* Posts by Peter Gathercole

2208 posts • joined 15 Jun 2007

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
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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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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
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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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Microsoft finally finishes its PowerPC emulator

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Remind me again

At the time that the system was designed, PowerPC was regarded as an in-vogue processor. Apple were using it, as were Nintendo in the GameCube and the Cell processor (which is where the PowerPC core used in the XBox360 came from) was exciting a lot of people, including Sony with the announcement of what was going in to the Playstation 3.

It also had good price/performance and performance/power levels compared to Intel processors of the same generation. Remember, Microsoft did not have a stellar success with the original XBox, with it's single core Celeron derived processor. And Microsoft even had some expertise in PowerPC, because they had a PowerPC port of Windows NT.

IBM were also much more willing to produce a custom chip for Microsoft at an acceptable price, and the Cell PowerPC core was a very suitable processor for use as a core on a multi-core chip due to the work on the Cell architecture (Intel's Pentium-D was launched in 2005, the same year that the Xbox 360 was announced - previously it was only the expensive Xeons that were multi-core).

It's only in hindsight (and a quite significant change of direction by Intel) that PowerPC looks like it may have not been the best choice, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. If only we could predict what it shows us after the fact.

I still think that POWER and PowerPC processors have a future, although maybe not in gaming consoles.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: not only but also

Those government departments are just penny-pinching. My guess is that they are mostly using AIX (rather than IBM i/iOS/OS400), and there is great compatibility with older systems, so probably there is a good chance that they could install modern IBM POWER systems, and expect the applications to either run unchanged or for newer versions of the applications to be available.

If the code would work in AIX 5.3, then they could also use an AIX 5.3 WPAR on a recent system to run the code. There's plenty of options out there, and modern kit is so much more powerful that they are unlikely to have performance issues. If they are using hardware that needs normal PCI (as opposed to PCIe) or MCA (it'd have to be really old kit for this!) then it would be a problem, but you would probably struggle to find an Intel box with PCI nowadays, and MicroChannel would be completely out of the question for a server with an Intel processor, unless you wanted a 486 system!

They probably just don't want to install any new kit, probably because they no longer have the skill in house to change anything, and their outsourcing partners have quoted the GDP of a small country to do it for them.

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Peter Gathercole
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@Paul

Which is the 32 bit processor you're talking about? It certainly wasn't the PowerPC Xenon!

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Philae warms up nicely, sends home second burst of data

Peter Gathercole
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Re: It does seem as if its a bit of a hole @Tom

I've not studied this much more than the articles in the press, but communications will be a problem for Philae. It's on a lump of who-knows-what (that's what it's there to find out), with very little gravity, spinning or maybe tumbling through space in a chaotic way (as the comet warms up, volatile chemicals will almost certainly boil off, causing changes in attitude), with very limited power available for a strong transmission or steerable communication dishes.

There's no way that it can communicate with earth directly. It will be talking through Rosetta, which itself is in orbit around the comet (not sure how this is possible without a significant gravity field). It will communicate with Rosetta when it can, and Rosetta will talk to Earth when it can.

As the saying goes, it's complicated.

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Nokia to LG: You want our smartphone IP? Alright, you got it

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Nokia is now............. @dogged

Not sure about the use here, but using ellipsis (...) is perfectly acceptable use of multiple full-stops.

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A server apocalypse can come in different shapes and sizes. Be prepared

Peter Gathercole
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Disaster Recovery?

Your definition of "Disaster Recovery" does not match what I've traditionally worked with, although I'm prepared to admit that things have moved on a bit.

Depending on your allowed down time, a disaster recovery solution may include a rental company delivering pre-arranged configurations of machines to a known site. It does not mean that you have to have those servers already installed.

If you have a nominated site, with the correct communication and power already laid on, and you have an agreement with a rental company that can deliver predefined configurations of kit within an agreed timescale, and this (and the rebuild) fits into the allowed window, this can also count as Disaster Recovery (in fact, this used to be what Disaster Recovery was all about).

It all depends on how long you can be down for. Nowadays, many businesses really require full-blown geographically separated high availability or multi-site concurrent solutions, as even a few hours downtime can seriously hurt some businesses.

You've also not included the term Fault Tolerance, although you've alluded to this with the redundant power supply example, but redundancy and fault tolerance are not exactly the same. Maybe it's just normal that people expect fault tolerance by default now, but I'm sure the term is still used in documentation.

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Cops turn Download Festival into an ORWELLIAN SPY PARADISE

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Supplies for Download festival !!!! @PhilBuk

+1 for the "Cities in Flight" reference.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Two words. @Michael

Your dream line-up can only be a dream.

Jack Bruce, Rick Wright, John Bonham (OK, officially replaced), Jon Lord, Cozy Powell, Peter Banks (OK, he left Yes a long time ago), Dio, Kelly Groucutt (and Mike Edwards, although they both left ELO), Eric Carr, all gone.

And these are just the ones I found from the bands you mention!

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Double-edged sword

I was supposing that the concession operators balance could be accessed in a timely manner. If that is not the case, then they and their customers are effectively giving the organisers a free, high risk credit facility for no return. I would not accept the risk.

But surely, that should come under some form of regulation, because the festival could be seen as a bank without a banking license?

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: It's a free country @ Chris G

Many retail tags are 'burned out' at the till (never wondered why they are waved over a plastic pad on the counter that warns you not to put bank cards and mobile phones on it?).

This is supposed to permanently deactivate by destroying the tags. (tags are powered by inductive power - these pads provide so much power that it blows a fuse in the tag).

Doesn't always work, though.

Completely removing the tag would be better, but it's been suggested that many retailers would like to hide the tag so that you don't even know where it is to remove.

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Peter Gathercole
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Double-edged sword

Technology like the RFID cards can be used for many purposes, both good and bad.

From the organisers perspective, using the RFID tag as a payment method reduces the amount of cash on site, so it will probably reduce some of the petty theft that happens at these events. This will benefit the customers, the people who run the concessions (they don't need to maintain cash floats), the organisers (who don't need to have cash handling facilities for the concession operators), and the Police who will probably see a reduced number of theft reports, especially if the RFID has a second factor (PIN?) to authorise payment.

It also makes sure that people only have access to what they have paid for, making it more likely that people at the festival actually pay the right price to see what they want.

Tracking people who move around is something completely different. While it will happen as a side effect of the entitlement checking, it's no different to having a barcode on a ticket, which is frequently used at attractions.

The only time it may be intrusive is if they have silent, unmarked RFID scanners scattered throughout the event, not just at the gates.

I think if I was there (which is not going to happen, partly because of these concerns), I would probably want to take a foil-lined pouch or tin to keep the tag in (depending on whether it is a wrist-band or a dog-tag, both terms are used in the article), and only take it out when it is necessary.

I don't really agree with facial recognition, but as that can be applied both in real time and in retrospect to captured CCTV video, there's not really much point in objecting to that, because it will happen anyway.

It's not that I'm paranoid (well, not that much), rather than I object to the concept of there being the ability to track me.

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A 16 Petaflop Cray: The key to fantastic summer barbecues

Peter Gathercole
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Alert

Re: 2 million lines of FORTRAN code @Ian Bush

When I learnt it, it was FORTRAN. It's only since that trendy upstart Fortran 90 came along, with it's free-form input, long variable names and pointers (amongst other corruptions) that the capitalisation changed.

I've not written much in the last 25 years, so it's still FORTRAN to me.

But please not, a lot of the Unified Model is still written in FORTRAN 77 and earlier, so the case is a moot point!

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: 2 million lines of FORTRAN code

Blind benchmarks would work if you take identical code and run them on two separate machines.

Unfortunately, when comparing different languages, the way that the problem is coded is partly conditioned by style, fashion (you don't think fashion is present? Wait until you've been around a while, accepted standards for writing code changes over the years), and personal preference. This makes direct comparisons more difficult, because different people will code the same problem in the same language differently, and some differences can have quite an effect on performance.

Beautifully written code is not always the fastest!

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: "more than 3,000 forecasts and predictions each day" @AC

It's not so easy to determine what is right and wrong when the forecast gives probabilities, not yes/no answers.

What you are talking about is the forecasters attempt to turn a complicated forecast into something that numpties like you have some chance of understanding, all in the space of three minutes or less. It's always going to be wrong for someone, because the weather for a whole region over a space of hours will never be the same across that whole region.

What you are complaining about is the generalisations that you hear on the radio or TV not being detailed enough for where you are. Look at the more detailed local forecasts on the BBC or Met Office web sites or apps, and you will find it is quite a bit closer to what actually happens.

There's another thing though. When you have ensemble runs (you run the forecast with slightly different parameters, and the reason why there are up to 3000 per day) it is quite likely that at least one of the ensemble will actually be right!

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: 2 million lines of FORTRAN code

I had this discussion with a couple of FORTRAN programmers some time back, and actually wrote some test code to see what they were talking about.

The problem with C derived languages is that everything is done by reference (essentially pointers), and this adds an indirection to follow the pointer that needs to be resolved to almost all structured data reference, particularly arrays (very commonly used for this type of work).

On the other hand, FORTRAN works much more directly with the addresses of data in memory (once it has the base address of an array, for example, it can do direct arithmetic on the index rather than having to resolve the pointer again). This means that it is much easier for the data prefetch mechanism to spot consecutive address so as to fill the cache. This is especially as the FORTRAN standards dictate the way that certain structures have to be laid out, which has actually conditioned processor design in the past, and enables the FORTRAN programmer to make some intelligent decisions about which rank of a multi-dimensional array to traverse to maximise the effect of the cache.

I can't remember the figures exactly, but I found that FORTRAN code actually ran faster than it's similarly written C equivalent. You had to write some very unusual C to narrow the gap. There was not a lot in it, but when you are trying to get as much as you can from a system, every clock cycle counts.

This is comparing FORTRAN and C. If you want to include the OO overheads of C++ to the equation, then things get even worse! And the discrepancies are not always fixed by optimising compilers.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: 2 million lines of FORTRAN code @Bronek

The problem is twofold.

Firstly, the Unified Model needs to have quite large sets of data per cell. Currently, the systems are sized with ~2GB per core, and each core is at any one time calculating one cell on the grid. This is to do with the way that the information is arranged, and although current GPUs can address large(ish) amounts of memory, they cannot manage to provide enough memory per core for a "few thousand compute units on a single card". Until the GPUs have the same level of access to main memory that the CPUs and DMA communication devices have, this will always be a block.

Secondly, all of the time steps are lock-stepped together, and at the end of each time step, results from each cell are transferred to all of the surrounding cells in three dimensions (called the 'halo'). As I understand it, the halo is being expanded so it is not just the immediately neighbouring cells, but the next 'shell' out as well. This makes weather modelling more of a communication problem than a computational one, and one of the deciding factors over the decision over the architecture was not how much compute power there was, but how much bandwidth the interconnect has.

To do this work on a system using GPUs for some of the computational work would require significantly more memory than can conveniently be addressed in the current GPU models, and because there are different GPU-to-main-memory models around with each generation of hybrid machine, getting the data into and out of the GPUs is not generic, and currently requires to be written specifically for every different model at the moment. There are also no standardised tools to assist.

Personally, I feel that the current GPU hybrid machines are a dead-end for HPC, as were the DSP assisted systems 30 years ago (nothing is new any more), but what we will see is more and more different types of instruction units added to each core, making what we see as GPUs today just another type of instruction unit inside the core (think Altivec crossed with Intel MIC if you like).

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China's hackers stole files on 4 MEELLION US govt staff? Bu shi, says China

Peter Gathercole
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Re: An Operating System of Their Own @ST

I can't comment on this attack, but if you have a processor with a different instruction set, then many of the stack smashing and buffer overrun vulnerabilities disappear, at least until the malware becomes clever enough to identify the processor architecture before dropping machine code into the target system.

The issue here is that we are fast approaching a monoculture, with x86-64 processors becoming ubiquitous, so there is only one processor target. Granted that different OSs give some protection, but however you do it, if you can get some valid machine code injected and executing on a system, then many things are possible.

Obviously, x86-64 machine code is not valid on, say, a system with an ARM or POWER or Z processor, so this type of attack becomes invalid in the short term. But this only remains the case until another processor type is sufficiently widely deployed to make it worth attacking, where upon you have the existing problems, just with some additional wrinkles.

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Science teacher jammed his school kids' phones, gets week suspension

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Why is it not school policy @Tom 13

Maybe schools should not be allowed to get extra income by allowing cell towers to be built on the school buildings. After all, what is all the EM radiation doing to our kids!

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Its the parents @otto

The film works on railway carriages because they are mostly metal, and the windows are the only place the signal can get in or out.

The same is not true for schools. Brick, cinder block, low density concrete blocks, curtain wall on steel skeletons, terrapin huts (sorry, showing my age there) are all porous to mobile phone signals. You'd have to line the whole room with the film.

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IoT DANGERS: BYOD’s trashier cousin becoming a right tearaway

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge

Re: Suggestion @NotWorkAdmin

Maybe there should be a tongue-in-cheek icon as well as a joke icon.

I meant this in a very light-hearted way, and it was actually addressed at other people than you. You had already demonstrated with your comments about another network that you were far from the average person who just plugs in a router and leaves it with it's default settings.

If I had actually addressed it at you, I would have done it in the same way as I have here, by actually referencing your handle.

I meant no offence.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: Suggestion

OK, it should not be that simple for an IoT device to join a network. Presumably, you've got WPA2-PSK set up as a minimum for your Mum's network.

So, a new device entering the house cannot even join the network.

So, nothing to do.

Of course, if you've got WPS enabled, then every time you press that button on the router, all your IoT devices that have been denied access to the network so far have an opportunity to jump on to it, but you don't use WPS and have support turned off, haven't you.

Wait. What! you haven't........... And you're allowing uPNP as well!!!!!

Excuse me, I've somewhere else to be.

Goodbye.

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Spoiling staff with toys could turn against your business

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge

Re: BYOD works in some organisations, not that you'd know it from this author

Universities are a completely different kettle of fish to your normal company network. It is defined by BYOD, because the Universities are not capable of providing the number of devices needed by the students.

Basic security in a University is that you have a number of relatively untrusted networks (normally by location) that the devices attach to with fairly basic security (registered MAC address, normally), with island networks containing all of the main University servers with strong firewalls on the borders of the islands that only allow a small number of trusted services through. Within each untrusted network you will have some routing and maybe print services, but any file repository will be in the islands.

Any special access to departmental servers for specialist services is controlled on a device-by-device basis, with increasing levels of control requirements, registration and mandatory patching to allow this access.

In addition, most Universities (AFAIK) operate a blacklist policy where if a device is found to be affecting other users seriously (viruses, deliberate intrusion attempts etc.), it is prevented from connecting to any of the networks until the issue has been resolved to the satisfaction of the University techies, and normally at a fee.

So the networks that the students connect to is much more like the guest networks that companies operate (with a little more security), and the island networks are more like a core company network.

This makes the analogy much clearer, and probably puts the break between the networks in a bit more context.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: bash the users @Joe

But the flip side of this is that some of the things asked for in a business suggest that the person asking is unable to make sensible choices because of lack of knowledge.

The problem here is that IT don't always appear to understand business, and the Business doesn't understand what is necessary to operate IT safely and securely. That used to be the reason why they set up an IT department in the first place.

It's a balance, but at the moment, IMHO, it's skewed too far to the Business.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: If you dislike change, you're going to dislike irrelevance even more @gv

That's true, policies do not protect you from these things by themselves. Good people who you know and trust who apply sane access control policies can.

But if things go wrong, at least you can knock heads together, and if necessary sack people if you employ them, rather than having to have to claim against a contract that will probably end up in an expensive court case before it offers any redress.

If you go down a managed service route, then your protection is only as good as the people who your service provider employ, and you have no control over that.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: If you dislike change, you're going to dislike irrelevance even more @AC

That's all well and good until one of the "poor choices" land the company with some regulatory failure, loss of data, successful hacking event or in extreme cases, inability to function after an unforeseen event (like a disaster).

Even if a company goes down the route of alternative service provider, it is essential that they keep some IT expertise, even if it is only at an architectural level, otherwise the remaining managers who get to chose whether to switch to another alternative supplier (in the case of dissatisfaction with the first one they choose) either run the risk of being bamboozled by whatever marketeers they speak with, or end up having to pay for external consultants, who may (because of self interest) not recommend what the company actually needs!

I agree that IT departments are an endangered species, and not because they do anything wrong, but because they're not saying what the non-technical managers think they should be hearing. Too often, influential managers in companies are more prepared to listen to the salespeople trying to sell snake-oil rather than their own IT people.

It's worrying.

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Everyone's at it: Backup folk spaff out tsunami of cloudy, flashy gear

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge

The cloud!

I doubt that any of these companies run their own cloud, so you are vulnerable to any of the companies or their cloud suppliers going bust, pulling out of the market or increasing their price model once they have your data.

I would not bank even on the 10 year retention period.

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US court agrees $563m settlement over CRT anti-trust allegations

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge

Pity it's US only

I reckon I've bought (new) two large TVs, three smaller TV's, and at least 4 CRT monitors in that time.

Mind you, I'd have terrible trouble finding the receipts now!

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Attack of the IT monuments men: Museum wants your kit

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge

Re: Museum piece

It must have been a fair few years back!

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Intel imagines chips in nappies to create the Internet of sh*t things

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge

Two things

Firstly, re. nappies and wet wipes.

You young things got it lucky! My oldest was a child when disposable nappies were, well, crap, and it was still fairly normal to use towelling nappies with nappy pins and rubber pants. It would not surprise me if some of the older commenters were to tell me that even rubber pants were too new.

And wet wipes. Well, a flannel and a bowl of water, which had to be changed after each nappy change was the order of the day. Wet wipes were a huge leap in convenience, so just think yourself lucky!

Secondly, if the technology is disposable like the nappies, is there a problem with exhaustion of MAC addresses here? It they piggyback on WiFi, then there is a finite number of MAC addresses available, so unless they intend to re-use or rotate MAC addresses, this could lead to problems in the future. You would also want to make the things destruct once used to make sure that your bin full of dirty nappies don't give false readings. Maybe the wood derived chips that were in a story last week?

If they're serious, they really ought to use some re-usable sensing and sending technology which was added to a nappy, but this would make it less of an IoT story.

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Shuttleworth delivers death blow in Umbongoland dispute

Peter Gathercole
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Re: It's a shame you two don't get along... @ske1fr

Out of interest, what is your printer?

Is it a Lexmark, or one of the WinPrint laser printer that were popular a while back?

I had problems getting an HP LaserJet 1000 working on one of the older Ubuntu flavours (I think it's Lubuntu - the netbook I'm re-purposing as a print server has a Celeron processor that doesn't support PAE), and ended up having to use the HP provided binary blob.

Dreadful printers outside of Windows, but I wanted a laser printer for a particular purpose, and I grabbed it for very little at a car boot sale!

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SpaceX signs off on another successful mission with Pacific splashdown

Peter Gathercole
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Re: Worm form?

It's not Earthworm Jim that worries me. Let me know if Queen Slug-for-a-Butt or Professor Monkey-for-a-Head are in the capsule!

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Milking cow shot dead by police 'while trying to escape'

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge

Re: Just for you townies... @lost all faith

The Department of Transport's Driving manual states that a driver should always drive within the stopping distance for their vehicle.

It does not matter if you are driving on a dual carriageway, a motorway or a single track country road, the onus is always for the driver to be able to stop if an unexpected hazard appears.

This means that the police's instance on killing the cow because it was a danger to traffic is really bogus.

If there was really an issue with this, then they should be out culling all of the deer, wild ponies and badgers that are very, very frequently seen on the roads I drive on in Somerset, including A roads and dual carriageways. The number of times I have to take avoiding action, especially at twilight, is almost uncountable.

This was clearly a gross over-reaction by police in a rural area who should really have known better!

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Crowdfunded ZX Spectrum revival just days from shipment

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge

Re: As a BBC owner...

That's interesting. I knew about the data bus isolation resistors, but did not know what their real function was. I assumed that the Z80 was effectively idling or halted during the display cycle, and also that the ULA was driving the data bus address lines, but what you say makes a lot of sense, and would make the ULA much less complex.

Presumably at the beginning of every display frame or line, there was some form of context save so that the Z80 could resume where it left off after taking an excursion to walk through the display memory addresses.

I'm still a bit puzzled, though. The ZX81 display file was not bit-mapped, so it would have to read each character position 8 times (one for each row of the character), one for each of the 8 horizontal scan lines, so what was being addressed was the index into the character generator table, with an offset to get the correct line. The display hardware would then have to look up the line in the CG table to get the 8 bits to serialise out to the modulator. I suppose the ULA may have been able to buffer 32 characters and serialise them. I'll probably never know!

For any of you who didn't understand the bit of halting at the end of the line, when the ZX81 did not have a RAM pack, it used a collapsed display 'file' (this is what it was called) that only contained the characters that had been written on the screen. Any trailing whitespace (well, trailing unwritten character locations really) on a line did not have memory allocated, so the actual display could be held in as few as 25 bytes if there was nothing on the screen.

In this case, each line of characters on the display would be empty, with just the "end of line" character that Mr Coder mentions. As the cursor was always one character, at least one of the last two lines normally had a single character, leading to the 25 bytes (23 empty lines with just the EOL character, and one with a single character and the EOL character.

It was amusing to see a ZX81 without a RAM pack struggle to reorganise memory every time you added to the display.

Of course, with a RAM pack, the display file was always it's full size.

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Peter Gathercole
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Re: As a BBC owner...

There was nothing particularly cheap about the modulator (well, actually it was probably the cheapest Sinclair could source, but it was the same as fitted in any number of other home computers), but it was not unusual for audio crosstalk in any of the machines of this generation, especially when displaying 'busy' pictures on cheap black and white televisions.

I bought an add-on (effectively a second modulator) which remodulated the signal to include sound, which I fed from a Quicksilver sound board (it has an AY-3-8910), controlled by a number of memory-mapped locations. I used it, along with a programmable character set mod (remember what I said about the I register) to get mine to display and play music. Unfortunately, in slow mode, ZX Basic was more than a bit slow, so there was an appreciable delay in displaying the notes and them playing. But it kept me occupied on dark nights back in 1981 while I waited for my BBC Micro to arrive.

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Peter Gathercole
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As a BBC owner...

I must admit that I'm a bit puzzled as well.

This appears to be creating line 10, which contains the code "GOTO 10", and doing it repeatedly on a single line (the line parser allows multiple basic statements on a single line, separated by colons, and I think it also worked when entering lines of code).

It looks weird, so I think that if it's doing something unusual, there must be a bug somewhere. I don't remember any sort of bug like this in the BEEB, but then again, I didn't do anything like this.

Alternatively, he might be using the arrows and copy key, recursively copying the characters from the line until the maximum line length was reached, at which time the BEEB would sit there beeping at you for as many copy keystrokes as were buffered in the keyboard buffer. But that would not be white noise, which would not actually be that disruptive in a shop, even if it were at maximum volume.

The sort of stupid things that people did were to reprogram F10 (the break key) to contain "OLD:RUN", so that it was more difficult to stop (especially if ESC was also trapped). [CTRL-Break got it back].

My favourite was on a ZX81, writing about a 4 byte machine code program in a REM statement in the first line of the program (and thus a fixed address) that put a value in the Z80 I register (which was used to contain the high-byte of the address of the character generator table), which led to the screen becoming scrambled. You could tell something was there, everything worked OK, except that you could not read any of the characters,

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Pi based kid-nerdifier Kano buried under freak cash avalanche

Peter Gathercole
Silver badge

Re: Radionics`- Phillips

Maybe mine was older. The page here suggests that the kits were not originally made by Philips, but later marketed by Philips. Possibly Philips bought or licensed the design.

IIRC, the box for mine looked very similar to the one in the background of this picture

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