people on this forum are complacent in their relative financial comfort. We've frequently commented to each other that the readership here are pretty unrepresentative of the population in general. This really is another aspect of this.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Self-inflicted @AC

Whilst I cannot fault your logic, experience tells me that there are a lot of people who rely on a single bank account, through which all of their salary/tax credits/child benefit is paid.

This type of person is also unwilling (so as to avoid the temptation of spending money they don't have) or unable to get a credit card. Also, many operators of pre-payment charging systems for electricity meters will not accept credit cards. Drawing money out of a credit card at an ATM results in punitive credit charges. And many people do not keep significant amounts of cash lying around.

I have been caught in a situation where I could not get money from a bank because of a cock-up. There was a day where there was a backbone telecom failure in my home area, which resulted in all of the ATMs in the area becoming non-functional, and no shops could do any electronic transactions. I fortunately had folding money in my wallet, but I know of many people who were unable to do anything that day unless they had cash.

So contingencies are good, but there may come a time when even that becomes useless. Then, the only safe regime is cash!

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The insidious danger of the lone wolf control freak sysadmin

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge

Re: Internal wikis - do they ever live up to expectations?

Personally, I don't believe that a Wiki can ever be an alternative to a properly structured document management system.

The problem with Wikis is that they're almost impossible to impose any structure to. Whilst they become a good place to drop hints, tips and the various miscellanea of wisdom, using one to be the primary document repository leads to you never being able to find anything without using the search function. And using search is fine until you get to a certain critical point where reading through the myriad of hits for common terms, especially if more than one team are using the wiki, becomes a burden in it's own right.

I suppose it is possible to impose a structure by convention, but such systems are easy to get wrong.

I prefer a system where the storage method imposes structure on the documents, at least for the formal documentation. So, you define a documentation template that includes all of the sections you're ever likely to need. Requirements, Design decisions, implementation details. Implementation plans, Operational procedures, Support procedures, Disaster Recovery etc. etc.

The idea is to try to cover all the bases, so define more sections than you're ever likely to need, and just miss out sections that are not needed for certain projects.

If you store this in some hierarchical storage structure (I actually like just using a tree-structured file system) with change control at every level, finding particular documentats becomes easy. And writing the documentation becomes easier too, as you can populate a new branch for a project from a pre-defined template, and all of the boring dross of getting the look-and-feel correct is done for you. You can immediately tell if a particular section of the documentation has been written or not.

And with regular section numbering and naming conventions, you can 'slice' the tree horizontally to get the first cut of a set of operational procedures for many systems to generate a new document for, say, your operators quickly.

I first saw this done for a UNIX system in the late 1980's, using the directory structure to organise the files, shell scripts to populate and customise a new branch from a template, files containing the sections written in troff/memorendum macros/pic/tbl/eqn/grap in each directory, and SCCS as the change control in each directory.

IMHO, it worked so well that I've adopted something similar whenever I've needed to write something in an organisation without it's own documentation standards.

I know that there are a whole slew of tools that will allow you to do something similar (even with MS Word documents in all their binary obtuseness), but I think this fits in with the UNIX way of doing things. And for search, well, you've got find and grep, and everything is text! And you can always create a permuted index with ptx if you're using troff.

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